when accountability is an obstacle to intimacy

But certainly, for us who understand life, figures are a matter of indifference.

If I have told you these details about the asteroid, and made a note of its number for you, it is on account of the grown-ups and their ways. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.

If you were to say to the grown-ups: “I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof,” they would not be able to get any idea of that house at all. You would have to say to them: “I saw a house that cost $20,000.” Then they would exclaim: “Oh, what a pretty house that is!”
— Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

As is typical for the new year, I have been seeing numerous articles about goal-setting. And they often talk about accountability. Make your goals measurable, they say. Tell others so you can be held accountable. Accountability is about analysis, about reducing something to the measurable, often for the purpose of manipulation. Accountability can also quietly convey distrust.

I want to be a voice for intimacy over accountability. For knowing yourself instead of forcing yourself.

When I was teaching I heard a lot about accountability, too. And I witnessed what happens when accountability becomes the driving force instead of a small piece of potentially useful information. When goals and learning outcomes and analysis and efficiency suck the curiousity and joy and intimacy out of the holy ground that education should occupy. For me, teaching is a sacred act, and the things that mattered could not be counted. Tests could tell you a very limited bit of information and I guarantee you that looking at a student’s test scores gives you next to nothing in terms of truly knowing that child. And when teachers are pushed to focus on the meeting the metrics instead of meeting the exquisite human in front of them, it destroys the trusting relationship in which learning and growth is meant to happen.

My clients sometimes say they would like me to hold them accountable. I remind them of our initial consultation where I expressly say, “I am not a coach that will hold you accountable. If you want that you will have to find another coach.”  I will believe in you. I will hold you capable. I will support you in what is wanting to emerge. I will explore with you whether what you think you want is what you really want. But I will not hold you accountable. I want to foster a deeper listening and self-trust in my clients. If they do something because I am holding them accountable, it is interfering in the development of that trust. It is undermining their relationship with themselves.

It can be really easy to get caught up in this accountability rush. How many steps did I take today? What is my weight, my caloric intake, my income….

I invite you to leave space for the unaccountable. Don’t let what can be counted override the deeper essential knowing. Don’t pay more attention to what is on your plate than you do to your internal landscape.

Am I feeling the way I want to feel?  

Is my life aligned with my values?

How well do I know myself?

Am I willing to trust myself?

Keep accountability in its rightful place as a servant, not a master.  Not just how many steps did I take today, but how am I in this body today? What did I notice, hear, sense as I walked?

Love lives in attention and trust, not in accountability. Be interested in yourself beyond the metrics. This is the path to intimacy.

If you are of a certain age you will remember this clip from Sesame Street. How beautiful you are. xox

The forest knows where you are

I just recently discovered the work of the photographer Mary Randlett. She was considered part of the art movement in the Pacific Northwest known as the Northwest Mystics. I plan to use her book of landscape photos as inspiration for my own photography this year (an ongoing creative adventure.)

Both she and the poet David Wagoner capture the spirit of this land that has claimed me.  Doesn't the Wagoner poem go well with this photo of hers? It also conveys a message I share with my clients often - sit still, do nothing, listen. 


by David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

 from Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems

easy & inexpensive gifts infused with heart

Forget boxes of chocolates, gift cards that never get used and please, please, please forget the tchotchkes. (And I think I speak on behalf of all teachers when I say especially the tchotchkes. I bet we could build a whole new school with all the apple themed mugs, plaques, ceramic bells, ornaments, wall hangings, etc. that end up in the landfill every year.)

Here are some gifts I like to give that may be perfect for new friends you are just getting to know, old friends you’ve run out of ideas for, your kids’ teachers, and even for you. Bonus - they are all relatively friendly to mama earth. None of them need end up in a landfill.


For everyone:

Danielle LaPorte has an amazing free Desire + Fire Gift Bundle. This is almost too good to be true but if you know Danielle, you know better.  It contains The Desire Map audiobook (6 hours), The Desire Map workbook, the Fire Starter Sessions workbook, some digital wallpaper and a $10 gift card. And it is all digital, which means no mall, no wrapping and no post office queue. And did I mention that it’s FREE?  I’m giving this to all my friends and clients, because why wouldn’t I?

For your new friend, old friend, work colleague, supervisor:

Download the PDF of the free ebook What is Dying to be Born? onto a flash drive (link is in the column to the right), take it to Staples of Kinkos or your local copy shop and have it printed in colour and bound. Should cost less than $20. It feels personal but has also been used in professional development workshops at some big organizations. It manages to walk that line between personal and professional. Beautiful and thought-provoking and an original gift. (ask for enviro-friendly paper for printing and cloth or wire binding is more eco then plastic)

For your kids’ teachers:

Either of the two inspirational books Teaching with Heart or Teaching with Fire. About $15 each, any teacher will find renewed passion for their work inside these pages. I received Teaching with Fire as a gift and used it so heavily that I was thrilled when I got chosen to contribute to Teaching with Heart. I’m happy to say it’s as good as the first.

For someone who appreciates the handmade touch:

I like to make custom prayer flags with images that commemorate a shared experience (for example, I once made a set of prayer flags for each woman who was on a small retreat with me) or reflect the personality of the recipient. I either find or create simple black and white images on my computer (5 is a good number) and print them onto cotton fabric and then sew or glue them to a piece of cord or twine.  The directions here are good – though I like to cut the fabric a bit smaller all around then the sheet. For extra love, sew a little pocket on the back of one of the flags where written intentions can be tucked and then carried on the wind. I hang these in my yard and let them weather away.

For your hippie, mystical, earthy friend:

I buy a wonderful rose & moonshine infused honey from Nao Sims at Honey Grove. Start with the fact that honey is love in jar - can it get better than that? Truly, as Rudolf Steiner teaches, “The bees suck out their food — which they then turn into honey — exclusively from those parts of the plants that are centred in love; they bring, so to speak, the love-life of the flowers into the hive.” 

You can make your own version of this as a gift or for yourself. Find a local beekeeper who makes a light tasting honey and then infuse it with any dried spice or herb you like. Great instructions here. During the infusion time, set it in a window where it will get the light of the moon during the night – leave it through a full moon for the strongest infusion. The next full moon happens to be on December 25th.  (Nao leaves hers for 3 full moons beside a rose quartz crystal, but that requires some planning ahead and a little more witchiness than I have.) Make a little card to go with it describing the infusions and the love. 

Special touches

If you buy a gift but you still want to give it a little heartful touch, add some nature. I like to gild wishbones and acorns with gold leaf but even a simple shell or a pinecone adorning a gift feels more special to me than a plastic bow. It's sharing a little piece of your world.

give with love, all ways    xox Lianne




the power of journaling

Are you a committed journaler?  A wanna-be journaler? An off and on journaler?

Journaling has been an essential part of my journey. Journaling has helped me make all of the key decisions in my life, it has helped me make meaning during times of heartbreak and frustration, it has been a repository for the poems that needed to be written and the words from the soul that weren't heard until they formed themselves on the page.

And yet, I have been an on and off journaler and I know there is even more potential in those pages that I have left untapped. Now, in the middle of my life, I can feel the urge to start writing down some family stories for my nieces and nephews. I also feel the gravitas of wanting to live the years ahead with great consciousness - and I know that journalling is a key to that.  

My mentor, Marlene Schiwy, wrote a deep and thorough book about journaling - A Voice of Her Own: Woman and the Journal Writing Journey. In it she gives the following reasons for journaling:

to broaden self-awareness
to explore personal identity
to have a trustworthy confidante
to pour out feelings and emotions onto paper
to create continuity in our lives
to preserve memories of ourselves, of people and of events
to cope with discontinuity, change, loss, grief
to explore creative impulses
to capture ideas for stories, poems and other projects
to record and explore dreams
to celebrate accomplishments and successes
to engage in a dialogue with the world around us
to discover what is sacred in our lives
to deepen our spiritual journeys
to remember beloved family members and friends
to understand the story of our lives
to sort out thoughts and clarify ideas
to survive traumatic circumstances
to take stock of our lives, from time to time
to clarify our life’s purposes
to reap the wisdom of the unconscious

Wow. Sounds good, right? Who wouldn't want to journal after reading that list? 

So, how about a couple of opportunities to support yourself in making journaling more of a commitment?

I am offering a short creative journaling course through the Creative Grief Studio (and if you aren't into journaling, there are a whole whack of awesome courses being offered).  In this course we will be using the myth of Demeter and Persephone as a jumping off point for our journaling so you never have to worry about coming up with something to write - it's the perfect way to re-ignite your journaling fire. Over the course of a week I will be giving you journaling techniques (I don't want to call them prompts because they are more instructive that that) that you will be able to return to again and over the course of your journaling life to reap all the benefits from the list above.  The week of journaling will be bookended by two phone calls and supported by a dedicated online forum space that will allow time for connection and sharing. I am really excited about what I have put together for this course - I just finished a 9 month exploration of the myth of Demeter and Persephone and I can't wait to invite you into yourself via this ancient, archetypal story. It is a story of loss, of unbridled grief, of parents and children, of women in transition, of reclaiming and reconnecting with ourselves and of deep feminine wisdom. This myth was used for centuries in Ancient Greece as part of the initiation rites into the Eleusinian Mysteries. So there's that. too. If you feel called to join this myth adventure - sign-up here.

The second journal support offering is from creative and artist Lisa Sonora Beam. She has had great response in the past to her 30 Day Journal Project and she is offering it again starting July 1st. Completely free, Lisa and friends will give you prompts, ideas, and ways to connect with fellow journalers. Lisa is an artist so if you are curious about adding a visual element to your journaling this will be the place to explore that. 

As I finish typing this, I have beside me on my desk a pile of reflective journals from my students in my psychology class - reading these journals tells me more about what they have learned than any test ever could. In the same way, for us, there is something about that quiet space on the page that takes us deeper than any Facebook update or personality test - it brings us home. 



One of the best things I ever did for International Women's Day, and I'm doing it again

In 2010 I celebrated International Women's Day by creating a collection of women's writing and art contributed by wise and talented women such as Brené Brown, Martha Beck, Shilo Shiv Suleman, Danielle LaPorte, Margaret Wheatley and many more. I offered it freely to the world and it had wings. I heard from people all over the world (men, too!) using it in ways I had never envisioned. It was being used in workshops and staff trainings and women's groups and at women's shelters. It was on many a night stand to be referred to again and again. It spawned numerous similar projects - which is fitting since I myself was inspired to do it by a project Seth Godin had done. 

This year, I wanted to celebrate its 5th birthday. So I went through and updated all the bios and the links (these women have been up to some incredible things in the past 5 years) and I also added 5 new entries from 5 voices that have something important to say:

  • A poem from my inspirational friend and colleague, Tara Mohr.
  • Wisdom from a woman I deeply respect: Indigenous teacher and leader Jeannette Armstrong.
  • Probing thoughts from brilliant UK writer, Jay Griffiths (if you don't know her yet, you can thank me later).
  • A touching reflection on mental illness from writer Esmé Weijun Wang.
  • And finally, an invitation for your body from one of the most intelligent and soulful yoga teachers I have met, Jill Miller.

For you - please share freely and with love - the free download of the 2015 refresh of What is Dying to be Born?   Click on the cover below to download and read it now.