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!
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.
I’m 7 years old, on holiday in Newquay, Cornwall. We’re leaning on a wall looking out over one of the lovely sandy beaches as the warm, golden sun sets over the Atlantic. Tummy full of sausage, egg, and chips, I’m a happy girl.
Something catches my eye, bobbing about on the water below. It’s a bottle… and it looks like it has a rolled-up piece of paper in it! My twin sister and I scramble down the steps as fast as our little legs will carry us, closely followed by my Mum and Dad.
We soon establish that it’s a map – of this very beach – with footprints and an ‘X’ to mark the spot in a cave just a short distance from where we are. We go exploring and find a couple of old broken spades and a stick to dig with.
Oh my goodness… what’s that?! We continue digging and scooping in a frenzy of flying sand and there it is: a treasure chest. And it’s heavy.
We prise it open to find it’s full to the brim with coins and colourful jewellery, which to a 7-year-old looks like the crown jewels! Scooping around in the silvery coins, I realise that this could belong to someone. My Mum and Dad always taught me that it’s honest to hand money in to a police station if you find it, so we proceed up to the town to make a call.
Standing at a public call box in the flashing lights and sounds of an amusement arcade, I can hardly breathe, I’m so excited. Very soon, my Dad establishes that it was an old pirate who had hidden it, and since died, so it’s ours to keep. My sister and I jump up and down with joy, and we are ecstatic to have this unexpected delight to treasure forever!
Of course, the map was put there by my Dad, and the call was pretend so they could keep the magic alive for us. And what magic it was, to believe this exotic story of pirates and loot! I imagine there was a mix of horror and pride when I suggested contacting the police 🙂
I have since watched this unfold once again when my Dad did it for my son David when he was little, and I saw the awe and wonder in his eyes as he discovered and dug up the pirate treasure. My Dad even used the same treasure chest, pictured in this post.
Needless to say, there was a note this time saying that anyone who found it, after a certain period of time had passed, could keep it!
Sitting here typing, I have a big lump in my throat and a happy grin on my face connecting with this happy story again, feeling really present with the excitement and gratitude of a very special gesture. And I am going to thank my Dad again when I speak to him this weekend 🙂
What are your special memories which you will treasure forever? What do these mean to you?
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?
*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.