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!
This is me at 23 years old, arriving at Linlithgow Palace to get married. I didn’t know what the future held, other than the fact that Alan was just getting to grips with a diagnosis of MS (Multiple Sclerosis) 3 days earlier. And as his wife-to-be, I had a lot to adjust to as well.
I’ve written and spoken about these experiences many times, and it feels even more significant now, as we are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. I am finding that it’s a mix of emotions… huge gratitude, happiness, and celebrations for the life we have lived, and some sadness because of how Alan’s health has declined, and how that has affected our lives over time.
I look at this photo of me as a young woman, and I feel proud… having always been a sensitive soul I had no idea what strength I would find within myself. Much of this has come from the love and support of family and friends, and from new friendships formed, especially in recent years as I have followed a fulfilling, enlightening, and unexpected path into deep personal and professional development. I have often found courage and a willingness to be vulnerable and true to myself, and it has been so worth it.
Having been through some of the experiences I have, for as long as I have, when a path unfolds that feels right, I take the next step however daunting it may seem. With a lot of learning, and twists and turns along the way, I now have a whole-hearted approach to life and to the people around me. This means embracing the highs and lows and being present with each experience that comes along, as best I can. This helps me to hold space for my clients too, as I believe there’s a quality of listening that comes from having lived experience and to come through the other side all the stronger for it.
What would I tell my 23-year-old self, based on the life lessons of the past 25 years?
You’re stronger than you think. Being willing to ‘feel the feelings’ and deal with emotions as they come up will help you to live a life of truth and purpose, learning a lot along the way.
You don’t need to have all the answers. Trust that you will handle whatever comes along, even if it’s not clear or easy at first. You will always find a way through.
Trust your instincts and intuition. What you will learn in the years to come will take you on a spiritual path of discovery, and you will become attuned to energy, within and around you, and become much more aware of embodied signals and instincts that will help to guide you in all aspects of life.
You will have the most wonderful, heart-bursting, fun and joyful adventures beyond anything you can imagine, and you will delight in celebrating the everyday moments as well as the big things.
You will love and be loved beyond measure.
You will find your voice to speak from the heart in a way that helps other people to deepen their awareness of what’s important in their lives, by writing (including a book… yes, really!!), giving talks, and sharing the truth of your experiences in-the-moment.
You will have a career beyond anything you expected or wanted for yourself, and you will light the way for others too, by helping them to connect with all they’re capable of.
You will have two amazing kids who are now grown up and tower over you. And they will be the greatest joy of your life.
Here’s to living life to the full, whatever it brings. I’d like to leave you with a quote from Maya Angelou…
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.”
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.
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.
This Sunday my husband Alan and I will have been married for 24 years. It feels special to be almost a quarter of a century, and even more significant that three days before our wedding, Alan was diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis).
We never questioned it for a moment that we’d still get married as planned, with no delays and certainly no cancellation. As I said to Alan’s Mum, if I had to wheel him down the aisle in a hospital bed, I would have done it. The neurologist told us not to go on honeymoon in case the heat went for Alan as he could wake up blind or unable to walk. The prognosis was unknown, including whether we’d ever have children or to what extent it could shorten his life.
In the days between the diagnosis and the wedding I cancelled the honeymoon (my choice, it felt like something I wanted to do to help me face it), my dress was taken in another few inches because of weight loss due to stress (a silver lining, sort of!), we spoke a lot with our families as we were very concerned for them too… and we all pulled together like nothing I had experienced in my life so far.
I’ve chosen to share these photos because you wouldn’t know that we’d received devastating news just 3 days before. And we weren’t hiding anything… you can see these are genuine smiles, being completely in-the-moment, and deciding we would have a bloody great time no matter what else was going on.
And by the way, we had two nights of parties – a family wedding on the Friday and a big party with friends on the Saturday with Alan’s rock band playing… so we went for it, twice!
What followed wasn’t easy. Alan never returned to work and we had a lot of adjustments to make in our lives. But we showed up and said ‘yes’, whatever was going to come along, and it has helped us to go with the flow of life. We are blessed with two amazing grown-up children and we’ve always been open and honest with them. We have a happy, fulfilling life with a strong sense of perspective and we trust that we’ll handle whatever comes along.
These experiences have influenced me to take the leap into self-employment and to write a book, neither of which I had even contemplated back in 1997. Over time, I have found that inspiration and opportunities spontaneously appear, by holding life a little more lightly.
As one of the beliefs of NLP goes, ‘We have within us all the resources we will ever need’. And I truly believe we all do.
What’s an example of a time when you showed up and said ‘yes’ to a challenge or an opportunity? Or an experience you can relate to ‘having all the resources you need’?