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  • Writer's pictureStephen

Since I live in the US, this week brings the holiday of Thanksgiving.  While I know this holiday can bring lots of mixed emotions with it, I also know that anytime we practice gratitude it can have an immediate impact on our overall well being.  

So what does it really mean to practice gratitude?

I'm so glad you asked!

Practicing gratitude is simply being intentional about anything we have in our lives that we can be grateful for, and then finding a way to express that gratitude outwardly.  For example, I am so thankful for my new granddaughter and the beauty and simplicity of her smile, and here I am telling all of you about that gratitude!  

When it comes to outwardly expressing our gratitude, it could be in the form of a conversation with someone, or an email, or maybe we can write it in a journal, or just say it out loud while we are on a walk (don't worry, these days people will think you are on the phone with earbuds!).  The medium isn't as critical as just finding a way to be mindful of our gratitude and then expressing it in some outward form.  

If you were to be mindful of your gratitudes this week, and then you were going to outwardly express them, what would you come up with and how would you express it?  

Now that you have the idea, why not go ahead and practice gratitude this week?!?  I promise it will have a positive impact on your well being, no matter how challenging this week may be for you!

Be Well,


Center was created to support individuals and teams so they can live from their Purposeful Center.  We specialize in professional coaching and leadership development and we’d love to support you!  Click on our Services page to book a free consultation.

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  • Writer's pictureStephen

I recently came across a quote (can't figure out exactly where!), that is a great follow up to last week's message about Powerful Agreements.

It's possible to "Create Gardens of Kindness and Compassion wherever we are - this is our act of resistance."  

I've been thinking about that idea ever since I found it.  There is something truly powerful about the metaphor of the garden. Gardens aren't just created by chance - they are planted with purpose and intention.  Consideration must be given to things like the soil, access to water, sun, shade, types of plants, and even how something as nasty as fertilizer can be used as a source of goodness and growth to allow the garden to flourish.

If we take that idea of the flourishing garden and realize the "plants" we want to grow and develop are Kindness and Compassion, that pushes us to have to think about what we need to pay attention to in order for those "plants" to actually be healthy.  Allow me to mention two environments where we can pay attention in order to help our Gardens of Kindness and Compassion flourish.

Hard Conversations

Hard conversations are inevitable in our lives. Sometimes we just have to "go there" with someone, and for a person like me who likes to avoid conflict at all costs, they can often feel like walking through a minefield rather than a stroll through a garden.  But if I pay attention to how I can plant kindness and compassion in this hard conversation, it may help it be a garden instead of a minefield.  For example, maybe it's something as simple as the tone I am using.  I need to say something hard to someone that I know is going to be difficult for them to hear, but if I approach it with a tone of kindness and compassion, there's a better chance that's what will grow through the conversation. By paying attention to something as simple as my tone, I can create a better environment for a minefield to be transformed into a garden.

Hard Individuals

You know who I am talking about! All of us have those certain people who are just hard for us. Most of the time it has more to do with personalities and backgrounds than anything else, so it really isn't about me being right and them being wrong - it's just about us being different. Two of the tools I have found help me plant kindness and compassion with these individuals are curiosity and boundaries. If I can approach an engagement with them from a place of curiosity rather than pre-judgement (prejudice), sometimes I can learn something about them that helps me see our shared humanity, which in turn helps kindness and compassion grow.  It's also possible there are times it's better for both of us if we maintain healthy and appropriate boundaries with each other.  Boundaries aren't barriers to growth, but sometimes are absolutely necessary to allow what's on either side of the "fence" to really flourish! By paying attention to how I use the tools of curiosity and boundaries, I give my relationship with those hard individuals a better chance for the garden of kindness and compassion to grow between us.

Perhaps you have to engage in a hard conversation (or two!) this week, or you know you are going to encounter one (or more) of those hard individuals. How could you approach those situations with the intention of cultivating a garden of kindness and compassion there?  What do you need to pay attention to within yourself that will create the best opportunity for a flourishing garden?  Are there ways you might be able to see even the hardness of those conversations or individuals as fertilizer to help you grow into a more healthy person yourself?  

One final thought. Gardens don't grow overnight (through one conversation or encounter with a person), so maybe one of your greatest cultivation tools you can use is the gift of patience. A willingness to be patient while you engage in regular tending to this garden, will eventually produce something extraordinary!

Here's to creating Gardens of Kindness and Compassion wherever we are this week!

Be Well,


Center was created to support individuals and teams so they can live from their Purposeful Center.  We specialize in professional coaching and leadership development and we’d love to support you!  Click on our Services page to book a free consultation.

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  • Writer's pictureStephen

I recently chatted with a few friends about the ways it seems like we can feel the tensions in the air right now. People having such strong differences of opinion about so many topics, but everyone feeling like it's their right to express their views and opinions without any type of restraint or hindrance.

I also attended a virtual conversation between a Palestinian individual and a Jewish individual, both of whom are working to lead organizations working for peace in the Middle East. Going into it, I wondered how much tension there would be and if the conversation would unfold with any hostility because of it. Thankfully, people were very respectful and actually engaged with a great deal of compassion and empathy. It was a very powerful conversation!

I think part of the reason it went so well was because the hosts of the conversation set the stage with some powerful agreements at the beginning. After reaching out to the organizers, they kindly shared the source of those agreements with me as being from Parker Palmer and his organization, the Center for Courage and Renewal. They actually call them the Circle of Trust Touchstones.

I was so impressed with the agreements and saw so many places where they could be applied, I want to share them with you here in a slightly edited version. I think you will see the power of these agreements and immediately begin to see places where they may be applied in your life and relationships.

Give and receive welcome. People learn best in hospitable spaces. In this circle we support each other's learning by giving and receiving hospitality. What is offered in the circle is by invitation, not demand. This is not a "share or die " event! Do whatever your soul calls for, and know that you do it with our support. Your soul knows your needs better than we do. No fixing, saving, advising or correcting. This is one of the hardest guidelines for those of us who like to "help." But it is vital to welcoming the soul, to making space for the inner teacher. Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions... instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help "hear each other into deeper speech." Be present as fully as possible. Be here with your doubts, fears and failings as well as your convictions, joys and successes, your listening as well as your speaking. Speak your truth in ways that respect other people's truth. Our views of reality may differ, but speaking one's truth in a Circle of Trust does not mean interpreting, correcting or debating what others say. Speak from your center to the center of the circle, using "I" statements, trusting people to do their own sifting and winnowing. When the going gets rough, turn to wonder. If you feel judgmental, or defensive, ask yourself, "I wonder what brought them to this belief?" "I wonder what they're feeling right now?" "I wonder what my reaction teaches me about myself?" Set aside judgment to listen to others—and to yourself-more deeply. Trust and learn from the silence. Silence is a gift in our noisy world, and a way of knowing in itself. Treat silence as a member of the group. After someone has spoken, take time to reflect without immediately filling the space with words. Attend to your own inner teacher. We learn from others, of course. But as we explore poems, stories, questions and silence in a Circle of Trust, we have a special opportunity to learn from within. So pay close attention to your own reactions and responses, to your most important teacher. Observe deep confidentiality. A Circle of Trust depends on knowing that whatever we say will remain with the people to whom we choose to say it - whether in small groups or in the large circle and will never be passed on to others without our explicit permission.

Which of these ideas resonates the most with you today? What are some ways you could apply these practices? If you're serving in a leadership role, how might these help you in developing your team?

Here's to embracing these agreements this week!

Be Well, Stephen

Center was created to support individuals and teams so they can live from their Purposeful Center. We specialize in professional coaching and leadership development and we’d love to support you! Click on our Services page to book a free consultation.

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