all the oceans we contain

I seem to be on a roll with First Nations poets. This poem was shared in a workshop I did this past weekend with my always illuminating teacher, Marlene Schiwy. This beauty is from Linda Hogan. 

To Light


At the spring

we hear the great seas traveling


giving themselves up

with tongue of water

that sing the earth open.


They have journeyed through the graveyards

of our loved ones,

turning in their grave

to carry the stories of life to air.


Even the trees with their rings

have kept track

of the crimes that live within

and against us.


We remember it all.

We remember, though we are just skeletons

whose organs and flesh

hold us in.

We have stories

as old as the great seas

breaking through the chest,

flying out the mouth,

noisy tongues that once were silenced,

all the oceans we contain

coming to light.



staying soft in a wounding world

Last year, after the Paris attacks, I wrote this note to some friends:

Dear friends,

I know we are all feeling a little heavy tonight because of what happened in Paris earlier. I know our hearts are with those who are hurting.

And I can't stop thinking about the perpetrators, too. So far, what I've read is not surprising - 3 of them have been confirmed to be young men. I think of all the young men I have taught (including a few years working with young offenders) - they are the most beautiful souls and I know these boys were, too.

One of the prevailing myths is that these young guys are just predisposed to violence - full of testosterone etc.. Not true - testosterone does a lot of things - good things!- but it does not make men want to kill other human beings.

The truth is that boys are (in general) much more sensitive than girls. Sensitive not as in sentiment but sensitive constitutionally. Physically-boy babies die more often in utero, they die more in childbirth, they suffer more early childhood diseases, they have a lower pain threshold - and they are more quick to become hardened in response to emotional overwhelm (which is what happens when emotion has no expression).

I know many (all?) of you have little boys in your life and I am not worried about them at all - they are in good hands. But there's a good chance that over the years you are going to encounter many of their friends, classmates, etc - and also a good chance that you will deal with some teenage boy heartache at some point. (And you might even find some of what I share insightful re: other men in your life.)

Would be interested if I did a recording all about boys and emotion and sensitivity and how to help keep our boys soft?

In the face of such an event it can be easy to dehumanize the perpetrators - but I believe strongly that the way forward is to humanize them. xox Lianne

Below is a slightly modified version of the recording I did for them. It's about boys, but really it's about all of us.  Humans are sensitive, it's one of the greatest things about us. Let's nurture it. 

And another great thing to watch on this topic is Tony Porter's TED talk about the man box:


Also - be sure to check out my CHERISH course, which starts next week. I get more in depth than I could in this recording. It's like the best psychology class and personal growth class and relationship course all rolled into one - a course for the mind, the heart and the soul. Join me. 

xox Lianne

sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness

I think of this poem as the theme poem of my CHERISH course (which begins next week). When I first started bringing together the pieces of the course, "sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness" was written at the top of every page in my journal.

As I am writing this, out my window the magnolia tree is full of buds just waiting to burst forth. I love how Galway Kinnell, in this poem, follows that bud down to the earthy mothering of the sow, and blesses us along the way. I recommend reading this aloud to yourself to make the blessing even stronger.  

Saint Francis and the Sow

The bud

stands for all things,

even for those things that don’t flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;   

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on its brow

of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;   

as Saint Francis

put his hand on the creased forehead

of the sow, and told her in words and in touch   

blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow   

began remembering all down her thick length,   

from the earthen snout all the way

through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,   

from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine   

down through the great broken heart

to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering   

from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:

the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

the dance of self-intimacy

Last week I invited you to be aware of where in your life you are inviting in accountability and be sure that it is serving you, not the other way around. I also like this turn of phrase that came to me in that post: If we are too focused on meeting metrics we may fail to meet the exquisite human in front of us. This is equally true in our relationship with ourself.

Maybe you agreed with me but then you weren't sure what to do with that. As many of my clients say, "I want to love myself, I want to accept myself  - seems like a good idea - but how?"

I get it - the way these ideals are proclaimed to us we can be forgiven for thinking they are just some act of will that we can exercise, or a behaviour we can emulate. In fact - that is what is often sold to us. But it is not going to happen like that - loving ourselves (or anyone for that matter) is something that develops over time when the conditions are right. So our task is creating the conditions for love to emerge. I hinted at it last week in both the accountability post and in the two poems I shared.  I will be more explicit here.

But before I go any further - let me say I am not a big fan of the way the terms self-love, self-care & self-esteem are used in the self-help world. The implication often is that these are things we are meant to do on our own. They aren't.  It's the DIY movement gone to the soul level. These are hungers that are meant to be filled in connection from the moment of our birth. Love, care and esteem are your birthright and it is wrong and sad if that is not your experience. Unfortunately, that is the case for too many.

Keep in mind that I give these practices to my clients in a context of a caring coaching relationship. I hope you have such a relationship in your life - a friend, a partner, a relation. If not, it's not your fault. It is not because you need to "love yourself before anyone else can love you". It is a sad result of living in a disconnected and isolating culture and something you may need to grieve. These practices will help you with that, too.

This dance of intimacy is a dance of both closing the gap (connecting with ourselves, knowing ourselves intimately) and disclosing the gap (grieving what we don't have, personally and culturally). Cultivating our inner life will transform us and in so doing will influence the culture as a whole. Remember Revolution from Within by Gloria Steinem?  Yeah, that.

Onto the steps in the dance. Each step naturally builds into the next, and they all support each other. Like the steps in any dance. These are the 4Rs of relationship - restful, reflective, receptive and responsive. 

First step - presence (be restful)

One of the first and often the most challenging practice I invite my clients to undertake is what I call "wild idling."  I ask them to take 5-10 minutes a day and do nothing but sit with themselves. No meditation, no drinking tea, no mindfulness. Just doing nothing. Sounds easy, right? Many of my clients think the same - until they try it. Five minutes is a long time when you are not used to spending any time with yourself. Be bored, that's ok. The mind will think thoughts, that's ok, it's what the mind does. Like a nose will smell, a mind will think. But if you practice often enough, your inner wild landscape will begin to reveal itself. Not wild in the sense of "girls gone wild" but wild in the sense of original, un-domesticated, authentic.  You can't love what you have no connection to. This is about making that connection. 

A sense of place results gradually and unconsciously from inhabiting a landscape over time, becoming familiar with its physical properties, accruing history within its confines. Kent Rydon

Second step - awareness (be reflective)

This is the land of questions. When you normally would have beaten yourself up, berated yourself or sought out disciplinary measures, instead, get curious. Why did I have that reaction?  Why did I eat that bag of chips?  Why am I seeking out a diet yet again? (I'm looking at you, Oprah!) What am I feeling? What is this really about for me?  Journaling can be a helpful tool in doing this.

Also bring the curiousity to your body. Where am I feeling that emotion? What is the sensation? Does it have a temperature, a colour?

Third step - acceptance (be receptive)

Make room for the feelings and emotions that will arise when we stop distracting ourselves. There will likely be some grief and tears here. This is good. Tears are a softening agent - they will dissolve old judgements and shame that have been blocking our connection to ourself. 

Fourth step - attunement (be responsive) 

One of the video clips I have probably used more than any other over the years in both teaching high school and offering workshops for adults comes from the work of psychologist Edward Tronik. It is called the Still Face Experiment and it shows what happens to a baby when their mother, or any adult they are attached to, stops attuning to them. The baby is showing us what every human feels inside when we lack attunement. If you've ever been given the "silent treatment" you can relate. Feel free to have an aha! moment here when you realize you've been giving yourself the silent treatment.  

Attunement is attention + intuition. You can see that the mother is responding to the babe intuitively and physically. Whereas in step two we have awareness of the body, in this step we reconnect to being aware with our body. Our body is where our intuition lives (gut feelings, for example). This is where we intuitively create, make decisions, move and care for ourselves. This is where we respond to ourselves the way a loving parent would to their child. Or the way a loving friend would respond. 

This is the dance of a lifetime. Let's dance. xox

I see your figure wrapped in skins

Today, a poem from Mary Tallmountain - a First Nations poet from Alaska whose work should be better known. This poem she dedicated to her grandmother. Matmiya means "tall mountain" in Athabascan. In an interview with Joseph Bruchac she shared that although her grandmother was physically thin, she thought of her as she thought of all Native American women -  growing out of the earth in a  lushly vegetative way. (ref: Encyclopedia of American Indian Literature)

Matmiya        for my Grandmother                  

I see you sitting
Implanted by roots
Coiled deep from your thighs
Roots, flesh red, centuries pale.
Hairsprings wound tight
Through fertile earthscapes
Where each layer feeds the next
Into depths immutable.

Though you must rise, must
Move large and slow
When it is time, O my
Gnarled mother-vine, ancient
As vanished ages,
Your spirit remains
Nourishing me.

I see your figure wrapped in skins
Curved into a mound of earth
Holding your rich dark roots.
I see you sitting.

from That's what She Said: Contemporary Poetry and Fiction by Native American Women (Indiana University Press)