A journey to India: Reflections and new beginnings

A journey to India: Reflections and new beginnings

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. It’s time for new beginnings.

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.

(originally published in January 2017)

Feel the feelings

Feel the feelings

Last night I walked home after having dinner with my sister and nephew. That might not seem like a big deal, but for me it was a significant milestone for my physical health, and my belief in my ability to recover from prolonged effects of COVID.

I haven’t walked that far for several months because I haven’t been able to, due to fatigue, breathlessness, and chest pain. As we were planning our evening out, I noticed that I was tentative about walking back – a little bit anxious, even – because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to walk the whole way. Plus, physical exertion can bring on my symptoms again and it can take days or weeks to recover.

I felt the feelings, paused, and reflected that I could manage a section of the walk and if need be my husband could come and pick me up. I would take it slowly and enjoy my surroundings. I now realise that, in that moment, I also ‘dropped the story’.

This quote by Pema Chodron stood out to me this morning because it’s simple and memorable, realistic and hopeful.

The photo was taken around a third of the way along the path, and as we walked, we were treated to an hour of the spectacular setting sun. Nature encouraged me along the way in the beautiful, lush woods we passed through, and in the rippling blue water and burnt orange sky. We even saw (and heard!) some geese flying south. Unusual, when it’s still so warm, but they know what they’re doing!

My encouragement to you today is, if you’re running a story that limits you in a way that could be overcome*, or at least could be tested or stretched a little bit: feel the feelings and explore… what might be possible?

#quotes #coaching #rootsforgrowth #mindfulliving #resilience

*I’d like to acknowledge here that not all physical or mental health challenges can be overcome with such a simple strategy. In this case, I have already made a gradual recovery over several months. If you or someone you are close to is experiencing long-term effects of COVID, my thoughts are with you. I can recommend a very supportive, positive Facebook group if you are interested. And I also support people with ways to cope with long- and short-term challenges. Feel free to get in touch for a chat.

Where the magic is found

Where the magic is found

I’ve been reflecting for some time now on how to explain specifically what I do, why I do it, and the impact for clients.

Returning to work last week with fresh eyes and an open mind has been a revelation. I’ve been doing a lot of deep personal development work on myself over the summer, culminating last week in a fantastic Coaching Programme with Sue Knight. Participants shared significant discoveries which also brought learning for others in the group, and there was laughter, some tears, and a willingness to be vulnerable and express ourselves freely in-the-moment.

I felt a deep shift in my awareness of what I’m capable of, developed my sense of identity as an experienced practitioner, and appreciated the significance of the generative work I’ve been doing for some time, through coaching, training, mindfulness, and writing. More and more over time, I’m working with experienced coaches, leaders, and therapists too, because they are ready for a deep shift. And perhaps the world being a different place with the pandemic has prompted some self-reflection for all of us.

These simple words came to me this morning, which I think sum it up…

~ I help people to understand themselves like never before ~

I listen and notice even the most subtle signals in what they say and do, and also build a broad understanding of patterns of thoughts, beliefs, and how they relate to themselves and others. And I do this in a compassionate way, without judgement, which can bring insights very quickly if the person is willing to open up to their full experience (and they almost always are).

What does this bring for clients? They feel empowered to be themselves, just as they are, and live a wholehearted life, whatever that uniquely means for each of them… feeling fulfilled and doing work which aligns with who they are and what they want to bring to the world.

Words I hear most often about clients’ experiences is that they feel “lighter”, “free”, “like me again”, “I can let go”, and most recently from a business client (with a chuckle) “What is this witchy magic you do?”. I love that!

And the magic is found in sitting with someone in their world, holding space for whatever wants to emerge, which I find can have a significant healing effect, and clears the way for them to find new energy and embark on new beginnings. I know this is true, because I continue to experience it for myself.

These words from my book ‘Roots for Growth’ are resonating today…

“All the personal growth, hurting and healing is in many ways a gift. If sharing what I’ve learned with others can reassure and inspire them even just a little bit, it’s worth it. And I feel it enables me as much as any qualifications I’ve achieved, to walk a challenging path with others through my coaching.”

Thank you Sue and Carolyn, for the opportunity to join the programme. And I’m excited about the next steps.

The photo was taken in Rothiemurchus Estate near Aviemore a few years ago – a family favourite for holidays, long walks, and making memories. It’s a place where I’ve often reflected on what’s important in life… and what’s next on the path.

A story within a story

A story within a story

I love this book. My Grandma gave it to me when I was about 7 years old.

It was awarded to her almost 100 years ago by Newcastle Upon Tyne education committee for her progress at school.

It has illustrations, activities, and stories to guide the reader through the seasons, encouraging us to ‘Look about you’… practicing #mindfulness ahead of its time, perhaps (in pre-war Britain, anyway! )

There’s even a small tea-stain, and I wonder what she was like in that moment… a young girl, leafing through the pages and discovering a world of nature which she’d probably not seen that much of in real life at that time.

My Grandma had an incredible imagination and sense of fun. And she passed it on through the generations of our family.

For me, this book is a story within a story, conveying a period of her life which, now as a woman and a mother myself, begins to come to life again in a different way.

What books are special to you and your family? And what comes to mind about the special people who have dived into the pages?

Write your own story

Write your own story

When I saw this photo, I felt drawn to write something about it. It captures an experience that left my heart bursting with joy, and my face sore from smiling.

Last weekend, my husband’s band played live together for the first time in almost two years. It was a big event with bands, bikes, and a custom show in the North of England. We weren’t even sure it would go ahead because of COVID.

But it did go ahead, and what a weekend we had. The band brought in a horn section with a tenor sax, trombone, and trumpet player to add to their existing 6-piece. What an amazing sound, and it was an incredible, energetic atmosphere as they opened the first night. And, for one song, I was up there with them singing harmonies.

I almost chickened out. We’d talked about me doing it the night before and I hoped a couple of the other girls would get up and sing too. They decided not to, and a wee voice inside me said “it’s too scary, there will be hundreds of people in there”. And then I felt a strong sensation in my gut that said “but you know you want to!”.

I said I might have done it if we’d had the chance to practise, and left it there. Not for long though, as seconds later one of the guys started playing the opening chords of the song on his guitar. So, we were practising – there and then! I knew in that moment it was going to happen.

I realised I’d been letting stories run in my head. If I’d believed them, I would have missed out big time.

Next thing it’s the following night and I hear the opening chords again. I show my backstage pass, run to the steps of the stage, take a deep breath, and go for it. I am greeted by the guys in the band, supportive and encouraging, grinning with thumbs-up. I feel very aware of the bright, colourful spotlights and the crowd filling the huge marquee. Catching my eye in the front row are my sister and daughter and several of our friends, smiling and cheering me on.

It’s a great feeling to be joining in with these talented musicians, picking up on their happy vibe, loving playing together, and it gives me the courage to sing up and enjoy every second. I’m only singing a few lines after all, and I let self-consciousness slip away and give way to connection and flow. I notice everything with heightened senses, hearing each voice and instrument through the monitors, especially the horn section who sound fantastic, seeing the lit-up faces of hundreds of people who have probably not seen and heard live music for a couple of years. What a privilege to be part of it.

At the end, I feel a rush of joy and gratitude for having the opportunity to do this, and I’m greeted by big squeezy hugs and more encouragement from our pals at the bottom of the stage steps.

Life has taught me – and continues to teach me – to do the things I want to do, be in-the-moment, and make things happen, even when the little voices of doubt creep in. I think the trick is to listen, sit with it, and then decide for yourself. Instead of letting the stories run in my head, I wrote my own story that night.

And the spirit of adventure, joy, and laughter carried through the whole weekend. I felt a deep sense of connection and had such uplifting conversations with friends who keep showing up for us again and again. Love and support flowed for both me and my husband as we heard many offers to push his wheelchair, get anything he needed, and help with whatever would help him continue to go to events like this, even though he thought this might be his last.

I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last – that’s just a story that can be rewritten 😉.

If you are curious about the stories we tell ourselves and the impact this can have, you might like to read my book, ‘Roots for Growth’, where I explore the topic extensively.

Photo credit: Maisie Horn

Just Do It

Just Do It

Have you ever felt drawn to do something that makes a difference in your life, but when the time comes to make it a reality, you’ve missed the opportunity?

That’s what happened with us at the beginning of 2020. We began looking for a motorhome just before lockdown, and rapidly put the brakes on (!) when we realised we wouldn’t be going anywhere soon. Not just because of the restrictions, but because I had COVID before lockdown even started. Although I was very unwell at one stage, it has given me a sense of perspective and I feel empowered with choice in how I respond to situations, beyond anything I’ve experienced before.

I still have long-COVID symptoms now and again, and it’s made me even more determined to live life to the full and find a balance that suits our family, including caring for my husband Alan, who has progressive MS (Multiple Sclerosis). It hasn’t been easy adjusting to having ‘flat batteries’ as I call it – sorry, too many motoring puns here! – but we are getting there. I am continuing to learn what works in terms of rest and exercise, and I support my clients with my usual passion and attentiveness. It’s been extremely rewarding to contribute in ways that make a difference throughout the pandemic, using my skills and experience, and even launching my first book called ‘Roots for Growth’. Even while I have been resting, I have received incredible feedback from readers about how they are feeling the benefits from reading it.

Anyway, back to the motorhome. A few days ago I found that I was suddenly full of an inner drive to find one so we could finally go on those adventures we’d dreamed of. I felt very similar to when I wrote about my ‘happy bucket list’ in 2019, which turned out not to be a list at all but instead it was about connecting with a wholehearted attitude to life and having adventures which took us to Canada, the Netherlands, and various places in the UK that year. And my goodness, I’m glad we did!

So, the search stepped up a gear to find our home-on-wheels. Considering our modest budget (relatively speaking – have you seen the price of those things?!) we were looking at motorhomes that were 15-20 years old. Let me tell you, there aren’t many which have come through unscathed by that age! I felt so strongly that we would find an ideal motorhome for us, I said to my husband “I’m on a mission, we’ll have one by the end of the week!”

And we did. By the Friday I was taking my place behind the wheel to drive her home, with Alan beside me in the passenger seat. I had set my mind that I would “Just Do It!” – with no place for any nerves or hesitancy at driving such a large vehicle. I connected with two of the beliefs I’ve learned through NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) which are: ‘If someone can do it, I/anyone can do it’ and ‘You already have within you all the resources you will ever need’.

And it felt so empowering. I enjoyed the journey home, laughed at the Barnard Castle signs we passed (my eyes are fine, by the way 😉 ), and stopped at Jedburgh for a fish supper in the sun.

The next day we got up early and set off for the West Coast, with a couple of stopovers in lovely places with my sister and her family. I felt – and still feel – such a sense of freedom and flexibility to be able to choose where to go… leaving no trace, of course. Scotland has such beautiful scenery, sunsets, sunrises, and I find it breath-taking in all weathers. I love being able to step out somewhere new to welcome the morning, and there’s nothing like a bacon-and-egg roll cooked and eaten outside, in my opinion!

So, who knows what adventures lie ahead? What I do know is, now that we have this available to us, we can “Just Do It” and make many happy memories together. This past year has renewed my ability to be in-the-moment and appreciate the simple things in life.

What choices are you making, having reflected on your recent experiences?

What difference does it make when you “Just Do It”?

I’d love to know.

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour but THIS hour.” ~ Walt Whitman

Photo credit & copyright: Anna Bell, Isle of Skye