delving in a small circle






Pleasant House

Musings on Mutuality A Journey of the Heart Unfolding

Nanna Aida Svendsen




A Journey of the Heart Unfolding



One: Explorers of Consciousness

Two: Relationships Changing

Three: Moments of Leadership

Four: When Yes and No Meet

Five: Tender Relating

Six: Regaining Soul

Seven: Safety is Needed

Eight: Healing the Heart

Nine: For Mutuality to Flower

Ten: An Inner Harmonic

Eleven: Circles of Mutuality

Twelve: A Real Adventure




 One: Explorers of Consciousness

Explorers of consciousness may be what we are, often beavering quietly unfolding new forms, expressing new ways of creating connection without violation, finding new ways of relating with heart, and of inhabiting mutuality


I was musing with a friend

about the possibility

of moving from hierarchy,

a way of relating in which people

or elements are ranked,

towards mutuality,

a way of relating

that does not require

the dominion of one

over the other,

but rather invites us

to let ourselves

and each other be.

Invites us to make

emotional safety

for ourselves and each other,

that creativity, compassion and kindness

might flower, and wisdom unfurl


We found ourselves wondering

could this be a time

imbued with strands of possibility

for unfolding mutuality

Indeed we even wondered

if evolution might be trying

something here.

If it might be calling

for a possible move

from patriarchy to partnership?


Not that I know well

How to do this.

More that I am wanting

to feel into the terrain.


Oh! I am feeling a need

to endeavour to be clear

here. To begin exploring a territory

we might travel together,

if you want to come.


Could this be a time

of opening hearts?

Of inviting empathy for

ourselves and each other?

Of deepening awareness

of varying needs,

giving space for difference,

of finding ways of

agreeing peacefully

to disagree?


of delving, alone or together,

to uncover deeper meaning,

and connect

with a sound place inside

ourselves and each other.


Could this be a time

of finding ways to


freedom and love,

cherish integrity

our own and each others?

A time of including our hearts

as well as our minds,

our bodies

as well as our souls

be more fully at home

and build intimacy

where intimacy

is desired?


It seems to me to take heart

as well as awareness

and plenty of compassion

to inhabit our lives.

To encounter the loneliness

and pain, that can come

in being genuine

and not shutting down,

to ourselves or each other.

Not shutting down to the joy

that can come

or the longing…


It seems to me to take heart,

mind, body and soul,

to dwell in relationship,

to unfold that mystery

that grief, that wonder,

that joy…

for the dance of mutuality

to flower…



Two: Relationships Changing


Every relationship, where the heart of one is considered worth more, than the

heart of another, seems to be changing.


It is becoming

harder and harder

for me to find joy,

intimacy or integrity

in relationships

where the function of one

is sovereignty over the other,

even subtly.

Where the role of one

is subjugation,

even subtly.

Where someone is abused:

being used

against their deeper selves

to serve the needs of another,

even subtly.


Though hierarchy at times

has its uses, and one

with more life experience

may have wisdom to share,

if the needs of one

are met

through abusing the other

it diminishes us.

It costs all in the hierarchy

emotional safety, and

tears us from the presence

of heart, wisdom and soul.


A sadness or a grief,

a kind of isolation

a numbness or depression or rage,

can arise

when the deeper part of us

feels excluded,

cannot share, connect or be present,

because it just isn't safe.


And hierarchy,

often exclusive,

tends to require

the giving up

of one will to another,

even if for a seeming common cause.



often inclusive,

tends to meet needs

by a dovetailing of

natural expressions

of who we are.


The process

founded in a reciprocal interest

in creating safety

to find and express

deep inner wisdom

tends to encourage

emotional well being,

a sense of intimacy

or trust with ourselves ,

and with others who care

to join in the practice.


It may, I have found,

often evoke

a sensitive awareness,

a reflective intelligence,

interested in understanding

oneself and others,

in finding and honouring

the heart of the matter


Unlike the pyramid of hierarchy,

mutuality is round.




Three: Moments of Leadership


Any deep conversation about mutuality will likely call forth

questions of leadership. What kind of leadership&emdash;if any&emdash;is

relevant in a non-hierarchical process?


Historically, leadership tended to imply

reliance on an external authority.

In mutual relationships,

I have noticed,

each person has an opportunity

of recognizing the authority within

and from this place

choosing at times to support

and be supported by

the leadership and skill of another.


Sometimes I want this.

To be held in the embrace

of someone more competent

than me.

Sometimes when it feels right

I need to trust

the skill of another.

And sometimes when it feels right

I wish to share my skills.

What is important

in terms of mutuality is

the freedom to choose

and not be considered worthless

or worth more as a being

for the choosing.


With a mutual agreement

to this kind of leadership

no one is being abused.


With a common interest

in building trust,

a willingness to listen

to oneself and the other,

with a surrendering to the process,

and a going with the flow,

moments of leadership may shift

from one to the other

in a kind of dance.

When two, or more, choose

to commune like this

co-creation unfolds.


How then do I write this

without becoming a leader of

the old school, who would immediately assume

I am worth more, or know more,

in a leadership moment

than you?

How do I write this as a sharing,

as an invitation to explore

an evolving experience,

rather than as an opinion

with which to debate, convince,

or seek to win?

How do I commune,

inhabit the present with you?

Become round and express

the mutual in me?




Four: When Yes and No Meet


In mutuality there is an agreement no one interest is considered

more important than another. Mutuality is easy when people agree, but when

one says Yes and another says No the process may need to soften or deepen -

become round.


How many times have I surrendered

my No to the Yes of another

and ended up feeling,

I have gone against myself?

How many times have I surrendered

my Yes. My deeper sense of rightness for me

or expected another surrender their's?

How often has the word No held no meaning?

How often has a Yes to the hearts longing

been denied?


There is a simple suggestion

for when Yes and No meet

between two people

or inside oneself.

There is a simple suggestion

for becoming round

rather than pointed.


If both people say Yes

It is a Yes.

If both say No.

It is a no.

If Yes and No come together

It is a No.


Sometimes an issue may go no further.

The No may have come from the core,

been heartfelt and whole,

not up for negotiation or grabs.


And sometimes No meeting Yes

is a signal for a pause,

an invitation for awareness

to deepen, positions

to soften.


Sometimes a Yes and No meeting

may be but a sign.

Something needs sorting.

Differences may need

to be noticed and held.


a deal may need to be made.

I'll do this now. If you do that later.


a further speaking and listening

into feeling and thinking may be invited.

A further delving and sharing of issues

till a place of mutual understanding

may be revealed.


more information may

need to be garnered.

Time to go slowly,

linger longer with possible Maybes,

wait for wisdom to arise.


Might the Yes, No or Maybe

need to evolve,

or might they stay the same,

but with more awareness?

And what kind of Yes No or Maybe

are they anyway?

A voice of the mind?

Or a sound from the soul?


Sometimes a sturdy No

to a mind that is ranting

can be a beautiful thing!

as can a heartfelt Yes

to a cry from the soul.


What is important is the freedom

to say Yes, No or Maybe,

and have them be heard.


Oh, working with Yes, No and Maybe

is a process! A willingness to delve

for deeper awareness.

Simple in essence yet

when taken as an invitation

to travel the inner as well as the outer

able to plumb the deep.


Wonderful to do

when it is safe

to share the process.

When there is mutual

interest in this.

A mutual trust and knowing that

if we keep uncovering feelings

simply sharing experience,

relating tenderly

without attack or abuse,

with a willingness to be honest

with ourselves, and accept

differing needs,

we will come to a place of



Oh I understand

If someone feels to shy away

for the process requires

a mutual interest

in creating safety and trust.


Work, yes, it is at times.

Work I am able to do by myself if

the other does not wish to join in.


And yet there can be

a sadness to this

some richness lost

when for one reason

or another

there is no welcome,

it just is not safe,

to enter a journey

of mutual respect

where, when desired,

one can share, listen and delve,

honor and unfold

Yes and No and Maybe together.




Five: Tender Relating


And oh, how my heart sings, when I am able to practice Tender Relating. When

I am able to share, delve and listen in a mutual environment. When I am

able to feel safe to be undefended and real with myself and another.


Tender Relating - real sharing,

delving and listening -

is not I have found

always an easy matter


Sharing - describing thought, feeling and experience -

with out shaming, or eliciting defenses,

by attacking or demanding

judging or debating

criticizing or diagnosing,

is hard. So much communication

seems to hone these things.

Yet when the heart feels shamed,

or that it must defend,

as it automatically will

when exposed to attacks,

demands, criticisms, or diagnoses,

wisdom may be lost,

along with any real chance

for deep understanding or connection.


I know to my grief

how easy it can be

to hurt and be hurt

in my heart place,

making relating unsafe.

How easy it can be,

to speak from the mind

without empathy or feeling

or from an emotional wound

without awareness or compassion,

rather than from a place of insight,

experience, connection,

question, or wisdom.


How necessary then

the fine art of delving.

Of speaking of, or listening for,

clues to the heart's experience.

Of inviting deeper truth,

exploring inner realms.

In the act of sharing,

when there is safety,

I can hear my own voice

stating things previously unknown.

Sometimes all that is needed

for inner worlds to shift

is to have someone really listen


And yet the art of listening

has usually not been considered

a popular skill.

It seems to me we are often,

supposed to project,

prove that we are someone,

that we, or our opinions,

are worth more than other's.


Those gifted in the art

of listening, receiving and reflecting,

connecting awareness and feeling

have often been considered

worth less. And so listening

for soul, for deeper

feeling and knowing

in ourselves and each other

may not be a thing

generally done.


It may not be a thing

generally recognized

or treasured,

yet, listening out

for the heart and soul of the matter

is, as far as I can tell, part and parcel

of mutuality as is the willingness,

to be real.

To share, delve, listen,

and choose silence,

from a genuine place.



Six: Regaining Soul


Such a ravage, such a grief, when we no longer know,

what we really feel, when there is no safety to be real.


And the rules and the norms

of the hierarchies

are deeply engrained.

They appear in many relationships:

between husbands and wives

grown ups and kids

relatives and friends

and of course at work.

Someone considered worth more

and someone considered worth less.

They even occur inside ourselves

In that critical inner voice that likes to shame

keep us in our place, when we try to find

and follow what we love.


One of the hierarchies most powerful tools,

to manipulate and maintain the ranks &endash;

to shut, when desired,

an open and trusting heart down -

may be the ability to project a rule or idea

onto ourselves or each other

about how we should feel.

Then it becomes easy

for deeper knowing

to be lost, and for sharing,

delving and listening

dissuaded, to become all but impossible.


The deal often seems to be

"You be obedient

and I will keep you safe."

That the safety on offer

may not be real

is rarely mentioned

and few really speak

of the possible cost to the soul

when hierarchy comes in a way

that violates the heart

and deeper trust

in ourselves and each other.


Another tool of a hierarchy can be

the ability to threat, manipulate,

intimidate or shame.

To make ourselves or others wrong,

for endeavouring to find and follow

the way of the heart.


Oh, how hard it is to come forward

with this without doing or becoming

any of the above!

The very last thing

I would wish to do is

to present mutuality as

a new rule with which to shame.

Present a new way to hurt the heart.


Shaming behaviours show up

in subtle ways.

They show up in

small cutting looks,

sharp pointed words,

grim glassy silences,

that enter the heart

like poisoned shards

making it feel

it must defend

usually by becoming

angry aggressive or numb

unless we are able - and quite a feat this-

to respond with compassion for ourselves and each other.


Shaming behaviours show up as a coldness

that freezes the soul.

Those small shaming ways

designed to curtail the spirit

and offend the heart

can work so well

soul creeps away

hiding its face

its gifts lost.


And oh the subtle agony in this.

How my heart wants to weep.

How easy it is to create separation

from my soul place inside,

from the soul place in others.


How easy then to loose connection

to inner wisdom and knowing

and slip into those

old familiar forms

where I can either attack ,

demand or become defended.

Sometimes without even noticing!


So moving to mutuality

is no easy thing.

It seems to request

a regaining of soul.

And the regaining of soul

seems to support

a movement towards mutuality.



Seven: Safety is Needed


Is this then the real invitation - that we might become mutual safe-keepers

of soul?


And emotional safety - or the desire to create it-

I have found often seems to be needed

for soul to be willing to show its true face.

Love and compassion, connection or kindness

are often wanted to let down the guard,

that would oh so readily

keep us away from ourselves and each other,

and even from what we really love.


It often seems to take

a real invitation

a true intention

to surrender that old shaming voice

that would happily call me to shun the heart

and devastate perhaps both you and me.


I know to my grief

how readily that voice

handed down generations

can think itself king.

How readily it can assume control

and render me emotionally unsafe.

Sometimes even without my knowing.


I know in my self how hard

it can be to find and express

the essential in me

that I might embody more

than I've done before.


And sometimes it takes

the heart to be broken,

defenses to shatter

for love to shine through.


Sometimes I have found

a tragedy to create communion

invite hearts to open

and unusual connections

to flow between people.


Similar sometimes when I have been ill

hovering on the edge of recovery

or am feeling soft

an opening happens.

Simple pleasures turn into treasures

and life seems simply so precious.

When I am able to commune

with the smallest thing

a bird in a tree,

a dog asleep in the sun,

a friend for a moment on the phone,

and feel myself one.


Is this then the grace

in becoming tender, permeable to life,

that moments of soul come shining through.

That hearts safely connect?




Eight: Healing the Heart


I want to understand how I yet again have been taken

away from myself, and from what I love, making the way I relate sometimes



The process of opening the heart

of becoming tender,

empathetic, permeable to life,

may often call forth

an old emotional wound.


Though painful at times

this can be a chance

to bring to awareness

a way we once were hurt.

A way we once decided

to shut the heart down.

It can be a chance

to hold ourselves

and each other with compassion

remember and release perhaps the pain

of rhe old wound rather than

just acting it out yet again


This is not always easy to do!

Sometimes when I am upset

I run round for days

lost to myself

in the throes of some feeling

till enough awareness and love

have tempered my process,

recognized and melted my wound,

or some of it anyway

bringing me home to myself, again.


It seems to take

An ongoing willingness

To look into life's mysteries

and mirrors.

To see and discover

what may be reflected

what may be revealed.


Is the way I am annoyed

with another really a way

I am annoyed with myself?

Is the way I feel hurt by another

a way I am hurting inside myself?

Or the other way round?

Am I hurting someone

because of my own pain?

Is the beauty I see in someone else

really also a beauty in me?

Is the sense of love, of safety of trust?


It seems to take

an ongoing willingness

to heal the heart

for empathy to flower

and make me a safe enough home

for my own soul.

To make us safe enough homes

for mutual belonging like this




Nine: For Mutuality to Flower


For mutuality to blossom it needs a kind intent.

A willingness to open. To observe ones own defenses.

To be respectful of oneself and not harmful to the other.



The degree of mutuality

that may be expressed

will likely vary with

every relationship.


Sometimes it's graceful

And the feeling is grand.


Sometimes it is a mix.

There are issues to be resolved

awarenesses to be gleaned.


Sometimes mutuality

is only held

in the heart of one.


And sometimes a relationship

just isn't ready

for mutuality to flow.


For mutuality to flower with another

it seems both people need to be willing

to do the work

of staying with the process

both inner and outer

sharing what feels right

'till an issue feels complete.




Ten: An Inner Harmonic


Mutuality seems to require a mutually supportive relationship

not only with others but also within ourselves.


This moving to mutuality sure isn't easy!

I have found it to require,

a friendly dependable relationship

not only on the outer

but on the inner as well.

A kind of concord,

between feeling and thinking,

intuiting and acting,

receiving and expressing.

An inner harmonic between

male and female energies within

to come to a place

of their living happily inside

like those princes and princesses

at the end of those fairy tales

of old.


And for Prince and Princess to wed

they need not only to find one another,

and quite a quest this, to find the right mate,

but also to do the work of becoming sound,


The inner princess needs to be healthy,

her emotional and intuitive systems trustworthy

And the inner prince needs to act competently and well

on her behalf, expressing her insights and keeping her safe


There is a grief to this a journey

those old stories foretold.

In being and becoming

married inside.

It's just part of the process,

of bringing to awareness

our dancing inner essences

that they might unfold.


Eleven: Circles of Mutuality


People are gathering spontaneously, I've heard, in pairs and in circles to

find mutuality, give space for diversity, discover deeper unity.



Yes, something seems to be moving

not just on the inner but on the outer as well.

In schools, and corporations

in communities and homes

people are gathering to speak and be heard,

to listen and unfold deeper meaning

inhabit mutuality

sometimes spontaneously and

sometimes with intention.


I heard a story once

of a man and some boys,

sufferers of substance abuse,

together in a circle.


September 11,

the week before,

and the boys all upset

except for two

who were rejoicing.


The group now disjoined

two celebrating

and the others, appalled,

in uproar.


The man asked the many

not to attack the two boys

but rather to listen

to what they had to say.

Their fathers had been killed

by an American bomb

in the mid east.


When these words were heard

all the boys wept.


There was not one among them

who still had a dad.


United in grief

and understanding

the boys were

once again





Twelve: A Real Adventure


Coming to mutuality is, I have found, a rigourous path, a real adventure, an

evolving epic of an unfolding journey of heart.


Explorers of consciousness

may be what we are,

often beavering quietly

unfolding new forms,

expressing new ways

of creating connection

without violation,

finding new ways

of relating with heart.


Are these strands of possibility

for tender relating

for expressing mutuality

happening now

because we are becoming

more conscious?

Because we are touching

a new threshold?


Are these strands happening now

out of an exigency

to discover ways of being

that nourish

encourage deeper wisdom

to flow,

and help bring us peace?


Are they happening now

out of a conscious intention

no longer to violate?

To find pleasure

in being more deeply




A direction so far

seems to be to greet the heart

in ourselves and each other

with a fierce and tender awareness,

a generous compassion,

that chooses understanding whenever it can.


A guide line so far

as we take these first steps

surely is love?

And an abiding trust

in the essential

unfolding integrity,

of you and me.

©Nanna Aida Svendsen


Special thanks to Punit Krejsgaard, Carl Lindstrom, Christine Lutha, and Gary
Whited for the grace of their ongoing editorial comments and feedback.
Without your mutuality, patience, wisdom, insight and love this work would
not have been the same and I am deeply grateful…Thanks too to Greta Bro and
Agneta Falk for their encouragement

I wish to thank Dr Christiane Northrup for her words about moving from
Patriarchy to Partnership. They inspired me to seek to describe aspects of
the journey

This is a work in progress ever evolving and deepening and experience and insight unfold...