Where d'you wanna go, how much you wanna risk?

It's not even 7 am on a Sunday morning but I've already been wildly inspired by a friend of mine this morning, who wrote an article about her inspiration to live a wholehearted life, tied in with her love of Coldplay. I haven't got permission to share it yet so won't say more, but that sent me on a youtube marathon of rousing songs and this one caught my fancy.

I'm realising more and more:

We don't have to live superhero lives.

We don't have to match up to what others are doing.

We don't have to be famous.

We don't have to have better jobs, perfect bodies, well-behaved kids, more qualifications, harmonious relationships, have all our sh*t together.

We just have to be REAL and drop all the stories about who we should be and start being who we are and do All the Things that are calling us to make them, to bring them alive.

To do that we ARE gonna have to take some risks, we've got to step into that bigger place. 

If we don't try, we'll never know.

If we don't risk, we'll never go.

So where DO you wanna go?  

Transitioning

I had an astrology reading last week that left me profoundly different.

Not the kind of shift I've experienced in coaching before where a glimpse of another way of seeing things helps everything to be different, but later fades and 'status quo' continues.

More of a deep knowing of my true nature - resonance with the vibrational makeup of my physical and spiritual being -  falling away of all things, masks, ways of being unrelated to that true nature. 

An understanding at a visceral level of who I am, and who I came here to be, what I came here to experience.

That I am capable of, and destined for, deeper client and world-work than I have been allowing.

That there is a genie in the bottle - my genius - that has all the wisdom needed to guide me.

That we all have this genius and that when I seek this knowledge for myself (instead of trying to learn from the gurus I turn to who may be wise, but are following their wisdom, their genius), my learning will have greater resonance, greater depth, because it is me who knows what is best for me. My path. 

That there are books which will help me connect with ancient wisdom, and the resonance of that inside myself.

I've started with reading Carl Rogers 'A Way of Being' and I can feel my being shift as I read his words about being real, listening deeply as you sit with another human, about how it is to truly believe and live as though every person can have their own reality - what is true for them. It all links with the work I've done before - coaching, The Daring Way, but somehow is having a deeper impact as I sink into more of what is calling me - depth, wisdom, strength, the wildest, most natural form of ourselves.

I have a newly inspired drawing towards different ways of being, new to me but ancient or established in psychology and in studies of mythology, anthropology, mysticism.

So I'm going to write about how I am shifting - resisting the urge to write for my audience, and giving myself the gift of writing for myself. 

Let's see where this goes :)

Help yourself to support

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For someone who advises and guides others on matters of the heart, I’m not very good at asking for support for myself. Practical help? No problem. Rounding everyone up for a girls night out? Easy. Saying ‘I’m struggling and could do with some support here?’ Not on your nelly.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one that has a hard time with this.

I was so surprised last week when sitting with a friend by the estuary off Morecambe Bay, on a blustery July day (yes, I know those things aren't supposed to go together but this is the North of England), sipping our steaming hot tea out of paper cups as the muted greys of the sea and sky shifted and changed and as our eyes watered with the wind.

I’d just told my friend that I’d been feeling flat and tired and, to my surprise, in the kindness and openness of her eye-contact and sitting alongside me, close enough that our arms were touching, I felt my eyes well up and a little bit of grief came up. Well, more of a fair chunk, actually.

I was mortified. I didn't want to feel it and I didn't want her to see it.

I recognise it well these days - by it’s ebbing and flowing, and welling up from the dense, heaviness I feel in my chest. I couldn’t stop the tears, but I noticed they stopped not long after they started, like the latest layer of healing that just wanted releasing.  This story is not about grief - telling that tale is like trying to empty the ocean with a thimble - but about what I noticed later, after I’d left my friend and driven home.

I felt better! I actually felt lighter and clearer, and the heaviness and flatness had gone. I noticed my appreciation for how my friend had just sat with me a while, no fixing, no major talking, just loving, kind presence. 

I had wanted to run away or change the subject or spill my tea or ANYTHING rather than sit there in my pain and worse, have someone see it and know I didn’t have it all sorted out and couldn't find my happy. But staying and feeling it actually helped it shift. 

I know that connection is what it’s all about - how important connection is to why we’re here - but hadn’t realised the power of that ‘space-holding’ as we coaches call it - and also my resistance to being seen in my tenderness and my sadness. I didn’t even consider the pleasure my friend would have got from being with me in deep trust like that. 

Physician, heal thyself. [Insert raised eyebrows here]

I don’t know why it’s so hard for us to ask for support sometimes and why we make up that we have to do this all on our own.

Maybe it’s because we see asking for help or receiving support as a weakness.

Maybe we worry that if we ask for help, people will think we owe them.

Perhaps we haven’t yet learned of the balance between dependence and intimacy.

I had a look at what research suggests about social support. 

I found this useful distinction between Emotional support and Informational support.

The former is the offering of empathy, concern, affection, love, trust, acceptance, intimacy, encouragement, or caring. The latter is is the provision of advice, guidance, suggestions, or useful information to someone. This type of information has the potential to help others problem-solve. 

Imagine, if you will, how it feels when you are offered information by a well-meaning helper, when actually what you wanted was to be seen and cared about. Alongside these two are tangible, practical support, and companionship support, which helps with a sense of belonging.

Current mental health research is well-aware of the benefits of a good social support system for our physical and psychological health, and resilience to stress. More oxytocin, and less cortisol running through our systems.

During the same visit, my friend talked about ‘getting some support’ from her coach because she was dealing with some challenging things at work and knew she would need some extra reinforcement.

I honestly had never considered the power of coaching as support in the same way before. Light-bulb moment.

Having someone in your corner, cheering you on from the sidelines, sometimes offering guidance, mostly asking good questions and providing a big old kind and wide open space within the safe boundaries of the coaching container - why I didn’t realise the power of this before I don’t know. I’m guessing it’ll add a new layer to my facilitation of the Daring Way too - I’ve often been moved when the group include me by asking about my experience or by buying me flowers on day two of a workshop to say thank you - the boundary of ‘facilitator’ or ‘coach’ is softening as I include myself as ‘fellow human’  in a deeper way. It’s all about the beauty of giving and receiving.

So, get some support! From a friend, or a colleague, a manager, a family member, a coach, a group of like-minded folk. Online, or in person. Learn to ask. Know where you are likely to try and go it alone and try asking for some support instead. What have you got to lose?

Mud, (climbing) nets and cheers

Sometimes you just have to dive in.

Go for it.

Get dirty.

Forget about how you look, or what Everybody Else is thinking, or about tomorrow’s plans or yesterday’s laundry.

Launch all of yourself into all of your life, with full commitment.

Say yes, with your heart pounding, because it feels good, although also scary and messy.

So you can feel fully alive!

Present!

All senses tingling.

Connected with others.

In touch with something greater than yourself.

Last weekend, my ‘brave’ was running two Gelt Gladiators in a weekend – the 10k for the stretch and challenge, the 6k for the team experience.

We did the 6k last year so I knew I could do that distance. Even so, I was afraid of being cold, wet and tired, of not being able to get over the fences, of the slide (oh man was I afraid of the slide. Both days 😊).

And the discomfort.

Pulling yourself along backwards, head first, in a foot of muddy water with a metal grate an inch from your face.

Plunging into icy water and swimming for three long minutes. Running through electric shocked wires.

Summoning upper body strength to get over the 6 foot fences.

Getting a good pace on the running parts.

Coming down a steep slope with only your bottom for padding.

Knowing that the sludge that just went up your nose and in your mouth was almost definitely cow poo.

It was so brilliant. Mostly.

So much fun, and so much stretch and challenge.

This is the reward - The freedom. The fun. The spontaneous laughter.

The first noticing of my grey roots when I saw the photos and then thinking ‘wow! I look so happy!’. The best feeling.

The achievement – not for glory but for sheer pleasure and the appreciation of life.

The gratitude – for my friends and the team spirit, for the atmosphere of helping and encouragement from them and from fellow participants and bystanders. For hot baths and proud husbands.

The ‘happy tiredness’ – the after-effects of a cold, wet and muddy endurance run and the associated feelings of deep satisfaction, contentment, fulfilment.

Lingering over memories of hearing people saying ‘I can’t do it!’ followed by a helping hand on the bum to hoy them over the wall or ‘here, use my hands as a step!’ followed by the cheers of the team and the rallying cry of ‘yes you can!’.

Yes, You Can.

When was the last time YOU felt this alive?

I’m so curious about that.

What makes us feel that alive? That purposeful? That brave? That strong?

Where do we get in our own way? How do we stop ourselves from living the full colour of our lives?

What stories do we tell ourselves about not being ready, or not being able to, or not knowing how, or how being afraid is a good reason not to do something?

How do we connect with that part of us that says ‘yes, you can!’

Yes, you can sign up! For the mud run, or the art class, or whatever is calling you.

You can say yes to the conversation, the interview, the new project or business.

You can say no, to anything that makes you feel sadder, or tireder, or less-than.

Even if we’re not feeling ready, or good enough, or we worry that we won’t fit in, we can choose this way of being.

And we can do it for the joy and the aliveness and the vibrancy of it.

We can get our hands in that magnificently muddy messy life of ours, and feel ALIVE.

 

If you'd like some help being braver and happier - a group of us are gathering in September in Penrith to share the curriculum of The Daring Way - a supportive and challenging non-residential intensive workshop retreat - you don't have to do this on your own. We'd love you to join us! You can read more about that here.

Stop resisting life

photo courtesy of visitscotland.com

photo courtesy of visitscotland.com

I'm reading Kyle Cease's new book 'I hope I screw this up' and realising something really important about how I experience my life.

So much of it is in my head - with worries about what people think, am I doing it right, what SHOULD I do next,  second guessing myself and my decisions, looking to others for guidance about what's right for me. 

This is not a place where life flows. It's a place where I resist life. 

When I'm in my head, the priorities are staying small, under the radar, not being seen and keeping safe. And many times thoughts of scarcity and caution. The thoughts are usually based on an old script instead of noticing what really wants to happen in the moment and trusting that feeling. I'm not present to what's happening AT ALL, I'm just living in a story in my head.

Like when we were on a sunny walk yesterday on the beautiful Scottish coastline, and stopped for a playful and delicious ice-cream on the way back to the car. I noticed my judgement about shouldn't really have one, my head's attempt to judge something that was about to bring me great pleasure as 'wrong' somehow. 

Instead, I choose the wild abandon, risk-taking and savouring that I would prefer to have and that goes with saying a 'hell yes' to the ice-cream my body wants to have.

I wonder where else that little voice of caution and judgement stops me having a really, really good time

When I let my heart lead, the guidance is softer, quieter, gently persistent.

Flow with life, it says. Stop resisting the present moment.

Eat the ice cream.  Savour the soft breeze on your face. Enjoy the company you are with. Notice the sparkle on the water and the frothy aliveness of the surf. Absorb the full-on joy of the dogs splashing as they bound and chase each other through the shallow water. Just this moment.

Say 'yes' to life.

 

On Leaping

Picture by Jake Ingle at unsplash.com

Picture by Jake Ingle at unsplash.com

I once got told by a coach that I should 'pee, or get off the pot', when showing up to my coaching work, which led to me taking what felt like a giant leap and huge risk by taking voluntary redundancy with my at-the-time employer.

She didn't say 'pee' though.

I digress.

Almost immediately after leaping, a new job appeared and I've been busy with that for the past three years, on top of working with a small client caseload, and delivering a few workshops but I still really didn't get around to doing 'my own work in the world' in as wide a way as I'd like. Not like world domination or anything, just getting up in the morning and knowing that I'm bringing all I've got, in a way that I'm in charge of. You know?

There's this thing that's been building in me for a while. I have been feeling constrained by having a full-time job, as much as I love the people I work with, appreciate the culture of the company that I am employed by, and value so much of the work that we do.

The leader and freedom-seeker in me has been calling me for a while to make more room in my week for doing more of my own 1:1 coaching work, preparing for the next the Daring Way and Wholehearted Living workshops in September (would love to see you there, if that is your kind of thing!) and for saying yes to exciting projects that are coming my way.

Here's the thing I know about me and risk: we're not exactly old friends.

My old patterning has had me stay as stable and safe as possible, with very little boat-rocking, and certainly no jumping out of safe and secure jobs into the void of the unknown. 

Safe, but feeling stale and too small and unfulfilling for me.

In my own coaching yesterday my coach shared with me this Indiana Jones video where he has to take the first step before the path appears (the 'leap' is at minute 0:50 for those of you who like to get to the point quickly).  

I have known for some time that my next step is to go part-time, or freelance for my current employer, so I can do All The Other Things. In that moment where Coach challenged me to take the leap, here's what my inner defeatest told me:

Whoa. This Is Scary.

You're not going to have any money. Nobody will hire you or want to work with you and you will end up alone, living out of a trolley in the street. Fact.

WTF are you doing?

No.

We're not doing that.

It's not that bad!

It's too huge a step.

Nopity Nope Nope. No.

Should we eat something? A biscuit, maybe?

Let's distract ourselves. Netflix! Facebook! Fridge-raiding! Organising the office!

Ok.  Let's analyse the options one more time.

No.

 

My wisest self was saying:

Yes.

Freedom. Expansion. Creativity.

Make Something Happen.

This is *so* exciting.

Yes! Do it!

 

In the next moment, I'm agreeing that I will speak with the manager in my company today and explore the options for a win/win.

They get to keep my enthusiasm and commitment for the work I do for them, and I get more freedom to create and play and work on other projects.

I didn't fret over the choice, I didn't even really plan what I was going to say. I've been living with the request for months, only I've been ignoring it so far as Taking Action goes.

I just needed to decide. Asking for what I need wasn't so scary. The decision to ask for what I needed, was the scariest part.

Like when you jump out of a plane - the anticipation - the bit before you jump - is far worse than the actual falling. That feels like Freedom, and Excitement, and Flying!

Today I had the conversation, and very soon, I'm going to not be full-time employed any more.

I thought I'd feel amazing, and brave, and WOW.

I actually just feel, calmly like 'This is cool. The next natural step'.

A wise coaching buddy of mine said yesterday 'the funny thing about faith, is that you only need it when things are uncertain - you don't look for it when everything is going well'.

I'm stepping into the unknown, because for the first time that I have chosen it, I won't know what my income will be.

And it doesn't feel brave, or scary any more. It just feels wise, and normal. And there's a tiny hint of aliveness and excitement, which I make up will build in the coming days as I realise what I've made room for.

And I'm excited. Cos instead of controlling everything that happens in my week, I'm following my inner guidance and letting something new emerge. I'm 'walking my talk'.

And I realise this is how it feels to trust that things are going to work out just fine as I carve my own path.

 

How about you? Do you have something calling you to leap that feels scary, but isn't going away? I'd love to know about it. 

Feel free to share in the comments below, or get in touch if you are interested in learning more about workshops based on topics like these - I'd love you to take a look at the Daring Way pages for details!

Like this? Please consider sharing it! Thank you.

 

 

How to talk about shame in the workplace - a worksheet and activity guide

Greetings, fellow brave souls!

I had a couple of people do the Daring Way and then ask for ideas for bringing some of what they learned to life back in the workplace, so I created a two pager which might help with future requests.

Shame can be a trixy topic even in emotionally-intelligent workplaces, so if you're an HR or L&D professional, internal coach, manager or change-maker, or someone who would just value some guidance about how to talk about shame at work - I created this for you. Hope it helps.

P.S. I'd say (based on my experience of facilitating this work for 18 months now) we need to do our own work (inner soul-searching as well as research) before facilitating conversations about shame. It's not for the faint-hearted. The rewards for the well-being of the workforce and its leadership are huge, though, I believe. Enjoy!

 

I would love to know about your experiences with talking about shame in the workplace, or how you see it show up in your team or at work.

Feel free to share in the comments below (remember to maintain confidentiality :-))

I run workshops around topics like these - please see the Daring Way pages for details!

Like this? Please consider sharing it! Thank you.

How telling a room full of strangers I had sweaty armpits created magic

I'm standing at the front of the room, about to run an interactive session about failing and getting up again, being real, and living your life with your whole self. 

It's Saturday. There are about 30 people sitting on chairs facing me, in a school classroom just north of Newcastle, for the Spring ChangeCamp. They are mostly therapists, change-makers, coaches, and people who are interested in human behaviour and change. 

I make up that they will have high-expectations.

I want them to feel something really powerful - the truth of this work and this way of being. I know I have the courage to be seen, I know I am good at this work, I have prepared some stuff for them. I kind of know where the session will go and where it'll end up.

I'm playing my own 'arena' playlist as they come into the room. I know music makes me feel really good. I try not to mind that 'sexy and I know it' is playing as the bulk of the people come in. I wonder for a fleeting session if they will mind my eccentricity and occasional-bursting-into-dance, just cos it feels good.

I start talking. I welcome them into the room and tell them a little of my story. Perfectionism, can't-be-with-failing, disowning those parts of myself I judge as undesirable, blah blah.

My heart is pounding right out of my chest.

My mouth is really dry, suddenly.

I notice that my armpits are sweaty (oh no, did I shave my armpits this morning?) and I feel the pulse and force of the present moment, as I stand before these lovely people. The moment, the space of anticipation, where they have no idea what will come next - I am the guide, the midwife for the unfolding of the next hour and twenty minutes.

I am talking but I have to stop and breathe. I realise I can barely catch my breath! 

A few years ago, I might have tried to create the very best impression possible. One of the super-composed, well-prepared and holding-it-together presenter/facilitator. The one with dry armpits, a steady and calm heartbeat, poised and ready to develop a brilliant presentation that will wow them and won't make me feel too exposed and uncomfortable in the process. A good distance in the connection between me, and Everybody.

These days, I know too much about how that way of being doesn't deliver RESONANCE, and MAGIC, and allow us to be MOVED by our humanity and vulnerability. 

That way of being is small, and held-back and careful.

So these days, when I'm presenting or facilitating, I just 'do' real, and messy, and whole, and magnificent.

[Come back to the presentation]. So I don't pretend.

I tell them what I don't want them to know about me, in that moment.

I tell them I can barely breathe, that my heart is pounding, that I've got 'sweaty pits' (sorry, audience. It is entirely possible that was an 'overshare'). 

I tell them I love this work, and that I want to be brave with my life and work and in sharing my message with them.

I tell them I want for them the feeling of freedom that comes with being who we are, mess and sweaty pits and all.

I offer myself to them, in that moment, just as I am. I surrender to the moment, because it feels so good, I feel so free, and I can give myself to the moment and give all I have, because I'm being topped up with a constant source of inspiration and presence, in that moment.

Because I'm not trying to work it out or thinking. I'm just being, sensing, responding to the dance in the room, and creating from that.

And then they do an exercise where they help each other focus on moments of success and flourishing, and moments of disappointment and failure and the gifts they brought to those moments, helping each other see where they shine, naturally, with no effort at all, even where they would normally have judged themselves as failing, or in not being able to own their gifts even when they were shining.

And within a few minutes the room is abuzz with laugher, some tears, hugging, deep connection, brought about by compassion, and empathy, and being seen in their humanness as magnificent, and messy, and real, and amazing. Every one of those people had a story. Stories of sadness, and tragedy, and heartbreak, and love, and wonder, and dreaming, and power, and wanting to create. 

They are magnificent.

And I know that they were more able to be magnificent because I was able to let them see me, in mine, even in my exact messy state in the moment I started my session with them. I know it because I see it and feel it on every single Daring Way and Rising Strong workshop I deliver. And the more I experience it, the harder it gets to be the old way, where I have to look good or competent, and be perfect, and prepare, and need-to-know.

And I wanted to move them along quickly, since this exercise had not been intended as such a big part of the main session, but the group told me 'no'. We want to have this conversation. We will not be moved on quickly.

They told me this with their words, with their energy, with their eyes, and their pleas for 'more time'. They told me by the way I could not enter the small group discussions. They were on 'lock-down' as they created deep connections and sharing together, just like I had invited them to do.

So I just stayed at the front of the room, standing and resting against a desk, for another 25 minutes, and noticed what was happening. What happens when we create a strongly-held intention for healing and miracles, and then get out of our way and let it come.

When we notice when our usual industriousness-in-preparation for something feels like more effort than is required (as it had done for me in the weeks leading up to ChangeCamp), and that we feel like if we just show up and create a space for people to connect at a deep level - they will do the work of their own healing.

We will create connection, with those conditions, because we are human and we are hard-wired for connection.

Whatever's wanting to happen will happen.

I sat at the front of the room, revelling in the ease and synchronicity, and what can happen when we are fully who we are, when we don't hold ourselves back with fears of being seen a certain way (perfect presenter with calm heartbeat and dry armpits) and we say 'look! I'm really really here with you in this moment. I'm willing to be truly seen, because I care more about this other thing, and feeling FULLY ALIVE. And I think you want to feel that way too.'

It's possible that some people didn't have a rich or deeply-touching conversation, I know that. 

But people came to me afterwards and said that they had experienced some magic. That they got the sense of 'doorways opening'. That they had goosebumps. That being around me 'did something' to them, that they felt a magnetic force.

One lady told me that she felt like I was talking about her, just to her, as I shared my old way of being around wanting to be perfect, wanting to know all the answers, wanting to look like I know what I am doing, never wanting to get things wrong or fail. For those who resonate with this work, the feeling is really really strong. I think that's the power of the research - because it's so rooted in people's lived experience. Anyway. It's powerful, and undeniable.

All I know, is the more I show up for this work, the more magical it feels, the more ease I sense in the delivery of it, and the more I feel like I just have to give myself permission to be real, be present, and trust the transformation to unfold. It's challenging at times, and I feel exhausted afterwards, as I learn to rest more, to recover, after being that channel, but I can't stop now that I feel the power of being real, and messy, and being seen in my wholeness.

And if I have to do it with sweaty pits, so be it.

 

I would love to know about your experiences with being real, and feeling 'seen'. Feel free to share in the comments below.

I run workshops around topics like these - please see the Daring Way pages for details!

Like this? Please consider sharing it! Thank you.

Why we can tell when we're faking and what to do instead

Image credit: Juskteez Vu at unsplash.com

Image credit: Juskteez Vu at unsplash.com

On my first coach training weekend, we did an exercise which changed the way I thought about myself for ever, and in the biggest way.

Picture the scene:

Sitting in a circle of about 6 people who met less than 48 hours ago.

Each person takes a turn for the others to tell them what they see in them, and then once that 'round' feels complete, what the others sense is possible in them, but not fully expressed right now.

We end up with a badge which had that word on it, and then went into another exercise where we (all at the same time) had to act that out - really being in the energy of the word we had on our badges. Throughout our coach training, we were often called to be more of that word.

Picture 25 people, acting as strippers, studs, leaders, poets, storytellers, the sea, the sun, grandfather time, wise sages, princesses, kings, queens, bastards and clowns. All at the same time. 

You're curious what my word was, right?

:)

Mine was METEOR. 

It was about bright light, power, stars, magic and massive impact.

Boom. 

Just like that, I recognised a part of me I had not been owning up until that point. But I knew, with every cell in my body, that what they were seeing was there in me.

I also learned a really powerful lesson about how I experience other humans, and this is it:

We can intuitively sense the truth of each other.

My beautiful coaching comrades had seen in me, an aspect of me that even I wasn't fully aware of (but had spent most of my adult life trying to hide).

Even when we have been covering up or hiding, the person we really are, or editing ourselves to fit in, or please, or keep others at an emotional distance, other people can already recognise the qualities in you, that make you, you.

Who you are speaks more loudly then what you are doing to cover up who you are, for fear of judgement, separation, or disapproval.

And from my facilitation of the Daring Way workshops I've realised we can not only feel the truth of a person, the qualities that make them who they are - but we also sense it when they hold themselves back, and are hiding or editing themselves.

We don't know what is being hidden, but we feel the dissonance of a person, we sense that there is more, or that the person being represented is not necessarily the person who is inside.

And that prevents true connection from happening.

Because which edited version of you, is connecting with which edited version of me?

The belonging that we seek through presenting a more pleasing version of ourselves, isn't actually available until we stop editing who we are. 

And when we stop trying to belong, and show up just as we are, seeking to give, and contribute,  we suddenly find we belong in the places where we really fit.  

With ourselves. 

With the people who feel more like 'our people'.

That's 'cos they can see us, for real, and we feel the integrity inside.

And when we stop hiding, stop editing, and allow ourselves to be seen, it can feel risky, because we fear disapproval or disconnection, yes. But what happens when you take that risk is that people feel the truth of you (that they already sensed) and true connection can happen, because the true you is meeting the true 'them'.  

That's resonance.

We can already feel who you are.  Let us have more of the full-on, unapologetic version of you - it's already more amazingly genius than any kind of editing could accomplish.

 

Does this idea land with you? Do you recognise where you say or do things which aren't really aligned with who you are? What happens? What would be on your badge? 

Want to come and explore more topics like this? There are a couple of places left on the next Rising Strong™ workshop in Penrith, Cumbria, on 3+4 March 2017. We'd love to welcome the real you.

In praise of slow

Image credit: Miriam Miles at unsplash.com

Image credit: Miriam Miles at unsplash.com

I'm just four days into 2017 with the guiding light of SLOW as my word for 2017 - and already I've discovered something really interesting about what goes on inside my head.

As some background - I recently read Carl Honore's excellent 'In praise of slow' (alongside Susan Cain's 'Quiet', but that's another tale for another day) and watched his TED talk which you can watch here - it's less than 20 minutes and is well worth it if you're a recovering 'hurry-upper', like me. 

I'm making SLOW be about slowing everything down, taking deeper breaths, doing less, consuming less, taking more time to really feel into decision-making, generally being more present, and hopefully in turn, connecting with the underlying joyful nature that I am sure exists under all the busy-busy-hurry-upness, that leaves me feeling flat and uninspired.

I noticed really clearly that the voice in my head doesn't actually represent the deeper inner wisdom voice I've come to recognise, but not always live from, and it seems to be running a commentary like this in my head:

On day two of my happy choice to go back to running, because I feel strong, and free when I run..

 "I don't want to go for a run. Running feels hard."

And during that same run:

"oooh, the floor's icy. What if I slip and fall in the road and a car comes and doesn't see me and might run over me and... " Wise, true self cuts in at this point with WHAAAAT?! check out that catastrophising! Stop that, fast-thinking voice!

On seeing one of my favourite mentors has launched another course, just as I promised myself to consume less this year, and to show up fully to the online courses I've already signed up to but not completed:

"I've got to sign up! I don't want to miss out! Never mind that I'm going back on my promise to myself! Sign up!"

On receiving an invitation to deliver a session at a local conference, that I loved doing last year:

"I'm not sure I can be bothered. It's all too much effort and I'm just making myself really busy again."

In my hurry up days I'd probably have skipped the run, signed up to yet another course that I won't complete after promising myself that I wouldn't, and declined the offer of presenting to a local group - something I know is really fun and fulfilling for me.

(In case you're wondering, I went for the run, didn't sign up for the course [but did connect with the course-leader which resulted in deeper connection and leaving the door open], and committed to the presentation :))

view from the run!

view from the run!

This is an example of how it feels when we're caught up in fast and slow thinking - check out here and here - slowing our thinking down gives us access to deeper processing which isn't governed by that lazy, fast, often inaccurate voice that happens in our heads when we are speeding along through our lives.

Slower thinking requires more mental resources, but gives us access to greater agency, choice and concentration in our lives.

I'm sure for me there's an element of my instant gratification monkey at play too - slowing things down means I really have access to decision making that will lead to a happier, more fulfilled me - not one who managed to avoid discomfort in the instant it was triggered, but who missed out on something that was going to have me feeling stronger, happier and with more integrity, longer-term.

What I'm learning is we've got to get present so we can hear the voices and tell the difference in how our thoughts feel.

Deeper, resonant wisdom over instant-gratification, is what becomes available when I'm not speeding through life with my stress-head on.

At a slower pace, I can feel into my relationship with everything, and really tell what truly engages my spirit and what I can gracefully let go of.

Does this resonate?

Could you be served by slowing down a little and getting in touch with your inner tortoise? :-)

I'd love to know your tips and tricks for slowing down.

 

On the gift of power from President Trump on my birthday

image1.JPG

I woke up on my 46th birthday, in the UK, at 4.57 am, and on checking the election results so far, hubby and I decided to snuggle back to sleep for an hour, before the alarm going off at 6.07 (have always like the chaos of the odd number).

I couldn't sleep so decided to do one of those meditation thingys where you send love and kindness to someone you love, someone you're 'meh' about, someone you can't tolerate at all, and yourself.

Don't judge me. I'm new at this self-compassion malarkey.

The idea is in really seeing the person happy, free, loving, free from worry and ego and troubles. I chose Trump as my 'can't tolerate' person.

It's the hardest part of the meditation, but it did help me realise that when I feel like that, no matter how 'right' I think I am, it's only me that feels disconnected from myself.

Here's where I'm currently at. And this is just my perspective/way of being with this. I'm not intending to inflame anything, or disagree with anyone, or dishonour anything that anyone is feeling. I just wanted to write it out.

This morning's news has triggered in me a sense of powerlessness, that I think I've had for most of my adult life.  And I know that for me, when I react from fear, it's never bringing anything good, to me or to the world.

There were at least a good handful of men who I should have been able trust in my impressionable years whose behaviour left me feeling less than powerful. 

Powerlessness, and not feeling like I belong, were my life's work for a long time. 

I am blessed with a wonderful husband and some really awesome and sensitive male friends. I remember seeing some beautiful scenes on coach training of some of my those men hugging, supporting each other, crying, showing their vulnerability.

I'm not saying that male energy is bad and female is good, not at all. But for me, Donald Trump epitomises the masculine - force, power, making stuff happen, taking what he wants, dominance. Everything about his energy has had a much more powerful impact for me, than Hillary's.

Today, I've considered what I really believe about my own power and about my fear.

  • Is it a scary world?
  • Should I be afraid?
  • Should I join in with being afraid?
  • Will there be a war?
  • What will happen to some of my friends?
  • What will happen to me and the people I love?
  • Can he be that bad if so many people voted for him?
  • Do I really believe that love matters, and that no matter how it seems, that some kind of organising, wise, invisible force, has this all in hand?

I don't know. I'm trying to believe, but I don't always get there. To be fair, I still believe in Fairies and will be watching Father Christmas going across the sky on Christmas Eve, so probably my old belief systems aren't to be totally trusted.

But here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to be the person who tunes into what is true for her, and not follow any mass voices that don't make me feel good at all.

I'm going to stay out of judgement as much as I possibly can.

I'm going to remember that I get to take responsibility for how I'm feeling.

I'm going to do what I need to do to feel anything that I need to process and acknowledge it all feels a bit scary. Then I'm going to think some different thoughts.

I'll probably dance round the kitchen to a dancy tune. I'll be giving myself permission to feel ok.

I'm going to be continue to be brave with my life and that includes owning the shadowy bits of me that I don't like, and continuing to include people I struggle with when I do that heart-meditation thingy. I'm going to do it more often because I feel the benefit, and I believe it has an impact on the people and others around me.

I'm going to reserve judgement on Trump because I really don't know enough to be sure about what will happen next.

I'm going to resist putting my intention and focus on what's wrong, because I believe that I'll just be fuelling the fire.  I can say a 'hell no' to the kind of leader Trump may turn out to be, but I don't have to keep throwing wood on the fire.

I'm going to own those parts of me that I know I sometimes do, which are the things I don't like in Trump - making it all about me, taking a strong stand for something and intending to get my own way at all costs, making judgements about other people who are different from me.

Our energy really matters. I'm calling all the scattered parts of mine back to me.

But first I'm going to have a slice of birthday cake and a cuppa.

Go gently, bravehearts.

Why you'll never be alone in a fitness class - lessons from Moky

When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt, and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves.
— Brene Brown
just a couple of foxes comparing pom-pom techniques after class...

just a couple of foxes comparing pom-pom techniques after class...

I absolutely love my weekly dose of Moky awesome.

If you're not Cumbrian, let me give you a little background.

It's described as a "fun dance workout which uses big chart hits and easy to follow dance moves designed to give a fun but intense cardiovascular and full body sculpting workout".

I can't say I'm body-sculpted (there's still time) but I can vouch for the fun and intense part.

All shapes, all sizes, all abilities, whether you're co-ordinated or not, it really doesn't matter. As long as you're whooping and smiling and moving.

I once thanked Moky's founder, Shameem, for creating something that was so important and wonderful in my life. She told me that having fun and making people feel amazing was always the intention.

It's not just a dance workout class though.

It's an opportunity to let yourself go, to whoop, to rave, to party on, to dance like nobody's watching. 

To dance like a cheerleader complete with pompoms.

To thrust your boobs-belly-bum provocatively in the name of dance. Or maybe just hootlessness. 

To hustle like you're a member of Pans People (young Moky-goers will need to look that up. Here you go. Welcome.)

Even when how you think you look, and how you actually look, don't add up.

Whatever age you are. Even if you're more 'cheerio than 'cheerleader'.

Sometimes our Thursday class will see up to thirty, sweating-like-a-pig feeling-like-a-fox,  beautiful women, showing up and being seen at class, even when they're not sure of the routine, or the song, or the steps, or their left and right, or their forward and back,  or whether they are whooping too loud or not whooping loud enough. 

Or whether that chest pop was too.... chest-poppy.  

Or whether their whoop isn't at the right pitch, or length, or tone, or maybe it's more of a 'yeah' than a whoop.

Or maybe they whooped when no-one else did. I've done that and man, that's all the Awkward Feels.

But we're showing up, in all our sweaty, messy, imperfectly jiggly magnificent forms. That's courage, my friends.

Honestly, sometimes when I'm in the back row, I look at these women and love and glitter just shoot out of my eyeballs at how magnificent they are and by association, I am, JUST FOR SHOWING UP. 

To get to class, we had to get on our sports bras and spandex pants (you know who you are) and walk into that room and sometimes smile at people who we don't know very well.

We had to show up even if we're not sure we've got life or Moky all figured out. To sometimes stand in the room trying to look like we're okay when we're wondering if we really fit in, or have something interesting to say, or will belong with the bigger group.

Sometimes we just left a screaming child, or troubles at home, or a terrible day at work, or a health problem, or a sore back, or deep grieving, to come to class.

Sometimes, it took all our willpower to take the time for ourselves, to dance, to laugh, to move our bodies, to sometimes wish our pelvic floor muscles were a little stronger. To show up anyway.

Seeing my Moky buddies from the back row really ticks my 'common humanity' boxes, for all these reasons. That, and they're my tribe.

Sometimes, I think other thoughts, at the other end of the am-I-doing-this-right spectrum.

Of how I might be doing the steps too well, because I was always blessed with being able to pick up dance routines quickly.

Of how I worry sometimes about what other people think of me, and that maybe instead of whooping like a banshee and channelling Beyonce like a diva, I should perhaps tone it down a bit, in case I'm too much or too loud.

As my Mum would say when I was six and getting changed behind a towel at the beach: "no-one's looking at you!".

[The six year old me is certain that they were.]

These days I can catch my thinking early and make sure I'm saying something kind and encouraging to myself. Like - you go girl! Or - you have full permission to enjoy yourself! Or - it really doesn't matter if you went left there. Or - Dance to the beat of your own drum, lovely.

It's ok to do Moky (and life) YOUR WAY.

Given my historical tendency to prioritise getting things right over having fun, Moky's taught me to lighten up, stop taking myself so seriously, be playful, AND not to tone myself down, as long as I'm having fun and not hitting anyone in the face with my enthusiastic pom-pomming.

No surprise that this dovetails so beautifully with the Daring Way and Brene Brown's work around living wholeheartedly.

When we can let go of being cool and always in control and give ourselves permission to act goofy, life gets more fun.

When we let go of perfectionism, we get to go easier and kinder on ourselves, which feels WAY better.

When we let go of caring about what others think, we get permission to be real, to be ourselves.

 

I once had a conversation with one of my Moky buddies who confided that she just wasn't able to find her voice, not just in singing or whooping out loud at Moky, but also in life. We had a giggle as she practised 'stealth-whooping' in songs where we knew lots of people would whoop so that she wouldn't feel so self-conscious. She later reported she had found her voice in a kick boxing class requiring some serious badassery in attitude and power, and after that things got a whole lot easier.

So if you're ever new to class, you're probably not the only one to ever feel out of your comfort zone or to be thinking those things you've been thinking.

And if you're showing up at one of our Moky classes - you belong with us.  You're in excellent company, you foxy thing.

 

I would love, love, love to know what your fitness class stories are in the comments below.

I run workshops around topics like these - please see the Daring Way pages for details!

Like this? Please consider sharing it! Thank you.

What I learned about empathy from a used-car salesman

Image by Felix Russell-Saw at unsplash.com

Image by Felix Russell-Saw at unsplash.com

If you're anything like many people I know, or like I was before I did some work in the motor trade, you probably can relate to thinking generally about car salesmen like we might think of sharks.

Dangerous, predatory, untrustworthy.

So when I was part of one of the most heart-warming conversations I've ever had, I knew some day I'd be writing about it. I got permission from the people involved to write this, this week, so here it is.

Let me introduce you to a manager and a team - we'll call the manager Mark (because that is his name).

This manager has been dealing with a sales person who recently lost a very young child, after becoming ill with a rare condition that claimed his life after several months.

I wasn't mainly moved by stories I was told about the whole team attending a tiny person's funeral while the most senior manager 'held the fort'.

It wasn't even by the tears I saw in a colleague's eyes as he talked about what it is like to have one of your team go through something so painful.

Nor even knowing that after returning to work, Mark sent the rota schedule home so the salesperson's wife could complete it to give her some choice over when her partner came back to work.

It was something else.

Mark (he's a parent too) and I were talking about empathy - it's a huge part of the work I do with them and he said:

"How do you do empathy though, when you haven't been through what someone has been through?"

"When they say 'do you know what I mean though?'

And you have to say 'no'.

'No, I have no idea what this must feel like for you'."

Compassion takes courage because it's hard to put yourself in someone else's painful shoes.

Because you can't imagine what that experience is like AND because you have to try, if you are to find the place in you, which knows what they are going through.

I've thought about this a lot.

Partly because I've learned a lot about empathy from this team, and their love and support for their colleague and his family.

And here's what I know.

You can empathise with someone without having had their exact same experience.

Maybe you've never experienced the intensity of what they're experiencing, but you can still relate. If you've known sadness, or fear, or loss of any kind, you can relate.

You can use words like these (I learned most of these from my Daring Way work)

  • I'm so sorry this is happening to you.
  • I don't know what to say, but I am here with you.
  • I will stay with you while you go though this.
  • I am so glad you told me.
  • What do you need, right now?

I think it's more hand-holding and sitting, than fixing or understanding or minimising.

To be willing to empathise, we have to be willing to get it wrong, to maybe say something clumsy, or have it come out not like we intended.

It's okay when we have good intentions to connect with, to feel with, the other person.

It's what binds us in our common humanity.

And if we can be willing to get it wrong and 'circle back' to put it right, we're more likely to try to empathise.

  • I'm sorry, that didn't come out like I wanted it to, let me try again.

or

  • I don't know what to say, but I am here with you. What do you need?

or

  • I don't think I listened well enough when you told me. I'd like to try again. Do you feel like talking?

I wanted to share, because I'm blown away that I'm having these conversations in a culture which most would agree isn't our first thought when we consider places we might find heart-warming empathy and connection.

Isn't that wonderful?

I love that I can easily describe the used-car salespeople that I know as compassionate. Kind-hearted. Empathetic.

This is an extreme story, but it's not the only one I have from my work in the motor trade. Many times I have driven away from a day's Emotional Intelligence coaching in a dealership with my heart bursting wide open with the connection and deep feeling I've witnessed there on that day. 

So if you're wondering if we can empathise with someone's pain, my answer would be yes.

If Mark can do it, so can all of us.

 

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If this post resonated for you,  why not consider coming to one of my in-person workshops in the beautiful English Lake District. See these pages for details.

Self-compassion mantra for ultimate shame-shit-storms

A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.
— Christopher K. Germer

I'm on a call with my Daring Way tribe last night and we're talking about the body of work that was the online part of our training - all the posts and sharings and trust-building that happened there. My buddies are agreeing that going back to re-read the messages is valuable and rich and how much they value still having access to that material.

I have the absolute opposite experience to everyone else.

I haven't been able to look at it since we finished in January, I say.

Something that happened in that online training triggered the mother of all shame-shit-storms for me at the time.

The most responsible way I can talk about it is in me making my entire being Wrong-With-a-Capital-W because someone took exception to a response I had written.

The visceral shame response I had in that moment - insides disappeared, everything slowed down, holding my breath, thought loop of 'idiot', all while saying 'fine!' when hubby asked if I was ok - took a few days to pass.

It was three weeks before I could go and revisit my message to really find out what went on there, and once I'd 'circled back' and practiced what we'd learned and committed to about empathy, I never visited that message thread again.

Going back to the online material, even nine months later, would be too painful. I just don't want to go back there. I notice an invisible, powerful reverse magnetic aversion to even thinking about it.

That's not the point of this story though. It's what happened next that was fascinating.

Me too, says one of my buddies. I had a six week shame-shit-storm and I couldn't look at the logo of the company of the other person involved without feeling sick.

And me, says another. I have a dress I had to throw away because I'd had a shame storm in it and I couldn't bear to wear at it again.

Me too, says yet another. I'm going through this right now. I disagreed with my client for a full 20 minutes before asking a question that would have been useful to clarify at the start of the session, and made up that I am an idiot and I should have known better.

I'm in the same boat, says another.  I just royally screwed up my first meeting with someone important because I was more interested in being understood than listening. Have cried more than a few tears since.

Maybe you know that feeling, too. That's exactly what shame does.

Shame gets us all triggered by something and then tells us we're stupid and worthless and nobody else is anywhere near as stupid and worthless and wrong as we are in that moment.

So we're sitting on our call last night, eyes brimming with the tears of connection and being seen, of sharing our most painful failures, and of being loved right there in our beautiful, raw, messy humanness. It makes my heart swell every time, with gratitude for this work.

Here's the truth. It's impossible for shame to bring you down for longer than a millisecond when your 'back is got' by army of empathy-warriors (or even a single gladiator).

Shame hangover?

Brene talks about 'vulnerability hangover' as that sense of having over-shared, and I think we can have a shame-hangover too - so much so that it anchors us to places, people, thoughts, dresses, that can re-trigger that painful experience.

The antidote?

Share. Speak shame. Tell someone you trust your story. Practice self-compassion. If that's hard - try these words for yourself.

Self-compassion mantra for ultimate shame-shit-storms

Ok - shame alert.  I'm doing shame. It's happening right now.

Shame Shame Shame.

It's okay. I'm okay. I'm just going to breathe deeply over here. In. Out. In. Out.

What do I need?

Who shall I call? Who has earned the right to hear my story?

Self-Hug.

If needed, insert one or two 'sweethearts' or 'my darlings' or childhood endearment/pet name with happy and comforting associations. If that's too 'fluffy' for you, you might need it even more. Let the inner five year old you and the twelve year old you know they're ok :)

I'm okay. This will pass.

May I be peaceful. May I be loving. May I feel free. May I know I am worthy of love and belonging. Breathe.

 

Or as my wise buddies Pam shared the following day after our call:

"Help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is".


Over to you.

What's your experience?  Want to share your story?  I would love to hear what you have to say.

 

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If you've enjoyed this post, please share it on Facebook and Linked In to the friends and colleagues you feel would enjoy it too by clicking the 'Share' icon below.

If this post resonated for you,  why not consider coming to one of my in-person workshops in the beautiful English Lake District. See these pages for details.

FAQs for the Daring Way and Rising Strong workshops

Is this therapy?

No. The workshops are contextualised in a leadership/organisational development context and are not therapy. The curriculum is a psycho-educational one which means they are about psychological aspects and about education around them, with the focus on the educational aspects here.

Here's an example. If we're exploring childhood shame messages in the workshop, and you identify a critical voice that you think comes from a parent, in therapy you might dig deeper into that voice and a facilitator might ask 'when did you first hear your father say those words?' and 'how did you feel at the time?'. I would ask you 'how does that voice affect the way you show up as a leader in your work?'

You can search for certified professionals in your area on www.thedaringway.com

What's in the workshop?
The curricula (I had to look up the plural of curriculum :)) are different for the Daring Way and for Rising Strong.

The Daring Way explores topics such as shame, vulnerability, courage, empathy and self-compassion, and is focussed on the metaphor of the arena to explore how you show up, be seen and live brave, in your life and at work. It gives a solid foundation from which to explore how you 'do' shame and vulnerability, and from which to start to develop daily practises that better support your sense of worthiness and what matters most to you. 

Rising Strong explores how to get up when you have failed or fallen, and how to develop your emotional intelligence (how you feel, think and act). We may rumble with stories of shame, vulnerability, criticism, anxiety, grief and forgiveness, depending on what comes up in the group. If you are regularly 'triggered' emotionally, you might find it helpful to develop a way of learning about what stories you are telling about events and how you that could serve you better in future.

Can I do the workshops in any order?
Yes, you can. If you want a thorough grounding in how shame shows up for you and building empathy and self-compassion skills, you might prefer to start with the Daring Way. If you want to learn a process for recognising your emotions and dealing with failure, Rising Strong would be a good place to start. You can't get it wrong!

What will my fellow learners be like?
Probably just like you! They may be HR or L&D managers, managers or supervisors, leaders in organisations, people working in helping professions, or coaches (not an exhaustive list). Most people have heard of Brene Brown's work, read a book with their reading group or watched one of both of her TED talks.  They will have similar questions, fears, and hopes as you.

Where can I see Brene's TED talks?
Here, and here.

Will I have to bear my soul?
No, you won't have to do anything you don't want to do. I'll ask you to 'share with stretch', which might mean that you feel some discomfort when you share some things about yourself - vulnerability *is* uncomfortable - that's the whole point of this workshop! But it will be in a small group (between 6-9 people, usually) and we'll have taken time to make sure it's a confidential, safe and encouraging space. 

Connection is important in the workshop - so you will get more from it if you come along willing to open up and let people see the real you. You won't have to speak to the whole group if you don't want to (let me know if this is likely to be particularly tough for you and I'll make sure you get what you need).

How long is the workshop?
Two days, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm on both days, with a 45 minute or 60 minute lunch break (depends on group needs). It's really important you are on time, and there for both days, unless it's really unavoidable - because your (physical and attentional) presence matters to the group, and absences/lateness has an impact. Please do all you can to make this a priority. Thanks!

What if I need to cancel my booking?
We appreciate circumstances change and that whilst no one wants to have to cancel, sometimes this is beyond your control. If you do need to cancel your place, we will do everything within our ability to help you.

Here are details of our 'Cancellation Policy':

  • More than 6 weeks before the event date - full refund will be made.
  • Between 6 and 2 weeks before the course is scheduled to take place - 50% refund will be made.
  • Less than 2 weeks before the course is scheduled to take place - 100% of the workshop fee is charged*

*Alternatively, a substitute delegate may be named, provided that Braveologist People Development is notified in writing of such substitution prior to the event.

Can I connect with you before the workshop?
Definitely! You can connect with me on Facebook or LinkedIn under my name, or set up a time for a chat by phone or Skype (I'm on Skype at jacquisjen). I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have. Previous participants have said they were glad of the opportunity to talk about the content and the workshop before the event.

Hope to see you at a workshop soon!

With gratitude, Jacqui

on rumbling with grief and owning our heartbreak

I've chosen this pic because I think you can see the love and magic that exists in a person - this person - as seen through my cousin Daisy and Archie's eyes. Every child knows a Magic Fairy when they see one :)

I've chosen this pic because I think you can see the love and magic that exists in a person - this person - as seen through my cousin Daisy and Archie's eyes. Every child knows a Magic Fairy when they see one :)

Ask anyone who has lost someone they love and you'll probably find it's been the hardest thing they've ever faced.

Ask me, here, today, as we approach the 2 year anniversary of my Mum's sudden illness and death 8 days later, and I'll tell you I can't do anything about the visceral response I have when I allow my memory to go to the way she stroked my curls in her last hours, or the tear I remember on her cheek that I willed to be not there at all.

It's like my insides turn to dust, and drain out down through my body and out through my feet.

The sobbing comes from deep within my chest, up through my chest like a water feature, and then out through my eyes as tears.

My crying is in waves, and has a voice. It isn't pretty.

That's what research suggests too - with Brené Brown finding through her fifteen years research into human experience and emotion.

"Grief is perhaps the emotion we fear the most. As individuals, we are afraid of the darkness grief brings.

As a society, we have pathologised it and turned it into something to cure or get over.

Owning our stories of heartbreak is a tremendous challenge when we live in a culture that tells us to deny our grief".

 

As all well-trained coaches know, we've got to feel what we're feeling, so I tried today 'rumbling' with my grief, alongside the Rising Strong process that Brené talks about in her book of the same name. 

She describes three parts of grief, and I'm exploring them here.

Loss

You know that feeling you get when you think you have lost your phone, and the relief when you find it? That's what I think of when I think of loss. Every time I remember my Mum isn't anywhere that I can physically touch or speak to her, I get the rush of her loss all over again.

The main thing I feel I lost is the relationship with my Mum.  

It doesn't matter how many times I'm told she's still with me in spirit, or in my heart, and no matter how much I agree with that,  she isn't here in person, and that's the thing that causes me the pain of loss.

I could choose a different perspective, but the feeling is still there.

It's too big to shift away from the fact that she isn't here any more, in physical form. I can't deny I feel that, if I want to move through it. The pain of that story will define me, if I don't own it.

Longing

I was on a Skype call with a friend this morning, already planned before I knew how I would be feeling, and as I started the call I explained my puffy eyes and snotty disposition. It resonated with her so strongly that in the first 60 seconds of the call we were both snotty messes, crying and laughing with the sadness and shared humanity of having lost our Mums.

She said:

'it's the longing, for me, that is hardest, I think, even after 14 years'.

It has the power to take our breath away, that involuntary yearning for a touch, or a look, or a smell, that defies rational thinking and that is really hard to explain. It doesn't make any sense, because you know you cannot touch what you have lost, you cannot regain it in the same way.

Yet, it exists.

Feeling Lost

We have to reorient ourselves to be in the world without the one we've lost. Who are we now, that the person has gone?

Who am I if I'm not a Daughter?  Who am I if I am not a Mum nor a Daughter? Motherhood and Grief has been a frequent visitor and theme in my life.

How am I supposed to be now that I don't have those conversations we used to have, those private jokes and histories?

I realise through rumbling with my grief that if I want to experience the unconditional love I felt from my Mum, I've got to create that for myself.

If I want the magic she brought, it's mine, now, to make.

If I want to experience her generosity, I'd better get on and do something generous.

Only when we honour what we lost, do I believe we can heal.

 

Rumbling here has helped me realise there is a 'clean pain' of grief that feels to me to be whole, and cleansing, and healing. And when we feel it fully, when we welcome it as a natural and necessary response to loss, it doesn't get to drive us from an undercover place, and it passes in waves and eases.

I can choose not to suffer by thinking thoughts that feel bad or that go over painful memories, since there is only now, this moment, and in this moment, all is really well. We really are all in it together.

 

I teach around topics like this.  If you are interested in attending an in-person workshop in Cumbria, or commissioning a Daring Way or Rising Strong intensive workshop for your organisation, please contact me.

A letter to Mum (originally posted on jacsjenitzer.com in August 2015)

 A year ago, you messaged me to tell me you would be here in the morning to tidy up my house and snuggle the cat.You declined my invitation to join us at my Moky dance class, because you had a ‘rather nice casserole made’, but would see me in the morning. Almost exactly a year ago, Simon and I got the call that changed everything, when your dog came home from an evening walk by the stream, a place you loved, without you, which raised the alarm. My cries of denial are etched into our souls for ever.

 

This writing is intended to honour you as we approach the first anniversary of your passing. I’m just going to rampage it out. Maybe it will ease someone else's pain. I hope it does. It doesn't matter. I'm writing it anyway.

I learned this:

That there is a magic and aliveness in high dependency units, and places where life, literally hangs in the balance. Where one person’s family is being told hopeful news; another that their loved one is at the end of their life. That the staff there have hearts as big as the planet, and courage and sensitivity to hold space for the biggest range of human emotion and reactions. That people who loved me, found the courage to be present with me whilst I got lost in the drama of an intense time. That relationships deepen, when things are tough. That I have the best husband in the world. That friends and family matter. That when you work with a coach willing to witness your raw emotion, you find the way out, through, easier. That in later times, having a coach who is willing to share their own humanity,  helps to make sense of it all. We don't have to do it alone. That the heavy sorrow of grief, is like a dense, dark gravity, that pulled me downward and had me surrender to what is, in that moment. No where to get to, no where to hide. The bravest thing to do is to let it have its way with you. There is such healing in being still and feeling it all fully. That grief comes in healing waves, with the depth and vastness of the ocean and is a powerful and necessary part of the surrender. In the beginning, they came fast and frequently and threatened to pull me under with their strong current. Over time, they have become less frequent, but the intensity remains the same, when they come. One came this morning and insisted I write this post. That grief feels like love, and appreciation, and care, and courage. That it is painful, of course, but that the pain is caused by being broken open and because I loved someone. The love remains. That the feeling does have a bottom and we won’t get lost forever in it (promise). That I did find the courage to allow the exquisite intimacy of holding your hand and looking into your eyes, in your final days and hours, and let it be okay that you had a tear sliding down your cheek. I wanted to run from that, to not witness your sadness. I later realised it is okay to be sad when you know you are saying goodbye. To let people experience their experience. That for months afterwards, I would cherish the memories of the way you squeezed my hand or stroked my curls between two fingers, or touched the ‘dear daughter’ necklace you bought me years before. That I would rub away the wording by retracing, over and over, the place where your fingertips touched.

 

That hearing these things helps - that I will have been everything you needed at the end of your life. That showing up bravely is what I did, the best way I knew how. That grief will ebb and flow in its intensity. How other people loved and experienced you and the impact you had. That our relationship could continue 'beyond this temporal dimension'. Knowing that people were sad, that they were holding space for our sadness too. That there is deep intimacy in connecting over sadness in a way that the words 'I'm sorry for your loss' sometimes feel inadequate, in comparison. That I could continue, broken open, with a big wide open loving heart. That we need to grieve, and mourn our losses. That we gain empathy, because we have experienced the deepest sorrow, and we gain wisdom, because we will find parts of ourselves that we didn’t know we had. That in the first few weeks, I would be too sad to smile, or sometimes, move. That eventually I would be able to go to Moky, and let tears run down my face while dancing to Pharrell's 'Happy', and allow my partners in (dance) crime to hold me in my humanness and tell me I am doing so well, and share their stories of love and loss and let me be exactly where I am. We are hard-wired for empathy. That we are not permanent, in these physical bodies. Even though we act like we have a forever of tomorrows, stretching out ahead of us. That it both matters greatly, how I choose to spend my life, and also that it doesn’t matter at all – since there is no-where to arrive at, and I think it’s really about loving ourselves and others and being kind and enjoying ourselves. That we each get to make our own minds and hearts up about meaning. That I get to build something courageous and wonderful on the obliterated place that has been existing inside me, and that it might involve showing up wholeheartedly, and helping the world have more love in it. That, if I choose to, I can hear you saying ‘when I die, just throw me to the wind!’ and I can feel you when it blows. If I let myself believe that you are everlasting and the essence of you is free and expansive, I can find and feel for you there. You communicate now in white feathers, sunflowers, and ladybirds (we have a shared memory, from the time I collected a hundred of them when I was 7, and they escaped from my jewellery box overnight and were in my hair and bed)

 

That on the night you died, I felt euphoric. I felt you – the essence of you. The worst was happening, and yet I was feeling more clear, and alive, and purposeful than ever. That when you died, I realised that the only other person who could give me what you gave me, was me. That if I want the magic and unconditional love you gave me, I can give it to myself. I hope your spirit continue to be free, and that everyone who loves and misses you can feel your presence and love with every cell in their bodies. Love, Jacqui Anne.

 

Shame Starts Young

I'm at my weekly aerobics class and in the line in front of me is a young boy, about seven or eight, he's come with his mum and aunty and it's his first class.

Halfway through the first song, after throwing himself into the moves, and getting them mostly wrong - it's the first time he's ever done them remember - he rushes out of the front row, sits on the steps at the front of the hall, makes his tear-stained eyes and flushed cheeks invisible to us by putting his head in his hands, and he refuses to look at, or speak to his mum, aunty, or anyone else trying to offer him encouragement.

Disconnected. Shut down. Moved away.

How many of you remember moments from childhood when time stood still because you were told off, or got something wrong, or didn't do something perfectly, or were bullied, or felt like you stood out in the most excrutiatingly painful way? I know I do.

And how many of you are still living those patterns today?

I was struck by how I could be witnessing a shame storm right there, in that young boy. I make up that he tried, he couldn't do it perfectly first time, he quit.

That young boy is a potential leader, potential surgeon, potential politician, potential husband and father, and it's possible that that moment in the class could have frozen him into a pattern of being seen that will show up again and again in his adult life.

He moved with his mum and aunty to the back row, and later in the class I saw him laughing and joining in, safe out of the limelight and able to give being awkward and just learning the steps another.

Ordinary courage is getting up again when you fall.

How are you with getting up again when you fall? I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below.

 

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I teach around topics like this. If this post resonated for you, please consider taking a look at scheduled workshops.

 

what to do when you fail at empathy

Image credit: Dayne Topkin at unsplash.com

Image credit: Dayne Topkin at unsplash.com

You know those people who never seem to mind or notice what others think of them?

Well, that's never been me.

Once upon a time, I was someone who thought the worst thing you could do was to be disapproved of or to upset someone.

So you can imagine my angst as I read these words, in response to a reply I had written to a fellow student on my course:

'Jacqui, I felt uncomfortable when I read your words, and I don't appreciate this kind of comment'.

Uh-ho. Shame-shit-storm alert. Heart pounding. Time slows down. I'm holding my breath.

Here we were, learning about empathy, connection, and trust. And here's me, having failed at that.

I'm such an idiot.

I got it wrong-got-it-wrong-got-it-wrong-got-it-wrong GOT IT WRONG.

What's a girl to do, mid shame-storm?

Ok. Type reply. Make sure he knows he interpreted my message incorrectly. Put him right. Defend myself. TAKE HIM DOWN.

Typed it. Felt bad. Deleted it.

Stomped around the house, huffing and puffing. Said 'nothing!' in a bright, breezy voice when hubby asked what was wrong. Felt like my insides were coming off. Totally disengaged my brain.

Pause. Wait a moment. Pay Attention.

I'm having a shame attack. Name it. Shame shame shame.

Reach out. Tell my story to someone who has earned the right to hear it. A colleague I trust.

Her reply was like a cooling balm on my burning shame-iness.

"Bravo for reaching out. You're in the arena. I'm here. What do you need?".

Shame can't survive in the warm embrace of empathy, of being seen, and knowing we're not alone.

Ok. Deep breath. Circle back. Put this right.

New reply typed, from a wholehearted, open, honest place. Connection made with original poster. We see each other. This is the work.

 

Over to you.

What's your experience? What happens for you when you fail?  What works for you when someone is trying to understand how you feel?  I would love to hear what you have to say.

 

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I run workshops around topics like this. If this post resonated for you, please look at scheduled workshops.

Tempted to advise your clients?

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Don’t you have a duty to advise your client, when they bring a topic you know a lot about?

Shouldn’t you be sharing your expertise, if you know you can save your client time, energy, pain and money by sharing your experience or opinion? (Asked my brilliant and caring client, recently.)

Well, no. Or at least, not necessarily. And here’s why.

Work that self-management muscle, coach.

Coaching works by asking, not telling. If you’re a co-active coach you’ll already know the power of holding space for your client and in asking powerful questions. Think back to a time when someone told you what they thought or made a suggestion – whether you asked for advice or not. How did you feel? More than likely passive, or even inferior. Maybe you took the advice or suggestion, or maybe you didn’t do anything with it, perhaps because it wasn’t your idea. There’s an imbalance in the relationship at that moment where the giver of the advice becomes the expert.

If you find yourself coaching someone and hear yourself saying anything along the lines of ‘Why don’t you..?’ ‘How about….?’ ‘What I would do is….’, you’re disempowering your client by suggesting that you know best. Nancy Kline goes as far as to say that we ‘infantalise’ others when we assume that we know better than them in that moment. It's disempowering. As human beings, we seek mastery and control over our own lives.

It’s the process of being coached, that brings so much value to the client. Having to search within, to find the answers that are meaningful to them, which has value. Giving someone the gift of deep attention and listening, and recognising that your client is perfectly capable of thinking for themselves, that they would be well served by you paying respectful attention so that they can access their own ideas first, means that you are serving your client by helping them take responsibility for their own thinking and judgement.

 

Holding space for quality thinking

This morning, I had a Thinking Pairs session with a close colleague of mine. You can read about Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment here, but the basic structure was that we each listen to each other for 10 minutes each way, with the listener holding (silent) ease, encouragement and appreciation for the thinker; interjecting only to offer nods or brief words of encouragement to continue, and, on noticing a silence which doesn’t feel as though the thinker may have finished, asking ‘is there more’?, allowing the thinker to keep thinking on the topic they chose.

At first, it’s tricky as both the listener and thinker – because to take the full ten minutes to think aloud, whilst knowing you won’t be interrupted – or to give someone else the gift of that listening space – feels strange. As the listener, I wanted to intrude, to ask questions, to add my voice to the monologue. I knew I could add some value by ‘coaching’. But as I listened, something incredible occurred. I noticed that every time I was tempted to intrude or speak – my thinker went off in a totally different direction than my intervention might have caused her to travel in. At the last prompt for ‘is there more?’ – my thinker came up with an amazing insight that she hadn’t considered before. She developed the idea aloud, and then said ‘hah! That’s it! That’s what I need to do. That’s amazing. Thank you!’. And I hadn’t uttered a word aside from the encouraging prompts. There’s magic in deep listening, folks!

A word from our sponsor….

CTI are very clear about the role of advice giving in coaching:

Co-Active Coaching is an experience of personal and professional development unlike other kinds of coaching. Based on the Co-Active Model, it begins by holding the coachee as naturally creative, resourceful and whole, and completely capable of finding their own answers to whatever challenges they face. The job of a Co-Active Coach® is to ask powerful questions, listen and empower to elicit the skills and creativity a client already possesses, rather than instruct or advise.

 And you can hear Henry Kimsey-House speak directly about advice-giving if you want to go deeper into this topic (9 minute audio which really gets to the heart of this issue).

Five things to consider when you're feeling the urge to give advice:

  1. Make sure your designed alliance has really clearly set out what you and your client have agreed together around sharing your expertise. If something arises, or if your client asks for your advice or opinion, make it clear that you are taking off your coaching hat and putting your mentoring one on.
  2. Stick to the client's agenda - not your agenda for the client. It's imperative that you spend the time together to get clear about what your client wants to get out of the coaching and their life! If you aren't clear, you'll be working too hard as coach.
  3. Be conscious and discerning when the temptation to give your advice or option arises. There will be occasions where you have expertise or where your knowledge is likely to save the client time, pain or money, or when it wouldn't make sense to withhold what you know from your client. Ask your client if they would like this knowledge, AFTER you have found out what they think; stay unattached to your perspective, and make sure your client sees this as only one option available to them, and not the only, expert option or viewpoint to take.
  4. Get clear about the kind of coach/mentor you want to be. It’s possible you are discovering your marketing positioning is becoming more a guru than collaborator or supporter. Nothing wrong with that – but make sure you’re clear on how you will self-manage through certification and when you are co-actively coaching so that you aren't positioning yourself as the expert or mentoring when you should be coaching.
  5. If your client is consistently seeking your advice or isn't willing to come up with their own ideas, there may be a co-dependency issue. Check that you aren't playing the 'Rescuer' for your client. If you have any ethical concerns, seek support from a fellow coach and refer to the ICF (International Coaching Federation) guidelines. Might be worth an inquiry for you as coach too, to see if there is a value of yours being honoured by giving advice. Mastery, perhaps, or competence? In the case of my client, there was a value of efficiency driving the need to save clients wasting timebeon making poor choices. It is essential to know your preferences, if you are to be discerning about how these unconscious influences play out in your coaching.

Over to you. What have you found works, around self-management?  Have you noticed the urge to advise your clients or share what you know? What would you say to a client who brought this topic to coaching?