What does 2019 hold for you?

Yesterday I was out on a walk and I noticed that a neighbour was already taking down their Christmas decorations even though it is only 2 Jan. For him the festivities are over and it’s back to reality and I sensed he felt quite flat. I love this time of year because there are still a few days before the busyness of a new term kicks in, allowing space for each of us to get clear on what we want to create for the coming year. So if you want to get a taste of what’s in store for you and some ideas on how to create a fantastic year read on.

Colour is very closely aligned to numerology so when we look at the highest frequencies of the year, we get the G19 bottle featured here.  What image or phrase comes to you when y

The highest frequency of 2019

ou look at these colours? Platinum resonates at a very high frequency and what I sense it is saying to us that we too can have the bliss it promises if we take time to be rather than do and allow ourselves to tune into the sound of creation.  This only happens when we really slow down something I always make time for in that space between Christmas and New Year.  It is often at that point I get a sense of the shape the next year will take for me.  Consider what regular practices do you have that allow you to tune into yourself?  Remember any new practice needs to be easily added into your schedule so that you will be able to maintain it.

Walking meditation is something I practise and I became rather addicted to this form of exercise last year when I agreed to enter an ultra marathon in July.  It provided the discipline I needed to train in all weathers.  This year I have taken a different approach by signing up for the #walk1000miles challenge.  I have just purchased the Country Walking magazine, available in any large supermarket, so I have my chart to plot how many miles I walk each day.  There is also a facebook group you can join and a pledge you can take.  Find out more here.  This is very easy for me because a year ago I  made a decision that I would be fab at 50 and that meant I had to get fit and stay fit.  In choosing your focus, spend time getting clear about what is important to you because if there’s emotional commitment, an intention is much easier to keep.

This is hardwired into me because I heard a resilience expert speak eight years ago when I was running a leadership development programme for PwC.  He maintained that the three most important elements to building resilience are getting 8 hours sleep a night; eating well and regular exercise. With a healthy body you are a step closer to having a healthy mind.  So many of my clients that are really struggling have turned to comfort eating as a way to dull the pain.

Just as your cooker gets dirty so you can become despondent when you place no attention on who you are becoming.  Just as over time silver becomes tarnished if it is not polished, so your natural brightness will dim if not attended to.  You may distract yourself by watching too much mindless TV.  To help you reset,  I am setting up a consciousness experiment.  It will start with a one day workshop on 11 or 18 Jan and continue with virtual monthly top ups of an hour.  If you are interested in getting involved do get in touch as there are a few more places available.

In summary whatever steps you take to create a great year for yourself, know that the key to getting the most out of 2019 is to build your self love and compassion muscle so you can then  extend that to your nearest and dearest.

 

 

 

What kills community because it’s so corrosive?

 

I am not a hermit, however much there are times I long for that depth of silence. I live in a small village community and more than ever I recognise that my every action will either unite or divide that community.  More than that I am a member of many systems.  Some of them are healthy and a place where interdependence thrives; others are a challenge to be part of.  One of the most corrosive elements present in any system is gossip; it can kill the sense of community.

Impeccability

Impeccability

Here’s the rub, the other day I noticed that my impeccability bottle was leaking and I grew curious as to why that was so I reflected on that.  Here’s what I discovered. The pull of belonging as discussed in a previous post is so strong that at times we compromise our own values.  How often have you found yourself colluding in or endorsing behaviours that stick in your gullet in order to fit in?  What other factors are present when gossip is rife?  Have you ever considered why Gossip happens? How much have you participated in gossip at work or in the school playground?

What do I mean by gossip?  I was discussing these ideas with fellow spiritual coach Nancy Swisher and I just loved her definition which was talking about anyone who is not present in the conversation.  It is neat and simple and so clear.  All I would add is talking in a detrimental way about people who are not part of the conversation.  This is gossip because they have no opportunity to give a different perspective.  It is vital because there is no absolute truth as the saying goes we see the world as we are not as it is.  What this means is that we are always making up stories based on the data we have sifted out from the reams we receive through our filters.  These filters have developed from the experiences of life that we have had.

This is not a post condoning gossip: that said it’s too easy to take the moral high ground and start condemning others for not living up to our expectations.  Yes impeccability with our word is vital because as soon as you say something hurtful about another you have no idea where it may go or what it will lead to.  There’s an analogy that’s been used in films and plays that describes the impact of gossip brilliantly.  If you stand on top of a tall building and rip open a feather pillow and allow the content to be scattered in the wind; it would be virtually impossible to find all the feathers later on as they will have dispersed far and wide.

Similarly whenever you say something unpleasant about another, you cannot see the impact of your words and it is unlikely you ever will see it.  We know that actually spreading malicious stories can be more hurtful and can cause more damage to someone’s self-esteem than any stick or stone that is thrown.  It is also poisonous and contaminates the environment in such a way that people withdraw to protect themselves as they don’t want to be hurt.  This is so harmful too because one of our basic needs as human beings is connection.

Why does gossip happen?  I think about the 600 nurses and midwives whom I have worked with over the last year.  None of them wanted to work in a negative environment where they felt controlled and unable to speak their mind and yet many contribute to the negativity through participating in gossip or triangulation.  Triangulation is when you divide and conquer by having multiple side conversations with people to put across a particular view and manipulate the outcome.  These women and men were wonderful people so why is this happening?  So often it is because they feel a sense of injustice about a decision that’s been made that impacts adversely on them and they feel unable to influence change.

There then appears to be a sense of vindication through sharing their position with another and getting support for that.  It is not surprising that someone might feel justified in venting some of that frustration through gossiping with others.  This sort of behaviour appears when people feel powerless.  It doesn’t make it right; what would be better would be to take responsibility and go to the person who is causing concern and use open and transparent communication.  Easy to say and challenging to do especially if you feel you won’t be heard.

So how do you confront someone who is making your life difficult?  Rather than bitching about them behind their back, you arrange to speak to them.  I would recommend that you use a tool like COIN.  The ‘c’ stands for context; the o for observation; the i for impact and the n for next.  COIN helps you to remain neutral as you state what you observed in what context and then using ‘I” statements you say what the impact was on you and lastly what you would like to see next.  I would also place an emphasis on feed forward in other words the behavior that you would like to see in the future rather than focusing on what has already happened.

Be ready to be rebuffed.  Sometimes the other person is not ready to have that conversation with you.  Earlier this year I lost connection with someone that I cherished.  It was very painful as all my attempts to rebuild the relationship were refuted.  They would not talk to me and yet through things they shared with me in writing they did feel it was okay to talk to others about what had happened.  Over time I realised that the relationship had always been more important to me than it had been to them and I learnt to let go of any attachment.  Now when I think of them I send them love and kindness and wish them well.

For me the way to wholeness comes through mastering emotional self-control by increasing self-awareness.  More and more I making an active choice about who I spend time with and often prefer to be alone.  Having space is about giving myself time to reflect on what is happening so that I can grow from every experience and find a better way to be next time I am triggered.

One of the most joyous experiences in my life at the moment is spending time with Kath my business partner for Transformational Leaders Ltd.  Not just because we have loads of fun creating tools for client but also because we practise impeccability with our word all the time.  We consciously design how we want to be with each other and regularly check in to see that the relationship is working for both of us.  This takes effort which is why I feel so much connection with the hermit these days.

If you want help with how to manage a challenging conversation or more support to deal with conflict then I do have a couple of openings at the moment to work with one to one clients.  Get in touch for a 30 minute consultation to get clear on whether we are a match.  Let’s talk.

 

How do wholeness, belonging and connection relate to business?

Being whole is incredibly challenging because it requires you to accept all of who you are not just the bits that you believe others will like or the parts of your life that appear to be successful.  So often we can get lost in a process and forget how it is to be of service to us.  In recent times there has been huge emphasis on the value of appreciation in terms of raising the vibration in your life: I often teach about its importance in my mindfulness-based programmes.   However, if in following this practice, you forget to be real and acknowledge all of your feelings then there is a degree of misalignment.  This is very challenging especially for business owners because there is a belief that people only buy from those who are doing well so in that scenario being too transparent could jeopardise your sales.  And at the end of the day, there is no magic formula.  It requires discernment and listening to your body wisdom to determine how much of yourself you are going to reveal.

When I unveiled this insight, unexpected things happened.  I understand that the recent eclipse brought up many deep things for people and had a momentous impact so if that was your experience know that it is part of what has been in the energy of late.  For me, a relationship that I thought was really solid started unravelling and my attempts to minister to it were inept I now realise.  I thought I was being open hearted and creating a loving space.  I managed it for four days until I was triggered and then I went into shut down.  It was hugely painful and one of the most challenging pieces was being with that and feeling unable to share my feelings because I felt as if I was being watched, scrutinised and judged.

Healing has come in unexpected ways.  Here’s the first part of the learning if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got.  Last Wednesday I did a biodanza class for the first time.  I have been meaning to give it a go for ages but it meant taking a whole day off to attend because I wanted to incorporate lunch with a client who’s becoming a friend.  It was an incredible experience.  The whole focus of the class was on connection so what synchronicity.  What struck me most was that friendship is like a dance, it starts almost by inviting another into our world and sharing some of our special things with them and admiring some of their insights and wisdom.  This is the forming stage of the relationship which is beautiful and is about invitation.  Some time down the line there will be an element of conflict otherwise known as storming and if the relationship manages to weather the storm you come through that to norming and performing.  Together you weave some of your story before it is time to go your separate ways.

There was something very subtle about the whole experience.  It was also very moving and intimate.  When you look deep into someone else’s eyes you catch a glimpse of their soul.  This can be incredibly scary and often quite emotional.  For me there were moments during the experience when I wanted to run for the hills and yet I stayed and got in touch with the rawness and the depth of the feeling.  As a spiritual being I have recognised that the path to wholeness comes through allowing my body to feel and process my emotions.  This can only happen when you give yourself space to do this and when you feel safe.

You will feel safe when you feel loved rather than judged.  You will need space and grace to love unconditionally and to bring all of who you are into a relationship rather than feeling only certain ways of being are allowed in that space.  Silence is a valuable component and gentleness is balm for the soul.  For me the deer represents many of these qualities.  In a difficult situation, it is vital that you speak from your heart with love and kindness as that gives you the most opportunity that your message will be heard.  And perhaps the most valuable tools of all are the use of clean language and questions.  The former because it is then less likely that you will trigger the other person and questions like What do you need right now?  This last element is vital as without it, as I learnt to my cost, you are more likely to be making assumptions about the other person’s state and it will be harder for them to feel safe in your presence.  Conflict is an opportunity for you to step into your power by being clear about your boundaries whilst being compassionate and communicating mindfully.

As I discovered yesterday when tasting some constellation work, a theme that underpins all this is belonging.  I have often felt torn in this regard as I pride myself on being my own person and so celebrate my otherness, my maverick nature.  And yet the cost of that are constant reminders that I don’t belong when I really want to feel a deep level of connection.  If you look you too may hold this tension.  A question to ask yourself is how much do you compromise your own values in order to feel a sense of belonging in a system?  That system could be your family, your friends, work or any community to which you belong like the Mums in the playground.  The profound insight received from this work was that everything in our lives serves belonging.  You may wish to contemplate that yourself and see how true it is for you.

Finding connection, belonging even,  with others through friendship is a beautiful gift and is one of the things that gives meaning to life.  However it can be fragile and become all encompassing at times.  So as the packages say handle it with care.  Lastly remember that you are part of a myriad of systems that started with your family and so it is important to heal those that are not functioning in an optimal way.  Most of our issues start with how we experienced our place in the family and disconnecting may feel easier but in fact it consumes much more energy.  So whether you choose colour therapy, constellation work or another form of healing, invest in yourself.  The path to wholeness can be tough and yet it is also rewarding as it enables you to experience much more lightness of being.

Following some time with the lovely Anya Pearse I have changed the way that I write my blogs.  I would love to have some feedback on that…does this new style work better for you or not?

Death and rebirth: vital phases for any growing business

full stop & unity bottleIn this article Kate Griffiths shares a story about transition and offers strategies on how to manage it.  She writes from the perspective of a small business owner, where you are your business.  Daunting though change can be, remember order emerges from chaos  

In August I chose these two bottles when asked what represented where I was and where I was going in my business.  Why these particular bottles?  Probably in part because they are so contrasting and also because I had already been working with Unity, the clear one.  Interestingly, the black one is anything but black.  Have you ever noticed that about black that there are other colours hidden within it? In short the black bottle among other things represents rebirth along the lines of the phoenix arising from the ashes.  The kind of rebirth that is only possible when you have died to yourself. So we are not talking the small stuff here

At the time all I could see was the huge potential in the message and was very excited about what could happen.  Six weeks on, I can honestly say it feels as my dear friend Elaine commented this week as if I have been running at 100 miles an hour to keep up; and as is often the case, I have needed periods of time in hibernation to allow the process to unfold.  One of the things I am more conscious of are the symbols that have shown up to mirror this shift.  For example over the summer a bat flew into the house and circled around for a good ten minutes before finding the doorway out.  In shamanic terms, Bats signal transition.  If, like me, you live with other people then this kind of change doesn’t just impact on you, it also has major ramifications in their lives too!  Let me unpack that further for you.

Physical signs

Decluttering on a physical level is a great way to also release old patterns of behaviour and thoughts that no longer serve you.  In effect as you clear your space, then there is room for new ideas and thoughts to be cultivated.  Quite unprompted I have felt the need to blitz our living space and get rid of anything that we no longer need.  A boot full of stuff went to a friend of mine who runs the the local toy library; followed by five bags to the charity shop and another five to go.  We have also revamped one bathroom getting rid of an old chest that was falling apart and replacing it with a cheap storage unit that allows us to see the towels in all their colour.

Mental signs

During levels of upheaval you will probably notice additional levels of exhaustion so it is important to recognise even more strongly the need for self care.  For me that has meant little to no television in the evenings; less reading; more baths; massages along with meditation, daily appreciations, giving myself reiki and designing my own special routine as I go to bed.  A bedtime routine is key because it ensures that you are choosing what messages to send to your unconscious as you fall asleep.  Curious to find out more then check out our October challenge in Sacred Soul Space.

Emotional and spiritual signs

This whole area can offer the biggest challenges because often you have not been supported in being able to express your emotions.  A conversation with a client recently made me realise that it was important to articulate the emotional upheaval because it may well help you if you find yourself in a similar space.  I have included spiritual here because the two are entwined for me.

Taking a panoramic perspective, we are in the midst of a huge shift from the masculine form of power to a more feminine style of leadership.  What does that mean?  On one level it is about accepting that what is is and that means practising detachment and recognition that it is no longer possible to control any aspect of life.  The harder you try to control the outcome, the more stress you will feel.

As women, the more that we find our voice and step into our power, the more isolated our partners can feel if they have been used to taking charge.  There is a subtle shift in the relationship.  You no longer need your partner, you choose to be with them.  If your partner has been the more dominant party in the relationship, they are going to have to start redefining their role and that can be hugely challenging.  It can lead to denial, frustration and resistance.  It also means that you have to found additional resources of love, compassion and patience holding the space so that they feel safe.

Final tips on how to manage such a shift?

The main way that I have found which works is to have a clear idea of where you want to go.  Keep hold of the vision, don’t fixate on the hows.  Ultimately trust that you are in exactly the right place for you right now and be with whatever unfolds.  And remember out of chaos comes order.

To summarise it is important that you give yourself space and are especially kind to yourself during this time.  And remember as you embrace this change and see the positive in it, you will transform the way you experience it: avoidance just prolongs the agony.  It can also help to have the support of a coach especially one that understands first hand about what you are dealing with.

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Kate Griffiths works  with individuals and business owners to create more ease and flow in their lives.  Clients include conscious business owners and leaders who recognise that the old paradigm way of doing things does not work and want support in determining  what the new ways of doing business look like.  She is passionate about creating conversations that lead to change and has developed her own process to do that called connection through conversation.  If you want to find out more about the power of colour then do book a colour taster session with either Kate or Elaine at the Herts Health and Wholeness Festival on Saturday.

Kate is also the co-founder of Art of Leadership, a consultancy which supports organisations with their leadership challenges in a very creative way.

 

 

 

Wellbeing at work: the key to business success

love youIn this article Kate Griffiths explains why wellbeing is not just a nice to have but an essential in any organisation that wants to succeed and sustain their success.  She explores new scientific evidence that shows how stress can kill you and touches on Dr David Hamilton’s research into kindness and compassion.

By now you are probably familiar with the random acts of kindness campaign and the pay it forward philosophy but did you know that kindness can actually prolong life whilst getting angry and stressed can shorten life?  Powerful stuff!  Let me unpack that for you.

Almost equal numbers of men and women suffer from heart disease and heart disease accounts for almost half of all deaths in Britain.  Every seven minutes in the UK someone dies of a heart attack.  So what does that have to do with stress?  Last week researchers discovered that those working in stressed environments have raised levels of white blood cells.  Monocytes and neutrophils are the technical terms for these cells.  They combine with fats and cholesterols to build plaques on the walls of blood vessels, which if they break loose can cause blockages in arteries.  These kinds of blockages prevent oxygen rich blood from flowing round the body, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.  In addition, Dr Nahrendorf has discovered that when the levels of noradrenaline, the stress hormone, are raised then stem cells in bone marrow prompt the production of monocytes and neutrophils.  This is because the stress hormone is preparing you for danger, like to fight when you are injured.  However with chronic stress there is no wound to heal so a dangerous build up of immune cells in the arteries is what occurs.

Interestingly this fits neatly with the common perception society has of a stressed male manager keeling over the desk at work.  What has been discovered is that the number of women in the UK with heart disease that die each year is greater than the number of men – 82,000 women to 79,000 men.  It appears that it is emotional strain that is the primary cause of heart disease in women but it is much more difficult to detect.  It is often not detected on angiograms taken for women because rather than the main arteries getting clogged it tends to be due to the failure of tiny blood vessels that branch off from the large coronary arteries.

This all builds quite a frightening picture and yet there is an easy way to reverse this trend and that is to start managing your stress.  It is why I advocate mindfulness practices and spend a lot of my time teaching these techniques to corporate clients.  After just one session, a recent client’s anxiety levels dropped dramatically and the result was that they got deeper and greater amounts of sleep at night, which had a positive benefit on all areas of their life.

If you cannot afford to learn mindfulness there is another way.  Research cited by Dr David Hamilton in his books has shown that increasing your levels of kindness and compassion to others can have a very positive impact on your health.  Let me share an example.  Hamilton talks about an experiment carried out by scientists on rabbits.  The rabbits were given 60% more fat than they needed in their diet and within a matter of weeks their health was suffering as a result of their fat intake.  That is all except four long eared rabbits in one particular cage.  This baffled the scientists for quite a long time, as the conditions for all the animals were the same so there was no logical reason for the results to be inconsistent.  Then one day a woman who used to clean the labs after everyone went home mentioned how she had been drawn to the long eared rabbits and how she could not help but pick each one up in turn and stroke it for a few minutes each night when she had finished cleaning.  The scientists conducted another experiment where they paid this woman to stroke specific rabbits.  They got the same results.

So how does this work?  Why is giving love through hugs and caresses so beneficial to animals and people?  Here’s the fantastic bit.  It releases oxytocin in both the giver and the receiver.  Oxytocin is called the bonding hormone and it has amazing impacts on your health.  Therefore one could make the argument that spending time to create the kind of environment at work where people feel relaxed and cared for will pay dividends for the business in terms of productivity, efficiency and fewer days off work.  Do get in touch if you want me to help you create this kind of workplace or help you reduce your personal stress levels.  Feel free to add your own thoughts and comments below, I love to hear from you.

Effective ways to deal with negative self-talk

vibrational energyIn this article, Kate Griffiths explores how easy it is to get trapped into a negative mindset.  This is what prevents business owners from moving forward with life.  She also suggests four ways to deal more effectively with the vicissitudes of life.

I was part of an online conversation recently, which was asking us to share what we would suggest to someone starting out in Business about how to get the money coming in.  There were loads of comments but the one that stuck with me was the comment that said it is worth investing at least 50% of your time and money on self-development.

That may seem counterintuitive to you.  Why would you do that when you are trying to get your marketing, your logo, your website and other practical stuff sorted.  Why focus on stuff with no tangible benefit you might be asking?

Put it another way, why is personal development so critical to business success?  It is all about being in flow, not worrying.  Success in business and in life is over 90% about being and 10% doing.  In other words, it is all about your mindset.

Your state of mind is shaped by what you are thinking and feeling and as Abraham Hicks said beliefs are merely thoughts that you keep on thinking. Researchers have shown that we have around 60,000 thoughts a day.  And yet we tend to really only focus on a few of those.  What we focus on is what expands into our reality.

If you accept that and take with it the fact that our brains are hard-wired to look for threat you begin to see why we need to find ways to live with negative emotions rather than get rid of them.  Why is this survival pattern so strong?  You know that humans’ natural instinct when in danger is to fight or flight.  This is socio-biological from the time that our ancestors lived in jungles and would get an adrenaline rush when they heard a wild animal stalking them.  The adrenaline fired up their muscles and enabled them to run off as fast as they could to avoid being eaten.

From a psychologist’s perspective our brains are wired for survival not for happiness.  In the soul retreat that I ran last week, we explored the question could there ever be a time when we could override this instinct and choose the path that gave us pleasure rather than changing in reaction to pain?

If we follow this line of enquiry then we end up in the realms of philosophy and enjoyable as that is that is not where I want to take you today.  I hope the first section of this article has shown you why negative self talk and ultimately depression is so prevalent and what I want to do is give you some practical tips to help you live in greater harmony with your inner bully/ inner bitch.

  1. If you are not reaching your goals, let’s say your target income for the month, then take a moment to consider how realistic it is.  The self-critic often appears when you are not being realistic about what you can achieve that is when you have set your expectations too high.  If you cannot live within your means, can you be thriftier rather than striving to make more money?
  2. Of course it is important to persist with your dreams so often small businesses fail because the owner gave up too quickly.  That said it is also important to recognise when a change of approach is needed and when you need to learn and adapt so that you can grow.  For example you may have a great idea but if you are not getting the traction for it through having a website, consider creating/ getting someone to create an app for you.  With small children, I for one know this is the way of the future.
  3. I have found that with some of my clients that they have developed fixed ideas about what will make them happy and I recognise that I fell into similar traps myself years ago.  In my early 30s I became very frustrated about the fact that my husband and I were both in corporate jobs and yet we could not afford a four bedroom house in the city that we lived in.  I became fixated on the fact that I would be happy if we had a bigger house.  In the end we both realised that if we wanted a larger pad then we would have to move out of the city to achieve it.  Sometimes though you need more than a change of approach, you need a change of goal.  If you can be flexible and adaptable to the flow of life then you will be much better equipped and more resilient when it comes to dealing with life’s changes and disappointments.  For example do you really need to be a property owner?  Renting works well.
  4. Maturity is all about being able to own up when you did something less than perfectly, try to understand what caused it, resolve to correct it and then move on.  Sometimes though you may find yourself flagellating yourself metaphorically and when we are that harsh we usually throw on a whole load more abuse remembering every single occasion when we got it wrong and put ourselves down really effectively.  This is beating yourself up.   It is excessive and the relentlessness of the inner critic tears you down; it’s stressful and thus impacts on your mood, health, and longevity.  So how can you prevent this cycle which probably started in childhood and is stopping you from taking responsibility and making amends so that you do not behave in the same way going forward?

I want to share with you a practice that you can use to help you deal with your inner critic.  Pick a small issue you have with yourself – such as being a few minutes late to meetings, or eating too much – and try the following two approaches. First, be your own coach and counsel yourself in an encouraging way. Notice what this feels like, and what the results are for you.  Second, talk to yourself about in a critical way – maybe like a parent or teacher talked to you.  What’s this approach feel like, and what are its results?

Let the differences between approaches sink in. How do you feel inside when you’re “listening” to each one?  Let a real conviction form as to which approach is better for you – and a real resolve to truly use the one that’s best for you.

I bet you found the encouraging approach more effective.  If so use it going forward.  Identify what you did wrong, work out how to do it better going forward.

Lastly take a big breath and remind yourself of three of your strengths.  Let the sense of them, and of your natural goodness, sink in.  And then take another big breath and move on.

In the end it is all about finding ways to be kind to yourself.  As you can see it is not about denying responsibility for stuff that you did not do as skilfully as you might.  However once you have acknowledged that and worked out how you can handle it better next time, it is all about moving on by letting go.  The key is to find some kindness and compassion for you.  This comes when you really believe that you are intrinsically a good person.

All this has come through my own mindfulness practices and through working with clients with anxiety issues and/ or depression.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this article below.

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Kate Griffiths works  with individuals and business owners to create more ease and flow in their lives.  Clients include conscious business owners and leaders who recognise that the old paradigm way of doing things does not work and want support in determining  what the new ways of doing business look like.  She is passionate about creating conversations that lead to change and has developed her own process to do that called connection through conversation.  She also teaches 8 week mindfulness courses at Harmony in Hitchin; the next one starts on Monday 12 May.  If you prefer, get in touch with Kate to set up an initial consultation to explore working one to one with her.

How to create conversations that lead to change

big conversation speech bubblesIn this article, Kate Griffiths shares some of the steps you need to take to create the space for deep connection within conversation that can bring about huge shifts in organisations and individuals.

One of the keys to success as an entrepreneur is the ability to be resourceful which comes the more that you can really hear what people are saying and respond to that.  Some of your ideas will take, others won’t and it has very little correlation to how much you like a particular idea.

Here’s an example of what I mean.  I started getting into mindfulness because I asked myself a question:

Why do so many people find it hard to have connected conversations?

I realised that some of that was to do with the fact that for the most part people are not truly present.  How often have you asked someone a question out of politeness or to put that person at his or her ease and then not really heard the answer?  That happened to me earlier this week and I was fine with it because I recognised the intention of the person and that they were slightly preoccupied because they were about to run an event and needed to be ready for that.  Their mind was on other things.

It is hard enough to be mindful in conversation with just one other person so imagine the demands when you have a group to facilitate.  Yet that is what I thrive at.  When I love something, it becomes the focus of my attention.  At the beginning of the year I set out with an idea, which turned into a twelve month programme.  As it has evolved, I have found myself reading up more about group process so that I can service that group to the best of my ability.  My recent research has included delving into The Circle Way and I have been getting some real aha moments.

A key part of circle is the ability to do three things: listen intently; speak your truth and attend to the well being of the group.  That is quite a juggling act.  The following story shows that more fully.

A while back, I attended a workshop in London aimed at change practitioners.  The organisation behind it believes in creating a space where it is safe for facilitators, coaches, OD professionals and others that help individuals and organisations to transform to be themselves so that they can learn and grow.  It is a beautiful, magical space and I am so grateful that it exists.

Part way through the day I ended up in a group with two others to discuss an aspect of awareness, an irony I only appreciated later.  I happened to be with someone I had never met before and someone I knew quite well.  And then it happened.  I wanted to express part of my inner truth and could not find a way into the conversation.  I was baffled initially and then after ten minutes had experienced a range of emotions that included sadness because I felt as if I was being excluded and finally anger because the behaviour of my two colleagues did not meet my expectations.  I forgot all my mindfulness training and after my companions prodded me a couple of times, I let rip.  I described exactly what I saw.  I was very direct and at the time all I could see was what I thought of as justified anger.  I was unaware then of the judgement and unsurprisingly there was a ripple effect.

There was a kernel of truth in what I shared but its impact was lost because I was unable to express it in neutral language.  Clean or neutral language is key when in dialogue and discussing difficult and/ or emotional issues.  I learnt so much from that exchange and yes it was painful.  On the plus side, we were all very present in that part of the conversation and at least two of us felt very alive during the cut and thrust of the exchange.

It is also about timing: noticing the impulse to speak and considering whether it is appropriate to share or not.  You will have many impulses in a conversation.  One of the ways of deciding whether to share and if you do so how to express it, is to think about the impact it will have on the well being of the group.  Too much self-censoring can lead to your emotions leaking out anyway as I know from my own experience.  Yet self-monitoring is another important part of any dialogue.

There is such a fine line between self-monitoring and self-censoring.    It takes discernment and practice to know when to speak from your own inner truth especially in situations when it may well contradict the conformity in the group.

In Circle one of the ways around these types of issues comes through having some structure around how to hold the space.  One very practical way of doing this is by having three specific roles – a host, a guardian and a scribe.  In my mind the one that is crucial is the guardian.  The guardian is reading the energy of the group all the time and deciding when an intervention like a pause is needed.  It is such a good idea to have this kind of shared leadership between the host and the guardian.

In essence as you start to adopt these principles in meetings and other fora, notice what happens.  At the very least I expect the quality of your conversation will change.

Kate Griffiths creates a safe space for therapists, coaches, consultants and those that work with others so that they can experience their true selves and obtain more ease and flow in their lives.  Clients include conscious business owners and leaders who recognise that the old paradigm way of doing things does not work and want support in determining what the new ways of doing business look like.  She will be running a half day soul retreat at Barefoot Therapies on Tuesday 18 March so get in touch if you wish to participate.

What is the path to wholeness?

sacred heartIn this article Kate Griffiths explains that life unfolds magically as your embrace your hidden wholeness. That comes when you have a quiet mind and an open heart and she explains how you can do that by drawing on her experience of creating a sacred space for the soul.

Earlier this week I met with those who are engaging on an experiment with me to see what happens when we create a sacred space for the soul.  We reviewed what the purpose of the group was and we discovered so much.  There was huge appreciation for a safe space where people could bring their whole selves out to play.  That is enough in itself.  The findings reminded me so much of the work of Parker J Palmer who wrote in A Hidden Wholeness:

Community….sometimes points to a group of people with a shared commitment to making an external impact of some sort, from changing one another to changing the world.

 But a circle of trust has no such agenda….It’s singular purpose is to support the inner journey of each person in the group, to make each soul feel safe enough to show up and speak its truth, to help each person listen to his or her inner teacher.

Why is it so difficult to take down the mask?  Everybody gets conditioned; let me explain how.  As a young person the world probably felt dangerous to you and you learnt to hide your essence or true self behind a wall because it was not safe to share your whole self everywhere.  That may have been your experience at home or at school.  Initially this seemed to work because you felt safer.  The problem is that that protection mechanism then pervades your life and you become a stranger to your true self.  A wall goes up between your soul and your roles in the world: it blocks so much that actually what you start experiencing disconnection.  At some point you become aware of this disconnection, feel the pain that it causes; the pressure builds and can well up and thereby crack the wall.

This leads to another phase, a longing to integrate so that we can live our lives by our hidden values.  In spiritual communities we talk about being centred.  Visually it is as if the wall bends and the two ends meet to form a circle.  It is not wholeness however; it is like living in a gated community and declaring that you only want to be with like-minded people.  That way leads to group think, safety at the very least and most probably judgement because we filter out anyone that challenges our inner truth.

It reminds me of what one of the first members said who joined Sacred Space for the Soul and that was that she wanted the group to have diversity of thought.  It can become too comfortable if everyone agrees and is of like mind.

mobius stripPalmer explains that life is like a Mobius strip in that there is only one reality: whatever is inside us flows outwards to form/ deform the world and whatever is outside us flows in to help form/ deform us.  We are constantly co-creating with the Universe and that means the phases identified by the wall and the circle are just powerful illusions.

This leads neatly onto sovereignty something that we played with at the last gathering of Sacred Space for the Soul.  The concept that we are the kings and queens of our own kingdom and are co-create our reality.  In other words whatever is showing up in your life, however painful or difficult is there to help you on your journey.

This brings me to an underpinning belief at play in Sacred Space for the Soul and that is we start from the space that each person is naturally creative, resourceful and whole.  It is not about fixing each other or giving advice.  In fact, as Andy Bradley describes in his TED talk, it is about developing a quiet mind and an open heart.  We all have a deep longing to be seen and heard so we need a safe space where we can be vulnerable and not feel judged. Or as Ram Dass writes the quieter you become the more you can hear.

How can you move away from the urge to fix and become a compassionate listener?  It comes when you can look at Osho’s words and claim that truth for yourself:

The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love. It may look paradoxical to you, but it is not. It is an existential truth: only those people who are capable of being alone are capable of love, of sharing, of going into the deepest core of the other person – without possessing the other, without becoming dependent on the other, without reducing the other to a thing, and without becoming addicted to the other. They allow the other absolute freedom, because they know that if the other leaves, they will be as happy as they are now. Their happiness cannot be taken by the other, because it is not given by the other. 

How does that work in a circle of trust?  If you can really respect the fact that everyone else in the circle is on their own journey and that your truth is yours alone then there is less danger of falling into what Palmer refers to as “amateur psychotherapy” which at its worse is a form of interpersonal violence.

I would love to hear what you think of these thoughts and the work that I am doing in the comments below.  If you want to find out more about my sacred space for the soul concept and how that could work for you, do get in touch.

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Kate Griffiths is known as the soul whisperer.  She creates a safe space for therapists and those that work with others so that they can experience their true selves and obtain more ease and flow in their lives.  Clients include conscious business owners and leaders who recognise that the old paradigm way of doing things does not work and want support in determining  what the new ways of doing business look like.  She will be running a half day sacred space for the soul day at Barefoot Therapies on Tuesday 18 March so get in touch if you wish to participate.

Is paying it forward a way to live life or just once a year?

pay it forward film imageKate Griffiths has had some amazing conversations in the last week about purpose, passion and business and how people spend their time.  She distils the essence of them as a way to start a conversation around paying it forward, now a global movement.  Is it all about selfless giving on one day a year or a way of life?

It is clear that some have found my vision for the world that I want to see as highly unrealistic.  How can it work because everything evolves around money or does it?  Doesn’t it come back to what we value as individuals and as a society and actually taking the time to think about that?  Knowing that when we come together to do that then the result can be even more powerful.  The world we live in is complex and so collaborative sensemaking is needed to come up with solutions.

This weekend I watched the 2000 film Pay it Forward.  It shows what happens in the lives of ordinary people when people pay it forward.  In one situation a partner of a law firm gave a guy who had had a run of bad luck, the keys to his jaguar with no strings attached.  Initially the person who was helped was incredibly sceptical and would not accept such generosity.  Over time he discovered that the partner wanted to help him because another guy had helped get his daughter seen in a hospital when she was having a really bad asthma attack.  And so it goes on.  When the whole story is unravelled, it seems to come about because of an assignment given to students in a social studies class.  One of them develops the concept of pay it forward and says that if each person helps three people with no expectation of a return and then they go on to help three more people and so on think about the multiplier effect.

In an ironic twist of fate however, the main protagonist, the young boy, dies when he tries to stop older kids bullying one of his friends and is knifed for his troubles.  When I watched that part of the film, I was reminded of the story of Jesus and the everyday miracles he carried out whilst he was alive until he was silenced.  I ask myself what will it take for random acts of kindness however large or small to start becoming a way of life.  Similarly Socrates was forced to drink a cup of hemlock because Athenian society could not deal with him.  Does someone have to die like Socrates and Jesus did for society to transform?

Socrates’ death, as Alain de Botton writes, is an extreme example of how to maintain confidence in a position when it has met significant opposition.  This is not a plea to encourage defiance or the belief that we are never so right when others think we are wrong.  It is vital that we can see other perspectives ad know when to flex our positions.  In a storm I would rather be the tree that can bend then the more solid oak that can be destroyed if the wind is very strong because it does not know how to bend.

The question I am mulling over is where do you draw the line with type of generosity?  In one conversation I had this week someone said that we are entitled to earn a certain amount and that we owe it to ourselves to put a value on our services.  I believe that entitlements such as often unconscious belief I am entitled to meat every day is part of the reason that this society is in the mess it is in.  On the hand I recognise that if we keep on giving then we can become depleted or be seen as a people pleaser.

The key is to know your limits.  What are your boundaries?  Sometimes you won’t realise what they are until they have been stretched too far.  A pattern for me is that I fall in love with an idea and do everything I can to make it real only to realise that no one else, not even the founder, is working that hard.  It’s at that point that I realise I need to step back.

Kindness starts at home.  You need to be clear about what you stand for, how far you are prepared to go for someone else’s idea.  Your journey is unique to you and if you expend all your energy on fulfilling another’s dream then your essence can get lost.  Yes in your desire to change the world, you can be too kind.

So is paying it forward about the small things in life like giving another child a lift to their after school activity to help out their parents or is it something more profound?  Can it be a way of life or is it better to focus this activity on one day a year as the pay it forward movement tends to do?  What do you think?

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Kate Griffiths has worked as a change consultant and coach in a range of organisations for over twenty years.  She now works primarily with conscious business owners and leaders that recognise the old paradigm way of doing things does not work and want support in determining  what the new ways of doing business look like.  She is passionate about creating conversations that lead to change and has developed her own process to do that called connection through conversation.  She also leads mindfulness workshops and leadership programmes for business owners.

How do you move from confrontation to an exchange of ideas?

Tree-with-RootsWe are communicating with others all the time but how effective are we?  What has really caught Kate Griffiths’ attention this week is how often people need to be right.  When you are in this space you are rarely likely to get to a great outcome.  She wants to explore this further with you and share with some tips on how to turn this around. 

Insisting on being right, often leads to winning the battle and losing the war, in other words a pyrrhic victory.  It is very difficult to learn and grow because at its worst the need to be right can turn a person into Basil Fawlty (the lead character in a British comedy in the 1970s).  He got so frustrated when his car broke down that he beat it to death with a tree branch!  Obviously this is a gross exaggeration of what happens when a person gets triggered, done for comic effect.  However, similar things happen in discussions.  If you are wedded to a particular point of view then you are coming from a place of wanting to advocate that position at all costs. Consciously or unconsciously you want to win.  You will see yourself as justified in your point of view and believe that your motives are pure.  At its most extreme, the behaviour displayed is dogged attachment to a point of view; no interest in the others’ perspective and desire to save face.  The outcome of this is that there is the potential for huge misunderstandings, lack of trust, limited learning and ultimately reduced quality of life.

What often happens is that the other party just shuts down, stops trying to reason with you because it is easier.  It is not that they agree with you, they just feel unable or unwilling to say more.  The sadness is that this then becomes a lost opportunity for learning and understanding.  Ultimately you can become isolated because people are afraid to raise that particular topic or controversial topics in front of you because they don’t want to encounter the monster that needs to be right.  How do I know so much about this?  It is not just the training I have done around communication.  I know because this used to be me.  I work from the place of make your mess your message.

So what can you do?  Start by recognising who you are?  This comes from knowing what you feel passionate about.  Underneath that passion, is one or more of your values.  These are formed by what you believe.  Have you ever sat down and thought about that – questioned your beliefs and explored where they come from?  Beliefs are often unconscious and values can be too if you have never looked at them.  Yet it is these things which drive you to adopt certain attitudes and habits.  Take a look at the photo of the tree – the roots which often go deep into the soil represent your beliefs and assumptions, the trunk is your values and the foliage and leaves sprouting from the branches represent your attitudes and habits otherwise known as your personality.  To bring about deep and sustainable change you need to tackle the root system.

That is more of a long term project and is something you can start to unpick with a good coach.  So what are the easy wins, you are asking me?  Here are three steps to take when you find a conversation getting tricky:

  1.  Notice when you feel triggered.  You may have a thought pop up in your head saying what this person is saying is utter rubbish.  At this moment you have broken rapport and are on the brink of stepping into that I must win at all costs mentality.  This becomes much easier if you practise techniques like mindfulness because then you become more aware of the sensations in your body and how they change when you are disconnected.
  2. Take a breath.  Just focus on your breath for a count of 10 to give yourself time to choose how to respond.
  3. Become curious about what beliefs and assumptions are being triggered.  If that is too difficult then at least remain open to what the person is saying.  Ask them a question to gather more information and understand why they hold that particular view.

Always remember you are at choice as to how you react.  You can go on the defensive and tell the other person why they are wrong or you can don the learner mindset and be open to exploring the idea more. Another great thing to add into the mix is a bit of humour.  Humour is a great way to diffuse a tense situation.

Here’s an example of a situation I was in recently.  I found myself in a conversation with someone who had been a consultant for a Multi Level Marketing company.  There was a point in the conversation where I suggested that another product was reported to be of higher quality.   The response I got was a complete shut down to that possibility.  I was given a whole list of facts as to why the product that they had invested in was the best on the market.  At this point I had a choice.  I could go on the defensive and retaliate or I could accept that this was where this person was in their journey and let it go.  I chose the latter as our conversation was rich with so many other possibilities.  The result was we both went away fulfilled and inspired from our exchange rather than irritated and grumpy.

It is not always that easy which is why individuals and organisations pay me to help them have better quality conversations.  Creating conversations that lead to change can only happen when we are connected, curious, courageous and full of compassion for others and ourselves. So what do you find difficult to handle?  What have you tried to regain connection in a conversation?  What worked? What did not work?  I would love to hear your thoughts below.

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Kate Griffiths has worked as a change consultant in coach and a range of organisations for over twenty years.  She now works primarily with conscious business owners and leaders that recognise the old paradigm way of doing things does not work and are trying to work out what the new ways of doing business look like.  She is passionate about creating conversations that lead to change and has developed her own process to do that called connection through conversation.  She also leads mindfulness workshops and leadership programmes for soulpreneurs.  If you want to get a flavour of her work then do sign up for the morning taster session she is running on 8 November – http://bit.ly/1a5ANay