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Baltimore, And a Better Relationship with “Manifesting”

I want to take a risk, and talk about the connection between issues of national importance, and our own personal healing (which is what I usually write about here).

Something important is happening in our country. We can all see, it’s in the news. Right now, if a black person is killed by police in some town or city, there’s a good chance it’s going to become front page news. That growing consciousness is a good thing.

This country is trying to have a new conversation, led by some remarkable young black leaders who won’t allow the easy accusations from some elements of white culture–black leaders have to fix their own communities!–pass without debate and response.

Family constellations has a wonderful contribution to make to this conversation. All of us are affected by our ancestral traumas–they don’t die when the people involved die–and the resonances remain until something critical is seen, included, acknowledged.

This systemic understanding forces us to deepen our sometimes-simplistic embrace of the “Law of Attraction.” There’s no doubt of the wisdom inherent in the law–we attract what we place our attention on, absolutely. Both negatives and positives.

And, constellation work raises the question: what’s in charge of our attention? Even contemporary neuroscience confirms that attention is simply not as easy a thing to focus as we might imagine. All kinds of influences–cultural, biological, contextual–influence what we are able to focus on, see, comprehend, and really appreciate.

One approach to “manifesting” claims that there is infinite abundance and all we need to do is focus on that abundance to experience it–and specifically, have as much money as we want. Up to a point, I agree with this.

But every day, I work with clients in despair because, despite all their efforts, they aren’t manifesting what they truly, deeply want–and what is proper to their dignity. Many of them are caught in an impoverishment cycle, for instance, and the shame they feel at being unable to escape it is heart-breaking. And they are stuck. Period.

Work harder? Think better? Do more meditating on their desires? Well, sure. But it completely ignores the visible and invisible systems that surround and influence them. You might feel discouraged that our surroundings influence us so much, but in fact, as social creatures, our connection to each other through these visible and invisible ties are immensely important to us, and not easily discarded. In fact, in the realms of unconscious loving devotion to our families, it’s pretty much impossible to discard in any simple and conscious way.

So, what’s the better way? Rather than trying to discard, push away, or ignore our context, we include it, fully, allowing the grief if that’s necessary–and noticing this is where we are, this is where we belong, even in a world full of injustice.

When it comes to financial challenges, the place to start is noticing, with honesty, that we do not live in an economically fair system. There are people all around us who have more or less opportunities than we do, from the very beginning of their lives. This is true. It is part of our dignity to admit that this is where we live.

I imagine a symbolic representative for our economic system, with all its inequities, and I make the constellation move that isn’t about approving or liking or giving up or anything like that. I bow, and in this movement I say “I see you. You are here. You are part of my life.” And something relaxes–I don’t have to pretend it doesn’t matter in order for me to start moving toward what I want. I can be part of this, critical of this, and be who I am, too.

And then, we act for ourselves, for others, and–as Charles Eisenstein calls it–the more beautiful world we know is actually more proper to all of us.

“Manifesting” isn’t about overcoming the way things are. It’s about seeing things as they are, recognizing that your life–for good and for ill–is bound up in the world, as it is. It also notices the same thing about other people who don’t share our advantages or disadvantages. We can’t easily point the finger and say “You should make that better!”

Are you noticing the creative tension between “manifesting” and what is going on in our country right now? How is that showing up personally in your life? I’d love to hear from you! Please post your comments and questions here.

2 Responses to “Baltimore, And a Better Relationship with “Manifesting””

  • Tom Neel:

    Since doing workshops with you at the Systemic Constellation gathering in Bellevue I have looked forward to your periodic notes, enjoy each one, and forward to others here in Massachusetts, and family all over. Steer me toward the “Law of Attraction” ~ that practice resonates, and I want to know and learn more.

  • Thanks Tom! I am no expert on “The Law of Attraction” (an idea that has been around for millennia by a variety of names), but if you google it, you’ll find tons of resources. There are many approaches, but the most popular one these days can be found at Again, I don’t agree with the entire approach to be found here, but there is lots of wonderful and interesting stuff. Good luck!

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Of All the Constellations in all the Towns, in all the World, He Walks Into Mine…

James Woeber & me in Mexico City

I hold family constellation gatherings every 2-3 weeks in Berkeley. At my last gathering, we had a new visitor–his name was Alfonso Malpica, and he was visiting the Bay Area from his home in Mexico City. His parents, Alfonso and Angelica Malpica are leaders in constellation work in Mexico, and they are the primary organizers in Mexico City for Bert Hellinger, the founder of Family Constellations, and his wife Sophie, who now trains alongside him.

At the end of the evening, young Alfonso approached me: he said “Leslie, Bert is training in Mexico City in two weeks. You have to come. I will get a ticket for you.”

No, that really just happened. Someone from Mexico visited San Francisco for two days, looked for a constellation event on google while he was here, found my event, attended, and then arranged for me to come to Mexico, free ticket, free lodging (neither of which were inexpensive).

Needless to say, I couldn’t go. I’d just returned from a big annual vacation (also in Mexico) and I was terribly behind in my business. I hadn’t planned to be away for a whole week at this point in time. I couldn’t go.

But, I went. Right? I had to.

I spent an amazing week in Mexico City, learning and receiving healing from the 90 year old founder of my life’s work. And, since it felt like this gift from the universe wasn’t just for me, I invited James Woeber, with whom I am co-directing the North American Systemic Constellations Conference in San Diego this November (you are all coming, right?). So, together we observed, sank into the Field, and made profound connections.

What were my main learnings? (Warning–a bit of jargon here, mostly for readers who understand the basics of constellation work.) 

  • Constellation work really benefits from slowing… things…down. Bert insists his representatives move very, very slowly, and I noticed that when that happened, they became much more sensitive, receptive, and resourceful.
  • He also didn’t allow the representatives to “report in,” which meant that if there was something really important to “say” it had to be said with their bodies and movement, rather than words. And, they had to become creative about dealing with the normal internal pressures that representatives experience. Because of this, the re-solutions frequently emerged on their own, without much facilitator interaction. That gave the re-solutions enormous power to impact the client, because they arise as part of the healing wisdom of the system.
  • Bert has a way of summing up the whole system problem or solution in one word or phrase. One time he said to the client “It’s over.” Those two words nearly did everything the client needed–it was quite a remarkable moment. Feeling deeply into the “sense” of the system and finding simple words to convey it were deeply healing.
  • So, as a facilitator, I can slow down and do less, and therefore maybe do much more for my clients. That’s scary, but it’s also really exciting.

Personally, I also had two very profound healings while sitting in my seat with 800 other people–one with my mother, and another with my father. Both were as strong as any more elaborate constellation set up.

Banner at conference hotel in Mexico City

Young Alfonso Malpica showed up one day, and I was there, and he offered, and I said yes. And everything is a bit different now.

It was unusual, but it was also very, very ordinary. Extraordinary appearances happen all the time–do we see them all? I figure I miss most of the ones in my life, but this one I saw. I invite you to see yours…

Have you ever said yes to an opportunity that seemed crazy? What happened? I’d love to hear from you! Please post your comments and questions here.

3 Responses to “Of All the Constellations in all the Towns, in all the World, He Walks Into Mine…”

  • Hi Leslie,
    You did a constellation for my husband and I last year September 22nd. It was incredibly powerful and we are forever grateful. I’ve just recently had a similar experience of a “yes” opportunity. My church hosted an “If” gathering and asked people that were interested to sign up to be part of an ongoing “if table” with other women from our church. Groups of 6 women meeting for dinner and thoughtful questions to answer once a month. I hesitated and wanted to think about it more. Well, God had other plans. My name was somehow placed on the list, not by me, and I went to the first gathering last night with 5 strangers who I know are going to become friends. I’m happy that I stepped into this opportunity instead of turning my back and I’m excited to see what deepening these friendships brings. Thanks for sharing your story. I think we too often ignore the signs and gifts that are placed in front of us.

  • Donna:


    I loved reading about all that ensued from Alfonso attending your family Constellations night! I love, love it when we open ourselves to be in the flow, which allow such synchronicities to arise. I’ve had similar things happen to me, and they’re magical.

    Very happy for your healings, and that you were able to be in the presence of the founder of a healing modality that you are so obviously passionate about.

  • Leslie, I love this!!! At this time I’m unable to claim a ‘yes’ to an opportunity like that, but wow I am certainly open to it now :-)

    Also, thanks for the sharing on the learnings from the events. Some jargon still conveys the feeling. And mostly the appreciation that this is deep work in which spoken language is only one language amongst many.

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No Need to Fake Authority…

If you’ve ever been in a business growth program before, you’ve eventually heard about how important it is to “position” yourself: to explain to people why they should come to you and not to someone else for the service they are looking for.

But this isn’t just limited to people in business, not by any means. Think of a newly trained teacher trying to take charge of a classroom. A young doctor trying to assure a panicked patient. A freshly trained cop out on the beat.

The context I first really experienced this was when I was ordained. I was young, and I didn’t know much of anything despite my training, I had little experience, and yet I was in charge of a church: the sick, the dying, the getting wedded, the ones needing counseling, the newborns. All turning to me for something I had no idea how to give.

I will never forget my first “pastoral counseling” session. A young man came in and confessed he was having an affair and he didn’t want to tell his wife (this in a very conservative community). I almost turned around to see if he was talking to someone else. Surely he wasn’t asking me for help, advice, assurance? I had no idea what to say to him.

When coaches talk about “positioning,” it can often feel like a contrived activity, coming up for reasons for why people should buy from you even though you are somewhat new to your field and just starting in business. Unless you are really naturally super confident, it may feel like you are being told to fake something.

We must never fake our authority. It has to come from our deepest sense of ourselves, whether we are new or been at it a long time. The students, the patients, the people on the street, my parishioners: they all need someone to be there in that role. They need to be able to trust that, without any faking.

Block Island 2010 014Authority comes from a number of sources: age, experience, training, certifications and degrees, the good opinion of others. All of these count. Some of us have more than others. It’s appropriate that our “position” varies a bit depending upon these different resources and contexts.

Here’s a story about not faking it. I had a client who couldn’t settle on her niche: she was torn between niche x and niche y. She felt bad about it, and worried about not being able to figure out what to say when someone asked her “what do you do?” I said, “What if you say to them ‘Y’know, it’s been challenging. I am thinking of x and y. What do you think?'”

She said to me with incredulous joy “I can say that?” I said of course; just tell the truth, with authority. There’s nothing to be ashamed of to be thoughtfully engaged in the process of figuring out your focus; she might just get the input that she’s been waiting for, or maybe a good referral source (or friend!) down the road.

It’s not about “positioning,” not really. It’s about being yourself in a way that is authentic and gives people a really good reason to work with you. Nothing more, nothing less.

The good news? What you are is exactly what they are looking for.

Are you struggling with authentically expressing your authority in your work or life? If you need help with this, I invite you to consider joining my next four month program.

And if you are struggling with the pain of not being able to get into action you know would get you where you want to go, I am curious about your experience. I’d love to hear from you! Please post your comments and questions here.

2 Responses to “No Need to Fake Authority…”

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That Awful Feeling When You Know You Need to Get Into Action to Have Something You Want, But You Can’t Do It…

Working with clients who have business practices, I’ve noticed many people on one end or another of a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum are people who are essentially workaholics–they can never work enough, they don’t take a break, and something is out of balance. If that’s you, I am sorry. I think the pain of workaholism is really under-appreciated. This is one end of a spectrum.

In this article, I want to talk about the people toward the other end of the spectrum. These are folk who, no matter what they do, can’t seem to get into action on their businesses: they can’t build that website, write that copy, go to that networking event, set up that spreadsheet. It goes way beyond procrastination, and starts to approach collapse. They may get a little done from time to time, but it’s really not enough to create momentum, or even a sense of “enough” (enough clients, enough income flow, etc).

From my experience, the folks struggling with this problem fall into one of two categories. If you are in this situation, you might ask yourself which one fits you.

1. The first category are people who genuinely want their business, but unconscious safety patterning is blocking their ability to move into action. This is usually really easy to notice–there’s a distinct sense of fear about sitting down and doing the work. Overwhelm, panic, confusion, uncertainty, inability to focus, etc. are often strongly present.

2. The second category are people who have good reasons to think they want a business, but deep down, in their truth, it’s not what they really want. In this case it’s not an unwanted block, it’s actually deep wisdom that is trying to speak and tell them they really want a different way to honorably make an income. The feelings in this situation are often very similar to the feelings in the first category: fear, anxiety, confusion. This is the language of your wisdom telling you that you aren’t aligned with yourself.

If you are in the first category, what you need is deep healing. There are lots of ways to do that, but an investment in resolving unconscious blocks almost certainly is going to be a part of your business growth expenses.

If you are in the second category, the obvious answer is to stop trying to build a business, and start doing what you really, really want to do! But that’s way easier said than done when we’ve invested so much work, vision, and desire to have a business. It may also be difficult to imagine a way to use your skill (massage, yoga, NLP, etc.) in any environment other than a private practice.

So the big question: How do we tell the difference? My apologies, but unfortunately, it’s really hard to do that. There’s a story from the bible that illustrates this dilemma. One day, Jesus was warning his disciples about the false prophets who would follow him. The disciples urgently asked him, “How can we tell the difference from the false and the true ones?” And Jesus basically said, “Sorry, you can’t. You can only tell by their fruits.” That is–you can tell after it’s all over which ones were true and false.

Over and over I talk to people who, in hindsight, can tell you with great clarity what the meaning of their growth process was. Now that the new niche has appeared, they can tell the old one that had them shut down wasn’t right. Now that they got the golden job offer, they can tell they just wanted to build a business because that’s what their dad did. Etc.

But at the time, they simply couldn’t see it fully. It had to unfold. It had to be seen through time. Healing was needed, and then clarity and manifestation just came through.

I have had many clients in my business who have belonged to either of these categories (and of course combinations of both). They struggled with getting into action, and freedom came when old blocks were healed and/or true alignment with self was found. And then, it starts getting easier…

Are you struggling with getting into action? If you need this work, I invite you to join my next four month program.

And if you are struggling with the pain of not being able to get into action you know would get you where you want to go, I am curious about your experience. I’d love to hear from you! Please post your comments and questions here.

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Can You Make Money While Being Generous?

Many of my clients who have their own practices struggle with paying the bills. They scramble to create programs, market them and find new clients, and price in a way that makes sense. It often feels like very hard work.

A few weeks ago, I offered a free New Year’s Visioning Workshop. Over 50 people attended, more than any other event I’ve offered. It was great! We had such a good time, welcoming in the New Year together. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I offered it because I’d been thinking a lot about generosity, and in 2015, I want to intentionally be more generous in my life and in my business. So, I offered the workshop.

But the groundswell surprised me. You may say, well, it was free, of course it was well attended. But anyone who’s been in business long enough has offered free events that no one has attended, and has gone to events that cost thousands of dollars that were packed. So, it’s not just that it was free. What was it?

I believe it was the underlying stance: my intention to be generous, and to give something freely. This kind of spirit is hugely attractive. It was such a shift for me, I knew there was something more to be learned in this experience. This is what I think I learned:

Whether you charge something or not, it’s possible to have an inner stance of generosity that potential clients can feel. (And by implication, it’s possible to offer things that are “free” but still don’t feel generous, right?)

What does a generous life and a generous business feel like? What does it look like, and how do we live it? And, how do we make enough money so that we can pay our bills and live well, even while being generous?

Obviously, it means something different from the scarcity mentality that often creates so much suffering for people trying to build their businesses. I say that without judgment: it’s actually not very easy to have something other than a scarcity mindset in our modern culture, and it’s not something we change by just “thinking differently.” I used to be completely stuck in scarcity, and from time to time, I still see it arise in me.

Abundance mindset–or what I prefer to call “Enough Mindset”–comes from a deep, unconscious sense that I am okay, and, in the words of 14th c. female English saint Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

When clients instinctively, unconsciously feel you are well and generous–even when considering a large and expensive program–it feels good to them to think about working with you. You feel safe, and then they can ask themselves the simpler questions about fit and cost and timing, etc.

This is very deep work. In addition to all the important stuff around nuts and bolts, and steps to build a business, it’s necessary to do this deeper healing work so we can be generous and well with our clients. The good news is that when this is in place, I’ve seen over and over, the money flows better. It just does.

If you need this work, I invite you to join my next four month program.  And whether you are in business or not, I am curious about your experience of generosity. I’d love to hear from you! Please post your comments and questions on my blog here.

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The Top Ten Things That Confuse Alternative Practitioners, Coaches & Other Heart-Based Entrepreneurs About Business

As someone who for many years was a “general practice healer” (and I still do that, too), why did I start focusing on helping people build their practices?

There are several reasons, but one of them is that I began to understand in a deep way what makes heart-based practitioners like us different, and how that’s wonderful, and also how that can make going into business tricky. Such practitioners often suffer unnecessarily, for reasons really specific to them. But with a few re-frames (and some work!), it’s possible to find a better way that allows success in business and full alignment with yourself and your values.

Since I’ve found my way through that, I want to share what I discovered, so that all of you with such wonderful skills could share them with everyone else who needs them.

As I thought this through, I came up with my very first (and hopefully, only) “Top Ten” article for you to think about–do any of them apply to you?

The Top Ten Things That Confuse Alternative Practitioners, Coaches & Other Heart-Based Entrepreneurs About Business:

(Some of them are obvious, and some of them are pretty subtle. And, even if you aren’t self-employed and don’t want to be, you may find some of these apply to you, too.)

1. Many of these people have had little or no exposure to business (and their training schools didn’t teach them any business stuff), so the learning curve can be steep.

2. Many of them have little natural inclination to business, so doing it can feel boring, uninspiring, or irrelevant to the real work they want to do.

3. Healers often can’t stand seeing their work commodified (that is, have a price put on it).

4. Healers are often trying unconsciously to heal cultural or family ways of life that didn’t respect and support full human dignity. For some of these practitioners, business is permanently associated with what they are trying to fix in the world.

5. Many of these practitioners want to see a different economic world than the one we currently operate in, and it can feel unethical to seek proper financial security if one is committed to that alternative vision.

6. The world of business growth programs for so-called “conscious entrepreneurs” is overwhelming right now. It’s hard to choose amongst the baffling array of choices.

7. Because many of these practitioners are new to the business world, they may have a hard time evaluating various approaches and programs. They are often guided by a “good feeling,” and if scarcity consciousness is playing a role, they may pay a whole lot of money for something that is of poor value, not what they need at the time, or not a fit for who they are.

8. Many business coaches teach a way to success that was their way to success. So they teach a cookie cutter approach rather than the art of business. This works well enough when the client is in alignment with the cookie cutter approach, but if they aren’t, they can’t evolve another way to get to where they want to go, and they often feel as if they have failed.

9. Heart-based people usually have little tolerance for being out of alignment with their values for an extended period. If they are taught business principles that are out of alignment with their values, but they try to apply them anyway because an “expert told them to,” their unconscious inner wisdom often shuts down their progress. This is often interpreted as “an inadequate success mindset” or “not really wanting it,” when actually it’s inner wisdom trying to be heard.

10. When these people end up “failing” with a business program or coach, it can be immensely discouraging. They often blame themselves (especially if they are dealing with any lifelong self-esteem problems) rather than ask critical questions about the coaching they received.

How about you? Do any of these resonate with you? I’d be really interested to hear what “business” feels like to you.

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What’s the Pattern of Your Life Right Now?

I recently stumbled on a video of a presentation I gave at a new year’s event some years ago. At the beginning of the presentation, I invited people to remember where they were a year ago, in February 2012, which means the presentation took place in early 2013. At that time, “2013” was still hard to write in checks and felt weird. Now, “2013” feels old, normal, not weird, familiar.

It’s strange how hard it is to remember just how “new” feels. When it’s replaced with “familiar,” it’s almost as if we get amnesia about it. Similarly, if we are dealing with something new, like “2015”, then it’s hard to imagine what it will be like when 2016 rolls in and 2015 is as familiar as a favorite pair of worn in shoes.

At the risk of being trite, it’s about the cycles of life. Sometimes it’s useful to take a flight above ourselves, and see everything for what it is. So much of the time we are immersed–appropriately–in the urgency and intensity of “now” that rising above and seeing what we’re feeling so intensely as part of a larger pattern, rhythm or cycle is tricky.

But it is really important to do, time to time. Because in gaining some perspective, we empower ourselves in making the choices we’d really like to make about our lives.

The new year can be a good time to get this altitude. There are other times as well, and as mindfulness teachers remind us, the mature capacity to observe ourselves without judgement is essential to the happy, well-chosen life. But most of us can’t do this at the same level all the time, so it’s good, ritually, in community, to be able to do this.

What’s the pattern of your life right now? What’s happened recently, and what does that mean? What’s going on right now, and how much of that are you choosing? What is emerging, and how would you like that to manifest?

We all want a life that is congruent: one that is in alignment with our deepest sense of self, and the values that mean the most to us.

And, we get off course, inevitably. Old wounds from long ago and far away try to convince us that the past isn’t past and we need to defend ourselves from threats long gone. Family loyalties limit our sense of what is possible when it comes to love. Habits tell us that new discoveries aren’t familiar and can’t be integrated into our lives.

Take the time at this beginning to reflect, notice, and see if some other life energy might be present so that we can align our lives with what is most important to us.

There are lots of ways to do that, and one is coming up on Sunday:

New Year’s Clearing & Visioning Day: A Gift to My Clients, Friends, & Their Friends. This is a free event, my gift to you. For more details and to register, go to New Year’s Workshop.

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The “New Year” is a Friendly Invitation, Not a Rebuke

I admit it: I’ve never tried to have a New Year’s resolution, so I’m not in a very good position to say they don’t work. I’ve simply never been much attracted to them. If I am not already able to do something easily (enough), then applying renewed willpower has never seemed likely to work any better than it has until that point, and the truth? I’m kind of allergic to disappointing myself. ;-)

And yet, there’s always been something attractive about this time of the year. I have made it a practice for several years now to slow down, reflect, and see what might be revealed in a way I might not have noticed until now. I feel the presence of an invitation, and I feel inclined to find an authentic response.

As we all know, the timing of the New Year is fundamentally arbitrary. For the Chinese and many other Asians, the new year happens late January or early February. For the Jews, the new year is sometime in September or early October. But the cultural context has a deep influence, as we learn from any systemic point of view: the fact that most everybody is celebrating a new year at the same time takes us into that ritual space where we are, indeed, noting the end of one year, and the beginning of a new one.

In cultural anthropolgy, this is called “liminal space”: a threshold, an in-between-ness, that is very holy, sometimes scary, and always filled with possibility, new energy, and the likelihood of counter-intuitive reversals and topsy-turvy-ness. And, it’s not so much because of something “out there” (the arrangement of the stars and planets) but because as a community we are stepping into the space together in a ritual way, and that does something very powerful. (For more info on liminality, check out this very useful article.)

Having said all that, our shared community rituals are hugely impoverished. Watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, drunken parties, etc., all have their useful ritual elements, but because of our radical freedom and independence (mostly very good things indeed), we don’t have much in the way of rich, symbolic ways to enter liminal space together, find wisdom, and step into something new supported by the community.

Another aspect of this season is gratitude. It is typical to spend some time during this liminal period to look back, and while we might need to grieve losses, betrayals, crises, or disappointments, most of us also have some concrete blessings to give thanks for. Having made it through another year; the beauty we participated in; having enough (or perhaps an abundance); being touched, in some way, by other people; having work, or offering service to others, that was meaningful.

In addition to gratitude generally, this season has me thinking more and more about generosity, too. I like to think of myself as at least an average-ish generous person, but more and more, as my practice has grown, I’ve felt a longing to explicitly include generosity in my business.

So, these things come together: New Year’s reflection, stepping into liminal space with others, grieving losses, gratitude for blessings, and generosity. I invite you, wherever you are, to find your way to do this good, spiritual work.

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Helicopters & Constellations

I live in Oakland, and I admit, happily so. The night of the decision by the grand jury on whether to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown, I was working with a client at my office. Like many of my clients, she had parents who did not keep her safe when she was a child. Working with what she most wanted about all of that, it became clear that the wisdom of family constellation work was what we needed.

Quickly, we made contact with the deep pattern of violence in the family that her parents were trying to honor, in a form of deeply distorted love for their ancestors. More and more, we came in contact with both the ancestral violence and the love that was trying to be expressed through all of it.

As we worked, we heard helicopters overhead. We knew what they were about. If you live in Oakland long enough, you know. The decision had come through a few hours before our session, and when it comes to issues of justice and protest, Oakland never shrinks back, for better or for worse.

We couldn’t know exactly what was going on–later we would hear about the blocked highways, peaceful protesting, and the damaged storefronts–but we knew it was important. And that what we were doing with her family system was important.

We live in a violent and fragmented society. Love comes through purely, and love comes through massively distorted. One important and beautiful insight of family constellations is that when someone perpetrates against your family, or your family perpetrates against others, these two sides become connected–they now belong to the same system, and healing must include both.

Blacks and whites in America are in a system together. It doesn’t matter if your people came recently, or had nothing to do with slavery, we are bound together, deeply. Our healing comes together, or not at all.

My client was able to automatically relax when we started to include the historical violators that were clearly part of her family system. (Needless to say, this isn’t something she could or should have done as a child, or in the context of continuing danger; this is something we do as adults with the dignity of our adult capacities.)

These ones are included not necessarily with approval–none of this has anything to do with liking or approving. But together we consented, acknowledged, and included what is deeply true about her family. When that happens, something paradoxically relaxes–everything we thought we were protecting ourselves against turns out to have a proper home with us.

Many are scared. Appropriately so. The truth of the relations between black and white America has been stunningly violent. It’s pretty frightening. And, what will happen when we welcome each other, as we are? What will happen when we find out how to do the hard work of seeing, naming our role, and waiting?

I have no answers, but the grace amidst the violence is obvious. Keep doing the work. Listen to the helicopters, and keep doing the work. And imagine what it will be like when the paradoxical relaxation–not completely comfortable, but welcome nonetheless–that comes from including the truth finally happens for us all.

6 Responses to “Helicopters & Constellations”

  • Hi Leslie, I have spent the last hour on your blog. Its soooooooo nourishing for me. I love family constellations work. Ive been working on a piece for a few years, (not in FC), mainly because I couldnt face it, but I found out that my nearly direct ancestors were Slave Owners in the US, which for little old me here in NZ was bizarre. But I could so relate to that pattern on my fathers side for sure. I spent most of my life feeling like I was a slave, feeling like Cinderella. I couldnt own the power of the Slave Owner. It was very much about ill-gotten gains and always having this glass ceiling financially for me.

    Anyway, Im now working through a piece about family violence, and I only came upon it yesterday, and I wondered what you meant by the distorted loyalty to our ancestors violence, what are some of the ways in which we can be loyal to violence?

    I have a VERY strong belief that the world is a dangerous place, I dont want to be out there. Im a hider and an avoider and very anxious in the world. I realised that my first introduction to a bigger family were my cousins who were scary boys. And violent grandparents. Angry father. I must be doing this dance with violence somehow.
    Love Kate xx

  • What beautiful and brave work, Kate, and great questions, too! I don’t have all the answers, but here is a presupposition of family constellation work: everyone who is a member of the family has a full right to belong–even the “perpetrators.” That doesn’t mean they belong without judgment or responsibility, but the family system instinctively includes all elements, even in the face of apparent day to day rejection, ostracism, and cutting off. When the family isn’t able to do this honestly, in the open, and with complete resolution about what may have happened, then the system tries to include them in other ways, usually not consciously and usually not very helpfully. A good example: the son who ends up becoming like the father he never knew, whom his mother disrespected because he was “no good,” because the son will instinctively want to include and love his father.

    When there is unresolved violence in the family, elements of the system will seek to re-include those parts of the family, unconsciously, and, as I said, usually unhelpfully. This can take many, many forms, but one is a lot of unexplained violence, and another form is an overreaction to the “dangers” of the world (the other side of the coin, so to speak). It’s possible you are resonating with these unresolved elements of your family. The answer is something I’ve written a lot about elsewhere: bow to those parts of your ancestry, accept the life you received, say “I honor the dignity of your fate,” and request their blessing as you choose a different way.

    That is a very shorthand approach; it’s often a sticky process, and family constellations is a lovely modality for helping us through to true resolution of these issues, so we can fully accept our ancestral strength…

  • It’s so beautiful Leslie, I love FC so much. Thanks for taking the time to explain it to me. I want to read what you wrote quite a few times, its so rich.

    I know instinctively that there are two members not included in the Soul of the family. My fathers father who was a violent alcoholic who was sent away by my Grandmother. (He died on the day JFK was shot, hows that for violence?) and the other side, my Aunt fled home at age 19 never to return in 50 years, as she didnt want to deal with my Grandmothers violence, when finding out that I was conceived (out of wedlock). I did have some contact with her in her last days, but I think this is very much about my Grandfather. He’s the shameful loose unit in the family, and I think my Grandmother died before dealing with it all. My father never spoke of his parents. This is the side where there’s violent men on down the line. The other side are the avoiders.

    Yes, I have a massive overreaction to the *dangers* of the world. It’s twisted me up like a pretzel. Thanks for helping me to get a sense of this all. xxxx

  • Haha Leslie, I googled *honour the dignity of your fate* to see if it would help me, and found and article on a random site. Its your article lol

    I was saying that sentence over and over and felt that the women of the family didnt want the men included,as if they were useless (my choice of men too) my grandfathers father died in a hotel fire, the reason for the fire was never established, I have an article in the paper about it, he was panning for gold. His wife married someone with the exact same name, was having an affair before he died, I did the exact same thing, two men with the same name lol Im hiding from the violence and its still following me, and its following one of my sons.
    Such rich material, I dont feel scared of it now. xx

  • Lovely work. And for everyone reading, you can ask yourself the same questions Kate is: who’s been lost or excluded that you may, unconsciously, be trying to re-include in the Family Soul through having some aspect of their experience? Deep territory indeed. Be gentle with yourselves at all times…

  • Thanks Leslie, I hadnt made the conenction, but my Aunt who left never to return was named Lesley. :) There are no coincidences. lol

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Is it ‘Self-Sabotage,’ or is it Your Inner Wisdom, Holding You Back From the Fire?


I often have clients  desperate for help to stop “self-sabotaging” themselves. I often sigh. It’s sad to me when a client starts out healing work with an implicit accusation at themselves. But it’s common.

There are certain situations that incline people to accuse themselves of self-sabotage. Some of them might be:

  • Procrastination
  • Not finishing projects
  • Awkward conversations at networking events
  • Chronic disorganization and lack of planning
  • Getting started well and then losing inspiration

See? I’m sabotaging myself! I guess it’s better than calling ourselves idiots or losers, but it’s only a little better, I think.

What if there is wisdom in this “stopping” behavior? What if your inner guidance system is like a mother, holding back the hand of her child when it reaches for the fire? Would you see that as sabotage? Or an attempt to love and guide the child safety, while it’s still learning?

Nonetheless, it’s important to acknowledge that this stopping behavior is frustrating our forward movement. It can’t be endlessly indulged if we intend to succeed in realizing our life’s hopes and dreams.

And some of us, we have to admit, feel like it has, indeed, been going on too long, which is really, really painful. This has concrete impacts on our ability to have a safe, secure and happy life.

This is especially true if you’re trying to establish a business, because this requires a consistent and successful capacity to take action steps so that a new creation can live and thrive.

But the first step is to notice if there is anything of wisdom in the stopping. In my experience, there are two sources for this stopping:

1. Old safety and family patterning that has outdated criteria for what is safe and what helps us belong. If this is the case, the stopping is trying to keep us well and happy. Healing this kind of stopping pattern involves, in part, noticing the way these patterns took such good care of us a long time ago, even though they are outdated now.

2. Our deep values and sense of integrity which has noticed, before our conscious minds have, that we are fundamentally out of alignment with the actions we’re attempting to take. Healing requires noticing that we are trying to make ourselves do things that violate our integrity, like marketing copy that feels slimy, or a networking event that doesn’t feel like we’re really getting to connect.

Both of these stopping patterns require some practice to notice and adjust. Most of us need help in learning how to see when something like this is happening, and figuring out the right approach (see last week’s article, If You’ve Got the Problem, You’ll Get the Wrong Answer).

Do you struggle with “self-sabotage”? Does it help to think of it as inner wisdom, trying to be seen? Please post your comments and questions below.

Next month, I am offering a Business Growth Series for Alternative Practitioners and Coaches who want to resolve obstacles to being successful. Part of that work is getting better and better at instinctively addressing those problems as they arise, so that security, confidence and joy in business becomes the norm. Sound interesting? For more information, scroll down, or go to Business Growth Series, and if you want to know more, please contact me.

One Response to “Is it ‘Self-Sabotage,’ or is it Your Inner Wisdom, Holding You Back From the Fire?”

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