Transcript: Miles Sherts on Conscious Communication on The Brilliance Within – Miles Sherts with Graham Dewyea


Transcript: Miles Sherts on Conscious Communication on The Brilliance Within – June 30, 2014

Posted by Steve Beckow on July 5, 2014 /


Photo of Miles Sherts


Graham Dewyea: Hello, and welcome to the Brilliance Within, where we discuss and explore the unfoldment and realization of our greatest potential as humans.

I’m Graham Dewyea.

My guest this week is Miles Sherts. Miles is the author of the book Conscious Communication. He is also a professional mediator and provides trainings and retreats on communication skills and conflict resolution.

Welcome to the show!

Miles Sherts: Hey, Graham. Good to be here.

GD: I so appreciate your work, and that you’ve written this book. It’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. And your book speaks to what I feel are some of the key components and tools for successful communication.

Tell us a little bit about your journey for how you came to write it.

MS: Sure. My journey, I would say, started with meditation. So when I was 19 I ended up going on a quest that resulted in me staying in a Buddhist monastery for a month and learning meditation.

And I really found what I was looking for in that practice and started to do it intensively. I lived in some monasteries, and I eventually worked and lived at retreat centers. And, all that while, I realized that, being present and centered and focused in the meditation position ― on the cushion, as we say ― was relatively easy compared with staying present when communicating or in relationship with people.

And what I noticed was that even in these places of intensive meditation, monasteries and retreat centers, and in my case an intentional community, where the intention was really clear ― to be peaceful, to be harmonious, to really care about each other, to try living together in a different way than what most of us saw in the mainstream society; our intention was really good, very clear, but ― the result was often really, really difficult to do that. 

And there was a lot of conflict, and what I noticed was that none of us really had a clue how to proceed with conflict. 

So we had the ideal, to get to be harmonious and peaceful and loving, but we didn’t know how to do it.

GD: I appreciate what you’re saying, especially around intentional communities, people recognizing that, boy, there’s got to be a better way of being in community, and really would ― really good intentions coming together to create something that’s pretty powerful and oftentimes quite effective.

And it’s interesting how, if you dig deeper sometimes, you find that people’s ideas might not be as aligned as maybe they thought with others, and while well intentioned ― right, if the tools and the skills aren’t there, and there isn’t the structure in place to help make that effort supportive, it can ― boy, it can go south in a hurry!

MS: Yeah! [laughs] So, my biggest experience with that was a really broad, wonderful experimental community in Washington State in the late 70s, early 80s. About 150 people joined together on this 500 acre piece of land ― it was really epic ― and lived in tipis and yurts and earth houses, whatever we could build or put together, and all with the intention of living together in peace and harmony. 

I lived there a total of three years, and within those three years, the community splintered and fragmented. By the end of my three years there, there were people living next door to each other that would not talk to each other; many, many people left, and left with hard feelings. And it was really heart-breaking.

GD: What do you think, or what do you feel was the root of the issue there?

MS: To me at the time it was very confusing and hard to sort out, but that’s when I began realizing that we needed to know how to talk, we needed to know how to listen, and we needed to know particularly what to do when we had a different idea, how to deal with conflict. And we had none of that. We had a very simple process called counsel, which was beautiful, but it was not adequate, where we passed a talking stick ― you may have heard of such a thing; it comes from the Native American tradition, I think.

GD: Sure, sure.

MS: And that was a lovely way to kind of get the community started, but once conflict arose, I mean really ordinary things, like nobody owned this land, so where people built their shelters, their houses, was really up to each individual. And as you can imagine, that began conflict. Where are you going to put your house? Where are you going to put your garden? Are you going to have animals? Do you have children?

All that affected each other so much, and we had no way to negotiate. We had no way to really talk about things, and work them out so that everyone’s needs were met. We just didn’t have a clue how to do it.

GD: I appreciate in your book how you speak to that we’re unique, that we’re different, that we ― and I’ll extend this to speak to the fact that we have different backgrounds, we have different orientations, perhaps we come from different cultures, we’ve had different experiences.

And so if we approach relationship with that premise, and also that given that disagreements are going to come up, we look at things differently, and we have an understanding between parties to say, hey, we accept and embrace that challenges may come up Disagreements may come up.

We may not be looking at things the same, and here’s an opportunity to communicate and share, it seems to me that the table, the stage is set for understanding that. And right away it makes it a priority to say, okay, so what are the strategies? What’s the infrastructure? What are the tools we’re going to use to support that when these things happen?

MS: Yeah, that’s the question. That’s what I came to realize in this community, was that we had no tools, we had no structure, no forum for dealing with conflict. All of us were pretty radical, and we rejected the traditional forms. If you think of it, in our society it’s the court system: the judicial system is one way to do it; police is another way to do it. And most of us were opposed to those, because we’d seen them being used to really hurt people and limit people rather than connect people.

So in the book I talk about, we threw all of that overboard, and then we ended up with no means to navigate. We threw the rudder and the sail and the tiller and everything out into the ocean because we’d seen them used in such really terrible ways. And then we had no way to navigate, no way to kind of pull ourselves together once differences started to become apparent.

GD: Well, let’s start talking about some of the skills and some of the pieces, the key pieces to successful communication that you’ve identified over time. You’ve worked with a lot of people around communication and conflict resolution. What are some of the bigger challenges that people are working with? What are the themes?

MS: Sure. Let’s expand where we were just talking, because the foundation theory is really important, and the way I like to express it now is that most of us, no matter how evolved or sort of enlightened or spiritually in tune we believe we are, we still feel threatened by differences. And

I’m talking about a difference of opinion mostly.

You know, a lot of us have gotten over the idea of different color skin or different language means that the other person is somehow a threat, but when someone disagrees with our value, with something we believe in, that’s when it gets really tricky, especially if we’re trying to live with them.

So, for example in this intentional community, as soon as different values came up… one classic was, are we going to hunt… are people going to be allowed to hunt on the land and shoot and kill their own meat? There was a lot of us there that were vegetarian and really didn’t like that idea, but there were also meat eaters there, and they wanted to feed themselves.

So that’s an example of a values difference. And this is applicable to any kind of relationship. Think, for most of the listeners what might be more immediate is your primary relationship, your most intimate partnership, your marriage, perhaps. Now, most of us get together in relationship with someone else, and we connect, or we try to connect, by aligning our values. I’m a vegetarian, you’re a vegetarian; okay, we can live together.

I like being outside in the garden, you like being outside in the garden; okay, we have the same values.
And we kind of bend our values, especially at the beginning of a romantic relationship. We bend our values to meet the other person’s because it feels good, and we want to be alike in that stage. And then every relationship, community, any sort of relationship, goes through the differentiation stage, where you begin to want to be your own person.

You want to have your own ideas and your own values, and you discover that you don’t think alike, you don’t have the same ideas. And as soon as that happens, most people feel threatened, and we don’t know what to do. So we either try to force the other person to change and agree with us, or we never talk about it, or we separate.

And the foundation premise of conscious communication and a lot of the conflict resolution work I’ve done is that differences do not necessarily have to be threatening, that our challenge as humans, I think, is to understand and accept that we all have different values, all the time. There’s no two of us that share exactly the same values, and to try to align or connect with someone based on values is just simply a mistake. It won’t, it can’t, sustain itself.

And so we need a different way to feel connected to other people, and that’s the process I eventually developed called conscious communication. It focuses more on people’s emotions and people’s needs, which we can talk about more in this interview, so people understand what that means.

And if you change the focus from what you believe, what you think, to your immediate emotion ― what are you feeling right now emotionally, and what’s your most basic need right now? If we can shift the focus to feelings and needs and away from opinions and judgments and ideas, there’s a much greater likelihood that we can connect, and the differences in values aren’t so important then.

GD: I appreciate how you’re speaking to the primary relationships that we have. We have a desire and need to feel safe. And if we cannot see the other person as similar to ourselves, it can feel threatening, especially when values come into play ― and I like how you say in your book how a lot of what we feel threatened by are perceived [perceptions].

MS: Yes! So, I’m glad you’re bringing up the topic of safety. The thing I think that helps all of us feel safest when we’re in relationship with someone else is knowing that we’re not being judged. I think that’s the key. And, because most of our conversation, normal conversation, is all about our judgments, we share opinions and we compare opinions, that’s mostly what we talk about. Judgments are there. And if we have the same judgments, then we feel connected. But as soon as our judgments differ, or the other person’s judging us in a negative way, that’s when it becomes very unsettling.

So, if you switch the focus to emotions and needs… Think about this: if you tell me that you feel afraid or that you feel hurt or that you feel angry, I can relate to that, even if I don’t agree with or relate to what made you angry or what made you hurt. But I know what it’s like to feel angry, I know what it’s like to feel hurt, I know what it’s like to feel scared, and that’s a much more solid common ground for us.

So if we’re talking about our raw emotions, the very primary kind of feelings that we have, that’s grounds for connection always, because we can always relate to those basic emotions. And…

GD: Or you get to that place of vulnerability. You can say, Here I am. I am human. I am soul. And that’s where we can, to your point, really connect. And we can soften, we can let our guard down, and we can say, geez, okay you’re just like me. You have feelings, you’re scared of things just like I am, you want to feel safe, you have needs…. right. So that’s where we can really connect.

So what I’m hearing you say is that that’s the foundational support for being able to enhance that connection and communicate more successfully.

MS: Yes. And that’s where a lot of us have trouble. I mean, the skills are very simple ― and we’ll get to those soon in this interview so people know what we’re talking about, but ― they’re so simple I’ve taught them to first graders, and they can understand how to use them. The difficulty we have is that we default to our judgments and opinions, and it’s very hard to stay focused on emotions and needs because we’re not familiar with them.

GD: So that’s where the consciousness piece comes in, right?

MS: That’s exactly right. It’s becoming, allowing your emotions to the surface so you can feel them. And because it makes us vulnerable, which is exactly what you just said, because it makes us vulnerable, that’s why we’re so reluctant to do it. And we live in a culture, a society ― and I find this true in many cultures that I’ve experienced ― where feelings and emotions are just not okay to talk about. It’s too risky, or we don’t have the means, we don’t have the vocabulary. So we don’t even think about them.

GD: I want to name that when we’re in an environment where ― back to what you were saying ― if the culture or the norm is not to share feelings readily, or not to speak to feelings and needs, it takes courage to do that, right?

MS: Yeah.

GD: It takes courage to take that initiative. And I’ve found, for me, it’s been a process. It’s been a lot of practicing over time. But when I’ve done that, it’s felt a little scarey, it’s felt a little intimidating, but when I’ve done that, then other people start to relax; they start to soften. And then we can connect. And so it makes the ground fertile for greater connection and communication. So I really appreciate you speaking to that.

And Miles, I also want to acknowledge ― and you mentioned our culture; pretty… I don’t want to say unusual, because it’s becoming more and more the norm, but it’s pretty great that more and more men are recognizing that. It took me years to be able to even access my feelings, let alone name them, to say, geez,this doesn’t feel good. And then to speak it, and to acknowledge it myself, be aware of it ― there’s the consciousness piece again ― and then to say it out loud to someone, that, that… it’s taken a while for me to get there. And now, I’m still working on it, but it’s much more commonplace. And I get the sense that’s the case with you, too.

MS: It is. I like to tell the story, when I first went to therapy. I was in my twenties, and I’d never been to therapy, but I met this therapist, I thought it was a good idea. And, our first meeting, she said, “Tell me what you’re feeling emotionally,” and I said, “Well, I’m not feeling anything. I don’t feel anything.” And the truth was I was feeling things, of course, but I had no way to express it.

And she said, “Let’s start with numb. Can you relate to feeling numb?” And I said, “Yes, I can. I feel numb.” And from there she helped me expand both my vocabulary and my awareness of my own emotional states. And it’s really important to say at this point, I think, for listeners that this isn’t about just kind of immersing ourselves in emotion, this is about self-care. If I know that I’m angry, I can take better care of myself. If I know that I’m hurt, emotionally hurt, I can take better care of myself. In the language of conscious communication ― and this is [true?] with many of the communication skills models and the meditation models that are out there now ― one of the basic premises is that an emotional charge, a strong, usually negative emotion indicates an unmet need. It’s a very simple formula that most of us have never heard before, that when you’re upset it’s because one of your basic needs isn’t being met.

So if you can begin with acknowledging the feeling, the upset ― I’m upset, I’m irritated, I’m frustrated ― it doesn’t so much matter the exact word, but that’s it pointing to something that’s happening now inside of you, and it’s indicating that one of your basic needs isn’t being met. And if you can get there, you can begin to get your need met; you can actually take care of yourself.

And that’s simple, but really basic to our own happiness, and it turns out to have a huge impact on our communication with other people.

GD: You were talking about how you were in your twenties and you were experiencing therapy for the first time. And you also mentioned in your book when you were young, and of course that therapeutic practice helped raise your own awareness about your own process and about what was going on for you in accessing your feelings and emotions and needs. And when you were young, you also share in your book that you had an experience with your father that I really appreciated you sharing.

By the way, I want to acknowledge you for your willingness to be transparent and vulnerable and open, because it helps all of us have the courage. And we can see that there’s a model out there for doing that more and more and more. And so thank you for that.

This was a challenging relationship that you had with your dad. And you went on a trip with your sister, and initially it was very challenging. Can you share a little bit about that conversation and what you took away from it?

MS: Sure. The background was that my dad was a pretty hard person and fairly judgmental, I thought, of me. And I took a very radical lifestyle turn in my youth. And he just couldn’t relate, and disapprove a lot. And it came to a head one evening. I was on the phone with him and my sister and I had been planning for months a long, extended traveling in Asia, backpacking through Thailand and Indonesia. And my father called me to say he didn’t want me to go, and he wouldn’t let me take my sister. And keep in mind, I was in my mid-thirties, and my sister was in her early thirties. And we’d both done this before.

So I got furious with my dad. I really expressed strong anger and frustration with him, and we ended up hanging up the phone with each pother. And then the next morning [we] had a much different phone call in which he ended up apologizing to me. And he realized that he had been overstepping his boundaries as a dad, but the key thing was that he told me in that phone call the next morning that the reason he didn’t want me to go traveling with my sister was because when I went on these extended trips he couldn’t help me if something went wrong.

Which was absolutely true. These were the days before cell phones, before the internet. I would go away for months, and my parents didn’t know where I was. They knew what country I was in, but they wouldn’t have been able to reach me or find me. And my dad said, “If something bad happened to you, I wouldn’t be able to help you.”

And as soon as he said that, I welled up with tears. And in a few minutes I found myself really crying deeply, because I understood then that his actions were coming from a place of simply caring about me. And what I learned from the conversation was that I hadn’t known that. He hadn’t expressed it clearly, and I hadn’t taken the time to really listen to him to understand why he didn’t want me to go traveling. And once I did understand his motivation, it changed the whole relationship. It entirely changed the way I felt about him and the way he felt about me.

GD: We’ll get back to the feelings and needs and, what you were saying earlier, the upset. For him, it was probably challenging a very basic need and desire for him to be a daddy…

MS: Yeah.

GD: … a protective, caring, loving father that he wanted to be for you. And so, wow, that’s beautiful. I’m sure that was highly transformative for you.

MS: I go on in the book to describe how that evolved, because it’s fairly powerful. Within a few months of that phone call ― and, by the way, as that second phone call ended the next morning, he told me how much he loved me, I told him how much I loved him. He had never said that to me, that I remember, in words. So it was a very meaningful connection. And a few months later he was diagnosed with bone cancer, and a year later he died.

And I was able to feel very connected to him that last year of his life and was able to sit beside him on his bedside as he was dying and really just be there with my heart open. And that would not have happened if I hadn’t understood what was behind his asking me not to go traveling. If I didn’t know what was really going on, I wouldn’t have felt that connected with him.

GD: Well, that’s a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing that. It’s a really great segue for us to roll up our sleeves some more and get into the skills that you’ve identified that are so important.
And so, getting to a place of understanding of another is part of that, I’m sure. Obviously we can’t speak to the entire book and work in this short interview today, but what are some of the key… like the real key skill pieces that rise to the forefront when you think about conscious communication?

MS: Yeah, that’s a great question. And I’ll boil it down to the two main skills just to keep this simple so people can begin to understand the framework.
The two main skills that I teach are called listening, I call it supportive listening, and assertion. Supportive listening has also been called things like ‘reflective listening’ or ‘active listening,’ and assertion has also been known by some people calling it ‘I messages.’ And I’ll explain both of them in a moment.

But that’s the two sides, if you will, the yin and the yang. And I like to start with that frame, because most people can understand that.

If, to have what I would consider a healthy c0onversation, a healthy interaction and eventually a healthy relationship, I think it’s fairly common-sense that you need two sides. You need a receiving… someone receiving, listening, really including the other person, and I call it listening to understand. So not just listening, which a lot of us do waiting our turn to talk. It’s not that kind of listening. It’s not just simply being politely quiet while the other person talks. It’s actively listening to understand what’s going on for them.

I have a little template for how to do that, which I’ll share in a moment. So that’s one side, is listening to understand, receiving. Another term I use for that is making space for the other person. And if you think about it, a conversation, a relationship is like a dance. And in a dance, you have to go backward as well as forward. You have to receive and give. You have to make room for the other person and then direct the other person as you’re dancing.

So it, the listening is the receiving, and the assertion is when you try to get your message across. You try to be understood. You try to get the other person to listen and understand you. Because we all have a need for both being understood, and a need to understand. So the two skills, listening and assertion, meet those needs. And they form a balanced relationship, a balanced conversation.

GD: Well said. Tell me about the template.

MS: Okay. So the listening template, it’s the same template as the assertion, in the model that I’ve developed. It’s very simple, and it has three parts. When you’re listening to another person talk, you first listen for the emotional charge. We’ve already talked about emotions and why I believe they’re so valuable. They go right to the core of what’s actually going on for the other person. They cut through a lot of the superficial ideas or values or thoughts, and they connect us. If I know that you’re feeling sad, for example, and I care about you, I feel connected to you. There’s a sense that I know what’s going on for you.

So, listening for an emotion ― sad, hurt, scared, angry; could be a positive emotion, excited. When someone’s sharing with us verbally, it’s often because they want to be understood and there’s often some emotional content. These skills, by the way, are specifically designed to deal with emotional content, what I call emotional charges. And they may not be necessary or useful when there’s a neutral conversation. But as soon as there’s an emotional charge, listen for what the other person’s feeling on the level of raw emotion.

GD: That can’t be underscored enough, right? So if someone is saying to me, “I’m upset, and this is why,” here’s a really great opportunity for me to hear it and then name it, and reflect it back ― “Boy, I really get you’re upset. Boy. Boy. I hear it! I totally get it.”

MS: Yeah.

GD: Or, maybe I don’t get it, but I’m hearing it, and I see you’re upset. So naming that, the other person, to your point, feels heard, they feel understood. That’s really key, isn’t it?

MS: It is key, and the magical, or the powerful piece of this that you can’t really know until you try it and see it in action, is that naming the emotion and receiving it without trying to change it or fix it actually starts the process of it dissipating or dissolving. It starts to go away; it changes. And so we’re not locked into our emotions. They move, they change. But what keeps us stuck in them is that we don’t talk about them. And most of us don’t know how to receive another person’s emotions with neutrality, just with acceptance.

GD: Well, you mentioned judgment earlier. The other approach is, I could say, “What’s the matter with you? What’s the big deal? I mean, come on. Will you relax?” Or, “I mean, give me a break! You’re always so cranky!” Or, “Can you, can you just be happy for one moment?” Or, “Why, why are you upset about that?”

So there’s the judgment piece, and, boy, doesn’t that drive a wedge between that connection and that communication?

MS: Yeah. So, this is where it gets very simple and, for many of us, very difficult: is, can I just accept that the person I’m connecting with right now, the person talking to me is hurt, their feelings are hurt? Can I be okay with that?”

And it turns out you can. Any one of us can, because it’s fairly simple. And what that does, if I’m okay with you feeling hurt, and I get that you feel hurt, it activates empathy. And that’s really the purpose of this whole skill set that I teach, is activating our innate, fairly natural capacity for empathy. Another word for empathy is putting yourself in another person’s shoes for a moment.

We have that capacity, but we rarely use it, because we’re often so much in our head, and empathy comes from the heart. So, listening for emotion ― You sound sad. It sounds like you’re frustrated. ― begins the process of connecting my heart to the other person’s heart and feeling their sadness, not taking it on as my responsibility, but just feeling it as if it were mine for a moment. That’s empathy.

GD: Perfect. And, so, assertion.

MS: Well, that’s just the beginning. Let me do the three parts. So, that’s listening for feelings, and then to go a little deeper in understanding the person it’s often helpful to connect feeling the emotion with a fact, a simple observation of what happened, without getting into a story, a drama, but just a fact. You feel sad about the way your daughter talked to you.

So the person speaking helps them connect the sadness with something that happened to them, but no interpretation, no judgment; and we’re not feeding the story, we’re not making the drama more dramatic.

And then the third part is the impact on them. So it might sound like, It sounds like you feel sad about the way your daughter talked to you because you think she’s not being respectful. Or, Your need for respect wasn’t being met. So, you can connect the feeling with a trigger, a fact that triggered it, and then an impact. How did that actually affect the person?

It takes a little practice to do those three steps, but those are guidelines for what to listen for when you’re being the listener, when you’re trying to understand and make space for another person.

GD: Thanks for teasing that out some more, Miles. I have the challenge of wanting to give this service, and give it the time it deserves. We could do a show on this every day of the week for months, and we … we wouldn’t be covering it all.

And I wanted to speak to the practice piece that you just mentioned. It’s a new language, and you mention this in your book, it’s like taking on a new language. And it can take time. And I just want to speak to the empathy that we can extend to ourselves, especially as we try to let go of old habits or old ways of being, especially if we’re in a relationship and the communication method or theme has been very different; just to go easy on ourselves, and know that we’re probably going to make mistakes. We’re going to mess up, it’s going to take some practice, but it’s worth it.

MS: Absolutely. And I’m really glad you bring that up. As I said earlier, the skill set is fairly straightforward. I just named the three named parts of a listening skill. After a little breathing orgetting the steps down, anybody can do it. The hard part is remembering to do it, because our habit is to go into our heads and evaluate and respond with a judgment. So that’s a real challenge.

And it’s most helpful, I think, to think of this as a practice, something that you’re doing that gradually you’ll get better at, and you’re doing it because it’s a way to be more conscious, a way to be more aware and present in your interactions with other people.

GD: Well, it also is an act of self-love and self-empowerment. Because if the way that we’re associating or communicating or walking in the world, associating with others, is not working, and we say, Geez, this isn’t working for me, I’m going to adopt a different approach of relating, communicating, and also with myself, that’s a really important act of self love. And we deserve that. We deserve harmony and peace and ease, not that disruption won’t occur, but we can create that. That’s available to us.

And when discordant energy or disruptions do occur to have the tools in place to maneuver through that.

Is there anything else you wanted to say on that before going to assertion?

MS: No. This would be good to show assertion and show that the three steps are the same. So remember that … assertion is you expressing your needs, you expressing your emotions and your needs. And it’s good to know sort of when that’s necessary. Usually, if your feelings are hurt, if something’s upset you, think about the two most common ways that you, or most of us, are trained to respond. If something threatens you, if somebody says something or does something that really upsets you or threatens you, or that to ― just think with me out loud here, you might remember from the book ― but what are the two most common instinctive ways of reacting to that?

GD: Well, I think about attacking back, or getting into defensive mode.

MS: Sure.

GD: Or running!

MS: That’s it. So we either want to fight and get defensive and attack back, or we want to run. And what does that remind you of from our high school biology?

It’s fight or flight. So, it’s really helpful to notice that, because guaranteed, for almost all of us, that’s going to be your initial response. It’s wired into us from our ancient instincts. And the problem with that is that it might have served us well when our life was threatened on a daily basis by our living environment, but for most of us now, that’s just not true. And we’re still reacting as though our life is being threatened. And what those responses do, if you use withdrawal, running, or attacking, blaming on a regular basis in a relationship that you care about, an important relationship, it damages the relationship.

So, what we need is an alternative, and the alternative is called assertion. And assertion, the essence of it is that I care about me, and I’m going to stand up for myself, and I also care about you and I’m not going to try to hurt you in the name of taking care of myself.

GD: This gets to the speaking honestly with compassion, that you wrote about in your book, that you were on the search for that. Like, how can you speak for your needs, to speak honestly, do it with compassion? And so you’re bringing this all together.

MS: Exactly. Exactly. And that’s really what got me going on this quest, was I wasn’t happy with what I grew up in a society that was fairly superficial, and the idea was to be nice, and not speak about anything that was upsetting. You’d just pretend it wasn’t there, and try to be nice and have everybody like you all the time.

And the limitation of that is that it’s not real. It’s very superficial. And I felt that even as a young child, it’s a sense of isolation. I felt alone, because everything was fine until somebody got upset, and then there was no way to talk about it. So we had to just kind of pretend it wasn’t there.

GD: Oh, I can so relate! And so, this speaks to the invitation for transparency, authenticity, vulnerability, and not expressing these because we don’t want to rock the boat. We can express our needs, we can be authentic, we can be honest and still keep the peace.

MS: That’s the idea. And, that’s the idea, let’s say an,d it’s very doable ― however, not without skills, not without tools. So, in the book I make an image of imagine that you and your partner or you and your community wanted to make a garden, and you had a lawn. And so you went out on your lawn to make a garden. And imagine that you had no tools. You just had to do it with your bare hands.

So, you could do that. It would take a long time, and your garden, in my judgment, probably wouldn’t be very good. Plus you’d really beat up your hands.
And now imagine going out on your lawn to make a garden with simple tools ― a shovel, a rake and a hoe. Now, the project becomes much different, much more workable. You still have to put in hard work. You have to learn how to use the tools. But you can do it in much less time without hurting yourself, and you get a much better result, a much better garden.

So, the metaphor here is that in our relationships we’re trying to meet these new ideals of honesty and vulnerability and equality and intimacy and independence, all these new ideals that have really taken root since the last half of the last century, since the ’60s and beyond. Great ideals, but we don’t have any tools, not yet. So we’re still trying to make this with our bare hands, and it’s not working!

So, honesty often looks like … it’s either we don’t say anything or we’re abrasive. We’re judgmental and harsh and abrasive. And assertion is the idea that we can learn a third way, we can learn the tool of assertion, and it will enable us to be honest and gentle ― honest and understanding of the other person; honest and compassionate.

GD: Can you give us an example of how you have used this assertion model?

MS: Sure. So, when my father and I were on that phone conversation, the next morning after the big blow-out that I described, the first thing I did was I apologized to him, because I said, I shouldn’t have talked to you that way. I didn’t call him names, but I said some things to my father that I didn’t think were respectful, and I apologized and told him that I was really upset and I didn’t mean those things.
Incidentally ― I think I mentioned this ― he apologized to me, which was huge and really beautiful. But then I said to my dad, I wasn’t just letting it go, I was just trying to re-frame it in a more positive way. And I said to my father, Dad, I feel really uncomfortable when you tell me you don’t want me to go traveling with my sister because it seems like you’re trying to control my life.

Now, that’s an example of assertion. I wasn’t blaming him, but I was naming my feeling ― I feel uncomfortable; I was naming the circumstance, the fact or the observation, which is, when you call me up and tell me not to go traveling ― because that’s what happened; and then I named the impact on me, because I think you’re trying to control my life, and it makes me not want to be around you. And that, if you recall from the three steps of listening that I described a few minutes ago, it’s the same three steps. So it’s a feeling, a fact, and an impact.

GD: And that’s much different than saying, You made me feel this, and you’re the root of the problem here, and you need to change, because that just puts up our defenses.

MS: Exactly. And that, just for contrast, is what I call “you messages”. And most of us are conditioned to use “you messages.” When we’re really upset and we finally explode or decide it’s time to communicate, we often start with a you message. So a very basic guideline for this process of assertion is, start with the word I and follow that with a raw emotion. Lead with a feeling ― I feel hurt. I feel sad. With my dad, I think I said, I feel really frustrated. And that gets you into a very different pathway than You did this, or You did that.

GD: I want to speak to how I know that this stuff works…

MS: Yeah.

GD: It’s been transformative in my life. And I also want to speak to when it’s helpful to put up healthy boundaries and step back. And I’m thinking about a situation of a person in my life where I adopted this approach, and it didn’t work. And I recognize that there is a lot of volatility there, and upset, and I recognize that, okay, I’ve given it my best shot here, I’m recognizing that this relationship….

MS: Won’t understand you. [laughs] You’re digging yourself deeper into a hole and you’re alienating that person right off the bat. Whereas if you lead with an I message, I feel really hurt when you don’t seem to want to listen to my point of view, that’s a different kind of message. And if they can’t ultimately hear that ― it may take a little while for them to be able to hear it, and I have a process that I outline in the book of how to do that assertion process, and it includes listening to understand the other person while you’re asserting your feelings and needs.

But if after a little … a few minutes ― it doesn’t have to take hours ― but after five minutes, say, if it’s clear they’re not able to understand you, I recommend just pausing that conversation, perhaps coming back to it at a different time, and possibly learning from that that this is not a relationship that you want to invest in.

So, I worked for 10 years in the field of divorce, and I facilitated, mediated people getting divorced. And I saw the horror of that. And I came away from that experience, those 10 years, really committed to helping couples stay together. So one of the things I do is counsel couples, teach them these skills, how to use the listening and the assertion skill in their current relationship and using live situations from their relationship now.

And I always recommend to people, don’t give up on a relationship until you’ve tried being assertive, because most of us don’t know how to express ourselves without blame or without just withdrawing and not saying anything. And until you express yourself directly, the other person can’t know what you’re feeling and needing. No matter how much they care about you or how close you are, ,nobody else knows what your emotions and what your needs are in this moment unless you tell them.

And that’s a really important point to get. So that I always teach people, use the skill, learn assertion, learn how to identify your emotion, learn how to associate it with an impact and ultimately with a primary need of yours, and then express it in a constructive way using something like a format that I outline in the book, and then evaluate your relationship.

GD: Assertion, especially for women, can feel like a bad word sometimes.

MS: Exactly. A lot of us were trained, and I would say generally women more than men, were conditioned by our culture not to express themselves directly because it was seen as somehow unfeminine. So, for some of us, getting over that is a hurdle. Getting over that hurdle is a challenge, to be able to say I’m upset. But it’s a really important one because if you don’t express it, the other person can’t know.

GD: And I also like how you express in your book that if you don’t talk about it, it’s not going to likely serve the relationship, and the potential for the relationship dissipating is there. And you balance that with in the moment it can feel really hard to talk about it, and yet it gives you the opportunity to strengthen the relationship.

MS: Exactly. The metaphor in the book comes from a life experience. I bought an old farmhouse. I’m actually sitting in that farmhouse right now. I bought this place 25 years ago and it was a wreck. It was 150 year old, very small, primitive sort of farmhouse, and it had leaks in the roof. I didn’t know that when I bought it. But as soon as I moved in and it rained, it had like six major leaks. I had to put buckets outto collect the water.

GD: [laughs] You can laugh at now, right? But it was really challenging then!

MS: It was very challenging then, and I was young. I was in my early thirties. I had very few carpentry skills, and I was a new home owner. Soit was fairly overwhelming, but it became pretty clear that, okay, I had to get up on the roof. And I bought a can of roofing tar, and I asked the guy at the hardware store how to use it, and I figured, I can handle this. But the problem was that I couldn’t fix the roof while it was raining, right? That’s pretty obvious. So I had to wait ’til the sun came out, it was a warm day and the roof was dry.

Well, as you can imagine, every time the sun was out and the roof was dry, the last thing I thought about was fixing that roof! I wanted to go work in the garden or get some other kind of work done outside, or just relax in the sun. And as you can imagine, that cycle went several times before I finally fixed it. So the next time it rained, the roof leaked, and I remembered, oh, no! I have to get up on the roof! But I can’t do it when it’s raining.

So, the moral of the story is, I finally had to get up there on a sunny day. And I didn’t want to, but I made myself do it. I said, I have to get up there now and fix this roof. And I did it. The next time it rained, I didn’t have leaks.

So, the moral, and how it relates to relationships, is that with assertion, you’re not going to want to give the assertion. There’s very rarely a time when you’re going to say, Oh, good. Now I can go give my assertion message. Most of us are scared to do it. It’s uncomfortable, we don’t want to do it. So when there’s peace and harmony in your relationship, you’re not going to want to give your assertion. But that’s exactly the time when you need to do it, when things are calm. If you wait ’til you’re upset, it’s too late. It’s raining, and you can’t fix the roof then.

GD: Very, very well spoken to. Thank you. We can’t talk about conscious communication if we don’t acknowledge and speak to our own wiring, our own triggers, our own past traumas that we bring into relationship, particularly in significant relationships, oftentimes a love partner, a child, or a family member. So, this is something that I’m continually working on, refining: I’m in a relationship, I’m in a discussion, something comes up, and instead of me saying, This person ― and to myself ― this person is causing me to feel such and such, to acknowledge, oh, oh boy, this is familiar.

Oh, right, this is related to a childhood trauma where I felt abandoned or neglected, or a past relationship where I didn’t feel like I could speak my voice, as opposed to putting it on the present and putting it on that person or that relationship. So that’s a big one, right?

MS: That’s a huge one, Graham. I’m really glad you’re bringing that up. Because as I said earlier, the skills themselves are really simple, but there’s a lot of things that block us from using them, and one of them is exactly what you’re talking about. So, think about your closest relationships, and how they started out really nice, maybe an intimate partnership, and then eventually, especially if you live together and you bump up against each other on a daily basis, they become difficult. And in some cases really difficult. And what’s happening there is that your partner, or the person that you’re intimate with, close with, is bumping your old wounds. And we don’t recognize that at the time as such, so we think they’re causing those wounds.

I love this image because I think a lot of us can understand the physical metaphor for it. My daughter just cut her leg really badly this winter. She was chopping wood and hit her leg with the hatchet, and it went in deep. She had to go to the hospital, get stitches. And she told me yesterday, we were out back working, that whenever something just bumps her knee now ― it healed up nicely, she has a beautiful scar ― but all she has to do is bump it and she gets really hurt, very deep pain.

And that’s how it is for us with emotional wounds. So a lot of us got hurt as children, not anybody’s fault in particular, but that’s what happens as we grow up, is our feelings get hurt, and we didn’t know how to deal with it as children, so we buried it. We kind of covered it over, and we think it’s all healed because maybe the skin isn’t bleeding anymore, but there’s a wound under there and when our partner bumps us in a certain place emotionally ― says something or looks at us a certain way ― it can trigger this deep hurt, anger, sadness, and often we have no idea what’s happening or where it’s coming from.

And the most obvious thing is that that person, our partner, did it to me. She did it to me, she’s responsible, or he’s responsible. And we immediately lash out at them. And that’s totally common and in some way understandable, but it doesn’t help us solve the issue because it’s a much older issue than that.

And if we can accept that a relationship is actually a perfect vehicle for bringing those wounds to the service, those old wounds that we all carry, so that we can heal them, and if we can learn a skill that would help us not immediately blame our partner but rather just express our raw feeling so that our partner might be able to actually help us in that situation, that can make an opportunity forwhen we get our feelings hurt, change it from an opportunity for conflict to an opportunity for healing.

GD: I have a colleague that is very interesting in accessing, identifying, shining the light on those old traumas, old triggers. And he was in a new relationship that started recently, and they were going into, he and his partner were going into a store that he used to go in that same store with a previous partner. And he had these feelings come up, these emotions come up. And the way he expressed it to me, if I’m doing it justice, remember right, he was able to name and see and recognize, oh, oh, I’ve got these feelings come up.

Oh, yeah! I remember going in the store, and there was a controlling element that he experienced from his past partner where, I think she would say, You got to do this, or You got to do that, or You can’t do that, and so, coming into the store, just by virtue of coming into the store, he felt some bodily emotions, and had to sit down. And ― credit to him ― he actually spoke it to his partner and said, I got I’m just feeling seized up here. Oh, this is what’s happening. Oh, I see, yeah, it was connected to my past relationship.

And she was ― to your point, coming back around to what you were saying ― she was able to give him the patience and the presence for him to work through it so that they could actually work through it and enjoy the experience.

MS: Beautifully said. And just to keep listeners in mind, that’s a difficult thing to do. It’s beautiful to hear about it, because that’s what we are capable of that, and we can learn how to do that. And for most of usit’s a stretch, to be that conscious and aware while something is upsetting us.

I like … to go back to the physical wound metaphor, if you were working in your back yard, say with aa saw, cutting a branch off a tree, and you cut yourself, you know, you would pretty naturally… we’d tend to it. We don’t do that with our emotional wounds. We tend to, we tend to ignore them, because we don’t know how to deal with them; we don’t talk about them because we don’t have a vocabulary to talk about them; and if we do talk about them, we tend to lash out at whoever’s immediately in our vicinity because we think they’re responsible for the that. And all that, if you compare it with a physical wound, it doesn’t really make sense. It’s not good self care.

So, what your friend did is he sat down and he took a moment to check in with himself and say, How am I feeling right now? and Where is this emotion coming from? And that’s … if we were cut physically, of course we would do that.

GD: I like that. Beautifully said, Miles. Yeah, beautifully said. If you look at areas in your own communication process and your development with that, recognizing that the learning is probably infinite, where are you expanding or wanting to expand or improve on?

MS: That’s a great question. One answer I have for that is that it goes back to something we mentioned earlier. As a man, being raised in the fifties and sixties here in the USI had very little access to my emotions. If I expressed emotion when I was a child, I was immediately humiliated, if not beaten up by my friends, my male friends at the time, little boys. And so I learned very early on to not express vulnerable feelings.

And what I notice now with my wife and three daughters is that if I don’t express any vulnerable feelings, they don’t see me as vulnerable, they just see me as angry [laughing] or upset or frustrated, and that is going on now. And I’m realizing I’m still not showing them my hurt. I’m still not showing them that sometimes I get scared. It’s still difficult for me to say the words I feel scared, or I feel hurt, or I feel sad I ― anything that’s vulnerable.

And so that’s one thing that I consciously try to practice now, is when something happens between me and my wife or one of my daughters, I’m trying to practice getting the emotional word out first, and naming it, and then focusing on myself rather than trying to get them to change. And that’s still, even after all these years working with communication skills, it’s really challenging for me.

GD: I so value you speaking to that, and I can identify with that for sure. I mean, the same thing. When I was a child, it didn’t feel safe to share feelings. And I felt isolated and alone oftentimes, and it was really difficult, I didn’t understand this. I didn’t understand this dog-eat-dog, competitive, never-let-them-see-you-sweat kind of culture. And I can see it now, I understand it, I don’t need to be part of it. And I’m still working with that, too.

Because I fall to my old defaults when I feel threatened or feel unsafe, or feel… yeah. I can get to that place as well. Thanks for speaking to that. I think a lot of men are still working with that. The piece that I also appreciate you speaking to in your book, you talk about letting go of being right, which is tied to that, right? So in a competitive culture, it’s about being right, it’s about winning.

And in relationship, in communication, that doesn’t always serve us.

MS: It’s not only that it doesn’t serve us, it’s that it keeps us kind of locked into a very competitive paradigm without realizing we’re doing it. So we can think about it: we get competitive with our spouse, our partner, our children, the exact people that we don’t want that type of relationship with. But it happens almost automatically, without us thinking about it. And it will happen if we don’t challenge the premise that we don’t have to be right, that relationships are not about winning or losing, it’s not a competition. We have to really bring that to the fore and notice our natural impulse, our instinct to want to be right or want to win, want to come out winning.

And what ends up happening in that kind of dynamic is that we really damage the relationship. So, this practice called conscious communication, the language of it, the skill set that I teach has nothing to do with being right or validating a fact. It’s always validating an emotion and a need. And when we focus on emotions and needs, we eliminate the process of being right or wrong.

In other words, if you said to me, “Miles, I’m hurt. My feelings are hurt,” it would be very unusual for me to say, “No, Graham, that’s not true.” [laughs] Or I wouldn’t argue with you, because there’s nothing there to really argue with. You’re just giving me an update on what’s going on with you. So when we stay with raw emotion and just simple facts, and then come back to the impact on us, or the impact on the other person, we eliminate a lot of the grounds for competition. It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing, and nobody has to be right or wrong.

GD: You’ve worked with a lot of people, you’ve worked with a lot of people in different situations, challenging situations. Can you share an example that you held in your heart of a real shift, where people have been in a place of real conflict to a place of understanding and peace?

MS: Sure. I’m thinking of one that’s pretty ordinary, kind of commonplace, I think a lot of people can relate to. It came from one of my students. I used to teach communication skills at the Community College of Vermont. I taught there for 23 years, and that’s a lot of how I developed the… my own technique, my own sort of skill set and then ended up writing the Conscious Communication book to use as a textbook for that class.

And one of my students, one day, I was teaching her the assertion message. I feel; when you; because is the format, the three parts. And the assignment was to go home and use it. And she was living with her children and I think her new husband. So he was, I think, the step-dad of the children.

And he would say to this woman in my class, and the children, he would teach them, after they would come out of the shower, he would teach them how to dry off with a towel. This woman watched her boyfriend do this with her, and then she watched him do it with her children. And they all thought it was really odd, that he was trying to teach them how to dry off with a towel, because she was a grown woman, and I guess her kids were teenagers.

And, so she asserted to him. She said something likeI feel really uncomfortable when you teach us how to dry off with a towel because it seems like you’re treating us like children. It’s a good, direct, honest but not blaming message. And his response, after she listened to him ― which is what I teach people to do; when you give your assertion, then you have to shift and listen to them to understand them. So she did that, and she listened to understand him.

And it turned out that what his problem was that he’d go in the bathroom after someone had taken a shower and there was water all over the floor! And he either got his feet wet, or it was bad for the floor ― I can’t remember which.

GD: Or he took a bad fall.

MS: Or he slipped, maybe it was a safety thing. But that was the issue, and she had no idea that that’s what was going on. Until she gave that assertion message, she and her children thought of him as being a very controlling person because he was trying to teach them how to dry off after a shower. And what he was really trying to do was get the floor not to be wet. And once they understood that, they could work with it.

GD: You know, isn’t it interesting [laughing]… I see the humor of this dance of this human experience. When situations like that come up. And I don’t wish to suggest that, like in this example, I’m sure it was very difficult. There was some charge there, there was some tension there, it was challenging, and frustration, perhaps on all sides. And then, when these skills and tools were applied, and you got to the other side, you can kind of say ― you can kind of laugh at it a little bit, right?

MS: Exactly!

GD: [laughs] I want to share a … you mentioned that you taught college, on the college level for a lot of years. When I was an undergrad I took a conflict resolution class, and one of my peers, a fellow student ― and I’m going to speak with a very general brush here, just to paint the picture; and I’m offering my own limited observations, and I didn’t have the skills or experiences that I do now. But at the time I saw him as pretty close-minded, young, he was a military guy, and he was very black and white. And he had an edge. And that was challenging.

And so here I am, more open-hearted, really engaged in the subject matter, communicate fairly well, and the teacher loved that. And so looking at it at this point, it created this dynamic that I didn’t expect, actually. But one day I said something, I can’t even remember what it was, and he blew up! He said something really judgmental, which I felt was really judgmental, very difficult to hear, and I just seized up and shut down. I didn’t even know what to say. I was at a loss.

And it was interesting ― and this just speaks to how this is a practice ― the teacher didn’t know what to do. And I approached her later, and I said, “this doesn’t feel safe to me. I mean, this feels really volatile.” And she said, “Yeah. I don’t really know how to handle it.”
This is a conflict resolution teacher, a professional mediator! And what I ended up doing was we made an arrangement where I did some outside study, but the college said no, you can’t do that. You’ve got to come back in. Which was good, because we had to face it. We never face it, though, we never worked through it.

It was a perfect example, looking at it now, where we could have used that, because the whole class witnessed it…

MS: Yeah.

GD: … we could have used it as an opportunity to work through that, to get to the other side. And this… I’m not coming from a place ofcriticism or judgment, I’m just witnessing that it is a practice. It takes practice, and it’s worth it.

Now, you have spoken to society… you talked about the societal level and where we could, can take this. And you had experience years ago where you were teaching non-violence and consensus decision-making for civil disobedience protests. And in your book you talk about the potential or possibilities a little bit on the societal level. What’s your vision for how we can be on a global level?

MS: Yeah. In the book Conscious Communication I have some chapters in the end about democracy and what I call a technology for peace. Let’s talk about world peace. There’s a lot of us that believe that we’re firmly for world peace, and there’s a whole other side of our culture or a whole other side of humanity that doesn’t want peace, that keeps investing in war. And one point I make in the book that I want to make now is that we like to frame that as that we want peace and they want war.

That’s really not the case, and that’s certainly not how the other side sees themselves. And whether it’s just politics or whether it’s being genuine, I don’t know. But I think genuinely people that invest in war see it as the only way to peace. If you talk to anybody who’s behind a war, who’s in favor of it, that’s usually the explanation they’ll give you, is they’ll say, “Well, this is the only way to finally achieve peace.”

So, really, in the end, we … I believe we all want peace, but we have a different idea of how to get there. For me, a different way to find those differences would be to say that peace is something that we have to work at. It’s not something we get to by defeating an enemy. That’s a very temporary kind of a peace. But peace is something that we have to learn how to do. It’s an active process.

And to me, that’s the process that we need to learn as human beings, if we’re going to make it on this planet. Because if we keep reverting to war, we won’t make it. We’re going to destroy each other.

I make a similar point about democracy, that democracy is this ideal that the United States I think made a very valuable contribution to the ideal of democracy by founding a whole nation on it, but then we tend to think that we have democracy and that everybody else should have democracy, and of course it’s the right thing to do.

I think a more realistic and healthy approach is that we’re just learning how to do it. Democracy, in my mind, is the idea that we’re each equal, none of us is more important or less important; and we each deserve to have our basic needs and our basic feelings validated and understood. And the thing with democracy is we don’t know how to do that yet, we’re still learning it.

And I see the tools of something like conscious communication as a way to really further our ability to enact democracy, to make it a reality for us. And to bring that on a personal level, since the sixties, our whole ideal of personal relationships, let’s say intimate family, marriage or family relationships, or even workplace or school relationships have evolved to where we want to be more equals. Students want to have more say. We don’t want relationships anymore where the husband makes all the decisions and the wife just goes along with him.

For most of us, that’s antiquated, and we’re not interested in that. It’s the way things used to be. We don’t know how to do it differently. Husbands and wives these days don’t know how to treat each other as equals. We don’t know how to make decisions together. So that’s where we need the skills, the tools of conscious communication. And as it changes our personal relationships, it will change our community relationships, it will change our national relationships and our international relationships.

GD: You teach retreats. Would you like to talk a little bit about that?

MS: Sure. I live at, and manage with my wife, a retreat center in Vermont in the northeast kingdom called Sky Meadow Retreat. It’s up in the north of Montpelier, Vermont. And we host weekend retreats. And often I teach/lead the retreat, and the retreats I lead here will be some form of conscious communication. So this weekend, for example, I’m leading a conscious communication for couples retreat. Sometimes they’re more open to anybody. Usually it’s just conscious communication as a weekend retreat.

And I also specialize in working with couples, as I mentioned earlier. And couples can come here for individual sessions or a longer private couples retreat. And in those retreats, I teach the basic skills. People get to practice them, which is really key to enacting them in your life. And people get to bring real life circumstances to the workshop, so that I can respond and we can see how the skills might affect, might apply in a very particular situation.

GD: Miles, thank you very much for coming on the show today.

MS: Sure. I’m glad to be here. Let me just mention the book, which you mentioned several times. Conscious Communication is the title. It’s available on Amazon dot com, there’s links it on our website, which is Sky Meadow Retreat dot com, and you can read excerpts from it and so forth. And the power of the book is that all the skills that we’ve touched on today are outlined and described, and it’s a good reference. It’s really just a good book to, if you’re going to try using these skills, you can go back to the book and it can keep reminding you how the process works.

GD: And I’ve attended Sky Meadow Retreat, as you know, and it’s a beautiful, powerful, magical place. You’re doing great work in the world.

MS: Thank you, Graham.

GD: To find out more about Miles and his work and the retreats he offers, visit his website at Sky Meadow Retreat dot com.


Awakening to Love, Joy & Harmony ~ The Brilliance Within : Graham Dewyea @ InLight Radio

a and-we-walked-with-butterflies-lila-violet

ART : ‘And We Walked With Butterflies’ ~ Lila Violet


Transcript: Awakening to Love, Joy and Harmony – The Brilliance Within, April 14, 2014

Posted by Graham Dewyea on July 2, 2014

Graham: This is the show transcript for a show I did with Evita Ochel on April 14, 2014. Evita shared her own awakening process and how she made significant changes to live a life of greater love, joy and harmony. We talk about awakening to what’s happening on the planet, living a conscious lifestyle, how miracles happen when we follow our hearts and intuition, courage, being mindful and present, our star family, the importance of being in nature, diet, the power of intention, love relationships, transparent and open communication, the toxicity of worry, gratitude and more. Thank you to Ellen for doing the transcript and Sherill for editing.

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Photo – Evita Ochel

Click here to listen to the show archive:

Graham Dewyea: Hello, and welcome to The Brilliance Within, where we discuss and explore the unfoldment and realization of our greatest potential as humans. I’m Graham Dewyea.

My guest this week is Evita Ochel. Evita is a consciousness-expansion teacher, writer, speaker, holistic nutritionist, web TV host, and author of the book Health and Prevention through Nutrition. Welcome to the show!

Evita Ochel: Thank you so much, Graham. It’s so wonderful to be with you today.

GD: A lot of people have been experiencing a rising consciousness, and this has been escalating over the last number of years. They’ve felt greater expansion and have made significant shifts in their lives. You’ve certainly done that on many levels. How did your awakening start?

EO: Well, I think to a great degree it began in small stages–but stages that, when they started to happen, I wasn’t quite aware of. At the time I wasn’t aware of the impact, the immensity, of what was taking place–until a certain moment came in my life. And, you know, usually some kind of hardship comes along that seems to be a huge catalyst for shifting our awareness, our consciousness, our life path. And so at that point, I simply said that’s it, enough. I’m ready for a completely different way of living.

GD: What was the hardship?

EO: Well, the hardship was a relationship breakup.

GD: That’ll do it! [laughs]

EO: That will do it, yes. As I find, it’s usually some kind of a relationship or family trauma, or a health trauma, that tends to set people’s path on a different course. And so, a few years after that, during those years leading up to the big spiritual awakening for me, I began to put focus on myself. And this was something different and new, because, you know, in our society we are taught to constantly look outside. You know, your job is going to bring you the happiness or make you feel successful, or identify yourself with success. Or your partner is going to be the measure of whether you’re lovable or beautiful, etc.

And during those years leading up to my awakening, I really focused on myself and making sure that I complete who I am, who it is that I am, so that I’m not seeking outside of myself for all those things that we’re taught to seek.

So, I ended up meeting the man who would become my husband, and literally, within a few weeks (and that turned into months and years), it was like just a catapult of amazing and intense experiences. And the main one that began the awakening for both of us (aside from meeting each other and sharing each other’s energies) was something so simple perhaps to someone else, but for me, for us, it was a major turning point: it was coming across Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God.

GD: Um-hum. I really identify with that. And I know we’re going to be sharing a lot that we both experienced on our own journeys that is wonderfully similar. And so maybe I should preface this for our listeners: Evita and I spoke about sharing today so we can offer some perspectives from our own journeys and from our own lives, because there’s just such great information today to share.

I also found Neale’s Conversations with God books quite, quite significant. It’s interesting. I know you grew up Catholic. I grew up Episcopalian, which is fairly similar. And so when I stepped away from that (I was an altar boy, and we–my family–didn’t go all the time, but there was certainly a connection there from the get-go.), and when I stepped into my spirituality in my twenties, I rejected anything that even had a suggestion of God. Even the word “God”–I felt really challenged by that.

And so, when the book came to me (and this is, let’s see, around 2000), I said, okay, I’m just going to put my rejection of the concept of God aside, and be open and give this a shot. And I couldn’t get enough of those books. It opened me up in wonderful ways. Sounds like it did for you, too.

EO: Yes. Absolutely. There’s so much material out there today, and of course everybody’s going to resonate with what is most meaningful and perhaps most in alignment with their personal energy, evolution, and needs. And so, for me, those words were just exactly what I needed to hear, because they provided such a sense of comfort. But at the same time it was deeply . . . They shook me to the core. Because they forced me to examine–re-examine, in fact–everything that I thought I knew based on how I lived, what I believed about not just God and spirituality, but myself, relationships and . . . you name it.

So it was powerful and definitely–as you know yourself–not a smooth, easy thing, where you can just read a book and feel good and the next day you wake up and there are butterflies and everything’s great. It really does shake the foundation of who you are. But I feel from that Neale Donald Walsch’s books are one of the most amazing things that can awaken us and lift us up to a higher potential and connect us with that higher knowing.

And one other thing I want to mention here is that the words in those books elicited an incredible remembering inside of me. And that’s, I think, what kept me going. So it wasn’t like, “Ah! This is just too hard. What is this saying? This is some kind of heresy or blasphemy.” No, it was like every cell in my body, in my being, was saying, “This sounds so right! This sounds so familiar!” And that, I think, is what made it so powerful for me.

GD: There are many tools and catalysts that people have connected with Neale’s books, and I don’t know about you, but I found that that just really got me on a track for exploring and expanding in many other ways–looking at the world in a whole new way. We’ll get into this in a little bit–the illusions that we’ve been spoon-fed, and how his books, and other tools and catalysts, can really shake that up. And like you’ve said, it can be challenging, but also very comforting, because we are reconnecting to what we already know.

I just want to go back to the relationship piece. I, too, identify with that. In 2008 I was laid off from my hospital job, and so that was very challenging and stressful. At the same time (I was forty-one.), it really gave me an opportunity to say “Okay, so what do I want to do for the next forty years?” And so I really looked at job, joy, work, my dharma–really explored how do I step into a new opportunity that is joy-filled, that I can call my work and my career?

But what I quickly did is I expanded that to my whole life. And I realized, “Oh, my, I have really disconnected from what is important to me, really disconnected from my path.” And I looked at my whole life and started asking some really difficult questions that led to an eventual separation and divorce, and a whole . . . I call it a research project.

We mentioned the Conversations with God books. And so, this period that I’m talking about (we’re fast-forwarding about a decade.)–here I am; I’m launching into this again but with much more interest, much more focus. And I was really shocked by what I found about the world, about the attempts to control, to keep people in a state of fear, what we have not been told about our larger family beyond the planet. What kinds of things did you uncover?

EO: Um-hum, very similar to what you were just sharing. And that’s exactly what happened with me: after the Conversations with God trilogy, another book would come into my life, and then a movie would come along, and I found such beautiful synchronicity. I found that once you align with this path of awakening, you don’t have to force anything to happen. You just have to say, yes, I’m here; I’m ready. And then the right material, the right people, just start coming your way.

And so it was one resource after another. And like yourself, I went through the journey of learning about our society, learning about the economy and how it works, and learning about, as you mentioned, our family beyond this planet: what about our origins?

And so, many of these aspects began to paint a really beautiful picture that once you start seeing . . . I’m a big fan now of looking and connecting the dots and seeing the bigger picture. I’m a big fan also of saying that we always have choice. But it’s like we have no choice but to see from a different perspective. It’s quite amazing how we begin to see way beyond the borders of our city, town, province, state, country. We begin to see the world, ourselves, and everything about why we’re here in such a new light.

And I found this to be empowering in and of itself to then propel me forward, to keep me asking questions, to release a lot of the fear that our society instils in us–you know, “Don’t look at that, or you’ll be considered crazy,” or, “Maybe this is just too far out of the box”–but simply to be present again, and to have the courage to ask the questions and actually look at the answers, and consider them.

GD: Well said. I want to get back to courage and being present. But first: you mentioned the economy, society, our larger family. What did you uncover?

EO: Well, up to the point when I started going through this material and learning about all of these different aspects of society, like most people who live on our planet today I thought that the government and the different health agencies and such are looking out for our best. I thought that there wouldn’t be harmful products, whether from the food or the personal care products that we find in the stores. I thought that everything that is there has been tested and is safe for us, and the government really has our best interests in mind. And that when there’s a conflict in another country, a war–that, again, there’s a good reason for going in to help, and the force is needed, etc.

But once you start looking deeper, you realize the illusions, the different games that are set up. You see how, truly, the agenda of various individuals and groups and corporations out there is very different from what it is painted as or made out to be.

And so, all of a sudden I began to see that, you know, it’s not about calling anybody evil or something bad or good (I really have learned to release all of those charged energies.) but rather to understand simply this: everyone lives from their personal model of the world. Everyone has their personal agenda. Because everyone is at their own personal level of evolution and their needs and desires, what they choose to experience and how.

So my job is simply to know: What is it that I stand for? What is it that I want? What is it that I want to participate in? What is it that I want to support? And I started to work with that, and just live life on a practical level. When I go to the grocery store, to see through other people’s agendas and to make sure that my choices align with my priorities, my needs, etc.

And so those are just some of the examples, but another big one is, of course, the banking system and the financial institutions. And just having that awakening in that area alone and understanding that I could work nine to five in some job or perhaps even more hours, simply trying to keep the banks afloat, or to support industries or corporations that I don’t even resonate with.

And so that was part of a different awakening where I realized I don’t want to keep living and working for a mortgage or for this or that, but really to live with a quality of life, while I’m in this incarnation on this planet right now, that has deeper meaning for me and how I’m going to live, act, speak, think, etc.

GD: That’s coming from a deeply empowered place, where you recognized your power as an individual, as a soul living a human experience on the planet–how your thoughts, how your actions, have significant impact. But you’re also getting into how you are creating your own reality. And you don’t have to play the game, be responsive to how others choose to live their reality or how they walk in the world. You don’t have to fall prey to the drama. You can unplug from what doesn’t serve you.

EO: Yes, absolutely. And you know, I find that when most of us first step into this new perspective, have this shift, this awakening, there’s this passion that rises within us to go out and try to help the world, help others, try to awaken others, because you get so excited. . . .

GD: Yep!

EO: And you think, “Oh, my gosh! This is amazing!” and, “Why doesn’t everybody know this?”–right?

GD: Right, right.

EO: So, exactly; I know you can relate. But as I went on my journey I realized that there is such perfection to everything that’s happening. And I cannot, even if it sounds like it’s coming from the right place, enforce my will upon any other. I can give them all the right books that I’ve read, or point them to the right people, the right resources, but everybody is ready for what they’re ready for when they’re ready.

And so very quickly I realized that there is a certain level of perfection in how everything is playing itself out. And so instead of negating the experiences of others, I simply need to, again, align with my own, because there’s more than enough of everything to go around. And I simply need to be responsible for my creations, my experiences, and how I choose to proceed.

GD: We can all probably identify. In life, when we’ve felt really excited about something and we want to share it–especially with people we are close to–and we feel a deep resonance to it, it’s easy to get into a place of, “Don’t you see? This is incredible! Don’t you see what’s happening?”

I have a friend who’s likely listening to this show and is probably chuckling. At the time we were in a love relationship, I was going through this huge surge of awakening, and so excited about things that were happening. And concerned about things that were happening on a global, planetary level: jaw-dropping things, hopeful things, and everything in between. And yeah, I was a bit of a zealot. There was lots of energy there: “Oh, my God! This is incredible!”

And I know she was overwhelmed with it! I have deep compassion and empathy, and yes, we need to honor where everyone is in life, honor everyone’s own path, and timing with things. And so I have learned to moderate that a bit. [laughs] And I don’t beat myself up for it. I think it’s important to recognize when something really flips your switch, and when you get really excited about something, it’s passionate, and there’s joy, and concern–and yeah, it drives you. And so I appreciate that you spoke to that.

So, you’re also speaking about courage and being present. And I know in some of your writings you talked about how your partner, who is now your husband, Marcus . . . how both of you really approached, and still approach, life with just staying in your hearts. And yet, when you’re making significant life changes, doubt can creep in, and fear. You both left your jobs. Marcus left his corporate job; you left your teaching job. We can talk more about that. You eventually moved. You made huge changes in your life.

What was happening there with family and other relationships, and the paradigm that you grew up with? I don’t know how influential your parents were or how you were brought up, but you were certainly exposed to a Western paradigm of you go to school; you get a job; you get married; you save; you get a mortgage. You do all of that, and that’s a good life.

So tell me a little about that process and stepping into the unknown–what you did when fear and doubt crept up and how that connects to being courageous, being present, and staying in your hearts.

EO: Sounds good. Well, everything that you’ve just described with respect to following the traditional path was exactly what I did. You go through high school; set yourself up properly for post-secondary; go through post-secondary; get a job. . . . I was very fortunate that as soon as I graduated I got an excellent teaching position as a senior high school science teacher. And so we got the mortgage, got the house, got the typical stuff, lived in the suburbs. So the path was very traditional and very safe and secure. So everything seemed to be flowing just fine. But then, once that awakening comes around, even that secure place starts to feel just out of alignment.

And so a part of you wants to absolutely follow the ideals you’ve been brought up with, follow the ideals that society instills–all about safety and security and your job and your retirement and your relationships, etc. But there’s this other voice that keeps getting louder. And . . .

GD: And louder! [laughs]

EO: And louder! Absolutely. And one thing that I think is very powerful, and that helped the courage within me grow, is that I began to see (and this is where that shift in perspective comes in) that everything that I thought was so secure actually isn’t. Like, for example, as long as we work for someone else, no matter how secure we think our job is, it’s always in the hands of that someone else–whether it’s a person, a company, etc.

Yet when you take your own fate or destiny into your own hands . . . yes, from the outsider’s perspective it may seem to be the risky path to be an entrepreneur, etc.–but actually, depending on how you go about it, that’s where I feel today I can create and build the greatest security or safety (if I was even looking for things like that).

So the path was very traditional, and it was definitely not easy when I began to see that I could not even stay in my job, for several reasons. One is because, of course, the current education system that we have in North America is just so enslaving. And I saw how the kids were just hungering for something more.

And, you know, as a teacher you can’t. . . . You have to stick to the curriculum, and I did especially since I was working for a religious school board. So that puts a whole other level and dimension of limitations upon you, and literally you feel shackled. Because you have to be careful what you say, and you can’t be there for these young, growing, inquisitive minds in the way that you feel would serve them best in terms of helping them expand their minds. And . . .

GD: Particularly with something, I suspect, like science, because as you were stepping into your own awakening process, you were starting to get more into quantum physics, metaphysics; you started to challenge what you’d been taught. And so there you were following an agenda which was also a religious agenda. Wow, that must have been really difficult.

EO: [laughs] Well, absolutely. There were so many challenges. And also, you know, even the evolutionary aspect of biology, and so many aspects. But ultimately, aside from the subject areas, it was just the system itself. I came to see through the system. But again, we don’t have to call it negative or bad, it’s just . . . to me it’s outdated. And I wanted to promote learning and creativity and inquisitiveness in a way that I just couldn’t do in the typical classroom.

So that was one aspect of it. And of course the topic area, the religious aspect and the freedom aspect–all of these things were being tied together for me. I was holding the job to pay for the mortgage, to live in a certain house, to support a certain lifestyle. And all of that seemed to just . . . not hold the meaning and value that it was supposed to according to our parents or society, etc.

So it became very clear to me within a very short period of time. I think it was within a year when all of this surfaced at the end of June, I think it was, 2009; I decided I was going to resign. And I didn’t have, and I wasn’t planning on going into, another job. I wasn’t planning on going into a new career. All I knew that was driving me within is that I wanted to be of service to the world; I wanted to teach people; I wanted to help people. But I wasn’t sure what this was going to look like. I had no idea where my next any-kind-of-pay, never mind calling it a paycheck, would come from.

And so of course there’s a lot of fear surrounding that, especially for someone like myself; I was brought up in a home where finances were approached in a very frugal way. And so you didn’t gamble with money. You didn’t gamble with your work situation. Once you were stable and secure, you stayed like that. And that’s it. Any entrepreneur talk, business talk, is risky; you don’t do that, and that’s just the way it goes. And you watch every penny, etc.

GD: A lot of people experience real challenge from their surrounding support systems, relationships, of all kinds. And I hear that you grew up in a family that placed high priority on money and was very frugal in their approach. So what was going on there with your folks? How was that?

EO: [laughs] Oh, that’s absolutely a great question, because from the family perspective, or even some close friends, people didn’t know what to think or what to make of it. And I’m putting that in a polite way. Because for the most part, they think, “Okay, she’s going through some kind of a phase.”

GD: [laughs] Yeah!

EO: “There’s obviously something here that we’re not aware of. Maybe it’s the partner. Maybe he’s a bad influence. Maybe it’s . . . “

GD: Oh, no! Poor Marcus!

EO: Yeah! “Maybe it’s something that she’s read, some kind of a new group she’s decided to follow.” It was all sorts of ideas. So absolutely, transitions . . . while they’re so empowering on the one hand and so liberating, we have to be honest that absolutely there are some serious challenges along the way that come along with that.

And one of the biggest is, yes, if you are close to family members or friends who have known you for a long time, to them, from an outsider’s perspective, no matter how much you try to explain, it really does sound . . . you know, I could probably use the word almost crazy. Because, again, here you are, and anybody who knew me was saying, “She has a really nice life. Why is she taking it all apart and jumping away from something so safe and secure into . . .”–literally, as people saw it–“. . . nothingness?”

But I’ll tell you, and again, this is nothing short of some kind of universal, divine intervention, where this courage just began to . . . it was just like this small flame began to shine and burn inside of me, and it just kept getting bigger. And when I was leaving and resigning from my job I had the opportunity to give a goodbye speech to my faculty and co-workers. And as part of that I shared the Joseph Campbell quote about following your bliss.

GD: Uh-huh. Nice.

EO: And you know, at that point it was theoretical for me, but I knew deep within me that that was such a core truth; and that quote–follow your bliss and the universe will open doors or windows where you thought there were none–has truly been one of my rocks, or my foundational paradigms.

And today it’s like second nature. I just have come to this immense trust and knowing, that truly when you are aligned with your heart, with yourself, with your higher purpose, things truly do work out. We don’t have to force it; we don’t have to worry. They do work out. But again (not to have people misunderstand), it doesn’t mean that I sat back on the couch and said, “Hey, universe, I’ll just relax here while you do all the work.” Absolutely not.

GD: You were an active participant; you were a co-creator. It takes action. Yeah?

EO: Exactly.

GD: Following your bliss, following your heart–you did that, even though it felt scary, even though it felt really challenging, even though your support family, others, were really saying, “What the heck are you doing? This is nuts!”

EO: Yes. [laughs]

GD: It probably felt really, really difficult at times. And I identify with that. I still have family members who say, “Geez, I don’t know what he’s up to. He’s got a lot of great skills. What happened to him?” [laughs]

And in the spirit of not trying to come into discussions with a hammer to claim to the world what I’m about and to share what resonates with me in terms of what’s happening internally and what I see on the planet . . . I’ve stepped away from doing that because I recognize that if there’s a wall there, we have to ask ourselves if it’s worth beating our hands up against it. Or is it better to redirect our energies elsewhere?

And so I really had to make some difficult decisions around relationships, put up healthy boundaries with family members–some, not all. And it gets back to following my heart and really listening to that, and really paying attention to that, and being diligent in not letting the old fears or the doubts creep in. Because I know when I follow my heart I get excited. I feel happier. I feel plugged in and the universe does respond.

EO: Yes. Absolutely. And this is, I think, what can help so many–anybody who’s joining us in the audience–if they’re kind of in a place where, “Oh, well, I don’t know. Is this going to happen to me?” And, “Can I have that courage? Can I find that trust and inner knowing?” But I really believe that all of us do have it. And it starts with such little steps along the way of connecting back to our intuition. But, you know, if that word feels uncomfortable, just with “what feels right to you.”

And sometimes I invite people to ask themselves that two or three times, because the first time usually the answer is what feels right based on what they think they should say, depending on whose company they’re in or what societal or parental or relationship pressures are there. But once you really get to the core, you start to connect with that feeling, and like you just said, there’s an excitement there; there’s a joy, and it’s unmistakable.

And if you can just let that start to guide you, slowly at first, and then it just keeps getting bigger and more powerful, and then it becomes second nature. So at least for me it didn’t happen overnight, but it grew. And I really appreciate that the journey took the time that it did, because I think it becomes that much more lasting, or just . . . it has that essence, that I know that now I can’t lose it.

GD: Part of the paradigm that we’ve been speaking to is that there’s been an intentional effort to keep us disconnected from ourselves, disconnected from our power–to distract us, to keep us in a state of fear and survival. And I don’t want to paint a picture of all doom and gloom; there are wonderful things happening on the planet, as there have been right along. But there has been an agenda by some to try to control people, to pad pockets. And that’s been largely due to greed and service-to-self mentality. That is changing, and we’ll speak to that.

And yet, as we waken and reconnect to ourselves, there is a remembrance process there: “How does this work? Oh, yeah. I sit in silence.” Or I take some time to unplug. I get into nature. I meditate. I do yoga. I knit. Whatever it takes to reconnect to the silence, to source, to higher self, to the divine, whatever you want to call it. To get the deep wisdom that we have to guide us on our own unique paths.

And I think that’s important to underscore. We all have our own unique paths here. And so that’s the other thing in stepping into this. As we step into that, it’s going to look less and less normal and usual because we are following our . . . We came here for a reason. We came here by design to experience, to grow, and to be of service in a way that’s unique to us.

And so if one is feeling more and more dissatisfaction with their job or some relationships or maybe old habits or activities, and that’s growing and growing, it’s something to listen to. And reconnecting to ourselves, and taking time to do that (back to what you were saying)–intuition is so key in that process, isn’t it?

EO: Um-hum. Absolutely. What I’ve seen from my experience, whether working with people or just seeing examples of people who don’t follow that voice, when that discomfort begins to surface–and it doesn’t take much. . . . It can be based on a relationship we’re in; it could be based on our job situation; it could be based on so many factors, even health, etc. When that discomfort starts to set in, the joy we can begin to feel, that true joy, it’s unmistakable.

But our society tries to put so many different illusions in front of us, or different distractions: “Don’t worry about that! Just look here, look what’s the latest new product, or latest fad, or the latest news.” There are so many distractions and so many external things that are competing for our attention (whether on purpose or not) to basically disconnect us from that inner voice, from that inner knowing.

And what I see happening, in so many people who don’t take that step back and say, “Wait a minute. Something is different; something is shifting; something needs my attention in my life,” is that it turns into a great deal of suffering. And so when it comes to health, people usually end up manifesting some kind of a serious condition. When it comes to a relationship, it might end in a divorce but it might not. Actually, sometimes the right thing would be to separate, whereas some people just keep at it and keep that struggle, that suffering, going.

GD: Or it can transition into something really beautiful together.

EO: Exactly. Exactly. So it’s truly important to listen to that inner voice and have–hear–the support. The support and the resources you surround yourself with, I’ve found, make a tremendous difference in how the journey unfolds–in just bringing some ease, more clarity, into it. And one thing here that I would definitely share that has been very helpful for me (and I find for so many other people) is if we want to be physically fit, have a healthy body, etc., we know that we have to do regular physical exercise, not just once a year, right?

GD: Um-hum. Or once a week.

EO: Yeah. Exactly. If I want to be, you know, a great piano or guitar player, again, it takes regular practice, regular immersion in that activity, in that skill. So the same way here. We have to approach our spiritual or personal awakening into joy, into love, into harmony, by immersing ourselves in environments with people, around people, who will also model that for us, vibrate that, be in alignment with that for us.

And also have the resources, practices and activities that can reinforce that for us, and that give us the opportunity to practice this on a regular basis. Because while it’s lovely that we’ll pick up, maybe the latest personal development or spiritual book once a year, it’s just not enough–not in a society that is set up to take us down a completely different path.

GD: Well said. I really appreciate you speaking to that. And back to what you were saying earlier: baby steps. Just take a step, and then take another step, and it can build, and whatever we place our attention on grows. Whatever you think about, you bring about. Of course you know that.

What other significant changes did you make when you were saying, “Geez, this isn’t working!” So you talked about job; you left a relationship that wasn’t serving you. What else? You did mention health, and we’ll talk about that a lot. You can start to get into that now or later, but I know you made some big changes relating to eating and health generally.

EO: Yes, absolutely. It wasn’t just one thing that was happening; it was all of these major areas. Leaving a secure, great job . . . We’re used to hearing stories where people leave their jobs because they’re unhappy, but I was extremely happy in that job. That’s what also makes it a quite different story, where I was extremely fulfilled by my job, until I just started to see through the system. So it’s not that I stopped loving teaching and the interactions with the students, etc.; it’s that I just couldn’t resonate and be part of the system.

But I also I left the religion that I grew up as a part of. And unlike for some people, I took it very seriously. I wasn’t one of those teenagers who say, “No, forget it, Mom, Dad. I’m not going to church with you anymore.” No, no. Right up until that point of awakening, I took it very seriously. My parents never had to force me to be part of it or do anything.

GD: So you really made some shifts, big time!

EO: Yeah. [laughs]

GD: Wow. And that must have been really hard for them, I suspect.

EO: Oh, absolutely. And the other part is that at the same time my dietary choices were also changing. So, you know, just to look at it from my parents’ perspective alone, it was as if I was abandoning everything that they stood for. So as you can imagine, from their perspective it was very difficult and painful. And I can understand that, especially when people are tied to their heritage, to their ethnicity, to their roots, to their personal beliefs, and they bring up their kids that way that they believe is the best way, and then basically from their perspective the child sort of abandons all of this or turns their back on all of it . . .

But, again, of course, it wasn’t from a negative perspective. It’s not like I was an angry teenager rebelling. By this time I was in my mid to late twenties, and I was extremely conscious of what was happening. It’s just, again, seeing through that. I’m a person who really takes integrity very seriously, and I just couldn’t keep living the illusion, once I saw it.

GD: What changes did you make in your diet?

EO: Well, with respect to diet, because I have the sort of science and medical and health education background, and my love and passion for teaching there, I tended to follow what would be equivalent to the Canada Food Guide or the US Food Pyramid. I was thinking, “Okay, I’m doing my body right by eating from the major food groups, and making sure I have enough dairy, especially as a woman.” (Get your bones strong and things like that; make sure you eat the meats, etc.)

And a few things happened as I was teaching about this and connecting the dots and seeing the bigger picture: “My goodness, this is not at all like what we’re being presented with.” And this is one other illusion in society: the whole dairy myth, the whole protein myth, and the meat industry and all that.

So what started to happen to me is that that path began to open up parallel to the heart-opening path. And I began to see that, wait a minute, we don’t have to inflict violence; we don’t have to kill or even torture and abuse animals in order to not just survive but in fact to thrive.

And so my diet began to shift away from animal foods. And not just that, but specifically away from processed foods. Because I didn’t want to participate in those industries. That’s one side of it. The other side is, I understood that everything truly is energy, and the energy in a processed, packaged food is completely different than the energy in a whole apple or a fresh leaf of kale or lettuce, etc. And so that was naturally drawing me very strongly to it. And so my diet shifted to being whole food, plant-based, but for me plant-based became 100 percent plant-based because, again, that’s what I felt.

GD: So you’re vegan?

EO: Yes. Although, again, I . . .

GD: Vegan is completely off not only meat–not only vegetarian–but you don’t do dairy; you don’t have anything in your diet that involves any animal products?

EO: No. But I’m also sort of cautious as I use the word “vegan,” because in our society there are so many people who choose to use that label, but perhaps will not be representing a heart-centered way or a compassionate way that I would find would be in alignment with me. Or perhaps who would just fall back on processed foods, or not pay attention to some of the things that I would find important, not just on a physical level but a spiritual level as well.

And so at first it started as for fun, but then I decided to share it publicly: the idea of a “healthitarian.” And so that’s what I would perhaps choose to call myself if I had to call myself something. But yes, in the traditional sense I would come closest to being a vegan.

GD: I think it’s important to mention that, as we talked about already, we’re all on our own journey. And the big thing here is to do what resonates with you. Use your discernment; listen to your heart, and consider what others may do. And if that serves you, if that resonates with you, great; if not, that’s fine too. There’s no judgment; there’s no agenda here. I will share that I really resonate with what you’re saying, too.

We’re so disconnected from our food sources in Western culture. We had a Fresh Air Child. If anyone’s not familiar with that program, inner-city youth (usually from the inner city) would come out to the country to experience a week or two to really get a different flavor of how life could be. And when this little guy came out the first time, he was nine; he’d only gotten his food from the store. And so when we brought him strawberry picking, or when we went out to show him a cow, or when we went out to the garden, there were some real aha moments: “Oh, so that’s where that comes from!” When we were going strawberry picking, he said, “I’m not going to get my food from the dirt!” And I understand that! I really get it.

EO: Yes.

GD: The way in which we raise our food, how we care for the food (you mentioned energy)–that energy is transferred into the food: the growth hormones, the herbicides, the pesticides, all of the chemicals, the additives, the processing. . . . A very good documentary folks might want to check out is Food, Inc. That’s eye-opening and one of a number of documentaries that can really provide some good education about where our food comes from and what the agenda is. There are some big corporate interests to keep us going to the store and buying what we’re encouraged to buy on television as opposed to supporting local, organic, whole food–high-energy, high-vitality food sources.

I know, as I’ve stepped more and more into plant-based foods, I feel so much more energized, much healthier. I feel better than I did in my twenties. (I’m forty-four now.) And I attribute it largely to what I eat. I bless my food; I bless the water that I drink. That energy . . . if people are familiar with Dr. Emoto’s work, the studies he did with water: bless your food, bless your water. I really resonate with that.

So what we take in directly impacts our quality of life–how we are available and present in life. I mean, I think about our cars, right? If we put crappy fuel in our cars, they’re just not going to run; they’re going to break down.

EO: Exactly.

GD: What other changes did you make? Well, I should mention that you grew up in Poland. You, at an early age moved. . . . I believe your family moved to Ontario, Canada. You’ve remained there. You were living a metropolitan life, but one big change you mentioned is that you moved to be more connected to nature. Tell me more about that.

EO: Absolutely. Yes. And this was another shift that happened ever so naturally. And it’s funny, you know, we all probably have those stories in our lives, where we say, “Oh, I’ll never become a . . . ” or “I’ll never do this,” or “I’ll never do that.”

GD: Yeah.

EO: And so, you know, I used to go cottaging, not really camping, but cottaging and vacationing with my family, since I was very young (since we came to Canada), in what’s considered the cottage country of Ontario. And so, sure, it was great. You know, family vacation. But there comes a point where, as a teenager especially, that’s when you just say, “Ah, this is boring! Nature is boring!” And so you don’t want anything to do with it.

And even as different life circumstances were sort of pulling me in that direction, I said, “Ah, no, no, you know, I don’t know how people could live in these types of areas where there’s really just nature.” It’s not even a rural area; it’s more forest, woods, and that’s it. You’re pretty much one of very few people out there.

But what amazingly happened–and this was something that just was so beautiful and so powerful–is my husband and I, one summer (I think it was the summer of 2009.) vacationed up north at the cottage. And basically we looked around (and this was just right after I resigned from my job and he was pretty much in his personal transition) and we said, “Wouldn’t it be incredible to live like we’re always on vacation?”

And, you know, that was just the spark, the seed. At that moment, very quickly we said, “Ah, no, no; it’s probably unrealistic” for this and that reason. But by December we really began to take this idea very seriously, because by this time we both were free of our jobs. And we said, “Wait a minute! We can live anywhere we want!”

And when we considered all the different countries, and the southern and the northern climates and things like that, we realized that the most important thing to us, and the loudest thing that was calling us was nature–to be immersed in the stillness, the beauty, the silence, the harmony, and to have a better connection also with fresh food, fresh spring water–actual spring water, not from a plastic bottle and such. And so . . .

GD: Or chlorinated, or with chloramine or any of that. Yeah.

EO: Exactly. Exactly. And so this was sort of the last big shift and change we made, after the jobs and the religions and the diet: changing our lifestyle. So basically we put our house on the market that spring, and it sold literally within a few hours, which we took as an incredible synchronicity . . .

GD: Oh, my goodness!

EO: Yeah . . . basically just to move on and . . .

GD: So that’s the universe responding right there.

EO: Absolutely.

GD: There’s a quality of flow to what you’re experiencing. It’s not to say that it wasn’t challenging, but as you stepped in and you got aligned with your path and your heart, things flowed and the universe responded in wonderful ways.

EO: Yes. And you know what I would also share with people is, however small that first moment may be that you bring awareness to–that, “Wow, this happened! It seemed to be so easy; there was such flow, such allowance, such synchronicity”–take those moments and shower them with gratitude because they truly do grow.

The whole time we kept one thing consistent, and that is that trust that everything truly is working out. We just have to be paying attention; be mindful; be conscious; be aware of those subtle signals that we get daily, whether it’s the house selling in a few hours or what our next steps were going to be with respect to how we were going to set up our life in nature.

And those little subtle steps come out. And when you find them, when you have that mindfulness so that you see them and listen to them, and follow through with where they’re guiding you, that’s exactly when amazing things happen and that path is flowing.

And that’s where today, how I live is I sense if there’s any kind of resistance. Let’s say I really wanted to go somewhere at 10:00 tomorrow morning, but let’s say at 9:30 I got a phone call and it’s somebody who really needs my help and I know I’m going to be late for that 10 o’clock wherever-I-wanted-to-be. Instead of getting frustrated, I step back and I say, wait a minute. I trust that there’s a higher reason, a bigger reason that I might not be able to see right now for why this is happening. And truly, there always is. And sometimes I’m aware of it right away, sometimes a little later. But it’s absolutely incredible when we don’t fight any resistance, but rather align ourselves actively, but with the flow.

GD: It’s not always easy to be diligent to stay out of the ego, to stay in our hearts, and be real present. Like you said, society can pull us in a lot of directions. But even if we step back and get into a place . . . surround ourselves in an environment that really nurtures us, in relationships and activities, we can still fall prey to the ego, because the ego can be really loud. The ego wants to protect us, wants to serve us. We can have old pains and wounds and fears creep up. How does that work for you? I hear you say staying present is key to that.

EO: Yes. I’ve found this to be extremely powerful. I’ll use the example of worry and anxiety because of course that’s such a common aspect. Whether with relationships or finances, we tend to take ourselves to the future and start to think, “But what if it doesn’t happen? How will it happen? When will it happen?” You know. And all of those things can really overpower that inner trust, knowing, and intuition.

And so in those moments I have found it very powerful, as soon as I become mindful, to step back. And one mantra or affirmation that I live with today is that right now, in this moment, I always have the right resources or the right knowing to handle anything that is present in my situation right now. And I trust and know that whatever future moment will come, in that present moment I will also have the right knowing, resources, and trust for what needs to happen and how.

So that’s something that I have found for myself to be very powerful to keep reminding myself of. And also, you know, I’ve never been a fan of worry, and it’s something that I try to help others overcome, because it’s just so toxic to our emotional health, mental, physical, spiritual, etc. And really, when we start to just step back and see the big picture of the past, the present, and the future, we really grasp that, truly, anything but the present moment is an illusion, and no matter how much we worry about it we’re simply expending our resources on something that is completely intangible.

And it’s not the same as if I take a conscious moment of doing some creative planning for how I want my next vacation to go, or next week to go, or whatever the case may be. So there is a difference between that incessant worry where your mind just basically runs wild with thoughts and fears and judgments and criticisms versus that conscious, present-moment living or present-moment creation for what are my next steps.

And one other aspect here that is very powerful–whether we’re talking about ego, whether we’re talking about our food choices, or how we respond to others in relationships–is our intention. And this is something also that I found to be so powerful on the journey of awakening. The intention is what’s going to make the difference at the end of the day.

Like you said, let’s use the example of our food choices. It is not about judgment. It is not about thinking that we have to be somewhere because this other person seems to be walking this similar path, so I should be doing that too, but it doesn’t feel right to me. And so it’s truly the intention with which we approach anything in our lives that is going to make the biggest difference.

As you mentioned, too, you bless your food; you bless your water. That has such a powerful impact on everything. Rather than the person who says, “Well, I’ll eat the salad because I know it’s good for me; it’s healthy; it’s apparently more environmentally-friendly–but I don’t like it, ugh!” That intention changes the dynamics completely.

And so, very, very important is to just be honest with ourselves as to what is the guiding factor, what is the intention behind our choices or decisions. And one other aspect with respect to the ego is understanding that the ego is something that definitely can be reconciled; it doesn’t have to be at all negative and shouldn’t really be negative. It’s just something that isn’t us and is really rooted in fear and judgment. And so it becomes quite easy, or easier, to catch ourselves when we might be reacting or living out of the ego.

Whenever we are in a state of judgment or fear, the judgments we place outside of ourselves are really judgments we have of ourselves. Self-love and how we see ourselves is a big thing. So opening up to compassion is one way that I find to transcend the ego and connect more with the heart space.

GD: Everything you’re saying, Evita, I couldn’t resonate with more. And intention is so key–having the intention to approach life and live life with joy, love, and harmony and stay true to that. I think it’s good to ask ourselves, as we go through our days, minute by minute–and this is getting back to being present and mindful–how do I feel in this moment? How does my body feel? How do I feel in this situation, in this relationship, in this activity, in this work, in this home? And let that be a barometer for helping us take a step one way or another.

And of course we could have a whole discussion about accessing feelings and getting more in touch with feelings. And that path, especially for men, can be challenging sometimes–at least for men in Western culture. And I’ve experienced that. But it’s so important to get in touch with feelings and have that guide us.

Why is being in nature so important to you?

EO: Oh, you know, it always elicits such feelings of just joy and beauty. Just that . . . I feel that there’s just this energy of beauty there any time anything with nature is mentioned. And for me I just find that the vibration, that the energy, of nature is what is so enlivening and connects me to my higher self or my inner being so powerfully. You know, I could walk through a metropolitan street and still stay connected to myself. But there is no comparison to how amplified this is in terms of how I think, how creative I am, how compassionate I am, when I am surrounded by nature. It just . . . it changes things so much.

And my greatest teacher, as I said, is nature, is the animals–the furry ones and the others with scales and the ones that live below the soil and such. And something for me that has become such a treasured source of joy, groundedness, and connection is really touching the earth–with my hands, with my feet. So, as soon as it feels comfortable, sometimes even in the winter, touching my bare feet to the earth is something that just is so invigorating.

When gardening season comes around part of what I love doing right now is growing my own food. And so instead of wearing any gloves just putting my hands in that soil and just . . . I feel what is just. . . .

You know, I’m kind of at a loss for words here because for me it transcends anything that I can describe in words. And so this immense feeling of joy and harmony is what I find so strongly and powerfully in nature.

And I feel all of us can have that, because she is truly our home and can be our teacher if we choose that for ourselves as well. But there’s just such alignment and such harmony there in the stillness that basically helps us to remember most who we are and why we are.

GD: Well, part of reconnecting to ourselves is about that. And I recognize that, and I too live in the mountains and around trees by design. I resonate with everything you’re saying. For me, it’s my sanctuary.

EO: Yeah.

GD: When I’m out in nature, like you were saying, that’s when clarity comes; that’s when the deep peace comes; that’s when I get these really great, inspired, very unique moments of inspired thought (I call it divine thought.)–these aha moments that I don’t get elsewhere. And being in nature doesn’t mean that you have to live in a highly wooded, remote, rural area; it can mean going to the park.

EO: Exactly.

GD: There are many ways to connect with nature. And I couldn’t agree with you more. I find that I really get back to myself–and the deep peace, the silence, the connection, everything you spoke to, I really resonate with. And if I don’t connect with nature even a little bit, I really feel off kilter.

Clearly, Marcus and you are on the same page in terms of how you’ve stepped into this. And you’re so blessed that you have each other to do that. Imagine going through these changes and not having a partner who can support you. And many of us have gone through that and are going through that.

Tell me about this love relationship that you’re experiencing, particularly versus the one you were in before, which was very challenging. I’m thinking about, as we awaken, as we expand our consciousness, what’s the impact that that has on love relationships? What’s coming up for you on that?

EO: Well, this is a big topic, definitely. Because I know that for us, we were great catalysts for each other’s journeys and for stepping into that awakening along with what also followed, whether it’s the resources and the different changes. . . . And for anyone who is metaphysically inclined to the ideas of reincarnation and things like that, from the first moment that we met, first off, we knew that there was too much of a deeper knowing . . . that we were not strangers. As I explain as I share sometimes in person with people, it’s as if we came together and we said, “Okay, here we are again. So, let’s continue where we left off.” So it was just an incredible knowing from the beginning. So that was very . . .

GD: I know that feeling, that experience. Yeah.

EO: Oh, that’s beautiful, yeah. It’s very powerful. But again, it’s not to say that we have to have this in our lives, and it’s not to feel bad if we don’t ever have it or experience it, because (as I also share with people) for someone it’s going to be their romantic partner; for someone else it’s going to be their mother; for someone else it’s going to be their best friend; for someone else it’s going to be a pet. So we have to just simply acknowledge that we each have these different beings who come into our lives for reasons that are many, but most of them do revolve around our personal evolution.

And so the big difference in the relationship with Marcus, to compare to anything I had in the past, was that in the past I was acting like a typical female, if I can say that–or even a male, since both males and females tend to seek completion from the other; we tend to seek our joy from the other, that, you know, “I’ll be happy if you do this for me,” or “I’ll be happy if you don’t do this,” etc. Or “I feel beautiful only if . . . ,” etc.

So the difference was I came first and foremost into this relationship complete in and of myself. That doesn’t mean that I have no more growth to make. Not at all. That’s a totally different topic. It’s just that I wasn’t seeking for my partner to fulfill me in any way. It was basically that I wanted to come together with someone to share the completeness that I felt in the joy, in some of the inner peace that I was starting to live with at that point, and the harmony, etc. And so . . .

GD: It’s the recognition that we are already whole beings, and we have the opportunity to continue to grow and expand and augment the joy we’re already feeling.

EO: Exactly. Yes. And to come for the purpose of co-creation, and co-creation from joy. So “Where do we want to create together? How? What do we want to visit? What do we want to experience?” So, focusing and expanding our energy on these co-creative endeavors rather than focusing and expending our energy on, “You didn’t do this”; “You should have done that”; “I won’t feel right unless you do . . . ” A, B, C or D, etc. So I find a lot of relationships put so much emphasis on that. Why? Because it . . .

GD: Well, can I dig into that a little bit? Because stuff comes up, right? So, disagreements come up. Someone could be having an off day. We are feeling beings and we may feel something that feels discordant. There may be an argument. There may be a conflict. So, let’s tease that out a little bit. Let’s say you and Marcus are having a disagreement. It feels charged. How do you approach it?

EO: First and foremost, always remembering that you’re on the same team, that it’s not “me against you.” It’s always, always, “we’re in this together,” and we’re not trying to hurt each other intentionally, or trigger each other intentionally, but we are on the same team.

Two: absolutely honest, transparent, open communication. The more expanded this is, the better that everything flows–the good times and the somewhat challenging times. So that’s very important. And knowing that you can open up and say to your partner whatever needs to be said, and knowing that your partner can also hold space for you.

And so, these are perhaps things that may sound a little bit foreign to any listeners; obviously it’s good to establish that in a relationship before, perhaps, a challenging moment happens, rather than trying to work on that while you’re trying to work on whatever the challenge may be. So, making sure that there is a foundation set up from the beginning in the environment in the relationship that . . .

GD: To create that sacred space . . .

EO: Yes.

GD: . . . so that we can feel like we can be authentic; we can be transparent with kindness, consideration, and respect. If we are stepping out of illusion generally, and we choose to step into an awakened, conscious relationship, we can also recognize that we’re still human; things come up. And to create and provide the space for that, to be really vulnerable and be okay with that–that’s huge! Huge, huge. And not to feel like, “Oh, if I share this, I’m going to be rejected or abandoned,” which is usually connected to old stuff. But it sounds like you’re doing that.

EO: Yes. It’s very much because this is something that as partners, you decide what kind of quality of life relationship do you want. When we look at our society, we can see that there’s a lot of modeling happening where relationships are prized more for their superficial qualities: are you with the partner for the type of position they hold, the type of security they can provide for you, or based on their physical appearance, whatever the case may be–versus connecting with someone on that deeper level of the heart and the deeper level of spirit or soul, and knowing that we are more here than our bodies, than our jobs, than our bank accounts or whatever the case may be.

And so from this space we can cultivate a much richer quality of experiences together, and also of the relationship. But this, again, goes back to talking, talking, talking, talking, as much as possible. Like one thing Marcus and I did right from the beginning is we talked, and everybody might say, “Oh, okay, sure, we talk.” But on our first vacation we went through question after question after question. What would you do in this situation? How would you handle this?

So, we almost made it into a fun little game. But it proved to be so extremely valuable because we got to know each other on such deep levels in terms of how our minds work, how we approach different situations, scenarios, problem-solving. So it wasn’t jumping into perhaps getting married and then never talking about something as simple as, “How do you feel about having kids?” or “How do you feel about . . . ?” you know, this or that. We knew so well, walking into it, how do we feel.

Now, of course, there’s a huge point here that needs to be made: people change. And this is just the natural aspect of life. We will never stay the same, because either we evolve or we . . . the opposite, perhaps–devolve, right? So, what happens there? Naturally, relationships can grow together, or can stagnate, or people grow in different directions and then choices need to be made.

But for couples who choose to grow together, one thing that we have done right from the beginning is we went through the material, anything that was coming our way–the books, the movies, the people, the seminars, conferences, whatever–together. So when it came to, for example, books, we would actually read to each other out loud. So we’re reading the same book; we’re discussing the same ideas. Again, not to say that this is what people have to do, but it’s just an example of how we came to build such a strong foundation in our relationship.

GD: And I suspect you have your own interests, and take time for yourselves in solitude, and yet there’s clearly an opportunity for you to come back together and share and grow and expand.

EO: Yes, absolutely. But because we chose to walk into this relationship with a great degree of independence and completeness, we don’t weigh on each other, as sometimes can happen in close partnerships, so that sometimes people really do need personal space. So I find, in our relationship, it’s so light that it very rarely happens that we would say, “Hey, you know, maybe I need to go for a walk myself,” or something like that.

And that’s one of the other guiding factors, why we enjoy each other’s company so much, why we chose to work from home together and really enjoy each other’s company as much as possible: because we found that together we really are powerful co-creators, much better together than alone. And so that just makes the experience that much more joyous.

GD: Beautiful. Congratulations. As you stepped into a more heart-centered way of living these years, are you experiencing new abilities unfolding?

EO: Well, the intuition has been absolutely increasing in terms of what I’m capable of sensing. And this has nothing to do with, oh, does that mean you’re psychic or anything like that? I would definitely not consider it anything of that nature. It’s just intuition for me, to know what I need to do for myself, or what my next steps should be, etc. So my intuition definitely has been growing. I find that to be a big enhanced part.

And the other aspect is to feel energy; that’s something else that I feel has just been beautifully growing for me to experience–to experience the subtle energies, not just of my body, but of, for example, other parts of nature. If I’m, say, next to a tree, next to an animal, to have a deeper connection, not just from physical being to physical being. So I would say those two would be the biggest two things that I’ve noticed.

GD: Same here. My intuition continues to grow and expand and serve me in wonderful ways. It’s–back to the barometer–my compass; it’s my guide. And I used to be so disconnected from my intuition. I couldn’t live without it now. It’s my . . . I don’t want to call it a tool. It’s part of me; it’s all integrated and it’s so valuable. It’s just . . . It’s me. It’s who I am. And I like to think–I hope–that it guides everything that I do.

There are the subtle nudges and knowingness, and then there are these moments of real, “Aha! Got it!” when this is a big hit kind of thing. And I find that I’m fine-tuning it more and more, and connecting to it, deepening with it more and more. So I really hear what you’re saying.

We skipped over, earlier, talking about the larger universe. What have you learned about as it relates to our larger family, our star family?

EO: Well, one thing that really resonates with me and is part of how I understand reality, this planet and beyond, is that we do live in a virtual reality. And that’s maybe the simplest way I can put it. Some people understand it to be like a simulation. But I do really resonate with the fact that it’s the energy on this planet–that makes us up, that makes our planet up–that also has the potential to create other beings.

And so when it came to topics like what other species of beings are there, or who else do we share our roots with or our origins . . . Well, for me it has been just a really exciting journey, because I’ve come to know some of the different starseed ideas and different groups, like the Arcturians and the Pleiadians, etc. And I find that all of it absolutely is very possible. And that’s something else that I try to live with always: just an open-minded awareness to all that is possible and not dismiss anything.

So, can I prove, for example, that there are other beings? Well, unfortunately, at least at this point, as far as I know, I’ve never had an experience with an extraterrestrial being. But in my heart, in my knowings . . . Even though it’s not that I know it on a practical level, but on a theoretical level there’s no doubt within me that definitely there are so many other beings that are part of our greater family.

And sometimes people say, “But, well, what are their names?” Or, “What do they look like?” Or “How . . . “ And to me the answer that just keeps coming back is that anything that we can possibly imagine is there. Because we are a connected part of that universal field of information. And sometimes people may say, “Oh, but this is like science fiction.” But if our mind can perceive it, it probably has some kind of a substance somewhere.

And so, that’s kind of where today I am on that topic, is that I am definitely open to it and excited about it, but I’m not sure if I can speak with exact certainty in terms of who’s out there and what they look like and what their characteristics are.

GD: As we expand our consciousness, as we awaken more and more, the questions expand and they multiply, because we start asking larger and larger and more questions. I know, for me, I’ve never had this deep fascination or interest with UFOs or aliens or anything like that. And I appreciate you sharing your viewpoint on this, particularly from your science background and as you express from your heart and your intuition about that. When I connect to that, I feel, too, that when I come across information about the idea of a larger family, that resonates with me. I mean, that just makes sense.

I’ve had some experiences of sightings in the sky, and connecting to energies in a very heart-felt way, that suggest to me that there’s some pretty amazing, beautiful stuff beyond our planet. And I feel that there’s a whole incredible opportunity to step into that with an open mind and to welcome what I feel will be beings from the multiverse–which is much more expansive than we probably know. And I think we’ll be surprised that what we’ve envisioned, what we’ve been spoon-fed about an extended star family (while there are many variations and possibilities), many of them are just like us . . .

EO: Yeah.

GD: . . . more evolved, more conscious perhaps, but they are family and they want to reconnect with us, and they want to assist us on our path (recognizing that we have free will). But the Earth planet Gaia is part of a larger multiverse, and I’m excited about the possibilities and the prospects of reconnecting to our family.

EO: Yeah, I think that’s a really beautiful way of sharing it. Thank you. I think, too, that the first step is to just acknowledge that there is something and that we are just open to it, right? Because if we are closed, then we are closing ourselves off from the unlimited potential of possibility that is out there–which, again, I think is just so vast and so beyond whatever our greatest ideas or expectations may be.

GD: You’re thirty-five years old, and as you reflect back on life prior to making a lot of changes in your life and compare it to now, how would you say the quality of your life is now? You stepped into a very heart-centered way of being; you followed your intuition, your path; you’re doing work that feeds you. You seem to be right on the right track. Maybe if you were to summarize what life is for you, what would you say?

EO: The biggest changes have happened in exactly the last ten years. And for five of those years I’ve been able to enjoy what I consider for me such an incredible quality of life. And it’s not, again, because I have the right amount in my bank account, or the right anything–whatever we can pick on. It’s simply because of the deeper sense of connection that I have attained with myself and with all life, and the deeper sense of consciousness to live as mindfully as possible–which I have found also just raises the quality of life so tremendously–rather than living with shame or guilt or regret. And that presence that we keep coming back to.

All of this has on a practical level tremendously decreased the amount of stress, tremendously increased the amount of joy, inner peace. As I share, in my early twenties, life was, just like for most people, a roller coaster ride. There were good days; there were bad days. There were the highs; there were the lows. And now it’s just . . . I don’t want to say it’s like a plateau because it almost tends to sound boring to people, but there’s just this beautiful, harmonious flow.

And even when there’s some kind of a challenge or perhaps some kind of a frustration, I can honor that. I can also see the perfection and the beauty in that and why it’s present in my experience, rather than resist it. Rather than negate it I can appreciate its presence and work with it and work through it as needed.

So that’s the biggest thing, and you know, sometimes people have to . . . I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to wait until I got a serious physical disease or disability. I didn’t have to wait ’til I had an extremely serious . . . Even the challenges that I shared with you on today’s show, they’re minor really in comparison to what I know some people have to go through.

So I didn’t have anything extremely traumatic happen. And I’m so grateful that I was present and gave myself the permission to follow my heart and follow that inner guidance, and to be able to, now in my thirties, enjoy such a high quality of life which sometimes people say you have to wait until you’re wise and old to have, right? But really to enjoy life, to live not as part of the typical rat race, or to live as part of the typical suffering and stress and trauma, but just to enjoy the beauty of this planet, the beauty of the people and the beings that are on this planet, and to appreciate all that.

GD: Thank you for sharing that. As you’re sharing, I’m reflecting as well. And I experience such wonderful shifts and growth and a beautiful expansion, where the quality of life just keeps growing and growing and growing. It’s infinite. My capacity to create and experience beauty has grown. I feel so much more peaceful and joyful.

The quality of the relationships that I have with myself and others and the planet continues to deepen and expand in wonderful ways. I feel such hope . . . and yeah, things do go off kilter; things can be challenging at times. But if I were to consider a theme, I would say it just keeps getting better and better and better, and the possibilities are infinite. And the highs continue to get higher, and the lows aren’t as low as they used to go.

And a lot of that is about everything we talked about today. It’s being present, being in the moment, staying in my heart, doing what feeds me, following those inner nudges, being around a supportive community, stepping away from things that don’t support that. And thank you for sharing that.

As we start to sum up today’s conversation–and part of me doesn’t want to leave this ’til the end, and I don’t want to have this be a side note, because it’s significant–but what do you feel is happening on the planet, and are you feeling hopeful?

EO: Oh, to answer the latter part of that is a quick answer: yes. Extremely, extremely hopeful. You know, sometimes people say, “Oh, it won’t happen in our lifetime,” or “It won’t happen in the next maybe few centuries.” And I just don’t see it that way.

For example, sometimes when we see the wars on our planet, still the incredible violence inflicted on our human family, on our animal family, etc., a lot of people say, “Oh, the war system; it’s just been a part of our culture for how many hundreds, thousands of years, and it’s just going to be a part for how many more.” And that’s just one example. The religious institutions that are so very limiting for so many people. And, again, people think, “Oh, well, you know, that’s not going away any time soon.”

Any kind of systems or tools for how we live, how we create, whether it’s efficient energy, alternate energy sources, many people tend to think that these are basically not going to happen in our lifetime, or maybe in our children’s, or children’s children’s lifetime. And for me, again, I see that change is possible truly in an instant.

We’ve already made such incredible leaps and bounds on this planet just in the last few years. I see–to answer the first part of your question–that there is an incredible shift in consciousness taking place, an incredible awakening. And it’s just . . . It’s beautiful; it’s hopeful. And the more I see and experience that for myself, around myself, both directly and indirectly, the more that even fuels me to keep going and doing and believing and knowing what I do.

And so it comes back also to something we were talking about earlier, about having the passion to share. Today I find again it’s that beautiful balance of, yes, why are we even talking today together, right? It’s because we have perhaps seen something, experienced something, that is so beautiful, and we’d love to share it with others, in hopes that it can help inspire them in some way, raise their vibration, increase the quality of their lives. And so that also drives me absolutely–but again, with the knowing that there is this divine timing and perfection with which everything is unfolding.

So, definitely beautiful, beautiful shift in consciousness on our planet. And I’m extremely hopeful in terms of what our potential is, because, in your words, the brilliance within is truly within all of us. And more and more of us are perhaps just needing to polish up those mirrors to shine, shine ever so brightly.

GD: And you’re embodying that, Evita, in so many beautiful ways. I see you as a true way-shower. You’re modeling and embodying how to live well, how to live in your heart, how to shine your light, and how to be on the path as living your potential as human. So I can’t thank you enough. Is there anything else you’d like to share before we wrap up today?

EO: I think just the last words that I would love to perhaps share with the audience are simply to honor your personal path. I’d just love to reiterate those words, because I think we’ve mentioned a few times that sometimes it can be easy or beautiful or scary or daunting to get caught up in somebody else’s path, whether it’s positive or negative. And really, if there’s one most important thing to do, it is to honor your personal path, wherever that may be, whatever that is calling you to. Just be there, present, for that. And if other people inspire you, that’s great, but know always that whatever is within your own heart and soul and speaking to you is truly the best for you.

GD: Evita Ochel, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

EO: You are so very welcome, and thank you so much for having me, Graham. I so much enjoyed our exchange of energy and this dialog.

GD: To find out more about Evita’s work, visit her websites, and

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