Three new salons: Portland, Boston, and Vancouver, BC!

I love my Dream Into Change salons, and I’m taking them international this summer!  I will be visiting the lovely Vancouver, BC, by train (of course!) at the end of June and beginning of July, and I will be and hosting a vegan-themed salon while I’m there.  I can’t wait to hear what all those cool Vancouverites are dreaming up!

A month before that, I will also be hosting a vegan-themed salon in Boston (Cambridge, to be more precise) over the Memorial Day weekend,when I visit that fair city to connect with a dear friend.  I’m finding that the vegan social and activist scenes in Boston are different from those in the Western cities I’m more familiar with, so I’m interested to see what sorts of things the movers and shakers (and aspiring movers & shakers!) in that region are dreaming up as well.  The number of all-vegan restaurants in the Boston area seems to have just about tripled since the last time I was there, in 2013, for my East Coast Empathy Tour… so I know there must be cool things percolating!

And finally, right here in my own Portland backyard, on May 9th I will be hosting my first ever sustainable-transportation themed salon. Portland is well known for being a great bike and transit city; I myself have lived here happily since 1990 without ever owning a car.  There is constant innovation in those arenas, and much of it comes from the grassroots.  I want to learn what people are working on and envisioning right here where I live.

More details about all the events can be found on my Events page, and as always, I would love your help in spreading the word about these events.  So, if you know people in these cities who might be interested, please share the event links with them!

Posted in Life coaching for a better world, Sustainable Transportation, Travel, Uncategorized, Veganism, Workshops | Leave a comment

Accountability: The political and the personal

As I’ve written before—and as I certainly don’t need to point out to anyone reading this—we are living in very difficult times. Violence, prejudice and oppression, and environmental destruction are all around us. Political atrocities and scandals bombard our news feeds daily, if not hourly. It can be very easy, under these conditions, to lose a sense of hope for humanity. Many people I know are feeling depressed and desolate about the possibility of positive change.

On a more personal scale, many of us are also struggling with interpersonal connections. Many of my friends are longing for close romantic connections, and/or mourning the loss of such connections that are ending. Many people are also feeling disconnected from family, friends, or coworkers because of political differences that seem to feel more stark with each passing day.

For the past several months, I have been personally struggling with both of these: the large-scale and personal-scale breakdown of human connection. I feel it keenly. It informs my listening and coaching practices as I work with clients who are facing similar struggles. I find myself struggling with a sense of deep loneliness and despair. As I reach out to others to talk about it, I find that these feelings are very commonplace.

So what can we do about all of this? What kinds of things can we do to sustain ourselves, each other, and humanity as a whole?
Lately I’ve been thinking about accountability. I perceive that we have a deficit of accountability in the world at present, and I believe it contributes to our current state of affairs.

On the large-scale level, I think most people can agree that many politicians lack accountability to the people they ostensibly serve. This has become increasingly obvious in the past few months, as the White House public phone-comment line was shut down, and several members of Congress have stopped holding public town hall meetings in their districts because they don’t want to face the opposition and tough questions they are likely to encounter in such meetings.

When our leaders fail to take accountability for their leadership, we are all left feeling vulnerable and uneasy. How can our needs be met? How can our voices be heard?

Meanwhile, on the small-scale social end of things, I have watched over the past few years as texting has replaced voice talking, Facebook messaging is replacing the longer-form email messages I used to enjoy taking the time to craft and savor, and “swipe-culture” dating apps are replacing meaningful opportunities to get to know people with whom we may seek to share intimacy.
It is in these smaller-scale communication realms that we can hurt others, and be hurt, most easily, via a lack of attention to each other’s humanity and needs. And it is in these same realms where we can be most easily and quickly empowered to shift the culture in a positive direction. Political actions of various kinds are absolutely necessary, and I strongly support any efforts to communicate with our elected officials, whether by phone, email, online petitions, in-the-street protests, contributing financially to activist groups that are working in strategic ways… etc. I absolutely encourage you to do—or continue to do—all of these things.

But in this environment of increasing despair, we need our interpersonal connections more than ever. I am going to make an uncharacteristically personal and vulnerable plea here:
Please, take the time to support your friends and acquaintances. We all need it more than ever. The easiest and most effective way to do this, speaking from my own experience, is to reply to texts in a timely fashion. It may sound simple or obvious, but I find that it rarely happens. It can be so easy, in our busy-ness and distraction, to see a text from a friend, think, “Oh, cool, So-and-so! I’ll reply later.” But then much more time may go by than we had initially intended, and So-and-so may be really wishing for connection in the meantime.

If someone you care about texts you, text them back. Promptly. If they have asked a question and you don’t have the answer yet, you can write, “Hey, great to hear from you! I don’t have the answer to your question yet, but I will get back to you as soon as I do.” (And then, when you get the answer, get back to them. Promptly.)

If someone contacts you on a dating site, and you are interested, let them know. Promptly. If they ask you on a date, let them know, as soon as you can, whether the date and time they have suggested will work for you. This is not a cultural time when we can afford to play “I don’t want to look too eager” games. If you’re interested, respect the person by responding to their messages in a timely fashion.

You may not have the time—or the inclination—to respond personally to people who contact you if you don’t feel drawn to them… but where possible, I also encourage you to take a moment to acknowledge these people’s humanity and courage in approaching you. It only takes a moment to write, “Hey, thanks for your note. I want to be honest, I’m not feeling drawn to you romantically, but I wanted to say that I’m flattered that you reached out, and I wish you all the best.”

I’ll be vulnerable and speak for myself, here (though I also know I am not alone): These simple courtesies from friends and acquaintances can make a powerful difference in whether I have a sense that I’m a part of the larger community of humanity. When they are absent—especially several times in a row, from several people in a row—it can be very easy to feel dejected, and from there to draw the conclusion that no one cares, and I am going it alone.

In these apocalyptic times, that can be an unbearably—and unnecessarily—lonely feeling. As we do our work to shift the culture forward in positive directions, let’s please take good care of each other’s hearts. We’re in this together.

Posted in Life coaching for a better world, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ACLU empathy benefit in a fraught February

How are you all hanging in there? I don’t have tell any of you that it’s rough. It’s really rough right now. On so many fronts.

I’ll keep this short. I’ve been marching, sending money to activist organizations, contacting my elected representatives (over and over and over)… but I also want to contribute to a vision of a loving and just world by using my personal strengths, specifically empathy and inspiration.

So, for the month of February, I will be donating 10% of all Happy to Listen and Dream Into Change proceeds to the ACLU. And, in conjunction, I’m offering sliding-scale sessions, because those most impacted and stressed by our current situation are quite possibly also those with the least access to disposable income.

So if you would like to set aside some “empyting out”/recharging time with someone who gets it, please feel free to schedule a session of any length during the month of February. More info on what to expect at www.happytolisten.com and www.dreamintochange.com/page-4/ I can do in-person, phone, or Skype sessions. You set the price, and 10% of it will go to the ACLU. You can contact me via the websites, or by phone at 971-303-8395.

Until next time… please take good care of yourselves as we move through all of this.

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New offering: “awkward-email” support

Fellow culture shifters:

Do you have an awkward email sitting in your inbox right now? Something—either personal or professional—that you know you “should” respond to, but you’re scared to do it, because you want your words to come across the way you intend, and for the other person to respond in a way that feels good to you… but you fear that instead, you’ll accidentally say the wrong thing, or the person will take it the wrong way, and then the relationship will be strained (or, more strained than it already was?)

One way I love to support people is to use my knowledge and practice of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) tools to help write emails that will be received in the best possible way. I’m happy to collaborate with you in a real-time session, listening to some relationship backstory and then co-drafting the email with you. Alternatively, we can do a back-and-forth email exchange to craft it and polish the message before you send it. Or, perhaps you’d just like to vent, and/or think out loud, to an empathetic third party before writing the email yourself. That’s always an option too!

If this speaks to you right now, feel free to schedule a session. In any case, I wish you clear and effective communication, this holiday season and into the new year!

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Need to rant?

Could you use a cathartic rant right about now? (I think most of us could.)

I am offering something new in my Happy to Listen practice, and I will be debuting it this coming Wednesday, November 30th: A 20-minute “rant call” for $20. You call me, I pick up, you spill whatever is on your mind for 15-20 minutes, I listen with empathic presence, and then we wrap it up… and you feel better and more energized to handle your life (and quite possibly do more effective activism, whatever that might look like for you.)

I’m currently scheduling 20-minute slots throughout Wednesday the 30th, so send me a message if you’d like to partake! Also, feel free to share this with friends who might be in need of some catharsis, in this particularly fraught moment in time.

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Video of my Nonviolent Communication (NVC) webinar with Kathy Peterman

In the wake of the recent election, and with the holiday season approaching quickly, effective communication tools are more crucial than ever. Around holiday dinner tables, many families will be discussing emotionally charged issues such as racism, sexism, homo- and transphobia, indigenous people’s rights, the role of the United States in world affairs, climate change and other environmental concerns, and other related issues.

I have posted about Nonviolent Communication (NVC) on several occasions here on this blog. For those of you who may be curious, or for those who have some NVC knowledge but would like a refresher, I would like to share this recent video of a webinar during which my friend Kathy Peterman interviewed me about the communication tools of NVC. I hope that you will find some useful ideas and approaches to any challenging conversations you may be anticipating in the coming months.


(If you’re interested in learning more about Kathy’s My Best Year offerings, take a look at http://simpleup.me/portfolio/my-best-year/)

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November benefit for Standing Rock

Wow, are we living in tumultuous times.  The US presidential election is upon us, and the political season feels more frenzied and dark than I can ever recall, with most Americans (not to mention others around the globe) feeling some combination of outrage and despair.

Meanwhile—and entangled with the election—racial tensions continue to escalate.  In my last blog post, I was focused on #blacklivesmatter, and I offered a Happy to Listen benefit for the month of August.  Now we’re coming up on November, and as Thanksgiving approaches here in the US, native people are fighting for their land and water in North Dakota.  I feel this juxtaposition keenly, and I’m feeling called to do another benefit, this time for both Happy to Listen (empathy and sacred witnessing) and Dream Into Change (life coaching for culture shifters).

If you would like to talk openly about your feelings in the midst of this political and cultural turmoil—or if you have ideas for culture-shifting projects to move beyond this current state of affairs, and would like emotional and/or strategic support in turning them into reality—I invite you to participate.

For the month of November, if you mention this benefit when scheduling a Happy to Listen or Dream Into Change session, I will donate 50% of the proceeds from your session(s) to www.gofundme.com/stand4standingrock.  (Sliding scale available if finances are a barrier; I want everyone to be able to participate in this benefit if they wish to.)  I deeply admire those people who have chosen to put themselves physically on the line to protect native people’s land and water, against corporate fossil-fuel interests.  Since I am not physically standing with them, I want to support these folks financially, and I invite you to join me, either by participating in this benefit and/or by donating directly.  To schedule a session, you may email me at maren@dreamintochange.com or call me at 971-303-8395.

In any case, I wish you all the best during these times, and I hope you will join me in continuing to hold a vision—and to take actions toward that vision—of a world with justice and integrity for all people and our land and natural resources.

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Opening to vulnerable communication about race

I don’t need to tell you that we are living in fraught and stressful times. In the USA, we are facing a Presidential election that promises to be bitter and disappointing for most Americans. The nation is focusing on huge issues of environmental sustainability, economic (in)equalities, health care, and other pressing topics.

One of the most prominent topics, both inside and outside of the Presidential campaigns, is that of race. Recent highly publicized police killings of unarmed black citizens have brought the topic to greater public attention and scrutiny than we have seen in a long time. Trump’s public comments about Mexicans and Muslims have brought these groups—and bias against them—into the public consciousness in a stark way. The Black Lives Matter movement has emerged and brought an intentional focus on the lack of police accountability for violence against black people.

The current state of affairs is tragic. And regardless of one’s own racial or ethnic background, these topics are emotionally charged.

I’ve been watching heart-wrenching videos and hearing political sound bites about race, and wondering what I, personally, might be able to do to bring something positive to the situation. I know that recognizing my own privilege as a white person is an important first step. Listening to the voices of people of color, and hearing their stories and pain and anger, is another way. Speaking out when I hear people making racist or prejudiced remarks is another way.

At this moment I am also feeling called, though, to use my listening and empathy skills in a particular way. I started my Happy to Listen practice nearly ten years ago, because I wanted to help people to process some of the difficult feelings that come up simply as a result of being human in today’s world. I have found doing so to be very gratifying. But I agree with Gloria Steinem’s assertion that the personal is political… and also with the corollary, which is that political, social, and cultural current events affect us all personally. And I want to use my listening skills to help people to process and work through whatever difficult feelings they may have regarding race at this moment in history. I also know that many people are wondering what they can do to help the situation in their own lives, and I want to hold space for people to explore any ideas they might have in that regard.

So, for the month of August, I am choosing to offer Happy to Listen sessions by sliding-scale donation. I will then donate all proceeds from such sessions to the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. I found their website on Facebook a few months ago, and their communication-based approach to racial justice, equity, and harmony resonates with me.

I am hoping that people of any racial or ethnic background will feel comfortable talking about their feelings and challenges around the topic of race. As always, I promise to listen with an open heart and without judgment, seeking only to hold space and provide a sounding board, as well as to learn, myself, how people experience racial issues in their individual lives. I hope to offer some small help in this way.

If you’d like to make an appointment, feel free to contact me at www.happytolisten.com.

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Dream Into Change salons coming up + a new Meetup group!

Hello, fellow culture shifters!

After a bit of a hiatus during the winter months, the Dream Into Change salons are back! I wanted to let you know about three upcoming ones in the Portland area, but I’m also looking to host them in some other cities in the coming months, including Washington, DC, Austin, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

The salon is a free, informal event where people with culture-shifting ideas and projects come together to talk about them, and support and inspire each other. These ideas and projects can include business ideas, political campaigns, creative endeavors, and the like. Each person introduces themselves and talks briefly about their ideas and/or projects, and then there is an opportunity for mingling, networking, brainstorming, and discussion.

In Portland, I have two themed Salons coming up, as well as an un-themed, open one. (Three different venues.)

Tuesday, May 10: Nonviolent Communication/Restorative Justice theme
5:30-7:00 pm, Know Thy Food Collective, 3434 SE Milwaukie Ave, Portland

Tuesday, May 24: Vegan theme
6:00-8:00 pm, Papa G’s Organic Deli, 2314 SE Division St., Portland

Tuesday, June 7: No theme; all ideas welcome
6:00-8:00 pm, Liz’s Creative Café, 9401 SE 32nd Ave, Portland/Milwaukie

You can RSVP to any of these on Facebook; they are all listed at www.facebook.com/dreamintochange (Or, you can send me a message via the “contact” button here.)

I also invite you to join my brand-new Meetup group, Portland Culture Shifters. For now, the Meetup is a way to invite people who are not on Facebook to the salons, but there may be other gatherings posted there in the future.

Finally, if you live in one of the above-mentioned cities, please feel free to contact me if you or anyone you know might be interested in attending such an event in your city, and/or if you know of a good venue where I could hold a salon. I will be in DC in late June, and I’m tentatively planning on the other three cities next March.

~Maren

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Inviting the power of empathy into our lives

When I meet people socially, and they learn that I run a professional empathetic listening practice, I hear a wide range of responses.  Some people are confused, not sure what that entails.  Some are surprised.  (“Wow, people pay you to listen to them?”)  But many respond with a sort of “a-ha” expression.  They say things like, “We all need that so much!”  And probably the most common response I hear is, “Oh, I could use some help with my listening skills!  I want to do it, but I find myself talking more than listening.”

People’s responses confirm for me the intuition I had, upon starting my practice years ago, that we all benefit deeply from being listened to – truly heard – more than we generally are in our day-to-day lives.  Our culture is so rushed.  Most of us are racing back and forth amongst our workplaces, our various appointments, the grocery store, maybe going out dancing or to see a show… By the time we get home at the end of the day, it’s all we can do to veg out in front of the television or computer, and then flop exhaustedly into bed, waiting to do it all again tomorrow.  We tend to spend very little time speaking from the heart and truly being heard… nor in listening quietly and deeply to others, taking in their reality and enriching our own.

Years ago, a friend and I decided to attend a local introductory talk by Marshall Rosenberg, founder of Nonviolent Communication (NVC).  What he spoke about was so simple, yet so transformative, that it changed both of our lives immediately.  We subsequently read his book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, and we co-founded a local NVC practice group.  Both of those activities were meaningful and enriching to me.  But what I appreciated most about the experience was that my friend suggested that she and I begin meeting every two weeks to talk deeply and give each other our full attention, support, and empathy, with no interruptions, distractions, judgments, or advice.  I thought it sounded like a wonderful idea.  And sure enough, as we made this a regular practice, it deepened my connection to myself and my values, and my connection to her as a friend.  More than ten years later, we are still meeting every two weeks for these conversations, and they continue to enrich my life deeply.

So, I want to encourage you, the reader, to find a space and time to listen deeply to another, and have them listen to you.  There are powerful gifts to be found on either end of the exchange.  You might think of a friend you admire and feel comfortable with, and approach them with the idea.  A helpful structure to follow is for one person to begin, and share whatever thoughts and feelings have been alive for them in the past week or two.  The listener may nod, smile, or offer brief interjections of understanding or support (“Wow, I know exactly what you mean!” or “I can really relate to that experience”) but without taking the focus away from the speaker.  When the speaker feels complete – often after about an hour – then you switch roles until the next speaker has shared enough to feel complete.  It can be a surprisingly powerful experience when each person has felt and expressed their own truth, and each has been enriched by hearing the other’s truth.  These exchanges can help us gain clarity about our values and the direction of our own lives, and can also support a powerful closeness and camaraderie between the two participants, especially over time. I invite you to try it and see for yourself.

I believe that this greater sense of self, and a greater sense of connection to others, also benefits the larger community.  I have been toying with the idea of setting up “listening salons,” where a group of us would gather and pair up in such a way, perhaps for shorter exchange periods such as 20-30 minutes. These events would be similar to the Dream Into Change salons I have recently begun hosting, but they would focus on general emotional support rather than specific ideas and projects. I can host them locally in Portland and/or in various other cities as I travel. I’d love to hear your feedback as to whether an event like that would appeal to you; please feel free to comment below, or email me directly.

Posted in Life coaching for a better world, Nonviolent Communication | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment