The four levels of engagement

We all know that situations can have an enormous impact on us. For instance our rent got cancelled recently and as a first reaction me and my partner, we were both devastated. All kinds of reactions came up like: ‘the owner said he didn’t need the house’, ‘we are forced to move from a place we love’, we’ll never find something nice again’’ etc etc. What I find very useful to use in unexpected situations like this is a framework, developed and taught by @Alan Seale of transformational presence. He discerns four levels of engagement:

  1. Drama
  2. Situation
  3. Choice
  4. Opportunity


When something unexpected happens, there’s no escaping from it: we get sucked into the drama right away. It’s the phase where we deny what has happened and we’re looking for someone to blame. We are letting off steam.


Dropping one layer below the drama, we arrive at the situation level where we are trying to fix the situation. Get things back to the way they were before. Needless to say, this can be quite a challenge, especially with complex issues.

Characteristic of these two phases is that it is the event that has happened that holds the energy. It’s mainly outside of us, we tell ourselves we are not to blame and once the issue has been fixed all will be fine again. Now, I’m wondering: how often does this actually happen? That fixing works in complex situations?

You may also notice that on a societal level it’s where the discourse around issues mainly takes place.

As a society we switch between drama and situation most of the time without allowing learning to take place. When something goes wrong, there’ll be one person claiming he or she holds the right answer to effectively deal with the situation.


Back to the individual level: again, we can drop a level below the situation level this time and arrive at the level of choice. Here we decide how we show up with respect to what is going on. Typically, something starts shifting here: no longer are we a powerless victim but we claim accountability for how we decide to be regarding the situation.


We can drop one more level, become even quieter, and land at the level of Opportunity. With what happened, what is the big picture? What is trying to catch your attention? What is trying to get into your awareness? What wants to happen? What are the intelligences you have access to telling you?

It’s basically collecting information what we are doing. But consider this: with the information you get at the opportunity level, how do you decide now how you want to be?

As a rule of thumb, you could say that the bigger the drama, the bigger the potential is.

Needless to say, this requires practice and I encourage you to try it. Go to your point of stillness and just pay attention to your breathing and not to your busy mind. Let the thoughts just be. Bring a challenge you’re having to your mind and notice how your entire system is reacting to that.

As a next step, in your mind, try to fix it. How is the challenge responding to that? You may find it doesn’t go away. Now make a decision about how you want to show up. How does that change (your relationship with) the challenge? What is the challenge actually trying to tell you? What is the bigger potential trying to get through? What are you learning about the entire situation? About yourself?


Our three intelligences


In one of his courses, Alan Seale introduced this concept of multiple intelligences we have. As such it’s not new, Howard Gardner for instance has made this point of humans possessing multiple intelligences. Although Gardner’s work has met criticism of lacking empirical evidence, the notion of multiple intelligences is more than just intellectually attractive. Scientists have observed brain cells e.g. on the heart but also in the gut. Alan distinguishes three intelligences:
–         Head
–         Belly
–         Heart

The head (especially the left hemisphere) is occupied with thinking (most of us are very familiar with that) The belly feels (several languages have expressions for this when people sense a feeling in their belly concerning some situation they are confronted with.) and the heart knows. These intelligences, which you can easily access, can work together for us and can help us gaining additional useful insights and get us out of overthinking. In order to do so, we’ll have to address the three areas. When faced with a challenge, simply ask your head: what does the head think? You may put your hands on your head so you actually feel the head. Listen to the answer/s the head comes up with. The next question (put your hands on your belly, just below the belly button Is fine) is: what does the belly feel? Again, listen for answers or better: observe the (change of) feelings as the belly doesn’t communicate in language. Thirdly put your hands on your heart region ask what it knows regarding the challenge you’re faced with and observe the answer.

A very powerful additional question is to ask one intelligence what it needs more of (or less) from another intelligence. So for instance: what does the belly need from the head? This is a question asked of the belly and it is the belly that should answer and not the head! It is astonishing what openings are gained through this. A while ago I was leading a leadership seminar and one of the participants was kind of moaning to her colleagues about a staff member. In a break, I spontaneously led her through the exercise with the three intelligences, after which her conclusion was that there was no issue at all. Quite a breakthrough insight, greatly influencing how the working relationship could evolve.

Needless to say. I’m not suggesting this will solve any issue right away but you probably will gain very useful insights you didn’t have before. Try it out for yourself and let me know what your experiences were. If you want to read more about the three intelligences, I recommend the book ‘Create a world that works’ by Alan Seale.

#transformationalpresence #radicallybetter #newnarrative #leadership

It may sound somewhat provocative but it’s actually where reality exists. Or at least what we call reality. Or in other words: it’s what we make of it using our minds that defines reality. The meaning we attach to our observations. Not seldom do our minds come up with stories about what is currently happening that define our subsequent course of action. And whether it’s predominantly your left or right hemisphere makes an important difference. Left is looking for power, and control and wants to understand the not connected parts. The right sees the bigger whole with relationships between the parts. How often do you pause a moment to go to your point of stillness in order to get out of your reactive mode and to get open for what is really there in front of you? As it were: can you allow it to show itself to you?

Resisting life?

Change is inevitable, we all know that. It’s what we have been taught in school and university, what we’ve all experienced by now, what books have been written about and what we are seeing especially now. Not always is change a pleasant thing. What I’ve never been taught is how to look for the bigger picture of a change. I know now that if I focus on that one thing that is changing and which I may not like at all I’ll be tempted to resist it. To fight it. To push against it. To moan and complain.

At the Center for Transformational Presence, we know that life is energy in motion, unfolding as part of something bigger. We cannot destroy or create energy, only transform it. And there lies an important key for dealing with change: how can you show up in such a way that you can work with the change, so it gets transformed? What is it asking of you? Who is it asking you to be? These conversations can run deep, yes, and they are also very clarifying, opening up new ways forward. Because you’ll be capable to embrace the change that wants to happen. And then work with it instead of pushing against it, which leads to much better results for you. Resisting change is like saying to life: I don’t want this to happen. The invitation is to learn to live your life completely, embrace change and not fight it.
Ping me if you would like to explore what this means for you.


Your problems as messages?


Well, the world is filled with challenges and problems and I’m sure that each one of us, we all have our share of that as well. Our usual approach is to solve a problem as quickly as possible and then move on to the next one. Fair enough, I guess. What I have noticed is that sometimes it seemed a problem didn’t let itself be solved just like that. OK, so I tried harder. Smarter. Get help. Get frustrated. And yet the situation remained stuck. Or perhaps you know this as well: you’re faced with a sequence of more or less similar issues. You solve one and the other one is ready to present itself.
What I have noticed is that by taking a step back, slowing down and going to my point of stillness, I’m able to see what the problem is actually trying to draw my attention to. And while the problem needs to be solved, I now get different information which informs my decision on how to show up. It’s no longer auto-pilot, triggered by the situation, but an informed and conscious choice Which helps me to better deal with the situation at hand, while at the same time seeing its place in the bigger unfolding game.
I’m not suggesting that by being still and ‘just’ diving deeper and exploring what the potential of the situation is that the problem gets solved right away and without your involvement. It may happen as you’re likely to change your relation to it. But you’re likely being asked to work on it as well.  What I am saying is that you’ll be in a much better position to solve the problem coming from a place of seeing the bigger picture. And you’ll feel more empowered because you choose how you show up in dealing with the situation.
So, what is the message behind your most persistent challenges? Interesting?

Our world and its future, an artists’ impression

We’re living in times of disruptive turbulence. Everything, literally everything changes and nothing remains the same. Panta rhei kai ouden menei….. The small and big changes we’re asked to deal with on a daily basis affect all of us in every area of our lives and they come at an unprecedented speed and intensity. Furthermore, everything that was kept in hiding, gets revealed. There’s no way around that, as is demonstrated by the various scandals that get published. 

These enormously disruptive changes seem to signal the end of an era. Our old story is rapidly becoming obsolete and our new narrative is not yet in place. We’re entering /have entered a liminal space: the space between the old and the new narrative. With increasing amounts of turmoil.

This is causing people to become uncertain and also uncomfortable as their habitual compass to navigate through life is no longer pointing in the one right direction. We’re in the white waters of change. We’re invited to make sense of it all using our whole-body awareness, not just our left hemisphere which is on high alert now and panicking. Inevitably anxiety results and there are many people who are trying to stick to that, which wants to go. To that what they know, what they are familiar with but which has no future. There is simply no future in trying to go back to the way things were nor in trying to keep change from happening. They don’t know yet what it takes to be comfortable with this change of an era. Armed conflict is one of the available options for them in fighting to maintain their positions. 

That is what Three 2 Twelve is trying to express (link below). The bell continuously sounding leaves us with the question: for whom does it toll? Or better perhaps: for whom not? What is it trying to tell us? What is it trying to draw our attention to? What are we noticing, especially from a deeper awareness? What do we learn from our point of stillness? Whom are we asked to be? How do we choose to show up?

Globally, tensions are on the rise and an outburst of armed conflict is spreading. People are shouting and panicking. Some claim to know the best and only way forward, by trying to contain whatever is not pleasant to them. But that’s not the only possible outcome. A new story is appearing on the horizon as well……. Let us aim for that. Let’s all team up and create a more humane being together.

The title suggests a warning, we’re close to twelve and had better do something before doom strikes. My guess is that indeed we’re very close to twelve and also that our human narrative will get changed anyway. The question remains if we’re smart enough to join efforts to create that more beautiful new future or if we eradicate ourselves in the process. What is your choice?

Three 2 Twelve

#newhumannarrative #radicallybetter #artistimpression #flowingwith #transformationalpresence

A special word of gratitude to Alan Seale for his inspiration!

What if?

We just arrived home from a trip through northern France: the first trip abroad since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020. Both my partner and her 16-year-old son have a vivid interest in history and for her son, an interest in war can be added. So, we ended up visiting several memorial sites of both world wars: around the Ligne Maginot (Fort Schoenenbourg), Verdun (Douaumont), Albert (Battle of the Somme), Dunkerque (Operation Dynamo) and of course the Normandy landing beaches.

Around Verdun we saw that 27 million grenades shot over a period of several months still leave many stretches of land looking restless like a rain puddle in a summer’s thunderstorm. We walked through trenches that were still intact (after more than 100 years!), we walked through villages that were completely destroyed and never rebuilt and we saw countless and countless crosses on cemeteries. Countless and countless deceased men. From all countries involved.

And it left us completely baffled. Shocked. And sad. So inconceivably many lives lost. So much suffering. So much destruction. For what exactly?

As mankind, we do not seem to learn a lot from these gruesome experiences. Engaging in armed conflict seems to be part of our standard repertoire, how absurd that may sound. The massive suffering that comes with waging war apparently gets forgotten right after the war is over. I’m well aware that historians can explain what circumstances led to each war and how these led to the rational or perceived inevitable decision to go to war.

It left me wondering what would have happened if everyone concerned would have had the awareness and the possibility to go to their point of stillness. To allow the right hemisphere in any case to participate in the conversations. What would have happened? What would have happened if all concerned would have been able to listen deeply to each other? To allow the intelligence of the right hemisphere to play its role as well? Maybe the parties would have started to listen to what each of them really cares about. And when the conversations take place at a deeper level, there’s less worry about what the left hemisphere is frightened of (which usually is about not having enough to survive).

Of course, I can’t be sure about what the outcome would have been back then. What I do see is how the people I work with show up differently when they practice stillness. They are much better capable of being in a dynamic complex situation that doesn’t have a clearly defined path forward. They can allow the path to show itself. They are able to look below the dramatic events at a surface level. And they become much better at listening. So, how do you think today’s turbulent and complex world would be different if all of us could and would access our point of stillness on a daily basis? How would your world be different?

#wholebrain #stillness #noticing #listening #radicallybetter

The case for ‘spacing out’

Often people ask me what this coaching is all about. One of my answers is: ‘to make more possible for those who choose to work with me’. A justified question then is how I do that when I don’t give advice, which is correct as I’m not an expert in so many fields. One central theme in my approach is to access the awareness/wisdom of the being.

Whether you believe it’s ‘inside of us’ or that it’s out there in some way and we can access it, the point is there’s more relevant information available to us than what our narrative holds at any given point in time. We are our beliefs as they say. Or according to the Buddha, we become what we think. And we’re taught to mostly use our left brain.

To access our being’s awareness or wisdom, you don’t need to do a lot. On the contrary: you just need to do nothing. And that of course is the hard part at the same time. We’re so programmed to be busy. We’re condemned to doing stuff and preferably all of the time, that doing nothing is regarded as a sin. As a waste of time. Many people I know tell me they feel really uncomfortable doing nothing. Especially if that lasts longer than a minute or so. Obviously, I get that as, me too, I’ve been schooled in the same system as most of you here. Doing nothing is no good. Hmmmm.

Of course, you can make a formal practice of ‘doing nothing’ by taking up some kind of meditation. And that may be very useful indeed but you can also do it in a much less formal way. Gazing out of the window, take a brief nap, go for a walk. Take a look at this 16 min Ted Talk by journalist Manoush Zomorodi. A lot goes on in our brains when we ‘zone out’ as she calls it. Most remarkable: new connections are being made. And ideas can pop up, seemingly out of nowhere and without being discarded by our belief system right away.

I heard the famous film director Steven Spielberg once say that you need to listen carefully to that special voice inside of you. That little, soft voice that informs you about stuff our intellectual mind can’t fully come to terms with. Perhaps it’s an upcoming decision, an important event in your career or in your life, or a situation you’re in and of which you’re not clear in what direction to move. You can only hear what it has to say by paying attention to it and by listening carefully because that voice speaks softly and never shouts at you.

Take about two minutes and look at this video. And then…. Just let it sink in, allow yourself a few moments to do nothing and notice what happens within you. 

Practice Stillness. Regularly.

We’re living in turbulent times as I’m sure we’re all noticing. We’re faced with multiple escalating crises all over the world that, due to their complexity, we can’t solve right away. There are no quick fixes available for each of them as much as we would like.
According to Ray Dalio in his book ‘Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order (Why Nations Succeed and Fail) this is a normal phenomenon following patterns that many civilisations have followed over the centuries. The western world is in decline and especially China is on the rise. Although he stipulates that he doesn’t say that countries like the USA will fall apart, the evidence doesn’t leave much room for another conclusion. When left to our devices we overspend, print money, and allow the wealth gap to widen which in itself fuels social unrest as German insurer Allianz is now warning for.
It leaves me with a question: how can each of us be, in order to make a different course of events possible? Indeed, I’m focussing on the being rather than the doing, to which we have been condemned for centuries. Learning to be will inform the actions we need to take probably in a different way. I’m not saying that the only thing everybody needs to do is to sit and do nothing. But rather become still before we get to doing and perhaps collect different information.
Here’s an invitation: from today onward find a few minutes every day during which you do nothing. No email, no quick glancing on a news site, no social media, no fiddling around with your smartphone. Just sit still. You can gaze out of the window, by all means. And then notice what is shifting in your mind or in your body perhaps. What is different from when you were busy? You can do this more than once of course and very likely quite a few of you may have a practice for stillness (around breathing for example) already.
Yet, I’m inviting all of you to start practising this and feel free to let me know what you are noticing.

practice stillness

Die Bekämpfung von Covid-19

Was ich begrüße in dem Kampf gegen Corona sind die Maßnahmen die getroffen werden um das Virus mit seiner Virulenz beherrschbar zu machen. Auf gesellschaftlicher Ebene, werden sehr, sehr viele Gesundheitsjahren gewonnen dadurch daß viele Menschen nicht sterben, Infizierten nachgefolgt werden können und sehr viele nicht krank werden müssen. Es wird appelliert an Solidarität und das ist gut.

Was mir fehlt im Diskurs über die Maßnahmen, ist die Betrachtung wie viele Gesundheitsjahre verloren gehen dadurch daß diese Maßnahmen sehr tief eingreifen in was uns Mensch macht. Wie viele Existenzen werden ruiniert dadurch da sehr, sehr viele ihren Beruf nicht ausüben dürfen, dadurch daß man sich nur extrem beschränkt treffen darf, dadurch daß Menschen vereinsamen, daß Menschen an Depressivität erkranken? Ich frage mich wie die Verhältnismäßigkeit der Maßnahmen beurteilt werden würde, wenn die verlorene Gesundheitsjahren mit betrachtet würden. Hier fehlt mir den Appell an Solidarität.

Was mir weiter fehlt im Diskurs ist die breitere Perspektive. Man möchte so schnell wie möglich zurückkehren nach wie es vorher oder früher war. Das ist verständlich aber die Frage worauf das Virus zeigen möchte ist nicht anwesend im öffentlichen Diskurs. Welche Einladung liegt verborgen hinter der Virulenz? Was ist das größere Thema und welches Potential hat das für uns alle? Vieleicht ist es die Einladung mal grundsätzlich zu reflektieren auf die Frage wie wir zusammen leben wollen.

Was mir auffällt und stört ist die Angstmacherei. Es herrscht an Tabu auf Sterben. Sterben macht Angst, obwohl es die einzige Sicherheit ist, die wir haben, wenn wir in diesem Leben geboren werden: eines Tages werden wir sterben. Alle Tiere (also auch wir Menschen) können sehr gut mit Stress umgehen aber nur kurzfristig. Es hilft uns zu überleben. Langfristiger Stress führt zur chronischen Angst und das führt zu Krankheiten. Weiterhin holt es unsere Existenz aus dadurch daß wir deutlich weniger in der Lage sind zu lernen (und damit weniger Möglichkeiten erarbeiten um unsere Existenz zu gestalten). Aber auch werden wir weniger in der Lage sein zu entspannen, zu spielen und einfach zu sein. Und weniger Verbindung zu anderen Menschen haben – die man ja eh nicht vertrauen sollte weil die uns infizieren werden.

Es ist Zeit für einen neuen Diskurs, den wir nicht exklusiv unseren Politikern überlassen dürfen. Wir müssen diesen Diskurs zusammen führen. Jenseits von der heutigen politischen Arena, mit ihren etablierten Interessen und Spielen. Und wir müssen dabei lernen auf der Vielfalt der Stimmen zu hören, damit eine nachhaltige Welt entsteht für uns und für alle Generationen, die nach uns kommen.

Es wird keinen ‘quick fix’ geben aber wie können wir damit anfangen?