invitation to conversation

boundaries (a winter love study hall)


Until recently, when I thought of love, which was rare, I generally took love to be a feeling. A feeling inside us, inside them for us, or as a thing passed between us —that someone gives you (or takes away from you, or that you might never feel again).

I didn’t think about how I loved, just who I loved, and that I loved them.

What if, as M. Scott Peck explains, in The Road Less Traveled, love is a practice of being, not a challenge of getting and keeping and — “Love is as love does. Love is an act of will—namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.” (p.83)

And if it is a practice, then you can become better at it, you can explore variations of it, you can learn about and expand your experience of it.

If love is in the actions we take (or don’t) and how, whether it’s a romantic love relationship or a different expression of love, the tension between what I want, need, believe matters vs what you want, need, believe matters is ever-present, whether actively generating or habitually, perhaps passively accepting, the quality of the relationship between us.

In this study hall, we’ll look at boundaries.

“Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.” — Prentis Hemphill

What do you think?

Let’s talk about it…

While there is nothing to prepare for a winter love study hall, you may feel inspired to pull out your favorite texts about love in advance of us getting together, and that’s cool too. Either way, it’ll be great to hang out with you and talk about love.

Register here to attend.

Participating in a winter love study hall is a way to join the UNDERMININGnormal community.​
It costs $7.00 to attend, and comes with a month of membership .​​

Members can participate in all UNDERMININGnormal gatherings and programs.

If this is your kind of thing, or you’d like it to be, sign up to receive invitations to UNDERMININGnormal gatherings and programs.

UNDERMININGnormal is where deep-thinking, change-seeking women can find community, care and unhurried space for conversations we don’t usually get to have.


embrace y/our complexity: ask for and receive what I [you] need


This is last because it’s probably the hardest — it’s an all-in, fully-body embrace of y/our complexity.

Ask for what you need. Receive it.

I don’t mean like a genie grants our wishes, or a machine dispenses it.

I also don’t mean that you should expect to get just what you asked for either.

I mean we practice asking.

We practice receiving.

Not to get good at getting.

And not just when we’re full-on desperate, can’t do it alone because we don’t have a particular skillset or the necessary information. You’re never really doing it alone.

Every thing you used has a history, as does every thought you’ve held, and feeling you’ve felt. The cells, the stories, the meals you ate on the way, the love, the challenges, they all come from others who came before you, from others who were and who are around you, somewhere.

That distinction between doing it alone and having help is an artificial construct that focuses us hard and narrow on the math of mine vs yours.

Making it hard to see human being reality for what it is.

We practice asking and we practice receiving because it’s our nature.

We ARE interdependent.

Asking and receiving, listening and giving.

What else is there?

We can fight it (I hate asking for help and others will say that I, or you, or they do not deserve it) or deny it (that shit over there, that is not me, not mine, no — let them answer for it!), or feel like it just isn’t true, in our isolation, pain, fear, fear of losing what we have (and perhaps have had to fight for),

  • a notion of hierarchy, a ranking of deserving, a system based on pay to play, or some kind of separate but equal scenario can seem like the truth.

But it isn’t.

It’s the math of mine vs yours. I’m not anti-numbers. I like math, and we will have to deal with it - with it - to get to the heart of this endeavor to embrace y/our complexity.

Pack up the math and bring it along. This is a picnic not a battlefield (though damage has been done); we picnic to better connect, to feel more, to understand more —not to get more, not to win. And not to lose. Though, I think embracing complexity will lead to a very different place than many of us have ever known. And probably, there will be some kinds of loss on the way to new ground with new math.

I need this conversation.

There, I said it. How about you?

Ask for and receive what I [you] need is the last in a series of four living room picnics, exploring y/our complexity. It’s based on the discussion of interdependence as a series of repeated motions (beginning on p.93 of Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown) that describes four iterative practices leading toward interdependence:

  1. Be seen.
  2. Be wrong.
  3. Accept my [your] inner multitudes.
  4. Ask for and receive what I [you] need.

You don’t have to have read Emergent Strategy in order to picnic, though I [as you may have noticed] highly recommend it. As always, there is nothing to prepare. It doesn’t matter if you attended the previous picnic. Come as you are, for what resonates for you. I’ll share the discussion prompts over the weekend.


What do you think? Is this sounding like your kind of conversation space?

Participating in a winter love study hall is a way to join the UNDERMININGnormal community.
It costs $7.00 to attend, and comes with a month of membership.

Members can participate in all UNDERMININGnormal gatherings and programs.

To attend: Just sign up here .

If you’d like more of an introduction to UNDERMININGnormal, you can stop by the courtyard; I wrote this for you.

Got questions? I’d love to hear them!

If this is your kind of thing, or you’d like it to be, sign up to receive invitations to UNDERMININGnormal gatherings.

UNDERMININGnormal is where deep-thinking, change-seeking women can find community, care and unhurried space for conversations we don’t usually get to have.


radical love (a winter love study hall)


I’m not sure whether it was via bell hooks or Loretta J. Ross, that I first heard about (more like felt) the notion radical love. Love as a foundational and transformational basis for being. For living. For each action we take.

Responsibility, accountability — living interdependence as the path to full self-expression — radical love makes this possible.

Otherwise, it’s at best petty squabbling. And we get to see the worst and everything in between daily. Some of us getting hit harder than others.

why not radical love?

It’s not a bubble gum sweet fantasy, this sh*t is serious. I’m not saying it can’t be wildly fun… It’s everything. Or, I imagine it is (because I am nowhere near embodying radical love — I’m kind of squeaking open a door here)…even though I have little from personal lived experience to share with you - for this Friday’s winter love study hall, I did want to ask: what would you propose instead?

To attend this winter love study hall on Friday 04-Mar from 5:30-6:15pm EST,

There’s nothing you need to do to prepare for winter love study hall, though you may feel inspired to pull out your favorite texts about love in advance of us getting together, and that’s cool too. Either way, it’ll be great to hang out with you and talk about love.

Hope to see you there,
—Alex

in order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die

a living room picnic on Mon 07-Mar from 7:30pm-8:30pm EST

got questions? send me a note

I look forward to getting together with you :deciduous_tree::rowing_woman:
—Alex

"In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die." — Joe Reynolds, an Episcopal priest that Brené Brown tells us about in her book, Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. (on p.150).


the invitation

Forgiveness isn’t about them, no matter what they didit’s about you. It’s for you. generated by you, experienced by you — sometimes unfolding, roller-coastering, shrinking or expanding— and evolving in you over time: it’s not about them, it’s about you.

It may matter to them and we hope it does.

It may help them to become accountable, to change, to grow, but that’s not what you’re doing. That, is up to them.

And, it may be that you want that, want it badly, for whoever did you wrong to change, to take responsibility, to be a better [friend, partner, boss, leader, team member, neighbor, parent, sibling, child, politician, civil servant, colleague…]

But that’s not what you’re doing when you forgive. For one thing, that could happen without your forgiveness. They could see what they did and the effect it had and CHANGE regardless of whether you’ve forgiven them. And sometimes what they do to make up for what they did is never going to be enough for you to forgive them. Forgiveness is not a requirement on you. It’s an option. It’s a path.

It’s complex and complicated by the absence of conversation about what exactly it means to forgive. So that you can find your way. And I can find mine. And we can be accountable. To each other, to ourselves and to a bigger picture of who and how we want to be with each other (or without).

To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger.

However, when I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator.

If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator.

— Bishop Desmond Tutu, quoted in Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. (on p.151-152.

That said, it’s a process

something has to die

Whether it’s the expectation (or belief) that someone you care about could never or would never […]

or that you wouldn’t be capable of […]

that the relationship would always feel a certain way…

that safety or trust would mean never […] or always […]

that you could always at least count on […]

or that this relationship would never have to end,

something has to die.

And that means feeling it and grieving for it.

I never thought about that way before…that something has to die. But it makes sense to me. More importantly, it feels right to make this about what is being lost, the pain, and the grief. It’s a full-bodybeing letting go to actually forgive. And…you don’t get there in a step…everything that came before in your relationship can’t be settled with a click.

What’s your experience been? With forgiveness—giving, receiving, witnessing forgiveness…?
Let’s picnic!


what to expect

Most living room picnics mix abstract, intellectual nerdery with deeply personal storytelling (whether you share with the group or just tell yourself). There’s nothing you need to know or do beforehand to participate. Here’s how it’ll go —

  • opening discussion prompt to get to know each other a little
  • journaling session to gather our thoughts
  • discussion to share and witness
  • closing moment to feel it and savor unhurried conversation time

when: Mon 07-Mar from 7:30-8:30pm EST
to attend:

lovingkindness (a winter love study hall)


There are just two more winter love study halls…oooh, does that mean Spring is coming to NYC? It’s hard to tell with the temperature swings we’ve been having, but the calendar gods think yes, we’ll have Spring soon. We’ll do that Daylight Savings Time switchover too (why do we do this again?) so —instead of hanging in for online love study hall— it’ll be time to soak in the extra sun, wind and shade hours somewhere sweet outside…

But, first —

In our next love study hall, we’ll look at lovingkindness.

The practice of lovingkindness is about cultivating love as a transformative strength, enabling us to feel love that is not attached to the illusion of people (including ourselves) being static, frozen, disconnected. —Real Love, by Sharon Salzman, p.18.

Yep… #interdependence

Separateness, even if it feels so real, is an illusion.

Let’s talk…

To attend this winter love study hall on Friday 11-Mar from 5:30-6:15pm EST,

As always there’s nothing you need to do to prepare for winter love study hall, and you’re welcome to bring / share your favorite texts about love. It’s study hall, not a lecture (and there are no tests!).

Hope to see you there,
—Alex

spring 2022 collective grief ceremony


Dear fellow deep-thinking, change-seeking woman,

At UNDERMININGnormal, we hold collective grief ceremonies seasonally. While loss, disappointment and heartbreak are normal parts of life (there is no way to care, to participate, to love, work, dream, build anything meaningful in a life without something breaking or ending at some point) in my culture, we act as if that’s not the case. Grief is ok in certain instances - like if someone you care about dies, but eventually you’ll get over it.

Like a lot of thinking about how we live our lives - our personal development, our relationships, our careers - there are stages and you make your way through them one by one. It’s linear in a way that nothing actually is in life. Least of all during times of deep transition.

Is it different for you in your culture? Is the subject, and experience, of grief normal? Is there space and acceptance for it, for you, when you feel your shapeless, non-directional, omni-directional, cyclical, surprising, tender, stuck, painful, love-soaked, desolate feelings? Or do you also try to exclude what is transpiring inside you as if it, you, don’t belong, not like this?

I’m not an expert in grief.​ This is just the third season of collective grief ceremony for me. I just believe that we need to support each other in our respective journeys, and that grieving is part of it.

what to expect

The collective grief ceremony isn’t meant to resolve or settle anything.

We’ll be off-camera and you won’t be asked to share. There will be no photos or breakout rooms. This is just for you, so you can be with your grief privately, within a space of collective caring and acceptance.

​We’ll have three sessions of private journaling to support us in naming, recognizing and claiming our respective losses, sadness and grief.

​I will guide us through and keep time, though there will be no pressure to finish, and at the end of the third session, we’ll go light digital candles This will also be private. You can dedicate your candle in any way you like. You can light more than one. Each candle burns for 48 hours.

There will be an opportunity to share and talk about grief at the end of the ceremony. You’ll see if you feel like it. It’s also fine to head out after lighting your candle, and not say a word.

when: on Mon 14-Mar, the collective grief ceremony is held from 7:30-8:30pm EST, with an after-hangout where we can share or talk about grief from 8:30-9:00pm EST

to attend:

with much care and interest,
—Alex


love for sale (a winter love study hall)


​This is the last winter love study hall for 2022.

​We’ll end with a topic that feels in many ways like the beginning (to me), like where we are, and have been for as long as I can remember and have heard about - culturally - love is transactional.

Love’s gettable, earnable, can be bought and sold, and there are just a few love relationship types, with sexual love reigning at the love market.

​Our last / first topic is love for sale.

Let’s talk…

To attend this winter love study hall on Friday 18-Mar from 5:30-6:15pm EST,

As always there’s nothing you need to do to prepare for winter love study hall, and you’re welcome to bring / share your favorite texts, questions, complaints and dreams about love. It’s study hall, not a lecture (and there are no tests!).

Hope to see you there,
—Alex

emotions are like breathing (a living room picnic)
on Monday, 21-Mar from 7:30-8:30pm EDT


the invitation —

Like breathing, emotions pass through cycles of intensity: sometimes you’re breathing heavily, fast and hot, other times your breaths come more slowly, or more lightly, or your holding, still. Varying in rhythm and intensity, quality of breath varies, cycles in and out and this happens on its own, or per your leadership (like calming yourself, or inhaling deeply to ready to speak up).

We can control how we breathe. Most of the time our body leads on this.

Relying on its inherent know-how, your body naturally maintains and regulates breath levels for you. And some of the time, for different reasons and purposes: say…cardio exercise, sex, fear, excitement of a game, other kinds of wins, losses…you intervene, take over the reins, (try to).

How you breathe affects your overall health. Also, you can practice breathing, learn its ways and get better at it.

Emotions, like breathing pass through cycles of intensity, vary with situations and serve a purpose that your body understands and that your mind can’t always perceive. Much of the time they / your body lead(s) — it feels first. Your mind can interrupt, redirect the energy. Though, unless you’re practiced at it, and at noticing, what’s going on inside you/r body, you’ll miss the chance to step in. And, like breathing, while you can step in and give direction, emotions are integral being human, and are primarily ruled by the body.

In contrast with breathing, there’s a diverse range emotions; they have history; we have opinions about them and they have a decidedly wider pendulum swing to their cycling of intensity. Emotions are complex experiences, though they are often treated as if they are merely positive / negative indicators. Good feeling / bad feeling.

Like breathing, emotions are a foundational aspect of experience that I’d like to better understand, and, if I can… to - eh, improve our relationship.

How about you? What’s your relationship like with your emotions? Can we invoke the experience of breathing, another natural functioning of our bodies that we cannot live without, as a way to better understand and relate to ourselves and each other?

Let’s picnic!


what to expect

Most living room picnics mix good-natured, intellectual nerdery with deeply personal storytelling (whether you share with the group or just tell yourself).

There’s nothing you need to know or do beforehand to participate - it’s nerdery, not snobbery. Here’s more or less how it’ll flow —

  • opening dip into the topic to get to know each other a little
  • journaling session to gather our thoughts
  • discussion time to unhurriedly think out loud together
  • closing moment to collect ourselves and cross back over

when: Mon 21-Mar from 7:30-8:30pm EST

to attend:

Discussion prompts are sent out over the weekend (in case you just like to know what to expect).

overwhelmed? Play is indicated. (a living room picnic)
on Monday, 28-Mar from 7:30-8:30pm EDT


I get overwhelmed.

It’s not something I thought about much (previously), but it’s actually not an uncommon experience. I try to hide it when it’s happening (even if I don’t realize it’s happening, hide-it mode tends to kicks in).

I didn’t realize that this was an emotion. Meaning, overwhelm is a sensation in your body and like stress, worry, anxiety (not to mention joy, boredom, sadness and belonging and another 75 or so others) it’s an emotion—and that means the we can work with it.

We can get to know it better, understand it’s mechanics, it’s source (in the body, as well as the scenario in the mind — these are two related, but different aspects) and very possibly, work with it.

I did not know this. Not that there’s a body-source of feeling that is not regulated by the mind and that there were opportunities here —inside our bodies, in the moment, through play (of all things!).

Where am I getting this from? Well, in part from Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart, p.7, where she talks about Jon Kabat-Zinn’s description of overwhelm as

the all-too-common feeling “that our lives are somehow unfolding faster than the human nervous system and psyche are able to manage well.”

and the sense she made out of Kabat-Zinn’s suggestion that we engage in “mindful play, or no-agenda, non-doing time” when hit with a bout of overwhelm…

If you also struggle with overwhelm, or want to explore your relationship with it the possibilities and opportunities, let’s picnic on it.

what to expect

We’re not going to solve it, and you don’t need to bare all your stories of overwhelm (though you can if it feels right — we aren’t making candy) and this isn’t group therapy (I’m not a therapist!) — it’s conversation space, where it’s ok to start in the middle, not know what you mean until you hear yourself say it, and to listen more than understand. Other stuff’s cool here too.

There’s nothing you need to know or do beforehand to participate. Discussion prompts are sent out over the weekend (in case you like that).

Here’s more or less how it’ll flow

  • opening dip into the topic, or topic-adjacent, to get to know each other a little
  • a brief journaling session to gather our thoughts
  • discussion time to unhurriedly think out loud together
  • closing moment to collect ourselves and cross back over

when: Mon 28-Mar from 7:30-8:30pm EST

to attend:

anger is protective (a living room picnic)
on Monday, 04-Apr from 7:30-8:30pm EDT


Among other things, anger is protective…

Anger is also a diagnostic indicator (of what matters - even if it’s not clear yet: to you or to others, what it is that you’re so mad about).

Anger can be a path toward intimacy.

Anger can serve the greater good, and it can be wielded as a weapon of misdirection.

Whether you have a well-developed relationship with anger, or if you’re like me and you’ve been boxing it up in the corner, ducking it on the streets and in all kinds public and private rooms, I think we have lots to picnic on here… let’s talk :deciduous_tree: :rowing_woman:

There’s nothing you need to know or do beforehand to participate. Discussion prompts are sent out over the weekend (in case you like that).

Why go deep on anger?

Well, it seems that anger may be a rich source of information…what would happen if we gave it more space — proper space, intentional space, caring space — to do its thing, less fettered by the bad reputation it has for being monolithically destructive and more supported by a deeper understanding of the roles it plays in our lives?

What do you think?

Does this sound like your kind of conversation?

Here’s more or less how it’ll flow

We open with a question of some kind to get to know each other a little, then we take time to gather our thoughts (a brief private journaling session) and move into discussion time to unhurriedly think out loud together. When I haven’t cut it to close to the edge, we close with a moment to collect ourselves and cross back over to our respective worlds. It’s personal, relaxed and non-performative. A small group of women interested in conversation and each other’s [unique] views.

when: Mon 04-Apr from 7:30-8:30pm EST

to attend:

2022-03-25 anger is protective UNDERMININGnormal — Instagram Square

what feeling allows (a living room picnic)
on Monday, 11-Apr from 7:30-8:30pm EDT


“What Feeling Allows” is the section heading from a wonderful class I’ve been taking: Self-Guided Embodiment Basics Course, taught by Prentis Hemphil. Can’t recommend them enough.

So, as we began to look at “the incentive for feeling” —Prentis posed the question for us to come to with our own answers: “Why Feel?”—When it can be hard, painful, lead to, or back to, untenable experiences inside you…Why feel? Why not avoid it?

They gave their answer, from their body. And I’m working on mine. I’d love to do that in company with other women drawn to exploring what it is that feeling allows

And allows might be — makes room for, gives permission for, enables, authorizes, facilitates, contains, exposes, brings ease to…

What would you say?

I come from a culture that tends to see feeling and thinking as two separate spheres. With thinking on top. Like being emotional is a controllable state, a choice, and there are good emotions and ones to avoid, not to mention norms around how and when to express emotions. Binary. Hierarchical. Missing the point, that emotional is how we are. Machines calculate. People think, and when we think, there is always an emotional aspect to it. That part of your brain, your mind, your memory, you meaning-making is ALWAYS involved (even if it’s being blocked, suppressed, sublimated - still involved).

The question is how well do you know — well, you?

Where I come from, we don’t say much about emotions, and when we do, it’s more about the person or circumstance understood to have brought it on than about what’s going on inside us. With all the rules and general rushing toward doing and thinking (as if they can happen without feeling), the conversation (with ourselves) gets stopped before it starts.

With the caveat that this is an offering of a conversation, not a teaching, I’m inviting fellow deep-thinking, change-seeking women to a living room picnic about how we experience the truth and history held in our bodies—as Brené Brown puts it, the biology, biography, behaviors and backstory (Atlas of the Heart, p.xxx) to explore what feeling allows —

Why go deep on what happens when you feel your feelings?

  • to explore the value of emotions; it’s not that emotions aren’t so bad, it’s that they are integral to being human (this is one of those times when you really do want to read the manual)
  • because when experience is filtered through the rational-vs-emotional way of characterizing how we think, we’re missing out on a source of knowledge and information, and we’re wrong about what’s happening

What do you think?

Does this sound like your kind of conversation?

Here’s more or less how it’ll flow —

We open with a question of some kind to get to know each other a little, then we take time to gather our thoughts (a brief private journaling session) and move into discussion time to unhurriedly think out loud together. When I haven’t cut it too close to the edge, we close with a moment to collect ourselves and cross back over to our respective worlds.

It’s personal, relaxed and non-performative. A small group of women interested in conversation and each other’s views, interests and stories.

… let’s talk :deciduous_tree: :rowing_woman:

when: Mon 11-Apr from 7:30-8:30pm EST

to attend:


P.S. If you’re curious about the course, pop over to Instagram where you can watch a glimpse of Prentis Hemphile teaching Module One: The Body at @the.embodiment.institute.

So much life-transformed, smiling gratitude for who what they bring to the world with their work, generosity and openness. — Alex

joy vs. happiness (a living room picnic)
on Monday, 18-Apr from 7:30-8:30pm EDT


More and more I see (and feel) how language shapes our experiences. What we say to others, what we tell ourselves, these are creative acts, influential, meaning-making, claiming, focusing —attention, care, belief.

Heightening, dampening, understanding (or not) - feeling.

Joy vs happinesswhat’s the difference anyway?
and what might that mean for you? for us?

… let’s talk :deciduous_tree: :rowing_woman:

when: Mon 18-Apr from 7:30-8:30pm EST

to attend:

sadness moves us toward each other (a living room picnic)
on Monday, 02-May from 7:30-8:30pm EDT


Our exploration of emotions continues - next up is sadness.

As someone who was taught (and I don’t know by whom specifically because it was in the air, and the air was everywhere) that you don’t show up with anything less than pleasant-faced readiness. You’re in a good mood, look good and already know the answers, but at a minimum, you’re not leaking feelings all over the place, especially not “negative” emotions or signs of weakness - of mind, body or capacity

sadness is not something I’ve thought about much, or let myself feel, admit to, or openly express.

Until recently.

How about you?

Do you have personal practices around sadness? Or perhaps, an ongoing history and relationship with sadness? Sad songs? Sad movies?

Embracing sadness, facing sadness, embodying sadness (vs ducking it) is a new one for me. I hadn’t considered the value of sadness.

And it’s got me wondering about what it’s been like for you, and also what it could be like for any and all of us, if so-called "negative emotions”, like sadness, were normalized as friendly presences.

… let’s talk :deciduous_tree: :rowing_woman:

You don’t need to be in a sad mood to attend. All your moods are welcome.

when: Mon 02-May from 7:30-8:30pm EST

to attend:

which kind of empathy? (a living room picnic)
on Monday, 09-May from 7:30-8:30pm EDT


Empathy doesn’t come easily.

Well, there are different kinds of empathy, so maybe some of them do come easily, and of course, everyone’s experience will vary - but the one (spoiler alert!) that I’m after, cognitive empathy - we can say that it doesn’t come easily.

You have to listen, really listen to develop cognitive empathy, and listening is effortful. It takes practice to get good at it. And even if you’re good at it, it’s still effortful.

Listening is not a passive act.

In fact, according to Dr. Thomas Gordon, clinical psychologist and pioneer teacher of communication skills and conflict resolution methods, there are twelve different roadblocks to listening:

  1. Directing
  2. Warning
  3. Advising
  4. Persuading
  5. Moralizing
  6. Judging
  7. Agreeing
  8. Shaming
  9. Analyzing
  10. Probing
  11. Reassuring
  12. Distracting

These are behaviors that can happen in conversations that are not, and that impede, listening.

It’s not that they’re necessarily bad behaviors in and of themselves. It’s just that they’re not the same as listening and they prevent the narrative flow from going where it was going. It’s possible to be engaged in the other person’s narrative, and not be listening for even a moment. I know. I’ve done it, and do it, plenty of times.

Empathy isn’t about being nice, caring or feeling for someone’s situation, though sometimes, it can lead to that.

According to social psychologist C. Daniel Batson, PhD, in These Things Called Empathy: Eight Related but Distinct Phenomena, chapter one of The Social Neuroscience of Empathy, there are eight kinds of empathy.

  1. cognitive empathy
  2. motor mimicry
  3. emotional contagion
  4. aesthetic empathy
  5. perspective taking
  6. “imagine-self” perspective
  7. personal distress
  8. empathic concern

I can provide a high level overview for us as a pre-read over the weekend, along with possible discussion prompts. It’s still going to be a living room picnic, so you’re welcome to come as you are, whether you’ve read anything about listening or empathy, or not.

What interests me is your experience, interest and aspirations when it comes to connecting, where empathy shows up or doesn’t. What it asks of you. What you ask of others, or wish you could…

In short, let’s talk :deciduous_tree: :rowing_woman:

when: Mon 09-May from 7:30-8:30pm EST

to attend:


conversation is not polite (a living room picnic)
on Monday, 16-May from 7:30-8:30pm EDT


Conversation is inherently unrefined and messy.

Otherwise, it’s not conversation, it’s a presentation, oratory, platform debate, rhetoric, venting, poetry—all of which have their place, but a conversation is not that. It can hold some of that cleaned-up, coherent, polished speak, but it can’t BE that. It can’t be polite. And expecting it to be, or trying to make it be, is interfering with the purpose of conversation, with its ch’i.

What do you think?

… let’s talk :deciduous_tree: :rowing_woman:
It’ll be meta (eyerolls are fine).

We’re not gonna learn some framework for good conversation or anything like that. As always, there’s nothing to prepare, nothing you need to know to participate.

when: Mon 16-May from 7:30-8:30pm EST

to attend:


when you’re online, where’s your body? (a living room picnic)
on Monday, 23-May from 7:30-8:30pm EDT


I often feel (or really: notice later that I felt, or acted as if I am) obliged to sit still inside my Brady Bunch box when I’m online for a video meeting.

The Brady Bunch grid

Other times when I’m online elsewhere, like

  • scrolling through social media,
  • working my way through my inbox,
  • browsing the web, dropping into this rabbit hole, crawling out of that one…

I lose track of my body— where it is, how it feels, sometimes I stay too long, or am holding my breath hostage (confined)…to what? I don’t know. I’ve lost track of what was so important that I can’t look away, or take breaks, stretch, or close my eyes while I listen (can we do that in a meeting?)

I don’t typically check in with my body to see what it wants, or needs in order to participate in this, or that, digital space.

It’s like I left it at the door. Got dressed if it’s an on-camera meeting. But then, especially when I leave self-view on, just. trying. to. force. stillness. (And please —no weird expressions crossing my face).

None of this is intentional. It’s what I’ve noticed — for me.
How about you?

At our next living room picnic, I’d like to bring our bodies into it on purpose. Give voice to what all is going on with us bodies (or isn’t) while we’re online.

Let’s talk… :deciduous_tree: :rowing_woman:

As always, there’s nothing to prepare, nothing you need to know to participate.

when: Mon 23-May from 7:30-8:30pm EST

to attend:


activation and re-grounding (a living room picnic)
on Monday, 30-May from 7:30-8:30pm EDT


Dear fellow change-seeking women,

Times are hard. And I have no answers for us. I just don’t want to turn away. No judgments for turning away, or numbing out. I’ve been turning away most of the time.

I know how impossible it can feel in your being to do anything other than retreat.

I don’t believe I’m done retreating either.
Just that I want to explore the rhythm of staying.

I feel the activation - the threat, the horror, the hate. The violence this time was not done to my body. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel pain.

I don’t know what you feel.

I believe it’s a lot though.

It has to be.
You’re alive.

activation + re-grounding

It’s not a formula. So, what is it?

At our next living room picnic, I’d like to consider activation + re-grounding and to hold space for whatever we’re feeling. Much of it is too hard, too much to hold on our own…

As always, there’s nothing to prepare, nothing you need to know to participate.

Let’s talk… :deciduous_tree: :rowing_woman:

when: Mon 30-May from 7:30-8:30pm EST

to attend:


curiosity is not a spectator sport (a living room picnic)
on Monday, 06-Jun from 7:30-8:30pm EDT


Every day is kind of an experiment. Every moment really. A series of them — ooh too linear! even movies aren’t that linear in flow —a web, a mesh, fluid and state-changing, a mixing of experiments from every direction conceivable and beyond.

There is ALWAYS more beyond us, that we don’t know.

[sigh]

I don’t mean to be overwhelming, but it is beyond any kind of containment. It is AMAZING. Being. Being human in the world.

It takes effort. Attention. Participation. Effort to make sense of it all.
And then it shifts. It always shifts. That’s life.
That’s living.

Experimenting isn’t just for scientists and researchers.

I like the way author Zora Neale Hurston puts it:

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.

Experimenting is what everyone does, with varying degrees, and kinds, of formality. And curiosity is a core component. It’s a state of being that you can embody —however you choose to. You do have to choose though. What difference does it make to be curious?

At our next living room picnic, I’d like to consider the role curiosity can play in the quality of our lives.

Let’s talk… :deciduous_tree: :rowing_woman:
As always, there’s nothing to prepare, nothing you need to know to participate.

when: Mon 30-May from 7:30-8:30pm EST

to attend:

If you’ve never attended a living room picnic and feel like more of an introduction to UNDERMININGnormal and what picnics are like, you can stop by the courtyard; I wrote this for you.

with much care and interest,
—Alex

what does like-minded mean & why do we seek it? (a living room picnic)
on Monday, 13-Jun from 7:30-8:30pm EDT


The invitation to gather with like-minded people weaves its way in and out social connection offers, hawkers drawing us to their cool brilliance, righteousness, truth —and I guess on the surface that makes sense, but actually —

If we’re like-minded, what will we have to talk about?

It’s our conversations that lead to, expand, deepen, evolve, challenge and maintain relationships…

And so, rather than offer you the opportunity to connect with like-minded people, may I ask instead:

What are the conversations that you want more of in your life?

What might that lead to?

(What kind of like-mindedness is even possible?)

What does it mean to be like-minded & why do we seek it?

Let’s talk… :deciduous_tree: :rowing_woman:
As always, there’s nothing to prepare, nothing you need to know to participate.

when: Mon 13-Jun from 7:30-8:30pm EST

to attend:

If you’ve never attended a living room picnic and feel like more of an introduction to UNDERMININGnormal and what picnics are like, you can stop by the courtyard; I wrote this for you.

with much care and interest,
—Alex


summer 2022 collective grief ceremony


Dear fellow deep-thinking, change-seeking woman,

Grief can be hard to talk about.

Sometimes (often?) you don’t know that it’s happening, that that’s why…why this feels, what? no, this doesn’t feel, it’s this aching, wait, under the surface there’s this hard, covering everything there’s an empty, familiar, and still it’s strange, just on the edge, this silent […]

I’m not asking you to talk about it.
Not with me.

But there may be a conversation to be had between you and yourself or you. That’s another thing you don’t always know is happening.

It’s for that need to reflect and to remember that we hold collective grief ceremonies every season.

Sometimes, you just need the company of others in order to take care of yourself.


what to expect

The collective grief ceremony isn’t meant to resolve or settle anything.

We’ll be off-camera and you won’t be asked to share. There will be no photos or breakout rooms. This is just for you, so you can be with your grief privately, within a space of collective caring and acceptance.

​We’ll have three sessions of private journaling to support us in naming, recognizing and claiming our respective losses, sadness and grief.

​I will guide us through and keep time, though there will be no pressure to finish, and at the end of the third session, we’ll go light digital candles. This will also be private. You can dedicate your candle in any way you like. You can light more than one. Each candle burns for 48 hours.

digital candle lighting — Choose a candle that is not lit and click on it.

There will be an opportunity to share and talk about grief at the end of the ceremony. Some people find they’d like to commune a bit. You’ll see if you feel like it.

It’s also fine to head out after lighting your candle, and not say a word.


when: on Mon 20-Jun, the collective grief ceremony takes place from 7:30-8:30pm EDT, with an optional after-hangout where we can share or talk about grief from 8:30-9:00pm EDT.

to attend:

with much care and interest,
—Alex