Today I interview Denise Blanc. Denise grew up in Chicago where she had close relationships with her siblings and looked up to her parents – but in different ways. Her father was very intelligent, a “man’s man” who was good with numbers. Her mother ran a tight ship at home, always desiring that the house and children be presentable at all times.
Denise tells us that she felt a bit left out in school. She was in a gentile environment where no one looked like her, and she was often left out of things. At home, she was a wild child, with untamed curly hair to match her free spirit. Her mother was often frustrated with her because she felt she couldn’t control her, and the bond Denise shared with her sister left their mother without a sense of connection.
Over the years, Denise tells us she had a sense of people’s intentions and sincerity, and this skillset grew. She knew when people weren’t being genuine, and she could read a room very well to discern miscommunication or emotional tension. And she was learning to feel these things about and within herself, too.
Denise had chosen to study psychology but found herself drawn to a different obsession: becoming a yogi. In practicing mindfulness, absorbing as much information as she could, and doing lots of “spiritual shopping”, she found alignment with the deepest parts of herself as an individual and in her relationship with the planet and others.
Listen as Denise shares the breakthrough physical epiphany she had, how it grounded her, and how she’s now sharing her gift of discernment with others who are looking to overcome conflict to find flow in their emotions, words, and relationships. __________________
Denise coaches, writes, and speaks at the intersection of emotional intelligence, conflict transformation, and mindful communication. She is the founder of River Logic Partners, a coaching and consulting firm that works with leaders and teams on issues of communication, conflict, and change. Denise has been the chief architect of numerous leadership academies and the recipient of several awards for her leadership design. She is a student and teacher within Shambhala, a global Buddhist organization where she teaches programs on racial identity and justice. Denise is the author of “RiverLogic: Tools to Transform Resistance and Create Flow in all of our Relationships.”
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Transcript of Interview
Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode #105 Denise Blanc
“Finding Flow in Conversation and in Life”
00:36 Dr. Doreen Downing:
Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m here today with the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. And I’d like to welcome all of our listeners today, I have a new friend I get to introduce you to I’ve met her through a mindfulness community that I belong to. And it’s always so satisfying when you meet somebody who knows the language of these deeper realms of this inner world in this terrain that’s within us. So today I’m introducing you to Denise Blanc. Hello, Denise.
01:13 Denise Blanc:
Hi, Dr. Doreen. Is that what you like to be called? What do you like to be called?
01:19 Dr. Doreen Downing:
I love my name, Doreen. So that’s fine with me.. And I always like to do a little bit of that in the beginning. So at least we have a frame for where we’re going. And you know, we may start with where you were. But here you are now. And so you said to me, Denise coaches writes and speaks at the intersection of emotional intelligence, conflict transformation, and mindful communication. She is the founder of River Logic Partners, a coaching and consulting firm that works with leaders and teams on issues of communication, conflict and change. Hey, there are three C’s there is communication, conflict and change. I noticed that Denise has been the chief architect of numerous leadership academies, and the recipient of several awards for her leadership program, and design. She is a student and teacher within Shambala, a global Buddhist organization where she teaches programs on racial identity and justice. And Denise is the author of River Logic: Tools to Transform Resistance and Create Flow In All of our Relationships. Taking a big deep breath with that one, and I know that just me pointing to some of these things that you do is the whole idea of creating flow in all of relationships. So I’m sure people perked up their ears.
03:07 Denise Blanc:
or raised their eyebrow?
03:11 Dr. Doreen Downing:
Well, they’re saying Who is she? Let’s get to I want to get to know you. This is one of our first conversations. Well, actually, we had a conversation before but this feels like it’s more about, hey, Denise, tell me more about who you are, and how you got to be the way you are. And usually I wonder about your early life. My business is psychology. That’s the frame, that we come into, and it’s an initial kind of, well, here, you start to realize who you are in that frame. So anything you could say about that?
03:54 Denise Blanc:
Yeah, well, as I was thinking about your podcast and your frame, you know, I did some reflecting and realize that growing up, I grew up with a dad that I thought of as God, I mean, my dad was everything to me and he was just smart and kind and competent in the world. But he was a certain kind of guy guy, you know, he was really good at math and science and mechanical things and I identified all the things that he was as what smart look like, that’s what smart was, and since I wasn’t really any of those things, when I was little I just didn’t think I was smart. And that really affected me in terms of confidence and being in the world. As I was growing up, I could see people, I didn’t have language for it, I didn’t understand it, it also was the areas that got me in trouble, I had a turbulent relationship with my mother. And I would often be able to see kind of inauthentic behavior. So when the behavior didn’t match the words and smiles were not authentic, I reacted, and that kind of reaction was challenging between the two of us. So I had this kind of inner knowing without a language for it. I was a word person. And, but I wasn’t, you know, I didn’t relate to numbers, I didn’t actually like them very much. And so anyway, that that kind of created a certain kind of lower self-esteem, I think, for me in terms of confidence in the world, and what I was capable of doing. So early years.
06:02 Dr. Doreen Downing:
Yeah, thank you, it’s good to get a snapshot, which it feels like you just gave us and the, you know, when you were talking about your dad, it felt like, there was a lot of admiration that came through when you smiled about him. And then, of course, mom was a different story. And she had whatever she brought to her parenting and she was a little probably, while you’re saying inauthentic, so what would be an example of something that you might see and how you might react with her?
06:38 Denise Blanc:
Well, I think my mom really was trying very hard to control. And she was a little bit of a wild child. So that was not an easy job for her. She really liked growing up in the 50s. And she just liked her house to be really neat. She liked all her children, she had four children to be well dressed, she was a fashion plate. So all the pictures we are decked out. Now I can imagine, that took a lot to manage, because my dad was working all the time. So I was really the tomboy, like climbing trees always had a skinned knee and you know, had really curly hair, just it was hard to control it. And I was always trying to make my hair sort of like be manageable. But it never, never, I was never successful. And so her attempt to control me, I think was a big part of our challenging times with each other.
07:40 Dr. Doreen Downing:
What a metaphor, you know, the curly, you know, hair that’s probably got a lot of energy, you know, just that’s what it feels like. It represents not only the outer you, but there was some, you know, a lot of energy inside is what I get from you.
08:02 Denise Blanc:
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I wrote about my mom, I mean, I thank goodness that I was able to repair a lot between my mom and I before she died. And I have just, you know, I have no bitterness or anything, but it was it was explosive. Growing up, you know, that was just the feeling energetically? Yeah,
08:29 Dr. Doreen Downing:
You know, and when I talked to people here on the podcast, it seems like that whatever has happened in the past plays a significant part in the future. Like what you said, explosive, there’s something I know where we’re going. So listeners, she does work with, Denise does work with conflict resolution. So that whole idea of explosiveness and being in the midst of it, you know, it wasn’t like a smooth sailing, free flowing family. There was an element in that early life style that had explosion in it. And that’s what oh, what would you say?
09:16 Denise Blanc:
First of all, I’m just loving this little linkage that you’re making between my mom and the work of conflict work, which I have not made that link so I’m that smile is kind of like Yeah,
09:32 Dr. Doreen Downing:
Yeah. Oh, it’s in your, it’s in your DNA or no, well, whatever you came into the world, but it was also what this life chose for you to learn to do the thing that you’re doing now. And we’ll get to that in a few minutes because I love your approach to conflict resolution. But I want to just go a little bit further into high school, what was that like?
10:03 Denise Blanc:
Well, I went to a high school that was primarily Gentile where I grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago. It wasn’t so much about Black, White in our suburb, it was Gentile – Jew. There were very few people of color in our neighborhood community. And so my growing up was at the high school level. It was a wealthy community where people were going, the girls were going to cotillions, which is, you know, this kind of debutante thing. And they were blond, blue-eyed, long-limbed rowers, you know, tennis. And so my experience in high school was sort of, now I have this language because I do this diversity work. It’s really this feeling of being othered, which I don’t even think I’ve ever said that. But that really was true. I mean, the Jewish boys were accepted and invited to the Italians, but the Jewish girls were not. So we felt outside of. And so there was that experience of feeling unattractive, you know, not fitting whatever the standard of beauty we thought was, and so the challenges, quality I had in my home, it was my mom. So those were not easy. I mean, my best friends were the same. And so high school was and I went to a high school that was considered one of the best high schools in the country. We were always taught so many, many people were going Ivy League, that was a huge focus. And I had no interest in that. And so it wasn’t wonderful. My high school experience was not wonderful. And I remember thinking, I cannot wait to go. I was like, really wanting to go where it was wild, you know, West, go west young woman.
12:15 Dr. Doreen Downing:
There’s that wild hairdo! Yes.
12:19 Denise Blanc:
I applied to University of Texas, University of Arizona, University of Colorado. I was like, yeah, that’s where I was off to.
12:27 Dr. Doreen Downing:
Well, since we’re talking about voice, and I’m also looking at and opening up to the idea. Well, obviously, there was something about the conflict that you must have had. You said that there’s some maybe some repercussions. And did you feel like you spoke up and it wasn’t heard? Did you speak up and slap down?
12:52 Denise Blanc:
Well, I think in the early years, it was more combustive later. I think my mom would describe me just kind of giving her looks like, I think it was probably like, just an evil eye. I think she felt very judged by me. And
13:10 Dr. Doreen Downing:
When people are trying to hide something, and you are more of an observer and can see through, I can sense that she probably felt that you were seeing through her and was uncomfortable.
13:24 Denise Blanc:
Yeah, so I feel sad now when I look back, I feel sad that it was like a brat. And yeah, that my mom really, you know, I mean, as you develop empathy, she really wanted and needed something from me that she did not get. And my younger sister and I who shared a room. We were like each other’s person. And so we had almost like each a secret language. We laughed and played and you know, we just, and there was an exclusion with my older sister and my mom, I think they felt excluded from this little inner circle that we had…
14:05 Dr. Doreen Downing:
…this private fairyland.
14:08 Denise Blanc:
Yeah, and I would do all this work, like later in college, you know, really thinking, Oh, I, I’ve really forgiven my mother. I remember saying, I really need a mother. I remember inviting her for a weekend when I was later living in Minnesota, and then she would arrive and her outfits and her dyed red hair and her intensity. And I’m like, I was not evolved enough to actually have accepted this mother. And so the same behavior would happen. And it was, yeah, I want a mother but not you.
14:44 Dr. Doreen Downing:
This is so amazing to hear. You have this opening to us today and to be so forthcoming and self-disclosing. I really, really appreciate the moments that you’re sharing with us.
15:01 Denise Blanc:
Thank you. No one’s really asked me these questions. So this is all like, really fresh.
15:07 Dr. Doreen Downing:
That’s why people are compelled by this podcast that I do is because it goes in realms that aren’t just traditional where, oh, answer these five questions. And you know, everybody answers the same questions, this is really fresh off the block. And I can tell you that so many of my guests have had that moment where really, I never thought of it that way, like you did a second ago about how it relates to you’re gifting the world now with river logic and transformation.
I’m going take a quick break, and then we’re going to come back to that I’d like to move on to what you’re doing now and how amazing it is and the journey to there. So we’ll take a quick break, be right back.
16:06 Dr. Doreen Downing:
Hi, we’re back with Denise Blanc and already opening up avenues of exploration that are brand new for most of you listeners. Because we do go deep we do dive into a person’s history so that we can share that it hasn’t always been easy. I mean, you see successful people out there. Here we have today an author of all things, she’s written a book, and she’s talking about the challenges it was to find who she truly was and to feel comfortable and to find her voice. We’re back, Denise.
16:47 Denise Blanc:
16:49 Dr. Doreen Downing:
You talked about moving out into the world wanting to move west. And I know you live not far from me, and I’m on the west coast. So you finally landed here. And without going into that, particularly right now let’s just the link between the high school college and launching out into the world and finding who you are and how your voice showed up.
17:24 Denise Blanc:
Yeah, well, I am, what we call a seeker, which I’m assuming you are as well. And so that kind of exploration, especially in the 70s, where it was exploding all around me. So whether, you know, just starting to learn to meditate with Transcendental Meditation, the first book of awakening that for many of us in my generation, was Ram Dass’s Be Here Now. And that began something, it was my final year undergrad was the same year that the Naropa Institute opened in Boulder, Colorado, where I was going to school and showing them Trungpa, who’s a lineage holder in the Tibetan path who came to the US and started the Naropa Institute taught a class that I took in my senior year introduction to Buddhism. And I was in that class. And no, I did not get the transmission, he had this crazy wisdom. And he had a lot, there’s a lot of kind of very controversial aspects of Trunga, but the class had an effect on me. And I was on my own kind of search, the spiritual shopping kind of search, not like landing in one thing, but trying lots of different things. So I had done Transcendental Meditation. And then I was doing Zen. And then I found my way, eventually, to Shambala, which is the Tibetan path that Trungpa started. But you know, through all that I was a psychology major, I was really big thinking of becoming a psychologist until I had a job for four years working as a psychological assistant, in a rehab hospital in Chicago, with a lot of psychologists who I, after a while, got on my nerves, I was learning how to reverse shocks and TATs and all those things. And I just started becoming a yogi, or yogini, I got really, really interested in yoga and wanted to become a yoga teacher, which is what brought me to California to study. And right when I came to California, JFK was opening and I went to the open house of JFK. And in the holistic studies department, and somebody gave me this woman, my friend, Crystal, she led me in a practice of feeling my feet on the ground and bending my knees and putting my knees like, like, you know, towards each other. So that and just feeling the anchor. And millisecond, I was grounded, I felt fully embodied and grounded, like after doing three hours of yoga, but this happened in a second. So that night, I signed up for graduate school, at JFK, just impulsively.
20:40 Dr. Doreen Downing:
Denise, I want to interrupt you right now, because those who can’t see, because they’re listening, I want to feed back that when you just did that you did that sitting position with your feet. And it just felt like there was a centering that happened all of a sudden, right here with me. So, here we are, in a brand new moment together. Nice.
21:08 Denise Blanc:
That was, you know, when you look at moments in your life, that was a moment, that shifted a lot of things of me developing understanding of the body and psychology and so getting, you know, that became a trajectory, a big time trajectory in my life. But, you know, I was being trained to sort of be a shaman and that program, and at the end of a program, I didn’t really feel certainly ready for that. So then I actually went, Okay, I need to actually get a job, who’s going to hire me. And so that’s when I started getting into organizational development, you know, as a facilitator, and, and doing trainings, working with a consulting firm and doing trainings all over the country and developing the skills as a facilitator. Which really, eventually moved into me running a department in a healthcare setting. And then realizing what I was really good at, and people always saw is my ability to lean into hard conversations.
22:25 Dr. Doreen Downing:
Oh, okay. I know that. But before we go to hard conversations with this, I remember what you said about observing as a young girl, you know, that you could, and to me, that’s what a facilitator does, is to be with a group and to be able to not only observe people individually, but observe the group itself. And I would imagine that’s one of your gifts also, that you bring nowadays to are brought if you’re still doing trainings. Anyway, I just wanted to feed that back.
23:01 Denise Blanc:
You know, the ability to read the room or read each other is really important competency. Uh huh.
23:09 Dr. Doreen Downing:
And see, you had it naturally, and now developed it in such a way you’re teaching it or using it in a way that helps others learn how to really, like you said, First, be still and or you didn’t say that but you’ve demonstrated here and to be with at the same time? Well, lean into hard conversations.
23:36 Denise Blanc:
Well, when you’re in healthcare, and you’re running an education department, I mean, bottom line, most of the issues are really around conflict, a lot of the issues anyway, are around conflict. And so I started designing and developing programs and teaching them. And so I had a good run of eight years running a department and then I got laid off. And I couldn’t believe I got laid off because I had just created this leadership academy that won all these awards. But everybody, nobody is immune to layoffs. And I thought, what can the state of California do for me, besides I got a very, very generous severance, but I discovered that they had retraining. Now they wouldn’t typically retrain somebody like me because I was making quite a bit of money but I worked the system and I got to get retrained in conflict resolution. So I went through all the hoops. I got certified in conflict resolution. And so began to do a deep study around that world. And you know, read a bazillion books and so that became another sort of stream for me, you know, that is a skill. It’s definitely a skill. So even though I seem to have sort of a natural skill, there’s just honing it is what I started to do. Yes, yeah.
25:15 Dr. Doreen Downing:
Well, you said stream. So let’s move on to your book River Logic.
25:23 Denise Blanc:
Yeah, well, for any of you out there who are writing a book, one of the things you get to do is you get to put yourself in the book, you get to kind of write the book you want to write. And I, I have gone through so many trainings, and I have so many streams in my life. And I would go to the Sonoma mountain Zen Center, which is in Santa Rosa. And I went three times with all my notebooks. And there’s nothing there. Beside, I was staying in a beautiful room with a lot of cushions and the Zen monks are quiet, and I would bring my own food. And there was no Wi Fi. And I went through the process of distillation, how to distill all these different streams. I had gone through around the somatic work and the facilitation and the leadership and the conflict work. And then there was the emotional intelligence that we haven’t talked about. How did that all fit together in a book, and I had named my company 10 years ago, when I got laid off. I decided to start my own consulting firm, and I named my business River Logic Partners, after hearing something from Pema children, the Buddhist teacher who talked about sometimes we have rock logic, she described it, we’re really rigid, like rock, you know, movable fundamentalists in our thinking. And sometimes we’re more like what she called water logic, where we’re fluid and adaptable. And I loved it. And I just played with the words, and I came up with River Logic Partners. And I spent 10 years blogging, like I probably did 25 blogs, on what is river logic to me, and to my work. And then I naively thought it could be a book. And then I did, I had never written a book, but took me six years to write the book. But the book is really the distillation of all these different streams, no pun intended. And how the river as a metaphor, kind of instructs us and inspires us to go from this idea of rock logic rigid, to more flow, how do we do that? What are the tools? What? What are the principles involved? And so each chapter has a river word, and is a principle. So it’s, in some ways, fairly simple. But as we know, this work is not simple.
28:24 Dr. Doreen Downing:
I think what you you’re saying is that the flow idea is something we, our bodies, want, I get the feel in myself that flowing even through the day or flowing through a conversation. And then when the blocks happen, or the stress happens, then there’s not flow, and it feels like your book is talking about bringing us back to some principles. So name one, one of the ones that you would say you’d like to…
29:00 Denise Blanc:
Well, foundationally, it begins with the first one which is choose to be present. And we have a culture that doesn’t support presence. But we have a whole like plethora of mindfulness programs happening everywhere, because there’s a huge need for presence. But you know, I talk about all the things that get us off center, which is, you know, this hurry culture is really intense. It’s really hard to be present when we’re, we’re feeling pressured and overwhelmed, or exhausted, digitally, we get just overwhelmed by just the kind of digital stimuli. And then there’s the mind what we know the monkey mind, where we are very distracted by the plethora of thoughts that are going on. So those are just three things, but choosing to be Present is, is kind of like, without that it’s really hard to do anything further. So that is the second one. And I’ll just stop there but it is listen with heart and curiosity. And the world of listening is so incredibly rich, you know, there’s listening to other, there’s listening underneath. There’s listening within. There’s listening to the environment. You know, listening has just a wide range. And so many skills are embedded in that quality of listening that people think, Oh, I know how to listen.
30:48 Dr. Doreen Downing:
Already, just, when you talk about listening, I know I go into, and I’m remembering how to be with you even right now and listening more deeply, more fully. And I feel a fascination as you talk. And I think, hey, listeners out there, don’t you just feel fascinated, and your drawn into what Denise is saying about river logic. And if you want to know more, we’re going to quickly end pretty soon here. So I want to make sure that we open up a space for you to say where they can learn more about you and your book and your work.
31:27 Denise Blanc:
Yeah, probably the easiest spot is to just get online and riverlogictools.com and you can purchase the book, once a month, I’m putting together river logic clips, and I’m using these river words because the river words are starting to be really accessible to people. Like we know what flow feels like. Yes. So when we hit the rapids, like, what is that and how do we deal when we’re in the rapids so I give some tips. So um, rapids, the turbulence, you know, when it starts that we feel the resistance. The tip of March was about undercurrents. So you feel something going on between us, but it’s not being said we’re tuning we probably seeing it in tiny micro movements. Something’s not in sync, which is what was going on with me and my mom a lot. There was the undercurrents of what would drive me crazy. So I’m describing how do we name the undercurrents? And how do we like be in relationship with somebody if they’re willing to anyway, the river words are becoming really my favorite kind of conflict words, because instead of saying we’re in conflict if we said it seems like we’re heading for the rapids here.. What do we need to do?
32:52 Dr. Doreen Downing:
We’re in the midst of turbulence. It’s that awareness, I think in that being conscious and present, like excited to spend more time with you, I know we’re developing a friendship and to talk about these ideas more. I love listening, I love presence. Those who are with me on this podcast know that that’s what this work is all about, is finding the voice from within that has that kind of flow you’re talking about. And then what happens when it runs into stress, which is turbulence. So well, riverlogictools.com. And, big breath. How about some final words that come through you right here right now just opening up the space to listen into this Now moment after being together?
33:57 Denise Blanc:
Well, I have a quote that I created from my book, which I think is such an important one, which is the quality of our presence, the quality of our communication is only equal to the quality of our presence. The quality of our communication is only equal to the quality of our presence. So that’s an aspiration.
34:22 Dr. Doreen Downing:
Yeah, well, I think that pinpoints for me why I’m drawn to you and why this conversation has been something I’ve looked forward to I mean, that quality of presence, and then the communication that comes from both of us being really committed to being with each other and present and open and listening and you mentioned a book Be Here Now by Ram Das and the idea is to be here now. So in our communication, thank you so much Denise.
35:01 Denise Blanc:
Thank you, Doreen. It’s just been totally provocative for me.
35:08 Dr. Doreen Downing:
Good, Big hugs.
35:11 Denise Blanc:
Also listen on…
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.