Rising Strong

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!

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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.

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.