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September 2019

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September 2018


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Creating the conditions for empathy

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

By Sharona Halpern

In New England, we are in our final days of summer. Every day of blue skies and summer breezes feels like a gift.  I am happy that my windows are still wide open most of the time.

A few years ago, a group from GISC spent a day with Laura Chasin, a family therapist, and a colleague and friend of the Nevis’.  She introduced us to the Public Conversations Project, a program she founded in 1989, which applies tools from family therapy to facilitating dialogue between groups who have opposing political perspectives and views. The methodology is simple and user friendly. It requires a facilitator to hold the space and structure, establish agreements among the participants that support uninterrupted expression of ideas, one at a time, and sets an underlying rule that no one tries to persuade or convince the other party. (If you want to know more, look up Public Conversations Project)

In my work, I am often asked to intervene in conflict situations. This summer, a couple I had been seeing for awhile arrived for their session stuck in a contentious conflict. They had a big decision to make that impacted them both, and that they were experiencing from opposing viewpoints. They reported that at home they had debated the issue, and found themselves feeling angry and misunderstood. I thought about the Public Conversations Project, and suggested an experiment. I set the expectations: The outcome of the decision would be set aside. No persuasion or challenge to the other point of view was allowed. Each person would have a chance to speak. After they spoke, we would pause. The listener could then ask questions that were exclusively meant to clarify or deepen their understanding of the other’s point of view and feelings. They did the experiment. When we debriefed it, they talked about feeling noticeably softer toward the other. They were surprised, since they came in feeling so defensive, stuck and hopeless. In our next session, I was not surprised to learn that they had made a decision, and that they were living pretty well with it, despite the fact that someone had to be disappointed.

Lately, I have been thinking that much of my work with couples, and with teams experiencing conflict, is about creating the conditions for empathy. I think most of us believe that empathy is the entry point to the solution to our personal and political conflicts. However, empathy gets lost when we are scared, disappointed or angry. Most of us know what having empathy feels like, and we know what it feels like when we lose it, when we are in conflict. We fight to be understood but don’t often fight as hard to be understanding. The assumption that the other wants to understand us as much as we want to  be understood, requires a great deal of support and trust. In our work, we can provide that support and framework, helping people move through conflict toward empathy. I find this part of my work important and satisfying.

A few words about what is coming up at GISC, and in particular in CCTP. We are excited to be offering a Fourth Week (for the first time!) in London, November 8-12. If you have taken CCTP and taken the Third Week, please consider joining us, to deepen your learning and practice of the Cape Cod Model. If you have not taken the Third Week, please contact us, as the Third Week is not necessarily required to participate in the Fourth. We are also planning the next Third Week for Spring 2020. Let us know soon if you are interested, as The Third Week has consistently sold out. Talk to someone who has participated to find out more, and of course, write or call any of the faculty for more information. We are always glad to hear from you.


Sharona (on behalf of Joe, Carol, Stuart and Nancy)

Transitions – expected and otherwise

Friday, December 21st, 2018


Recently, after a 12-day trip in Europe I arrived home in Portland, Maine, to unexpectedly find a substantial amount of snow on the ground. A voice inside me screamed, “oh, no, I’m not ready. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet.” This was not only a knee-jerk emotional response but a practical one, too. You see, my garden hoses were still out, now inaccessible, buried beneath the snow. This unexpected climatological transition was going to demand more work than usual.

Many transitions, be they emotional or physical, are expected and give us time to prepare, adjust and manage, but some don’t. And even when expected, the adjustment may differ dependent on various conditions or circumstances. For example, research shows that our bodies adjust in time to colder temperatures. However, the same cold temperature experienced at the beginning of winter or at the end feels different. By the end of winter, we have adjusted and so we actually don’t feel as cold.

When transitions are expected, like going off to college or getting married, we are able to prepare and elicit the necessary support. However, the unexpected ones obviously present greater challenges. It is as if we are left flat footed and thus ill prepared. Some transitions require management and swift action–your plane gets cancelled and you have to find accommodations for the night. Some require not just swift action but a more complex readjustment and response as when your work place unexpectedly closes and you must find alternative employment. And then there are those that have a more profound emotional impact such as when a loved one suddenly and unexpectedly dies. Managing this last transition may take a long time and requires faith that the emotional wound will heal and life can get back to “normal.” Action, in this case, requires acceptance and an ability to elicit and receive support.

Many individuals who come to our programs are in the midst of transitions. Some are changing careers, some are undergoing lifestyle or relationship changes, some are seeking more meaning in their lives and in their level of self-awareness. Some just want things (whatever that might be) to be more fulfilling.

Having an optimistic stance supports us to look at what is good or valuable in any situation or relationship. It allows us to cope with the expected and unexpected changes that are the essence of our lives. And, even when transitions elicit disappointment and grief, optimism supports us to persevere and move forward in a positive direction. All our lives are full of transitions–small, insignificant ones and large, life-changing ones. Although we can never guarantee that we will not at times be caught flat footed, we can develop skills and emotional resiliency that provide the ability to face those challenges and learn from them.

Now to find those garden hoses!

Joseph Melnick, PhD



Moving Toward Difference

Friday, September 7th, 2018

By Sharona Halpern

I have been thinking a lot lately, about how my participation in the Cape Cod Training Program might contribute to making the world a better place.

I was born 13 years after the Nazi concentration camps were liberated. Many of the adults in my life as a child were survivors of those camps, or had survived the war by hiding or escaping under life threatening conditions. I grew up in an insulated Jewish community, where I was taught to be courteous to non-Jews, neighbors, bank tellers, the mail carrier, but to limit my interactions with them to everyday politeness. A German family lived across the street, and we never said more to them than “good morning” or “have a nice day.” My parents said, “We don’t know where they were during the war.”

When my mother came to visit my college dormitory, she commented to me when we stepped off the elevator, “You seem friendly with that girl. I was friendly with my non-Jewish school friends AT school,” she said, “but we never invited them into our house.” The only non-Jews who entered our house when I was growing up were the plumber or the electrician.

I was taught that difference was dangerous. Difference had taken the lives of my parents’ cousins, my great grandparents, and many other relatives and friends. Difference robbed my two beloved great aunts of their fertility, as they had been used as human experiments by Nazi doctors in the concentration camps.

There is no way to participate in CCTP and not encounter difference. As a faculty we create opportunities for building trust, to support faculty and participants to learn from our differences, rather than avoid them or simply tolerate them. I am sure some years we succeed more than others. A couple of years ago, CCTP participants came from seven different countries. And, as you know, participants also come from a variety of professions–we have chefs, ministers, pediatricians, surgeons, mountain climbing instructors and psychotherapists, just to name a few. During our time together, we take risks, and we support each other to be vulnerable and curious. We build trust and intimacy with people who are different than ourselves. (And, as I write this, I am aware of our continued intention at GISC, to become a place of even greater diversity in our community, diversity of race, culture and class.)

So many of the troubles of the world stem from our fear of difference, and from our lack of close contact with people who are different from ourselves. When we gather outside on the last day of CCTP, planting bulbs that will blossom into daffodils in the spring, we are marking our connection as a group, the learning community we create in spite of, and as a result of, our differences. Let’s take this experience back to our lives, and remember to stay curious and to move toward difference rather than moving away from it.

“To let yourself be vulnerable to another point of view–that’s what takes true courage. To open yourself to another’s convictions, and risk being convinced, a little, or a lot, of the validity of their perspective. Now that’s scary.” –Justin Trudeau, Commencement Speech at New York University, 2018

Some of you have asked what your next step should be after taking CCTP. For those of you who have not taken the Third Week, talk to someone who has and sign up. The Third Week is an opportunity to build on and expand what you learned in the first two weeks of the program. The next Third Week is scheduled in England this November. Sign up soon as the class is almost full. If you want to take it in the US, let us know and we will start to put the next class together. We are also offering three days of Supervision in Wellfleet in March 2019. That is the best way to continue to develop yourself and your skills–by being a member of a group, presenting practice dilemmas, asking questions and watching the faculty work.

We always enjoy hearing from you and we would love to see you again. Please stay in touch.


Slowing Down

Friday, March 30th, 2018

By Nancy Rutkowski

As winter gives way to spring, I find I’m learning to slow down and breathe again. It seems like such a simple act but hard to maintain, and one I easily forget.

So I’ve taken to getting up most mornings and watching the sunrise. I’m lucky to have a second-story room that faces east. Three large windows look onto four magnificent white pines, nearly twice as tall as my home. I’m watching this morning as I write to you.

There’s something about the sunrise that makes the relearning easy, especially with the many sunny days we’ve had here lately. Maybe it’s because the sun compels me to surrender to its beauty, to give up thinking and doing and to simply be.

No matter how many sunrises I watch, each one is different. Even now I find myself putting down my writing tablet. I don’t want to miss any part of this experience. I want to see each shift in color, each increase in intensity, each new pattern that emerges.

This isn’t unlike how we are with our clients. Slowing down and attending to “what is” gives us a window onto the nuances of our clients’ experiences, the shifts in expression, color, tone, or breath. Slowing down helps us to see and be with them in the many difficulties they must bear.

And it helps us to bear ours as well.

I remember as a child lying on the couch with my back to the world, tracing my finger over vines of ivy in the fabric’s raised surface. I can see now how, even then, I was learning to slow down and bear the weight of a chaotic world. I was learning to regulate myself.

The winter has been a difficult one for many of us, challenging our capacity to simply be. The world seems increasingly more chaotic and unpredictable, existential threats increasingly real. Maybe you, too, got caught up in chasing the news and forgetting to breathe.

I’m reminded of a quote from Moshe Feldenkrais, “You can’t do what you want until you know what you’re doing.” I would add to that, and we can’t know what we’re doing unless we slow down long enough to notice.


To those of you who do not know me, let me briefly introduce myself. I’ve been involved with GISC since the Center opened its doors in 2002, and for over a decade before that I participated in a supervision group led by GISC senior faculty. I have a coaching and psychotherapy practice in Bloomington, Indiana, a daughter and a grandson in Myanmar, and a cottage on Lake Superior where, during the summer, I watch the sun rise over the lake every day. I’ve watched the Cape Cod Model develop over the decades, and I’m thrilled to be a part of a program I wholeheartedly believe has the power to change lives. I look forward to meeting and greeting you in person as time goes by.

Nancy Rutkowski


Exploring Not Knowing

Friday, February 16th, 2018

By Stuart N. Simon, LICSW, MCC

Lately, as I sit with clients, I have found myself exploring the experience of not knowing. It’s notable because I have spent so much of my professional life wanting to learn and grow … which necessarily involves knowing things. I assume we all do that. But as I said, I have been exploring “not knowing.” I find I am enjoying “not knowing.” Perhaps it’s really the experience of not having to know. I think this is making me a better practitioner … therapist, coach, consultant. It provides me a lot of freedom. However, the road to “not knowing” has not been comfortable for me. It’s too close to the experience of feeling “stupid.” Perhaps turning 66 has helped me get over that!

It brought to mind the picture of the Old Lady and the Young Lady:

I’ve noted, when people see it for the first time, how hard it is for some to see the young lady if they first see the old lady, and vice versa. For those who don’t see both ladies very quickly, it can be a frustrating and confusing experience. And the reason it can be so difficult is that seeing the unseen in the picture isn’t reliant on an additive process. In order to see the other configuration, we have to de-construct the one we originally see. We have to genuinely “let it go” in order to allow the new image to emerge. We have to “un-know” and “un-see” something in order to see something new. And, as I have said, un-knowing or not knowing isn’t so easy.

I suspect you don’t need me to see the implications for our present political climate. How rare it is for any of us to be having genuine conversations these days in which we suspend what we “know,” and work to see what the other “knows.”

But the implications for our professional practice are just as relevant. It is one thing to understand that in any one moment I may not know the client’s experience or may not know how to be helpful. It’s another thing altogether to actually allow myself to embody the uncomfortable sensations of “not knowing.” However, it offers the opportunity for genuine curiosity. Paradoxically, it can allow us to join in a rich, authentic and empathic manner.

Stuart N. Simon

Greetings From CCTP

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Just for CCTP graduates…

We, the faculty of the Cape Cod Training Program, hope this note finds you well.

We are writing about two new and exciting opportunities coming up for CCTP grads only.

First of all, our offer to repeat CCTP at half-rate tuition continues – as space allows. Our next class begins on May 3, 2018 and is shaping up to be a diverse group of participants.

As you know, CCTP has continued to evolve. We are continually updating the program and have made some changes that we find exciting. In particular, we focus more on developing the intervener’s presence, as well as seeing how people connect. We place increased emphasis on personal growth and development, and we have added in more practice sessions in the large group.

Comments from a past graduate who took CCTP as a refresher:

“Re-immersion in the Cape Cod Training Model five years after completing the program was a richly rewarding experience. The attention to personal presence and authentic connection—modeled and taught—met me where I want to be as a professional, wife, mother, colleague and friend. Re-engagement not only enhanced my skill in using the model, it allowed me to make new discoveries about where I am well and less developed with greater insight and gentleness.”

Secondly, as most of you know, we were thrilled with the launch of CCTP The Third Week in January 2017. Participants came from around the corner, across the country, and over the ocean. This was a unique opportunity, since all of the participants shared the foundations of the Cape Cod Model. This allowed for focusing their learning on embodiment of the concepts and model and therefore delivering more robust interventions. In addition, each student had an opportunity to apply the model to their particular professional circumstances. For example, in practicums participants chose to work with individuals, dyads/couples, or work teams/families.

“The Third Week sounds like a refresher and consolidation of CCTP. It was so much more than that. With a field of participants who had embodied the core Cape Cod Model principles well beyond the end of the Cape Cod Training Program, the quality of interactions and readiness for advanced teaching was on a new and exciting level. The faculty were up to this task.  Not only did they work beautifully together, they seemed to relish the opportunity to share more deeply of their expertise—and they did so generously.”
John Durland, PhD

Looking ahead, we have decided to offer CCTP The Third Week in Boston, June 7-12, 2018, and as a retreat in the UK, November 8-13, 2018. The UK program will be held in a choice location with the intention of living and learning in community.

We welcome you to call any of us with questions about these upcoming programs. We hope to see you again soon!




Carol, Sharona, Joe, Stuart and Nancy


How My First Book “Emerged” through Gestalt Coaching. The World Looked Away – Vietnam After the War: Quoc Pham’s Story

Friday, September 1st, 2017

by Dave Bushy

I met Quoc Pham at lunch one day in 2014. My brother knew Quoc’s son Hung and had asked me to consider writing Quoc’s story about imprisonment in post-war Vietnam and his eventual harrowing escape by boat into the South China Sea.

The idea of writing a book, or even a short story about someone’s life, was not my focus that day. After retiring from corporate life in 2013, I had been building a coaching practice and even temporarily shelved writing a story about my grandfather’s war exploits. But my twin brother, who served as the captain of Hung’s ship at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, gently prodded me to “just meet” Quoc Pham, who was visiting from California.

Curiosity comes naturally to me. So does conversation. I’m an extrovert who loves to engage individuals and learn more about them. The intensive coaching training I received at the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) gave me tools that focused and harnessed my abilities in ways I could have never imagined. Perhaps the most important is this: Really, really listening to someone and working with them towards a shared perspective and feeling. We call it “co-creation” in coaching. Wrapped into that listening is attentiveness and recognition: discerning the softness in someone’s voice when they speak about a loved one; or the change in their breathing when they relive a painful experience. Even the cadence and tenor of a voice can arouse curiosity in me easily now, thanks to GISC. Pursuing that curiosity through appreciative inquiry and provocative questioning can allow ideas, thoughts or “figures” to emerge that the client might have not been noticed before. As my favorite instructor Mary Anne Walk says, “The only question you’ll regret is the one you don’t ask.”

As I asked questions and listened to Quoc that day, I carefully watched his face. He had been through more than anyone I know; yet there was a serenity about him that was calming. He had experienced brutal conditions in the Reeducation Camps of Vietnam, been punished for being in the South Vietnamese military and saw his family lose everything. He had been beaten, nearly starved, and seen people die, yet here he sat, placid and kind. And yet… I shifted my eyes from his whole face and looked deeply into his eyes and saw something that I had not seen since I left the Army. I saw a glimmer of regret and grieving. It was merely a glimpse, but it was enough. That one glance reminded me of what I had seen in the U.S. Vietnam Veterans with whom I served in the Army, who had been through the horrors of war so far away, and then watched as the “enemy” defeated their own country.

Our lunch that day was more to just get acquainted, but I filed that feeling I had experienced in a safe place in my heart and mind, and nodded my head affirmatively when Quoc said, “Will you be willing to write my story?” I then said, “Let’s try a couple of chapters and see.”

We agreed to meet every two weeks via Face Time, as Quoc lived on the opposite coast. We began right away, adhering rigorously to a schedule of one hour every two weeks, which would continue for three years. Our routine evolved into an hour of interviews and coaching, followed by about six hours of drafting by me, followed by comments and editing from Quoc. Like any solid coaching engagement, one session built on another; trust grew between us and figures emerged routinely. At one point, I saw Quoc’s son, who had seen some early chapter drafts. “My father is telling you things my siblings and I have never heard – how is it that you and he communicate so well?” I just smiled and thought about coaching and knew that something was in synch for Quoc and me as we co-created in our sessions in order to tell the story of his life.

How does a fledgling author interview someone about their life’s journey, let alone the most intimate and brutal experiences a human being can endure? As I carefully took notes and recorded the interviews, something emerged for me. I was not just being a reporter, asking things like, “What happened then; and who was involved; and where did you go next?” I was actually being a coach, encouraging someone to explore areas of their memories that they might have forgotten, or perhaps didn’t want to enter. I was looking for how someone felt and how he had made meaning of his experiences. I was noticing something about a man, and I was pursuing it with gentle inquiry, continual prodding and genuine attentiveness. By intention, I was seeking to know everything about his journey through the years in the camps and his escape by sea. “What happened next?” was followed with “How did that make you feel,” and “Tell me more about what you experienced at that moment.”

Often, I gave Quoc time – sometimes long minutes – to collect himself. Part of coaching is giving someone time and space to think. Such silence is uncomfortable for humans – we just don’t cope well with long gaps in conversation. But those gaps can allow the person with whom you are working have thoughts emerge that might never have surfaced.

Quoc’s and my journey together in our calls and my follow-up draft-sharing were the vehicles we used to create The World Looked Away – Vietnam After the War: Quoc Pham’s Story. In it, you will see and feel his deepest thoughts about not just his camp experiences, but his feelings about the woman he loved and the family that nurtured him.

Being a coach has expanded my range of possibilities and helped me understand those of others. I use the tools of Gestalt Coaching every day in every conversation, be it coaching or dialogue with friends and family. I know I could not have joined another on his journey and completed a 400-page book without the benefit of my coach training at GISC.

To listen and be heard

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

By Gwynne Guzzeau, Executive Director

Here at GISC, the sun is out. Fourteen professionals from as far as California, Sweden, Wisconsin and Denmark or as close as Wellfleet gather for their 7th day of training to learn the Cape Cod Model – our Center’s process for helping people and teams change.

Five years ago, I was in their seat as a participant and fortunate to have our founder, Sonia Nevis in the room. An avid note-taker, keen on capturing the words from each faculty member, I’ve saved my notebooks and I’ve decided to share some of the nuggets from our Cape Cod Training Program teaching.

Let’s start with the check-in – the first 15-20 minutes of each day when participants sit together with faculty in a large group to discuss any questions or thoughts that are present from the previous day’s work. Even in these seemingly mundane moments, we were being taught that “Gestalt is a way of looking at the world and thinking about your life.” Check-in is important “to get something out of your head” so we can start where we are today.

The notes that follow are what I need to do this morning to start my day with a full sense of connection to the current participants, to the teaching and learning that inspired greater range and growth in my own life, and to the creative urge that the sun – after many days of rain – has inspired within.

Day 2 comments from Sonia:

You cannot feed your own soul. Connecting is food. To have listening and to be heard is food. The basic principle of how the world is better is to really listen and to really be willing to be heard.

Sonia went on to emphasize that “the learning that takes place at GISC is getting more and more skilled at reaching other people and listening.”

And the words flowed in through my ears, my eyes, my hands as I wrote furiously to capture her specific point of view:

If there’s only one person, it’s self-reflective. We are in relationship with the past and our Self. But all you can do is repeat the same thing. We can’t continue growth without another person. We develop to the extent that we allow ourselves to be in contact with the environment.”

These notes from our founder’s voice make me wonder:

What’s the optimal blend of sunshine and support to foster new growth in your life today?

If “no one person is making an experience happen” then join me in a virtual conversation and leave a comment below.


Closing Counts: What we can learn from Jon Stewart

Monday, September 14th, 2015

By Gwynne Guzzeau, Executive Director

Jon Stewart got it right: closing counts. For over fifteen years, fans of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – the popular comedic news show on cable TV – have tuned in for a potent blend of fun and facts, myself included. During the past year, the final weeks, and Stewart’s last episode as host of The Daily Show, we were not only treated to his edgy brand of humor with heart, we were shown how to create a good ending.

In these final days of summer, as we look to the fall and year-end, how are you attending to the endings in your life, small or large? It may be the end of a summer vacation or the end of the third quarter with only one quarter left to meet the 2015 goals you set for yourself back in January.

What can we learn from Jon Stewart about creating good endings? A lot.

Here’s what I saw in the final episodes that speaks to the Gestalt practices we teach at GISC.

Stewart didn’t go cold turkey; he practiced leaving. Over a year ago, he took a leave of absence for several weeks. Whatever the reasons, it gave him experience letting go of a job, a role, and a routine that he’d held for over 15 years. During his leave, he tried something new by directing a theater production – more practice letting go of The Daily Show.

Not all of us can take a long leave and land a short-term gig in a dream role like Jon Stewart. But we can practice letting go of our work identity, role and routine in small ways. For instance, on your next vacation, what would it be like to truly leave behind all responsibility for work? What does that mean? Well, it could be as small as committing to: “on my vacation (or on the weekend, or after 5pm . . .), I will not check my emails from work.” The point is that to end well you need to start small and practice. Design a small test run of a bigger goal.

Get Support
I’m willing to bet a week’s pay that Jon Stewart didn’t cook up this plan on his own – he had help. Maybe it was his wife, colleagues, friends or a trusted advisor, but at some point there was probably a professional advisor – a coach or a therapist to support the meaning-making that leads to a good ending. How do I know this? I didn’t count, but in the final weeks of his tenure as host of The Daily Show, Stewart repeatedly said, “I had to come to terms with it,” that is, leaving and letting go.

As you and I plan and practice our own endings in the coming weeks, with whom will we meet and talk as we create endings for the year, the vacation, or even the weekend? It can be as small as a conversation with family about why the weekend, vacation or year mattered. Or we could hire a coach or reach out to work with one of GISC’s coaches-in-training who start their coach certification program in late October.

Endings matter and even the smallest degree of attention can support the experience of closure and our internal transition.

Take an Appreciative Stance
In his final episode, Jon Stewart ran long. The 30-minute show lasted 60 minutes. The way I see it, Stewart took his time. And he needed the time to both acknowledge his colleagues and, I would argue, to take in the acknowledgements and appreciation expressed to him by others.

As he said so often, “I had to come to terms with it.” If we can do that for ourselves by adopting an appreciative stance and perspective for what has been and what is, then we free ourselves to be available for the actual ending – the good-bye.

And it is in the smallest of gestures or practices that all our preparation and work on “coming to terms” with closure shows up. For me, Jon Stewart’s good-bye from The Daily Show is captured in the handshakes of thanks he took the time to make with each individual member of Springsteen’s band at the very end of the show.

Jon Stewart showed us how to create a good ending and that’s what we all need in order to make a good beginning. So I wonder, what’s next? For Stewart, for you and for me?


Gwynne Guzzeau, MS, JD, is the Executive Director of GISC. She teaches The Next Phase: Life Strategies for Navigating Personal and Professional Transitions.


Reflections from the Gathering: Turning ideas into action

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

By Stacey Shipman

“How does over-thinking serve you in a positive way?” my group member asked.

We had gathered into groups of three, tasked with identifying a trait or skill we don’t like about ourselves and turn it into a positive. A concept, I learned as a first-timer, GISC refers to as Well Developed/Less Developed.

I didn’t answer the question right away because I’d never thought about my ability to over-think in a positive way.

I love big ideas and solving problems. As a result I spend a lot of time thinking. Sometimes my brain feels so full I imagine smoke billowing from my ears right before my head explodes.

Yet with the support of this peer group, they helped me see that over-thinking allows me to analyze problems from all angles and come up with solutions others might miss.

In that moment I became an expert at analyzing problems from all angles.

My area for development and challenge for the weekend: Turn some of that thinking into action.

Especially if the thought or idea isn’t fully formed.


I could feel my insides stir.

I accepted the challenge. What good is attending a development weekend if you’re not willing to do the work?

I committed to share my ideas more during group interactions and social conversations. Each time my stomach turned…less and less.

Thanks to my experience at the Gathering, I walked away with two big lessons and one reminder:

First, I am not broken. When stuck in a cycle of over-thinking I often feel broken and in need of fixing. Not to mention mentally exhausted! I learned I don’t need to stop thinking. Instead I need to press pause on thinking and turn an idea into action.

Second, thoughts and ideas don’t need to be fully formed to put them into the world. One group member suggested that by sharing my thought when not fully formed I provide a starting point for others to brainstorm and contribute. I had never considered that as a potential benefit.

Finally, I was reminded that community and relationships are everything. Having the right support systems to question our assumptions, in a respectful, encouraging way, can make life and work challenges feel manageable.

Nearly two months after the Community Gathering I’m still committed to the challenge of thinking less and acting more both in my personal and professional life.

Take this blog post for example. At the Gathering I told Laurie I’d love to write a reflection piece for the GISC blog. And every day since I’ve thought about what angle to take, what a-ha moment to share, and whether my voice would be a good fit.

And then my head felt like it might explode.


Stacey Shipman believes everyone has a message that can make someone’s life better. She is the founder of Move.Breathe.Explore. (, author of Turn Speaking Stress into Success and speaks and blogs about using your voice to make a difference at



Gestalt International Study Center
P.O. Box 515, South Wellfleet, MA 02663
Phone: +1 555 123 4567