• Beach Break
  • Tree In Water
  • Beach Bird
  • Blue Mountains
  • Field 01
  • Cloudy Mountains

The fall says CHANGE to me and I love it! It’s a time to move away from summer and welcome in the fall – its changing colors, the changing light as the days so obviously become shorter. I start to notice an inner call for greater focus on the state of my life and work.

This happens every year for me – partly due to my many years in school or working for universities and partly, as a response to the natural rhythms of the changing season.

Did you know that change has its own stages? I learned this from reading William Bridges’s book called, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change.  He taught me that change (or transition) has three primary stages:

  1. The End – something that may have been precious to you at one time has ended (i.e., you’ve moved to a new location)
  2. The Neutral Zone – the stage where you’ve said good-bye to something, but you’re not yet ready to move into the New Beginning (you haven’t made friends in your new location yet, so you still rely almost exclusively on your friends from your previous location)
  3. The New Beginning – You’ve fully stepped into your new transition (i.e., you may still maintain your past friendships and you rely on local friends for most of your day-to-day connections and comraderie)

In each stage, our internal and external growth and development may be enhanced when we understand the meaning and purpose of these stages. For me this has been true.

Knowing this doesn’t change the truth that change can be challenging, yet it does help me to relax into it a bit more. And, it helps me remember that even when it seems murky and impenetrable, I will make it through to The New Beginning!

I confess I spent the first week after Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States in mourning, deep despair, and bewilderment. I felt as if someone I loved had punched me in the chest. Many people I love, in fact, voted for him. They too were feeling despair: despair that I didn’t vote for him, and confusion about why I felt so devastated.

During that first week, I led several meditations on peace in different national and international venues. I offered formal and informal empathy sessions to many people, and listened to many more: hundreds of stories about enormous pain from families, spouses, and loved ones who had suddenly found themselves deeply divided.

It was exhausting — until I said “STOP,” and allowed myself the space to receive empathy, to offer it to myself, and to grieve and grieve and grieve my own grief.

And then I got clear (really clear!) that I wanted to focus on healing the gap between those of us who didn’t vote for Donald Trump, and those who did – and all our life experiences that led us to this point.

Thich Nhat Hahn says, We need someone to be able to listen to us and to understand us.  Then, we will suffer less. But everyone is suffering, and no one wants to listen.”

I am listening.

Welcome to February, which for me is the month of Love. I am especially heartened or possibly humbled to remember to invoke Love as we begin the Trump administration here in the USA, when I experience how deeply divided we are as a nation and a world community, when I consider the trauma millions (yes millions) of refugees must have experienced when they fled the middle east in 2016 and continue to experience now, and so many other devastating issues that affect our world’s people.

It can be equally challenging for me to invoke Love in my own daily life when someone makes a racial or sexist comment, when I empathize with an African American friend who is terrified for her son’s life, or when our bikes are stolen out of our secured garage….

Welcome to 2017! No matter where you live in the world, this New Year poses many opportunities to recommit to living our value of nonviolence. Remember, that Marshall Rosenberg and Mahatma Gandhi both believed that violence is a continuum, anything from judgment to physical abuse. Our goal is spend as much of our life as possible outside of that continuum. We’re not looking for perfection – all of us have moments when we are critical of others or ourselves – we are looking for a commitment toward limiting the time we spend on the continuum of violence.

Many years ago, I felt utterly despairing that world peace was possible. And, then I realized that I was looking for it outside of myself – in my political leaders, supervisors, friends, ministers, and others. And, while I was looking for it outside of myself, I myself wasn’t acting peacefully in my everyday interactions with my family, friends, and others I encountered.

mary-mackenzie-150I leave this afternoon for a 1.5 week training trip.  I’m leading a weekend retreat this weekend in Arizona and then leave for Washington State Tuesday to lead a 4-day retreat, followed by time with my elderly Dad.

I have noticed that whenever I am getting ready to leave for a trip, I feel a lot of stress and it would be easy for me to express myself in a grumpy or disconnected way.

Yesterday, I had a long list of things I wanted to get done and my phone rang way more often than usual, a couple people stopped in to see me at my office unexpectedly, and many of the things I was trying to complete weren’t getting done as easily as I’d hoped.  So, by 2:00pm I was starting to really experience the pressure of it and my jackals began to howl.

This is all so familiar to me.  Yet another time when if I choose to believe my jackals that I can’t get everything done, that people are interrupting me, or that there’s just too much…, I could fall into a heap of overwhelm and despair.

I could feel myself heading down this path and so I chose to give myself empathy several times in the day by saying or thinking to myself, “Ugh.  I would really enjoy more ease and flow.”  Followed by a few deep breaths and then reminding myself how much time I have before leaving.

mary-mackenzie-150I’ve been studying Michael Brown’s Presence Process and recently read this portion of his book, The Presence Process P. 260.  I love how clear this is:

He’s talking about choosing to live in presence on a daily basis and he says, “For example, when we are paying for our groceries we are either focusing on the stuff that we are purchasing or we are focusing on the cashier who is ringing up the items for us.  We are either fretting about the prices of the products in front of us or we are greeting the cashier warmly.  We are either worrying about whether we have got all the right things for the dinner we need to prepare or we are asking the cashier how his or her weekend was.  We are either opening the gap by focusing on the stuff in it, or closing the gap (to connection) by acknowledging the Presence on the other side of it.  It is this simple.  It is this obvious.  It is this easy.”

There was a moment when I was in a phone store and I opened my mouth and said something to the clerk that truly demonstrated that I wasn’t connected to his humanness.  In that moment I thought “So, you think it’s okay to NOT live your NVC principles because you’re frustrated and because you don’t know him and probably won’t ever see him again?  How is that living in integrity?”

In that moment, I made a decision to be committed to living my NVC values no matter.  Well, the truth is I do miss the mark sometimes as everyone does, but not nearly as often.  My intention stays firm, to live my values no matter what.  If I miss the mark, I give myself and other people empathy.

The daily living in my values is an ongoing commitment, moment to moment.

How about you.  What intention are you living?

mary-mackenzie-150Bringing Presence, Joy and Creativity To Your Relationships and Life
A Women’s NVC 4-Day Intermediate* NVC Vacation Retreat
Mary Mackenzie

August 4 – 7, 2010        Lake Arrowhead, California

When: Wednesday, August 4 to Saturday, August 7, 2010

Where: Peaceful Pines, Lake Arrowhead, California

“Creating Abundance In Love and Life”
is a unique opportunity to blend life-changing learning, vacation play, and relaxation time along the lakeside beauty of a National Forest.

A renowned leader in compassionate change, Mary Mackenzie, M.A., is Executive Director, Flagstaff Center for Compassionate Communication, Co-founder NVC Academy, CNVC Certified Trainer, Mediator and Author.

“Creating Abundance in Love and Life” is designed to facilitate deep growth and freedom from “scarcity thinking” that can get in the way of experiencing all that is possible.

If we trust in the Universe that there are infinite strategies available to us for having our needs met, we can be in the energy to receive and connect with others. Relationships, life and finances can shift – allowing for greater presence, joy, and creativity.

mary-mackenzie-150Attend this 4-Day NVC Workshop in Bainbridge Island, Washington

Empathy as a Way of Being:
Four Transformative Days of Learning to Live a More Compassionate Life

An in-person NVC Academy Workshop in Bainbridge Island, Washingtonwith CNVC Certified Trainers Mary Mackenzie and Kathleen Macferran
Wednesday, April 28, 1:00-6:00 pm through Saturday, May 1 at 12:00 noon

Fee:  $350 (meals and lodging not included and managed by each individual)

Empathy As a Way of Being is designed for intermediate or advanced NVC practitioners who want to deepen their empathic presence.

Atttend this workshop and:

  • Take your empathy skills to the next level
  • Increase your self-compassion
  • Deepen your own persona healing
  • Find out what prevents you from giving empathy and learn ways to maintain your presence
  • Enhance your skills for empathic connection
  • Explore street empathy for natural flow in your connections

Requested experience level: Significant facility using NVC in your daily life.  Completed at least 20 or more hours of NVC training.

More information and registration


mary-mackenzie-150Two days ago I decided to take the day off.  My allergies are flaring and I have been longing for time alone in my house.  My housemate decided to take the day off too.   The previous Monday the same thing happened.  So, for two weeks I have been trying to carve out some alone time in my house without success, and becoming more desperate for it as a result.

At first I felt annoyed and even mad that she didn’t go to work.  My jackal thoughts went something like, “ARGH!  What will it take for me to have alone time in my house?!?  There’s simply not enough room for me under these circumstances!”

Then, I got sad and started to mourn my lack of space and peace.  I could also connect with overwhelm and wanting ease.

I cried for about 10 minutes, just letting the feelings go, not trying to control them, justify them or even understand them.  I just let them flow as I connected to my needs for space, choice, and peace.

Then, a calm fell over me when I thought, “Well, how much space do you want?  What specific amount of time would support you today?”  I realized that I had a class starting at 4:00 pm that day.  It was 11:30 am right now, so what I really wanted was 4.5 hours of alone time in my house.

Suddenly, the situation didn’t seem so enormous and with this clarity I left my room and said to her, “You know I’m pretty desperate to have alone time and the last two times I’ve tried to do that you had a day off too.  Being alone helps me rejuvenate and renew and I’m pretty depleted right now.  I’m not trying to get away from you; I truly just need alone time for my own renewal.  Would you be willing to leave the house until 4:00 pm today?”

She pondered it for a minute, trying to figure out how she could do that and how it would impact her life.  Then she said, “Okay.”

The next day we talked about it.  She said she had been unclear about how she wanted to spend her day when I approached her.  She had work she wanted to do but had been telling herself that she should take the day off.  In the end, my request helped her clarify that she really wanted to go to work that day, and take another day off when she wasn’t so pressured with deadlines.

In the old days I probably wouldn’t have asked her to leave the house for a few hours because I would have been stuck in scarcity thinking which tells me that one of us will lose.  And if I think one of us will lose, I would usually choose to leave my need unmet.  Today, simply by giving myself a few minutes of self empathy, I realized the depth of my need and a specific request that I could make.  I was prepared for her to say no, or to negotiate the specifics of my request until we found a way for both our needs to be valued.  By making the request, I opened the door for both of our needs to matter and to be met.

When I unilaterally decide to not ask for what I want, I am living in scarcity and thus demonstrate that my needs don’t matter. When I take the time to empathize with my needs and then make a clear request, I am living in abundance, and creating the possibility that all our needs matter.

Had I not made my request, I believe I would have spent the day agitated, overwhelmed and judgmental, and stuck in thinking that there’s not enough space in the house for me. As it turns out, I spent the day with my phones turned off, reading, watching a movie, napping with my cat, and not leaving the house until my class at 4:00 pm.  I felt rejuvenated, satisfied, and full of love for my housemate.

mary-mackenzie-150I bought a new TV a few weeks ago.  Odd how excited I feel about this.  Whenever I buy something that costs more than $200  it feels like a big deal.  It is so rare that I buy something if the previous item still works perfectly.  I bought my old TV used  in 1992.  I have never had it serviced and it works fine.  I’ve been kind of thinking about getting a new TV for a while and have even looked at them in different places but could never bring myself to actually do it.  So, I was in a store that was having a sale and I bought it.

I came home and set up the TV and promptly put the old TV in my closet because it works and I can’t seem to let it go yet.

This purchase and watching myself has enlightened me some on my purchasing gremlins.  I have a hard time letting go of something that works perfectly fine.  I think this is my Dad’s Scottish influence and connects to integrity and fairly sharing resources and even respect.  Yet, it’s hard to pass up a good deal – Mom’s Irish influence which I believe is about fun and grace.  Once I get the new thing, I REALLY struggle getting rid of the old thing (because what if the new thing breaks – I’ll have this as a back up just in case there’s a movie emergency!) which for me seems to be attached to security and trust.

My mother had a closet in their big house.  We called it the green closet because once 30 years ago it had been painted green.  It hadn’t been green for at least 20 years but we all knew it was the green closet and it gave my parents, siblings and I a certain sense of predictability and trust keeping the name even though we changed the color.  Even the grandkids of that era knew what we meant when we called it the green closet.  Anyway, the green closet was filled with broken items that Mom was planning on gluing back together someday.  One of them was a bust of John F. Kennedy, Jr. that she got for Pop because, as she said, “He loved JFK!”   She said it was one of his treasured items.  I remember clearly the day it broke.

My oldest sister and brother were having a knock down kind of fight, really going at it.  It was scary and I was about 8 years old at the time.  “The Bust” got broken and we all shuddered knowing Pop would be furious because his precious bust had gotten broken.  He got mad at them for having a fight but laughed about the bust.  He never liked JFK he said.  Never voted for him.  Hated “the damn bust.”  It held no value for him at all and in fact was a source of friction for him.

Mom liked JFK and so bought the bust for Pop.  It was her treasure.  She had given him something that she treasured, I believe, as a way of connecting with him and sharing in a value of hers.

That broken bust of JFK  lived in the green closet from 1966-2005 waiting to be glued until my folks moved into a small duplex, in their elder years.  There simply wasn’t room in the new place for Mom’s broken treasures.

Countless times in my growing up years I tried to throw the bust and other broken items away but Mom wouldn’t have it.  I felt annoyed every interaction about this topic.  Now I understand that her treasures were just that, treasures.  Things that held meaning to her.  Getting rid of them, even broken,  must have felt scary because she so valued predictability, safety and security.  My needs at the time were about wanting space, beauty and choice.

So, I was pondering all of this as I was purchasing my new TV and putting the 20 year old TV and somewhat newer DVD player in my closet.  My first thought was that this actually seems kind of “normal” to me because they work and no glue or repair is required.  Who knows, maybe there will be a movie emergency and I’m going to get the satisfaction knowing that I can whip out my handy backup on a moment’s notice.  Or it will just live there quietly until I’m tired of it taking up space and then I’ll haul it (yes, it’s VERY heavy!) to the thrift store down the block.

Yep, my needs for hanging onto the old TV and DVD player are the same as Mom’s green closet of treasures, safety and security and predictability.  My needs then are the same as now also, space, beauty and choice.  All met with my current choice to store the old TV and DVD player in my closet.

If I want to consider myself more enlightened than Mom, I could get rid of the old TV and DVD player sometime before 2049 so there’s lots of time for more pondering.  Meanwhile, I am certain that Mom is in her afterlife surrounded by her treasurers, the broken JFK bust and all.

Mary Mackenzie, Flagstaff, Arizona