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!
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.
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.
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.
“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.