3 lessons on non-violent communication in relationships

This post was edited for clarity and additional details were added following the original publication date.

Communicating without listening can be very lonely
Communicating without listening can be very lonely

Earlier this week was Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day in the United States, a national holiday celebrating the American hero who fought passionately, in a non-violent way, for the civil rights of African Americans during the 1950s and 1960s.

MLK’s philosophy for the civil rights and social justice movement embodied a commitment to non-violent communication and resistance. Continue reading 3 lessons on non-violent communication in relationships

First solo winter hike in the Adirondacks: Cascade and Porter

There is a sign in the parking lot off of Route 9N indicating which marks the trailhead and provides basic information for visitors to Cascade and Porter Mountains. This is the starting point.
Mountains hiked: Cascade Mountain and Porter Mountain, New York, USA
Elevation: 1290m (4232 feet) and 1237m (4058 feet), respectively
Hiking time: 4 hours (round-trip)
Hiking distance: 5.6 miles or 9.0km (round-trip)

Greetings! I am sitting here with a hot tea thinking about how to begin describing my recent winter adventure hiking in the Adirondacks last weekend. The purpose of the trip was to make my first attempt at winter hiking with the objective of having fun :), being healthy, and building up my skills and knowledge for a much more difficult eventual winter-time summit of Mt Washington later this season. So let me give you my trip report: the background, my preparation, my experience, and some photos.  I hope this information can help someone else with their first winter hike! Continue reading First solo winter hike in the Adirondacks: Cascade and Porter

Rest in Peace, my dear Sandra

Sandra Maria Martinez Vasquez, of Medellin, Colombia
Sandra Maria Martinez Vasquez, of Medellin, Colombia

Those who are close to me will recognize this lovely lady as a very special person in my life who had an enormous influence on me in many ways. Her name is Sandra María Martínez Vasquez from Medellín, Colombia and she taught me what true and lasting love is and feels like. I would like to share my memory with you, as a tribute to her. Continue reading Rest in Peace, my dear Sandra

Ingredients for a powerful friendship

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Adam Grantzidis (on the right) and I in Geneva – September 2016 – we worked together at the TD Bank in Montreal in their credit card customer service department.

This is my friend Adam Grantzidis – we worked together some years ago and lost touch until we reconnected in Geneva today. Although we only had a couple of hours, there was so much to talk about in a short amount of time.

Although Adam and I have shared vastly different life experiences, there was a strong connection between us as we shared some of the challenges each of us has faced over the years and the lessons we learned from those. There was this distinct feeling of being with a trusted old friend with whom I could share or ask anything. It even felt like I had just seen him yesterday. It made me wonder : How is such a powerful connection possible after so long? Well, I’ll try to answer that question with some reflections on ingredients for a powerful connection and friendship. 😉

Genuine mutual interest
First, Adam and I both had a genuine interest in reconnecting and hearing about all that has happened over the last 15 years. I noticed that he had a sincere curiosity to hear about my news and a great ability to listen. He asked real questions that arrived at the heart of the emotions I was feeling. In turn, I was excited to hear about what he had been up to. This mutual interest helped recall that connection and friendship from so many years ago.

Honesty and authenticity
A second important ingredient is that Adam and I had “give and take” in our conversation. Not only was he willing to share some of the hardships and challenges he has experienced, but he asked me about mine too. Asking questions necessarily means you must also be willing to answer them, and be authentic and open about how you feel. This is what creates a bond of intimacy and a strong human connection. Of course it’s wonderful to share successes and all the good and great things you are proud about.

Being honest in your relationships means avoid hiding how you really feel and being willing to share the experiences that have hurt you, your failures, the memories that cause pain, the thoughts that cause worry and anxiety, the events that left scars on your soul. These are the experiences you might hesitate to tell because you don’t want to burden the conversation. In order to create real intimacy you have to take the risk and face the possibility that someone may reject you or may not react the way you want to hear. When you are willing to face the possibility of disappointment is when you are at your most vulnerable. So when someone asks you that question – ask yourself – are you willing to answer? To really answer from the heart?

Shared values
A third element that comes to mind is the idea of a kindred spirit. Some may call it that “soul connection”. This doesn’t always need to happen but when it does it is awesome. Kindred spirits have shared principles and outlooks on life – a system of values that guides how they operate and make decisions. From my side, this means a willingness to try new things, be open to new ideas and experiences, to take risks, look out and care for others, relate to people on an intimate level, and see the world through a kaleidoscopic perspective.

During our short reunion, Adam and I not only shared all that we had been up to, but exchanged knowing looks and laughs about some of the memorable experiences we have been through. Having a common worldview or philosophy with someone creates an immediate and awesome connection and helps establish a foundation of trust (because you just “get” each other). Of course, establishing trust is possible without this kindred mindset – it may just require a bit more work and emphasis in showing interest and being honest and authentic (refer back to points #1 and #2 above).😉

Investment of time and effort
A final thought – over the years, the unstable and transient nature of my life led me to forget the basic and simple truth that friendship and relationships require time and effort to grow stronger. And this has come at a great personal cost to me. You can have all of the above but you need to invest effort and commitment over time. For many years it was convenient to ignore this in favour of a desire to see the world and be “independent”. And while I value solitude greatly, I wish I had deeper personal connections.

So, 14 years later my path crosses again with this old soul, and little has changed – still the warm and tender smile, a genuine curiosity and compassion for others, and a desire for adventure that burns strong. The years go by but it is like time never passed.

Thanks Adam, for reminding me of the power and potential of a true and strong human connection, and some of the important ingredients for building a powerful friendship.

Talk to you soon buddy.

Do you have any reflections to share on what’s made your friendships stronger? Please comment below. :)  Click here to read more reflections on Live Passionately.

Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc

A male ibex and the Mont Blanc massif in cloud. Photo by Alamy @ The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2015/jul/19/trekking-tour-du-mont-blanc-the-alps#img-1
A male ibex and the Mont Blanc massif in cloud. d. Photo by Alamy @ The Guardian

A few days ago I posted a National Geographic article about great long distance hiking trails in different parts of the world. The first one on the list – the Tour du Mont Blanc – caught my eye and I decided to book the trip! Continue reading Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc

Great egret in South Carolina wetlands

20141025-huntington-egretA great egret (aka a great white heron) is perched atop a ‘rice trunk’ while taking in the sun as it sets over a marsh in the coastal wetlands of South Carolina. A rice trunk is a gravity-flow mechanism that uses tidal energy to transfer water from one place to another. It was used in the 17th century for rice farming; today they are typically used to create ideal habitats for birds that thrive in wetland ecosystems

When I was 14, I had trouble fitting in and felt there was no hope. And then everything changed …

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Running in a race in Quebec in 1985

I remember when I was 14 years old and I used to get bullied and beat up by the kids at school or in the neighborhood. I couldn’t play sports very well, I didn’t fit in socially and had only a few friends I could count on. I had switched schools a couple of times and often came home crying. It was around this point that my parents sent me to a boarding school, where I would be Continue reading When I was 14, I had trouble fitting in and felt there was no hope. And then everything changed …

Community-building in North Carolina

Please have a look at this photo for a moment…

This is an example of community-building happening in the town of Chapel Hill, in the US state of North Carolina. A local church and a community center organized a block party for neighborhood residents to get to know each other.

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Chapel Hill is a rapidly growing college town and that brings with it a lot of benefits but also some disadvantages. Property prices have risen as developers gentrify the neighborhood to offer student housing. But this has caused problems for some longtime locals, whose property taxes have become unaffordable, since their household income has not changed.

The block party provided an opportunity to create ties. Kids are playing games, students are dancing, people are practicing handicrafts, and folks are eating, drinking and laughing. We are connecting with each other.

Hopefully in some small way this will help us to better understand each other’s perspective on what “prosperity” and “progress” really means for our community and how people are affected in different ways by development.

What’s your vision for the community where you live? Does it match what others see too?