Love Letters to Humans (no. 32) — on Punishment

You can’t punish someone into Right Relationship with you.

Punishment is prime anti-relational fuckery. It’s not always obvious; sometimes it’s sneaky AF. It’s not always conscious, but it always carries contempt and an intent to subordinate. Punishment is an attempt to dominate, control, or train someone into behaving in ways that we prefer instead of inviting them to choose harmonious relationship with us in mutual sovereignty and consent.

Some examples of punishment: Threats • neglect • revenge • verbal, physical, & emotional violence • insults, belittling, diminishing • name-calling • cruelty, intentionally causing distress or pain • persistent complaining • shunning, refusing to communicate • shaming • passive aggressiveness • withholding or withdrawing financial, emotional, physical, social support… and so on.

These punishments scale to fit almost all of our relationships—with ourselves, the people close to us, our communities, and the world. Our violence shows up at the personal, interpersonal, and collective levels. And here’s the thing—what shows up anywhere shows up everywhere. Anti-relational fuckery doesn’t exist in a silo.

We think we’re seeking justice and liberation in our communities, and then we emotionally abuse ourselves for our mistakes. Or we celebrate our seemingly harmonious relationships at home, while we insult, demean, and shun people who speak, think, pray, or vote differently than we do. How can we have Right Relationship if we do not practice Right Relationship?

We came by all of this honestly. We learned what we lived. -AND- we can choose something different. So much more joy and connection is available to us. We’ll explore it in REGARD.

REGARD: a 10-week exploration of Right Relationship begins on October 15th. Registration is open until October 12th. www.inquisitivehuman.com/regard

Message me with questions or set up a time for us to talk. I’d love to connect.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 31) — on Boundaries

Right Relationship requires both healthy boundaries and skill. One is not a replacement for the other. Both require discernment.

When we talk about healthy relationships, we tend to talk a lot about boundaries… how to keep out what doesn’t serve us, how to protect ourselves from toxicity and other fuckery. Beautiful, healthy boundaries are so important. In fact, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is an invaluable set of skills.

-AND-

When we talk about boundaries as though they are The Answer to all our relational struggles, we put the onus of our safety, peace, and comfort on how diligent we are at keeping toxicity at a distance.

There are other skills available to us if we want to navigate discomfort and difference… that don’t always mean keeping our distance. Discomfort and difference aren’t toxic by definition, and many of us have learned to treat them as though they are. Conflict, tension, disagreement, and confrontation are not inherently abusive or harmful, and when we lack the discernment and skills to navigate them and relate to one another when they are present, we resort to setting boundaries as a external fix for something that is internal to us.

Keeping out what is truly harmful to us is necessary. Avoiding people and situations because we don’t yet have the skills to navigate disagreement or difference is using boundaries as a way to stunt our own growth.

I don’t have the answers about what Right Relationship, healthy boundaries, or relational growth look like for you. What I have is a non-judgmental space to explore these ideas, take them away for practice in your real life, and come back for support, witness, and further exploration. I’d love for you to join me and a small handful of lovely people in this conversation.

REGARD: a 10-week exploration of Right Relationship starts on October 15th. Registration is open.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 30) — on Repair and Grieving

Right Relationship requires repair.
Repair sometimes requires us to grieve.

It is asking a lot of ourselves to return to harmonious relationship with someone else when we are still grappling with the sadness or hurt of our unmet expectations. 

Grieving the loss of our ideas about ourselves, someone else, or a relationship is sometimes a necessary part of the process of repair. 

To be clear, I am talking about grief as a process, as an activity, not as an emotion. I don’t mean making out with sadness. I do mean allowing ourselves to feel what needs to be felt—anger, disappointment, fear, relief, guilt, sadness, confusion, resentment… whatever we have—and allowing ourselves to receive the information those feelings have for us. 

Grieving is, among other things, a process of coming to terms with our desire for things to have been some other way, and resolving—to the extent that we can and want to—our outstanding quarrels with what is. Grieving is one of the ways we return to Right Relationship with ourselves and with reality, which in turn allows us to be in more harmonious relationship with others.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 29) — on Anger & Frustration

If anger is a quick flame, frustration is perhaps a slow simmer. Anyone who knows me know how much I respect anger and delight in the information frustration brings us (even if I do not delight in the lived discomfort of the feelings that accompany them).


Right Relationship requires us to feel our feelings, to have an intimacy—or, at the very least, a working familiarity—with what is going on inside us. This means experiencing our own anger and frustration. 


A couple things about anger: 1) Anger lets us know when our values are being threatened or our boundaries violated. 2) Anger masks our fear or our pain. It’s effective. It’s brilliant. It’s protective. We need it… until we don’t. 


When we’re making out with anger and frustration, we’re not getting to the root of what’s really going on. *We hurt. We fear. We’re human.* 


When we don’t address our grief, we disregard our humanity. When we don’t confront our fear, we disregard our power. It’s not either/or. We can be hurt and afraid and powerful at the same time.


In Right Relationship with your anger and frustration, there is room for you… all of you. The anger, the hurt, the fear, the humanity, the power, and everything else. Right Relationship with frustration doesn’t mean eliminating unpleasant feelings and denying your own experience; it means acknowledging and honoring the full spectrum of your humanity and making room for yourself as you are.

Where does making out with frustration allow you to avoid your own grief and responsibility?

Love Letters to Humans (no. 28) — on Accountability

Right Relationship requires discernment. When we mistakenly believe that our desire to change and control other people’s behavior is accountability, we suffer needlessly.

Control—the antithesis of love—is not accountability. It is an attempt to force the other into being different because we have decided that our joy is dependent on their behavior. (This is an enormous amount of power to give to someone else, and I have my suspicions about agreement and consent in most cases, but that’s perhaps another conversation entirely.)

Control is rooted in fear. It is an implicit (or explicit) expression of contempt, manifested through judgment, blame, and disconnection—from each other and our own responsibility.

Accountability is rooted in love. It is an implicit expression of our inherent belonging to one another, manifested through witness, inquiry, and collective responsibility.

 ∞

Where are you attempting to control someone else and calling it accountability?

 ∞

I’ll be piloting an 8-week class on Right Action : Right Relationship in July 2019. To receive a note when registration opens, join the mailing list here.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 27) — on absence

A beautiful human with whom I had the pleasure of sharing one of my 100 Conversations about Right Relationship mentioned a poem/prayer during our talk. We were talking about grief and death and estrangement… about being in Right Relationship with those who are absent from us. They were kind enough to find the text and share it with me.

I don’t know who else needs to read this right now…

A Blessing for Absences

May you know that absence is alive with hidden presence,
that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.

May the absences in your life grow full of eternal echo.

May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere,
where the presences that have left you dwell.

May you be generous in your embrace of loss.

May the sore well of grief turn into a seamless flow of presence.

May your compassion reach out to the ones we never hear from.

May you have the courage to speak for the excluded ones.

May you become the gracious and passionate subject of your own life.

May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle words or false belonging.

May you be embraced by God in whom dawn and twilight are one.

May your longing inhabit its dreams within the Great Belonging.

—John O’Donohue

Yarn & Conversation: an Experiment in Integration

THANK YOU to everyone who has been talking with me and sharing 100 Conversations about Love, Right Action, and Right Relationship with friends and family. Because of your enthusiasm and willingness to join me, this project has kicked off with a ferocity that is both unexpected and deeply appreciated.

And now, elemental habit is emerging. (This feels a little scary and weird, because elemental habit is… yarn.)

How are these two things even related?

[coughs] *Everything* is related.

Exquisite yarn and exquisite conversation are two of my great joys, and I am experimenting with ways to elegantly integrate these passions with attention to their relationship to each other and to sustainability, community, beauty, and impact.

Because it’s experimental and feels like a biiiiiit of a stretch, elegance, sustainability, community, beauty, and impact are bound to be questionable at times. So I’m putting the request out for folks to join me in this exploration — for your witness & encouragement, your experience & shared wisdom, curiosity, mentorship, patronage… however you are able and willing to contribute and participate in community.

I will provide a space to have the conversation, and commit to bringing questions and a lust for learning (both yours and mine), beauty, and spun wool.

For a sneak peek, I’m over here on Patreon, making things, figuring it out as I go, delighting myself, and looking forward to your company.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 26) – on this new year

Entering this new year quietly, curiously, and bubbling with gratitude for my treasured teachers and mentors, respected guides, dear friends and new, and beloved clients — your presence in my life and in my field of vision helped make the good things in 2018 real, and even more good things in 2019 possible. Thank you for teaching me how to belong to one another more fully.

In the coming year I ask to be of profound and generous service, to engage in many more rich and meaningful conversations, and to contribute to radical joy and connection in the lives of those who desire it.

I hope you’ll join me once in a while in the Inquisitive Human Salon—a casual, monthly, intimate, no-small-talk conversation with a handful of fiercely compassionate, authentic humans who don’t have everything all figured out. The next Salon is on Sunday 1/20 at 5:00pm Eastern.

Also, please be on the lookout later this week for an invitation to talk with me 1:1 this year in 100 Conversations: Right Relationship. I am inspired by Desiree Lynn Adaway, Sarah Mariann Martland, Anuradha Kowtha, Tiana Dodson Renard, and other folks making beautiful connections and changing the world, one conversation at a time—or 100. If we’re connected here and have never shared a virtual cup of tea and a conversation that pushed us to the the edges of change (or even if we have), let me know to tag you when I formally announce 100 Conversations: Right Relationship and let’s talk.

Looking forward to connecting more deeply this year, here and wherever else our paths cross. May we give the love we have to give, receive the love we need, learn the lessons that are ours to learn, and experience the joy and belonging that have always been our birthright.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 25) – on Choosing Discomfort

Contempt and superiority are as binding and spiritually oppressive to those who harbor them as they are to those at whom they are directed. Throwing people away is not an act of transformation; it is an act of sacrificing pieces of our own humanity so that we don’t have to experience the discomfort of difference and repair and change.

You know what’s transformational? Conversations and relationships with people who are uncomfortably unlike us. Actively caring for and holding ourselves accountable to people we have been conditioned to fear, to dismiss, or to believe are unworthy of our care and love, and listening to them as though our own liberation depends on it.

note: I am not talking about ignoring the boundaries that protect us from the harmful behavior of unhealed people. Some folx are not yet willing or able to part with (for lack of a better word) shittiness, and thus choose to forego access to us. We get to practice discernment around what is truly harmful and what is simply uncomfortable.

I am talking about letting go of the belief that we are somehow better or more worthy of resources, care, dignity, and belonging than someone else who is living their life, making choices, and being a person in the world in ways that we don’t prefer, that inconvenience us, that make us uncomfortable, but do not actually harm us.

I’m talking about putting down the oppressive and tiresome work of judging other people’s (or our own) worthiness, and instead taking up the joyful and messy and not easy and utterly necessary work of relating to each other in the fullness of our humanity, of finding a sustainable balance between minding our business and engaging wholeheartedly.

“I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.“ – Audre Lorde

Love Letters to Humans (no. 24) – on Curiosity and Self-Love

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Photo by Les Hill D.C.Sc. on Pexels.com

Whose gaze deepens your self-love, rather than merely offering validation?

I am still spinning from last night’s Inquisitive Human Salon conversation. It was intimate. Just four of us, asking hard questions, telling the truth about our lives, and digging around in what it means for someone else’s gaze to deepen our self-love rather than just offer us validation.

Since I tend to process slowly, this answer didn’t emerge for me right away, but it’s unfolding….

One of the ways someone else’s gaze can deepen our love of ourselves is through curiosity.

To be approved, validated, or otherwise deemed lovable, worthy, or deserving by someone else is an external judgement—one that can feel good, but ultimately offers us very little agency. Because that validation can be given, it can also be taken away.

But when someone looks upon us with genuine curiosity, without fear, without judgment, and with a sincere desire to know us better, to understand us, to be with what is true about us… something magical happens. Their gaze creates a bit more space for us to behold ourselves. And when we are free to recognize in ourselves the mystery, the power, the beauty, the flaws, the anger, the will, the desire, the capacity for both harm and healing, ALL the things we have never dared to be with (because the full-spectrum of our own humanity can be frankly a bit overwhelming), there is room for expansion, a deepening of the love we hold for ourselves.

This is one of the things I love most about our Salon conversations – the way we hold each other in curiosity rather than judgment, the way we make room for each other to love ourselves more fully while we wrestle with the things that challenge and vex us.

Thank you for creating that with me.