I stopped in my tracks as I reached the top step of the open-air restaurant.
I was captivated by the view of the warm terracotta roof tiles and palm trees framing the pale blue sky and the vast Arabian Sea, where fishermen worked for hours every day to bring in their catch.
We had just finished yoga on the beach at sunrise (Cherai Beach in Kerala, India), and I was feeling invigorated by the grace and flow from moving my body , the sounds within and around me as we chanted, and how present I felt in my body and mind. My heart was also pumping from the ride home on the bikes which Carolyn and I hired to get us back and forth from yoga.
This was how we started each day on the 8-day NLP Intensive run by Sue Knight and Ramesh Prasad, and I found that I had many a-ha moments outside the training room as well as within it.
I’ve found it fascinating how moving, stretching, and focusing on my body in this way reinforced and enhanced the changes in my mind, and how at home I felt from the moment I arrived.
There was a moment last time when I squeezed a juicy piece of lemon into my tea, and I later anchored* that moment. Right then, I realised that I can feel at home wherever I am. And I smiled and re-connected with that when I had my first cup of tea this time in the garden at Blue Waters hotel, where we had the course.
If you’ve ever read The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho, you’ll be familiar with the concept of seeking and travelling a long way to then discover that what you were looking for was right under your nose! It was a bit like that, AND I was glad I had such an adventure far away from home to discover it (and re-discover it this time).
Stretching my comfort zone
‘Comfort’ was a theme that came up quite a bit before and during this programme, in how I acted and how I spoke about my learning outcomes. Sue challenged me on it – and I’m glad she did – because it had become a blind spot for me in various aspects of life. Perhaps (at least partly) because of living in limbo with the pandemic, and especially having long-covid on-and-off for over two years, I found ways to just accept things as they were at the time (settle, maybe?).
It feels important to challenge and update my beliefs around my health, as well as what I’m capable of as a professional. I have become a little too comfortable with my natural style which is soft and gentle. It does work well and my clients find they can go deep with exploring and understanding themselves… However, I can flex my coaching muscles and benefit clients by being more provocative and challenging, at times!
I believe that where there is discomfort, there is learning, and I have felt the benefit through this training programme, once again.
“I am STRONG”
One of the a-ha moments was when I noticed a tangible, visceral shift from believing “I am resilient” to “I am STRONG”. This feels so different for me, because resilience implies that there are things to be resilient against. Being strong is about a way of being in the world, from the inside-out, and is not dependent on a set of external conditions. It’s about getting myself – and any stories I might be telling myself – out of the way.
This has been a revelation for me, and I am now exploring what that means in my life as it is now. And the more I pay attention to it and say it to myself, the stronger I feel.
That’s the beauty of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming): it’s about studying subjective experience, learning and doing ‘what works’… and sustaining it, too. Through almost 100 days of training (so far!) I have gained a treasure trove of skills and techniques.
And, most of all, I have found a way home to myself.
“Wherever you go, there you are.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Exciting opportunities for you
Carolyn and I are taking bookings for the next NLP programme in Spring 2023. Part 1 is online on 27-28 April followed by two sets of 3 days in-person to be confirmed very soon! Contact me if you want to chat about how this could benefit you.We can also discuss one-to-one coaching.
*Anchoring is a technique where we can bring about a desired state (or way of being) by choice, for example calmness, playfulness, or confidence, by choosing and activating a signal to ‘switch it on’. It really works!
Working with metaphors has been life-changing for me, and for many people I have worked with.
A metaphor is a way of expressing something that conveys a variety of meaningful attributes, in the form of something else.
You might hear people say things like…
“It’s as if I’m on a treadmill and I can’t keep up”
“I went for a walk to blow away the cobwebs”
“You’re a star”
None of these are literal statements – not usually anyway! – but they mean something beyond the surface structure of the words to the person who’s saying them. In other words, what we mean goes deeper than what we say, and a metaphor is a sign that there is more to discover in the unconscious aspects of our experience.
Where it gets really interesting, I find, is when the person is having some kind of embodied experience in the form of a metaphor, for example…
“I can see red mist, I’m so angry”
“There’s a tightness in my throat when I talk about it”
“I just know. I can feel it in my gut… heavy like a stone”
“I can feel a buzz of positive energy”
Or it could be pointing emphatically to a particular point in the space around them, a or sound (like ‘whoosh’ or ‘bang’).
Again, none of these are literal but there is clearly some deeper meaning, and other insights to be found if we have a chance to explore.
Understanding your metaphors can create profound shifts, often bringing about new metaphors which change the whole outlook.
In the photo on this post, I show an example of a metaphor I held at the start of my transformational journey with #NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) – a scraggy old onion with lots of layers to peel back and discover. Through NLP tools and techniques, this then transformed into a beautiful lotus flower, with the petals gracefully unfolding with ease, representing the thinking and beliefs I now hold about how I learn and develop at my best.
And once you begin to understand metaphors you begin to develop a landscape of understanding, how things connect and relate to each other, and find solutions and choices you never even knew existed!
You can probably tell I’m passionate about this… I could go on for hours, but I won’t!
As I sit looking out over the silvery shimmer of the Arabian sea, I feel the warm, golden sun on my face. It turns to a deep, rich red as it slowly sinks into the tropical haze on the horizon.
It’s been a day of discovery and learning, feeling unsettled with new realisations coming to the surface and also knowing and trusting that this is right for me at this exact moment. I sense that it’s time to let go of limiting beliefs and embrace all the possibilities of new beginnings.
Sitting here bathed in sunlight, I become aware of the ebb and flow of the waves, noticing they’re louder than before, hypnotic in their rhythm. With each new wave washing in, the one before it fades away and disappears, and yet the wisdom remains.
With each wave I feel lighter, as if the things I’ve been unconsciously carrying are sinking into the ocean and fresh moments are arriving, making perfect sense yet I’m not ‘thinking’ about anything, just being present with what is happening right now.
Hypnotised by the steady rhythm, as each wave bubbles up onto the shore I hear the words ‘begin again’, over and over. There’s a comfort in knowing that I can always start from the present moment in anything I want to achieve and that I have everything I need to be successful.
As the sun disappears completely I come back into awareness, feeling the sand between my toes and taking a cool drink of water. As I set it down I have a strong sense of purpose building within me, feeling ready to take the next steps forward into my full potential, to live my life’s purpose like never before.
I am filled with gratitude for the warm welcome to this beautiful place, for new friendships, love and laughter, learning and experiences that will stay with me forever.
Have you ever over-indulged over the festive season, and felt guilty and bloated afterwards? I think that probably applies to many of us! I have adapted and re-published a blog I wrote a few years ago because it’s a good reminder for me too.
Clients regularly talk to me about what they “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing or having, which can result in guilt, regret, or even shame if they choose to indulge.
We all experience the world through our memories, habits, beliefs, and reactions. We naturally have emotional connections with food, and at a time of year when loved ones gather together it can be challenging to achieve a healthy balance. It can also be difficult for people who don’t have their friends and family around them, have recently lost someone close to them, or are just not feeling like themselves.
Making more conscious and mindful choices in line with long-term goals means we can allow ourselves the occasional indulgence. It doesn’t mean you have to eat a salad for Christmas dinner, unless you want to, of course! I believe that being healthy is about having a long-term outcome in mind, with a sense of purpose behind it, and doing the things which help with this most of the time.
Mindful eating brings your attention to what, when, where, and how you are eating. Often ‘why’ as well! This is about noticing the healthy habits which work for you, as well as being aware of your potential temptations for unhealthy choices.
Here are 5 tips to help you enjoy a guilt-free festive season and a happier, healthier New Year:
1. Focus on what you want, rather than what you don’t want. What you focus on you get more of. If I say I’m going to “give up chocolate” or “drink less wine”, guess what pops straight into my head?!
A friend shared an article about diet research and comprehensive studies by Charlotte Markey, which proved that strict dieting can result in craving and bingeing, and lead to less healthy habits over the long term. Worse still, evidence shows that people who are always on diets are more likely to regain weight. A sense of ‘missing out’ and an awareness of the lack of choice doesn’t help, in my experience.
2. Make more conscious choices, and plan ahead. Have plenty of healthy options available, and you can plan lighter meals to balance out the rich, stodgy feasts which are traditional at this time of year!
Be more conscious of what, when, where, and how you’re eating, noticing the triggers for less healthy choices in-the-moment. It can help to pause and check against your long-term goals for your health and wellbeing, and whether you really want or need to eat in that moment.
Dehydration can fool us into thinking we are hungry, so drink plenty of water. Herbal teas can be a good option too. And did you know that the body takes up to 20 minutes to register that we’re full? Try to eat more slowly, and don’t be tempted to rush your food in social situations.
3. Savour your food – with all the senses – and slow down. Enjoy the whole range of food and drink you choose. Notice the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures and feelings, one by one. Chewing slowly usually means you will eat less. At a recent workshop I took the group through a guided visualisation, and they were much more drawn to the rainbow of healthy foods, with their bright, vivid colours, the crunchy, juicy textures and fresh smells and flavours than the unhealthy ‘beige’ alternatives. And that was while talking about the range of temptations over the festive season!
4. Sit down – this will help to avoid grazing and you will notice more what you’re eating, and whether it’s something you really want. Try not to be doing anything else at the same time (e.g. checking emails, Facebook, or watching TV).
5. It’s all about balance. Be kind to yourself! If you have the occasional indulgence, you have many other choices available to you throughout the day/week. When you think about the bigger picture, a few treats don’t seem like such a big deal! It’s as much about thoughts, emotions and behaviour as it is about what you eat. I like to think of it as ‘setting a course’ for your health and wellbeing, and getting back on track if you go off a little bit.
I wish you and your families a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year. And remember, a little bit of what you fancy does you good. Just keep it balanced, make it a conscious choice, and savour it!
Visit my Eventspage for information on a range of workshops and programmes coming up to support you.
1:1 coaching could be the thing for you if you prefer a more tailored solution, or to accelerate progress alongside workshops.
You may have read my post about celebrating 7 years in business – this past year has been such a highlight with various new developments including my podcast, branching out into different work, and most recently designing a deck of inspirational cards.
There is another side to the story too. If you know me, you will be aware that I am whole-hearted in sharing my experiences and openly share when there are challenging times too. To me, that’s real life… the yin and yang, the light and shade, and a healthy dose of honesty that goes with it all.
In the same period as I was enjoying and celebrating highlights in home life and through work, I have had some occasional dips in energy levels due to prolonged effects of having covid. In October, I found out I have arthritis too. It remains uncertain whether it is wear-and-tear (osteo) or inflammatory (rheumatoid), although at the moment it’s looking like the former.
I was a bit upset initially as it has come on very suddenly, and possibly a little resistant to the doctor telling me I’m ‘in the age range’ for arthritis. I’m not even 50, for goodness’ sake!! 🙂
After a couple of days to take stock, with the healthy perspective that many people live well with arthritis and mine is relatively mild at the moment, I consciously changed the way I was framing the experience.
Instead of talking about pain and not being able to grip things properly, I now say: “I’m learning… getting to know what this is like, and finding ways to work round it”, adopting an attitude of curiosity and noticing my thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they come and go.
Through studying mindfulness I understand that it’s the relationship to the thoughts that makes a difference to the level of discomfort, or even suffering in extreme circumstances.
We always have a choice.
As a result, the pain has faded a little and I am finding ways to open cans, lift pots, and squeeze cloths (who knew how often you have to do THAT day-to-day!), and I have a renewed appreciation for what I CAN do.
By coincidence, I started having acupuncture to help balance hormonal changes and I believe that has helped too. I have found my zest in the mornings again (mostly!) and in the past four days I have been out walking my dog at sunrise, on a longer route than has been typical for a while. What a treat for the mind and body to start the day like that.
Yesterday I was waiting for the doctor to call to follow up on some blood tests. I was hoping for a definite diagnosis, but it’s not possible to say yet. I thought of what I would like to do… something which I appreciate and which reminds me of my resilience no matter what the outcome is. I immediately thought about my salsa dancing shoes shoved somewhere in the back of the wardrobe.
I pulled them out, dusted them off, and set them neatly down beside me, resolved to ‘have a wee dance’ no matter what the doctor said. I squeezed my feet into the tight silvery straps.
I can’t say I was anything like as coordinated as before, and my feet were killing me after just 5 minutes, but I am so glad I did it anyway!
Now I feel a renewed flow of creativity and a sense of fun, very much being in the present. It’s like a few pieces of the puzzle have come together, almost with a life of their own, and something is settling within me.
If I hadn’t taken time to sit with it, and gently notice and explore what was happening, I could have ended up having an unhelpful frame around my health.
It’s important to me to ‘walk the talk’ and live by the values and resourceful ways of thinking which I share with my clients. I do this because it works.
And now…there will be much more dancing – as if no one is watching – and I don’t care if they are 🙂
This is me at 23 years old, arriving at Linlithgow Palace to get married. I didn’t know what the future held, other than the fact that Alan was just getting to grips with a diagnosis of MS (Multiple Sclerosis) 3 days earlier. And as his wife-to-be, I had a lot to adjust to as well.
I’ve written and spoken about these experiences many times, and it feels even more significant now, as we are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. I am finding that it’s a mix of emotions… huge gratitude, happiness, and celebrations for the life we have lived, and some sadness because of how Alan’s health has declined, and how that has affected our lives over time.
I look at this photo of me as a young woman, and I feel proud… having always been a sensitive soul I had no idea what strength I would find within myself. Much of this has come from the love and support of family and friends, and from new friendships formed, especially in recent years as I have followed a fulfilling, enlightening, and unexpected path into deep personal and professional development. I have often found courage and a willingness to be vulnerable and true to myself, and it has been so worth it.
Having been through some of the experiences I have, for as long as I have, when a path unfolds that feels right, I take the next step however daunting it may seem. With a lot of learning, and twists and turns along the way, I now have a whole-hearted approach to life and to the people around me. This means embracing the highs and lows and being present with each experience that comes along, as best I can. This helps me to hold space for my clients too, as I believe there’s a quality of listening that comes from having lived experience and to come through the other side all the stronger for it.
What would I tell my 23-year-old self, based on the life lessons of the past 25 years?
You’re stronger than you think. Being willing to ‘feel the feelings’ and deal with emotions as they come up will help you to live a life of truth and purpose, learning a lot along the way.
You don’t need to have all the answers. Trust that you will handle whatever comes along, even if it’s not clear or easy at first. You will always find a way through.
Trust your instincts and intuition. What you will learn in the years to come will take you on a spiritual path of discovery, and you will become attuned to energy, within and around you, and become much more aware of embodied signals and instincts that will help to guide you in all aspects of life.
You will have the most wonderful, heart-bursting, fun and joyful adventures beyond anything you can imagine, and you will delight in celebrating the everyday moments as well as the big things.
You will love and be loved beyond measure.
You will find your voice to speak from the heart in a way that helps other people to deepen their awareness of what’s important in their lives, by writing (including a book… yes, really!!), giving talks, and sharing the truth of your experiences in-the-moment.
You will have a career beyond anything you expected or wanted for yourself, and you will light the way for others too, by helping them to connect with all they’re capable of.
You will have two amazing kids who are now grown up and tower over you. And they will be the greatest joy of your life.
Here’s to living life to the full, whatever it brings. I’d like to leave you with a quote from Maya Angelou…
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.”