I began this year with great gusto, buzzing with a sense of adventure and with all sorts of things planned.
January lived up to all my expectations with an uplifting workshop on ‘Planting Seeds’ with a group of wonderful women who I’m also fortunate to call friends. We talked about setting intentions, set them down on paper in a variety of creative ways, and coached and encouraged each other to bring it to life.
I like to join in with these things too, when we are working in a small group, so I drew a big globe and plotted on the map where I was planning to go this year, with playful illustrations of what I would do when I got there. First up was India at the end of January, which was a fantastic experience once again and I wrote about it in my blog about Feeling at home wherever you are.
And then I caught another virus straight after I got home and was stopped in my tracks again. Little did I know that I would still have chronic fatigue months later. I haven’t even been able to write, as I can’t seem to find the words.
It can be hard to stay connected and motivated when my mind and body is running on empty, and I have often felt frustrated at ‘sitting around doing nothing’.
And yet, that’s not really true. It’s a story I’ve been telling myself at times, being naturally fed up as it’s been 3 years now, on and off, since I first became ill. When I read this quote from Mozart recently, I felt a warmth spreading from my core…
“The music is not in the notes, but the silence in between.” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Inwardly I said a big “YES” and breathed a sigh of relief.
In the time that it has been necessary to rest and apparently ‘do very little’ I have also been doing profound inner work, as I feel a deeper layer of myself has begun to emerge. Despite not being at my best at times (nowhere near it!), I hold a solid belief that this is part of my path which will fundamentally influence the way I live and the type of work I do in future. And that is important to take my time over.
Here are some examples of what’s been happening in the ‘silence in between’…
I have taken time to notice how I think, and what patterns and words I use relating to my health, becoming aware of what helps and what holds me back, consciously accepting and letting go of how I wish things were. For example I have been very aware of my tendency to focus on others over my self, and my habit of finding a silver lining in everything, which I now understand can be detrimental over the long term. I have invested in coaching and holistic therapies which have been a lifeline when I have felt adrift at times. I have had lots of lovely messages and offers of support from friends too, but I have just not been well enough to make plans, far less meeting up.
Learning how the mind, body, and nervous system works
Studying the science has greatly helped me to understand why I have been so unwell and not hold blame or shame, or feeling I ‘should’ be better by now. I have also read incredibly insightful books including ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ by Bessel Van der Kolk and ‘No Bad Parts’ by Richard Schwartz on the fascinating topic of Internal Family Systems (IFS). I have done some deep work to embrace difficult emotions and welcomed aspects of myself which have long been buried or ‘exiled’ as Schwartz calls it.
Modelling how other people have recovered
There are accounts of people who have recovered fully from chronic fatigue and post-viral symptoms, highlighting how they think, and what they do to make progress. I am taking small steps forward from what I have learned, and although it will take time, I am feeling a renewed sense of hope.
Seeing clients again
I have loved opening up my diary to see clients, just a few at a time and I am very careful about giving the experience and quality of attention they have come to expect, as well as managing my health and energy levels.
Opportunities for learning
As well as being one of the most challenging periods in my life, this has been (and still is) an opportunity to re-evaluate and open up to a new level of awareness. I have enjoyed getting to know myself in my 50th year, and although it has not been at all what I expected it has been so enriching and enlightening.
So, there you go… I seem to have gone from being stuck for words to pouring out several hundred of them in one go! It feels good to connect in this way again, although now I am ready for a long rest!
I will be opening up for another couple of one-to-one clients in August, either for Executive Coaching or Personal Development coaching, so please feel free to book a discovery call if you think you’d like to snap up one of the slots.
In the meantime, I am wondering what this blog has opened up for you? Are you curious about your own development and the ‘silence in between’?
Au revoir for now, and I hope it won’t be too long til I am back posting again!
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
*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.