Peggy-Sax 2Peggy: April 7, 2011

As I embark on a cycling holiday, I’m reflecting on the intensity of this work that we do. It takes a toll. And it is deeply satisfying. Both are true. Why do we do this work?

Life can be so cruel. The last few weeks have been brutal for many people I know in my little New England town- friends as well as people who come to consult with me. Such intense situations: dealing with suicide (the aftermath for loved ones, and confession to me of intrusive thoughts of taking action to join them), criminal charges (shock, disgrace, and fear of what’s to come), relationship crises and break-ups (at the end of the day yesterday, I squeezed in a  session with a couple I adore, together 22 years, with whom I’ve periodically worked for the past 10 years – one announced to the other’s sobs that she wants to break up….), diagnosis of life-threatening illness (a hernia operation that turned out to be stage 3 ovarian cancer – and in another situation, stage 3C Testicular cancer in terrified mother’s 20 year old son), death of a beautiful 25 year old child…..all of that is fresh and in the present…I know there is even more.

When I worked in community mental health, my focus was home-based work in “the Family Advocate Project” – where we worked intensely with families living on the edge of their children being placed in state custody because of neglect or abuse. Before that, I home visited families with infants and young children with disabilities.

And of course, I’ve known many people over the years impacted by mental illness…and…violence…and…abuse….and other traumatic events…and…

In each one of these circumstances, my heart weeps for the lost dreams, the sudden losses, life’s brutality. Witnessing anguish is almost too much to bear. And yet we do. Now I ask myself why? And what keeps me/us going? Would you consider joining me in responding to this question? I can think of no where better than to place these questions than in “the Archives of resistance: Anti-burn-out.”

I’ll begin…

I carry with me a sense of privilege to be invited into such deeply intimate profound moments – the gift of being trusted, and invited to be privy to some of The Secrets of the Universe.

Rising to these situations bring out the best in me. I am reminded of the stories people share with me about being under-utilized in their work contexts…or in their relationships and friendships. In these moments, I experience myself as being  fully “utilized” and even stretched to learn more/develop more skills and knowledge of life.

I experience a sense of awe –  invitations into the spiritual dimension to life,  realizations about humanity, inspiration, gratefulness for what is,  love, beauty, reminders of the ephemeral, queries into the meaning of life,  contemplation of dark AND light and Dark and….It’s all true.

Sharing this with you also adds another dimension….a sense of solidarity, of shared mission, in the face of the awareness that life can be both beautiful and brutal….There are no guarantees about anything. But we are not alone; we can accompany each other. And life goes on. In all her splendors. And cruelties…and beauty…

What are your thoughts? Anything you would add to this list about why you do the work that you do?


Margaret Wells: April 8, 2011

I’ve had three experiences today that tell me why I do what I do.  A young man told me (after three sessions) that as a result of our work he’s feeling more focused and is able to move more into the direction he wants his life to take.  “I’m learning a lot about myself through your questions….I think about them all week.”

Another lady I’ve worked with for 21/2 years tells me she’s able to put up boundaries now that she never could before, she sees her self worth, she’s drawn a line in the sand and moving off in different directions.  When I first contacted her she thought the fact that someone reached out brought hope with it, she wasn’t alone.

To-night a lady I work with told me the value of listening and remembering…it seems like you really listen carefully and I matter.  I can’t tell anyone else these things.

Today I learned that each client teaches me something.  Today it felt like I mattered, and today I didn’t feel alone either.  It’s hard work and it’s sad and it’s generative and it feels like I’m at times the vessel for outsider witness to gather wisdom from those who are generous enough to teach me from their experience and sharing so maybe I can share with others and develop more understanding and empathy.  Maybe…

sarahhughes2_profile 2Sarah Hughes: April 8, 2011

Great question!!  I have some ideas about this in terms of the absent but implicit ideas.  I love that  in this practice of narrative thinking, we can both honour despair and see that it implies some other hopes or stories and usually we eventually get to those stories that can warm my heart even on the darkest of days.
I particularily find remembering stories important and sustaining. Maybe as bringing other people into the room gives more arms – even if virtual ones to both hold the pain and build the values, intentions, hopes…..
If I can remember that on those really hard days it always seems to both sustain, enliven me and be an enlivening practice.  I have had some hard days too this past while so thanks for the reminder question. And the acknowledgement that life can be cruel seems important too.  I have felt a toll lately.

Peggy – I hope you are getting on your bike soon and discovering some moments of beauty and others kinds of awe.The sun is finally shining here today after a LONG LONG winter and I am feeling hopeful and heading out to rake my garden.

JoJo: April 9, 2011

Hi Peggy

I envy you on your bike; yours had pedals so you really can work away the anguish youre exposed to ; mine is powered by a 1300cc agricultural sounding engine and loud pipes and i roar away from all the stories that want to overtake me at times.  Why do I do this work?  Sometimes I think i am really CRAZZZZZYYYY to be doing this, and other times I know its what I am meant to do.

Yesterday a woman got up out of bed having had ECT (I work in the recovery room three times a week as part of my current job) and looked at me, still full of anaesthetic (her not me haha)  turned to me and said “Jo you have made such an impact in my life.”

I was so shocked, I did not recognise her from a previous admission, her hair was all over the place and she was still groggy.  I have no idea what impact i had on her life, I dont know what groups she attended that I might have facilitated but there you have it.  That made my day.  So maybe that is why we do this work?


Peggy-Sax 2Peggy: April 9, 2011

I am writing to you in Austin, Texas where the weather feels like summertime. Now I have a few minutes while waiting for the van to pick me up to head to the campground for the beginning of my cycling adventure My bike is now re-assembled (the first time I’ve actually flown with it, packed in a special box). This morning, Kevin and Leta arrived in the hotel lobby and we went out for a delightful breakfast. I just love how this study group is becoming a web of connections.

Margaret, Sarah & Jo – Thank you so much for engaging with me/us and these questions. Every reflection  gets the juices flowing ,and generates more thoughts. I will need to wait to respond further because my ride just arrived.

I’ll be back soon….


JoJo: April 14, 2011

Dear Peggy

Last night I think I mentioned to Kevin how the anti-substances and alcohol project has catapulted me back to my narrative roots:  I am immersing myself in my old and also new narrative readings (almost in the same way people reach for Biblical texts when they are in trouble haha) but I want to tell you this has been the best thing that could have happened to me.

I find “old” narrative ideas and questions popping up in conversations related to domestic violence, incest, trauma, lack of motication, bipolar and other depressions and the effects of theses questions on the conversations startle me again and again in their purity and  ability to turn problems on their heads.

Yesterday a young woman with a problemsaturated story of incest, rape as a teen and recent loss to suicide heard my addressing her diagnosis (Bipolar) in an expternalised manner.  She immediately said I am not going to see Bipolar as something outside myself, it is my illness and I must deal with it.  I ususally illustrate the person is not the probem in a very basic visual manner by drawing a very elementary stick figure on the board, representing the person, and drawing the problem in a dark cloud apart from the person.  Then we discuss the prolems tricks, expose its voice and its purposes for the persons life.  (Whenever I do this I almost hear David Epstons voice ringing in my ears again, that man is just phenomenal.  The way he guided me into narrative questioning during my studies helped make narrative thinking a part of my life. ) the outsider witnesses in teh room, also traumatised women, responded immediately and related the lies and tricks Trauma introduces into their minds.  The young woman i spoke of initially responded a little slower, but eith tears in her eyes she  laughed and said No I actually have another name it is …..  We all cried, because the one woman said she thought she was HIV and the other one said she thought she was The Biggest Loser in the World so halfway through the session we had a renaming and reclaiming of our names.

We also co-comstructed a letter of dismissl to Trauma.  I widh I could show you what they wrote, but for obvious reasons I cant.  All i can say is that the one woman who had to be shadowed prior to the Trauma Recovery workshop for fear of her hurting herself asked her shadow nurse to trust her she is better and ready to go home.

Somewhow I, when I am overworked and depleted and swallowed up by the organisational stresses of my current job which is steeped in modernist thinking, time constraints and I feel as burnt out as I do now, I relapse into easier and less effective ways of working.

Just reading and focusing on the substance program has infused me with a nrew strain of excitement and hope and I want to thank you Peggy for making this possible.

NOW I’m gonna write that program for Clearview.  Please pray that they approve the licence on Monday.

Love, Jo

sarahhughes2_profile 2Sarah: April 15, 2011

Thanks for sharing this Jo.  Your journey has also rippled into my journey.  I upon reading of your excitement, questions… got reinfused with going back to look at “WHat the heck am I doing?”  In my position as “Mental Health and Addictions Case manager”  I looked around and found I had slide into territory that was not where I prefer to be – and I was headind down “Burn Out ” Road too.  But I got back to looking at my practices and that talk to Chris Kinman made me feel not so alone in BC and your conversation made me feel not so alone in the world!!  So Thank You!!

I also really share your need to return to the books and ideas to get your feel back on the ground.  I have a spiral binder of workshop notes that I need to read through every few months to reorient myself. Sometimes I just carry it around in my bag as some kind of Identity document”

I also had a David Epston moment this week.  I was watching a video tape of a student’s work and I got so lost in it and was laughing gesturing as if I was in the room. Then the studnet and I had a great talk about it and I was reminding of how watching and deconstructing tapes of sessions can also be so enlivening of my work – and a reminder of where I am sliding!!

Thanks for your lovely stroy.  I don’t think I have extenalized trauma before – lots fo other things but not the trauma itlsef.  I look forward to thining about that.



Jo: April 15, 2011

Hi Sarah!  I’m grinning because I have been dragging a bag of old notes in a separate bag to work for about two weeks now, my laptop slung across my shoulder and the rest of my current work in anther bag.  Mt colleagues just look at me in amazement and
have started calling me The Bag Lady.

I never thought of it as lugging around my Identity Documents! I seldom have the time to open the laptop or to have a sneak peak at my old notes in the bag, but i like having them around. I’m so delighted to have a name for it now!  This is particulalrly useful as I lost my proper ID book about two years ago at a bike rally and it hasnt been reissued (this is Africa) so in the real world I dont have Indentitiy Documents or an ID book as we speak haha !

But on a more serious note:  in my trauma recovery workshops I leave it to the clients to relate the detail of their personal traumas, but I actually ask them to be sensitive in the telling of their stories to the group as I see no point in retraumatising everyone incuding myself with stories of blood and gore and guts and intimate detail of the horrors that happen to people.  So we name the Trauma e.g. Rape; Incest, hijacking, Peter, or whatever etc. There are times when it is necessary for a person to speak in more detail but then I always check with the rest of the group members and with myself what the effect of the story is having on all of us.  So we name the traumas; we often rename them as the group progresses.  Sometimes it is sufficient just to talk about Trauma and everyone is ok with that.  Depends on who is in the group.

Are you a Mental Health and Addictions Case Manager?  What does that mean, really?  What does that name get you to do on an everyday basis?  I am a Clinical and Therapeutic Facilitator and that name gets me to do just about everything except make the tea!   and now if and when Clearview opens its doors, I am going to the Therapeutic Program Director.  I w0nder what that name is goingto get me to do?  I already feel the effects: here I am sitting at the laptop in the middle of the night writing a narrative therapy client workbook and journal related to addictions and substance abuse .. but I’ve never been happier.  I am surrounded by half open books cups of ropoibos tea and a very tired basset hound who does not know why he should be sleeping in this room and not in the bedroom where we normally sleep.

by the way; can you think so some practical exercises that might be useful in an addictions and harmful habits group?  some activity maybe that might get an important message accross?  A game, perhaps? sometimes I like to think that actions get the message accross more powerfully than big words and long sentences?

I love hearing from all of you and your inputs are always so inspiring, Sarah.  Thanks for the chat.

Please forgive any typos Ive tried to check the document but I am a bit bleary eyed and might have missed one or ten here and there.  I am terrified of the spell checker having lost one or two heartfelt replies so this has to be it until I work out how to use it.


Cate-Ryan 2Cate: April 17, 2011

Hi Peggy, Sarah, Margaret and Jo, hi all,

Thank you all for sharing your response to this great question. It is one that I like to check in with often, especially when working along side institutions that seem out of date and determined to continue with practices that alienate people and the multi-dimensional world or experience that are on offer, because they want ‘normal’, quicker, cheaper or ‘rationalised’ ways of thinking or doing things. Look out if we ask them to be uncomfortable for a change!

This question also arises for me when all of the ‘big’ issues that you’ve all talked about seem to visit the work I do and make everything, including my heart, feel so much more heavy. Last week, I was ‘acting up’ (yes, we had a really giggle in the team about this phrase because we always feel we are ‘acting up’ having far too much fun and mischief at work! but anyway…) in the team leader position from my role as ‘youth and family worker’ in a community organisation working with young people (yp), their families, schools and wider communities where yp face difficulties staying at home or at school. On monday my co-workers came to me about cases that included increasing intimate violence; homelessness & exploitation; a parents concerns about duty of care for her daughter when we supported her the previous week when the yp was homeless and admitted to the children’s mental health unit; and a yp suspended from school…all in 1 day! by day 2 I was still following up on a couple of this cases and then there was new concerns about cyber safety for a young refugee. Being in a supportive team, one of my co-workers asked if I’d every ‘act-up’ again with so much going on and another co-worker said what a ‘shit’ week it had been. I took a moment and said, “not a shit week, a week where we are doing great work around a whole lot of shit that’s going on.” I think it is this kind of reflection which is why I do this work. because in it all, there are AMAZING people I get to meet learn from.

It is often soon after the question of ‘why’ i do this work that another question creeps into my mind…’if i didn’t do this, what else would i do…? I really enjoy exploring this question because it helps me connect with all of the other parts that make me, me. and though I love me job and am passionate about people finding agency to live the way they want, I also love to remember the other things that I enjoy about life. Some of the answers to my 2nd question include, a national parks ranger, a yoga teacher, run resort/retreat for people to get away and connect to nature, a farmer, a captain of a boat…ahhh the list goes on!

What are some of your alternatives that you dream of when the heaviness of our work is around???

Oh and I totally love the Identity Documents…I often pull mine out mentally in meetings as a way of ‘proving’ the validity to respecting diversity!!!


JoJo: April 17, 2011

I would ride my bike forever … And then I’d chat to the people I meet and listen to their stories and then I’d deconstruct all the dominant discourses that I could to liberate them from captivity and reenlist them in their wonderful local folk knowledges and help them dust off the sparkling moments of their lives and then I’d say cheers folks have a good one and get back on my bike till I get to the next place where I’d listen to their stories… Great post Cate loved reading it!!! Love Jo

Cate-Ryan 2Cate: April 17, 2011

I love that alternative Jo and look forward to the day you come cruising through my neighbourhood to deconstruct the stories around here

It also reminded me of the idea I’ve always had to buy a house with my partner in the really classically fancy part of Brisbane’s northside and become the eccentric couple who garden in the nude, don’t have kids and keep things just a little bit edgy, just to challenge the expectations and norms of how people ‘should’ be if they live in that area! I suppose that has been my way of mentally liberating myself from captivity while inviting others to join in

enjoy your bike riding!

JoJo: April 17, 2011

Hi Cate what a laugh your post was because I think Nico and I are that couple for Pierre van Ryneveld!  He would garden in the nude with pleasure and people say I dress funny.  Haha I love your mind woman at least I think we would recognize one another in an instant!!

Amy-VaughanAmy: June 21, 2011

I have been asking myself lately why I do what I do. Feedback from clients has been scarce lately, and families that were moving towards their hopes have been backtracking a bit. On Thursday last week, I was talking to my client’s social worker, representing some concerns she had, and the social worker cut me off to say that she had already heard these concerns. I kept talking but she was quick to end the conversation. I could hear the derision in her voice for representing my client, who she did not take seriously. This really set me back as I’ve always had respectful relationships with workers in that office. It cast doubt on what I know about my client, which is that she is a thoughtful, conscientious, and honest woman whose story is not given its due because she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I started to wonder if there was reason to buy into the social workers’ attitudes. I was meeting my client this morning and knew I needed a pick me up beforehand, so I went over the handout Micheal White always gave before his workshops. These simple reminders allowed me to have the same experience I have often had with this client – a fun, open, forward-moving conversation. I found my appreciation for her returning. I find that I need to re-orient myself often to narrative ways of speaking and being with clients to have the kinds of sessions I want, often through reading, and this study group has helped a lot.

Jo, your dreams of Bike Therapy sound so fun, unique adn exciting. I’m sure it would be a very popular part of your recovery program.

Peggy-Sax 2Peggy: June 22, 2011

Hi Amy,

Thanks for responding to this question so contemplatively. Reading your post reminds me of how much courage it can take to go against the cultural grain of our institutions. Your story of the exchange with the social worker does not surprise me, but it does make me sigh. The pressure is strong to make clients into “the other” and then to endure belittlement for not being “Professional” when we follow the commitment to treat everyone with respect and try to imagine whomever we’re talking about is listening into our conversation.   And that reminds me of Bill Madsen’s rewrite of “unprofessional behavior.” Have you seen this?

I just reviewed a brilliant article for the Journal of Systemic Therapies about the courage of 3 principals in New Zealand to remain actively curious about “Māori otherness,” and to consistently engage with Māori over how best to be together in education for the sake of the students. Favorite quotes include “You have to be prepared to open your eyes and be taught and to listen and to want to take things on board because you don’t know.” And
“I think it’s just part of the job and it’s about not backing off, and again it’s that thing about being courageous.”

This is yet another reminder of why I am so glad for this study group and the reminder that we do not stand alone in our commitment to why we do what we do.

Amy-VaughanAmy: June 29, 2011

Hi all, We had a retreat day at my work yesterday and it was wonderfully refreshing. A therapist named Maggie Zeigler who has spent the last 14 months in Rwanda at a genocide center challenged the notion of vicarious trauma, saying it is supported by an outsider-looking-in perspective. In other words, it is,  supported by the idea that we, the healthy ones, help those who are not so fortunate and are in danger of being traumatized by their stories. She presented a model of interdependence, whereas instead of helping people, or shutting them out, we come to understand that there is no us and them. She drew a picture of a globe with a giant eye in the middle to symbolize that we look out from a place of having the world inside us, so to speak, to emphasize our connection with humanity. She talked about the need for ‘citizen therapists’.
I found this incredibly enriching, both because of the conversations with other therapists in the room about our gratitude, pain, and shift in thinking, but also because it challenges vicarious trauma, which if I believed it, I can imagine it making me scared of my clients. That day will sustain me for awhile yet.

sarahhughes2_profile 2Sarah: June 30, 2011

I have to get ready for work so I am out of computer time but I wanted to thank you, AMy, for sharing this with us.  This fits with how I see trauma work but I had not thought about it quite like that and I will take some time to digest her ideas.  I wonder where I could find out more – maybe I will google her when I ahve the chance.  I love the image!!
I too will be sustained by these ideas.  I have been off sick all week and now head off to a jam packed day and so a little sustenance is very much appreciated!

Cate-Ryan 2Cate: July 2, 2011

Hi All,

Amy, I too am really curious about these thoughts and would love to know more about what makes up a ‘citizen therapist’.

Interdependence is a principle i’ve always held closely in my understanding of relationships because there is never a point in time where i feel we become de-tached from from those in our life – whether we follow in their foot steps or take different pathways, there was always influence. I remember learning about ‘interdependence’ at uni when deconstructing the concept of ‘youth’ and the value of working with young people as people, connected to a series of relationships & socio-political and cultural systems, which they move into an ‘interdependence’ with as they grow up building skills and knowledge as well as being afforded greater responsibility and opportunity by the adults in their life. (lots of this came from the work of Johanna Wyn and Rob White – Rethinking Youth)

I’m really intrigued by the image too that Maggie shared with you and feel lifted by it’s representation of your connection with humanity. It takes me to a position I’ve been stuck with at work actually, where I’m presenting at a conference some community development work I’ve been doing for the past 3 and a half years on thickening the visibility and meaning of Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures in one of the schools I outreach. As a non-Indigenous Australian presenting this work and being in the position to keep the young people’s hopes and beliefs on the schools agenda, I’ve often been questioned about my legitimacy of working with these young people. This image have taken me to ways of thinking about how I can respond to this criticism, centring my commitment to reconciliation in our community and doing what I can in my community to respond to the present day issues of colonisation while at the same time, taking these actions alongside the expertise of the young people, families and community members who teach me from their stories and statements about how they want things to be.

thanks for sharing your experience Amy

Brisbane Australia

Peggy-Sax 2Peggy: July 4, 2011

I too love the idea of aspiring to be a “citizen therapist.” Thanks for reminding me of our interdependence as a primary reasons why I/we do this work. Now I am bursting with stories to tell.

First of all, you remind me of  Andrew Solomon’s wonderful Moth Radio recordings – each one is about 15 minutes, and so worth it.  See what you think:
Notes on an Exorcism (2009):
The Refugees (2010):

I’d also like to share three recent stories from last week, which reminds me of why I love living in small town/rural Vermont where we have constant reminders of our interdependence. Combined with opportunities for narrative practice, my spirit is constantly inspired and recharged, in work and daily life.

The first story gives a brief glimpse.  Someone that has consulted with me in the past called to make an appointment for the following week. An hour later, we coincidentally both showed up at the Town Green for the local women’s Wednesday cycle ride.  We were two of four people prepared to cycle together. The other three are all at least 15 years younger than I am, athletes, and faster cyclists. I said, “Hey, you guys will be faster than I am. Don’t worry. I’ll just follow your route. I enjoy cycling alone.” And my client replied, “Why don’t the two of you go ahead and I’ll ride with Peggy. I already ran 10 miles today and swam a mile (or something like tyhat – she is training for a triathlon)…And so that is how we came to ride the entire time together. We did not talk about the issues that bring her to my office.  Is this what is called “dual relationship?” I do not think so. This kind of thing happens all the time living in a small town where we wear different hats in different contexts, and all depend on each other.

Story #2: I am now working with several women in transition from long term relationships. Last week, I brought together 2 women at different stages of this process – one is a year into her new chapter, while the other is freshly in the process of leaving. They had so much to give to each other –  no longer in constant pain, the woman further along in her journey became witnessed in her new knowledge, standing firmly now on new ground. And the other woman got to see what is possible. While their stories are very different (one left- and the other was “left behind,” etc), we came together as women, coming into our own. I felt joy and privileged for this experience. I think I will start a group in September, and these will be the first two members. We will make it up as we go.

The third story is the hardest to tell because I don’t know if I can find the words to adequately convey the potency of the experience. Our local Hospice office is only a 5 minute walk from my office, and in the same “Marbleworks” complex. Their office is very modest, in a string of non-descript white buildings, surrounded by parking lots. Shirley, the woman who works as an assistant in the Hospice office, is an avid, experienced gardener with the gift of envisioning what is possible. She persuaded our landlord to let her make a garden in the small space outside her office – otherwise it would have been paved into more parking spaces (about 3-4 spaces?). Over the past 3 years, Shirley has worked resourcefully,  tirelessly and incrementally on making her garden dream come true. It is now like an enchanted garden enveloped by perennials, complete with winding stonework leading to two chairs in the center (and below a lovely tree, which would otherwise have been cut down). She is now working on a little pond…Hospice has no money for such a project; while I’m not sure exactly how, Shirley still made this happen. She wishes it to be called “Sadie’s garden” instead of “the Hospice garden” because she wants everyone to feel welcome, not only Hospice people.

Last week, on a beautiful afternoon,  I met with a client who asked if we could take a walk. I’ll call her “Kay.” I took her to the Hospice garden. We talked while sitting in the two chairs, shaded beneath the tree in the Hospice garden. Coincidentally, we had come at the same time of the monthly support group for mothers who have lost children.  When I saw people arriving, I interrupted our conversation twice to warmly embrace two beloved women with whom I have worked in the past, and whom I have known through the death of their  children. Kay started to cry deep sobs, and I suddenly remembered she too had lost her 6 week old daughter 15 years ago. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but soon, with a bit of coaxing (and the need for tissues), Kay and I found ourselves sitting inside in a women’s circles surrounded by other mom’s who are members of the club no one wants to join…Yet..I cannot recall ever being so warmly and hospitably welcomed into such a deeply healing and loving circle. I was stunned by the experience, and by the generosity of the women in this circle. we were only able to stay for 20 minutes, but in that time, Kay (and I) experienced tears, laughter, and loving embrace. I believe she will come back next month, and in the meantime we will keep talking.

I have always believed that the therapist is only one member of a team. We are not meant to be the central player on that team – I embrace the notion that our work includes strengthening circles of support. Sometimes this means family members – and at other times it’s creating families of choice.

Thanks for giving me the space to tell this/these stories. I imagine you have your own!


sarahhughes2_profile 2Sarah: July 4, 2011

Thanks for all the stories of interdependence.
Your story of Sadie’s garden especially touched me Peggy.  Lots of pieces of it but I think it is Shirley and her vision of making a special space – an enchanted garden.  It brings me back to my connections to my grandfather and his magical touch with creating a cottage for his grandkids that was full of enchanted gardens, secret poetry, miniature villages on miniature islands, humour,  special places to sit and read or think. He had hidden in the woods a to scale copy of the sculpture “the thinker” by Rodin. And then beside it a to scale (I think) sculpture of  “Dopey”  by Disney!
it was good to have a reminder of him today.  His creativity and curiousity is certainly part of this work for me….
Thank you Shirley!! And Peggy for telling us!

Bonnie-Miller 2Bonnie: August 7, 2011

Thank you for these conversations- its such a good question, and a wonderful invitation to reconnect with the purposes that keep us going.

I’m often reminded of a workshop I took part in with a man from Finland- Tapio (I’ll have to look for his last name). He had us do a beautiful exercise- in the first part we looked at our partner as if they were a ‘work of art, a sculpture’; in the second part we were asked to look at them as if they were ourselves. It was a profound experience for me- my parter was a man, and I realised as I looked at him, how much ‘othering’ i do, just of men! Tapio said that when he goes to work, he looks in his book and sees that his first appointment is with himself, and so is his second, and his third…

I have a friend who said she’d be overwhelmed by that idea- but for me, I find that it connects me, and sets aside judgement and fear in a way that opens up huge reserves of appreciation.

and, of course, painting works, as do loud, rumbling rides on the motorcycle


Peggy-Sax 2Peggy: August 8, 2011

Thanks, Bonnie – great exercise! I am often in awe of the beauty I see in others, and the privilege that my work makes it possible for me to intimately get to know people I admire so much.

This weekend, I have been thinking more about the question of why we/I do this work, and in particular, the theme of our interdependence, the privilege of these intimate connections. I just posted something about a joyful experience, witnessing a former client’s graduation. I’d like to add another experience to this mix.

Last week, my husband/partner, Shel and I stayed for a few days at a friends lovely Lake Champlain cabin (we call it a “camp” here in Vermont). Such a treat! After packing up the car, I cycled home, stopping at a favorite new coffee shop in a local town (Vergennes Laundry” – a converted old laundramat). I was in a very relaxed space where time took on another much slower, spontaneous dimension. I thought I was going to get a simple cup of coffee, but instead I ended up staying for at least 1 1/2 hours, catching up with people I