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Podcast Ep. 12: Learning How to Build More Authentic Family Relationships with Ryel Kestano

In this episode

Ryel Kestano, CEO and cofounder of ART International joins Audra and Justin to share how the practice of Authentic Relating (AR) can help strengthen and nourish family relationships. Ryel shares how he got started with AR, the impact it’s had on him, and how he’s sharing the practice around the world and within his own home.



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About our guest

Ryel Kestano is a father and the CEO and cofounder of ART International, the leading AR training company in the world. He travels globally to deliver AR workshops to people of all beliefs, backgrounds, cultures, and values, including prison inmates, corporate executives, and college students. He believes that the Authentic Relating programs can help anyone create more authentic bonds with themselves, their partners, and their families.

Show notes

  • 02:25 - The Bio-Emotive Framework, by Dr. Douglas J. Tataryn, attempts “to explain why acknowledging, feeling, differentiating, and expressing emotion is a fundamental aspect of a healthy life.”
  • 08:10 - According to the IFS Institute, "Internal Family Systems is a transformative, evidence-based psychotherapy that helps people heal by accessing and loving their protective and wounded inner parts...like members of a family." 
  • 10:35 - Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology.
  • 13:22 - You can learn more about Carl Jung’s idea of the Shadow here.
  • 35:00 - The Hero’s Journey, or the monomyth, is a common literary template across multiple cultures and mythologies. This idea was unpacked and popularized by Joseph Campbell.
  • 55:28 - Dr. Gabor Maté is a Canadian-Hungarian addiction expert, speaker and best-selling author who developed the psychological method of Compassionate Inquiry.
  • 1:09:54 - Tony Berlant is an American artist primarily known for his collages and metal cubes.

Justin: You’re going to love what we have in store in this episode. It's all about this amazing set of ideas and practices called Authentic Relating. We get deep pretty quick and I realized after the episode that I never pause to get a basic overview of what Authentic Relating really is. We went pretty high level right from the start. So I want to begin here by explaining what we're getting into.

Ryel Kestano is the CEO and co-founder of a company that trains people all around the world in the practice of Authentic Relating. The super basic definition of Authentic Relating is: it's a set of ideas and practices and games designed to teach people how to be their authentic selves while connecting deeply with other people and allowing them to be their authentic selves.

The typical Authentic Relating session is like a set of games that help people practice being authentic and open and caring towards others. I'll wrap up this intro by saying that I believe Authentic Relating can absolutely transform all of our relationships for the better, especially parenting and marital relationships. If you have ever felt distant, unheard, unseen, frustrated, confused, or just out of sorts in your relationships with your kids or your partner, (and who among us has not?) then buckle up and prepare yourself to learn about a set of practices and ideas that have the potential to change all of this. Without further ado, here is our incredible conversation with the one and only Ryel Kestano.

One thing that I learned from Ryel and Authentic Relating Training is to set context. And so I just want to set a little context at the beginning by just telling as short a story as I can about how I came to Authentic Relating, because over a year ago, I had never heard of Authentic Relating. Of course, I had heard those words before, but never put together in that way. And so I was invited into an Authentic Relating group. I didn't even know that that's what it was. I think it was phrased in a different way.

Audra: Who invited you in?

Justin: I loved it. This was Ali Tataryn.

Audra: Oh, from Bio-Emotive.

Justin: Yeah. And so I loved it, like, oh, my God, this is fantastic. And this would be great for childhood cancer parents and our MaxLove Project work. And so that was the first time. And then I tried to find a few more things to go to. Ali told me about ART. And then we signed up for level one that summer and then…

Audra: Last summer.

Justin: Yeah. And then I signed up for the Authentic Relating Leadership Program in the fall. And that's where I met you, Ryel. And I've, I mean, I've loved every single moment. Then I took Level Two in the spring, and I hope to take level three someday. And I mean, it's really been a life-changing practice, this Authentic Relating.

So I couldn't wait to have you on, because not only are you deep into the Authentic Relating world and the CEO of an Authentic Relating training company, but you're also a father. And so you're putting this practice to work every single day and in a bunch of different contexts. So you're a father, you're an entrepreneur, you're a leader in the Authentic Relating movement. So I want to talk about all of these, but just in reverse order. So I guess for the listeners, most of them are going to say, what the heck are they talking about with Authentic Relating? So maybe we can just start there, Ryel. What is Authentic Relating?

Ryel: Yeah. And my pleasure being here with you. Thanks for having me. This is awesome. Yeah. What is Authentic Relating? I mean, it's very simple as it's a practiced experience. Better relationships in your life. If I had five seconds that's probably what I would say is it's a whole comprehensive suite of skills and tools that are designed to be immediately applicable for people in creating, cultivating, and deepening relationships with everyone in their lives.

One of the very first experiences I had when I was a student, first coming into the practice, it was twofold. One was an experience of all of me, the entirety of me being completely and totally welcomed into the space. And I never actually had the experience in which I so viscerally felt that every aspect of me, especially the parts of me that I kept behind a wall or behind guards or felt shame around or just felt was inappropriate or unwelcome. All those parts were not only worthy of being welcomed by others, but worthy of their curiosity to know more of myself. And as it turned out, the sort of reference point of other people taking such a curious perspective on these parts of me actually helped me develop and cultivate more curiosity and openness and welcoming from my own parts within myself.

And there's this core promise, I would say, that's inherent to the practice that it is a path that leads one towards a sense of greater wholeness within themselves, a sense of integration of all the aspects and parts of one's self into a sense of wholeness, which is just overall relaxing, relieving, empowering, all these benefits and showing up in the world. More specifically, I would say that Authentic Relating as a practice that reveals the hidden, it makes the implicit explicit, it brings all of the unconscious parts of ourselves, both individually and relationally and collectively, into the conscious field of awareness, where we have more choice, more understanding, more insight into the parts of ourselves and the parts of each other.

As I've learned, so much of what drives people's behavior and reaction and patterns of relating are contained in their unconscious selves. Much of what informs our unconscious derives from trauma of the past, of ways we were modeled, relationship by our caregivers growing up and all these things bear out in how we show up as adults in the world and in relationship, and so to have access and the skills to create deeper access into the unconscious parts of myself and allow those things to come to the surface creates a space for much more relatability, vulnerability, deeper connection, empathy, understanding of each other, and the same tools that I can use in and for myself to bring out the unconscious parts of myself and to my conscious awareness. I can also use to create a pathway for others.

So the skills that Authentic Relation teaches, I can bring out into conversation and relationship with others such that they feel more seen, more gotten, more heard, more welcomed, more access to their own unconscious selves. And yeah, really that all contributes to the experience of profound intimacy that you can experience with a partner that you've known for decades, right alongside meeting someone for the first time and experience a sense of humanity, a shared human experience. That I just never felt until encountering this practice.

Justin: So much there. What do you want to ask?

Audra: I have two things, curiosity popping up here. One was hearing about the parts, because I'm hearing a lot about parts from Justin. He's been diving deep into Internal Family Systems work. And so I'm hearing like a really wonderful way of relating to these parts through Authentic Relating practices, which I did the level one. And I love the communication practices and all of that. I never thought of it as both an inward like being able to authentically relate and practice with myself and my inner world as much as the outer and with others. So that presented to me just as you were speaking.

And so I'm curious, is that something that you found in your practice, that you were able to deploy these strategies to be like curious about, you know, self curious and develop inner, you know, compassion and empathy and things like that through the process?

Ryel: Yeah, well, yeah. I mean, the first response, I would say and one way of answering that is that which we don't welcome in ourselves is that which we don't welcome in others. So those parts of ourselves that we are uncomfortable with in ourselves will be projected in our discomfort in those same parts, in other people. And so to the degree that I can deepen a sense of intimacy with all aspects and parts of myself, the same degree to which I'm cultivating a deeper capacity to be with the experience of others. And that, to me, is the intimacy, the ability to remain in connection and in our bodies and our awareness, in our hearts, no matter what arises for us and for other people, we can stay there and rest there in that connection. So I think it's vital.

I didn't realize I mean, that, you know, it's interesting. It's like we know what we know. We know what we don't know. And then we don't know what we don't know. And that last one is like 80-90% of all that there is to know. And so like I didn't realize like going through was so much of my life. I had no idea how much was acting upon me, especially in relationships at the unconscious level. It's like I had just sort of pushed it down into some aspect of my psyche where it occurred at the surface, like it didn't even exist. But actually, it was informing and influencing every aspect of how I was showing up and relating and responding and reacting.

And I would say that one of the great sort of forefather pioneers of what is now Authentic Relating was Carl Jung and the work that he did around articulating the nature of the shadow and how it shows up in people both individually and collectively. And that was just super fascinating for me.

And so I really put into perspective that Authentic Relating really as a practice of illuminating one's shadow and seeing all the aspects of our own selves that we have suppressed or pushed down or disintegrated from a sense of wholeness and whole awareness down into the shadow. And, you know, he said that if we continue to ignore the aspects and messages from the shadow, they will manifest in ever more degenerative waves, including physically what we commonly suffer from physical, energetic, emotional ailments as a result of our ignoring or turning away from or perpetuating a disintegration of the aspects of ourselves. They live in the shadow. And so necessarily by bringing this practice to bare and can be really uncomfortable and confronting as we start to sort of excavate the sort of field of awareness deeper into our subconscious selves.

I often use this analogy of Lake Powell, which is this lake in Southern Utah. Gorgeous, beautiful area. And yet it's an artificial lake that was dammed up by the Glen Canyon Dam. And in recent years, the water level has been getting lower and more and more. And as it is lowering, it's revealing all of these incredible artifacts that had been submerged and lost under the surface. And it's also revealing all of this garbage and stuff that people had discarded over the decades. It just accumulated under the surface.

And so Authentic Relating really is a lowering of those waters of the conscious self and starting to notice all the aspects both beautiful and enlivening and inspiring, as well as really confronting and disgusting and ugly. And it gives us the resources and the skills and tools to turn toward those aspects, to face them, and to ultimately cultivate a sense of intimacy and integration with them. And as we do that work within ourselves, we can radiate and bring that, emanate that into our relationships and create a safer, more welcoming, loving, connected space for others to access their deepest selves.

Audra: Oh, it's beautiful.

Justin: This is what I think of as a therapeutic aspect of Authentic Relating. So I definitely want to touch on this more. But for listeners who are just brand new to all of these terms, Jung himself, can you briefly describe what the shadow is?

Ryel: Yeah. So essentially it's actually a brilliant function of the human experience. It's the ability to basically set aside, cut off or, you know, I would say in a positive way, push away traumatic experiences, experiences that produce a sense of disassociation or extreme anxiety or emotional reactivity to be able to separate those from just getting on with life, just a daily function of life instead of being just dogged by these demons.

There's actually some function in the human psyche that is able to separate these things into the shadow so that they generally occur is not existing and not being prominent enough to just distract us from just getting on with life. So, you know, I had a pretty traumatic, dysfunctional upbringing in childhood in which effectively was able to compartmentalize into the shadow and just be able to function relatively effectively in life. But those things have dogged me ever since and have undermined and sabotaged my relationships in life again and again and again.

I mean, I can look back to my partnership for 14 years that I'm now separated from and now can look back and see almost exactly how the elements that I had placed or pushed into my shadow came back to act in a sabotaging way that continue to degrade a sense of trust and connection and rapport that over time eventually led us to separate. I would say that there are so many examples of relationships ending because of one or two people not willing or able to turn toward the aspects of themselves that live in the shadow and do the deep work of integration and healing.

Audra: It sounds like to me or what I'm hearing is that the shadow allows you to survive.

Ryel: Yeah.

Audra: But not to thrive. You know, if we don't, you know, kind of face you like it's almost like we've been talking about this metabolically. If you consume too much sugar, sugar is toxic, right. If we didn't get to store it in fat, then it could kill you just circulating in your bloodstream. But we have this capacity to store it as fat and deal with it later.

It reminds me of the shadow that we can, we see it in our, I mean, with getting through Max's, the trauma of Max's diagnosis, for example. It gave us the opportunity to put one foot in front of the other. But what presents later is the opportunity to really kind of look at those shadows and work on it.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. Well, it's sort of like, you know, a lot of the traumatic incidents of childhood manifest later in life as defense mechanism strategies for protection. Right. And because our, you know, protective mechanisms are so sensitive, they will perceive situations as threats and cause us to armor up and protect when in fact, they aren't threats. And so a lot of the practice of Authentic Relating is to slow down and to bring forward a more nuanced and comprehensive and high resolution perspective on circumstances so we can actually start to retrain ourselves to recognize that these circumstances aren't threatening. And I can actually meet them vulnerably and openly.

Justin: Just to give listeners even a broader context here, I think most people's introduction to Authentic Relating is through games, Authentic Relating games. And so now what I'm seeing is that these games and then framed in the word game, lowers the intensity or the expectation first for having to do something difficult. But that really these Authentic Relating games are pushing us to do something difficult and to face something that we might be hiding from or to come into contact with our shadow or our defense mechanisms. Is that how you see it?

Ryel: Yeah. I mean, we as games in a particular context. It does capture the element of playfulness that we associate with playing games. But really, as you said, it creates the sense of freedom in which I can play the game of life and relationship in any way that really suits me.

You know, just as an example, when I was first encountering this practice, I had lived a very sheltered and withdrawn kind of life. And my relationships are very guarded and protected. And when I started discovering these tools, I was super inspired and excited to, you know, sort of dissolve that and experience what it'd be like to just walk around the world and nakedly and vulnerably. And I was traveling a lot for the work I was doing at the time.

And I created a game for myself in which every time I was on a flight on an airplane somewhere, I would do my best to experience a sense of intimacy with whoever sat next to me. And I just created that game as an expression of an underlying value for connection and intimacy and the nourishment that is derived from those experiences. And it was super confronting and uncomfortable to step into that game. But I was like committed to playing it. And it had me really confront and then ultimately shatter the story or perception I had that people don't want to connect. They just want to maintain their little bubbles or whatever. And so I brought that on like dozens of flights, you know, around the country and world. And I would say overwhelmingly, I mean, more than nine times out of 10, I achieved that experience of experiencing intimacy, you know, with my seatmate. I mean, it was.

And then in retrospect, is it strange that we, this person and I are like pretty close to each other? You know, I mean, there's like just inches apart from each other. And we could go hours just with this like invisible wall that separates us. And so not only did I get to really shatter that assumption and perspective and create a new possibility as an outcome of that game, but got to experience incredible connections and conversations. I mean, people that I still remember to this day as having been really moved by and touched by, I mean tears and laughter and sweetness and, you know, staying in touch with people long after really meaningful connections in which I was served.

It wasn't like I was doing a service to them as really as much for me as for anyone. And, you know, have learned what I've learned,and as I've been touched, as I have been, to just become more connected to this sense of a shared human experience was so valuable. I mean, that's one of the great outcomes of my having traveled around the world. Teaching this work and being with people is becoming ever more in touch with a sense that we are all actually experiencing a common human experience that transcends the differences and the reasons why we break down and argue and are in conflict. Underneath that, we struggle, we cry, we laugh, we have joy, we care. You know, we have passions, dreams and hopes.

And these things are so unifying and so healing, actually, and I think so important to establish upon which we can then debate our differences . And so, you know, for me, Authentic Relating is a practice of immense re-humanization that is so needed right now in the world.

Justin: I love that term re-humanization.

Audra: Ryel, I'd love to know, where were you in life when you found Authentic Relating?

Ryel: Yes. It was very circumstantial, I was yeah, we had three little kids at the time and marriage was showing a lot of strain. And the impetus for me actually was my partner at the time coming to me almost out of nowhere and wanting to open our marriage for her to have the freedom to be intimate with other men. And it just set me completely spinning out like I basically had kind of a look back now and I could see the signs that led up to that. But at the time, I just maintain a state of oblivion to, you know, the sort of cracks in the system. Until this thing came along and it just, you know, really kind of turned my world upside down.

And it was the catalyst for me to look at why I was reacting so intensely and with such consumption and my daily experience, what's actually going on for me deeper down. It was sort of like these demons that I was able to keep at bay under the surface just now, just breaking through the surface and tormenting me day and night. And so it really was the call for me to go deeper.

And I hadn't done any personal work at all ever. And that was never a value in my upbringing whatsoever. And so I just started this quest, you know, asking the universe like, show me, guide me, like I'll do anything. I'll go anywhere else, study with anyone. And I started just doing all sorts of stuff, you know, all kinds of therapies, retreats, studying with different teachers, you know, medicine, ceremonials, anything and everything that occurred as providing potential for insight. And then, you know, in the course of that, a friend of mine was enrolling people into the introductory Authentic Relating course in Boulder and I was an absolute yes to that. And I stepped in it out and within literally minutes or less seconds, it was like I just had a radically different experience than I'd ever had with anything else.

It just was the feeling of like, this is it. This is the medicine. This is the prescription. It's exactly the suite of skills and tools that I'm so yearning for to be able to, you know, look deeper in myself, feel these aspects of myself, use the external circumstances as a catalyst to do this deeper work.

And it's just been a lifelong journey ever since. And one of the very first things that I really encountered is I want to share a couple of things that were notable about Authentic Relating compared to other, you know, transformational practices and teachings. One was how immediately applicable I believe these skills and tools could be to every single human on the planet. The implications occurred as so far beyond just the personal development world or a spiritual seeking world or anything like that. Like these are elements of how to function and healthy relationship that everybody should have access to and have the opportunity to receive. Like this is the missing piece out of our education and upbringing. You know, how is it that we go to school and spend years and years studying all these things? And yet there's never a class on like skillful relationships, in our... like this is mind-blowing to me.

So that was one aspect. And then the other was, you know, it's contained in this, the title Authentic Relating. I found that a lot of other practices were about teaching people to be more authentic and more expressive, more revealed, you know, to stand in their power and their truth and their voice, which is certainly super valuable and powerful.

But what Authentic Relating provided was the relating part, was recognizing that I am one member of this relational space or of this collective space, and that actually, you know, it's incumbent upon me to create as much space of invitation and welcoming for other people to speak their truth, to share their vulnerable selves as much as it is for me. And so this balance and dance between the authentic part of me, you know, sharing and revealing what's happening for me and the relating part, you know, creating space for others to bring themselves into the relational space. I hadn't encountered that in any other teaching or practice or modality. And it really is so compelling to me. So those are some of the elements that drew me deeper into it.

Audra: The truly connective part, it sounds like. I remember you talking about that with working on various forms of meditation, for example, as a part of your practice. But you can isolate your, you can end up isolating yourself with a number of practices. One thing I…

Ryel: Well, just really quickly on that note. I mean, you know, it's common that you hear stories of like, you know, decades long meditators in the classic sense, you know, sitting on a cushion and meditating like, you know, having mastered their relationships like divine or spirit or whatever it is being assholes like in relationships.

Justin: Yes. Totally dysfunctional. Yeah. Out in the world.

Audra: Right. Right.

Ryel: And what was compelling about Authentic Relating is, it is called the relational meditation. It's actually it's still bringing the aspect of bringing an exquisite awareness to the present moment. But in the context of the relational space, you know, using the relational space itself as the object of meditation that I thought was just much more useful and valuable.

Audra: So I'm also curious. So you mentioned that this episode with your previous partner was an opening, a door open at that point to really start diving in and doing this inner work. And it's the first time you had done it.

Ryel: Yeah.

Audra: And you also mentioned traumatic childhood. Is it the case that you’re a therapist?

Ryel: Am I?

Audra: Yeah. Am I getting this right?

Ryel: No, no, no, no, no.

Audra: Ok, ok. So what's your background? What is your background prior to ART?

Ryel: I mean, I just speak to that just quickly and then I can answer that question more fully. Like, why is it that people are drawn to therapy? Like why do people go to therapy? What do they perceive or believe will occur there? Uniquely in the therapy environment or context that makes that context valuable. Most often it's the experience of being deeply, truly and wholly listened to.

Audra: Yeah. Right.

Ryel: A complete awareness and attention. And like what I've discovered, is that there's actually a therapist living in every single one of them. When we bring that quality of listening and attention and reflection and awareness to bear on our interactions and conversations and relationships.

And to that degree, like you said earlier, Justin, I think Authentic Relating is a profoundly therapeutic practice. You know, that can kind of distribute and widen the values that we get out of traditional therapy in all of our relationships and conversations.

So just want to name that. Yeah, I mean, it's interestingly, my background is the opposite of any kind of, you know, personal development, deep work or any of that. I grew up Orthodox Jewish, in itself was devoid, in my experience, was devoid of any kind of value for spirituality, as is very dogmatic. And, you know, just do this, do that without any deeper explanation. My parents, my dad was a businessman. He was gone on business all the time. My mom was a flight attendant. She was gone all the time, you know, raised by a pretty dysfunctional caregivers from early on, you know, physical abuse and that and, you know, the sort of kind of internalized story that I grew up with was, you know, these things are happening to me and nobody's around to protect me or keep me safe.

And the conclusion is that I don't matter. I must not matter. That's like the only explanation they wouldn't have. This all makes sense. And so I deeply internalize that into myself, like I, I don't matter. And then I have to compensate to do things that have me feel like I matter. You know, to override or compensate for that core wound. So, you know, like coming into this whole world, I was bringing a lifetime worth of unprocessed baggage. I would say unprocessed trauma. You know, one of the results of that was I didn't have a sense of a nurturing relationship with my mom. She left very early on. And so I took of the loss of that, the void of that, and projected that onto all of my intimate partners as an adult, like seeking mother figure.

And yet it was happening totally unconsciously. I couldn't have named that at all. It was just happening deeply. And that's, again, like, you know, emanating from the shadow, getting this, you know, trying to get this core need met for safety, for comfort, for reassurance, all the things that a mother is supposed to provide. But I didn't get was seeking that from intimate partners and trying to manipulate them into being a mother figure.

Audra: Right. Right.

Ryel: Without being able to name that. And so naturally, it's going to set up a dysfunctional relationship. And I would say that was the sort of core pattern that was running me and has been running me. It's not like it's gone from me. It's still a part of who I am. But I'm just aware of it now.

It's like awareness is the seed of transformation, everything. It has to start with awareness. And so now I'm aware of these impulses within me that come out sideways or under the conscious radar. And I can catch them and notice them now and redirect them in a much healthier way, like learning how to re-parent myself, you know, or be able to name it when it's arising in relationship.

Audra: That is such a powerful point to me. And I just feel like I have to share that. That is having a big impact on me as you’re sharing. I want to thank you for your openness and being able to talk with us about this. And it seems to me that that process that you're describing of having the awareness and then observing and maybe speaking to it or voicing it and redirecting whatever it might be, that's just huge. It's a win.

If there is, I don't know. I guess it seems to me that we think of self healing and reparenting that we think we're just not going to have this anymore. It's just not going to pop up anymore. Like we're going to solve it. It's going to be over and we're going to be in a totally new space. And to me, it feels more resonant that awareness process and being able to give voice, redirect. And I don't know, for me, just own whatever is coming up. That is a barrier for, I'm presenting a barrier for us or our kids. Is everything like that is, that's the point that I want to get to.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. Well, it's like, again, in the context of parenting, the degree to which you are able to fully accept all aspects and parts of your own self itself will be modeled and conveyed and transmitted, you know, down to your kids. Right. If there's any if you're in any way, you know, pushing away and not accepting, uncomfortable with or disintegrated from any aspects of yourself, if you haven't done or aren't doing that kind of work, I almost want a guarantee that it's going to trickle down to your kids and they're going to internalize that within themselves.

Justin: Yes, I can attest to that. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I love, I just want to pause to call out this awesome phrase. So we just have it for the show notes. So awareness is the seed of transformation. It, when you phrase it like that, I thought, wow, so Authentic Relating the way that I've described it to other people, it’s like ok, how can I describe this as quickly as possible?

So the way that I experience it is I am holding space for other people to reveal what's happening for them. And I am honestly and authentically revealing what's happening for me. And so in this, but from the perspective of awareness, like what's happening is I'm trying to become more aware of what's happening for you and who you are and honestly and authentically becoming aware of what's happening for me and expressing that as well. That Authentic Relating is really a practice of awareness.

Ryel: Yeah, well, exactly. I mean, is this paradox of the journey of transformation where you. I think a lot of people, certainly I ventured into thinking like I need to literally change these aspects of myself to be able to function and show up and thrive in the world. And yet actually the destination, I think, of the journey of transformation is to learn how to accept yourself exactly as you are. It's not about changing anything.

Audra: Yes.

Ryel: The only thing that's changing is your not accepting yourself exactly as you are.

Justin: It's a paradox.

Ryel: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. Like you do need to change. But the thing you need to change is accepting yourself.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah. It’s almost like, you know, archetypally, it's the hero's journey. It's like the hero's journey culminates when you come back home. Right. And you bring the treasures of your journey back home to bear on where you came from. Right. And, you know, it's sort of a blunt juristic. But, you know, when I hear people on their journey and I ask them or it comes up about their relationship with their family or, you know, their family of origin or their hometown or whatever, and they're still talking about like, yeah, they're just in a different world or, you know, they don't get me, I don't get them, you know, I'm just you know, it's a good thing that I'm moving apart.

You know, for me, I'll acknowledge I have a better judgment there. And the journey is still ongoing because I think the destination, a journey is to come home to where I came from to the people that I grew up with, and to bring like a sense of wholeness back to those environments in service of healing the past, you know, and creating a more kind of cohesive and robust link in the chain of our collective lineage.

You know, it's like I think it's you know, it's vital for kids, teenagers, young adults to grow up, leave the home, differentiate, find themselves, seek their own path and all that. But to the degree to which they are rejecting the aspects and elements of their past, I think it's going to continue to haunt them and create a sense of internal rift, you know, until at some point there's the ability to go back to the past, whether emotionally or literally can integrate those aspects and elements into this experience of wholeness.

And, you know, I mean, I'll take my Orthodox Jewish upbringing. I absolutely resented it and rejected it. It constrained me, it didn't allow for authentic expression. You know, and had to really distance myself. And so, you know, really lately, just the last few years have really come full circle and see actually how how much it's a part of me in many ways, how it created a sense of community and cohesion and belonging and identity, and that there's actually a deep spirituality that lives underneath a sort of surface levels of the religion. All these layers of being able to, you know, integrate these aspects of my past into a sense of current wholeness.

Audra: You know, say it sounds like incorporation and integration, it's a really I mean, I think to being able to be with our families and our kids and a practice that provides a path for that I think is really powerful.

So it brings me back to a point that you made earlier about why don't we teach this in schools? And I am so with you. I was an educator prior to running our nonprofit, and I used to work with college students and student development. And it brought me into the space of doing this work with college students and not this exact work, not Authentic Relating, I have to say, very I think similar skill-building and working on developing these skills and tools with students.

And the main issue was that we were missing everything from preschool where I think we do a little bit of this. And then K-12 gone. None of it. Nothing else. And it strikes me that one of the most powerful things about Authentic Relating is how accessible it is. You're not talking about a therapeutic modality that is expensive and accessible, you know, in the hands of a chosen few folks who have to get extensive education to get there…

Justin: Or takes years and years.

Audra: Or takes years and years. This is something that is like infinitely scalable and accessible. So realizing the dream of bringing this practice into schools, I think is really reasonable.

Justin: Well. I mean, so let's just talk about that real quick. I do want to get back to parenthood. But Ryel, you have been involved not just bringing it into places like schools, but you are involved with a nonprofit, bringing it into prisons as well.

Audra: Oh, wow.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. It is an interesting story, because like I said, you know, when I first and kind of Authentic Relating immediately hit me, like the implications of this are much further and wider than it's ever been conveyed to, you know, or distributed to. And I was very sure of that. And yet I wanted to test the hypothesis to see if I was right about that.

And so I volunteered to be a mentor at the Boulder County jail, to provide a little more immediate context, like if you know a boulder. Yeah. So, yeah, a wonderful town's got great values, great people, all that. And yet it's pretty homogenous as far as its culture and ways of thinking. And and and people are generally quite friendly, you know, to personal development types of teachings and modalities.

And so I'm like living in Boulder and like, where can I go, you know, outside of the sort of bubble to test this hypothesis and see if this work is really as impactful as I believe it should be and can be on a wider scale? So I joined this volunteer program at Boulder County Jail. I'd never, had no experience, never been in a jail. Furthest thing from, you know, my familiarity and comfort zone. And it brought up all sorts of stuff. I mean, the first time I ever stepped into the Boulder County jail for like a volunteer kind of orientation, it was very disturbing to just become up close and personal with how we actually treat each other in that context.

You know, in any event, I was matched with my first mentee. It was like a one-on-one type of thing. And within seconds, minutes started just completely shattering all the sort of calcified perceptions I had about that world and those people. I could sense the humanity in this man very quickly, as he was a big-time drug dealer here in Colorado. He had tattoos all over him, had like gang signs on him and stuff and, you know, looked very kind of imposing and scary. And yet we just dropped into this really sweet, intimate connective place right away. And then I took on more mentees and I started, very actively sharing with them and teaching them some of these basic skills and tools.

And I was just blown away by how immediately impactful and how effectively they were integrating these skills and tools into their lives, even inside of the jail. Well, like one of my mentors, he was like the alpha kind of guy in his pod. And without even my solicitation, he went back and made photocopies of the sheets I'd given him. He forced the entire pod to come together and learn these...

Audra: That’s amazing,

Ryel: Things together. And it completely, literally transformed the culture inside of the Boulder County Jail. The word rose up to the administrators. Then we started collaborating. And then that's where we created a version of the level one workshop specifically for inmates. And then we got that program approved through the entire Colorado prison system and started delivering that to facilities throughout Colorado.

And I mean, very quickly, it became known to among the population as being the most effective and powerful and useful workshop or training in the entire sort of programming of those facilities. And then we started getting waiting lists like every facility that we were offering this program. And even still, I mean, we have inmates, ex-inmates sending us messages all the time, like, “Can I tell you how powerful this work has been? It's changed my life. Like all of my relationships have improved.”

And the thing is that, like these guys. You know, it's men and women. And now they don't aspire to become some great enlightened being. And like at the pinnacle of personal development, they just really aspire to, quote-unquote, normal lives like, you know, having healthy family relationships, having a good job. You know, they've just been content and stable in their lives. And it was just incredible to see how supportive these skills and tools were for those values, those you know, those aspirations in that world.

And so really massively validated and affirmed that hypothesis of how universal this work is. You know, I mean, I speak of it as the universal language of human connection. And now, I mean, I've traveled dozens of countries all over the world at present to every kind of person you can imagine. And it lands almost everywhere for everyone. You know, in a really like meaningful way, in a sustainable way. So it's all the more like really fueled our mission, you know, to create our organization as a vehicle for conveying this work to as many people as far as wide as possible.

Just last week, I presented to the principal and the administrators at the Cherry Creek High School in Denver, which is probably the most well-known and highly regarded high school in all of Colorado. And I could pick up on like the skepticism, you know, at the beginning. And because I speak about Authentic Relating in this very kind of street-level language, like it's not just woo-woo kind of thing. It's just very practical and human, even though it is a deeply spiritual practice underneath, you know, like they were just completely won over by the end of the session. And now we're designing a full-scale three-hour presentation to the entire 200-person teaching staff at this high school, which is just so, so, so thrilling.

But, yeah, I mean, to me, that is one of the most vital and important applications of this work is how can we get this work into schools and educational facilities and prepare our young people to be able to cultivate and participate in healthy, nourishing, uplifting, empowering relationships just... Well, what a world we would live in. I think.

Audra: What a world we will live in. Yeah.

Ryel: Yeah. Exactly.

Justin: Yeah. So this can work for incarcerated populations that work in a large institutional context. So we can assume that it also works for teenagers as well. I guess teenagers might be the most hardened, difficult, challenging population out there.

Ryel: More than gang leaders.

Justin: I'll try to boil the whole parenting thing into maybe just one question. Now, you are a parent of a teenager. How has Authentic Relating changed your parenting? Because you started as a parent, having never heard of Authentic Relating, and now you have a 13-year-old. So how have things changed for you?

Ryel: I mean, it goes even further back than that. It's like, man, what if my parents had had access to this work, you know, and that I'd been brought up in this environment how my life would have been so, so different. You know, I mean, it was just a catalog of dysfunctional ways of relating and parenting and being. I mean, I don't blame them at all. Like I don't have any blame. They just did the best they could. And, you know, it's like you look back at our ancestral lineage I mean, nobody like had access to these kinds of skills and tools and ways of being.

So, you know, the contrast of how I was raised with that, how I'm able to raise my kids just really impactful and profound. But yeah, I mean, that was another incredible insight and realization was just how applicable these skills and tools are in cultivating a healthy, trustable, open and intimate, loving, nourishing relationship with my kids. And that's been the case absolutely.

And the investments that I have made and am making in and tending to and fostering health and those relationships will bear a lifetime, not only my and their lifetime, but their kids and their kids. I mean, you know, again, the implications of this work, you know, way beyond just this current conversation are very present for me and for others in the practice.

So, you know, it's like. I mean, there are so many things I could say about, you know, relationship with kids and teens, I mean, just as a couple examples, like I noticed that I was inside of an unconscious story for a long time, that my kids are nothing but a burden. All I do is sacrifice for them. Right. Like I'm trying to live my life. And they're coming in all the time needing things, interrupting, you know, having no regard for my experience or my needs. You know, and all I'm here to do is just, you know, cater to them and serve them. And as like I love them, of course, you know, but I didn't even realize that I was in the sort of grip of this.

Justin: This was an unconscious story. Yeah. Yeah. Like if you were asked just on the spot, like, oh, of course, I love my kids and I love to, you know, do all these things for them. So how did you become aware of this unconscious story?

Ryel: Well, it's interesting. I mean, like, you know, people ask, I don't know, come up in conversation, you know, what is it like to parent for kids and all that? And I often describe it as a parenting, as a series of nonstop interruptions for like 18 years. Which is like a pretty shitty way of describing, you know, my experience of parenting. And so, you know, really is just bringing to bear like the elements and tools, the skills to look deeper. And, you know, it just I was able to carve out some time from just the rigors of life, you know, to really look at my relationship with my kids. I mean, my daughter was starting to manifest.

My oldest daughter is now a teen, was manifesting, you know, some real struggles in her life. You know, she was cutting at one point. You know, she was definitely exhibiting like depression and anxiety. And it really kind of gave me pause. And it had me look into what am I doing? How am I contributing to an environment that, you know, that this kind of behavior is manifested? And I got to see that I was inside of this, you know, story that was disempowering, disconnecting and the opposite of an experience of intimacy.

And so I basically had to restructure and reconfigure my priorities and focus on life and really shifted a lot of attention and desire to create more bandwidth for my relationship with my kids. So as an example, I just started spending at least five to 10 minutes with each kid every night, just one on one, because, you know, when it's all four of them, it's just this sort of tsunami.

Yeah. And so to kind of tease that apart, you know, to really get to know them on an individual basis. It gave me a lot more access to a unique relationship that I could bring to bear with each of them individually and have me tune in more into their unique trajectories in life, like what's going on for you individually and uniquely, what's going on for me? And I'm really fostering day after day, night after night a more intimate, closer, more connected relationship with them. And that's just been so valuable.

Like I said, I've taken two kids to Europe now. And, you know, one of the things that we're going to be doing is walking a 120-mile-long trail in Switzerland together and underneath the surface, it's like they're both a yes to it. I'm almost amazed that they are like into it and want to do it. And to me, it's symbolic. It's actually less about walking on a trail in Switzerland and more about the results of the day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month investment I've made and we've made in fostering a close, trustable, intimate, enlivening relationship, you know. And so we just want to spend time together, you know, more than anything. And so this is just an outlet, an expression for that.

Justin: One thing I heard you say in the past is that you have developed a practice of revealing your experience with your kids, and this really struck me because I think, well, for me and I'm going to just have a big assumption about a lot of parents is that we don't do that, we want to present as Dad and Mom and like we never reveal what's...

Audra: Authority.

Justin: So, yeah. Can you just talk a little bit about that?

Ryel: Yeah, well, you know, a lot of parents are like my teenager, my kids. They don't share anything with me. They're just like, oh, well, I'll ask them questions and give me like monotone, one-word answers. You know, I feel like locked out. I just don't know what's going on for them, you know, and so it's like, well, my first question is: how much are you revealing of yourself in your own world to your kids? Like how do you expect them to go first while you're just actually a total wall? And in some ways, hiding behind the role of mom or dad, you know.

Like we tend to make subservient our own humanity to the roles that we play in life and in relationship. Whther that's mother, father, boss, employee, colleague, you know, friend of this guy and friend of that kind. And, you know, Authentic Relating in many ways challenges the ways that we have conflated our human selves with the roles that we play in life and…

Audra: Absolutely.

Ryel: And so in this regard, it's like allowing the human of you and in you to lead and to set back the role of mom or dad or whatever enforcer or whatever it is, you know, behind that, whoever it is that you're relating with. I tell all our graduates out of our programs, like, you know, part of your training is to be a leader and leading people into an experience of connection and intimacy and stop expecting people to go first, like you have the skills and tools now to reveal your own experience first. And that acts as an established kind of leadership quality in having other people then follow.

It's like when I'm leading a course, you know, and I've got 20 people in the room, I definitely recognize that the degree to which I'm willing to be vulnerable and revealed and real is the degree to which that acts as permission for everybody else to show up vulnerably and authentically. And honestly, like I've had total emotional breakdowns in courses that I've been leading. And like in the back of my mind, I'm like, oh, shit, like I'm not supposed to be doing this, you know, like I'm failing at the role of being like the leader and facilitator. And yet without exception, every time when I check, like, how was that for everyone? They just are like, wow, I feel so much more permission to be my own vulnerable, real, tender, sad, emotional, whatever self, you know, when I see the leader doing it.

It’s the exact same thing in parenting. The degree to which you yourself as a parent are able to be vulnerable, like actually really vulnerable. What are your fears? You know, what are your dreams? What are your struggles? Allow your emotions to be expressed. I mean, my parents were like utterly unemotional even when they were fighting. It was like just robotic, almost, you know. And so I just internalized that. And so, you know, I allow myself to be emotional, whether it's sad or upset or angry, and reveal that as my experience. And that creates a sense of safety, a sense of family culture in which all of you is welcome.

Actually, I feel called to share this one piece that I think is so valuable and so insightful for parents, navigating the challenges of raising teens in particular. So there's a brilliant doctor, a therapist, trauma expert named Gabor Maté, the Hungarian Canadian fellow. And one thing that he said is that, that really stuck with me, is that as kids we have two primary needs, the most important two things required for a healthy upbringing in childhood. One is secure attachment. Right. Like we can depend and lean into the relationships that we have with our caregivers, and they're going to be there consistently and securely. And the other primary need is for authentic expression. And the healthiest people grow up in an environment in which both of those are fostered and encouraged and supported.

And yet, if a child ever experiences or perceives the security of their attachment is being threatened, they will always sacrifice authentic expression in order to preserve the security of those relationships and attachments. And that stays with us as adults. Like, where is it that we're afraid of revealing our authentic experience, our authentic selves, because we're fearing the degradation of undermining or breaking of our attachments and relationship, so we just push that in.

You know, we're doing that as parents, you know, I would say almost universally. So where is it that you can actually, you know, really reveal your authentic experience as a model for your children, watching you, seeing you and recognizing,” oh, like I can be my authentic whole free self here as well,” you know, and it doesn't jeopardize my relationships. In fact, Authentic Relating flips that paradigm completely around in which the more authentically expressed I am, the more secure are my attachments and relationships.

Justin: Yeah.

Ryel: And vice versa.

Justin: Oh, that's beautiful.

Audra: I can really identify with this. And this is my work to do as well. You know, especially and I feel like my number, my work relationships and things like that I have a lot of work to do with kind of like authentically revealing my experience and expressing myself. And I can hold back for fear of breaking connection and for fear of response because of, I think, how I grew up as well.

And I find my family to be and working with this on with my family to be so powerful, because I know that we're in this together. I know that we're in this work together. I know that we're not going to break connection. And so it's actually been the first frontier for me that I'm hoping to take out further from here. But I found it to be safer, to start within the family.

And yeah, and it can start with little things. It doesn't have to be, you don't have to have the perfect sentence terms and the perfect like, you know, entry points or anything like that. You know, I remember I was biking with Maesie in Savannah here. And, you know, I did the mom thing where I was like, you know, “heads up. There's a bus coming.” “I know, I know. Of course I know.” And I was like, “Maesie, I just have to, I just want to share that like I am your mom. And I've been doing this for so many years. And it is hard for me to just adjust. And I'm trying to, you being old enough. I know that you see this and it's like this is really my stuff. It's not yours. So thank you for being patient with me.”

And she's like, “Ok, cool, mom.” You know, like it can start with like little, little moments and blossom into the big one so that it becomes, I think, second nature. When you get into our big emotional outbursts, I find so much of the work is in myself and really not about my kid. You know, it's they did it. And it is really powerful. We've been doing a lot of this together, thanks to Authentic Relating, I have to say, like Authentic Relating has changed our lives.

Ryel: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. And I can imagine a lot of parents hear this and say, well, if I'm truly authentic, then I will lose my attachment with my kids. And so this is really, this is hopeful. This is really just I love hearing this, that actually the more authentic you are and the more present and authentic, the more attachment will emerge.

Audra: Can you guys give some examples? We've got, of course, Ryel as a leader of the Authentic Relating movement, really, and running the, I don't know if there are many Authentic Relating organizations or not, but ART is the organization I feel like in the space, really bringing forward curriculum and trainings and making a difference. And then, of course, you've been through a lot of those trainings. Can you provide us some concrete examples? Because we were talking a lot about this, almost like a methodology, like what is it like to be in the space of Authentic Relating?

Justin: Well, I'll just share real quick when we're in level one. I was trying to bring these practices into our daily life with our kids, and it, I wasn't really sure how to do it. I felt a little awkward. So I just started with just expressing what was happening literally in my physical body.

And so I would get into, I would start to enter into a conflict with my daughter and I would pause. And I would say, “Maesie, I'm feeling a tightness in my chest right now. I'm feeling my heart rate increase.” And so I would just describe physically what was happening. I was like, that's the best I can do. I just want you to know what's happening for me. Well, and then the other part of that is when I would do that, it would diffuse what was happening. And it was like we could start to talk and relate to each other in new ways. If I just paused and started to describe what was happening for me, even physically, I'm not even going to try to interpret the emotional, psychological world inside. I'm just going to describe what's happening physically for me right now. And so I was so impressed with how just that simple practice diffused what was happening and opened up new avenues for us to communicate.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's great. Exactly. I mean, you know, anywhere that you are able to reveal more of your own experience, it's like even what you just said earlier, it's like a parent might have the fear that if I'm authentic, you know, that that may result in some, you know, negative impact on my relationship with my kids. Whatever, like reveal that.

Audra: Yeah. Right. Right.

Ryel: Like actually say that like, I'm wanting to be more revealed with the or share more about what's going on for me. And I'm concerned that dot, dot, dot, you know, that this, you know, like that'll impact our relationship or. And then get curious about the answer, you know. And, you know, kid’s like, “No, I want to know,” you know, like actually been wanting to know.

Justin: Yeah.

Ryel: So it's actually, it's like you don't need to somehow shift yourself to become then ready to reveal. Right is revealing exactly where you are and what's happening in that moment. You know, that is the peace, you know that it just you can't you can't do that without there being some deepening of intimacy there and of seeing each other being seen and of again of rehumanizing yourself and each other. It's like. You know, your kids look at you as in large part as the role of mom and dad. Right. And that comes with all sorts of connotations and associations and and it can really constrain and restrict the freedom and space and, you know, excitement that is in the relation that is latent and the relational space, you know, so again, for you to sort of set aside the roles and just show up as human, you know, parents struggle.

We all do. Like, you know, this thing happened to me at work or I had a fight with mom or whatever it is, you know. And to really reveal that, I mean, like I have absolutely been super transparent with my kids around, you know, the breakdown of our marriage and, you know, divorce and separation. And now that landed, that impacted me and it impacted the kids and that I've had really honest and open conversations about that. It doesn't occur as like a service to them. It's like I feel so much lighter myself, you know.

And it's again, like your kids are going to become adults someday and you're going to relate with them as adults. So every, you know, moment that you're showing up in this younger child-parent relationship and being real and open and vulnerable and transparent is going to serve the rest of your relationship as they, you know, they don't need you at some point as a mom or dad anymore, you know, and then you get to be an ally and a collaborator, you know, and a sort of elder. And those are beautiful roles to be in. And, you know, for me, it's like prioritizing the human above all else and leading with that.

Audra: It's so powerful. What comes up for me is that concept of rehumanizing, both for yourself and others, and that when we are in performance, we're in a dehumanized or dehumanizing space. And I think of that in all of my work roles that I've had. You know, we're all kind of like performance, you know, kind of interacting roles. Yeah. But the performative aspects of life and that we inherit parenting very often in that way, in the performance we think we should be doing. And by getting down to the basics of rehumanizing through this revealing of our experience and, you know, kind of like connecting, reconnecting ourselves is really powerful.

Justin: We have only scratched the surface. And one thing I want to do is direct people to ART. And so, Ryel, I will ask you for how best parents and anyone listening can get in touch with ART. But then also, I just want to state again. And I know that I've told you at The Family's Thrive, we want to be doing this type of work. And so we want to work with ART and we want to work with you. So this is just the beginning.

Audra: Just an opening.

Justin: Yes. So can you tell all listeners how best to get in touch with ART and then some of the things that you do at ART?

Ryel: Time goes by quick when you're enlivened by the conversation, for sure. It's like we offer courses, programs, webinars, whatever that are topical, and yet the implications of everything that we teach along those topics does radiate out to every one of our relationships, you know, it's like we didn't have enough time.

But, you know, the influence and power dynamics players in these interactions, I think is so vital to acknowledge, you know, like as a parent, your power. There's a differential in the power dynamics. And to name it, to recognize, to acknowledge it, I think is important just as it is in the workplace. Right. It's like, you know, there's a power dynamic at play there, and it necessarily influences and impacts how people relate, how safe they feel to be expressed, you know, how the relationship between their expression and their sense of security. It's bringing back all sorts of childhood stuff, you know, so it really acknowledges these power dynamics, I think is vital.

Yeah, there's a lot more that we could definitely explore, but in any event. Yeah. So the companies Art International, Authentic Relating Training International. Website is authenticrelating.co.

The level one program is designed for the general public, for everyone. And it will teach you the foundational elements of the practice such that you can then apply them across the board and all of your relationships. And then we have a whole bunch of other offerings that are more specific to particular contacts, there’s a couple's program. That's super awesome. A program just for men. We're designing a membership platform right now that will be more of a community, kind of hub, like what you guys have been creating. Yeah. And a bunch more.

I mean, it's just it's like I want to portray Authentic Relating not as some kind of end-all, be-all, you know, type of thing that you either get or you don't. It's actually a complement and a supplement to anything and everything else, so you're already up to right? That's the beauty of it, is just it's an additional catalyst for a deepening and expanding of everything and anything that people are already up to. So I really appreciate that aspect. But yeah, that's the best way to check us out. Website and other info is there.

Justin: We can't let you go without asking you the last questions that we ask every guest. So the first one is if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning. What would that Post-it note say?

Ryel: Is this Post-it Note for everyone, everywhere. And that’s slow down. Definitely want to slow down, down, feel more, access more, breathe more, be in your body more. And then the second, I would say is reveal and reveal your experience. Let yourself be seen, be a human, you know, show yourself.

Justin: Beautiful. And then the next question is, what is the last quote that really moved you?

Ryel: Oh, man, so many. I mean, the one that I one of my favorites that I often share is by an...artist named Tony [Berlant], and he says, “The more introspective a work of art is, the more universal it becomes.” And I take that to mean that the more we are willing to reveal the deepest, darkest, most shameful parts of ourselves, the more connected we are to the universal experience of humanity.

Justin: Mm-hmm. Awesome. And then the last one is, well, so I just have to always give context for this last one. For many parents and you reveal this with yourself as well, that parenting can be a lot of drudgery and a lot of interruptions, a lot of hassle. And so we like to end with this last question. What do you love about kids?

Ryel: And I want to just give you some automatic answer and actually feel into what feels true and responding to that. Yeah, I mean, I would say more than anything, they've really reminded me how to play. Which is something I've forgotten or, you know, become separate from that I can actually see life as, it sounds kind of cliche, but life is a playground, you know, and to find the silliness and the playfulness and the joy and the creativity every day, in every moment, been a source of real vitality and kind of life force for us.

For me, I tend to be quite serious. And so to have like, you know, just this array of humans around me who are so playful, you know, and want to draw me into play all the time, it's not just the play. It's deeply healing, something really deeply healing in my, like enrolling me into the context of play. And when I allow myself to go there it feels really healing and joyful and rejuvenating. And, yeah, it just gives me a much better perspective of life.

Audra: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that, and I feel like you, I feel like that's evidenced in the ART platform, which is really beautiful. I feel like we get invited into play and therefore connection through the work that you do. And I really appreciate that.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. I mean, so much of this work is reminding us of what it was like when we were kids, before we were indoctrinated into a bunch of filters and conditioning. Does the innocence, the freedom, the expression, the playfulness, all of these things, you know, are really deeply in the spirit of the practice?

Audra: No. Thank you for sharing it with. Absolutely. Yeah. And all of our families and in The Family Thrive. This is... it's really an honor to be on this journey with you. And I really appreciate being able to meet you today. And I hope this conversation continues.

Justin: I sincerely hope and believe this is not the last time we're going to talk with you, Ryel.

Ryel: I mean, I appreciate what you're up to. I mean, anywhere that we can bring more of this kind of practice and skills and tools to bear on raising kids, you know, in really preparing them to thrive in their relationships, like that's where it really, really matters to me so such a yes to that.

Justin: Awesome, awesome

Audra: Thank you so much.

Justin: Thank you, Ryel. We'll see you next time.

Ryel: All right. See you.

Audra: Bye.

Justin: Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.

Podcast Ep. 12: Learning How to Build More Authentic Family Relationships with Ryel Kestano

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Podcast Ep. 12: Learning How to Build More Authentic Family Relationships with Ryel Kestano

Ryel Kestano, CEO and cofounder of ART International joins Audra and Justin to share how the practice of Authentic Relating can help strengthen and nourish family relationships.

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90 minutes

In this episode

Ryel Kestano, CEO and cofounder of ART International joins Audra and Justin to share how the practice of Authentic Relating (AR) can help strengthen and nourish family relationships. Ryel shares how he got started with AR, the impact it’s had on him, and how he’s sharing the practice around the world and within his own home.



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About our guest

Ryel Kestano is a father and the CEO and cofounder of ART International, the leading AR training company in the world. He travels globally to deliver AR workshops to people of all beliefs, backgrounds, cultures, and values, including prison inmates, corporate executives, and college students. He believes that the Authentic Relating programs can help anyone create more authentic bonds with themselves, their partners, and their families.

Show notes

  • 02:25 - The Bio-Emotive Framework, by Dr. Douglas J. Tataryn, attempts “to explain why acknowledging, feeling, differentiating, and expressing emotion is a fundamental aspect of a healthy life.”
  • 08:10 - According to the IFS Institute, "Internal Family Systems is a transformative, evidence-based psychotherapy that helps people heal by accessing and loving their protective and wounded inner parts...like members of a family." 
  • 10:35 - Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology.
  • 13:22 - You can learn more about Carl Jung’s idea of the Shadow here.
  • 35:00 - The Hero’s Journey, or the monomyth, is a common literary template across multiple cultures and mythologies. This idea was unpacked and popularized by Joseph Campbell.
  • 55:28 - Dr. Gabor Maté is a Canadian-Hungarian addiction expert, speaker and best-selling author who developed the psychological method of Compassionate Inquiry.
  • 1:09:54 - Tony Berlant is an American artist primarily known for his collages and metal cubes.

In this episode

Ryel Kestano, CEO and cofounder of ART International joins Audra and Justin to share how the practice of Authentic Relating (AR) can help strengthen and nourish family relationships. Ryel shares how he got started with AR, the impact it’s had on him, and how he’s sharing the practice around the world and within his own home.



Listen here


About our guest

Ryel Kestano is a father and the CEO and cofounder of ART International, the leading AR training company in the world. He travels globally to deliver AR workshops to people of all beliefs, backgrounds, cultures, and values, including prison inmates, corporate executives, and college students. He believes that the Authentic Relating programs can help anyone create more authentic bonds with themselves, their partners, and their families.

Show notes

  • 02:25 - The Bio-Emotive Framework, by Dr. Douglas J. Tataryn, attempts “to explain why acknowledging, feeling, differentiating, and expressing emotion is a fundamental aspect of a healthy life.”
  • 08:10 - According to the IFS Institute, "Internal Family Systems is a transformative, evidence-based psychotherapy that helps people heal by accessing and loving their protective and wounded inner parts...like members of a family." 
  • 10:35 - Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology.
  • 13:22 - You can learn more about Carl Jung’s idea of the Shadow here.
  • 35:00 - The Hero’s Journey, or the monomyth, is a common literary template across multiple cultures and mythologies. This idea was unpacked and popularized by Joseph Campbell.
  • 55:28 - Dr. Gabor Maté is a Canadian-Hungarian addiction expert, speaker and best-selling author who developed the psychological method of Compassionate Inquiry.
  • 1:09:54 - Tony Berlant is an American artist primarily known for his collages and metal cubes.

In this episode

Ryel Kestano, CEO and cofounder of ART International joins Audra and Justin to share how the practice of Authentic Relating (AR) can help strengthen and nourish family relationships. Ryel shares how he got started with AR, the impact it’s had on him, and how he’s sharing the practice around the world and within his own home.



Listen here


About our guest

Ryel Kestano is a father and the CEO and cofounder of ART International, the leading AR training company in the world. He travels globally to deliver AR workshops to people of all beliefs, backgrounds, cultures, and values, including prison inmates, corporate executives, and college students. He believes that the Authentic Relating programs can help anyone create more authentic bonds with themselves, their partners, and their families.

Show notes

  • 02:25 - The Bio-Emotive Framework, by Dr. Douglas J. Tataryn, attempts “to explain why acknowledging, feeling, differentiating, and expressing emotion is a fundamental aspect of a healthy life.”
  • 08:10 - According to the IFS Institute, "Internal Family Systems is a transformative, evidence-based psychotherapy that helps people heal by accessing and loving their protective and wounded inner parts...like members of a family." 
  • 10:35 - Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology.
  • 13:22 - You can learn more about Carl Jung’s idea of the Shadow here.
  • 35:00 - The Hero’s Journey, or the monomyth, is a common literary template across multiple cultures and mythologies. This idea was unpacked and popularized by Joseph Campbell.
  • 55:28 - Dr. Gabor Maté is a Canadian-Hungarian addiction expert, speaker and best-selling author who developed the psychological method of Compassionate Inquiry.
  • 1:09:54 - Tony Berlant is an American artist primarily known for his collages and metal cubes.

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Justin: You’re going to love what we have in store in this episode. It's all about this amazing set of ideas and practices called Authentic Relating. We get deep pretty quick and I realized after the episode that I never pause to get a basic overview of what Authentic Relating really is. We went pretty high level right from the start. So I want to begin here by explaining what we're getting into.

Ryel Kestano is the CEO and co-founder of a company that trains people all around the world in the practice of Authentic Relating. The super basic definition of Authentic Relating is: it's a set of ideas and practices and games designed to teach people how to be their authentic selves while connecting deeply with other people and allowing them to be their authentic selves.

The typical Authentic Relating session is like a set of games that help people practice being authentic and open and caring towards others. I'll wrap up this intro by saying that I believe Authentic Relating can absolutely transform all of our relationships for the better, especially parenting and marital relationships. If you have ever felt distant, unheard, unseen, frustrated, confused, or just out of sorts in your relationships with your kids or your partner, (and who among us has not?) then buckle up and prepare yourself to learn about a set of practices and ideas that have the potential to change all of this. Without further ado, here is our incredible conversation with the one and only Ryel Kestano.

One thing that I learned from Ryel and Authentic Relating Training is to set context. And so I just want to set a little context at the beginning by just telling as short a story as I can about how I came to Authentic Relating, because over a year ago, I had never heard of Authentic Relating. Of course, I had heard those words before, but never put together in that way. And so I was invited into an Authentic Relating group. I didn't even know that that's what it was. I think it was phrased in a different way.

Audra: Who invited you in?

Justin: I loved it. This was Ali Tataryn.

Audra: Oh, from Bio-Emotive.

Justin: Yeah. And so I loved it, like, oh, my God, this is fantastic. And this would be great for childhood cancer parents and our MaxLove Project work. And so that was the first time. And then I tried to find a few more things to go to. Ali told me about ART. And then we signed up for level one that summer and then…

Audra: Last summer.

Justin: Yeah. And then I signed up for the Authentic Relating Leadership Program in the fall. And that's where I met you, Ryel. And I've, I mean, I've loved every single moment. Then I took Level Two in the spring, and I hope to take level three someday. And I mean, it's really been a life-changing practice, this Authentic Relating.

So I couldn't wait to have you on, because not only are you deep into the Authentic Relating world and the CEO of an Authentic Relating training company, but you're also a father. And so you're putting this practice to work every single day and in a bunch of different contexts. So you're a father, you're an entrepreneur, you're a leader in the Authentic Relating movement. So I want to talk about all of these, but just in reverse order. So I guess for the listeners, most of them are going to say, what the heck are they talking about with Authentic Relating? So maybe we can just start there, Ryel. What is Authentic Relating?

Ryel: Yeah. And my pleasure being here with you. Thanks for having me. This is awesome. Yeah. What is Authentic Relating? I mean, it's very simple as it's a practiced experience. Better relationships in your life. If I had five seconds that's probably what I would say is it's a whole comprehensive suite of skills and tools that are designed to be immediately applicable for people in creating, cultivating, and deepening relationships with everyone in their lives.

One of the very first experiences I had when I was a student, first coming into the practice, it was twofold. One was an experience of all of me, the entirety of me being completely and totally welcomed into the space. And I never actually had the experience in which I so viscerally felt that every aspect of me, especially the parts of me that I kept behind a wall or behind guards or felt shame around or just felt was inappropriate or unwelcome. All those parts were not only worthy of being welcomed by others, but worthy of their curiosity to know more of myself. And as it turned out, the sort of reference point of other people taking such a curious perspective on these parts of me actually helped me develop and cultivate more curiosity and openness and welcoming from my own parts within myself.

And there's this core promise, I would say, that's inherent to the practice that it is a path that leads one towards a sense of greater wholeness within themselves, a sense of integration of all the aspects and parts of one's self into a sense of wholeness, which is just overall relaxing, relieving, empowering, all these benefits and showing up in the world. More specifically, I would say that Authentic Relating as a practice that reveals the hidden, it makes the implicit explicit, it brings all of the unconscious parts of ourselves, both individually and relationally and collectively, into the conscious field of awareness, where we have more choice, more understanding, more insight into the parts of ourselves and the parts of each other.

As I've learned, so much of what drives people's behavior and reaction and patterns of relating are contained in their unconscious selves. Much of what informs our unconscious derives from trauma of the past, of ways we were modeled, relationship by our caregivers growing up and all these things bear out in how we show up as adults in the world and in relationship, and so to have access and the skills to create deeper access into the unconscious parts of myself and allow those things to come to the surface creates a space for much more relatability, vulnerability, deeper connection, empathy, understanding of each other, and the same tools that I can use in and for myself to bring out the unconscious parts of myself and to my conscious awareness. I can also use to create a pathway for others.

So the skills that Authentic Relation teaches, I can bring out into conversation and relationship with others such that they feel more seen, more gotten, more heard, more welcomed, more access to their own unconscious selves. And yeah, really that all contributes to the experience of profound intimacy that you can experience with a partner that you've known for decades, right alongside meeting someone for the first time and experience a sense of humanity, a shared human experience. That I just never felt until encountering this practice.

Justin: So much there. What do you want to ask?

Audra: I have two things, curiosity popping up here. One was hearing about the parts, because I'm hearing a lot about parts from Justin. He's been diving deep into Internal Family Systems work. And so I'm hearing like a really wonderful way of relating to these parts through Authentic Relating practices, which I did the level one. And I love the communication practices and all of that. I never thought of it as both an inward like being able to authentically relate and practice with myself and my inner world as much as the outer and with others. So that presented to me just as you were speaking.

And so I'm curious, is that something that you found in your practice, that you were able to deploy these strategies to be like curious about, you know, self curious and develop inner, you know, compassion and empathy and things like that through the process?

Ryel: Yeah, well, yeah. I mean, the first response, I would say and one way of answering that is that which we don't welcome in ourselves is that which we don't welcome in others. So those parts of ourselves that we are uncomfortable with in ourselves will be projected in our discomfort in those same parts, in other people. And so to the degree that I can deepen a sense of intimacy with all aspects and parts of myself, the same degree to which I'm cultivating a deeper capacity to be with the experience of others. And that, to me, is the intimacy, the ability to remain in connection and in our bodies and our awareness, in our hearts, no matter what arises for us and for other people, we can stay there and rest there in that connection. So I think it's vital.

I didn't realize I mean, that, you know, it's interesting. It's like we know what we know. We know what we don't know. And then we don't know what we don't know. And that last one is like 80-90% of all that there is to know. And so like I didn't realize like going through was so much of my life. I had no idea how much was acting upon me, especially in relationships at the unconscious level. It's like I had just sort of pushed it down into some aspect of my psyche where it occurred at the surface, like it didn't even exist. But actually, it was informing and influencing every aspect of how I was showing up and relating and responding and reacting.

And I would say that one of the great sort of forefather pioneers of what is now Authentic Relating was Carl Jung and the work that he did around articulating the nature of the shadow and how it shows up in people both individually and collectively. And that was just super fascinating for me.

And so I really put into perspective that Authentic Relating really as a practice of illuminating one's shadow and seeing all the aspects of our own selves that we have suppressed or pushed down or disintegrated from a sense of wholeness and whole awareness down into the shadow. And, you know, he said that if we continue to ignore the aspects and messages from the shadow, they will manifest in ever more degenerative waves, including physically what we commonly suffer from physical, energetic, emotional ailments as a result of our ignoring or turning away from or perpetuating a disintegration of the aspects of ourselves. They live in the shadow. And so necessarily by bringing this practice to bare and can be really uncomfortable and confronting as we start to sort of excavate the sort of field of awareness deeper into our subconscious selves.

I often use this analogy of Lake Powell, which is this lake in Southern Utah. Gorgeous, beautiful area. And yet it's an artificial lake that was dammed up by the Glen Canyon Dam. And in recent years, the water level has been getting lower and more and more. And as it is lowering, it's revealing all of these incredible artifacts that had been submerged and lost under the surface. And it's also revealing all of this garbage and stuff that people had discarded over the decades. It just accumulated under the surface.

And so Authentic Relating really is a lowering of those waters of the conscious self and starting to notice all the aspects both beautiful and enlivening and inspiring, as well as really confronting and disgusting and ugly. And it gives us the resources and the skills and tools to turn toward those aspects, to face them, and to ultimately cultivate a sense of intimacy and integration with them. And as we do that work within ourselves, we can radiate and bring that, emanate that into our relationships and create a safer, more welcoming, loving, connected space for others to access their deepest selves.

Audra: Oh, it's beautiful.

Justin: This is what I think of as a therapeutic aspect of Authentic Relating. So I definitely want to touch on this more. But for listeners who are just brand new to all of these terms, Jung himself, can you briefly describe what the shadow is?

Ryel: Yeah. So essentially it's actually a brilliant function of the human experience. It's the ability to basically set aside, cut off or, you know, I would say in a positive way, push away traumatic experiences, experiences that produce a sense of disassociation or extreme anxiety or emotional reactivity to be able to separate those from just getting on with life, just a daily function of life instead of being just dogged by these demons.

There's actually some function in the human psyche that is able to separate these things into the shadow so that they generally occur is not existing and not being prominent enough to just distract us from just getting on with life. So, you know, I had a pretty traumatic, dysfunctional upbringing in childhood in which effectively was able to compartmentalize into the shadow and just be able to function relatively effectively in life. But those things have dogged me ever since and have undermined and sabotaged my relationships in life again and again and again.

I mean, I can look back to my partnership for 14 years that I'm now separated from and now can look back and see almost exactly how the elements that I had placed or pushed into my shadow came back to act in a sabotaging way that continue to degrade a sense of trust and connection and rapport that over time eventually led us to separate. I would say that there are so many examples of relationships ending because of one or two people not willing or able to turn toward the aspects of themselves that live in the shadow and do the deep work of integration and healing.

Audra: It sounds like to me or what I'm hearing is that the shadow allows you to survive.

Ryel: Yeah.

Audra: But not to thrive. You know, if we don't, you know, kind of face you like it's almost like we've been talking about this metabolically. If you consume too much sugar, sugar is toxic, right. If we didn't get to store it in fat, then it could kill you just circulating in your bloodstream. But we have this capacity to store it as fat and deal with it later.

It reminds me of the shadow that we can, we see it in our, I mean, with getting through Max's, the trauma of Max's diagnosis, for example. It gave us the opportunity to put one foot in front of the other. But what presents later is the opportunity to really kind of look at those shadows and work on it.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. Well, it's sort of like, you know, a lot of the traumatic incidents of childhood manifest later in life as defense mechanism strategies for protection. Right. And because our, you know, protective mechanisms are so sensitive, they will perceive situations as threats and cause us to armor up and protect when in fact, they aren't threats. And so a lot of the practice of Authentic Relating is to slow down and to bring forward a more nuanced and comprehensive and high resolution perspective on circumstances so we can actually start to retrain ourselves to recognize that these circumstances aren't threatening. And I can actually meet them vulnerably and openly.

Justin: Just to give listeners even a broader context here, I think most people's introduction to Authentic Relating is through games, Authentic Relating games. And so now what I'm seeing is that these games and then framed in the word game, lowers the intensity or the expectation first for having to do something difficult. But that really these Authentic Relating games are pushing us to do something difficult and to face something that we might be hiding from or to come into contact with our shadow or our defense mechanisms. Is that how you see it?

Ryel: Yeah. I mean, we as games in a particular context. It does capture the element of playfulness that we associate with playing games. But really, as you said, it creates the sense of freedom in which I can play the game of life and relationship in any way that really suits me.

You know, just as an example, when I was first encountering this practice, I had lived a very sheltered and withdrawn kind of life. And my relationships are very guarded and protected. And when I started discovering these tools, I was super inspired and excited to, you know, sort of dissolve that and experience what it'd be like to just walk around the world and nakedly and vulnerably. And I was traveling a lot for the work I was doing at the time.

And I created a game for myself in which every time I was on a flight on an airplane somewhere, I would do my best to experience a sense of intimacy with whoever sat next to me. And I just created that game as an expression of an underlying value for connection and intimacy and the nourishment that is derived from those experiences. And it was super confronting and uncomfortable to step into that game. But I was like committed to playing it. And it had me really confront and then ultimately shatter the story or perception I had that people don't want to connect. They just want to maintain their little bubbles or whatever. And so I brought that on like dozens of flights, you know, around the country and world. And I would say overwhelmingly, I mean, more than nine times out of 10, I achieved that experience of experiencing intimacy, you know, with my seatmate. I mean, it was.

And then in retrospect, is it strange that we, this person and I are like pretty close to each other? You know, I mean, there's like just inches apart from each other. And we could go hours just with this like invisible wall that separates us. And so not only did I get to really shatter that assumption and perspective and create a new possibility as an outcome of that game, but got to experience incredible connections and conversations. I mean, people that I still remember to this day as having been really moved by and touched by, I mean tears and laughter and sweetness and, you know, staying in touch with people long after really meaningful connections in which I was served.

It wasn't like I was doing a service to them as really as much for me as for anyone. And, you know, have learned what I've learned,and as I've been touched, as I have been, to just become more connected to this sense of a shared human experience was so valuable. I mean, that's one of the great outcomes of my having traveled around the world. Teaching this work and being with people is becoming ever more in touch with a sense that we are all actually experiencing a common human experience that transcends the differences and the reasons why we break down and argue and are in conflict. Underneath that, we struggle, we cry, we laugh, we have joy, we care. You know, we have passions, dreams and hopes.

And these things are so unifying and so healing, actually, and I think so important to establish upon which we can then debate our differences . And so, you know, for me, Authentic Relating is a practice of immense re-humanization that is so needed right now in the world.

Justin: I love that term re-humanization.

Audra: Ryel, I'd love to know, where were you in life when you found Authentic Relating?

Ryel: Yes. It was very circumstantial, I was yeah, we had three little kids at the time and marriage was showing a lot of strain. And the impetus for me actually was my partner at the time coming to me almost out of nowhere and wanting to open our marriage for her to have the freedom to be intimate with other men. And it just set me completely spinning out like I basically had kind of a look back now and I could see the signs that led up to that. But at the time, I just maintain a state of oblivion to, you know, the sort of cracks in the system. Until this thing came along and it just, you know, really kind of turned my world upside down.

And it was the catalyst for me to look at why I was reacting so intensely and with such consumption and my daily experience, what's actually going on for me deeper down. It was sort of like these demons that I was able to keep at bay under the surface just now, just breaking through the surface and tormenting me day and night. And so it really was the call for me to go deeper.

And I hadn't done any personal work at all ever. And that was never a value in my upbringing whatsoever. And so I just started this quest, you know, asking the universe like, show me, guide me, like I'll do anything. I'll go anywhere else, study with anyone. And I started just doing all sorts of stuff, you know, all kinds of therapies, retreats, studying with different teachers, you know, medicine, ceremonials, anything and everything that occurred as providing potential for insight. And then, you know, in the course of that, a friend of mine was enrolling people into the introductory Authentic Relating course in Boulder and I was an absolute yes to that. And I stepped in it out and within literally minutes or less seconds, it was like I just had a radically different experience than I'd ever had with anything else.

It just was the feeling of like, this is it. This is the medicine. This is the prescription. It's exactly the suite of skills and tools that I'm so yearning for to be able to, you know, look deeper in myself, feel these aspects of myself, use the external circumstances as a catalyst to do this deeper work.

And it's just been a lifelong journey ever since. And one of the very first things that I really encountered is I want to share a couple of things that were notable about Authentic Relating compared to other, you know, transformational practices and teachings. One was how immediately applicable I believe these skills and tools could be to every single human on the planet. The implications occurred as so far beyond just the personal development world or a spiritual seeking world or anything like that. Like these are elements of how to function and healthy relationship that everybody should have access to and have the opportunity to receive. Like this is the missing piece out of our education and upbringing. You know, how is it that we go to school and spend years and years studying all these things? And yet there's never a class on like skillful relationships, in our... like this is mind-blowing to me.

So that was one aspect. And then the other was, you know, it's contained in this, the title Authentic Relating. I found that a lot of other practices were about teaching people to be more authentic and more expressive, more revealed, you know, to stand in their power and their truth and their voice, which is certainly super valuable and powerful.

But what Authentic Relating provided was the relating part, was recognizing that I am one member of this relational space or of this collective space, and that actually, you know, it's incumbent upon me to create as much space of invitation and welcoming for other people to speak their truth, to share their vulnerable selves as much as it is for me. And so this balance and dance between the authentic part of me, you know, sharing and revealing what's happening for me and the relating part, you know, creating space for others to bring themselves into the relational space. I hadn't encountered that in any other teaching or practice or modality. And it really is so compelling to me. So those are some of the elements that drew me deeper into it.

Audra: The truly connective part, it sounds like. I remember you talking about that with working on various forms of meditation, for example, as a part of your practice. But you can isolate your, you can end up isolating yourself with a number of practices. One thing I…

Ryel: Well, just really quickly on that note. I mean, you know, it's common that you hear stories of like, you know, decades long meditators in the classic sense, you know, sitting on a cushion and meditating like, you know, having mastered their relationships like divine or spirit or whatever it is being assholes like in relationships.

Justin: Yes. Totally dysfunctional. Yeah. Out in the world.

Audra: Right. Right.

Ryel: And what was compelling about Authentic Relating is, it is called the relational meditation. It's actually it's still bringing the aspect of bringing an exquisite awareness to the present moment. But in the context of the relational space, you know, using the relational space itself as the object of meditation that I thought was just much more useful and valuable.

Audra: So I'm also curious. So you mentioned that this episode with your previous partner was an opening, a door open at that point to really start diving in and doing this inner work. And it's the first time you had done it.

Ryel: Yeah.

Audra: And you also mentioned traumatic childhood. Is it the case that you’re a therapist?

Ryel: Am I?

Audra: Yeah. Am I getting this right?

Ryel: No, no, no, no, no.

Audra: Ok, ok. So what's your background? What is your background prior to ART?

Ryel: I mean, I just speak to that just quickly and then I can answer that question more fully. Like, why is it that people are drawn to therapy? Like why do people go to therapy? What do they perceive or believe will occur there? Uniquely in the therapy environment or context that makes that context valuable. Most often it's the experience of being deeply, truly and wholly listened to.

Audra: Yeah. Right.

Ryel: A complete awareness and attention. And like what I've discovered, is that there's actually a therapist living in every single one of them. When we bring that quality of listening and attention and reflection and awareness to bear on our interactions and conversations and relationships.

And to that degree, like you said earlier, Justin, I think Authentic Relating is a profoundly therapeutic practice. You know, that can kind of distribute and widen the values that we get out of traditional therapy in all of our relationships and conversations.

So just want to name that. Yeah, I mean, it's interestingly, my background is the opposite of any kind of, you know, personal development, deep work or any of that. I grew up Orthodox Jewish, in itself was devoid, in my experience, was devoid of any kind of value for spirituality, as is very dogmatic. And, you know, just do this, do that without any deeper explanation. My parents, my dad was a businessman. He was gone on business all the time. My mom was a flight attendant. She was gone all the time, you know, raised by a pretty dysfunctional caregivers from early on, you know, physical abuse and that and, you know, the sort of kind of internalized story that I grew up with was, you know, these things are happening to me and nobody's around to protect me or keep me safe.

And the conclusion is that I don't matter. I must not matter. That's like the only explanation they wouldn't have. This all makes sense. And so I deeply internalize that into myself, like I, I don't matter. And then I have to compensate to do things that have me feel like I matter. You know, to override or compensate for that core wound. So, you know, like coming into this whole world, I was bringing a lifetime worth of unprocessed baggage. I would say unprocessed trauma. You know, one of the results of that was I didn't have a sense of a nurturing relationship with my mom. She left very early on. And so I took of the loss of that, the void of that, and projected that onto all of my intimate partners as an adult, like seeking mother figure.

And yet it was happening totally unconsciously. I couldn't have named that at all. It was just happening deeply. And that's, again, like, you know, emanating from the shadow, getting this, you know, trying to get this core need met for safety, for comfort, for reassurance, all the things that a mother is supposed to provide. But I didn't get was seeking that from intimate partners and trying to manipulate them into being a mother figure.

Audra: Right. Right.

Ryel: Without being able to name that. And so naturally, it's going to set up a dysfunctional relationship. And I would say that was the sort of core pattern that was running me and has been running me. It's not like it's gone from me. It's still a part of who I am. But I'm just aware of it now.

It's like awareness is the seed of transformation, everything. It has to start with awareness. And so now I'm aware of these impulses within me that come out sideways or under the conscious radar. And I can catch them and notice them now and redirect them in a much healthier way, like learning how to re-parent myself, you know, or be able to name it when it's arising in relationship.

Audra: That is such a powerful point to me. And I just feel like I have to share that. That is having a big impact on me as you’re sharing. I want to thank you for your openness and being able to talk with us about this. And it seems to me that that process that you're describing of having the awareness and then observing and maybe speaking to it or voicing it and redirecting whatever it might be, that's just huge. It's a win.

If there is, I don't know. I guess it seems to me that we think of self healing and reparenting that we think we're just not going to have this anymore. It's just not going to pop up anymore. Like we're going to solve it. It's going to be over and we're going to be in a totally new space. And to me, it feels more resonant that awareness process and being able to give voice, redirect. And I don't know, for me, just own whatever is coming up. That is a barrier for, I'm presenting a barrier for us or our kids. Is everything like that is, that's the point that I want to get to.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. Well, it's like, again, in the context of parenting, the degree to which you are able to fully accept all aspects and parts of your own self itself will be modeled and conveyed and transmitted, you know, down to your kids. Right. If there's any if you're in any way, you know, pushing away and not accepting, uncomfortable with or disintegrated from any aspects of yourself, if you haven't done or aren't doing that kind of work, I almost want a guarantee that it's going to trickle down to your kids and they're going to internalize that within themselves.

Justin: Yes, I can attest to that. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I love, I just want to pause to call out this awesome phrase. So we just have it for the show notes. So awareness is the seed of transformation. It, when you phrase it like that, I thought, wow, so Authentic Relating the way that I've described it to other people, it’s like ok, how can I describe this as quickly as possible?

So the way that I experience it is I am holding space for other people to reveal what's happening for them. And I am honestly and authentically revealing what's happening for me. And so in this, but from the perspective of awareness, like what's happening is I'm trying to become more aware of what's happening for you and who you are and honestly and authentically becoming aware of what's happening for me and expressing that as well. That Authentic Relating is really a practice of awareness.

Ryel: Yeah, well, exactly. I mean, is this paradox of the journey of transformation where you. I think a lot of people, certainly I ventured into thinking like I need to literally change these aspects of myself to be able to function and show up and thrive in the world. And yet actually the destination, I think, of the journey of transformation is to learn how to accept yourself exactly as you are. It's not about changing anything.

Audra: Yes.

Ryel: The only thing that's changing is your not accepting yourself exactly as you are.

Justin: It's a paradox.

Ryel: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. Like you do need to change. But the thing you need to change is accepting yourself.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah. It’s almost like, you know, archetypally, it's the hero's journey. It's like the hero's journey culminates when you come back home. Right. And you bring the treasures of your journey back home to bear on where you came from. Right. And, you know, it's sort of a blunt juristic. But, you know, when I hear people on their journey and I ask them or it comes up about their relationship with their family or, you know, their family of origin or their hometown or whatever, and they're still talking about like, yeah, they're just in a different world or, you know, they don't get me, I don't get them, you know, I'm just you know, it's a good thing that I'm moving apart.

You know, for me, I'll acknowledge I have a better judgment there. And the journey is still ongoing because I think the destination, a journey is to come home to where I came from to the people that I grew up with, and to bring like a sense of wholeness back to those environments in service of healing the past, you know, and creating a more kind of cohesive and robust link in the chain of our collective lineage.

You know, it's like I think it's you know, it's vital for kids, teenagers, young adults to grow up, leave the home, differentiate, find themselves, seek their own path and all that. But to the degree to which they are rejecting the aspects and elements of their past, I think it's going to continue to haunt them and create a sense of internal rift, you know, until at some point there's the ability to go back to the past, whether emotionally or literally can integrate those aspects and elements into this experience of wholeness.

And, you know, I mean, I'll take my Orthodox Jewish upbringing. I absolutely resented it and rejected it. It constrained me, it didn't allow for authentic expression. You know, and had to really distance myself. And so, you know, really lately, just the last few years have really come full circle and see actually how how much it's a part of me in many ways, how it created a sense of community and cohesion and belonging and identity, and that there's actually a deep spirituality that lives underneath a sort of surface levels of the religion. All these layers of being able to, you know, integrate these aspects of my past into a sense of current wholeness.

Audra: You know, say it sounds like incorporation and integration, it's a really I mean, I think to being able to be with our families and our kids and a practice that provides a path for that I think is really powerful.

So it brings me back to a point that you made earlier about why don't we teach this in schools? And I am so with you. I was an educator prior to running our nonprofit, and I used to work with college students and student development. And it brought me into the space of doing this work with college students and not this exact work, not Authentic Relating, I have to say, very I think similar skill-building and working on developing these skills and tools with students.

And the main issue was that we were missing everything from preschool where I think we do a little bit of this. And then K-12 gone. None of it. Nothing else. And it strikes me that one of the most powerful things about Authentic Relating is how accessible it is. You're not talking about a therapeutic modality that is expensive and accessible, you know, in the hands of a chosen few folks who have to get extensive education to get there…

Justin: Or takes years and years.

Audra: Or takes years and years. This is something that is like infinitely scalable and accessible. So realizing the dream of bringing this practice into schools, I think is really reasonable.

Justin: Well. I mean, so let's just talk about that real quick. I do want to get back to parenthood. But Ryel, you have been involved not just bringing it into places like schools, but you are involved with a nonprofit, bringing it into prisons as well.

Audra: Oh, wow.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. It is an interesting story, because like I said, you know, when I first and kind of Authentic Relating immediately hit me, like the implications of this are much further and wider than it's ever been conveyed to, you know, or distributed to. And I was very sure of that. And yet I wanted to test the hypothesis to see if I was right about that.

And so I volunteered to be a mentor at the Boulder County jail, to provide a little more immediate context, like if you know a boulder. Yeah. So, yeah, a wonderful town's got great values, great people, all that. And yet it's pretty homogenous as far as its culture and ways of thinking. And and and people are generally quite friendly, you know, to personal development types of teachings and modalities.

And so I'm like living in Boulder and like, where can I go, you know, outside of the sort of bubble to test this hypothesis and see if this work is really as impactful as I believe it should be and can be on a wider scale? So I joined this volunteer program at Boulder County Jail. I'd never, had no experience, never been in a jail. Furthest thing from, you know, my familiarity and comfort zone. And it brought up all sorts of stuff. I mean, the first time I ever stepped into the Boulder County jail for like a volunteer kind of orientation, it was very disturbing to just become up close and personal with how we actually treat each other in that context.

You know, in any event, I was matched with my first mentee. It was like a one-on-one type of thing. And within seconds, minutes started just completely shattering all the sort of calcified perceptions I had about that world and those people. I could sense the humanity in this man very quickly, as he was a big-time drug dealer here in Colorado. He had tattoos all over him, had like gang signs on him and stuff and, you know, looked very kind of imposing and scary. And yet we just dropped into this really sweet, intimate connective place right away. And then I took on more mentees and I started, very actively sharing with them and teaching them some of these basic skills and tools.

And I was just blown away by how immediately impactful and how effectively they were integrating these skills and tools into their lives, even inside of the jail. Well, like one of my mentors, he was like the alpha kind of guy in his pod. And without even my solicitation, he went back and made photocopies of the sheets I'd given him. He forced the entire pod to come together and learn these...

Audra: That’s amazing,

Ryel: Things together. And it completely, literally transformed the culture inside of the Boulder County Jail. The word rose up to the administrators. Then we started collaborating. And then that's where we created a version of the level one workshop specifically for inmates. And then we got that program approved through the entire Colorado prison system and started delivering that to facilities throughout Colorado.

And I mean, very quickly, it became known to among the population as being the most effective and powerful and useful workshop or training in the entire sort of programming of those facilities. And then we started getting waiting lists like every facility that we were offering this program. And even still, I mean, we have inmates, ex-inmates sending us messages all the time, like, “Can I tell you how powerful this work has been? It's changed my life. Like all of my relationships have improved.”

And the thing is that, like these guys. You know, it's men and women. And now they don't aspire to become some great enlightened being. And like at the pinnacle of personal development, they just really aspire to, quote-unquote, normal lives like, you know, having healthy family relationships, having a good job. You know, they've just been content and stable in their lives. And it was just incredible to see how supportive these skills and tools were for those values, those you know, those aspirations in that world.

And so really massively validated and affirmed that hypothesis of how universal this work is. You know, I mean, I speak of it as the universal language of human connection. And now, I mean, I've traveled dozens of countries all over the world at present to every kind of person you can imagine. And it lands almost everywhere for everyone. You know, in a really like meaningful way, in a sustainable way. So it's all the more like really fueled our mission, you know, to create our organization as a vehicle for conveying this work to as many people as far as wide as possible.

Just last week, I presented to the principal and the administrators at the Cherry Creek High School in Denver, which is probably the most well-known and highly regarded high school in all of Colorado. And I could pick up on like the skepticism, you know, at the beginning. And because I speak about Authentic Relating in this very kind of street-level language, like it's not just woo-woo kind of thing. It's just very practical and human, even though it is a deeply spiritual practice underneath, you know, like they were just completely won over by the end of the session. And now we're designing a full-scale three-hour presentation to the entire 200-person teaching staff at this high school, which is just so, so, so thrilling.

But, yeah, I mean, to me, that is one of the most vital and important applications of this work is how can we get this work into schools and educational facilities and prepare our young people to be able to cultivate and participate in healthy, nourishing, uplifting, empowering relationships just... Well, what a world we would live in. I think.

Audra: What a world we will live in. Yeah.

Ryel: Yeah. Exactly.

Justin: Yeah. So this can work for incarcerated populations that work in a large institutional context. So we can assume that it also works for teenagers as well. I guess teenagers might be the most hardened, difficult, challenging population out there.

Ryel: More than gang leaders.

Justin: I'll try to boil the whole parenting thing into maybe just one question. Now, you are a parent of a teenager. How has Authentic Relating changed your parenting? Because you started as a parent, having never heard of Authentic Relating, and now you have a 13-year-old. So how have things changed for you?

Ryel: I mean, it goes even further back than that. It's like, man, what if my parents had had access to this work, you know, and that I'd been brought up in this environment how my life would have been so, so different. You know, I mean, it was just a catalog of dysfunctional ways of relating and parenting and being. I mean, I don't blame them at all. Like I don't have any blame. They just did the best they could. And, you know, it's like you look back at our ancestral lineage I mean, nobody like had access to these kinds of skills and tools and ways of being.

So, you know, the contrast of how I was raised with that, how I'm able to raise my kids just really impactful and profound. But yeah, I mean, that was another incredible insight and realization was just how applicable these skills and tools are in cultivating a healthy, trustable, open and intimate, loving, nourishing relationship with my kids. And that's been the case absolutely.

And the investments that I have made and am making in and tending to and fostering health and those relationships will bear a lifetime, not only my and their lifetime, but their kids and their kids. I mean, you know, again, the implications of this work, you know, way beyond just this current conversation are very present for me and for others in the practice.

So, you know, it's like. I mean, there are so many things I could say about, you know, relationship with kids and teens, I mean, just as a couple examples, like I noticed that I was inside of an unconscious story for a long time, that my kids are nothing but a burden. All I do is sacrifice for them. Right. Like I'm trying to live my life. And they're coming in all the time needing things, interrupting, you know, having no regard for my experience or my needs. You know, and all I'm here to do is just, you know, cater to them and serve them. And as like I love them, of course, you know, but I didn't even realize that I was in the sort of grip of this.

Justin: This was an unconscious story. Yeah. Yeah. Like if you were asked just on the spot, like, oh, of course, I love my kids and I love to, you know, do all these things for them. So how did you become aware of this unconscious story?

Ryel: Well, it's interesting. I mean, like, you know, people ask, I don't know, come up in conversation, you know, what is it like to parent for kids and all that? And I often describe it as a parenting, as a series of nonstop interruptions for like 18 years. Which is like a pretty shitty way of describing, you know, my experience of parenting. And so, you know, really is just bringing to bear like the elements and tools, the skills to look deeper. And, you know, it just I was able to carve out some time from just the rigors of life, you know, to really look at my relationship with my kids. I mean, my daughter was starting to manifest.

My oldest daughter is now a teen, was manifesting, you know, some real struggles in her life. You know, she was cutting at one point. You know, she was definitely exhibiting like depression and anxiety. And it really kind of gave me pause. And it had me look into what am I doing? How am I contributing to an environment that, you know, that this kind of behavior is manifested? And I got to see that I was inside of this, you know, story that was disempowering, disconnecting and the opposite of an experience of intimacy.

And so I basically had to restructure and reconfigure my priorities and focus on life and really shifted a lot of attention and desire to create more bandwidth for my relationship with my kids. So as an example, I just started spending at least five to 10 minutes with each kid every night, just one on one, because, you know, when it's all four of them, it's just this sort of tsunami.

Yeah. And so to kind of tease that apart, you know, to really get to know them on an individual basis. It gave me a lot more access to a unique relationship that I could bring to bear with each of them individually and have me tune in more into their unique trajectories in life, like what's going on for you individually and uniquely, what's going on for me? And I'm really fostering day after day, night after night a more intimate, closer, more connected relationship with them. And that's just been so valuable.

Like I said, I've taken two kids to Europe now. And, you know, one of the things that we're going to be doing is walking a 120-mile-long trail in Switzerland together and underneath the surface, it's like they're both a yes to it. I'm almost amazed that they are like into it and want to do it. And to me, it's symbolic. It's actually less about walking on a trail in Switzerland and more about the results of the day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month investment I've made and we've made in fostering a close, trustable, intimate, enlivening relationship, you know. And so we just want to spend time together, you know, more than anything. And so this is just an outlet, an expression for that.

Justin: One thing I heard you say in the past is that you have developed a practice of revealing your experience with your kids, and this really struck me because I think, well, for me and I'm going to just have a big assumption about a lot of parents is that we don't do that, we want to present as Dad and Mom and like we never reveal what's...

Audra: Authority.

Justin: So, yeah. Can you just talk a little bit about that?

Ryel: Yeah, well, you know, a lot of parents are like my teenager, my kids. They don't share anything with me. They're just like, oh, well, I'll ask them questions and give me like monotone, one-word answers. You know, I feel like locked out. I just don't know what's going on for them, you know, and so it's like, well, my first question is: how much are you revealing of yourself in your own world to your kids? Like how do you expect them to go first while you're just actually a total wall? And in some ways, hiding behind the role of mom or dad, you know.

Like we tend to make subservient our own humanity to the roles that we play in life and in relationship. Whther that's mother, father, boss, employee, colleague, you know, friend of this guy and friend of that kind. And, you know, Authentic Relating in many ways challenges the ways that we have conflated our human selves with the roles that we play in life and…

Audra: Absolutely.

Ryel: And so in this regard, it's like allowing the human of you and in you to lead and to set back the role of mom or dad or whatever enforcer or whatever it is, you know, behind that, whoever it is that you're relating with. I tell all our graduates out of our programs, like, you know, part of your training is to be a leader and leading people into an experience of connection and intimacy and stop expecting people to go first, like you have the skills and tools now to reveal your own experience first. And that acts as an established kind of leadership quality in having other people then follow.

It's like when I'm leading a course, you know, and I've got 20 people in the room, I definitely recognize that the degree to which I'm willing to be vulnerable and revealed and real is the degree to which that acts as permission for everybody else to show up vulnerably and authentically. And honestly, like I've had total emotional breakdowns in courses that I've been leading. And like in the back of my mind, I'm like, oh, shit, like I'm not supposed to be doing this, you know, like I'm failing at the role of being like the leader and facilitator. And yet without exception, every time when I check, like, how was that for everyone? They just are like, wow, I feel so much more permission to be my own vulnerable, real, tender, sad, emotional, whatever self, you know, when I see the leader doing it.

It’s the exact same thing in parenting. The degree to which you yourself as a parent are able to be vulnerable, like actually really vulnerable. What are your fears? You know, what are your dreams? What are your struggles? Allow your emotions to be expressed. I mean, my parents were like utterly unemotional even when they were fighting. It was like just robotic, almost, you know. And so I just internalized that. And so, you know, I allow myself to be emotional, whether it's sad or upset or angry, and reveal that as my experience. And that creates a sense of safety, a sense of family culture in which all of you is welcome.

Actually, I feel called to share this one piece that I think is so valuable and so insightful for parents, navigating the challenges of raising teens in particular. So there's a brilliant doctor, a therapist, trauma expert named Gabor Maté, the Hungarian Canadian fellow. And one thing that he said is that, that really stuck with me, is that as kids we have two primary needs, the most important two things required for a healthy upbringing in childhood. One is secure attachment. Right. Like we can depend and lean into the relationships that we have with our caregivers, and they're going to be there consistently and securely. And the other primary need is for authentic expression. And the healthiest people grow up in an environment in which both of those are fostered and encouraged and supported.

And yet, if a child ever experiences or perceives the security of their attachment is being threatened, they will always sacrifice authentic expression in order to preserve the security of those relationships and attachments. And that stays with us as adults. Like, where is it that we're afraid of revealing our authentic experience, our authentic selves, because we're fearing the degradation of undermining or breaking of our attachments and relationship, so we just push that in.

You know, we're doing that as parents, you know, I would say almost universally. So where is it that you can actually, you know, really reveal your authentic experience as a model for your children, watching you, seeing you and recognizing,” oh, like I can be my authentic whole free self here as well,” you know, and it doesn't jeopardize my relationships. In fact, Authentic Relating flips that paradigm completely around in which the more authentically expressed I am, the more secure are my attachments and relationships.

Justin: Yeah.

Ryel: And vice versa.

Justin: Oh, that's beautiful.

Audra: I can really identify with this. And this is my work to do as well. You know, especially and I feel like my number, my work relationships and things like that I have a lot of work to do with kind of like authentically revealing my experience and expressing myself. And I can hold back for fear of breaking connection and for fear of response because of, I think, how I grew up as well.

And I find my family to be and working with this on with my family to be so powerful, because I know that we're in this together. I know that we're in this work together. I know that we're not going to break connection. And so it's actually been the first frontier for me that I'm hoping to take out further from here. But I found it to be safer, to start within the family.

And yeah, and it can start with little things. It doesn't have to be, you don't have to have the perfect sentence terms and the perfect like, you know, entry points or anything like that. You know, I remember I was biking with Maesie in Savannah here. And, you know, I did the mom thing where I was like, you know, “heads up. There's a bus coming.” “I know, I know. Of course I know.” And I was like, “Maesie, I just have to, I just want to share that like I am your mom. And I've been doing this for so many years. And it is hard for me to just adjust. And I'm trying to, you being old enough. I know that you see this and it's like this is really my stuff. It's not yours. So thank you for being patient with me.”

And she's like, “Ok, cool, mom.” You know, like it can start with like little, little moments and blossom into the big one so that it becomes, I think, second nature. When you get into our big emotional outbursts, I find so much of the work is in myself and really not about my kid. You know, it's they did it. And it is really powerful. We've been doing a lot of this together, thanks to Authentic Relating, I have to say, like Authentic Relating has changed our lives.

Ryel: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. And I can imagine a lot of parents hear this and say, well, if I'm truly authentic, then I will lose my attachment with my kids. And so this is really, this is hopeful. This is really just I love hearing this, that actually the more authentic you are and the more present and authentic, the more attachment will emerge.

Audra: Can you guys give some examples? We've got, of course, Ryel as a leader of the Authentic Relating movement, really, and running the, I don't know if there are many Authentic Relating organizations or not, but ART is the organization I feel like in the space, really bringing forward curriculum and trainings and making a difference. And then, of course, you've been through a lot of those trainings. Can you provide us some concrete examples? Because we were talking a lot about this, almost like a methodology, like what is it like to be in the space of Authentic Relating?

Justin: Well, I'll just share real quick when we're in level one. I was trying to bring these practices into our daily life with our kids, and it, I wasn't really sure how to do it. I felt a little awkward. So I just started with just expressing what was happening literally in my physical body.

And so I would get into, I would start to enter into a conflict with my daughter and I would pause. And I would say, “Maesie, I'm feeling a tightness in my chest right now. I'm feeling my heart rate increase.” And so I would just describe physically what was happening. I was like, that's the best I can do. I just want you to know what's happening for me. Well, and then the other part of that is when I would do that, it would diffuse what was happening. And it was like we could start to talk and relate to each other in new ways. If I just paused and started to describe what was happening for me, even physically, I'm not even going to try to interpret the emotional, psychological world inside. I'm just going to describe what's happening physically for me right now. And so I was so impressed with how just that simple practice diffused what was happening and opened up new avenues for us to communicate.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's great. Exactly. I mean, you know, anywhere that you are able to reveal more of your own experience, it's like even what you just said earlier, it's like a parent might have the fear that if I'm authentic, you know, that that may result in some, you know, negative impact on my relationship with my kids. Whatever, like reveal that.

Audra: Yeah. Right. Right.

Ryel: Like actually say that like, I'm wanting to be more revealed with the or share more about what's going on for me. And I'm concerned that dot, dot, dot, you know, that this, you know, like that'll impact our relationship or. And then get curious about the answer, you know. And, you know, kid’s like, “No, I want to know,” you know, like actually been wanting to know.

Justin: Yeah.

Ryel: So it's actually, it's like you don't need to somehow shift yourself to become then ready to reveal. Right is revealing exactly where you are and what's happening in that moment. You know, that is the peace, you know that it just you can't you can't do that without there being some deepening of intimacy there and of seeing each other being seen and of again of rehumanizing yourself and each other. It's like. You know, your kids look at you as in large part as the role of mom and dad. Right. And that comes with all sorts of connotations and associations and and it can really constrain and restrict the freedom and space and, you know, excitement that is in the relation that is latent and the relational space, you know, so again, for you to sort of set aside the roles and just show up as human, you know, parents struggle.

We all do. Like, you know, this thing happened to me at work or I had a fight with mom or whatever it is, you know. And to really reveal that, I mean, like I have absolutely been super transparent with my kids around, you know, the breakdown of our marriage and, you know, divorce and separation. And now that landed, that impacted me and it impacted the kids and that I've had really honest and open conversations about that. It doesn't occur as like a service to them. It's like I feel so much lighter myself, you know.

And it's again, like your kids are going to become adults someday and you're going to relate with them as adults. So every, you know, moment that you're showing up in this younger child-parent relationship and being real and open and vulnerable and transparent is going to serve the rest of your relationship as they, you know, they don't need you at some point as a mom or dad anymore, you know, and then you get to be an ally and a collaborator, you know, and a sort of elder. And those are beautiful roles to be in. And, you know, for me, it's like prioritizing the human above all else and leading with that.

Audra: It's so powerful. What comes up for me is that concept of rehumanizing, both for yourself and others, and that when we are in performance, we're in a dehumanized or dehumanizing space. And I think of that in all of my work roles that I've had. You know, we're all kind of like performance, you know, kind of interacting roles. Yeah. But the performative aspects of life and that we inherit parenting very often in that way, in the performance we think we should be doing. And by getting down to the basics of rehumanizing through this revealing of our experience and, you know, kind of like connecting, reconnecting ourselves is really powerful.

Justin: We have only scratched the surface. And one thing I want to do is direct people to ART. And so, Ryel, I will ask you for how best parents and anyone listening can get in touch with ART. But then also, I just want to state again. And I know that I've told you at The Family's Thrive, we want to be doing this type of work. And so we want to work with ART and we want to work with you. So this is just the beginning.

Audra: Just an opening.

Justin: Yes. So can you tell all listeners how best to get in touch with ART and then some of the things that you do at ART?

Ryel: Time goes by quick when you're enlivened by the conversation, for sure. It's like we offer courses, programs, webinars, whatever that are topical, and yet the implications of everything that we teach along those topics does radiate out to every one of our relationships, you know, it's like we didn't have enough time.

But, you know, the influence and power dynamics players in these interactions, I think is so vital to acknowledge, you know, like as a parent, your power. There's a differential in the power dynamics. And to name it, to recognize, to acknowledge it, I think is important just as it is in the workplace. Right. It's like, you know, there's a power dynamic at play there, and it necessarily influences and impacts how people relate, how safe they feel to be expressed, you know, how the relationship between their expression and their sense of security. It's bringing back all sorts of childhood stuff, you know, so it really acknowledges these power dynamics, I think is vital.

Yeah, there's a lot more that we could definitely explore, but in any event. Yeah. So the companies Art International, Authentic Relating Training International. Website is authenticrelating.co.

The level one program is designed for the general public, for everyone. And it will teach you the foundational elements of the practice such that you can then apply them across the board and all of your relationships. And then we have a whole bunch of other offerings that are more specific to particular contacts, there’s a couple's program. That's super awesome. A program just for men. We're designing a membership platform right now that will be more of a community, kind of hub, like what you guys have been creating. Yeah. And a bunch more.

I mean, it's just it's like I want to portray Authentic Relating not as some kind of end-all, be-all, you know, type of thing that you either get or you don't. It's actually a complement and a supplement to anything and everything else, so you're already up to right? That's the beauty of it, is just it's an additional catalyst for a deepening and expanding of everything and anything that people are already up to. So I really appreciate that aspect. But yeah, that's the best way to check us out. Website and other info is there.

Justin: We can't let you go without asking you the last questions that we ask every guest. So the first one is if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning. What would that Post-it note say?

Ryel: Is this Post-it Note for everyone, everywhere. And that’s slow down. Definitely want to slow down, down, feel more, access more, breathe more, be in your body more. And then the second, I would say is reveal and reveal your experience. Let yourself be seen, be a human, you know, show yourself.

Justin: Beautiful. And then the next question is, what is the last quote that really moved you?

Ryel: Oh, man, so many. I mean, the one that I one of my favorites that I often share is by an...artist named Tony [Berlant], and he says, “The more introspective a work of art is, the more universal it becomes.” And I take that to mean that the more we are willing to reveal the deepest, darkest, most shameful parts of ourselves, the more connected we are to the universal experience of humanity.

Justin: Mm-hmm. Awesome. And then the last one is, well, so I just have to always give context for this last one. For many parents and you reveal this with yourself as well, that parenting can be a lot of drudgery and a lot of interruptions, a lot of hassle. And so we like to end with this last question. What do you love about kids?

Ryel: And I want to just give you some automatic answer and actually feel into what feels true and responding to that. Yeah, I mean, I would say more than anything, they've really reminded me how to play. Which is something I've forgotten or, you know, become separate from that I can actually see life as, it sounds kind of cliche, but life is a playground, you know, and to find the silliness and the playfulness and the joy and the creativity every day, in every moment, been a source of real vitality and kind of life force for us.

For me, I tend to be quite serious. And so to have like, you know, just this array of humans around me who are so playful, you know, and want to draw me into play all the time, it's not just the play. It's deeply healing, something really deeply healing in my, like enrolling me into the context of play. And when I allow myself to go there it feels really healing and joyful and rejuvenating. And, yeah, it just gives me a much better perspective of life.

Audra: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that, and I feel like you, I feel like that's evidenced in the ART platform, which is really beautiful. I feel like we get invited into play and therefore connection through the work that you do. And I really appreciate that.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. I mean, so much of this work is reminding us of what it was like when we were kids, before we were indoctrinated into a bunch of filters and conditioning. Does the innocence, the freedom, the expression, the playfulness, all of these things, you know, are really deeply in the spirit of the practice?

Audra: No. Thank you for sharing it with. Absolutely. Yeah. And all of our families and in The Family Thrive. This is... it's really an honor to be on this journey with you. And I really appreciate being able to meet you today. And I hope this conversation continues.

Justin: I sincerely hope and believe this is not the last time we're going to talk with you, Ryel.

Ryel: I mean, I appreciate what you're up to. I mean, anywhere that we can bring more of this kind of practice and skills and tools to bear on raising kids, you know, in really preparing them to thrive in their relationships, like that's where it really, really matters to me so such a yes to that.

Justin: Awesome, awesome

Audra: Thank you so much.

Justin: Thank you, Ryel. We'll see you next time.

Ryel: All right. See you.

Audra: Bye.

Justin: Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.

Justin: You’re going to love what we have in store in this episode. It's all about this amazing set of ideas and practices called Authentic Relating. We get deep pretty quick and I realized after the episode that I never pause to get a basic overview of what Authentic Relating really is. We went pretty high level right from the start. So I want to begin here by explaining what we're getting into.

Ryel Kestano is the CEO and co-founder of a company that trains people all around the world in the practice of Authentic Relating. The super basic definition of Authentic Relating is: it's a set of ideas and practices and games designed to teach people how to be their authentic selves while connecting deeply with other people and allowing them to be their authentic selves.

The typical Authentic Relating session is like a set of games that help people practice being authentic and open and caring towards others. I'll wrap up this intro by saying that I believe Authentic Relating can absolutely transform all of our relationships for the better, especially parenting and marital relationships. If you have ever felt distant, unheard, unseen, frustrated, confused, or just out of sorts in your relationships with your kids or your partner, (and who among us has not?) then buckle up and prepare yourself to learn about a set of practices and ideas that have the potential to change all of this. Without further ado, here is our incredible conversation with the one and only Ryel Kestano.

One thing that I learned from Ryel and Authentic Relating Training is to set context. And so I just want to set a little context at the beginning by just telling as short a story as I can about how I came to Authentic Relating, because over a year ago, I had never heard of Authentic Relating. Of course, I had heard those words before, but never put together in that way. And so I was invited into an Authentic Relating group. I didn't even know that that's what it was. I think it was phrased in a different way.

Audra: Who invited you in?

Justin: I loved it. This was Ali Tataryn.

Audra: Oh, from Bio-Emotive.

Justin: Yeah. And so I loved it, like, oh, my God, this is fantastic. And this would be great for childhood cancer parents and our MaxLove Project work. And so that was the first time. And then I tried to find a few more things to go to. Ali told me about ART. And then we signed up for level one that summer and then…

Audra: Last summer.

Justin: Yeah. And then I signed up for the Authentic Relating Leadership Program in the fall. And that's where I met you, Ryel. And I've, I mean, I've loved every single moment. Then I took Level Two in the spring, and I hope to take level three someday. And I mean, it's really been a life-changing practice, this Authentic Relating.

So I couldn't wait to have you on, because not only are you deep into the Authentic Relating world and the CEO of an Authentic Relating training company, but you're also a father. And so you're putting this practice to work every single day and in a bunch of different contexts. So you're a father, you're an entrepreneur, you're a leader in the Authentic Relating movement. So I want to talk about all of these, but just in reverse order. So I guess for the listeners, most of them are going to say, what the heck are they talking about with Authentic Relating? So maybe we can just start there, Ryel. What is Authentic Relating?

Ryel: Yeah. And my pleasure being here with you. Thanks for having me. This is awesome. Yeah. What is Authentic Relating? I mean, it's very simple as it's a practiced experience. Better relationships in your life. If I had five seconds that's probably what I would say is it's a whole comprehensive suite of skills and tools that are designed to be immediately applicable for people in creating, cultivating, and deepening relationships with everyone in their lives.

One of the very first experiences I had when I was a student, first coming into the practice, it was twofold. One was an experience of all of me, the entirety of me being completely and totally welcomed into the space. And I never actually had the experience in which I so viscerally felt that every aspect of me, especially the parts of me that I kept behind a wall or behind guards or felt shame around or just felt was inappropriate or unwelcome. All those parts were not only worthy of being welcomed by others, but worthy of their curiosity to know more of myself. And as it turned out, the sort of reference point of other people taking such a curious perspective on these parts of me actually helped me develop and cultivate more curiosity and openness and welcoming from my own parts within myself.

And there's this core promise, I would say, that's inherent to the practice that it is a path that leads one towards a sense of greater wholeness within themselves, a sense of integration of all the aspects and parts of one's self into a sense of wholeness, which is just overall relaxing, relieving, empowering, all these benefits and showing up in the world. More specifically, I would say that Authentic Relating as a practice that reveals the hidden, it makes the implicit explicit, it brings all of the unconscious parts of ourselves, both individually and relationally and collectively, into the conscious field of awareness, where we have more choice, more understanding, more insight into the parts of ourselves and the parts of each other.

As I've learned, so much of what drives people's behavior and reaction and patterns of relating are contained in their unconscious selves. Much of what informs our unconscious derives from trauma of the past, of ways we were modeled, relationship by our caregivers growing up and all these things bear out in how we show up as adults in the world and in relationship, and so to have access and the skills to create deeper access into the unconscious parts of myself and allow those things to come to the surface creates a space for much more relatability, vulnerability, deeper connection, empathy, understanding of each other, and the same tools that I can use in and for myself to bring out the unconscious parts of myself and to my conscious awareness. I can also use to create a pathway for others.

So the skills that Authentic Relation teaches, I can bring out into conversation and relationship with others such that they feel more seen, more gotten, more heard, more welcomed, more access to their own unconscious selves. And yeah, really that all contributes to the experience of profound intimacy that you can experience with a partner that you've known for decades, right alongside meeting someone for the first time and experience a sense of humanity, a shared human experience. That I just never felt until encountering this practice.

Justin: So much there. What do you want to ask?

Audra: I have two things, curiosity popping up here. One was hearing about the parts, because I'm hearing a lot about parts from Justin. He's been diving deep into Internal Family Systems work. And so I'm hearing like a really wonderful way of relating to these parts through Authentic Relating practices, which I did the level one. And I love the communication practices and all of that. I never thought of it as both an inward like being able to authentically relate and practice with myself and my inner world as much as the outer and with others. So that presented to me just as you were speaking.

And so I'm curious, is that something that you found in your practice, that you were able to deploy these strategies to be like curious about, you know, self curious and develop inner, you know, compassion and empathy and things like that through the process?

Ryel: Yeah, well, yeah. I mean, the first response, I would say and one way of answering that is that which we don't welcome in ourselves is that which we don't welcome in others. So those parts of ourselves that we are uncomfortable with in ourselves will be projected in our discomfort in those same parts, in other people. And so to the degree that I can deepen a sense of intimacy with all aspects and parts of myself, the same degree to which I'm cultivating a deeper capacity to be with the experience of others. And that, to me, is the intimacy, the ability to remain in connection and in our bodies and our awareness, in our hearts, no matter what arises for us and for other people, we can stay there and rest there in that connection. So I think it's vital.

I didn't realize I mean, that, you know, it's interesting. It's like we know what we know. We know what we don't know. And then we don't know what we don't know. And that last one is like 80-90% of all that there is to know. And so like I didn't realize like going through was so much of my life. I had no idea how much was acting upon me, especially in relationships at the unconscious level. It's like I had just sort of pushed it down into some aspect of my psyche where it occurred at the surface, like it didn't even exist. But actually, it was informing and influencing every aspect of how I was showing up and relating and responding and reacting.

And I would say that one of the great sort of forefather pioneers of what is now Authentic Relating was Carl Jung and the work that he did around articulating the nature of the shadow and how it shows up in people both individually and collectively. And that was just super fascinating for me.

And so I really put into perspective that Authentic Relating really as a practice of illuminating one's shadow and seeing all the aspects of our own selves that we have suppressed or pushed down or disintegrated from a sense of wholeness and whole awareness down into the shadow. And, you know, he said that if we continue to ignore the aspects and messages from the shadow, they will manifest in ever more degenerative waves, including physically what we commonly suffer from physical, energetic, emotional ailments as a result of our ignoring or turning away from or perpetuating a disintegration of the aspects of ourselves. They live in the shadow. And so necessarily by bringing this practice to bare and can be really uncomfortable and confronting as we start to sort of excavate the sort of field of awareness deeper into our subconscious selves.

I often use this analogy of Lake Powell, which is this lake in Southern Utah. Gorgeous, beautiful area. And yet it's an artificial lake that was dammed up by the Glen Canyon Dam. And in recent years, the water level has been getting lower and more and more. And as it is lowering, it's revealing all of these incredible artifacts that had been submerged and lost under the surface. And it's also revealing all of this garbage and stuff that people had discarded over the decades. It just accumulated under the surface.

And so Authentic Relating really is a lowering of those waters of the conscious self and starting to notice all the aspects both beautiful and enlivening and inspiring, as well as really confronting and disgusting and ugly. And it gives us the resources and the skills and tools to turn toward those aspects, to face them, and to ultimately cultivate a sense of intimacy and integration with them. And as we do that work within ourselves, we can radiate and bring that, emanate that into our relationships and create a safer, more welcoming, loving, connected space for others to access their deepest selves.

Audra: Oh, it's beautiful.

Justin: This is what I think of as a therapeutic aspect of Authentic Relating. So I definitely want to touch on this more. But for listeners who are just brand new to all of these terms, Jung himself, can you briefly describe what the shadow is?

Ryel: Yeah. So essentially it's actually a brilliant function of the human experience. It's the ability to basically set aside, cut off or, you know, I would say in a positive way, push away traumatic experiences, experiences that produce a sense of disassociation or extreme anxiety or emotional reactivity to be able to separate those from just getting on with life, just a daily function of life instead of being just dogged by these demons.

There's actually some function in the human psyche that is able to separate these things into the shadow so that they generally occur is not existing and not being prominent enough to just distract us from just getting on with life. So, you know, I had a pretty traumatic, dysfunctional upbringing in childhood in which effectively was able to compartmentalize into the shadow and just be able to function relatively effectively in life. But those things have dogged me ever since and have undermined and sabotaged my relationships in life again and again and again.

I mean, I can look back to my partnership for 14 years that I'm now separated from and now can look back and see almost exactly how the elements that I had placed or pushed into my shadow came back to act in a sabotaging way that continue to degrade a sense of trust and connection and rapport that over time eventually led us to separate. I would say that there are so many examples of relationships ending because of one or two people not willing or able to turn toward the aspects of themselves that live in the shadow and do the deep work of integration and healing.

Audra: It sounds like to me or what I'm hearing is that the shadow allows you to survive.

Ryel: Yeah.

Audra: But not to thrive. You know, if we don't, you know, kind of face you like it's almost like we've been talking about this metabolically. If you consume too much sugar, sugar is toxic, right. If we didn't get to store it in fat, then it could kill you just circulating in your bloodstream. But we have this capacity to store it as fat and deal with it later.

It reminds me of the shadow that we can, we see it in our, I mean, with getting through Max's, the trauma of Max's diagnosis, for example. It gave us the opportunity to put one foot in front of the other. But what presents later is the opportunity to really kind of look at those shadows and work on it.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. Well, it's sort of like, you know, a lot of the traumatic incidents of childhood manifest later in life as defense mechanism strategies for protection. Right. And because our, you know, protective mechanisms are so sensitive, they will perceive situations as threats and cause us to armor up and protect when in fact, they aren't threats. And so a lot of the practice of Authentic Relating is to slow down and to bring forward a more nuanced and comprehensive and high resolution perspective on circumstances so we can actually start to retrain ourselves to recognize that these circumstances aren't threatening. And I can actually meet them vulnerably and openly.

Justin: Just to give listeners even a broader context here, I think most people's introduction to Authentic Relating is through games, Authentic Relating games. And so now what I'm seeing is that these games and then framed in the word game, lowers the intensity or the expectation first for having to do something difficult. But that really these Authentic Relating games are pushing us to do something difficult and to face something that we might be hiding from or to come into contact with our shadow or our defense mechanisms. Is that how you see it?

Ryel: Yeah. I mean, we as games in a particular context. It does capture the element of playfulness that we associate with playing games. But really, as you said, it creates the sense of freedom in which I can play the game of life and relationship in any way that really suits me.

You know, just as an example, when I was first encountering this practice, I had lived a very sheltered and withdrawn kind of life. And my relationships are very guarded and protected. And when I started discovering these tools, I was super inspired and excited to, you know, sort of dissolve that and experience what it'd be like to just walk around the world and nakedly and vulnerably. And I was traveling a lot for the work I was doing at the time.

And I created a game for myself in which every time I was on a flight on an airplane somewhere, I would do my best to experience a sense of intimacy with whoever sat next to me. And I just created that game as an expression of an underlying value for connection and intimacy and the nourishment that is derived from those experiences. And it was super confronting and uncomfortable to step into that game. But I was like committed to playing it. And it had me really confront and then ultimately shatter the story or perception I had that people don't want to connect. They just want to maintain their little bubbles or whatever. And so I brought that on like dozens of flights, you know, around the country and world. And I would say overwhelmingly, I mean, more than nine times out of 10, I achieved that experience of experiencing intimacy, you know, with my seatmate. I mean, it was.

And then in retrospect, is it strange that we, this person and I are like pretty close to each other? You know, I mean, there's like just inches apart from each other. And we could go hours just with this like invisible wall that separates us. And so not only did I get to really shatter that assumption and perspective and create a new possibility as an outcome of that game, but got to experience incredible connections and conversations. I mean, people that I still remember to this day as having been really moved by and touched by, I mean tears and laughter and sweetness and, you know, staying in touch with people long after really meaningful connections in which I was served.

It wasn't like I was doing a service to them as really as much for me as for anyone. And, you know, have learned what I've learned,and as I've been touched, as I have been, to just become more connected to this sense of a shared human experience was so valuable. I mean, that's one of the great outcomes of my having traveled around the world. Teaching this work and being with people is becoming ever more in touch with a sense that we are all actually experiencing a common human experience that transcends the differences and the reasons why we break down and argue and are in conflict. Underneath that, we struggle, we cry, we laugh, we have joy, we care. You know, we have passions, dreams and hopes.

And these things are so unifying and so healing, actually, and I think so important to establish upon which we can then debate our differences . And so, you know, for me, Authentic Relating is a practice of immense re-humanization that is so needed right now in the world.

Justin: I love that term re-humanization.

Audra: Ryel, I'd love to know, where were you in life when you found Authentic Relating?

Ryel: Yes. It was very circumstantial, I was yeah, we had three little kids at the time and marriage was showing a lot of strain. And the impetus for me actually was my partner at the time coming to me almost out of nowhere and wanting to open our marriage for her to have the freedom to be intimate with other men. And it just set me completely spinning out like I basically had kind of a look back now and I could see the signs that led up to that. But at the time, I just maintain a state of oblivion to, you know, the sort of cracks in the system. Until this thing came along and it just, you know, really kind of turned my world upside down.

And it was the catalyst for me to look at why I was reacting so intensely and with such consumption and my daily experience, what's actually going on for me deeper down. It was sort of like these demons that I was able to keep at bay under the surface just now, just breaking through the surface and tormenting me day and night. And so it really was the call for me to go deeper.

And I hadn't done any personal work at all ever. And that was never a value in my upbringing whatsoever. And so I just started this quest, you know, asking the universe like, show me, guide me, like I'll do anything. I'll go anywhere else, study with anyone. And I started just doing all sorts of stuff, you know, all kinds of therapies, retreats, studying with different teachers, you know, medicine, ceremonials, anything and everything that occurred as providing potential for insight. And then, you know, in the course of that, a friend of mine was enrolling people into the introductory Authentic Relating course in Boulder and I was an absolute yes to that. And I stepped in it out and within literally minutes or less seconds, it was like I just had a radically different experience than I'd ever had with anything else.

It just was the feeling of like, this is it. This is the medicine. This is the prescription. It's exactly the suite of skills and tools that I'm so yearning for to be able to, you know, look deeper in myself, feel these aspects of myself, use the external circumstances as a catalyst to do this deeper work.

And it's just been a lifelong journey ever since. And one of the very first things that I really encountered is I want to share a couple of things that were notable about Authentic Relating compared to other, you know, transformational practices and teachings. One was how immediately applicable I believe these skills and tools could be to every single human on the planet. The implications occurred as so far beyond just the personal development world or a spiritual seeking world or anything like that. Like these are elements of how to function and healthy relationship that everybody should have access to and have the opportunity to receive. Like this is the missing piece out of our education and upbringing. You know, how is it that we go to school and spend years and years studying all these things? And yet there's never a class on like skillful relationships, in our... like this is mind-blowing to me.

So that was one aspect. And then the other was, you know, it's contained in this, the title Authentic Relating. I found that a lot of other practices were about teaching people to be more authentic and more expressive, more revealed, you know, to stand in their power and their truth and their voice, which is certainly super valuable and powerful.

But what Authentic Relating provided was the relating part, was recognizing that I am one member of this relational space or of this collective space, and that actually, you know, it's incumbent upon me to create as much space of invitation and welcoming for other people to speak their truth, to share their vulnerable selves as much as it is for me. And so this balance and dance between the authentic part of me, you know, sharing and revealing what's happening for me and the relating part, you know, creating space for others to bring themselves into the relational space. I hadn't encountered that in any other teaching or practice or modality. And it really is so compelling to me. So those are some of the elements that drew me deeper into it.

Audra: The truly connective part, it sounds like. I remember you talking about that with working on various forms of meditation, for example, as a part of your practice. But you can isolate your, you can end up isolating yourself with a number of practices. One thing I…

Ryel: Well, just really quickly on that note. I mean, you know, it's common that you hear stories of like, you know, decades long meditators in the classic sense, you know, sitting on a cushion and meditating like, you know, having mastered their relationships like divine or spirit or whatever it is being assholes like in relationships.

Justin: Yes. Totally dysfunctional. Yeah. Out in the world.

Audra: Right. Right.

Ryel: And what was compelling about Authentic Relating is, it is called the relational meditation. It's actually it's still bringing the aspect of bringing an exquisite awareness to the present moment. But in the context of the relational space, you know, using the relational space itself as the object of meditation that I thought was just much more useful and valuable.

Audra: So I'm also curious. So you mentioned that this episode with your previous partner was an opening, a door open at that point to really start diving in and doing this inner work. And it's the first time you had done it.

Ryel: Yeah.

Audra: And you also mentioned traumatic childhood. Is it the case that you’re a therapist?

Ryel: Am I?

Audra: Yeah. Am I getting this right?

Ryel: No, no, no, no, no.

Audra: Ok, ok. So what's your background? What is your background prior to ART?

Ryel: I mean, I just speak to that just quickly and then I can answer that question more fully. Like, why is it that people are drawn to therapy? Like why do people go to therapy? What do they perceive or believe will occur there? Uniquely in the therapy environment or context that makes that context valuable. Most often it's the experience of being deeply, truly and wholly listened to.

Audra: Yeah. Right.

Ryel: A complete awareness and attention. And like what I've discovered, is that there's actually a therapist living in every single one of them. When we bring that quality of listening and attention and reflection and awareness to bear on our interactions and conversations and relationships.

And to that degree, like you said earlier, Justin, I think Authentic Relating is a profoundly therapeutic practice. You know, that can kind of distribute and widen the values that we get out of traditional therapy in all of our relationships and conversations.

So just want to name that. Yeah, I mean, it's interestingly, my background is the opposite of any kind of, you know, personal development, deep work or any of that. I grew up Orthodox Jewish, in itself was devoid, in my experience, was devoid of any kind of value for spirituality, as is very dogmatic. And, you know, just do this, do that without any deeper explanation. My parents, my dad was a businessman. He was gone on business all the time. My mom was a flight attendant. She was gone all the time, you know, raised by a pretty dysfunctional caregivers from early on, you know, physical abuse and that and, you know, the sort of kind of internalized story that I grew up with was, you know, these things are happening to me and nobody's around to protect me or keep me safe.

And the conclusion is that I don't matter. I must not matter. That's like the only explanation they wouldn't have. This all makes sense. And so I deeply internalize that into myself, like I, I don't matter. And then I have to compensate to do things that have me feel like I matter. You know, to override or compensate for that core wound. So, you know, like coming into this whole world, I was bringing a lifetime worth of unprocessed baggage. I would say unprocessed trauma. You know, one of the results of that was I didn't have a sense of a nurturing relationship with my mom. She left very early on. And so I took of the loss of that, the void of that, and projected that onto all of my intimate partners as an adult, like seeking mother figure.

And yet it was happening totally unconsciously. I couldn't have named that at all. It was just happening deeply. And that's, again, like, you know, emanating from the shadow, getting this, you know, trying to get this core need met for safety, for comfort, for reassurance, all the things that a mother is supposed to provide. But I didn't get was seeking that from intimate partners and trying to manipulate them into being a mother figure.

Audra: Right. Right.

Ryel: Without being able to name that. And so naturally, it's going to set up a dysfunctional relationship. And I would say that was the sort of core pattern that was running me and has been running me. It's not like it's gone from me. It's still a part of who I am. But I'm just aware of it now.

It's like awareness is the seed of transformation, everything. It has to start with awareness. And so now I'm aware of these impulses within me that come out sideways or under the conscious radar. And I can catch them and notice them now and redirect them in a much healthier way, like learning how to re-parent myself, you know, or be able to name it when it's arising in relationship.

Audra: That is such a powerful point to me. And I just feel like I have to share that. That is having a big impact on me as you’re sharing. I want to thank you for your openness and being able to talk with us about this. And it seems to me that that process that you're describing of having the awareness and then observing and maybe speaking to it or voicing it and redirecting whatever it might be, that's just huge. It's a win.

If there is, I don't know. I guess it seems to me that we think of self healing and reparenting that we think we're just not going to have this anymore. It's just not going to pop up anymore. Like we're going to solve it. It's going to be over and we're going to be in a totally new space. And to me, it feels more resonant that awareness process and being able to give voice, redirect. And I don't know, for me, just own whatever is coming up. That is a barrier for, I'm presenting a barrier for us or our kids. Is everything like that is, that's the point that I want to get to.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. Well, it's like, again, in the context of parenting, the degree to which you are able to fully accept all aspects and parts of your own self itself will be modeled and conveyed and transmitted, you know, down to your kids. Right. If there's any if you're in any way, you know, pushing away and not accepting, uncomfortable with or disintegrated from any aspects of yourself, if you haven't done or aren't doing that kind of work, I almost want a guarantee that it's going to trickle down to your kids and they're going to internalize that within themselves.

Justin: Yes, I can attest to that. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I love, I just want to pause to call out this awesome phrase. So we just have it for the show notes. So awareness is the seed of transformation. It, when you phrase it like that, I thought, wow, so Authentic Relating the way that I've described it to other people, it’s like ok, how can I describe this as quickly as possible?

So the way that I experience it is I am holding space for other people to reveal what's happening for them. And I am honestly and authentically revealing what's happening for me. And so in this, but from the perspective of awareness, like what's happening is I'm trying to become more aware of what's happening for you and who you are and honestly and authentically becoming aware of what's happening for me and expressing that as well. That Authentic Relating is really a practice of awareness.

Ryel: Yeah, well, exactly. I mean, is this paradox of the journey of transformation where you. I think a lot of people, certainly I ventured into thinking like I need to literally change these aspects of myself to be able to function and show up and thrive in the world. And yet actually the destination, I think, of the journey of transformation is to learn how to accept yourself exactly as you are. It's not about changing anything.

Audra: Yes.

Ryel: The only thing that's changing is your not accepting yourself exactly as you are.

Justin: It's a paradox.

Ryel: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. Like you do need to change. But the thing you need to change is accepting yourself.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah. It’s almost like, you know, archetypally, it's the hero's journey. It's like the hero's journey culminates when you come back home. Right. And you bring the treasures of your journey back home to bear on where you came from. Right. And, you know, it's sort of a blunt juristic. But, you know, when I hear people on their journey and I ask them or it comes up about their relationship with their family or, you know, their family of origin or their hometown or whatever, and they're still talking about like, yeah, they're just in a different world or, you know, they don't get me, I don't get them, you know, I'm just you know, it's a good thing that I'm moving apart.

You know, for me, I'll acknowledge I have a better judgment there. And the journey is still ongoing because I think the destination, a journey is to come home to where I came from to the people that I grew up with, and to bring like a sense of wholeness back to those environments in service of healing the past, you know, and creating a more kind of cohesive and robust link in the chain of our collective lineage.

You know, it's like I think it's you know, it's vital for kids, teenagers, young adults to grow up, leave the home, differentiate, find themselves, seek their own path and all that. But to the degree to which they are rejecting the aspects and elements of their past, I think it's going to continue to haunt them and create a sense of internal rift, you know, until at some point there's the ability to go back to the past, whether emotionally or literally can integrate those aspects and elements into this experience of wholeness.

And, you know, I mean, I'll take my Orthodox Jewish upbringing. I absolutely resented it and rejected it. It constrained me, it didn't allow for authentic expression. You know, and had to really distance myself. And so, you know, really lately, just the last few years have really come full circle and see actually how how much it's a part of me in many ways, how it created a sense of community and cohesion and belonging and identity, and that there's actually a deep spirituality that lives underneath a sort of surface levels of the religion. All these layers of being able to, you know, integrate these aspects of my past into a sense of current wholeness.

Audra: You know, say it sounds like incorporation and integration, it's a really I mean, I think to being able to be with our families and our kids and a practice that provides a path for that I think is really powerful.

So it brings me back to a point that you made earlier about why don't we teach this in schools? And I am so with you. I was an educator prior to running our nonprofit, and I used to work with college students and student development. And it brought me into the space of doing this work with college students and not this exact work, not Authentic Relating, I have to say, very I think similar skill-building and working on developing these skills and tools with students.

And the main issue was that we were missing everything from preschool where I think we do a little bit of this. And then K-12 gone. None of it. Nothing else. And it strikes me that one of the most powerful things about Authentic Relating is how accessible it is. You're not talking about a therapeutic modality that is expensive and accessible, you know, in the hands of a chosen few folks who have to get extensive education to get there…

Justin: Or takes years and years.

Audra: Or takes years and years. This is something that is like infinitely scalable and accessible. So realizing the dream of bringing this practice into schools, I think is really reasonable.

Justin: Well. I mean, so let's just talk about that real quick. I do want to get back to parenthood. But Ryel, you have been involved not just bringing it into places like schools, but you are involved with a nonprofit, bringing it into prisons as well.

Audra: Oh, wow.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. It is an interesting story, because like I said, you know, when I first and kind of Authentic Relating immediately hit me, like the implications of this are much further and wider than it's ever been conveyed to, you know, or distributed to. And I was very sure of that. And yet I wanted to test the hypothesis to see if I was right about that.

And so I volunteered to be a mentor at the Boulder County jail, to provide a little more immediate context, like if you know a boulder. Yeah. So, yeah, a wonderful town's got great values, great people, all that. And yet it's pretty homogenous as far as its culture and ways of thinking. And and and people are generally quite friendly, you know, to personal development types of teachings and modalities.

And so I'm like living in Boulder and like, where can I go, you know, outside of the sort of bubble to test this hypothesis and see if this work is really as impactful as I believe it should be and can be on a wider scale? So I joined this volunteer program at Boulder County Jail. I'd never, had no experience, never been in a jail. Furthest thing from, you know, my familiarity and comfort zone. And it brought up all sorts of stuff. I mean, the first time I ever stepped into the Boulder County jail for like a volunteer kind of orientation, it was very disturbing to just become up close and personal with how we actually treat each other in that context.

You know, in any event, I was matched with my first mentee. It was like a one-on-one type of thing. And within seconds, minutes started just completely shattering all the sort of calcified perceptions I had about that world and those people. I could sense the humanity in this man very quickly, as he was a big-time drug dealer here in Colorado. He had tattoos all over him, had like gang signs on him and stuff and, you know, looked very kind of imposing and scary. And yet we just dropped into this really sweet, intimate connective place right away. And then I took on more mentees and I started, very actively sharing with them and teaching them some of these basic skills and tools.

And I was just blown away by how immediately impactful and how effectively they were integrating these skills and tools into their lives, even inside of the jail. Well, like one of my mentors, he was like the alpha kind of guy in his pod. And without even my solicitation, he went back and made photocopies of the sheets I'd given him. He forced the entire pod to come together and learn these...

Audra: That’s amazing,

Ryel: Things together. And it completely, literally transformed the culture inside of the Boulder County Jail. The word rose up to the administrators. Then we started collaborating. And then that's where we created a version of the level one workshop specifically for inmates. And then we got that program approved through the entire Colorado prison system and started delivering that to facilities throughout Colorado.

And I mean, very quickly, it became known to among the population as being the most effective and powerful and useful workshop or training in the entire sort of programming of those facilities. And then we started getting waiting lists like every facility that we were offering this program. And even still, I mean, we have inmates, ex-inmates sending us messages all the time, like, “Can I tell you how powerful this work has been? It's changed my life. Like all of my relationships have improved.”

And the thing is that, like these guys. You know, it's men and women. And now they don't aspire to become some great enlightened being. And like at the pinnacle of personal development, they just really aspire to, quote-unquote, normal lives like, you know, having healthy family relationships, having a good job. You know, they've just been content and stable in their lives. And it was just incredible to see how supportive these skills and tools were for those values, those you know, those aspirations in that world.

And so really massively validated and affirmed that hypothesis of how universal this work is. You know, I mean, I speak of it as the universal language of human connection. And now, I mean, I've traveled dozens of countries all over the world at present to every kind of person you can imagine. And it lands almost everywhere for everyone. You know, in a really like meaningful way, in a sustainable way. So it's all the more like really fueled our mission, you know, to create our organization as a vehicle for conveying this work to as many people as far as wide as possible.

Just last week, I presented to the principal and the administrators at the Cherry Creek High School in Denver, which is probably the most well-known and highly regarded high school in all of Colorado. And I could pick up on like the skepticism, you know, at the beginning. And because I speak about Authentic Relating in this very kind of street-level language, like it's not just woo-woo kind of thing. It's just very practical and human, even though it is a deeply spiritual practice underneath, you know, like they were just completely won over by the end of the session. And now we're designing a full-scale three-hour presentation to the entire 200-person teaching staff at this high school, which is just so, so, so thrilling.

But, yeah, I mean, to me, that is one of the most vital and important applications of this work is how can we get this work into schools and educational facilities and prepare our young people to be able to cultivate and participate in healthy, nourishing, uplifting, empowering relationships just... Well, what a world we would live in. I think.

Audra: What a world we will live in. Yeah.

Ryel: Yeah. Exactly.

Justin: Yeah. So this can work for incarcerated populations that work in a large institutional context. So we can assume that it also works for teenagers as well. I guess teenagers might be the most hardened, difficult, challenging population out there.

Ryel: More than gang leaders.

Justin: I'll try to boil the whole parenting thing into maybe just one question. Now, you are a parent of a teenager. How has Authentic Relating changed your parenting? Because you started as a parent, having never heard of Authentic Relating, and now you have a 13-year-old. So how have things changed for you?

Ryel: I mean, it goes even further back than that. It's like, man, what if my parents had had access to this work, you know, and that I'd been brought up in this environment how my life would have been so, so different. You know, I mean, it was just a catalog of dysfunctional ways of relating and parenting and being. I mean, I don't blame them at all. Like I don't have any blame. They just did the best they could. And, you know, it's like you look back at our ancestral lineage I mean, nobody like had access to these kinds of skills and tools and ways of being.

So, you know, the contrast of how I was raised with that, how I'm able to raise my kids just really impactful and profound. But yeah, I mean, that was another incredible insight and realization was just how applicable these skills and tools are in cultivating a healthy, trustable, open and intimate, loving, nourishing relationship with my kids. And that's been the case absolutely.

And the investments that I have made and am making in and tending to and fostering health and those relationships will bear a lifetime, not only my and their lifetime, but their kids and their kids. I mean, you know, again, the implications of this work, you know, way beyond just this current conversation are very present for me and for others in the practice.

So, you know, it's like. I mean, there are so many things I could say about, you know, relationship with kids and teens, I mean, just as a couple examples, like I noticed that I was inside of an unconscious story for a long time, that my kids are nothing but a burden. All I do is sacrifice for them. Right. Like I'm trying to live my life. And they're coming in all the time needing things, interrupting, you know, having no regard for my experience or my needs. You know, and all I'm here to do is just, you know, cater to them and serve them. And as like I love them, of course, you know, but I didn't even realize that I was in the sort of grip of this.

Justin: This was an unconscious story. Yeah. Yeah. Like if you were asked just on the spot, like, oh, of course, I love my kids and I love to, you know, do all these things for them. So how did you become aware of this unconscious story?

Ryel: Well, it's interesting. I mean, like, you know, people ask, I don't know, come up in conversation, you know, what is it like to parent for kids and all that? And I often describe it as a parenting, as a series of nonstop interruptions for like 18 years. Which is like a pretty shitty way of describing, you know, my experience of parenting. And so, you know, really is just bringing to bear like the elements and tools, the skills to look deeper. And, you know, it just I was able to carve out some time from just the rigors of life, you know, to really look at my relationship with my kids. I mean, my daughter was starting to manifest.

My oldest daughter is now a teen, was manifesting, you know, some real struggles in her life. You know, she was cutting at one point. You know, she was definitely exhibiting like depression and anxiety. And it really kind of gave me pause. And it had me look into what am I doing? How am I contributing to an environment that, you know, that this kind of behavior is manifested? And I got to see that I was inside of this, you know, story that was disempowering, disconnecting and the opposite of an experience of intimacy.

And so I basically had to restructure and reconfigure my priorities and focus on life and really shifted a lot of attention and desire to create more bandwidth for my relationship with my kids. So as an example, I just started spending at least five to 10 minutes with each kid every night, just one on one, because, you know, when it's all four of them, it's just this sort of tsunami.

Yeah. And so to kind of tease that apart, you know, to really get to know them on an individual basis. It gave me a lot more access to a unique relationship that I could bring to bear with each of them individually and have me tune in more into their unique trajectories in life, like what's going on for you individually and uniquely, what's going on for me? And I'm really fostering day after day, night after night a more intimate, closer, more connected relationship with them. And that's just been so valuable.

Like I said, I've taken two kids to Europe now. And, you know, one of the things that we're going to be doing is walking a 120-mile-long trail in Switzerland together and underneath the surface, it's like they're both a yes to it. I'm almost amazed that they are like into it and want to do it. And to me, it's symbolic. It's actually less about walking on a trail in Switzerland and more about the results of the day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month investment I've made and we've made in fostering a close, trustable, intimate, enlivening relationship, you know. And so we just want to spend time together, you know, more than anything. And so this is just an outlet, an expression for that.

Justin: One thing I heard you say in the past is that you have developed a practice of revealing your experience with your kids, and this really struck me because I think, well, for me and I'm going to just have a big assumption about a lot of parents is that we don't do that, we want to present as Dad and Mom and like we never reveal what's...

Audra: Authority.

Justin: So, yeah. Can you just talk a little bit about that?

Ryel: Yeah, well, you know, a lot of parents are like my teenager, my kids. They don't share anything with me. They're just like, oh, well, I'll ask them questions and give me like monotone, one-word answers. You know, I feel like locked out. I just don't know what's going on for them, you know, and so it's like, well, my first question is: how much are you revealing of yourself in your own world to your kids? Like how do you expect them to go first while you're just actually a total wall? And in some ways, hiding behind the role of mom or dad, you know.

Like we tend to make subservient our own humanity to the roles that we play in life and in relationship. Whther that's mother, father, boss, employee, colleague, you know, friend of this guy and friend of that kind. And, you know, Authentic Relating in many ways challenges the ways that we have conflated our human selves with the roles that we play in life and…

Audra: Absolutely.

Ryel: And so in this regard, it's like allowing the human of you and in you to lead and to set back the role of mom or dad or whatever enforcer or whatever it is, you know, behind that, whoever it is that you're relating with. I tell all our graduates out of our programs, like, you know, part of your training is to be a leader and leading people into an experience of connection and intimacy and stop expecting people to go first, like you have the skills and tools now to reveal your own experience first. And that acts as an established kind of leadership quality in having other people then follow.

It's like when I'm leading a course, you know, and I've got 20 people in the room, I definitely recognize that the degree to which I'm willing to be vulnerable and revealed and real is the degree to which that acts as permission for everybody else to show up vulnerably and authentically. And honestly, like I've had total emotional breakdowns in courses that I've been leading. And like in the back of my mind, I'm like, oh, shit, like I'm not supposed to be doing this, you know, like I'm failing at the role of being like the leader and facilitator. And yet without exception, every time when I check, like, how was that for everyone? They just are like, wow, I feel so much more permission to be my own vulnerable, real, tender, sad, emotional, whatever self, you know, when I see the leader doing it.

It’s the exact same thing in parenting. The degree to which you yourself as a parent are able to be vulnerable, like actually really vulnerable. What are your fears? You know, what are your dreams? What are your struggles? Allow your emotions to be expressed. I mean, my parents were like utterly unemotional even when they were fighting. It was like just robotic, almost, you know. And so I just internalized that. And so, you know, I allow myself to be emotional, whether it's sad or upset or angry, and reveal that as my experience. And that creates a sense of safety, a sense of family culture in which all of you is welcome.

Actually, I feel called to share this one piece that I think is so valuable and so insightful for parents, navigating the challenges of raising teens in particular. So there's a brilliant doctor, a therapist, trauma expert named Gabor Maté, the Hungarian Canadian fellow. And one thing that he said is that, that really stuck with me, is that as kids we have two primary needs, the most important two things required for a healthy upbringing in childhood. One is secure attachment. Right. Like we can depend and lean into the relationships that we have with our caregivers, and they're going to be there consistently and securely. And the other primary need is for authentic expression. And the healthiest people grow up in an environment in which both of those are fostered and encouraged and supported.

And yet, if a child ever experiences or perceives the security of their attachment is being threatened, they will always sacrifice authentic expression in order to preserve the security of those relationships and attachments. And that stays with us as adults. Like, where is it that we're afraid of revealing our authentic experience, our authentic selves, because we're fearing the degradation of undermining or breaking of our attachments and relationship, so we just push that in.

You know, we're doing that as parents, you know, I would say almost universally. So where is it that you can actually, you know, really reveal your authentic experience as a model for your children, watching you, seeing you and recognizing,” oh, like I can be my authentic whole free self here as well,” you know, and it doesn't jeopardize my relationships. In fact, Authentic Relating flips that paradigm completely around in which the more authentically expressed I am, the more secure are my attachments and relationships.

Justin: Yeah.

Ryel: And vice versa.

Justin: Oh, that's beautiful.

Audra: I can really identify with this. And this is my work to do as well. You know, especially and I feel like my number, my work relationships and things like that I have a lot of work to do with kind of like authentically revealing my experience and expressing myself. And I can hold back for fear of breaking connection and for fear of response because of, I think, how I grew up as well.

And I find my family to be and working with this on with my family to be so powerful, because I know that we're in this together. I know that we're in this work together. I know that we're not going to break connection. And so it's actually been the first frontier for me that I'm hoping to take out further from here. But I found it to be safer, to start within the family.

And yeah, and it can start with little things. It doesn't have to be, you don't have to have the perfect sentence terms and the perfect like, you know, entry points or anything like that. You know, I remember I was biking with Maesie in Savannah here. And, you know, I did the mom thing where I was like, you know, “heads up. There's a bus coming.” “I know, I know. Of course I know.” And I was like, “Maesie, I just have to, I just want to share that like I am your mom. And I've been doing this for so many years. And it is hard for me to just adjust. And I'm trying to, you being old enough. I know that you see this and it's like this is really my stuff. It's not yours. So thank you for being patient with me.”

And she's like, “Ok, cool, mom.” You know, like it can start with like little, little moments and blossom into the big one so that it becomes, I think, second nature. When you get into our big emotional outbursts, I find so much of the work is in myself and really not about my kid. You know, it's they did it. And it is really powerful. We've been doing a lot of this together, thanks to Authentic Relating, I have to say, like Authentic Relating has changed our lives.

Ryel: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. And I can imagine a lot of parents hear this and say, well, if I'm truly authentic, then I will lose my attachment with my kids. And so this is really, this is hopeful. This is really just I love hearing this, that actually the more authentic you are and the more present and authentic, the more attachment will emerge.

Audra: Can you guys give some examples? We've got, of course, Ryel as a leader of the Authentic Relating movement, really, and running the, I don't know if there are many Authentic Relating organizations or not, but ART is the organization I feel like in the space, really bringing forward curriculum and trainings and making a difference. And then, of course, you've been through a lot of those trainings. Can you provide us some concrete examples? Because we were talking a lot about this, almost like a methodology, like what is it like to be in the space of Authentic Relating?

Justin: Well, I'll just share real quick when we're in level one. I was trying to bring these practices into our daily life with our kids, and it, I wasn't really sure how to do it. I felt a little awkward. So I just started with just expressing what was happening literally in my physical body.

And so I would get into, I would start to enter into a conflict with my daughter and I would pause. And I would say, “Maesie, I'm feeling a tightness in my chest right now. I'm feeling my heart rate increase.” And so I would just describe physically what was happening. I was like, that's the best I can do. I just want you to know what's happening for me. Well, and then the other part of that is when I would do that, it would diffuse what was happening. And it was like we could start to talk and relate to each other in new ways. If I just paused and started to describe what was happening for me, even physically, I'm not even going to try to interpret the emotional, psychological world inside. I'm just going to describe what's happening physically for me right now. And so I was so impressed with how just that simple practice diffused what was happening and opened up new avenues for us to communicate.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's great. Exactly. I mean, you know, anywhere that you are able to reveal more of your own experience, it's like even what you just said earlier, it's like a parent might have the fear that if I'm authentic, you know, that that may result in some, you know, negative impact on my relationship with my kids. Whatever, like reveal that.

Audra: Yeah. Right. Right.

Ryel: Like actually say that like, I'm wanting to be more revealed with the or share more about what's going on for me. And I'm concerned that dot, dot, dot, you know, that this, you know, like that'll impact our relationship or. And then get curious about the answer, you know. And, you know, kid’s like, “No, I want to know,” you know, like actually been wanting to know.

Justin: Yeah.

Ryel: So it's actually, it's like you don't need to somehow shift yourself to become then ready to reveal. Right is revealing exactly where you are and what's happening in that moment. You know, that is the peace, you know that it just you can't you can't do that without there being some deepening of intimacy there and of seeing each other being seen and of again of rehumanizing yourself and each other. It's like. You know, your kids look at you as in large part as the role of mom and dad. Right. And that comes with all sorts of connotations and associations and and it can really constrain and restrict the freedom and space and, you know, excitement that is in the relation that is latent and the relational space, you know, so again, for you to sort of set aside the roles and just show up as human, you know, parents struggle.

We all do. Like, you know, this thing happened to me at work or I had a fight with mom or whatever it is, you know. And to really reveal that, I mean, like I have absolutely been super transparent with my kids around, you know, the breakdown of our marriage and, you know, divorce and separation. And now that landed, that impacted me and it impacted the kids and that I've had really honest and open conversations about that. It doesn't occur as like a service to them. It's like I feel so much lighter myself, you know.

And it's again, like your kids are going to become adults someday and you're going to relate with them as adults. So every, you know, moment that you're showing up in this younger child-parent relationship and being real and open and vulnerable and transparent is going to serve the rest of your relationship as they, you know, they don't need you at some point as a mom or dad anymore, you know, and then you get to be an ally and a collaborator, you know, and a sort of elder. And those are beautiful roles to be in. And, you know, for me, it's like prioritizing the human above all else and leading with that.

Audra: It's so powerful. What comes up for me is that concept of rehumanizing, both for yourself and others, and that when we are in performance, we're in a dehumanized or dehumanizing space. And I think of that in all of my work roles that I've had. You know, we're all kind of like performance, you know, kind of interacting roles. Yeah. But the performative aspects of life and that we inherit parenting very often in that way, in the performance we think we should be doing. And by getting down to the basics of rehumanizing through this revealing of our experience and, you know, kind of like connecting, reconnecting ourselves is really powerful.

Justin: We have only scratched the surface. And one thing I want to do is direct people to ART. And so, Ryel, I will ask you for how best parents and anyone listening can get in touch with ART. But then also, I just want to state again. And I know that I've told you at The Family's Thrive, we want to be doing this type of work. And so we want to work with ART and we want to work with you. So this is just the beginning.

Audra: Just an opening.

Justin: Yes. So can you tell all listeners how best to get in touch with ART and then some of the things that you do at ART?

Ryel: Time goes by quick when you're enlivened by the conversation, for sure. It's like we offer courses, programs, webinars, whatever that are topical, and yet the implications of everything that we teach along those topics does radiate out to every one of our relationships, you know, it's like we didn't have enough time.

But, you know, the influence and power dynamics players in these interactions, I think is so vital to acknowledge, you know, like as a parent, your power. There's a differential in the power dynamics. And to name it, to recognize, to acknowledge it, I think is important just as it is in the workplace. Right. It's like, you know, there's a power dynamic at play there, and it necessarily influences and impacts how people relate, how safe they feel to be expressed, you know, how the relationship between their expression and their sense of security. It's bringing back all sorts of childhood stuff, you know, so it really acknowledges these power dynamics, I think is vital.

Yeah, there's a lot more that we could definitely explore, but in any event. Yeah. So the companies Art International, Authentic Relating Training International. Website is authenticrelating.co.

The level one program is designed for the general public, for everyone. And it will teach you the foundational elements of the practice such that you can then apply them across the board and all of your relationships. And then we have a whole bunch of other offerings that are more specific to particular contacts, there’s a couple's program. That's super awesome. A program just for men. We're designing a membership platform right now that will be more of a community, kind of hub, like what you guys have been creating. Yeah. And a bunch more.

I mean, it's just it's like I want to portray Authentic Relating not as some kind of end-all, be-all, you know, type of thing that you either get or you don't. It's actually a complement and a supplement to anything and everything else, so you're already up to right? That's the beauty of it, is just it's an additional catalyst for a deepening and expanding of everything and anything that people are already up to. So I really appreciate that aspect. But yeah, that's the best way to check us out. Website and other info is there.

Justin: We can't let you go without asking you the last questions that we ask every guest. So the first one is if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning. What would that Post-it note say?

Ryel: Is this Post-it Note for everyone, everywhere. And that’s slow down. Definitely want to slow down, down, feel more, access more, breathe more, be in your body more. And then the second, I would say is reveal and reveal your experience. Let yourself be seen, be a human, you know, show yourself.

Justin: Beautiful. And then the next question is, what is the last quote that really moved you?

Ryel: Oh, man, so many. I mean, the one that I one of my favorites that I often share is by an...artist named Tony [Berlant], and he says, “The more introspective a work of art is, the more universal it becomes.” And I take that to mean that the more we are willing to reveal the deepest, darkest, most shameful parts of ourselves, the more connected we are to the universal experience of humanity.

Justin: Mm-hmm. Awesome. And then the last one is, well, so I just have to always give context for this last one. For many parents and you reveal this with yourself as well, that parenting can be a lot of drudgery and a lot of interruptions, a lot of hassle. And so we like to end with this last question. What do you love about kids?

Ryel: And I want to just give you some automatic answer and actually feel into what feels true and responding to that. Yeah, I mean, I would say more than anything, they've really reminded me how to play. Which is something I've forgotten or, you know, become separate from that I can actually see life as, it sounds kind of cliche, but life is a playground, you know, and to find the silliness and the playfulness and the joy and the creativity every day, in every moment, been a source of real vitality and kind of life force for us.

For me, I tend to be quite serious. And so to have like, you know, just this array of humans around me who are so playful, you know, and want to draw me into play all the time, it's not just the play. It's deeply healing, something really deeply healing in my, like enrolling me into the context of play. And when I allow myself to go there it feels really healing and joyful and rejuvenating. And, yeah, it just gives me a much better perspective of life.

Audra: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that, and I feel like you, I feel like that's evidenced in the ART platform, which is really beautiful. I feel like we get invited into play and therefore connection through the work that you do. And I really appreciate that.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. I mean, so much of this work is reminding us of what it was like when we were kids, before we were indoctrinated into a bunch of filters and conditioning. Does the innocence, the freedom, the expression, the playfulness, all of these things, you know, are really deeply in the spirit of the practice?

Audra: No. Thank you for sharing it with. Absolutely. Yeah. And all of our families and in The Family Thrive. This is... it's really an honor to be on this journey with you. And I really appreciate being able to meet you today. And I hope this conversation continues.

Justin: I sincerely hope and believe this is not the last time we're going to talk with you, Ryel.

Ryel: I mean, I appreciate what you're up to. I mean, anywhere that we can bring more of this kind of practice and skills and tools to bear on raising kids, you know, in really preparing them to thrive in their relationships, like that's where it really, really matters to me so such a yes to that.

Justin: Awesome, awesome

Audra: Thank you so much.

Justin: Thank you, Ryel. We'll see you next time.

Ryel: All right. See you.

Audra: Bye.

Justin: Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.

Justin: You’re going to love what we have in store in this episode. It's all about this amazing set of ideas and practices called Authentic Relating. We get deep pretty quick and I realized after the episode that I never pause to get a basic overview of what Authentic Relating really is. We went pretty high level right from the start. So I want to begin here by explaining what we're getting into.

Ryel Kestano is the CEO and co-founder of a company that trains people all around the world in the practice of Authentic Relating. The super basic definition of Authentic Relating is: it's a set of ideas and practices and games designed to teach people how to be their authentic selves while connecting deeply with other people and allowing them to be their authentic selves.

The typical Authentic Relating session is like a set of games that help people practice being authentic and open and caring towards others. I'll wrap up this intro by saying that I believe Authentic Relating can absolutely transform all of our relationships for the better, especially parenting and marital relationships. If you have ever felt distant, unheard, unseen, frustrated, confused, or just out of sorts in your relationships with your kids or your partner, (and who among us has not?) then buckle up and prepare yourself to learn about a set of practices and ideas that have the potential to change all of this. Without further ado, here is our incredible conversation with the one and only Ryel Kestano.

One thing that I learned from Ryel and Authentic Relating Training is to set context. And so I just want to set a little context at the beginning by just telling as short a story as I can about how I came to Authentic Relating, because over a year ago, I had never heard of Authentic Relating. Of course, I had heard those words before, but never put together in that way. And so I was invited into an Authentic Relating group. I didn't even know that that's what it was. I think it was phrased in a different way.

Audra: Who invited you in?

Justin: I loved it. This was Ali Tataryn.

Audra: Oh, from Bio-Emotive.

Justin: Yeah. And so I loved it, like, oh, my God, this is fantastic. And this would be great for childhood cancer parents and our MaxLove Project work. And so that was the first time. And then I tried to find a few more things to go to. Ali told me about ART. And then we signed up for level one that summer and then…

Audra: Last summer.

Justin: Yeah. And then I signed up for the Authentic Relating Leadership Program in the fall. And that's where I met you, Ryel. And I've, I mean, I've loved every single moment. Then I took Level Two in the spring, and I hope to take level three someday. And I mean, it's really been a life-changing practice, this Authentic Relating.

So I couldn't wait to have you on, because not only are you deep into the Authentic Relating world and the CEO of an Authentic Relating training company, but you're also a father. And so you're putting this practice to work every single day and in a bunch of different contexts. So you're a father, you're an entrepreneur, you're a leader in the Authentic Relating movement. So I want to talk about all of these, but just in reverse order. So I guess for the listeners, most of them are going to say, what the heck are they talking about with Authentic Relating? So maybe we can just start there, Ryel. What is Authentic Relating?

Ryel: Yeah. And my pleasure being here with you. Thanks for having me. This is awesome. Yeah. What is Authentic Relating? I mean, it's very simple as it's a practiced experience. Better relationships in your life. If I had five seconds that's probably what I would say is it's a whole comprehensive suite of skills and tools that are designed to be immediately applicable for people in creating, cultivating, and deepening relationships with everyone in their lives.

One of the very first experiences I had when I was a student, first coming into the practice, it was twofold. One was an experience of all of me, the entirety of me being completely and totally welcomed into the space. And I never actually had the experience in which I so viscerally felt that every aspect of me, especially the parts of me that I kept behind a wall or behind guards or felt shame around or just felt was inappropriate or unwelcome. All those parts were not only worthy of being welcomed by others, but worthy of their curiosity to know more of myself. And as it turned out, the sort of reference point of other people taking such a curious perspective on these parts of me actually helped me develop and cultivate more curiosity and openness and welcoming from my own parts within myself.

And there's this core promise, I would say, that's inherent to the practice that it is a path that leads one towards a sense of greater wholeness within themselves, a sense of integration of all the aspects and parts of one's self into a sense of wholeness, which is just overall relaxing, relieving, empowering, all these benefits and showing up in the world. More specifically, I would say that Authentic Relating as a practice that reveals the hidden, it makes the implicit explicit, it brings all of the unconscious parts of ourselves, both individually and relationally and collectively, into the conscious field of awareness, where we have more choice, more understanding, more insight into the parts of ourselves and the parts of each other.

As I've learned, so much of what drives people's behavior and reaction and patterns of relating are contained in their unconscious selves. Much of what informs our unconscious derives from trauma of the past, of ways we were modeled, relationship by our caregivers growing up and all these things bear out in how we show up as adults in the world and in relationship, and so to have access and the skills to create deeper access into the unconscious parts of myself and allow those things to come to the surface creates a space for much more relatability, vulnerability, deeper connection, empathy, understanding of each other, and the same tools that I can use in and for myself to bring out the unconscious parts of myself and to my conscious awareness. I can also use to create a pathway for others.

So the skills that Authentic Relation teaches, I can bring out into conversation and relationship with others such that they feel more seen, more gotten, more heard, more welcomed, more access to their own unconscious selves. And yeah, really that all contributes to the experience of profound intimacy that you can experience with a partner that you've known for decades, right alongside meeting someone for the first time and experience a sense of humanity, a shared human experience. That I just never felt until encountering this practice.

Justin: So much there. What do you want to ask?

Audra: I have two things, curiosity popping up here. One was hearing about the parts, because I'm hearing a lot about parts from Justin. He's been diving deep into Internal Family Systems work. And so I'm hearing like a really wonderful way of relating to these parts through Authentic Relating practices, which I did the level one. And I love the communication practices and all of that. I never thought of it as both an inward like being able to authentically relate and practice with myself and my inner world as much as the outer and with others. So that presented to me just as you were speaking.

And so I'm curious, is that something that you found in your practice, that you were able to deploy these strategies to be like curious about, you know, self curious and develop inner, you know, compassion and empathy and things like that through the process?

Ryel: Yeah, well, yeah. I mean, the first response, I would say and one way of answering that is that which we don't welcome in ourselves is that which we don't welcome in others. So those parts of ourselves that we are uncomfortable with in ourselves will be projected in our discomfort in those same parts, in other people. And so to the degree that I can deepen a sense of intimacy with all aspects and parts of myself, the same degree to which I'm cultivating a deeper capacity to be with the experience of others. And that, to me, is the intimacy, the ability to remain in connection and in our bodies and our awareness, in our hearts, no matter what arises for us and for other people, we can stay there and rest there in that connection. So I think it's vital.

I didn't realize I mean, that, you know, it's interesting. It's like we know what we know. We know what we don't know. And then we don't know what we don't know. And that last one is like 80-90% of all that there is to know. And so like I didn't realize like going through was so much of my life. I had no idea how much was acting upon me, especially in relationships at the unconscious level. It's like I had just sort of pushed it down into some aspect of my psyche where it occurred at the surface, like it didn't even exist. But actually, it was informing and influencing every aspect of how I was showing up and relating and responding and reacting.

And I would say that one of the great sort of forefather pioneers of what is now Authentic Relating was Carl Jung and the work that he did around articulating the nature of the shadow and how it shows up in people both individually and collectively. And that was just super fascinating for me.

And so I really put into perspective that Authentic Relating really as a practice of illuminating one's shadow and seeing all the aspects of our own selves that we have suppressed or pushed down or disintegrated from a sense of wholeness and whole awareness down into the shadow. And, you know, he said that if we continue to ignore the aspects and messages from the shadow, they will manifest in ever more degenerative waves, including physically what we commonly suffer from physical, energetic, emotional ailments as a result of our ignoring or turning away from or perpetuating a disintegration of the aspects of ourselves. They live in the shadow. And so necessarily by bringing this practice to bare and can be really uncomfortable and confronting as we start to sort of excavate the sort of field of awareness deeper into our subconscious selves.

I often use this analogy of Lake Powell, which is this lake in Southern Utah. Gorgeous, beautiful area. And yet it's an artificial lake that was dammed up by the Glen Canyon Dam. And in recent years, the water level has been getting lower and more and more. And as it is lowering, it's revealing all of these incredible artifacts that had been submerged and lost under the surface. And it's also revealing all of this garbage and stuff that people had discarded over the decades. It just accumulated under the surface.

And so Authentic Relating really is a lowering of those waters of the conscious self and starting to notice all the aspects both beautiful and enlivening and inspiring, as well as really confronting and disgusting and ugly. And it gives us the resources and the skills and tools to turn toward those aspects, to face them, and to ultimately cultivate a sense of intimacy and integration with them. And as we do that work within ourselves, we can radiate and bring that, emanate that into our relationships and create a safer, more welcoming, loving, connected space for others to access their deepest selves.

Audra: Oh, it's beautiful.

Justin: This is what I think of as a therapeutic aspect of Authentic Relating. So I definitely want to touch on this more. But for listeners who are just brand new to all of these terms, Jung himself, can you briefly describe what the shadow is?

Ryel: Yeah. So essentially it's actually a brilliant function of the human experience. It's the ability to basically set aside, cut off or, you know, I would say in a positive way, push away traumatic experiences, experiences that produce a sense of disassociation or extreme anxiety or emotional reactivity to be able to separate those from just getting on with life, just a daily function of life instead of being just dogged by these demons.

There's actually some function in the human psyche that is able to separate these things into the shadow so that they generally occur is not existing and not being prominent enough to just distract us from just getting on with life. So, you know, I had a pretty traumatic, dysfunctional upbringing in childhood in which effectively was able to compartmentalize into the shadow and just be able to function relatively effectively in life. But those things have dogged me ever since and have undermined and sabotaged my relationships in life again and again and again.

I mean, I can look back to my partnership for 14 years that I'm now separated from and now can look back and see almost exactly how the elements that I had placed or pushed into my shadow came back to act in a sabotaging way that continue to degrade a sense of trust and connection and rapport that over time eventually led us to separate. I would say that there are so many examples of relationships ending because of one or two people not willing or able to turn toward the aspects of themselves that live in the shadow and do the deep work of integration and healing.

Audra: It sounds like to me or what I'm hearing is that the shadow allows you to survive.

Ryel: Yeah.

Audra: But not to thrive. You know, if we don't, you know, kind of face you like it's almost like we've been talking about this metabolically. If you consume too much sugar, sugar is toxic, right. If we didn't get to store it in fat, then it could kill you just circulating in your bloodstream. But we have this capacity to store it as fat and deal with it later.

It reminds me of the shadow that we can, we see it in our, I mean, with getting through Max's, the trauma of Max's diagnosis, for example. It gave us the opportunity to put one foot in front of the other. But what presents later is the opportunity to really kind of look at those shadows and work on it.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. Well, it's sort of like, you know, a lot of the traumatic incidents of childhood manifest later in life as defense mechanism strategies for protection. Right. And because our, you know, protective mechanisms are so sensitive, they will perceive situations as threats and cause us to armor up and protect when in fact, they aren't threats. And so a lot of the practice of Authentic Relating is to slow down and to bring forward a more nuanced and comprehensive and high resolution perspective on circumstances so we can actually start to retrain ourselves to recognize that these circumstances aren't threatening. And I can actually meet them vulnerably and openly.

Justin: Just to give listeners even a broader context here, I think most people's introduction to Authentic Relating is through games, Authentic Relating games. And so now what I'm seeing is that these games and then framed in the word game, lowers the intensity or the expectation first for having to do something difficult. But that really these Authentic Relating games are pushing us to do something difficult and to face something that we might be hiding from or to come into contact with our shadow or our defense mechanisms. Is that how you see it?

Ryel: Yeah. I mean, we as games in a particular context. It does capture the element of playfulness that we associate with playing games. But really, as you said, it creates the sense of freedom in which I can play the game of life and relationship in any way that really suits me.

You know, just as an example, when I was first encountering this practice, I had lived a very sheltered and withdrawn kind of life. And my relationships are very guarded and protected. And when I started discovering these tools, I was super inspired and excited to, you know, sort of dissolve that and experience what it'd be like to just walk around the world and nakedly and vulnerably. And I was traveling a lot for the work I was doing at the time.

And I created a game for myself in which every time I was on a flight on an airplane somewhere, I would do my best to experience a sense of intimacy with whoever sat next to me. And I just created that game as an expression of an underlying value for connection and intimacy and the nourishment that is derived from those experiences. And it was super confronting and uncomfortable to step into that game. But I was like committed to playing it. And it had me really confront and then ultimately shatter the story or perception I had that people don't want to connect. They just want to maintain their little bubbles or whatever. And so I brought that on like dozens of flights, you know, around the country and world. And I would say overwhelmingly, I mean, more than nine times out of 10, I achieved that experience of experiencing intimacy, you know, with my seatmate. I mean, it was.

And then in retrospect, is it strange that we, this person and I are like pretty close to each other? You know, I mean, there's like just inches apart from each other. And we could go hours just with this like invisible wall that separates us. And so not only did I get to really shatter that assumption and perspective and create a new possibility as an outcome of that game, but got to experience incredible connections and conversations. I mean, people that I still remember to this day as having been really moved by and touched by, I mean tears and laughter and sweetness and, you know, staying in touch with people long after really meaningful connections in which I was served.

It wasn't like I was doing a service to them as really as much for me as for anyone. And, you know, have learned what I've learned,and as I've been touched, as I have been, to just become more connected to this sense of a shared human experience was so valuable. I mean, that's one of the great outcomes of my having traveled around the world. Teaching this work and being with people is becoming ever more in touch with a sense that we are all actually experiencing a common human experience that transcends the differences and the reasons why we break down and argue and are in conflict. Underneath that, we struggle, we cry, we laugh, we have joy, we care. You know, we have passions, dreams and hopes.

And these things are so unifying and so healing, actually, and I think so important to establish upon which we can then debate our differences . And so, you know, for me, Authentic Relating is a practice of immense re-humanization that is so needed right now in the world.

Justin: I love that term re-humanization.

Audra: Ryel, I'd love to know, where were you in life when you found Authentic Relating?

Ryel: Yes. It was very circumstantial, I was yeah, we had three little kids at the time and marriage was showing a lot of strain. And the impetus for me actually was my partner at the time coming to me almost out of nowhere and wanting to open our marriage for her to have the freedom to be intimate with other men. And it just set me completely spinning out like I basically had kind of a look back now and I could see the signs that led up to that. But at the time, I just maintain a state of oblivion to, you know, the sort of cracks in the system. Until this thing came along and it just, you know, really kind of turned my world upside down.

And it was the catalyst for me to look at why I was reacting so intensely and with such consumption and my daily experience, what's actually going on for me deeper down. It was sort of like these demons that I was able to keep at bay under the surface just now, just breaking through the surface and tormenting me day and night. And so it really was the call for me to go deeper.

And I hadn't done any personal work at all ever. And that was never a value in my upbringing whatsoever. And so I just started this quest, you know, asking the universe like, show me, guide me, like I'll do anything. I'll go anywhere else, study with anyone. And I started just doing all sorts of stuff, you know, all kinds of therapies, retreats, studying with different teachers, you know, medicine, ceremonials, anything and everything that occurred as providing potential for insight. And then, you know, in the course of that, a friend of mine was enrolling people into the introductory Authentic Relating course in Boulder and I was an absolute yes to that. And I stepped in it out and within literally minutes or less seconds, it was like I just had a radically different experience than I'd ever had with anything else.

It just was the feeling of like, this is it. This is the medicine. This is the prescription. It's exactly the suite of skills and tools that I'm so yearning for to be able to, you know, look deeper in myself, feel these aspects of myself, use the external circumstances as a catalyst to do this deeper work.

And it's just been a lifelong journey ever since. And one of the very first things that I really encountered is I want to share a couple of things that were notable about Authentic Relating compared to other, you know, transformational practices and teachings. One was how immediately applicable I believe these skills and tools could be to every single human on the planet. The implications occurred as so far beyond just the personal development world or a spiritual seeking world or anything like that. Like these are elements of how to function and healthy relationship that everybody should have access to and have the opportunity to receive. Like this is the missing piece out of our education and upbringing. You know, how is it that we go to school and spend years and years studying all these things? And yet there's never a class on like skillful relationships, in our... like this is mind-blowing to me.

So that was one aspect. And then the other was, you know, it's contained in this, the title Authentic Relating. I found that a lot of other practices were about teaching people to be more authentic and more expressive, more revealed, you know, to stand in their power and their truth and their voice, which is certainly super valuable and powerful.

But what Authentic Relating provided was the relating part, was recognizing that I am one member of this relational space or of this collective space, and that actually, you know, it's incumbent upon me to create as much space of invitation and welcoming for other people to speak their truth, to share their vulnerable selves as much as it is for me. And so this balance and dance between the authentic part of me, you know, sharing and revealing what's happening for me and the relating part, you know, creating space for others to bring themselves into the relational space. I hadn't encountered that in any other teaching or practice or modality. And it really is so compelling to me. So those are some of the elements that drew me deeper into it.

Audra: The truly connective part, it sounds like. I remember you talking about that with working on various forms of meditation, for example, as a part of your practice. But you can isolate your, you can end up isolating yourself with a number of practices. One thing I…

Ryel: Well, just really quickly on that note. I mean, you know, it's common that you hear stories of like, you know, decades long meditators in the classic sense, you know, sitting on a cushion and meditating like, you know, having mastered their relationships like divine or spirit or whatever it is being assholes like in relationships.

Justin: Yes. Totally dysfunctional. Yeah. Out in the world.

Audra: Right. Right.

Ryel: And what was compelling about Authentic Relating is, it is called the relational meditation. It's actually it's still bringing the aspect of bringing an exquisite awareness to the present moment. But in the context of the relational space, you know, using the relational space itself as the object of meditation that I thought was just much more useful and valuable.

Audra: So I'm also curious. So you mentioned that this episode with your previous partner was an opening, a door open at that point to really start diving in and doing this inner work. And it's the first time you had done it.

Ryel: Yeah.

Audra: And you also mentioned traumatic childhood. Is it the case that you’re a therapist?

Ryel: Am I?

Audra: Yeah. Am I getting this right?

Ryel: No, no, no, no, no.

Audra: Ok, ok. So what's your background? What is your background prior to ART?

Ryel: I mean, I just speak to that just quickly and then I can answer that question more fully. Like, why is it that people are drawn to therapy? Like why do people go to therapy? What do they perceive or believe will occur there? Uniquely in the therapy environment or context that makes that context valuable. Most often it's the experience of being deeply, truly and wholly listened to.

Audra: Yeah. Right.

Ryel: A complete awareness and attention. And like what I've discovered, is that there's actually a therapist living in every single one of them. When we bring that quality of listening and attention and reflection and awareness to bear on our interactions and conversations and relationships.

And to that degree, like you said earlier, Justin, I think Authentic Relating is a profoundly therapeutic practice. You know, that can kind of distribute and widen the values that we get out of traditional therapy in all of our relationships and conversations.

So just want to name that. Yeah, I mean, it's interestingly, my background is the opposite of any kind of, you know, personal development, deep work or any of that. I grew up Orthodox Jewish, in itself was devoid, in my experience, was devoid of any kind of value for spirituality, as is very dogmatic. And, you know, just do this, do that without any deeper explanation. My parents, my dad was a businessman. He was gone on business all the time. My mom was a flight attendant. She was gone all the time, you know, raised by a pretty dysfunctional caregivers from early on, you know, physical abuse and that and, you know, the sort of kind of internalized story that I grew up with was, you know, these things are happening to me and nobody's around to protect me or keep me safe.

And the conclusion is that I don't matter. I must not matter. That's like the only explanation they wouldn't have. This all makes sense. And so I deeply internalize that into myself, like I, I don't matter. And then I have to compensate to do things that have me feel like I matter. You know, to override or compensate for that core wound. So, you know, like coming into this whole world, I was bringing a lifetime worth of unprocessed baggage. I would say unprocessed trauma. You know, one of the results of that was I didn't have a sense of a nurturing relationship with my mom. She left very early on. And so I took of the loss of that, the void of that, and projected that onto all of my intimate partners as an adult, like seeking mother figure.

And yet it was happening totally unconsciously. I couldn't have named that at all. It was just happening deeply. And that's, again, like, you know, emanating from the shadow, getting this, you know, trying to get this core need met for safety, for comfort, for reassurance, all the things that a mother is supposed to provide. But I didn't get was seeking that from intimate partners and trying to manipulate them into being a mother figure.

Audra: Right. Right.

Ryel: Without being able to name that. And so naturally, it's going to set up a dysfunctional relationship. And I would say that was the sort of core pattern that was running me and has been running me. It's not like it's gone from me. It's still a part of who I am. But I'm just aware of it now.

It's like awareness is the seed of transformation, everything. It has to start with awareness. And so now I'm aware of these impulses within me that come out sideways or under the conscious radar. And I can catch them and notice them now and redirect them in a much healthier way, like learning how to re-parent myself, you know, or be able to name it when it's arising in relationship.

Audra: That is such a powerful point to me. And I just feel like I have to share that. That is having a big impact on me as you’re sharing. I want to thank you for your openness and being able to talk with us about this. And it seems to me that that process that you're describing of having the awareness and then observing and maybe speaking to it or voicing it and redirecting whatever it might be, that's just huge. It's a win.

If there is, I don't know. I guess it seems to me that we think of self healing and reparenting that we think we're just not going to have this anymore. It's just not going to pop up anymore. Like we're going to solve it. It's going to be over and we're going to be in a totally new space. And to me, it feels more resonant that awareness process and being able to give voice, redirect. And I don't know, for me, just own whatever is coming up. That is a barrier for, I'm presenting a barrier for us or our kids. Is everything like that is, that's the point that I want to get to.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. Well, it's like, again, in the context of parenting, the degree to which you are able to fully accept all aspects and parts of your own self itself will be modeled and conveyed and transmitted, you know, down to your kids. Right. If there's any if you're in any way, you know, pushing away and not accepting, uncomfortable with or disintegrated from any aspects of yourself, if you haven't done or aren't doing that kind of work, I almost want a guarantee that it's going to trickle down to your kids and they're going to internalize that within themselves.

Justin: Yes, I can attest to that. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I love, I just want to pause to call out this awesome phrase. So we just have it for the show notes. So awareness is the seed of transformation. It, when you phrase it like that, I thought, wow, so Authentic Relating the way that I've described it to other people, it’s like ok, how can I describe this as quickly as possible?

So the way that I experience it is I am holding space for other people to reveal what's happening for them. And I am honestly and authentically revealing what's happening for me. And so in this, but from the perspective of awareness, like what's happening is I'm trying to become more aware of what's happening for you and who you are and honestly and authentically becoming aware of what's happening for me and expressing that as well. That Authentic Relating is really a practice of awareness.

Ryel: Yeah, well, exactly. I mean, is this paradox of the journey of transformation where you. I think a lot of people, certainly I ventured into thinking like I need to literally change these aspects of myself to be able to function and show up and thrive in the world. And yet actually the destination, I think, of the journey of transformation is to learn how to accept yourself exactly as you are. It's not about changing anything.

Audra: Yes.

Ryel: The only thing that's changing is your not accepting yourself exactly as you are.

Justin: It's a paradox.

Ryel: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. Like you do need to change. But the thing you need to change is accepting yourself.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah. It’s almost like, you know, archetypally, it's the hero's journey. It's like the hero's journey culminates when you come back home. Right. And you bring the treasures of your journey back home to bear on where you came from. Right. And, you know, it's sort of a blunt juristic. But, you know, when I hear people on their journey and I ask them or it comes up about their relationship with their family or, you know, their family of origin or their hometown or whatever, and they're still talking about like, yeah, they're just in a different world or, you know, they don't get me, I don't get them, you know, I'm just you know, it's a good thing that I'm moving apart.

You know, for me, I'll acknowledge I have a better judgment there. And the journey is still ongoing because I think the destination, a journey is to come home to where I came from to the people that I grew up with, and to bring like a sense of wholeness back to those environments in service of healing the past, you know, and creating a more kind of cohesive and robust link in the chain of our collective lineage.

You know, it's like I think it's you know, it's vital for kids, teenagers, young adults to grow up, leave the home, differentiate, find themselves, seek their own path and all that. But to the degree to which they are rejecting the aspects and elements of their past, I think it's going to continue to haunt them and create a sense of internal rift, you know, until at some point there's the ability to go back to the past, whether emotionally or literally can integrate those aspects and elements into this experience of wholeness.

And, you know, I mean, I'll take my Orthodox Jewish upbringing. I absolutely resented it and rejected it. It constrained me, it didn't allow for authentic expression. You know, and had to really distance myself. And so, you know, really lately, just the last few years have really come full circle and see actually how how much it's a part of me in many ways, how it created a sense of community and cohesion and belonging and identity, and that there's actually a deep spirituality that lives underneath a sort of surface levels of the religion. All these layers of being able to, you know, integrate these aspects of my past into a sense of current wholeness.

Audra: You know, say it sounds like incorporation and integration, it's a really I mean, I think to being able to be with our families and our kids and a practice that provides a path for that I think is really powerful.

So it brings me back to a point that you made earlier about why don't we teach this in schools? And I am so with you. I was an educator prior to running our nonprofit, and I used to work with college students and student development. And it brought me into the space of doing this work with college students and not this exact work, not Authentic Relating, I have to say, very I think similar skill-building and working on developing these skills and tools with students.

And the main issue was that we were missing everything from preschool where I think we do a little bit of this. And then K-12 gone. None of it. Nothing else. And it strikes me that one of the most powerful things about Authentic Relating is how accessible it is. You're not talking about a therapeutic modality that is expensive and accessible, you know, in the hands of a chosen few folks who have to get extensive education to get there…

Justin: Or takes years and years.

Audra: Or takes years and years. This is something that is like infinitely scalable and accessible. So realizing the dream of bringing this practice into schools, I think is really reasonable.

Justin: Well. I mean, so let's just talk about that real quick. I do want to get back to parenthood. But Ryel, you have been involved not just bringing it into places like schools, but you are involved with a nonprofit, bringing it into prisons as well.

Audra: Oh, wow.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. It is an interesting story, because like I said, you know, when I first and kind of Authentic Relating immediately hit me, like the implications of this are much further and wider than it's ever been conveyed to, you know, or distributed to. And I was very sure of that. And yet I wanted to test the hypothesis to see if I was right about that.

And so I volunteered to be a mentor at the Boulder County jail, to provide a little more immediate context, like if you know a boulder. Yeah. So, yeah, a wonderful town's got great values, great people, all that. And yet it's pretty homogenous as far as its culture and ways of thinking. And and and people are generally quite friendly, you know, to personal development types of teachings and modalities.

And so I'm like living in Boulder and like, where can I go, you know, outside of the sort of bubble to test this hypothesis and see if this work is really as impactful as I believe it should be and can be on a wider scale? So I joined this volunteer program at Boulder County Jail. I'd never, had no experience, never been in a jail. Furthest thing from, you know, my familiarity and comfort zone. And it brought up all sorts of stuff. I mean, the first time I ever stepped into the Boulder County jail for like a volunteer kind of orientation, it was very disturbing to just become up close and personal with how we actually treat each other in that context.

You know, in any event, I was matched with my first mentee. It was like a one-on-one type of thing. And within seconds, minutes started just completely shattering all the sort of calcified perceptions I had about that world and those people. I could sense the humanity in this man very quickly, as he was a big-time drug dealer here in Colorado. He had tattoos all over him, had like gang signs on him and stuff and, you know, looked very kind of imposing and scary. And yet we just dropped into this really sweet, intimate connective place right away. And then I took on more mentees and I started, very actively sharing with them and teaching them some of these basic skills and tools.

And I was just blown away by how immediately impactful and how effectively they were integrating these skills and tools into their lives, even inside of the jail. Well, like one of my mentors, he was like the alpha kind of guy in his pod. And without even my solicitation, he went back and made photocopies of the sheets I'd given him. He forced the entire pod to come together and learn these...

Audra: That’s amazing,

Ryel: Things together. And it completely, literally transformed the culture inside of the Boulder County Jail. The word rose up to the administrators. Then we started collaborating. And then that's where we created a version of the level one workshop specifically for inmates. And then we got that program approved through the entire Colorado prison system and started delivering that to facilities throughout Colorado.

And I mean, very quickly, it became known to among the population as being the most effective and powerful and useful workshop or training in the entire sort of programming of those facilities. And then we started getting waiting lists like every facility that we were offering this program. And even still, I mean, we have inmates, ex-inmates sending us messages all the time, like, “Can I tell you how powerful this work has been? It's changed my life. Like all of my relationships have improved.”

And the thing is that, like these guys. You know, it's men and women. And now they don't aspire to become some great enlightened being. And like at the pinnacle of personal development, they just really aspire to, quote-unquote, normal lives like, you know, having healthy family relationships, having a good job. You know, they've just been content and stable in their lives. And it was just incredible to see how supportive these skills and tools were for those values, those you know, those aspirations in that world.

And so really massively validated and affirmed that hypothesis of how universal this work is. You know, I mean, I speak of it as the universal language of human connection. And now, I mean, I've traveled dozens of countries all over the world at present to every kind of person you can imagine. And it lands almost everywhere for everyone. You know, in a really like meaningful way, in a sustainable way. So it's all the more like really fueled our mission, you know, to create our organization as a vehicle for conveying this work to as many people as far as wide as possible.

Just last week, I presented to the principal and the administrators at the Cherry Creek High School in Denver, which is probably the most well-known and highly regarded high school in all of Colorado. And I could pick up on like the skepticism, you know, at the beginning. And because I speak about Authentic Relating in this very kind of street-level language, like it's not just woo-woo kind of thing. It's just very practical and human, even though it is a deeply spiritual practice underneath, you know, like they were just completely won over by the end of the session. And now we're designing a full-scale three-hour presentation to the entire 200-person teaching staff at this high school, which is just so, so, so thrilling.

But, yeah, I mean, to me, that is one of the most vital and important applications of this work is how can we get this work into schools and educational facilities and prepare our young people to be able to cultivate and participate in healthy, nourishing, uplifting, empowering relationships just... Well, what a world we would live in. I think.

Audra: What a world we will live in. Yeah.

Ryel: Yeah. Exactly.

Justin: Yeah. So this can work for incarcerated populations that work in a large institutional context. So we can assume that it also works for teenagers as well. I guess teenagers might be the most hardened, difficult, challenging population out there.

Ryel: More than gang leaders.

Justin: I'll try to boil the whole parenting thing into maybe just one question. Now, you are a parent of a teenager. How has Authentic Relating changed your parenting? Because you started as a parent, having never heard of Authentic Relating, and now you have a 13-year-old. So how have things changed for you?

Ryel: I mean, it goes even further back than that. It's like, man, what if my parents had had access to this work, you know, and that I'd been brought up in this environment how my life would have been so, so different. You know, I mean, it was just a catalog of dysfunctional ways of relating and parenting and being. I mean, I don't blame them at all. Like I don't have any blame. They just did the best they could. And, you know, it's like you look back at our ancestral lineage I mean, nobody like had access to these kinds of skills and tools and ways of being.

So, you know, the contrast of how I was raised with that, how I'm able to raise my kids just really impactful and profound. But yeah, I mean, that was another incredible insight and realization was just how applicable these skills and tools are in cultivating a healthy, trustable, open and intimate, loving, nourishing relationship with my kids. And that's been the case absolutely.

And the investments that I have made and am making in and tending to and fostering health and those relationships will bear a lifetime, not only my and their lifetime, but their kids and their kids. I mean, you know, again, the implications of this work, you know, way beyond just this current conversation are very present for me and for others in the practice.

So, you know, it's like. I mean, there are so many things I could say about, you know, relationship with kids and teens, I mean, just as a couple examples, like I noticed that I was inside of an unconscious story for a long time, that my kids are nothing but a burden. All I do is sacrifice for them. Right. Like I'm trying to live my life. And they're coming in all the time needing things, interrupting, you know, having no regard for my experience or my needs. You know, and all I'm here to do is just, you know, cater to them and serve them. And as like I love them, of course, you know, but I didn't even realize that I was in the sort of grip of this.

Justin: This was an unconscious story. Yeah. Yeah. Like if you were asked just on the spot, like, oh, of course, I love my kids and I love to, you know, do all these things for them. So how did you become aware of this unconscious story?

Ryel: Well, it's interesting. I mean, like, you know, people ask, I don't know, come up in conversation, you know, what is it like to parent for kids and all that? And I often describe it as a parenting, as a series of nonstop interruptions for like 18 years. Which is like a pretty shitty way of describing, you know, my experience of parenting. And so, you know, really is just bringing to bear like the elements and tools, the skills to look deeper. And, you know, it just I was able to carve out some time from just the rigors of life, you know, to really look at my relationship with my kids. I mean, my daughter was starting to manifest.

My oldest daughter is now a teen, was manifesting, you know, some real struggles in her life. You know, she was cutting at one point. You know, she was definitely exhibiting like depression and anxiety. And it really kind of gave me pause. And it had me look into what am I doing? How am I contributing to an environment that, you know, that this kind of behavior is manifested? And I got to see that I was inside of this, you know, story that was disempowering, disconnecting and the opposite of an experience of intimacy.

And so I basically had to restructure and reconfigure my priorities and focus on life and really shifted a lot of attention and desire to create more bandwidth for my relationship with my kids. So as an example, I just started spending at least five to 10 minutes with each kid every night, just one on one, because, you know, when it's all four of them, it's just this sort of tsunami.

Yeah. And so to kind of tease that apart, you know, to really get to know them on an individual basis. It gave me a lot more access to a unique relationship that I could bring to bear with each of them individually and have me tune in more into their unique trajectories in life, like what's going on for you individually and uniquely, what's going on for me? And I'm really fostering day after day, night after night a more intimate, closer, more connected relationship with them. And that's just been so valuable.

Like I said, I've taken two kids to Europe now. And, you know, one of the things that we're going to be doing is walking a 120-mile-long trail in Switzerland together and underneath the surface, it's like they're both a yes to it. I'm almost amazed that they are like into it and want to do it. And to me, it's symbolic. It's actually less about walking on a trail in Switzerland and more about the results of the day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month investment I've made and we've made in fostering a close, trustable, intimate, enlivening relationship, you know. And so we just want to spend time together, you know, more than anything. And so this is just an outlet, an expression for that.

Justin: One thing I heard you say in the past is that you have developed a practice of revealing your experience with your kids, and this really struck me because I think, well, for me and I'm going to just have a big assumption about a lot of parents is that we don't do that, we want to present as Dad and Mom and like we never reveal what's...

Audra: Authority.

Justin: So, yeah. Can you just talk a little bit about that?

Ryel: Yeah, well, you know, a lot of parents are like my teenager, my kids. They don't share anything with me. They're just like, oh, well, I'll ask them questions and give me like monotone, one-word answers. You know, I feel like locked out. I just don't know what's going on for them, you know, and so it's like, well, my first question is: how much are you revealing of yourself in your own world to your kids? Like how do you expect them to go first while you're just actually a total wall? And in some ways, hiding behind the role of mom or dad, you know.

Like we tend to make subservient our own humanity to the roles that we play in life and in relationship. Whther that's mother, father, boss, employee, colleague, you know, friend of this guy and friend of that kind. And, you know, Authentic Relating in many ways challenges the ways that we have conflated our human selves with the roles that we play in life and…

Audra: Absolutely.

Ryel: And so in this regard, it's like allowing the human of you and in you to lead and to set back the role of mom or dad or whatever enforcer or whatever it is, you know, behind that, whoever it is that you're relating with. I tell all our graduates out of our programs, like, you know, part of your training is to be a leader and leading people into an experience of connection and intimacy and stop expecting people to go first, like you have the skills and tools now to reveal your own experience first. And that acts as an established kind of leadership quality in having other people then follow.

It's like when I'm leading a course, you know, and I've got 20 people in the room, I definitely recognize that the degree to which I'm willing to be vulnerable and revealed and real is the degree to which that acts as permission for everybody else to show up vulnerably and authentically. And honestly, like I've had total emotional breakdowns in courses that I've been leading. And like in the back of my mind, I'm like, oh, shit, like I'm not supposed to be doing this, you know, like I'm failing at the role of being like the leader and facilitator. And yet without exception, every time when I check, like, how was that for everyone? They just are like, wow, I feel so much more permission to be my own vulnerable, real, tender, sad, emotional, whatever self, you know, when I see the leader doing it.

It’s the exact same thing in parenting. The degree to which you yourself as a parent are able to be vulnerable, like actually really vulnerable. What are your fears? You know, what are your dreams? What are your struggles? Allow your emotions to be expressed. I mean, my parents were like utterly unemotional even when they were fighting. It was like just robotic, almost, you know. And so I just internalized that. And so, you know, I allow myself to be emotional, whether it's sad or upset or angry, and reveal that as my experience. And that creates a sense of safety, a sense of family culture in which all of you is welcome.

Actually, I feel called to share this one piece that I think is so valuable and so insightful for parents, navigating the challenges of raising teens in particular. So there's a brilliant doctor, a therapist, trauma expert named Gabor Maté, the Hungarian Canadian fellow. And one thing that he said is that, that really stuck with me, is that as kids we have two primary needs, the most important two things required for a healthy upbringing in childhood. One is secure attachment. Right. Like we can depend and lean into the relationships that we have with our caregivers, and they're going to be there consistently and securely. And the other primary need is for authentic expression. And the healthiest people grow up in an environment in which both of those are fostered and encouraged and supported.

And yet, if a child ever experiences or perceives the security of their attachment is being threatened, they will always sacrifice authentic expression in order to preserve the security of those relationships and attachments. And that stays with us as adults. Like, where is it that we're afraid of revealing our authentic experience, our authentic selves, because we're fearing the degradation of undermining or breaking of our attachments and relationship, so we just push that in.

You know, we're doing that as parents, you know, I would say almost universally. So where is it that you can actually, you know, really reveal your authentic experience as a model for your children, watching you, seeing you and recognizing,” oh, like I can be my authentic whole free self here as well,” you know, and it doesn't jeopardize my relationships. In fact, Authentic Relating flips that paradigm completely around in which the more authentically expressed I am, the more secure are my attachments and relationships.

Justin: Yeah.

Ryel: And vice versa.

Justin: Oh, that's beautiful.

Audra: I can really identify with this. And this is my work to do as well. You know, especially and I feel like my number, my work relationships and things like that I have a lot of work to do with kind of like authentically revealing my experience and expressing myself. And I can hold back for fear of breaking connection and for fear of response because of, I think, how I grew up as well.

And I find my family to be and working with this on with my family to be so powerful, because I know that we're in this together. I know that we're in this work together. I know that we're not going to break connection. And so it's actually been the first frontier for me that I'm hoping to take out further from here. But I found it to be safer, to start within the family.

And yeah, and it can start with little things. It doesn't have to be, you don't have to have the perfect sentence terms and the perfect like, you know, entry points or anything like that. You know, I remember I was biking with Maesie in Savannah here. And, you know, I did the mom thing where I was like, you know, “heads up. There's a bus coming.” “I know, I know. Of course I know.” And I was like, “Maesie, I just have to, I just want to share that like I am your mom. And I've been doing this for so many years. And it is hard for me to just adjust. And I'm trying to, you being old enough. I know that you see this and it's like this is really my stuff. It's not yours. So thank you for being patient with me.”

And she's like, “Ok, cool, mom.” You know, like it can start with like little, little moments and blossom into the big one so that it becomes, I think, second nature. When you get into our big emotional outbursts, I find so much of the work is in myself and really not about my kid. You know, it's they did it. And it is really powerful. We've been doing a lot of this together, thanks to Authentic Relating, I have to say, like Authentic Relating has changed our lives.

Ryel: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. And I can imagine a lot of parents hear this and say, well, if I'm truly authentic, then I will lose my attachment with my kids. And so this is really, this is hopeful. This is really just I love hearing this, that actually the more authentic you are and the more present and authentic, the more attachment will emerge.

Audra: Can you guys give some examples? We've got, of course, Ryel as a leader of the Authentic Relating movement, really, and running the, I don't know if there are many Authentic Relating organizations or not, but ART is the organization I feel like in the space, really bringing forward curriculum and trainings and making a difference. And then, of course, you've been through a lot of those trainings. Can you provide us some concrete examples? Because we were talking a lot about this, almost like a methodology, like what is it like to be in the space of Authentic Relating?

Justin: Well, I'll just share real quick when we're in level one. I was trying to bring these practices into our daily life with our kids, and it, I wasn't really sure how to do it. I felt a little awkward. So I just started with just expressing what was happening literally in my physical body.

And so I would get into, I would start to enter into a conflict with my daughter and I would pause. And I would say, “Maesie, I'm feeling a tightness in my chest right now. I'm feeling my heart rate increase.” And so I would just describe physically what was happening. I was like, that's the best I can do. I just want you to know what's happening for me. Well, and then the other part of that is when I would do that, it would diffuse what was happening. And it was like we could start to talk and relate to each other in new ways. If I just paused and started to describe what was happening for me, even physically, I'm not even going to try to interpret the emotional, psychological world inside. I'm just going to describe what's happening physically for me right now. And so I was so impressed with how just that simple practice diffused what was happening and opened up new avenues for us to communicate.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's great. Exactly. I mean, you know, anywhere that you are able to reveal more of your own experience, it's like even what you just said earlier, it's like a parent might have the fear that if I'm authentic, you know, that that may result in some, you know, negative impact on my relationship with my kids. Whatever, like reveal that.

Audra: Yeah. Right. Right.

Ryel: Like actually say that like, I'm wanting to be more revealed with the or share more about what's going on for me. And I'm concerned that dot, dot, dot, you know, that this, you know, like that'll impact our relationship or. And then get curious about the answer, you know. And, you know, kid’s like, “No, I want to know,” you know, like actually been wanting to know.

Justin: Yeah.

Ryel: So it's actually, it's like you don't need to somehow shift yourself to become then ready to reveal. Right is revealing exactly where you are and what's happening in that moment. You know, that is the peace, you know that it just you can't you can't do that without there being some deepening of intimacy there and of seeing each other being seen and of again of rehumanizing yourself and each other. It's like. You know, your kids look at you as in large part as the role of mom and dad. Right. And that comes with all sorts of connotations and associations and and it can really constrain and restrict the freedom and space and, you know, excitement that is in the relation that is latent and the relational space, you know, so again, for you to sort of set aside the roles and just show up as human, you know, parents struggle.

We all do. Like, you know, this thing happened to me at work or I had a fight with mom or whatever it is, you know. And to really reveal that, I mean, like I have absolutely been super transparent with my kids around, you know, the breakdown of our marriage and, you know, divorce and separation. And now that landed, that impacted me and it impacted the kids and that I've had really honest and open conversations about that. It doesn't occur as like a service to them. It's like I feel so much lighter myself, you know.

And it's again, like your kids are going to become adults someday and you're going to relate with them as adults. So every, you know, moment that you're showing up in this younger child-parent relationship and being real and open and vulnerable and transparent is going to serve the rest of your relationship as they, you know, they don't need you at some point as a mom or dad anymore, you know, and then you get to be an ally and a collaborator, you know, and a sort of elder. And those are beautiful roles to be in. And, you know, for me, it's like prioritizing the human above all else and leading with that.

Audra: It's so powerful. What comes up for me is that concept of rehumanizing, both for yourself and others, and that when we are in performance, we're in a dehumanized or dehumanizing space. And I think of that in all of my work roles that I've had. You know, we're all kind of like performance, you know, kind of interacting roles. Yeah. But the performative aspects of life and that we inherit parenting very often in that way, in the performance we think we should be doing. And by getting down to the basics of rehumanizing through this revealing of our experience and, you know, kind of like connecting, reconnecting ourselves is really powerful.

Justin: We have only scratched the surface. And one thing I want to do is direct people to ART. And so, Ryel, I will ask you for how best parents and anyone listening can get in touch with ART. But then also, I just want to state again. And I know that I've told you at The Family's Thrive, we want to be doing this type of work. And so we want to work with ART and we want to work with you. So this is just the beginning.

Audra: Just an opening.

Justin: Yes. So can you tell all listeners how best to get in touch with ART and then some of the things that you do at ART?

Ryel: Time goes by quick when you're enlivened by the conversation, for sure. It's like we offer courses, programs, webinars, whatever that are topical, and yet the implications of everything that we teach along those topics does radiate out to every one of our relationships, you know, it's like we didn't have enough time.

But, you know, the influence and power dynamics players in these interactions, I think is so vital to acknowledge, you know, like as a parent, your power. There's a differential in the power dynamics. And to name it, to recognize, to acknowledge it, I think is important just as it is in the workplace. Right. It's like, you know, there's a power dynamic at play there, and it necessarily influences and impacts how people relate, how safe they feel to be expressed, you know, how the relationship between their expression and their sense of security. It's bringing back all sorts of childhood stuff, you know, so it really acknowledges these power dynamics, I think is vital.

Yeah, there's a lot more that we could definitely explore, but in any event. Yeah. So the companies Art International, Authentic Relating Training International. Website is authenticrelating.co.

The level one program is designed for the general public, for everyone. And it will teach you the foundational elements of the practice such that you can then apply them across the board and all of your relationships. And then we have a whole bunch of other offerings that are more specific to particular contacts, there’s a couple's program. That's super awesome. A program just for men. We're designing a membership platform right now that will be more of a community, kind of hub, like what you guys have been creating. Yeah. And a bunch more.

I mean, it's just it's like I want to portray Authentic Relating not as some kind of end-all, be-all, you know, type of thing that you either get or you don't. It's actually a complement and a supplement to anything and everything else, so you're already up to right? That's the beauty of it, is just it's an additional catalyst for a deepening and expanding of everything and anything that people are already up to. So I really appreciate that aspect. But yeah, that's the best way to check us out. Website and other info is there.

Justin: We can't let you go without asking you the last questions that we ask every guest. So the first one is if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning. What would that Post-it note say?

Ryel: Is this Post-it Note for everyone, everywhere. And that’s slow down. Definitely want to slow down, down, feel more, access more, breathe more, be in your body more. And then the second, I would say is reveal and reveal your experience. Let yourself be seen, be a human, you know, show yourself.

Justin: Beautiful. And then the next question is, what is the last quote that really moved you?

Ryel: Oh, man, so many. I mean, the one that I one of my favorites that I often share is by an...artist named Tony [Berlant], and he says, “The more introspective a work of art is, the more universal it becomes.” And I take that to mean that the more we are willing to reveal the deepest, darkest, most shameful parts of ourselves, the more connected we are to the universal experience of humanity.

Justin: Mm-hmm. Awesome. And then the last one is, well, so I just have to always give context for this last one. For many parents and you reveal this with yourself as well, that parenting can be a lot of drudgery and a lot of interruptions, a lot of hassle. And so we like to end with this last question. What do you love about kids?

Ryel: And I want to just give you some automatic answer and actually feel into what feels true and responding to that. Yeah, I mean, I would say more than anything, they've really reminded me how to play. Which is something I've forgotten or, you know, become separate from that I can actually see life as, it sounds kind of cliche, but life is a playground, you know, and to find the silliness and the playfulness and the joy and the creativity every day, in every moment, been a source of real vitality and kind of life force for us.

For me, I tend to be quite serious. And so to have like, you know, just this array of humans around me who are so playful, you know, and want to draw me into play all the time, it's not just the play. It's deeply healing, something really deeply healing in my, like enrolling me into the context of play. And when I allow myself to go there it feels really healing and joyful and rejuvenating. And, yeah, it just gives me a much better perspective of life.

Audra: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that, and I feel like you, I feel like that's evidenced in the ART platform, which is really beautiful. I feel like we get invited into play and therefore connection through the work that you do. And I really appreciate that.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. I mean, so much of this work is reminding us of what it was like when we were kids, before we were indoctrinated into a bunch of filters and conditioning. Does the innocence, the freedom, the expression, the playfulness, all of these things, you know, are really deeply in the spirit of the practice?

Audra: No. Thank you for sharing it with. Absolutely. Yeah. And all of our families and in The Family Thrive. This is... it's really an honor to be on this journey with you. And I really appreciate being able to meet you today. And I hope this conversation continues.

Justin: I sincerely hope and believe this is not the last time we're going to talk with you, Ryel.

Ryel: I mean, I appreciate what you're up to. I mean, anywhere that we can bring more of this kind of practice and skills and tools to bear on raising kids, you know, in really preparing them to thrive in their relationships, like that's where it really, really matters to me so such a yes to that.

Justin: Awesome, awesome

Audra: Thank you so much.

Justin: Thank you, Ryel. We'll see you next time.

Ryel: All right. See you.

Audra: Bye.

Justin: Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.

Justin: You’re going to love what we have in store in this episode. It's all about this amazing set of ideas and practices called Authentic Relating. We get deep pretty quick and I realized after the episode that I never pause to get a basic overview of what Authentic Relating really is. We went pretty high level right from the start. So I want to begin here by explaining what we're getting into.

Ryel Kestano is the CEO and co-founder of a company that trains people all around the world in the practice of Authentic Relating. The super basic definition of Authentic Relating is: it's a set of ideas and practices and games designed to teach people how to be their authentic selves while connecting deeply with other people and allowing them to be their authentic selves.

The typical Authentic Relating session is like a set of games that help people practice being authentic and open and caring towards others. I'll wrap up this intro by saying that I believe Authentic Relating can absolutely transform all of our relationships for the better, especially parenting and marital relationships. If you have ever felt distant, unheard, unseen, frustrated, confused, or just out of sorts in your relationships with your kids or your partner, (and who among us has not?) then buckle up and prepare yourself to learn about a set of practices and ideas that have the potential to change all of this. Without further ado, here is our incredible conversation with the one and only Ryel Kestano.

One thing that I learned from Ryel and Authentic Relating Training is to set context. And so I just want to set a little context at the beginning by just telling as short a story as I can about how I came to Authentic Relating, because over a year ago, I had never heard of Authentic Relating. Of course, I had heard those words before, but never put together in that way. And so I was invited into an Authentic Relating group. I didn't even know that that's what it was. I think it was phrased in a different way.

Audra: Who invited you in?

Justin: I loved it. This was Ali Tataryn.

Audra: Oh, from Bio-Emotive.

Justin: Yeah. And so I loved it, like, oh, my God, this is fantastic. And this would be great for childhood cancer parents and our MaxLove Project work. And so that was the first time. And then I tried to find a few more things to go to. Ali told me about ART. And then we signed up for level one that summer and then…

Audra: Last summer.

Justin: Yeah. And then I signed up for the Authentic Relating Leadership Program in the fall. And that's where I met you, Ryel. And I've, I mean, I've loved every single moment. Then I took Level Two in the spring, and I hope to take level three someday. And I mean, it's really been a life-changing practice, this Authentic Relating.

So I couldn't wait to have you on, because not only are you deep into the Authentic Relating world and the CEO of an Authentic Relating training company, but you're also a father. And so you're putting this practice to work every single day and in a bunch of different contexts. So you're a father, you're an entrepreneur, you're a leader in the Authentic Relating movement. So I want to talk about all of these, but just in reverse order. So I guess for the listeners, most of them are going to say, what the heck are they talking about with Authentic Relating? So maybe we can just start there, Ryel. What is Authentic Relating?

Ryel: Yeah. And my pleasure being here with you. Thanks for having me. This is awesome. Yeah. What is Authentic Relating? I mean, it's very simple as it's a practiced experience. Better relationships in your life. If I had five seconds that's probably what I would say is it's a whole comprehensive suite of skills and tools that are designed to be immediately applicable for people in creating, cultivating, and deepening relationships with everyone in their lives.

One of the very first experiences I had when I was a student, first coming into the practice, it was twofold. One was an experience of all of me, the entirety of me being completely and totally welcomed into the space. And I never actually had the experience in which I so viscerally felt that every aspect of me, especially the parts of me that I kept behind a wall or behind guards or felt shame around or just felt was inappropriate or unwelcome. All those parts were not only worthy of being welcomed by others, but worthy of their curiosity to know more of myself. And as it turned out, the sort of reference point of other people taking such a curious perspective on these parts of me actually helped me develop and cultivate more curiosity and openness and welcoming from my own parts within myself.

And there's this core promise, I would say, that's inherent to the practice that it is a path that leads one towards a sense of greater wholeness within themselves, a sense of integration of all the aspects and parts of one's self into a sense of wholeness, which is just overall relaxing, relieving, empowering, all these benefits and showing up in the world. More specifically, I would say that Authentic Relating as a practice that reveals the hidden, it makes the implicit explicit, it brings all of the unconscious parts of ourselves, both individually and relationally and collectively, into the conscious field of awareness, where we have more choice, more understanding, more insight into the parts of ourselves and the parts of each other.

As I've learned, so much of what drives people's behavior and reaction and patterns of relating are contained in their unconscious selves. Much of what informs our unconscious derives from trauma of the past, of ways we were modeled, relationship by our caregivers growing up and all these things bear out in how we show up as adults in the world and in relationship, and so to have access and the skills to create deeper access into the unconscious parts of myself and allow those things to come to the surface creates a space for much more relatability, vulnerability, deeper connection, empathy, understanding of each other, and the same tools that I can use in and for myself to bring out the unconscious parts of myself and to my conscious awareness. I can also use to create a pathway for others.

So the skills that Authentic Relation teaches, I can bring out into conversation and relationship with others such that they feel more seen, more gotten, more heard, more welcomed, more access to their own unconscious selves. And yeah, really that all contributes to the experience of profound intimacy that you can experience with a partner that you've known for decades, right alongside meeting someone for the first time and experience a sense of humanity, a shared human experience. That I just never felt until encountering this practice.

Justin: So much there. What do you want to ask?

Audra: I have two things, curiosity popping up here. One was hearing about the parts, because I'm hearing a lot about parts from Justin. He's been diving deep into Internal Family Systems work. And so I'm hearing like a really wonderful way of relating to these parts through Authentic Relating practices, which I did the level one. And I love the communication practices and all of that. I never thought of it as both an inward like being able to authentically relate and practice with myself and my inner world as much as the outer and with others. So that presented to me just as you were speaking.

And so I'm curious, is that something that you found in your practice, that you were able to deploy these strategies to be like curious about, you know, self curious and develop inner, you know, compassion and empathy and things like that through the process?

Ryel: Yeah, well, yeah. I mean, the first response, I would say and one way of answering that is that which we don't welcome in ourselves is that which we don't welcome in others. So those parts of ourselves that we are uncomfortable with in ourselves will be projected in our discomfort in those same parts, in other people. And so to the degree that I can deepen a sense of intimacy with all aspects and parts of myself, the same degree to which I'm cultivating a deeper capacity to be with the experience of others. And that, to me, is the intimacy, the ability to remain in connection and in our bodies and our awareness, in our hearts, no matter what arises for us and for other people, we can stay there and rest there in that connection. So I think it's vital.

I didn't realize I mean, that, you know, it's interesting. It's like we know what we know. We know what we don't know. And then we don't know what we don't know. And that last one is like 80-90% of all that there is to know. And so like I didn't realize like going through was so much of my life. I had no idea how much was acting upon me, especially in relationships at the unconscious level. It's like I had just sort of pushed it down into some aspect of my psyche where it occurred at the surface, like it didn't even exist. But actually, it was informing and influencing every aspect of how I was showing up and relating and responding and reacting.

And I would say that one of the great sort of forefather pioneers of what is now Authentic Relating was Carl Jung and the work that he did around articulating the nature of the shadow and how it shows up in people both individually and collectively. And that was just super fascinating for me.

And so I really put into perspective that Authentic Relating really as a practice of illuminating one's shadow and seeing all the aspects of our own selves that we have suppressed or pushed down or disintegrated from a sense of wholeness and whole awareness down into the shadow. And, you know, he said that if we continue to ignore the aspects and messages from the shadow, they will manifest in ever more degenerative waves, including physically what we commonly suffer from physical, energetic, emotional ailments as a result of our ignoring or turning away from or perpetuating a disintegration of the aspects of ourselves. They live in the shadow. And so necessarily by bringing this practice to bare and can be really uncomfortable and confronting as we start to sort of excavate the sort of field of awareness deeper into our subconscious selves.

I often use this analogy of Lake Powell, which is this lake in Southern Utah. Gorgeous, beautiful area. And yet it's an artificial lake that was dammed up by the Glen Canyon Dam. And in recent years, the water level has been getting lower and more and more. And as it is lowering, it's revealing all of these incredible artifacts that had been submerged and lost under the surface. And it's also revealing all of this garbage and stuff that people had discarded over the decades. It just accumulated under the surface.

And so Authentic Relating really is a lowering of those waters of the conscious self and starting to notice all the aspects both beautiful and enlivening and inspiring, as well as really confronting and disgusting and ugly. And it gives us the resources and the skills and tools to turn toward those aspects, to face them, and to ultimately cultivate a sense of intimacy and integration with them. And as we do that work within ourselves, we can radiate and bring that, emanate that into our relationships and create a safer, more welcoming, loving, connected space for others to access their deepest selves.

Audra: Oh, it's beautiful.

Justin: This is what I think of as a therapeutic aspect of Authentic Relating. So I definitely want to touch on this more. But for listeners who are just brand new to all of these terms, Jung himself, can you briefly describe what the shadow is?

Ryel: Yeah. So essentially it's actually a brilliant function of the human experience. It's the ability to basically set aside, cut off or, you know, I would say in a positive way, push away traumatic experiences, experiences that produce a sense of disassociation or extreme anxiety or emotional reactivity to be able to separate those from just getting on with life, just a daily function of life instead of being just dogged by these demons.

There's actually some function in the human psyche that is able to separate these things into the shadow so that they generally occur is not existing and not being prominent enough to just distract us from just getting on with life. So, you know, I had a pretty traumatic, dysfunctional upbringing in childhood in which effectively was able to compartmentalize into the shadow and just be able to function relatively effectively in life. But those things have dogged me ever since and have undermined and sabotaged my relationships in life again and again and again.

I mean, I can look back to my partnership for 14 years that I'm now separated from and now can look back and see almost exactly how the elements that I had placed or pushed into my shadow came back to act in a sabotaging way that continue to degrade a sense of trust and connection and rapport that over time eventually led us to separate. I would say that there are so many examples of relationships ending because of one or two people not willing or able to turn toward the aspects of themselves that live in the shadow and do the deep work of integration and healing.

Audra: It sounds like to me or what I'm hearing is that the shadow allows you to survive.

Ryel: Yeah.

Audra: But not to thrive. You know, if we don't, you know, kind of face you like it's almost like we've been talking about this metabolically. If you consume too much sugar, sugar is toxic, right. If we didn't get to store it in fat, then it could kill you just circulating in your bloodstream. But we have this capacity to store it as fat and deal with it later.

It reminds me of the shadow that we can, we see it in our, I mean, with getting through Max's, the trauma of Max's diagnosis, for example. It gave us the opportunity to put one foot in front of the other. But what presents later is the opportunity to really kind of look at those shadows and work on it.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. Well, it's sort of like, you know, a lot of the traumatic incidents of childhood manifest later in life as defense mechanism strategies for protection. Right. And because our, you know, protective mechanisms are so sensitive, they will perceive situations as threats and cause us to armor up and protect when in fact, they aren't threats. And so a lot of the practice of Authentic Relating is to slow down and to bring forward a more nuanced and comprehensive and high resolution perspective on circumstances so we can actually start to retrain ourselves to recognize that these circumstances aren't threatening. And I can actually meet them vulnerably and openly.

Justin: Just to give listeners even a broader context here, I think most people's introduction to Authentic Relating is through games, Authentic Relating games. And so now what I'm seeing is that these games and then framed in the word game, lowers the intensity or the expectation first for having to do something difficult. But that really these Authentic Relating games are pushing us to do something difficult and to face something that we might be hiding from or to come into contact with our shadow or our defense mechanisms. Is that how you see it?

Ryel: Yeah. I mean, we as games in a particular context. It does capture the element of playfulness that we associate with playing games. But really, as you said, it creates the sense of freedom in which I can play the game of life and relationship in any way that really suits me.

You know, just as an example, when I was first encountering this practice, I had lived a very sheltered and withdrawn kind of life. And my relationships are very guarded and protected. And when I started discovering these tools, I was super inspired and excited to, you know, sort of dissolve that and experience what it'd be like to just walk around the world and nakedly and vulnerably. And I was traveling a lot for the work I was doing at the time.

And I created a game for myself in which every time I was on a flight on an airplane somewhere, I would do my best to experience a sense of intimacy with whoever sat next to me. And I just created that game as an expression of an underlying value for connection and intimacy and the nourishment that is derived from those experiences. And it was super confronting and uncomfortable to step into that game. But I was like committed to playing it. And it had me really confront and then ultimately shatter the story or perception I had that people don't want to connect. They just want to maintain their little bubbles or whatever. And so I brought that on like dozens of flights, you know, around the country and world. And I would say overwhelmingly, I mean, more than nine times out of 10, I achieved that experience of experiencing intimacy, you know, with my seatmate. I mean, it was.

And then in retrospect, is it strange that we, this person and I are like pretty close to each other? You know, I mean, there's like just inches apart from each other. And we could go hours just with this like invisible wall that separates us. And so not only did I get to really shatter that assumption and perspective and create a new possibility as an outcome of that game, but got to experience incredible connections and conversations. I mean, people that I still remember to this day as having been really moved by and touched by, I mean tears and laughter and sweetness and, you know, staying in touch with people long after really meaningful connections in which I was served.

It wasn't like I was doing a service to them as really as much for me as for anyone. And, you know, have learned what I've learned,and as I've been touched, as I have been, to just become more connected to this sense of a shared human experience was so valuable. I mean, that's one of the great outcomes of my having traveled around the world. Teaching this work and being with people is becoming ever more in touch with a sense that we are all actually experiencing a common human experience that transcends the differences and the reasons why we break down and argue and are in conflict. Underneath that, we struggle, we cry, we laugh, we have joy, we care. You know, we have passions, dreams and hopes.

And these things are so unifying and so healing, actually, and I think so important to establish upon which we can then debate our differences . And so, you know, for me, Authentic Relating is a practice of immense re-humanization that is so needed right now in the world.

Justin: I love that term re-humanization.

Audra: Ryel, I'd love to know, where were you in life when you found Authentic Relating?

Ryel: Yes. It was very circumstantial, I was yeah, we had three little kids at the time and marriage was showing a lot of strain. And the impetus for me actually was my partner at the time coming to me almost out of nowhere and wanting to open our marriage for her to have the freedom to be intimate with other men. And it just set me completely spinning out like I basically had kind of a look back now and I could see the signs that led up to that. But at the time, I just maintain a state of oblivion to, you know, the sort of cracks in the system. Until this thing came along and it just, you know, really kind of turned my world upside down.

And it was the catalyst for me to look at why I was reacting so intensely and with such consumption and my daily experience, what's actually going on for me deeper down. It was sort of like these demons that I was able to keep at bay under the surface just now, just breaking through the surface and tormenting me day and night. And so it really was the call for me to go deeper.

And I hadn't done any personal work at all ever. And that was never a value in my upbringing whatsoever. And so I just started this quest, you know, asking the universe like, show me, guide me, like I'll do anything. I'll go anywhere else, study with anyone. And I started just doing all sorts of stuff, you know, all kinds of therapies, retreats, studying with different teachers, you know, medicine, ceremonials, anything and everything that occurred as providing potential for insight. And then, you know, in the course of that, a friend of mine was enrolling people into the introductory Authentic Relating course in Boulder and I was an absolute yes to that. And I stepped in it out and within literally minutes or less seconds, it was like I just had a radically different experience than I'd ever had with anything else.

It just was the feeling of like, this is it. This is the medicine. This is the prescription. It's exactly the suite of skills and tools that I'm so yearning for to be able to, you know, look deeper in myself, feel these aspects of myself, use the external circumstances as a catalyst to do this deeper work.

And it's just been a lifelong journey ever since. And one of the very first things that I really encountered is I want to share a couple of things that were notable about Authentic Relating compared to other, you know, transformational practices and teachings. One was how immediately applicable I believe these skills and tools could be to every single human on the planet. The implications occurred as so far beyond just the personal development world or a spiritual seeking world or anything like that. Like these are elements of how to function and healthy relationship that everybody should have access to and have the opportunity to receive. Like this is the missing piece out of our education and upbringing. You know, how is it that we go to school and spend years and years studying all these things? And yet there's never a class on like skillful relationships, in our... like this is mind-blowing to me.

So that was one aspect. And then the other was, you know, it's contained in this, the title Authentic Relating. I found that a lot of other practices were about teaching people to be more authentic and more expressive, more revealed, you know, to stand in their power and their truth and their voice, which is certainly super valuable and powerful.

But what Authentic Relating provided was the relating part, was recognizing that I am one member of this relational space or of this collective space, and that actually, you know, it's incumbent upon me to create as much space of invitation and welcoming for other people to speak their truth, to share their vulnerable selves as much as it is for me. And so this balance and dance between the authentic part of me, you know, sharing and revealing what's happening for me and the relating part, you know, creating space for others to bring themselves into the relational space. I hadn't encountered that in any other teaching or practice or modality. And it really is so compelling to me. So those are some of the elements that drew me deeper into it.

Audra: The truly connective part, it sounds like. I remember you talking about that with working on various forms of meditation, for example, as a part of your practice. But you can isolate your, you can end up isolating yourself with a number of practices. One thing I…

Ryel: Well, just really quickly on that note. I mean, you know, it's common that you hear stories of like, you know, decades long meditators in the classic sense, you know, sitting on a cushion and meditating like, you know, having mastered their relationships like divine or spirit or whatever it is being assholes like in relationships.

Justin: Yes. Totally dysfunctional. Yeah. Out in the world.

Audra: Right. Right.

Ryel: And what was compelling about Authentic Relating is, it is called the relational meditation. It's actually it's still bringing the aspect of bringing an exquisite awareness to the present moment. But in the context of the relational space, you know, using the relational space itself as the object of meditation that I thought was just much more useful and valuable.

Audra: So I'm also curious. So you mentioned that this episode with your previous partner was an opening, a door open at that point to really start diving in and doing this inner work. And it's the first time you had done it.

Ryel: Yeah.

Audra: And you also mentioned traumatic childhood. Is it the case that you’re a therapist?

Ryel: Am I?

Audra: Yeah. Am I getting this right?

Ryel: No, no, no, no, no.

Audra: Ok, ok. So what's your background? What is your background prior to ART?

Ryel: I mean, I just speak to that just quickly and then I can answer that question more fully. Like, why is it that people are drawn to therapy? Like why do people go to therapy? What do they perceive or believe will occur there? Uniquely in the therapy environment or context that makes that context valuable. Most often it's the experience of being deeply, truly and wholly listened to.

Audra: Yeah. Right.

Ryel: A complete awareness and attention. And like what I've discovered, is that there's actually a therapist living in every single one of them. When we bring that quality of listening and attention and reflection and awareness to bear on our interactions and conversations and relationships.

And to that degree, like you said earlier, Justin, I think Authentic Relating is a profoundly therapeutic practice. You know, that can kind of distribute and widen the values that we get out of traditional therapy in all of our relationships and conversations.

So just want to name that. Yeah, I mean, it's interestingly, my background is the opposite of any kind of, you know, personal development, deep work or any of that. I grew up Orthodox Jewish, in itself was devoid, in my experience, was devoid of any kind of value for spirituality, as is very dogmatic. And, you know, just do this, do that without any deeper explanation. My parents, my dad was a businessman. He was gone on business all the time. My mom was a flight attendant. She was gone all the time, you know, raised by a pretty dysfunctional caregivers from early on, you know, physical abuse and that and, you know, the sort of kind of internalized story that I grew up with was, you know, these things are happening to me and nobody's around to protect me or keep me safe.

And the conclusion is that I don't matter. I must not matter. That's like the only explanation they wouldn't have. This all makes sense. And so I deeply internalize that into myself, like I, I don't matter. And then I have to compensate to do things that have me feel like I matter. You know, to override or compensate for that core wound. So, you know, like coming into this whole world, I was bringing a lifetime worth of unprocessed baggage. I would say unprocessed trauma. You know, one of the results of that was I didn't have a sense of a nurturing relationship with my mom. She left very early on. And so I took of the loss of that, the void of that, and projected that onto all of my intimate partners as an adult, like seeking mother figure.

And yet it was happening totally unconsciously. I couldn't have named that at all. It was just happening deeply. And that's, again, like, you know, emanating from the shadow, getting this, you know, trying to get this core need met for safety, for comfort, for reassurance, all the things that a mother is supposed to provide. But I didn't get was seeking that from intimate partners and trying to manipulate them into being a mother figure.

Audra: Right. Right.

Ryel: Without being able to name that. And so naturally, it's going to set up a dysfunctional relationship. And I would say that was the sort of core pattern that was running me and has been running me. It's not like it's gone from me. It's still a part of who I am. But I'm just aware of it now.

It's like awareness is the seed of transformation, everything. It has to start with awareness. And so now I'm aware of these impulses within me that come out sideways or under the conscious radar. And I can catch them and notice them now and redirect them in a much healthier way, like learning how to re-parent myself, you know, or be able to name it when it's arising in relationship.

Audra: That is such a powerful point to me. And I just feel like I have to share that. That is having a big impact on me as you’re sharing. I want to thank you for your openness and being able to talk with us about this. And it seems to me that that process that you're describing of having the awareness and then observing and maybe speaking to it or voicing it and redirecting whatever it might be, that's just huge. It's a win.

If there is, I don't know. I guess it seems to me that we think of self healing and reparenting that we think we're just not going to have this anymore. It's just not going to pop up anymore. Like we're going to solve it. It's going to be over and we're going to be in a totally new space. And to me, it feels more resonant that awareness process and being able to give voice, redirect. And I don't know, for me, just own whatever is coming up. That is a barrier for, I'm presenting a barrier for us or our kids. Is everything like that is, that's the point that I want to get to.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. Well, it's like, again, in the context of parenting, the degree to which you are able to fully accept all aspects and parts of your own self itself will be modeled and conveyed and transmitted, you know, down to your kids. Right. If there's any if you're in any way, you know, pushing away and not accepting, uncomfortable with or disintegrated from any aspects of yourself, if you haven't done or aren't doing that kind of work, I almost want a guarantee that it's going to trickle down to your kids and they're going to internalize that within themselves.

Justin: Yes, I can attest to that. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I love, I just want to pause to call out this awesome phrase. So we just have it for the show notes. So awareness is the seed of transformation. It, when you phrase it like that, I thought, wow, so Authentic Relating the way that I've described it to other people, it’s like ok, how can I describe this as quickly as possible?

So the way that I experience it is I am holding space for other people to reveal what's happening for them. And I am honestly and authentically revealing what's happening for me. And so in this, but from the perspective of awareness, like what's happening is I'm trying to become more aware of what's happening for you and who you are and honestly and authentically becoming aware of what's happening for me and expressing that as well. That Authentic Relating is really a practice of awareness.

Ryel: Yeah, well, exactly. I mean, is this paradox of the journey of transformation where you. I think a lot of people, certainly I ventured into thinking like I need to literally change these aspects of myself to be able to function and show up and thrive in the world. And yet actually the destination, I think, of the journey of transformation is to learn how to accept yourself exactly as you are. It's not about changing anything.

Audra: Yes.

Ryel: The only thing that's changing is your not accepting yourself exactly as you are.

Justin: It's a paradox.

Ryel: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. Like you do need to change. But the thing you need to change is accepting yourself.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah. It’s almost like, you know, archetypally, it's the hero's journey. It's like the hero's journey culminates when you come back home. Right. And you bring the treasures of your journey back home to bear on where you came from. Right. And, you know, it's sort of a blunt juristic. But, you know, when I hear people on their journey and I ask them or it comes up about their relationship with their family or, you know, their family of origin or their hometown or whatever, and they're still talking about like, yeah, they're just in a different world or, you know, they don't get me, I don't get them, you know, I'm just you know, it's a good thing that I'm moving apart.

You know, for me, I'll acknowledge I have a better judgment there. And the journey is still ongoing because I think the destination, a journey is to come home to where I came from to the people that I grew up with, and to bring like a sense of wholeness back to those environments in service of healing the past, you know, and creating a more kind of cohesive and robust link in the chain of our collective lineage.

You know, it's like I think it's you know, it's vital for kids, teenagers, young adults to grow up, leave the home, differentiate, find themselves, seek their own path and all that. But to the degree to which they are rejecting the aspects and elements of their past, I think it's going to continue to haunt them and create a sense of internal rift, you know, until at some point there's the ability to go back to the past, whether emotionally or literally can integrate those aspects and elements into this experience of wholeness.

And, you know, I mean, I'll take my Orthodox Jewish upbringing. I absolutely resented it and rejected it. It constrained me, it didn't allow for authentic expression. You know, and had to really distance myself. And so, you know, really lately, just the last few years have really come full circle and see actually how how much it's a part of me in many ways, how it created a sense of community and cohesion and belonging and identity, and that there's actually a deep spirituality that lives underneath a sort of surface levels of the religion. All these layers of being able to, you know, integrate these aspects of my past into a sense of current wholeness.

Audra: You know, say it sounds like incorporation and integration, it's a really I mean, I think to being able to be with our families and our kids and a practice that provides a path for that I think is really powerful.

So it brings me back to a point that you made earlier about why don't we teach this in schools? And I am so with you. I was an educator prior to running our nonprofit, and I used to work with college students and student development. And it brought me into the space of doing this work with college students and not this exact work, not Authentic Relating, I have to say, very I think similar skill-building and working on developing these skills and tools with students.

And the main issue was that we were missing everything from preschool where I think we do a little bit of this. And then K-12 gone. None of it. Nothing else. And it strikes me that one of the most powerful things about Authentic Relating is how accessible it is. You're not talking about a therapeutic modality that is expensive and accessible, you know, in the hands of a chosen few folks who have to get extensive education to get there…

Justin: Or takes years and years.

Audra: Or takes years and years. This is something that is like infinitely scalable and accessible. So realizing the dream of bringing this practice into schools, I think is really reasonable.

Justin: Well. I mean, so let's just talk about that real quick. I do want to get back to parenthood. But Ryel, you have been involved not just bringing it into places like schools, but you are involved with a nonprofit, bringing it into prisons as well.

Audra: Oh, wow.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. It is an interesting story, because like I said, you know, when I first and kind of Authentic Relating immediately hit me, like the implications of this are much further and wider than it's ever been conveyed to, you know, or distributed to. And I was very sure of that. And yet I wanted to test the hypothesis to see if I was right about that.

And so I volunteered to be a mentor at the Boulder County jail, to provide a little more immediate context, like if you know a boulder. Yeah. So, yeah, a wonderful town's got great values, great people, all that. And yet it's pretty homogenous as far as its culture and ways of thinking. And and and people are generally quite friendly, you know, to personal development types of teachings and modalities.

And so I'm like living in Boulder and like, where can I go, you know, outside of the sort of bubble to test this hypothesis and see if this work is really as impactful as I believe it should be and can be on a wider scale? So I joined this volunteer program at Boulder County Jail. I'd never, had no experience, never been in a jail. Furthest thing from, you know, my familiarity and comfort zone. And it brought up all sorts of stuff. I mean, the first time I ever stepped into the Boulder County jail for like a volunteer kind of orientation, it was very disturbing to just become up close and personal with how we actually treat each other in that context.

You know, in any event, I was matched with my first mentee. It was like a one-on-one type of thing. And within seconds, minutes started just completely shattering all the sort of calcified perceptions I had about that world and those people. I could sense the humanity in this man very quickly, as he was a big-time drug dealer here in Colorado. He had tattoos all over him, had like gang signs on him and stuff and, you know, looked very kind of imposing and scary. And yet we just dropped into this really sweet, intimate connective place right away. And then I took on more mentees and I started, very actively sharing with them and teaching them some of these basic skills and tools.

And I was just blown away by how immediately impactful and how effectively they were integrating these skills and tools into their lives, even inside of the jail. Well, like one of my mentors, he was like the alpha kind of guy in his pod. And without even my solicitation, he went back and made photocopies of the sheets I'd given him. He forced the entire pod to come together and learn these...

Audra: That’s amazing,

Ryel: Things together. And it completely, literally transformed the culture inside of the Boulder County Jail. The word rose up to the administrators. Then we started collaborating. And then that's where we created a version of the level one workshop specifically for inmates. And then we got that program approved through the entire Colorado prison system and started delivering that to facilities throughout Colorado.

And I mean, very quickly, it became known to among the population as being the most effective and powerful and useful workshop or training in the entire sort of programming of those facilities. And then we started getting waiting lists like every facility that we were offering this program. And even still, I mean, we have inmates, ex-inmates sending us messages all the time, like, “Can I tell you how powerful this work has been? It's changed my life. Like all of my relationships have improved.”

And the thing is that, like these guys. You know, it's men and women. And now they don't aspire to become some great enlightened being. And like at the pinnacle of personal development, they just really aspire to, quote-unquote, normal lives like, you know, having healthy family relationships, having a good job. You know, they've just been content and stable in their lives. And it was just incredible to see how supportive these skills and tools were for those values, those you know, those aspirations in that world.

And so really massively validated and affirmed that hypothesis of how universal this work is. You know, I mean, I speak of it as the universal language of human connection. And now, I mean, I've traveled dozens of countries all over the world at present to every kind of person you can imagine. And it lands almost everywhere for everyone. You know, in a really like meaningful way, in a sustainable way. So it's all the more like really fueled our mission, you know, to create our organization as a vehicle for conveying this work to as many people as far as wide as possible.

Just last week, I presented to the principal and the administrators at the Cherry Creek High School in Denver, which is probably the most well-known and highly regarded high school in all of Colorado. And I could pick up on like the skepticism, you know, at the beginning. And because I speak about Authentic Relating in this very kind of street-level language, like it's not just woo-woo kind of thing. It's just very practical and human, even though it is a deeply spiritual practice underneath, you know, like they were just completely won over by the end of the session. And now we're designing a full-scale three-hour presentation to the entire 200-person teaching staff at this high school, which is just so, so, so thrilling.

But, yeah, I mean, to me, that is one of the most vital and important applications of this work is how can we get this work into schools and educational facilities and prepare our young people to be able to cultivate and participate in healthy, nourishing, uplifting, empowering relationships just... Well, what a world we would live in. I think.

Audra: What a world we will live in. Yeah.

Ryel: Yeah. Exactly.

Justin: Yeah. So this can work for incarcerated populations that work in a large institutional context. So we can assume that it also works for teenagers as well. I guess teenagers might be the most hardened, difficult, challenging population out there.

Ryel: More than gang leaders.

Justin: I'll try to boil the whole parenting thing into maybe just one question. Now, you are a parent of a teenager. How has Authentic Relating changed your parenting? Because you started as a parent, having never heard of Authentic Relating, and now you have a 13-year-old. So how have things changed for you?

Ryel: I mean, it goes even further back than that. It's like, man, what if my parents had had access to this work, you know, and that I'd been brought up in this environment how my life would have been so, so different. You know, I mean, it was just a catalog of dysfunctional ways of relating and parenting and being. I mean, I don't blame them at all. Like I don't have any blame. They just did the best they could. And, you know, it's like you look back at our ancestral lineage I mean, nobody like had access to these kinds of skills and tools and ways of being.

So, you know, the contrast of how I was raised with that, how I'm able to raise my kids just really impactful and profound. But yeah, I mean, that was another incredible insight and realization was just how applicable these skills and tools are in cultivating a healthy, trustable, open and intimate, loving, nourishing relationship with my kids. And that's been the case absolutely.

And the investments that I have made and am making in and tending to and fostering health and those relationships will bear a lifetime, not only my and their lifetime, but their kids and their kids. I mean, you know, again, the implications of this work, you know, way beyond just this current conversation are very present for me and for others in the practice.

So, you know, it's like. I mean, there are so many things I could say about, you know, relationship with kids and teens, I mean, just as a couple examples, like I noticed that I was inside of an unconscious story for a long time, that my kids are nothing but a burden. All I do is sacrifice for them. Right. Like I'm trying to live my life. And they're coming in all the time needing things, interrupting, you know, having no regard for my experience or my needs. You know, and all I'm here to do is just, you know, cater to them and serve them. And as like I love them, of course, you know, but I didn't even realize that I was in the sort of grip of this.

Justin: This was an unconscious story. Yeah. Yeah. Like if you were asked just on the spot, like, oh, of course, I love my kids and I love to, you know, do all these things for them. So how did you become aware of this unconscious story?

Ryel: Well, it's interesting. I mean, like, you know, people ask, I don't know, come up in conversation, you know, what is it like to parent for kids and all that? And I often describe it as a parenting, as a series of nonstop interruptions for like 18 years. Which is like a pretty shitty way of describing, you know, my experience of parenting. And so, you know, really is just bringing to bear like the elements and tools, the skills to look deeper. And, you know, it just I was able to carve out some time from just the rigors of life, you know, to really look at my relationship with my kids. I mean, my daughter was starting to manifest.

My oldest daughter is now a teen, was manifesting, you know, some real struggles in her life. You know, she was cutting at one point. You know, she was definitely exhibiting like depression and anxiety. And it really kind of gave me pause. And it had me look into what am I doing? How am I contributing to an environment that, you know, that this kind of behavior is manifested? And I got to see that I was inside of this, you know, story that was disempowering, disconnecting and the opposite of an experience of intimacy.

And so I basically had to restructure and reconfigure my priorities and focus on life and really shifted a lot of attention and desire to create more bandwidth for my relationship with my kids. So as an example, I just started spending at least five to 10 minutes with each kid every night, just one on one, because, you know, when it's all four of them, it's just this sort of tsunami.

Yeah. And so to kind of tease that apart, you know, to really get to know them on an individual basis. It gave me a lot more access to a unique relationship that I could bring to bear with each of them individually and have me tune in more into their unique trajectories in life, like what's going on for you individually and uniquely, what's going on for me? And I'm really fostering day after day, night after night a more intimate, closer, more connected relationship with them. And that's just been so valuable.

Like I said, I've taken two kids to Europe now. And, you know, one of the things that we're going to be doing is walking a 120-mile-long trail in Switzerland together and underneath the surface, it's like they're both a yes to it. I'm almost amazed that they are like into it and want to do it. And to me, it's symbolic. It's actually less about walking on a trail in Switzerland and more about the results of the day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month investment I've made and we've made in fostering a close, trustable, intimate, enlivening relationship, you know. And so we just want to spend time together, you know, more than anything. And so this is just an outlet, an expression for that.

Justin: One thing I heard you say in the past is that you have developed a practice of revealing your experience with your kids, and this really struck me because I think, well, for me and I'm going to just have a big assumption about a lot of parents is that we don't do that, we want to present as Dad and Mom and like we never reveal what's...

Audra: Authority.

Justin: So, yeah. Can you just talk a little bit about that?

Ryel: Yeah, well, you know, a lot of parents are like my teenager, my kids. They don't share anything with me. They're just like, oh, well, I'll ask them questions and give me like monotone, one-word answers. You know, I feel like locked out. I just don't know what's going on for them, you know, and so it's like, well, my first question is: how much are you revealing of yourself in your own world to your kids? Like how do you expect them to go first while you're just actually a total wall? And in some ways, hiding behind the role of mom or dad, you know.

Like we tend to make subservient our own humanity to the roles that we play in life and in relationship. Whther that's mother, father, boss, employee, colleague, you know, friend of this guy and friend of that kind. And, you know, Authentic Relating in many ways challenges the ways that we have conflated our human selves with the roles that we play in life and…

Audra: Absolutely.

Ryel: And so in this regard, it's like allowing the human of you and in you to lead and to set back the role of mom or dad or whatever enforcer or whatever it is, you know, behind that, whoever it is that you're relating with. I tell all our graduates out of our programs, like, you know, part of your training is to be a leader and leading people into an experience of connection and intimacy and stop expecting people to go first, like you have the skills and tools now to reveal your own experience first. And that acts as an established kind of leadership quality in having other people then follow.

It's like when I'm leading a course, you know, and I've got 20 people in the room, I definitely recognize that the degree to which I'm willing to be vulnerable and revealed and real is the degree to which that acts as permission for everybody else to show up vulnerably and authentically. And honestly, like I've had total emotional breakdowns in courses that I've been leading. And like in the back of my mind, I'm like, oh, shit, like I'm not supposed to be doing this, you know, like I'm failing at the role of being like the leader and facilitator. And yet without exception, every time when I check, like, how was that for everyone? They just are like, wow, I feel so much more permission to be my own vulnerable, real, tender, sad, emotional, whatever self, you know, when I see the leader doing it.

It’s the exact same thing in parenting. The degree to which you yourself as a parent are able to be vulnerable, like actually really vulnerable. What are your fears? You know, what are your dreams? What are your struggles? Allow your emotions to be expressed. I mean, my parents were like utterly unemotional even when they were fighting. It was like just robotic, almost, you know. And so I just internalized that. And so, you know, I allow myself to be emotional, whether it's sad or upset or angry, and reveal that as my experience. And that creates a sense of safety, a sense of family culture in which all of you is welcome.

Actually, I feel called to share this one piece that I think is so valuable and so insightful for parents, navigating the challenges of raising teens in particular. So there's a brilliant doctor, a therapist, trauma expert named Gabor Maté, the Hungarian Canadian fellow. And one thing that he said is that, that really stuck with me, is that as kids we have two primary needs, the most important two things required for a healthy upbringing in childhood. One is secure attachment. Right. Like we can depend and lean into the relationships that we have with our caregivers, and they're going to be there consistently and securely. And the other primary need is for authentic expression. And the healthiest people grow up in an environment in which both of those are fostered and encouraged and supported.

And yet, if a child ever experiences or perceives the security of their attachment is being threatened, they will always sacrifice authentic expression in order to preserve the security of those relationships and attachments. And that stays with us as adults. Like, where is it that we're afraid of revealing our authentic experience, our authentic selves, because we're fearing the degradation of undermining or breaking of our attachments and relationship, so we just push that in.

You know, we're doing that as parents, you know, I would say almost universally. So where is it that you can actually, you know, really reveal your authentic experience as a model for your children, watching you, seeing you and recognizing,” oh, like I can be my authentic whole free self here as well,” you know, and it doesn't jeopardize my relationships. In fact, Authentic Relating flips that paradigm completely around in which the more authentically expressed I am, the more secure are my attachments and relationships.

Justin: Yeah.

Ryel: And vice versa.

Justin: Oh, that's beautiful.

Audra: I can really identify with this. And this is my work to do as well. You know, especially and I feel like my number, my work relationships and things like that I have a lot of work to do with kind of like authentically revealing my experience and expressing myself. And I can hold back for fear of breaking connection and for fear of response because of, I think, how I grew up as well.

And I find my family to be and working with this on with my family to be so powerful, because I know that we're in this together. I know that we're in this work together. I know that we're not going to break connection. And so it's actually been the first frontier for me that I'm hoping to take out further from here. But I found it to be safer, to start within the family.

And yeah, and it can start with little things. It doesn't have to be, you don't have to have the perfect sentence terms and the perfect like, you know, entry points or anything like that. You know, I remember I was biking with Maesie in Savannah here. And, you know, I did the mom thing where I was like, you know, “heads up. There's a bus coming.” “I know, I know. Of course I know.” And I was like, “Maesie, I just have to, I just want to share that like I am your mom. And I've been doing this for so many years. And it is hard for me to just adjust. And I'm trying to, you being old enough. I know that you see this and it's like this is really my stuff. It's not yours. So thank you for being patient with me.”

And she's like, “Ok, cool, mom.” You know, like it can start with like little, little moments and blossom into the big one so that it becomes, I think, second nature. When you get into our big emotional outbursts, I find so much of the work is in myself and really not about my kid. You know, it's they did it. And it is really powerful. We've been doing a lot of this together, thanks to Authentic Relating, I have to say, like Authentic Relating has changed our lives.

Ryel: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah. And I can imagine a lot of parents hear this and say, well, if I'm truly authentic, then I will lose my attachment with my kids. And so this is really, this is hopeful. This is really just I love hearing this, that actually the more authentic you are and the more present and authentic, the more attachment will emerge.

Audra: Can you guys give some examples? We've got, of course, Ryel as a leader of the Authentic Relating movement, really, and running the, I don't know if there are many Authentic Relating organizations or not, but ART is the organization I feel like in the space, really bringing forward curriculum and trainings and making a difference. And then, of course, you've been through a lot of those trainings. Can you provide us some concrete examples? Because we were talking a lot about this, almost like a methodology, like what is it like to be in the space of Authentic Relating?

Justin: Well, I'll just share real quick when we're in level one. I was trying to bring these practices into our daily life with our kids, and it, I wasn't really sure how to do it. I felt a little awkward. So I just started with just expressing what was happening literally in my physical body.

And so I would get into, I would start to enter into a conflict with my daughter and I would pause. And I would say, “Maesie, I'm feeling a tightness in my chest right now. I'm feeling my heart rate increase.” And so I would just describe physically what was happening. I was like, that's the best I can do. I just want you to know what's happening for me. Well, and then the other part of that is when I would do that, it would diffuse what was happening. And it was like we could start to talk and relate to each other in new ways. If I just paused and started to describe what was happening for me, even physically, I'm not even going to try to interpret the emotional, psychological world inside. I'm just going to describe what's happening physically for me right now. And so I was so impressed with how just that simple practice diffused what was happening and opened up new avenues for us to communicate.

Ryel: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's great. Exactly. I mean, you know, anywhere that you are able to reveal more of your own experience, it's like even what you just said earlier, it's like a parent might have the fear that if I'm authentic, you know, that that may result in some, you know, negative impact on my relationship with my kids. Whatever, like reveal that.

Audra: Yeah. Right. Right.

Ryel: Like actually say that like, I'm wanting to be more revealed with the or share more about what's going on for me. And I'm concerned that dot, dot, dot, you know, that this, you know, like that'll impact our relationship or. And then get curious about the answer, you know. And, you know, kid’s like, “No, I want to know,” you know, like actually been wanting to know.

Justin: Yeah.

Ryel: So it's actually, it's like you don't need to somehow shift yourself to become then ready to reveal. Right is revealing exactly where you are and what's happening in that moment. You know, that is the peace, you know that it just you can't you can't do that without there being some deepening of intimacy there and of seeing each other being seen and of again of rehumanizing yourself and each other. It's like. You know, your kids look at you as in large part as the role of mom and dad. Right. And that comes with all sorts of connotations and associations and and it can really constrain and restrict the freedom and space and, you know, excitement that is in the relation that is latent and the relational space, you know, so again, for you to sort of set aside the roles and just show up as human, you know, parents struggle.

We all do. Like, you know, this thing happened to me at work or I had a fight with mom or whatever it is, you know. And to really reveal that, I mean, like I have absolutely been super transparent with my kids around, you know, the breakdown of our marriage and, you know, divorce and separation. And now that landed, that impacted me and it impacted the kids and that I've had really honest and open conversations about that. It doesn't occur as like a service to them. It's like I feel so much lighter myself, you know.

And it's again, like your kids are going to become adults someday and you're going to relate with them as adults. So every, you know, moment that you're showing up in this younger child-parent relationship and being real and open and vulnerable and transparent is going to serve the rest of your relationship as they, you know, they don't need you at some point as a mom or dad anymore, you know, and then you get to be an ally and a collaborator, you know, and a sort of elder. And those are beautiful roles to be in. And, you know, for me, it's like prioritizing the human above all else and leading with that.

Audra: It's so powerful. What comes up for me is that concept of rehumanizing, both for yourself and others, and that when we are in performance, we're in a dehumanized or dehumanizing space. And I think of that in all of my work roles that I've had. You know, we're all kind of like performance, you know, kind of interacting roles. Yeah. But the performative aspects of life and that we inherit parenting very often in that way, in the performance we think we should be doing. And by getting down to the basics of rehumanizing through this revealing of our experience and, you know, kind of like connecting, reconnecting ourselves is really powerful.

Justin: We have only scratched the surface. And one thing I want to do is direct people to ART. And so, Ryel, I will ask you for how best parents and anyone listening can get in touch with ART. But then also, I just want to state again. And I know that I've told you at The Family's Thrive, we want to be doing this type of work. And so we want to work with ART and we want to work with you. So this is just the beginning.

Audra: Just an opening.

Justin: Yes. So can you tell all listeners how best to get in touch with ART and then some of the things that you do at ART?

Ryel: Time goes by quick when you're enlivened by the conversation, for sure. It's like we offer courses, programs, webinars, whatever that are topical, and yet the implications of everything that we teach along those topics does radiate out to every one of our relationships, you know, it's like we didn't have enough time.

But, you know, the influence and power dynamics players in these interactions, I think is so vital to acknowledge, you know, like as a parent, your power. There's a differential in the power dynamics. And to name it, to recognize, to acknowledge it, I think is important just as it is in the workplace. Right. It's like, you know, there's a power dynamic at play there, and it necessarily influences and impacts how people relate, how safe they feel to be expressed, you know, how the relationship between their expression and their sense of security. It's bringing back all sorts of childhood stuff, you know, so it really acknowledges these power dynamics, I think is vital.

Yeah, there's a lot more that we could definitely explore, but in any event. Yeah. So the companies Art International, Authentic Relating Training International. Website is authenticrelating.co.

The level one program is designed for the general public, for everyone. And it will teach you the foundational elements of the practice such that you can then apply them across the board and all of your relationships. And then we have a whole bunch of other offerings that are more specific to particular contacts, there’s a couple's program. That's super awesome. A program just for men. We're designing a membership platform right now that will be more of a community, kind of hub, like what you guys have been creating. Yeah. And a bunch more.

I mean, it's just it's like I want to portray Authentic Relating not as some kind of end-all, be-all, you know, type of thing that you either get or you don't. It's actually a complement and a supplement to anything and everything else, so you're already up to right? That's the beauty of it, is just it's an additional catalyst for a deepening and expanding of everything and anything that people are already up to. So I really appreciate that aspect. But yeah, that's the best way to check us out. Website and other info is there.

Justin: We can't let you go without asking you the last questions that we ask every guest. So the first one is if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning. What would that Post-it note say?

Ryel: Is this Post-it Note for everyone, everywhere. And that’s slow down. Definitely want to slow down, down, feel more, access more, breathe more, be in your body more. And then the second, I would say is reveal and reveal your experience. Let yourself be seen, be a human, you know, show yourself.

Justin: Beautiful. And then the next question is, what is the last quote that really moved you?

Ryel: Oh, man, so many. I mean, the one that I one of my favorites that I often share is by an...artist named Tony [Berlant], and he says, “The more introspective a work of art is, the more universal it becomes.” And I take that to mean that the more we are willing to reveal the deepest, darkest, most shameful parts of ourselves, the more connected we are to the universal experience of humanity.

Justin: Mm-hmm. Awesome. And then the last one is, well, so I just have to always give context for this last one. For many parents and you reveal this with yourself as well, that parenting can be a lot of drudgery and a lot of interruptions, a lot of hassle. And so we like to end with this last question. What do you love about kids?

Ryel: And I want to just give you some automatic answer and actually feel into what feels true and responding to that. Yeah, I mean, I would say more than anything, they've really reminded me how to play. Which is something I've forgotten or, you know, become separate from that I can actually see life as, it sounds kind of cliche, but life is a playground, you know, and to find the silliness and the playfulness and the joy and the creativity every day, in every moment, been a source of real vitality and kind of life force for us.

For me, I tend to be quite serious. And so to have like, you know, just this array of humans around me who are so playful, you know, and want to draw me into play all the time, it's not just the play. It's deeply healing, something really deeply healing in my, like enrolling me into the context of play. And when I allow myself to go there it feels really healing and joyful and rejuvenating. And, yeah, it just gives me a much better perspective of life.

Audra: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that, and I feel like you, I feel like that's evidenced in the ART platform, which is really beautiful. I feel like we get invited into play and therefore connection through the work that you do. And I really appreciate that.

Ryel: Yeah, exactly. I mean, so much of this work is reminding us of what it was like when we were kids, before we were indoctrinated into a bunch of filters and conditioning. Does the innocence, the freedom, the expression, the playfulness, all of these things, you know, are really deeply in the spirit of the practice?

Audra: No. Thank you for sharing it with. Absolutely. Yeah. And all of our families and in The Family Thrive. This is... it's really an honor to be on this journey with you. And I really appreciate being able to meet you today. And I hope this conversation continues.

Justin: I sincerely hope and believe this is not the last time we're going to talk with you, Ryel.

Ryel: I mean, I appreciate what you're up to. I mean, anywhere that we can bring more of this kind of practice and skills and tools to bear on raising kids, you know, in really preparing them to thrive in their relationships, like that's where it really, really matters to me so such a yes to that.

Justin: Awesome, awesome

Audra: Thank you so much.

Justin: Thank you, Ryel. We'll see you next time.

Ryel: All right. See you.

Audra: Bye.

Justin: Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.

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