Waves & Sandcastles

The School of Impermanence

During my early years, I had the good fortune to grow up a few blocks from the ocean in Margate, New Jersey. There, I learned first hand about change while playing in the sand and in the water. Standing at the edge of the waves became a game in itself. As a toddler, jumping the waves was a thrill. I remember how much fun my friends and I had as we anticipated the next wave and tried to figure out exactly when to jump to clear the wave. Then, as the wave went back to sea, I remember the sensation of having the sand pulled out from under my feet, the need to readjust my balance by using my toes, and then, getting ready for the next one. Not only was it a great lesson in balance and coordination, it taught me that everything was in motion constantly and nothing stayed the same. It wasn't bad. It wasn't good. It just was.

Building sand castles was also a great teacher. Each type of castle presented me with different lessons about change. Drip castles, due to the nature of the slurpy mud being difficult to control, taught me about letting go of any attempt at controlling the process and enjoying the spires that emerged with each drip. Of course, the spires were short lived and I was putting new spires on fallen ones regularly and joyfully. Castles with moats presented another kind of challenge. We dug a canal from the water's edge to our castle and waited for the water to come up, fill the moat, and go back to sea. However, more times than not, the waves modified our castle in some way and so we were constantly fixing, modifying, and adapting to change.

Perhaps my favorite was creating a castle that had a spiral tunnel around and through it for a tennis ball to travel. Mixing the sand and the water to get the mound firm enough to ream out the tunnel was the first challenge. Then figuring out the engineering so the tennis ball would stay in its channel while moving down and around the mound was the second challenge. The digging out the tunnel so the tennis ball continued on its downward journey through the mound was often where the rubber hit the road, so to speak. The whole thing would collapse if the water-sand mixture was not quite right. Then rebuilding began. But the thrill of having the tennis ball go around the mound, then through the mound and out the other side was so powerful that as children, we worked arduously and diligently to create the castle—knowing full well that it would be gone in hours. A great lesson in working hard to create something knowing that it too would change.

I think that experiencing and understanding the impermanence of all things from an early age has made it easier for me to deal with change. Though that doesn't mean that change has always been easy.

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith Bell, M.S., Master LHEP™

Judith is the founder and president of Rewire Leadership Institute®. A master facilitator, consultant, teacher, and coach, she has created and facilitated personal growth, team development and organizational change seminars, coached executives and teams, facilitated strategic planning and high visibility meetings, and supported culture change for over four decades. Judith works with a diverse range of companies from government agencies, non-profit, Fortune Global 500, to small and mid-sized family owned businesses including such organizations as NASA, Seaflow, Total Oil, Restoration Hardware, San Antonio Water System, and Culver Company.

Superb at supporting individuals, pairs, and teams in developing the skills necessary to realize their full potential, Judith helps executives, managers, and staff gain the ability to respond flexibly and rapidly to their changing environment. Through extensive experience and research, she utilizes a number of different approaches including the FIRO theory, systems theory, cybernetics, neuroscience, cognitive, positive, and success psychology.

As one of the world’s leading experts on the FIRO theory, she trains consultants internationally. A consultant’s consultant, Judith mentors facilitators, coaches, therapists and other professionals in the integration of the FIRO theory in their work. From 1981 until 2004, she worked closely with Dr. Will Schutz, the creator of FIRO theory. Independently, Judith developed FIRO Theory Profiling, which has been lauded as the first innovation in the FIRO theory instruments aside from Dr. Schutz’ own developments. She continues to develop courses that synthesize her studies and experience and are based in FIRO theory.

Starting in her teenage years, Judith has been a pioneer in her passion for authenticity, clear communication, and positive change. She is lauded for her ability to see others’ potential and help them realize it—be they individuals, pairs, teams, or organizations. Judith’s zest for life, appreciation for others, and generosity of spirit inspires those with whom she works.

An honor’s student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Judith’s desire and passion to learn about authenticity motivated her to move her studies to The Institute for Creative and Artistic Development (ICAD) in Oakland, California. As the youngest student in their teacher training program, she created and graduated with an undergraduate degree that focused on authenticity through California State University, Sonoma. Continuing on her quest to study authenticity and creativity, Judith began taking courses at California State University, Hayward where she also created and graduated with a unique Master’s degree that focused on communication, transformation, and the creative arts.

Interested in systems and change, Judith began experimenting with her innovative action-oriented approach to assess and intervene with families, groups, and organizations. Through this work, she became a much sought-after instructor, training masters and doctoral students in her seminal work. As chair of a psychology program focused on Creative Arts Therapies at Antioch University, San Francisco, she developed curriculum and continued to serve as guest faculty and lecturer at universities nationwide.

In addition to leading Rewire Leadership, Judith and her husband, Daniel Ellenberg, co-founded Relationships That Work®, where she serves as Vice President. She and Daniel co-authored Lovers for Life: Creating Lasting Passion, Trust, and True Partnership, which applies the principles of Rewire Leadership Institute® to romantic relationships. Recently, they co-authored a chapter in Mastering the Art of Success: Volume 8. With Matt White, Judith recently co-authored Leading with Courage.

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