Saturday, May 23, 2009


On June 2nd, I'm going to be leaving for an eight-week trip. The motivation for the journey is to participate in a family reunion to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday in Swaziland.

Between now and then, I'm going to be participating in a workshop called The Wall, vacating the house I've been renting, and storing my stuff in a kind friend's basement.

Construction of Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community will be completed during my absence, and several of my fellow owners will be moving in while I'm away. I feel sad that I will miss a momentous phase in the life of my cohousing community.

However, my mother's 80th birthday -- with one of my brothers travelling to the reunion from Australia and my travelling to it from Canada -- also is an important milestone.

Fortunately, Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community still will be here when I get back home to Nanaimo. I am excited about moving into my apartment upon my return. Our building looks more attractive every time I see it. When the cranes and delivery trucks are gone and our landscape plan has been implemented, our property will look beautiful.

One of the things that I love about our community is our name. The founders were environmentalists, and the garden element was important to them. To me there are different kinds of gardens. Whether or not the founders consciously articulated this, I believe they would agree with me. There will be the botanical gardens as well as the spiritual gardens that will be embodied in the interior and community lives of the people who will enliven the structure.

I look forward to being reunited with my community on July 27th.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rights of Indigenous Peoples

I am ashamed that Canada is only one of three countries in the world that have refused to endorse the United Nations' Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The other two recalcitrant countries are the United States and New Zealand.

When the UN initially adopted the Declaration in September 2007, Australia voted against it. However, even Australia now has agreed to it.

My excellent Member of Parliament, Jean Crowder, will be holding an informal meeting here in Nanaimo tomorrow. It happens, by coincidence, that she is the Federal NDP critic for Aboriginal Affairs. I am going to attend the meeting and tell her what I think. I'm sure she'll agree with me, so in that sense I'll be preaching to the choir. Still, I feel an urge to do something.

Hmmm ....... I wonder if I could convince Jean Crowder that she is too good for the NDP and that it would make sense for her to switch her allegiance to the Green Party. :-)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

10 Steps to Peace

I like this excerpt from the website of The Center for Nonviolent Communication.

10 Things We Can Do to Contribute to Internal, Interpersonal, and Organizational Peace

  1. Spend some time each day quietly reflecting on how we would like to relate to ourselves and others.

  2. Remember that all human beings have the same needs.

  3. Check our intention to see if we are as interested in others getting their needs met as our own.

  4. When asking someone to do something, check first to see if we are making a request or a demand.

  5. Instead of saying what we DON'T want someone to do, say what we DO want the person to do.

  6. Instead of saying what we want someone to BE, say what action we'd like the person to take that we hope will help the person be that way.

  7. Before agreeing or disagreeing with anyone's opinions, try to tune in to what the person is feeling and needing.

  8. Instead of saying "No," say what need of ours prevents us from saying "Yes."

  9. If we are feeling upset, think about what need of ours is not being met, and what we could do to meet it, instead of thinking about what's wrong with others or ourselves.

  10. Instead of praising someone who did something we like, express our gratitude by telling the person what need of ours that action met.

At this moment, the most challenging advice on the list, for me, is Number Three. Of course I subscribe to that value ....... in theory. But talk is cheap. Whether or not I walk my talk is the test.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vargas Adventure

I promised to tell you about my camping trip to Vargas Island over the Victoria Day long weekend. It was enchanting.

What I liked best about it was the solitude. The first time we saw anyone besides the members of our own travel party was around noon on the day of our departure, just as we were packing up to return home. The scenery was gorgeous, as was the sound of the waves when I fell asleep on the beach.

Although the sky was overcast most of the time that we were there, the rain was confined to short overnight showers. The weather was dry during daylight hours, and that made the logistics of camping and hiking easier.

The company was congenial too.

We left home on Saturday morning, May 16th, 2009, and returned on Sunday evening, May 18th, 2009.

In the picture above, we have just disembarked from the boat that ferried us from Tofino to the near shore of Vargas Island. We are about to hike across the island to Ahous Bay on the far shore. From left to right: Sarah, Sue, Lynne, Michael and Ian.

Above are our tents on the beach at Ahous Bay, on the west coast of Vargas Island. My trip was made possible by the generosity, cooperation and collaboration of friends. Charles and Lynne gave me a ride from Nanaimo to Tofino and back again. My fellow Pacific Gardeners, Chad and Susana, lent me a tent and a backpack. Ian lent me a sleeping bag and a foam camping mattress, as well as sharing his camp stove with me.

Above our party is setting out for a Sunday morning hike. Left to right: Sarah, Sue, Charles, Ian, Peter, Lynne and Michael. The piece of foam that Peter and Michael are carrying was salvaged from the beach. The idea is to use it as a raft with which to cross a lagoon further up the island. Sarah and Michael, in particular, displayed great creativity in finding uses for found objects.

I liked the patterns that waves had made in the sand.

Sunset from Ahous Bay.

In the series of peak moments I have experienced since I moved to Nanaimo, a period during which one superlative has overtaken another, Vargas Island is right up there with the best.

If you would like to see more photos, I have posted some on this website.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Off to Vargas Island

I am off to visit Vargas Island with friends for the Victoria Day long weekend. We will drive to Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island, catch a boat to Vargas Island, hike across the island, and camp on the far shore. I'm expecting it to be fun. When I get back home to Nanaimo, I'll let you know how it went.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Yesterday we hosted a visitor from out of town. We had lunch with her and took her on a tour of our Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community construction site.

She told us how she had spent a considerable amount of time defining what she wanted. Once she'd gotten clear about that, she had no idea where she would find it or if it even existed. Then, during an Internet search, she stumbled on the concept of cohousing. In amazement she realized that was it.

I found it fun to speak with her. I got the impression that she started out feeling a little sceptical, as if this might be too good to be true. She asked us question after question. No matter what she asked, it turned out that we not only had addressed the issue, but also had done so in a way that aligned with her values.

I watched her almost pinching herself to check that she was awake. I am very familiar with that sensation. In fact that's how I feel right now.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Response to the responses

There have been some thoughtful comments on my previous blog post in which I confessed to being a so called Controller.


One of the questions Krista asked was whether or not I had observed any inconsistency between the Pursuit of Excellence (TPOE) and Nonviolent Communication (NVC). So far, I have observed only very minor contradictions between the two. They have been differences of style rather than substance. In fact, I believe that TPOE and NVC complement each other. They, in turn, tie in nicely with two other concepts I have been studying, namely, consensus decision making and conflict resolution.


I agree with MidnightCafe's observation that "Controller" is an unfortunate label and that something about "leadership" would sound more constructive. I like the way in which Krista used the language of Nonviolent Communication to reframe the labels in terms of needs.


I want to add to the information about myself that I provided yesterday. I am not a pure Controller, what the Pursuit of Excellence folk call a Controlling Controller. When I completed the communication Styles questionnaire, I recognized myself in each of the four quadrants to some extent.

This was confirmed yesterday, during a chat with one of my fellow Pacific Gardeners who also had done the Pursuit of Excellence. He said that he saw me as being close to the middle of the graph, where the four types intersected. However, our Pursuit of Excellence instructor encouraged us to identify our strongest quadrant, even if it represented only a mild preference.

The exercise in TPOE revealed that I had a secondary communication style that moderated my primary one. My secondary personality type is what they called the Supporter. That is the sympathetic person who loves to help others, who will go to the ends of the Earth to save a relationship, and who avoids conflict. The Supporter's downfall is that he or she finds it difficult to say, "No." Hence, his or her needs often go unmet. That was the person whom I used to like to think I was.

So, in TPOE language, I am a Supporting Controller.


My fellow Pacific Gardener with whom I discussed this told me that he was a Controlling Analyzer. The Analyzer is a person who loves to study facts and data. He or she does not like to look foolish. He or she also dislikes being rushed. At the extreme end of the spectrum this person can suffer from analysis paralysis.

He told me that, since he had become aware of the personality types, he had made a deliberate attempt to stretch himself. For example, it does not come easily to him to be spontaneous (like a Promoter). He also may overlook other people's suffering (which a Supporter automatically would notice). So, from time to time, he reminds himself to be sensitive to other people's circumstances, and he also reminds himself to have fun.


On Monday night I experienced an extraordinary example of someone stepping outside of his comfort zone. The weekly meeting of Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community's shareholders was challenging. There was one point, in particular, in which I had a meltdown. As had been the case the last time this had happened, I felt deeply ashamed of myself, and apologized to everyone.

About twenty minutes after I got home, the phone rang. It was one of my fellow Pacific Gardeners. He is not a Controlling Analyzer, like our other co-owner whom I mentioned above. Rather, this person is a pure Analyzer, an Analyzing Analyzer. He examines numbers in spreadsheets and the wording of legal documents in excrutiating detail. He expresses his emotions relatively rarely.

He said, "Hi, Judy. After what happened at the meeting, I just wanted to check how you were feeling now." To say that I was surprised doesn't even begin to tell you how I felt. This question, coming from our resident Analyzing Analyzer, was nothing short of astonishing. I also felt deeply touched that he had reached out to me. I knew that he too was a graduate of the Pursuit of Excellence. I was in awe of the positive effect that his efforts at personal growth had had on him.


Being aware of the weaknesses of my personality type helps me to identify areas in which it would be wise to ask for assistance. For example, I made a snap decision to buy into Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community. Last August, I travelled to Nanaimo, a place to which I had never been before. I looked around the city, met the folks who were involved with Pacific Gardens, and did a tour of the construction site. Three days later I signed on the dotted line.

When I look back on that, I shake my head. It's true that I'm glad I moved here. I love my life in Nanaimo. Although we go through wobbly patches, I also love my involvement with Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community. But it was a huge decision with significant, long term implications. If I was faced with such an enormous decision in future, I would force myself to spend more time in Analyzing mode. I also would solicit the opinions of a couple of Analyzers who had no vested interest in the outcome.


Awareness of personality types helps me in my dealings with other people. A while ago, a man -- whom I now recognize as a Promoting Promoter -- let down a volunteer organization to which I belong. He said he would do something for us, and he didn't. As is typical of a Promoter, he is full of brilliant ideas. But his strength lies in starting things, not in finishing them. Now I will take into consideration the fact that he is weak when it comes to focus and closure. Instead of being disappointed in him, I will be realistic about the gifts that he can and cannot contribute to our group.

In saying that this man is a Promoting Promoter, I don't want to suggest that he has been sentenced to that pigeonhole for life. Maybe his self-awareness will increase, and maybe he will expand into the other quadrants in due course. But, at this point, he is not a close friend. Other than wishing him goodwill in a general way, I don't care what he does with his life. The only information that feels useful to me right now is an awareness of his personality type insofar as it affects the volunteer organization to which I belong.

Being aware of personality types also helps me to package information when I'm making proposals. I now understand that an Analyzer, for example, will want lots of information and will want time to process it before making a decision. I will allow the time and space for him/her to do that, rather than expecting him/her to get back to me right away.


There are other personality classification systems. Two that I have studied in the past are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Enneagram. In the MBTI, there are sixteen types, while in the Enneagram there are nine.

I don't think it matters which system I use. I think they all offer the benefit of awareness that some people view the world as I do and some people view it differently.

Owing to my previous studies, I already knew that when I went into the Pursuit of Excellence. The big Aha for me during TPOE was that the Supporter was only my secondary personality type, while the Controller / Leader / Decision Maker was my primary one.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My secret is out

At the Pursuit of Excellence seminar this past weekend, we did a module that helped each of us to identify our communication style (which is akin to personality type). My results shocked me. They claimed that I was a Controller. As the name suggests, it's at the dominant end of the spectrum.

A Controller!!! To me that term spans the water front, all the way from control freak to megalomaniac dictator. Yikes!!! That's not who I am! I am a nurturing, supportive person, right?

I guess my denial stemmed from the fact that I had witnessed the misuse of power. When power had been employed destructively, people whom I loved and I myself had suffered -- either because we lacked the skills to assert ourselves or because we simply had been too little to defend ourselves. Consequently I regarded power as evil.

Our Pursuit of Excellence instructor said that it was important to fulfill our driving needs and to acknowledge our personality types. She said that, if our needs went unmet and/or our personalities went unrecognized, they would leak out in destructive ways. Often they were the source of addictions and other self-defeating behaviours.

Conversely, if we fulfilled our driving needs and recognized our personality types, we could harness their energy constructively. In that case, they were gifts.

Today I told a friend about this additional Blinding Flash of the Obvious (BFO). She was someone who had been telling me for months that I had leadership qualities, but I had discounted her opinion. When I shared my BFO, she said, "Hallelujah!"

My friend went on to say that she thought that my continuing education was instrumental in my gaining this insight. She said that, because I had witnessed abuse and because I lacked confidence in my ability to exercise leadership for the benefit of all, my subconscious mind had protected me from the knowledge that I had leadership qualities. But my workshops have been building my capacity. She referred to the seminars I had taken -- conflict resolution, consensus decision making, and the Pursuit of Excellencer. In her opinion, my subconscious mind must have assessed my growing skill set, concluded that I would be able to handle power, and then let me see that I had it. I thought that was an interesting insight on her part.

In any event, now that I've recovered from the shock, I feel liberated.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


"What is a BFO?" you ask. It is what my Pursuit of Excellence instructor calls a Blinding Flash of the Obvious. I had one of them after the second session of the workshop last night.

Our instructor asked us what we wanted for our kids. We gave various answers that described rich, joyful, fulfilling lives. If I was to sum up all the answers I heard, I would say that all of us in the workshop who were parents wanted our kids to thrive. Our instructor said that the greatest gift we could give our kids was to model in our own lives what we wanted for them. She went on to say that, if that was what we wanted for our kids, it also was what our parents wanted for us. So living a happy life also was the greatest gift we could give our parents.

On my way home last night, I had a BFO. I realized that, to the extent that I had arranged my life to be less than fulfilling, I had done it to spite my parents. It was as if I had said, "You didn't do this, this and this for me. Okay, then I won't give you what you want either. I'll show you. I'll be miserable."

Since I separated, joined Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community, and moved to Nanaimo, my life has really taken off. I did what Joseph Campbell advocated. I followed my bliss. It feels to me as if my life can be divided into two eras, BN and AN -- Before Nanaimo and After Nanaimo.

But even my AN life, splendid as it is, has room for improvement. That's why I'm committed to lifelong learning.

I know it already has given my mother and my sons joy to witness how I've been flourishing, but now I'm going to kick it up a notch. Tomorrow is Mother's Day. The flowers I ordered for my mom already have arrived. She said they were gorgeous, and she was thrilled with them. Well, she ain't seen nothin' yet.

Okay, enough of this chit chat, amigos. I'm off to a full day of Pursuit of Excellence.

The Last Outpost

The other day I heard someone saying something about the Empire Days Parade. The Empire Days what?

Well, it turns out that Nanaimo is something of an anachronism. It still has an Empire Days Parade during the Victoria Day long weekend in May. Who knew?

If I was going to be in town, I'd attend the United Against Empire Rally and Concert at the Krall Space. But I will be observing another Canadian tradition -- going camping for the Victoria Day long weekend.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Guilt and Resentment

Last night I participated in the first session of a workshop called Pursuit of Excellence.

One of the Aha moments I had was an insight into guilt and resentment. They are two sides of the same coin, which is a difference between expectation and reality. Guilt is the cognitive dissonance one experiences when one's performance differs from one's expectation of oneself. Resentment is the cognitive dissonance one experiences when someone else's performance differs from one's expectation of him or her.

That sounds straightforward enough. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand it. But sometimes a drawing illustrates a concept more clearly than words, and the understanding penetrates to a deeper level. That's what happened with me. The instructor drew two overlapping circles on the flip chart. She then drew a little frill around the left hand circle. The "pretty" circle represented our expectation, and the plain circle represented reality.

The parts of the circles that overlapped represented the aspects of our expectation and reality that were consistent with each other. The parts of the circles that did not overlap represented the differences between expectation and reality.

When our own performance differs from our expectation, we have to decide what to do. If I think of myself as someone who always makes my bed, and I don't do it, I have a choice. Either I make my bed and bring my reality back in alignment with my expectation, or I leave my bed unmade and I get over it. Feeling guilty doesn't accomplish anything.

When someone else's behaviour is inconsistent with our expectation, we have to decide what to do about it. The instructor said that what we resented was not the person's behaviour but rather the choice we faced in light of their behaviour. Would we silently stew, would we tell them we didn't like what they were doing, would we suspend contact with them? Often that process of choosing our response and then implementing it is what we don't like.

That was a big insight for me. It also helped to make it more objective for me. I could frame it in terms of the choice that lay before me rather than making it about the other person.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Air travel -- the new smoking

My mother likes to watch classic movies on TV. She says it's easy to tell the era in which a movie was made. In the old movies, everyone smoked, and no one had sex. In new movies, everyone has sex, and no one smokes.

I take some comfort from that when I despair over the environment. People in the western world used to think of smoking as a sophisticated activity, but they no longer do. Few of my friends smoke and, of those who do, most would love to give it up. They carry on smoking because, by their own admission, they are addicted to nicotine.

I am hopeful that, over time, cultural attitudes towards ecologically devastating activities will shift too. I am feeling guilty because I'll soon be flying from Canada to Southern Africa to participate in a family reunion to celebrate my mother's eightieth birthday.

The good news is that I'm feeling uncomfortable. It's a sign that I have some awareness of the harmful effects of air travel on the environment. Carbon emissions from jet aircraft are staggering. A few years ago, I wouldn't have given the environmental implications of this trip a second thought.

Now I am re-thinking destinations I had wanted to visit in future and how I will reach them. I feel much more inclined to stay closer to my (admittedly beautiful) home. When I do travel, I will be more inclined to use surface transit.

Something that is helping me to feel connected with distant family members and friends without flying to them is Skype. With webcams connected to our computers, or built into them, we can chat, even if we're separated by thousands of miles. I particularly have enjoyed long conversations with my brother in Australia.

As for our current movies, I will refrain from speculating what it is about them that people of the future will find noteworthy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Personal versus collective responsibility

In yesterday's blog entry, I shared my regrets about my past mistakes, with a focus on my parenting style when my children were young. Although I take responsibility for missing the mark, I also believe that the society in which I lived supported me in some ways and thwarted me in other ways.

Recently I chose to join Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community. There were many things about it that attracted me, but one of them was the fact that a cohousing community would create an environment that would support me in living the way I wanted to live.

Because British Columbia is in the midst of a provincial election campaign, I am noticing more than ever the balance between personal and collective responsibility at broader levels -- municipally, provincially, nationally, and internationally.

Yes, people are responsible for what they put in their own mouths and what goes into their children's mouths. But the larger society can either reinforce or defeat parents in their attempts to keep their children's diets healthy. For example, it's difficult for an individual parent to ensure that his or her kid eats healthily if school vending machines tempt the kid with sugar-laden beverages.

At every turn, the infrastructure that the larger society has created either helps or hinders people's efforts to be well.

Most people in my circle of friends in Nanaimo care about British Columbia's provincial election on May 12th, 2009. But, when I am out campaigning for the Green Party, some of the people whom I encounter seem apathetic.

I wonder about the reasons for their apathy. It seems to me that some of them might include:

  • They don't believe that government makes much difference in their lives. If that is the case, I wonder how I can share with them my perception that it does.

  • They believe that government has the power to influence their lives, but they don't have faith that they have the power to influence the government. I believe that our first-past-the-post electoral system contributes to individual people's sense of powerlessness in their relationship with their government. I believe that proportional representation would give individual people a greater sense of power. For that reason, I am supporting the Yes side in the referendum about introducing the Single Transferable Vote (STV).

  • They are very busy working and raising children. They don't feel as if they have the time or energy to research and assess different political parties' platforms. If that is the case, I sympathize with them. Again, that leads me to wonder what I can do to make it more feasible for them to access information about the political choices available to them. How can I reach them where they are, and how can I deliver the information in a way that feels helpful to them? Instead of condemning them for their apathy, how about providing services that would make it easier for them to get information? For example, I could suggest to the local branches of the various political parties that we club together to provide child care at all candidates' forums. Hmmm ....... That has given me an idea. It is too late for this election, but it's something I will suggest to local political campaign volunteers for future reference.
  • Monday, May 4, 2009

    A new day

    The entry entitled Six on Annie's Sensible Living blog brought up regrets for me. When I see how Annie, Krista of the This Inspired Life blog, and some other parents of young children employ the principles of nonviolent communication, my heart aches.

    When my kids were young, I did the best I could with the information, resources and personal capacity I had at the time. But, if I had known then what I know now, I would have done many things differently. Yet I don't have a rewind button that allows me to go back and start again. So my whole past -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- remains my past.

    What I am focusing on now is cultivating compassion for myself. I believe that, if I am kind to myself, it will increase my capacity for kindness towards others. I have a tendency to beat up on myself. I am inclined to judge my past actions on the basis of facts and support systems that are available to me now but to which I did not have access then. When I notice myself doing that, I make a conscious effort to return to the present moment, because that's all I have to work with.

    With that said, I look forward to interacting with children at Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community. The prospect of living in an intergenerational community was one of the features that attracted me to cohousing. It will provide me with the joy of being in close proximity to little people who are full of life and energy. I experienced that exhilaration when I spent a few days at Creekside Commons in Courtenay, BC.

    Not only will it be fun for me, but it also will provide a supportive environment for the parents of those young children. I will be one of the people who will form a surrogate extended family for them. The younger families in our community will have relationships with middle aged and older people who, although they are imperfect, nevertheless aspire to nonviolent communication.

    Moving into cohousing will give me an opportunity to interact with children in new ways. I may not have a rewind button, but I do have the capacity to change, to chew through the cocoon that protected and yet imprisoned me when I was a caterpillar and emerge as a butterfly with greater range and freedom.

    Happy sixth birthday to Lily, and happy metamorphosis day to Judy.