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Thriving Fundamentals #1


I’m delighted to share this introduction to Thriving Life and Thriving Relationships with you.

Please note, this is an initial, slightly rough video draft that is not being made available to the public. Please don’t share your access with others.


Thriving Fundamentals Video #1, “Human Being 101 – Unlocking The Mystery” is the place to begin.

NOTE: Please download and print your Part I materials (preferably in color) before starting the video.)


AFTER WATCHING, if this video makes a real difference for you, please let me know and support me in sharing this work as widely as possible by making a donation. 



  • Welcome
  • Why I’m So Passionate About This Work
  • Integrating NVC, Brain Science (Interpersonal Neurobiology, which includes Attachment Theory), and Thriving Life Principles
  • A Bold Promise
  • My Invitation To You: Come Home Into Being Human Together
  • Why Are You Here? What Are You Looking For?
  • A Joke From Whoopi Goldberg
  • Why Do People* Do What They Do?          *Including Us
    • The Secret to Happiness
    • Exercise: How To Make Sense Of ANY Human Being’s Behavior
    • The Secret to Thriving Relationships
    • The Imperative of Connection
  • A Culture of One
  • *DEMO: Bringing It Alive, Making It Real In Our Bodies
  • Shame and the Headlong Flight
  • Your Brain: The Missing Manual
    • Something Happens (Something’s Wrong)
    • The Eternally Present Past (The Brain in the Palm of Your Hand)
    • “What Are You, Five?”
    • Trauma, Broken Toes, and the Heart of Our Upsets
    • Meet a Couple Characters
    • Hell and Passing the Pain Around
    • Finding The Right Distance In Relationship
    • Why Blame Is Never Going To Work (and Is Guaranteed To Make Things Worse)
    • Alarmed Brains and The Doomed Strategies They Pick
  • What Depression Is (IMO)
  • The Presence-Alarm Continuum (or, the Thriving-Surviving Continuum)
  • Chronic Stress Kills … and the Shocking Truth About What Stress Really Is
  • “It Makes It Up”
  • The Adult Time-Out
  • It Works!
  • Mindfulness and Building the Capacity for Authentic Presence and Choice (Living Our Values)
  • Fight, Flight/Appease, Freeze and the Essential Role of Agency (the ability to act on our own behalf)
  • How We Lose Empathic Capacity
  • The Insula and What We Don’t Know We Don’t Know


0:00 Meditate
3:56 Remembrance and 
7:20 Intro of Today’s Exploration (Self-Care: How We Slave-Drive Ourselves and What Creates That Compulsion)
9:55 Check-Ins
  9:55 Becky
 19:15 Dryden
 25:40 Jan
 34:15 Review of Core Value/Ideal Self Distinctions and Examples
 36:35 Vika
 43:46 Self-Care: How We Slave-Drive Ourselves and What Creates That Compulsion



Thriving Fundamentals Video #2 (coming soon!) provides a step-by-step guide to Nonviolent Communication and how to create Thriving Relationships.

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Something Thrilling Is Happening…

Something thrilling is happening.

Right now, so many of us are experiencing breakthroughs that we’ve been working towards all our lives.

Including me.

Since I was 12 I’ve been trying to figure out how to truly connect with the people around me while protecting my tender heart. You know — how to belong, feel good, and be happy.

With other people.

While staying safe.

For real.


Yeah, I know — seems like “the impossible dream,” doesn’t it? (At least, with certain people in our lives.)

As my sister once pointed out to me, I ended up picking kind of a weird way to go about that: at age 12 I decided to become my own little laboratory. I hoped if I noticed everything that was going on and told myself the whole truth about that (even if was something “bad” about me — like, “yup, I yelled angrily at the dog”), then maybe, just maybe, I could figure out how to be safe.  And belong.  And feel good.  And be happy.

With other people.

For real.

At the time it seemed like a far-off dream. One that might not come true.


That was 43 years ago.

Last Monday I finally did something I’ve been struggling to do for 5 long, painful years: I set a clear, firm, healthy boundary with someone I have a sometimes very beautiful, but also persistently confusing and painful connection with.

(The short version of the story, like with so many loves that go “wrong,” is that we both had hidden, unresolved childhood wounds and interlocking attachment issues that left our nervous systems too often in too much alarm, around each other. Want to know more about attachment? Check out Diane Poole Heller’s attachment style quiz.)

But the origins of my own inability to set healthy boundaries in romantic relationship go all the way back to when I was 2 years old.

It’s taken 53 long years of living, experimenting, studying, learning, growing, and healing for me to be able to at last fully meet, embrace, and integrate that previously hidden, wounded 2-year-old. That little one whose underground, untended fears and strategies were ultimately behind the recurring disappointment and pain of every single one of my past romantic relationships.


What’s extraordinary about this isn’t how long it took. The brain science that has truly transformed our understanding has only been around for about 10 years — since the invention of the functional MRI.

And it seems a complete* picture of what goes on in our heads, hearts, and relationships only emerges when the insights of Nonviolent Communication, Compassionate Noticing, Attachment Theory, and brain science (Interpersonal Neurobiology) start rubbing elbows with each other.


What’s extraordinary is that now we finally do have a way to understand and resolve our relationship confusion, disempowerment, and pain. A way that actually works.

It really is possible to restore our wholeness, clarity, and respectful power.

It really is possible to be safe. And belong. And feel good. And be happy.

With other people.

For real.


In an important way, my lifelong research is finally done.

I at last understand how to truly connect with the people around me, even when things are complicated and confusing. Even when one or both of us is in significant pain.

I have a warm and welcoming community around me who see, make room for, and celebrate my full humanity, including my warts and farts and ugly parts. I don’t have to hide what’s true about me. I can ask for — and receive — what I long for.

I know what I need to thrive: to feel good, to be truly happy.

My heart is full, and at peace.

For real.

With other people.


As it turns out, when we:

  • understand how our brains and relationships are designed to work together,
  • know the secret way we can respond to pain that changes everything.
  • learn how to choose who’s driving the bus of our lives,
  • genuinely matter to ourselves, and
  • understand how to create genuinely safety in relationship,

… being human — with other people! — actually starts to work.


For a little taste, here’s a little video I put together that explains where those crazy-painful relationship upsets come from. It will help.

I wish I could give you the whole enchilada in just a few bullet points, but I can’t. This combination of NVC, Compassionate Noticing, Interpersonal Neurobiology, and Attachment Theory, woven together in a quirky, practical way with my own Thriving Life principles, takes a bit of time to explain. I can do it in 3 hours.

It’s like turning a light on in a dark room:  suddenly you can see where everything is. Suddenly everything makes sense.

Come on over and check out what this being human is like, in the light. We’ve got lots of f.ree online resources for you.

To your delighted thriving,

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Who do we contact?

Thriving Life Institute (TLI) and Thriving Life NVC (TLNVC) only contact individuals who specifically request that we do so, or when they have signed up to receive our free newsletters, promotions, or have enrolled in a live or online practice group, seminar, workshop, or other TLI or TNVC social or educational event.

What information do we collect?

TLI/TLNVC collects the following Personally Identifiable Information (PII):

  • name and e-mail address – provided by you for registration to receive our email communications.
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All such information is strictly protected and used only for 1) delivering the content and products the user has signed up for or purchased, or 2) for finding other men and women who may find our information valuable. This information is NEVER used for other purposes and is NEVER rented or sold to 3rd parties for their own use.

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Like many other websites, our site utilizes standard technologies called “cookies” to collect information about how our Site is used. A cookie is a small data text file, which a website stores on your computer’s hard drive (if your web browser permits) that can later be retrieved to identify you to us. Cookies were designed to help a website recognize a user’s browser as a previous visitor and thus save and remember any preferences that may have been set while the user was browsing the site. A cookie cannot be read by a website other than the one that set the cookie. A cookie cannot pass on a computer virus or capture any of the Personally Identifiable information.

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Your email information (email address, first name, city, country) is stored at the list server that delivers TLI/TLNVC email communications. Your information can only be accessed by those who help manage those lists in order to deliver e-mail to those who would like to receive TLI/TLNVC information. All of the emails that are sent to you by TLI/TLNVC include an unsubscribe link in them. You can remove yourself at any time by unsubscribing using the link in the email.

If you have purchased any TLI/TLNVC educational programs, you will continue to receive mailings related to your purchase.


This policy may be changed at any time at TLI/TLNVC’s discretion. If we should update this policy, we will post the updates to this page on our Website. This policy was revised May 25, 2016. If you have any questions or concerns regarding our privacy policy please send us your question by emailing thrivinglifeinstitute [at] gmail [dot] com. You may also send a letter to: Thriving Life Institute, LLC 1327 SE Tacoma Street, #235, Portland, OR 97202.

Partner With Us

We’re deeply passionate about co-creating a world that honors and supports everyone’s thriving.

We’ve spent several decades studying, testing, and teaching ways of understanding ourselves and others that powerfully expand our capacity to meet life with the clarity, presence, authentic choice, self-expression, freedom, joy, and peace that we believe is our birthright.

And so, we long for everyone to have easy access to the transformational workshops, classes, practice groups, and other events that we offer.

For this reason, we make every effort to provide the highest quality of teaching experiences and learning environments at very affordable prices. We have a policy of pricing our offerings below their market value, and provide a self-selected sliding fee scale for nearly everything we offer.

We also choose to live in a way that doesn’t require a lot of cash money. We do this in part because we understand that most of the things that nourish our everyday thriving can’t be bought with money, and in part because we realize that the more we spend, the more we have to charge for our offerings. We want everyone who wants it to have access to this education, regardless of their current financial circumstances.

We also profoundly value the freedom to spend our time doing this work, recognizing that the burden of a large mortgage or car payment (for example) would require us to work at a “regular” job that would pay enough money to afford those things, leaving us unavailable to do the work that we feel most Called to do.

For these reasons, we do things like drive older model cars, live in simple housing, and do extensive pro bono work with selected clients. Vika also volunteers her time teaching inmates at Oregon State Penitentiary, as part of the Oregon Prison Project.

And we want to do more. We’re committed to seeing the human culture shift away from survival to thriving in our lifetime. We have extensive plans that are just waiting to be implemented … without diminishing our own thriving.

Will you be our partner in this?

If you’ve been touched by what we offer and/or how it’s contributed to your life, we hope you’ll be inspired to help bring this education to as many people as possible, including those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.

There are many ways you can partner with us, including:

  • sharing word of our work with others for whom it could make a difference – for example, by forwarding our offering emails to friends or sending out a special announcement tailored just for your email list; inviting a friend or colleague to a Free Introduction; leaving postcards or posting flyers about our offerings events in places you visit, etc.
  • donating physical resources – digital camcorders (3), tripods (2), office space, meeting room space
  • offering one-time or ongoing support as a Program or Organizational Volunteer – for example, making simple updates to listings at this website, as well as at the ORNCC and CNVC websites – 2 to 5 hours/month; maintaining the email list; etc.
  • offering financial support as a donor, scholarship funder, or even investor
  • working with us as a Faculty member – paid or volunteer

We would be delighted to partner with you in any or all of these ways!


CLICK HERE for specific ways you can make an immediate difference in what we’re up to RIGHT NOW.

CLICK HERE for a wide variety of ways you can contribute to our personal capacity to do this work.

CLICK HERE for explore other ways you can make a real difference with other professional in-kind support.

Or, click on the DONATE button below if you’re inspired to make a difference to our human community by offering a financial contribution to Thriving Life Spiritual Community.


CLICK HERE if you’d like to support us personally in non-financial ways, including if you’d like to request a partial scholarship and make an equitable exchange offer to support your participation in one of our workshops, classes, practice groups, or other events.


We’d be delighted to know you value our work and would be honored to receive your support!


Thank you for helping us create a world that supports everyone’s thriving!


Thank you! We received your request.

Please check your inbox for our email from thrivinglifenvc [at] gmail [dot] com.

(If you don’t see it, please check your spam filter.)

To your thriving,


The Lightning Bug, the Lightning, & NVC: A Language of Life

Ok, I admit it: I’m a word nerd.

I love words because they take me deeper into my experience. They provide me with handholds when I’m struggling to explore the landscape inside me. They create bridges between your inner world and mine, carrying the energy of my experience to you so that you can taste it and come into luminous, resonant connection with me … and vice versa.

Words really matter. The childhood saying, “sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me” is simply not true: research has now shown that a physical blow and a verbal one alarm our nervous systems and affect our brains in the same ways.

But of course, our tender hearts already knew that.

Lightning_lightning bug_Mark TwainNonviolent/Compassionate Communication truly is a language, a way of expressing what’s true for us in a way that creates deeper, more authentic connection with ourselves, with others, and perhaps above all with Life Itself.

Want to see for yourself? Try this out: close your eyes, connect with how your body is feeling, and then say each of these, pausing a few moments to really notice and experience how your body feels after each one:

“I’m delighted.”

“I’m feeling delighted.”

“I’m feeling delight.”

What did you notice? Which phrase did you enjoy the most?

Now try these, again connecting with how your body feels, and taking some time to really notice and experience any changes in how your body feels after each one:

“I’m frustrated.”

“I’m feeling frustrated.”

“I’m feeling frustration.”

What did you notice this time? Which phrase felt best to you?

Most people find themselves liking the middle phrases better than the first ones, and experience significantly more relaxation, lightness, ease, and flow with the last phrases, even in the set that is expressing “negative” emotion.

What you just experienced is what happens when we use language in a way that allows more life energy to move through us. This is the essence of what NVC is teaching: that how we express ourselves matters. Even when we’re just talking to ourselves.

The first phrase (“I’m delighted/frustrated”) uses English in a way that says something has been done to us, and that our experience is static or ongoing. I AM [fill in the blank] says that I’m this way all the time; it labels me and tells my brain that this experience is all there is. Both of these slow or stop the flow of Life energy — can you feel it?

lightning_bugThe second phrase (“I’m feeling delighted/frustrated”) lets go of this labeling and some of this linguistic permanence, and acknowledges a bit more that what we’re experiencing is a momentary experience, rather than what we ARE. But, it still suggests that something has been done to us. The first one allows more energy to flow, while the second one still limits that flow somewhat. Can you feel it?

The third phrase (“I’m feeling delight/frustration”) focuses our attention on the present-moment experience arising within us, allowing all the Life energy to flow freely. Can you feel it?

If we long to expand your capacity for resonant empathy — the kind that opens people’s hearts and lets more Life energy in, creating that delicious experience of attunement and being held in a warm, compassionate embrace — one way we can do this is to compassionately notice which way we’re using language, and then simply say it over again “with feeling” and “without the -ED” (for example, “I’m feeling annoyance” instead of “I’m annoyED“).

Remember to be kind to yourself as you practice! Making ourself (or anyone else) wrong dramatically slows the learning process and actually adversely affects our physical health (increases alarm, suppresses the immune system, etc.).

There is a world of ever-more-luminous connection waiting for us, as we explore the landscape within and between us. Please share what you’re discovering, as you play with the enlivening power of lightning-right words!

Blessings on us all,





Key Signs You’ve Lost Your Boundaries


One of the most important Relationship Readiness Skills we can develop is being able to tell when we’ve lost our boundaries — that is:

  • when our nervous system has gone into alarm,
  • when a “broken toe” has been stepped on,
  • when an “inner orphan” has been activated,
  • when we’re upset or triggered.
  • These are all synonyms for the same “defensive/survival response” in our brains.


In this video I share a few of the key warning signs.

To get free access to the FULL report, just fill in the red form BELOW.




Want more?

Join us for
Healthy Boundaries:
The Path to THRIVING

Click here for details and to begin your journey.

You can join us from anywhere.




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Peace & Security Begin Here: Your Core Value & Ideal Self


Today’s the day after Thanksgiving:  Black Friday.

The day when millions of us look outside ourselves in hopes of finding a great deal on something that will make us or someone we love … happier.

This also begins a time of year when we tend to spend more time with relatives … who don’t necessarily see us as separate people with our own deeply valid preferences, values, and dignity.

To put it simply, it’s a really easy time of year to lose ourselves.

And when we lose ourselves, usually what’s next is feeling inadequate, unworthy, unlovable, and unwanted … and devastatingly lonely, insecure, anxious, depressed, and even anguished or terrified.


The truth is, what we’re looking for isn’t “out there.”

It’s “in here.”

In this video I share how to create a foundation of peace and security that you can return to no matter what’s happening “out there” — in the world or in your relationships.

Come home to yourself.

To your delighted thriving,


P.S.  The Core Value/Ideal Self practice is at 4:41.




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