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!
This month I’m celebrating my birthday, both personal and business, and it’s now 7 years since I left the corporate world to become self-employed. It’s also 10 years since I began to transform my life by building on my professional experience with qualifications which have led to what I’m doing now.
I’m passionate about finding different and creative ways to support, inspire, and encourage people, and this year has brought several new approaches and experiences.
– My podcast – a series of conversations to spark curiosity, share learning and inspiration, and connect listeners with what’s important in their lives.
– E-book – I created an A to Z of Mindful Living in the form of a workbook which has a variety of activities, stories, quotes, and links to other resources like meditations and videos. It was a pleasure working with Donna McKenna at Pink Spaghetti PA Services Stirling & Livingston to bring this to life.
– Inspirational card deck – this has been my latest creation, and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed. There are 52 beautiful cards with original photos, doodles, quotes, and themes from my book ‘Roots for Growth’. The cards can be used for coaching, workshops, inspiration and self-reflection and I can’t wait to start using them with my clients!
– My book has continued to reach people in significant ways. One lady who had recently retired and felt very unsettled wrote to me to tell me she had found clarity, peace, and focus from reading it, and found a renewed appreciation for her career and her resilience. I’ve also had more opportunities to speak at events, radio shows, and webinars.
– I co-designed and delivered a leadership development programme on Strengthening Mental Fitness with Carolyn Murray. We have been bringing it to other teams since then and over 90% of participants so far have rated the programme as Excellent.
– I applied for funding towards this brand new, professionally designed website which helps me to tell the story of what I do, why I do it, and provide more opportunities for visitors to connect through videos, meditations, and many of the above approaches. It has been a very worthwhile experience and a way to acknowledge and build on where I am now and develop for the future. Thanks Karen Wells at Indigo Nine!
– This year I also became an Ambassador for Women’s Enterprise Scotland who do incredible work to tap into the significant economic potential of women entrepreneurs, lobby for change and equality, and encourage women and girls to start and grow businesses in Scotland. It’s an honour to be chosen, especially on their 10th anniversary, and already it has broadened my horizons in ways that can bring benefits for other people as well as helping me to grow.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this time. I really appreciate it.
This little girl is me, age 9, proudly clutching a brand new ‘Boots Minigrip’ camera. It was a Christmas present excitedly bought with a gift token, along with a pack of 10 flashes and some spools, and was the beginning of a lifelong passion for photography… noticing, appreciating, and capturing moments and sharing them with others.
Around the same time, her Gran gave her a Korky the Cat jotter, where she wrote stories for hours on end, with such enthusiasm the pages bulged with inky scrawls, rustling as each leaf turned over. Only recently, this memory returned after publishing her first book, ‘Roots for Growth’, and someone asked: “Did you always want to write a book?” It turned out, she did.
She had no idea then what her future would be like, or how much creativity would play a part in navigating through life. She had a happy, safe childhood with stereotypical daydreams of fairy-tale happy endings, unaware that significant adversity was lurking around the corner… and her husband would have to give up work due to a medical condition in 1997, three days before they got married. They had no idea back then if they would ever have children, and were blessed with two, now young adults and amazing human beings.
When she was growing up, she wanted to be a teacher or a nurse, and later, a graphic designer. The essence of all these roles has come through in writing, doodles, creating visuals, hosting workshops… supporting people to live mindfully, find their resilience and confidence, and understand themselves deeply so they can life life to the full, in alignment with who they are.
She was a sensitive child, not appreciating at that time what a gift her sensitivity could be. Challenging experiences pushed her to develop herself, personally and professionally, and create a path which would fit with her life and how it is evolving over the years… finding courage to take brave steps against the odds, time after time, and never regretting a moment.
A couple of years ago I visited Kelvingrove Museum with my daughter to see an exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s work. I was intrigued to see the brushstrokes and pencil drawings in person, imagining him creating them all that time ago… little did I know it would spark my curiosity way beyond that.
There are many similarities in the style and form of his work, but these two stood out when I realised what’s different and unique about them.
The first is an anatomically correct study of a human spine, with every vertebra meticulously studied and set out on the page. Nothing like this had ever been done before, yet look at how the shape and form is precise, with structured notes and uniformity. Imagine the tenacity and attention to detail which went into such a piece of work, and how this helped physicians and scientists at the time.
The other picture is a map of an area in Italy which was entirely created through studying from ground level and IMAGINING what the aerial view would be. There was no aerial photography, no means of flying (yet… although he was a pioneer in that too), and yet he was able to create a map which is representative of the real landscape.
The mind which created these fascinates me, and especially the belief and determination which he must have had to boldly go where – literally – no one had gone before.
“The most important places on a map are the places we haven’t been yet.” ~ Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
During a planning meeting last week, Carolyn and I were talking about ‘maps of the world’. It’s an expression used in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and it helps to describe how we each have a unique perception of the world which shapes our experiences. In metaphorical terms, this internal representation could be likened to a ‘map’, with all the features set according to what we have experienced, our beliefs, values, memories, conditioning… and everything we have taken in through our senses. And yet this internal map which us humans have is only a representation – it’s not the whole truth, it’s not factual, and it has missing bits!
Just like Leonardo da Vinci we have created a map based on a sub-set of information, although perhaps less consciously.
As one of the Beliefs of Excellence (or pre-suppositions) in NLP says:
“The map is not the territory.”
What this is saying, in human terms, is that we have our map imprinted and integrated with all we know and have experienced, and yet there is no single version of the truth. We filter from subjective experience, which is essentially what NLP is about – the study of subjective experience, focusing on excellence and ‘doing what works’. Even having been in the same place at the same time as someone, there will be two versions of events. I am a twin and my sister and I recall different things from the same situations sometimes, either remembering different things or describing the same thing but not in the same way.