Honey I shrunk the kids

mindfulness leafAs humans, we exist to be in relationship with one another and yet here’s the rub. Every day I hear about good friends falling out. On a granular level if you are parent, how often do you find yourself shouting at your kids and regretting it? One of my friends was telling me recently that her daughter keeps quoting the NSPCC’s Childline number to her and threatening to call them! Shows great initiative and it made me smile and yet why are our relationships with our children not optimal? In this article, I explore what lies behind miscommunication in families and offer a way through that is based on research. Whilst this is about parenting, you can see the same things happening in business which is why companies employ consultants like us to come in work with their people and turn them into high performing teams. People laugh at all the behaviours that they see on the Apprentice and of course they are exaggerated to increase the entertainment value for the Public; AND these kinds of things go on all the time.

Change can happen instantly and in other areas, it is very slow. A great example of this comes from a study of the seasons. Currently in the UK we are experiencing a very mild autumn; the first signs of winter are only just beginning to come. It is November and yet the sun is shining and many trees still have their beautiful russet gold leaves. Every morning I appreciate that even though the car windscreen is misty, it is not yet frozen solid with ice. That means we can leave about 5 minutes later and still get to school on time.

Two factors that cause miscommunication

  • Busyitis

How often are you in a hurry? If you have children how busy is their schedule each week? One client told me recently about her week and I really did not know how she got through it. She works full-time and then helps out with at least two of the organisations where children do after school clubs. On one day she has about 15 minutes to fit dinner in.  This is madness.  One thing we do is have a busy morning before school so that we can adopt a more relaxed pace after school when the girls are more tired.

Of course it is good to expose your children to a range of different activities. You want them to find out what they love doing; to excel at something or at least enjoy an activity, as it is a great way to build their confidence. AND yet everybody needs those “scratch your bottom” moments. Otherwise you will get exhausted with the constant round of ferrying, as will your kids and then there will be conflict. You are not a machine, you are a human being. If you are always rushing around it is hard to be present and in the now.

  • Guilt

As a parent how often do you feel guilty about how you have treated your children? After shouting at them, you feel a range of conflicting emotions, your energy levels are at an all time low and there’s that voice in your head that starts telling you off.  That internal voice may even sound like your Mum.  You feel waves of shame at how you behaved. This kind of emotion is so debilitating: it can be crippling.  When you feel like that, what do you do? Do you withdraw because you feel so uncomfortable or do you go on the warpath to distract yourself from how you really feel?

It is through sharing emotions that we build connections with others. Good communication is only possible when we are aware of our own emotions. That only happens when you give yourself time to self-reflect and build that awareness.

So often with clients, I find that they try to rationalise their feelings. If you break down that word, rationalise, you get its real meaning: rational lies. It is so important to get out of your head and tune into how your body feels about whatever’s happening. As Bob Samples (1976) quoting Einstein wrote:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.

As a parent the more can communicate the rich inner world of your feelings to your children, the stronger the attachment you will have with them and the better they will be at developing close, intimate relationships during their lifetime. This sounds easy and yet many find intimacy challenging and scary at first.

I encourage you to read Philip Wade’s beautiful post about Intimacy as he explains why years of conditioning are what makes intimacy so challenging. His definition of intimacy is so powerful in to me see. The eyes are windows onto the soul. So the first exercise I am going to encourage you to do is to look deeply into the eyes of another. See how long you can hold their gaze and notice everything you experience.  How difficult was that?

Every time you resonate with your child’s emotions, your child experiences herself as “good.” Siegel and Hartzell describe emotion as “the process of integration that brings self-organisation to the mind….integration may be at the heart of a sense of well-being, within ourselves and in our relationships with our children and others.”

In can be really hard to relate emotionally to your children because it requires mindful mindfulness photoawareness of your own internal state as well as being open to understanding and respecting your child’s state of mind. That requires a huge amount of awareness. You become more aware of your own internal state when you pause and reflect on it; just acknowledge what’s going on and journal about it too.  Below are seven steps to better communication with your children:

  1. Pay attention to your emotional field: notice your feelings, your physiology and other nonverbal signals
  2. Alignment: allow your own state of mind to align with that of another
  3. Empathy: be open to another’s point of view and experience by remembering that everyone is right but only partially
  4. Verbalising: allow your inner world expression outwardly in a respectful way
  5. Participation: Join in the give and take of communication so there is balance of sharing and listening
  6. Curiosity: we all use words in different ways so be sure to check what the other person means by asking questions
  7. Diversity: Remember there is joy in the uniqueness of each individual’s form of expression – infinite diversity in infinite combinations

Remember children only model what they see. To be a conscious parent you need to practise great self-care. There are a couple of places on my forthcoming mindfulness retreat weekend, 21 and 22 November, where we will be really getting into this space of conscious communication.  Afterwards you will feel more at ease with intimacy and you will be able to build greater intimacy with others including yourself.  You can find more details here and get in touch to book your place.

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?

What’s luck got to do with it?

bullseyeHow often have you said oh it is alright for x they are just really lucky or something similar?  Groundbreaking research by Professor Richard Wiseman and others show that we actually make our own luck.  Let me explore with you what I mean.

I was very lucky to spend a few hours in a delightful place yesterday.  The owners bought the property over 30 years ago and it was derelict.  They spent a huge amount of time doing it up and then converting the barn into a games room and indoor swimming pool.  There is also a wonderful mature garden, which could hold 100 people easily.  They live less than 10 minutes from me and until that moment I did not know they were there.  Yet I live in a small village and have lived here for 7 years.  Weird or what?  Not really in that I believe there is no such thing as coincidence, just synchronicity.

I felt very lucky, blessed even to be in that space and to be connecting with some really fascinating people who have made very interesting life choices as social entrepreneurs.  I do not know where this connection will lead and yet I am excited by it and the opportunity it presents.  I am now waiting patiently for that part of the story to unfold.

We live in a paradigm where one of the main beliefs is that something can only be true if we can explain it logically or through science.  Don’t get me wrong; we have made some great leaps in our understanding about the world thanks to science.  That said I would argue that society’s propensity to look to science for answers has robbed us of some of the mysteries of life.  Glorification of the mind in some ways has led to analysis paralysis.  Many of my clients are stressed to the eyeballs and can suffer from anxiety attacks because of their over-reliance on the grey matter.

Conversely as Louis Pasteur said fortune/ chance/ luck favours the prepared mind.  We work on something for a long time, discovering loads of dead ends and then have a eureka moment.  You recognise the break through because of all the work you have done up until that moment.  If we go  bit deeper, I would say that underpinning that preparation is trust and faith in the overarching vision.  For leaders and business owners today, the ability to keep plugging away despite others’ scepticism is vital.  I remember someone saying to me when my business was new and I had no idea what I was doing oh you just live in an area where there is very little need for a coach.  They were being helpful and supportive and yet their view was that it was the environment and not my newbie status that was the issue.  I am the only one responsible for what I achieve

So what has this got to do with luck you may be asking?  Well Professor Wiseman’s research and experiments showed that there was no such thing as luck.  Everyone receives opportunities but depending on how your brain is wired, is what will determine whether you notice the opportunity and then whether you act on it.  He goes one further and says those that seem the luckiest are actually creating their own luck.  If you think about those that you consider to be successful entrepreneurs, did they hit the big time with their first idea?  I doubt it…there were probably many set backs on the way.  The difference is that they did not hold onto the failures, they saw them as learning opportunities and asked themselves things like what’s next.  It really does come down to your attitude and the extent to which you are prepared to bring your whole self to whatever challenge you face.  Do you see a setback as a huge obstacle to overcome or part of the learning process on the journey?  How resilient are you when things don’t go your way?  How long do you hold onto disappointment?  How much do you see life and your work as a game?

In adversity what you need is flexibility.  If you keep on doing what you have always done you will just get the same results.  It is why there has been so much written about the importance on reflecting on the impact after you have done something, reviewing your actions and tweaking them if necessary so that you can fine tune the whole process next time round the loop.

Lucky people tend to be really open to new ideas and seeing the potential in whatever shows up so have huge capacity for versatility.  This flexibility helps them to build their resilience.  They are less likely to flag up the problems and much more likely to celebrate the successes.  In short each one of us has some challenges to face – the vicissitudes of life impact on everyone.  The difference is how you respond to the betrayal, the hurt and the pain.  As my husband says it is all in the recovery.

So next time you feel down on your luck, stop.  Remind yourself gently that you are the co-creator of your own reality and you can decide what kind of day, week, year, life you are going to have.  If that sounds far-fetched, get in touch as I love to help people rediscover their bounce.

Flow in business and life comes through connection

politenessIn this article Kate Griffiths explores why the flow state seems elusive to so many leaders and business owners by unpacking three myths many hold about connection.  She then goes on to share more about the new ways of doing business through sharing her approach to it all.

Connection is the cornerstone of every thriving new paradigm business.  You would think that as more people talk about this stuff, it becomes clearer and more people are getting it.  That is not my experience in part because there are some myths about what this is; and largely because so few people have a sense of their self-worth or have really experienced unconditional love.  Let me explore this further.

Myth 1: the belief that I have to be on 24/7

There are those that believe firmly that connection is about responding in a unique way to every comment that they receive on any post that they put up in the digital world.  They spend hours cultivating relationships with people that they consider to be established with a huge following in the hope that some of their success will rub off on them – they tell themselves they have lots to learn from these guys and that ingratiating themselves with these folk is a small price to pay for rewards like visibility.

This is really giving away bits of your soul one piece at a time; it is not connection.  It leads to fatigue on so many levels and it is not a game I will play.  I want to engage on posts that resonate with me at some level or where I feel I can add something of substance.  If you play the numbers game of quantity over quality the only one who suffers is you ultimately.  Remember it is quality not quantity that will get you noticed. 

Myth 2: connection for an ulterior motive

A few times this year I have really connected with someone through sharing similar ideas on a theme and they have felt the connection and invited me to be friends.  I have not hesitated as in each case I thought I had found someone with whom I could amplify shared ideas.  The promised conversation/Skype chat/ hangout (delete as appropriate) never happens and instead they start trying to sell their services to me directly or by sending me endless invitations to their webinars.  At that point I feel as if I am being spammed and it is hard to maintain the initial bloom of connection: it often withers and dies.

Conversely others cannot understand why you might reach out to connect just for the sake of it.  They are waiting to be spammed or at the very least feel that there must be a reason for your support, an expectation that they will purchase one or more of your services.  They feel a tad anxious and find it hard to see the opportunity for what it is and grab it with both hands.

What is happening here is that people are unable to trust the process and just enjoy the connection or build on the initial connection.  At some level they are still being driven by fear: fear that if they don’t use this opportunity to sell they will lose it.  Fear can also translate into an inability to trust in the goodness of another human being perhaps because they have little experience of that.

Myth 3: politeness is essential in any exchange

I have found especially in corporates that there is a tendency towards politeness whatever the nature of the engagement.  It kills any meaningful exchange because it becomes clear very quickly that it is just another mask that the real person hides behind.

There is confusion between politeness and respect.  Every interaction requires mutual respect to be meaningful and that can be held much more lightly than politeness.  Put it this way how much are you respecting someone when bound by the rigours of etiquette you feel unable to give them the direct, honest feedback they need to progress for fear of hurting their feelings?

When you boil it all down, you could substitute connection for unconditional love…no wonder it is so tricky.  How many people have ever experienced that?

I feel very lucky to include myself in that category because I have two gorgeous daughters who in their own way share with me and tell me that they love me and a husband who appreciates me on a regular basis: this makes me rich indeed.

But it doesn’t stop there.  When I was wading through porridge and my business was a relatively new concept, I had a mentor who believed in me.  She could see what I was becoming and gave me regular FREE mentoring.  The nurturing I received was my business lifeline and kept me going through some dark times.  I learnt so much from her unconditional giving – it gave me a model for how I wanted to conduct business with others.  So now I talk about loving people and their businesses into being.  The irony is that the more I give without attachment, the more I receive.  Imagine a world where everybody felt that someone was supporting their back – how great would that be?

It’s about being in it for the long game.  18 months after I had reconnected with my mentor, I made my biggest investment ever as a business owner.  I chose to make that investment with her, the person who had placed their belief in me.  This is how to create sustainable business.  Hanging out together, we ended up creating a programme together which is about to morph into something bigger and better this autumn, something I have desired for a long time and if you had told me this was going to happen even a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed you…..It is one of the main reasons I always have an initial conversation with potential coaching clients to check that there is a good fit and that I can really support them actualise their dreams; and also because I only want to work with conscious business owners.  In other words the vetting process works both ways.

To wrap up, what I am saying is that if love and integrity are the intention behind your actions, you will create a business that is sustainable. Implicit in all of this is the fact that this only becomes possible as you expand your self-awareness.  This is a prerequisite for success in the new paradigm.  The great thing is that if you are still flailing in the embryonic stages of your business, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Connect to source and your self and then others and you will start to experience flow.  In practical terms, if you are local I have just set up a monthly meet up, which is free.  You can book into the July Link4Coffee in Hitchin here – four people rebooked for the next one as soon as the last one finished that’s how good it is.  If you are ready to experience deep connection and allow your soul to reveal itself then consider getting in touch to join us for the next Sacred Space for the Soul gathering on Friday 27 June where the theme is connection.

Mindfulness: what’s all the fuss about?

mindfulness comedyHot on the heels of the launch of the all party parliamentary group on Mindfulness, Kate Griffiths has written an article showing why it it is only a matter of time before mindfulness is taught in schools.  Using Carl Rogers’ maxim of what is most personal is universal, the article that follows is a true story.

This week I want to share a very personal story because it is a great illustration of how mindfulness works, why it is growing in popularity and why I incorporate it into my own programmes.  It will also show you the power of the work that I do and give you ideas on how you can apply mindfulness as a tool in your own life.

Let’s face it you have probably had plenty of OMG moments and one thing that is guaranteed is that you will have many more.  Wouldn’t it be great to have tools in your back pocket that gave you greater resilience so that the next time you got bitten on the bum you would be able to bounce back far more quickly?

A little while ago, I found myself in a position where I needed to be away from my two young children for five days and nights.  That was a long time for me as quite a hands on parent and it felt like ages to my six year old who, in Aron’s words, is a highly sensitive child.  The only good thing was that I had one afternoon with them in the middle of this where I got to put them to bed then work for an evening before heading off again.

I first realised there was a problem when I picked up the girls from school.  The little one seemed to be holding her shoulders at a funny angle.  We went home and played and I even spent quite a while doing some healing on her as she relaxed lying down on top of me.  I mentioned it to their lovely nanny, who fortunately is also a reiki master and could use her healing hands too.

Everything started to unravel a bit the following morning over breakfast in the hotel.  I was talking to some of my colleagues who started discussing the pre-course videos they had watched.  I had not received any. I felt my first sense of concern which increased when I discovered there was some pre-course work to do that I had not received either.  As soon as I got into the training room, I mentioned it and was given the exercise to complete during registration.  Then my phone rang, it was my eldest daughter.  I was slightly concerned as she told me that Daddy, who was also away, had not rung and they had rung all the grandparents.  What was up I thought?  Taking a breath, I listened and it seemed that they just wanted to check in with folk and the other calls explained why I had not been able to get through earlier.

Time was ticking and I still had not completed the exercise I needed for the first session and the guy who had lent me his laptop to watch the accompanying video needed it back.  Then the main man, the client really, decided at that moment to start a conversation with me.  He was fascinating but another ten minutes disappeared.  I went back to creating a piece of art, never my strong point, and one of my new colleagues popped by and said that A4 was not large enough that everyone else had done theirs on a piece of flipchart.  Another breath and I started again trying to find pens that I could use on a flip that were not just black, blue and red.  And then we were off into the whirl of the day.

I thought that that was it in terms of nasty surprises that day; little did I know what was going to happen later. Later than usual I called home to check on my family.  My youngest answered and remembering that they had planned to spend the afternoon in the park, I asked her if she had a good time there.  She burst into floods of tears and said they had not even gone to the park and that she was in so much pain she would never walk again.  For a split second I felt the tug on my heartstrings and then realised I could help her feel better straight away.  Fortunately I do breathing exercises with her regularly so I was able to start doing them with her over the phone.  Using those types of mindfulness exercises I was able to get her to relax and within 20 minutes she was virtually asleep.  Later in the week I took her to see a cranial osteopath who said she had experienced a mechanical twist that normally she would have shaken off but because she missed us so much, the power of her emotions had kept the twist trapped in her energy field, and the pain increased.

This is the kind of thing that can happen when you don’t listen to your body.  Mindfulness techniques help you get out of your head and feel what’s happening in your body.  Ultimately it puts you more in touch with who you are and helps strengthen your intuitive capabilities too. If you feel you could benefit from this kind of work then come and join us for the next mindfulness day on 22 May.  Contact us here to book your place.

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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.  Last chance to book on the next mindfulness day on 22 May.  Contact us here to book your place.

Self-mastery: the key to transformation

every conversation mattersIn this article, Kate Griffiths explores the role that conversations play in the desire to bring a new way of being, working and connecting into common reality.  She also explains why it feels as if the shifts are not happening fast enough for some and what you can do about that if that is the perspective you are coming from. And the vital key in all of this is who you are being as that is what affects the pace of change the most.

This week I have been involved in a G+ conversation in which two people spent many hours unpacking the nuances within two words – empathy and sympathy.  A conversation sparked by David Amerland’s recent Sunday Read.  Part of me was in awe with their diligence and ability to keep on deepening the enquiry.  What struck me most was what would happen to the quality of our conversations if we all took that much trouble over each word we used?  Something worth pondering for a moment perhaps…..

Ultimately conversations are all that you have.  If you live by the maxim that every conversation matters, then the tenor of dialogue will change whether it is in a family or work setting.  It means that each of us has the power to influence just by who we are being not by our role in a given structure.  It has more to do with the type of network that we have and the strength of ties within it: the level of trust that exists.  It also means that the possibility of leaderless organisations becomes a reality rather than a theory.  As the old power structures start to lose validity, this then makes way for collaboration to take centre stage.  This is exciting because it is a key component of the new way of doing business and fundamental to finding a way out of the old “growth is good” model.

If you are a pragmatist, you might be thinking well that all sounds plausible and so why aren’t I seeing it in my reality at the moment?  There is a great yearning for the emerging story to become mainstream and for mass adoption of it to happen.  That all takes time and as the adage goes it is all about the journey rather than the destination.  That said why is it not as prevalent as it might be in society?  There are many reasons and yet first and foremost when we take a deeper look into systems theory, the first phase of any transition is chaos.  Looking from the outside, everything looks a mess and yet in every system with time, you come to a point of dynamic stability.  Then there appears to be order and yet there is still a sense that everything could move and change in an instance.

At a deeper level, it all has to do with trust.  You have to keep the faith that you are not a cog in the machine that you are a significant player in your system even though you cannot see the ramifications of your actions.  On a practical point for an entrepreneur that may mean saying no to work opportunities that whilst bringing the money in take you away from your passion and your purpose.  As Charles Eisenstein has said each and every one of us has a gift to offer the world and it is our duty to discover that and live out our purpose.

It can also be very lonely when you are carving out your own path.  As human beings we love to connect with others and that is positive.  Notice what happens though if this desire is taken to its extreme.  It stops being healthy and becomes more about the need to belong.  If that happens to you, it is very likely that you will be willing to do quite a lot to fit in, to be part of the group, to be accepted.  If you take an honest look at your life, you will probably find times when you did that.  The price is that you stop hearing that deeper yearning within which is all about your calling and being your own person.  For me a helpful metaphor is to see yourself as a flower whose essence will attract people in be they friends or clients.

Another reason why all this can seem so hard and insurmountable is the pace in which you operate; the busy nature of your life.  How much time do you give yourself for reflection?  There is so much information available via the internet and you are bombarded by it all the time.  This may be because you are afraid of missing out or because you have the seeker pattern in which you always look for answers in your external reality from books and others.  At some level though it probably has something to do with a lack of belief in yourself, that you are not enough.  The truth is that you have all the knowledge you need just so long as you connect with your own inner teacher.  Breaking that pattern takes courage and practice.

There is one more level of resistance that gets in the way of the new story taking centre stand that is worth exploring in all this and that is the desire for safety.  Consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  The first level is physical and is about having your basic needs met such as a roof over your head and food on the table whereas self-actualisation where you bring your whole self into all that you do is at the top of the pyramid.  So what does safety look like?  Many equate safety with money.  I have seen my own clients start to get stressed when they cannot see how they will continue to provide for themselves and/ or their families if they totally embrace the new.  If you get too low down the spiral then withdrawal from the stuff you love comes next as you shut down as a way to control and cope with the situation.  As a minimum this view can lead to conflict and potentially paralysis or lethargy, as one response to that lack of safety is to do work that does not spark the passion in order to pay the bills.  Therein lies the conundrum; you are still operating within the framework of the old paradigm.  From another angle, there is no amount of money that you can possess that will make you feel safe in the world.  Like so much our sense of safety or lack of it comes from within.

Shifts are also subtle.  Think about the butterfly that flaps its wings in China.  The changes in the air current there then lead to a tornado in the United States: an outcome that cannot be seen when the action is taken.  This is also a metaphor for the impact that you can have when you show up and engage in meaningful conversations.  It is quite liberating when you start to think about life like that because it shows that YOU do matter and just by being you are making a difference.  You are not in this alone either.  Be clear about what you want and then start moving towards it.  You may end up at C rather than B and your dream may evolve over time.  None of that matters it is about taking the first step and then keeping on keeping on.  In short the two things you need for self-mastery are persistence and discipline.  I would love to hear your thoughts about this 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.  May is her birthday month she is doing a special offer on her time to think days – undivided attention for six hours that includes lunch – so book in before the end of May to receive that.

What’s your story? Is it about surviving or thriving?

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st ethelburga and gherkin_LGIn this article, Kate Griffiths explores how stories shape the world we live in; how some of them are ones that we consciously weave and others are much less conscious.  To some extent it depends on what you choose to believe.  A belief is just a thought that you have had many times so that you see it as truth.  She reminds you that what you focus your attention on grows. 

Let’s start with the juxtaposition in the image for this post.  You are looking at the Gherkin, a building in the heart of the city of London that for many represents money, power and certainly the old story of which I will share more in a minute.  However you are viewing it through the archway of St Ethelburga’s, a Medieval church that was destroyed in the IRA Bishopgate bombing in 1993 and then rebuilt and opened as a centre of peace and reconciliation.  For me this image represents two worlds colliding….

Let me explain further.  My mother was dismayed when I said that I no longer watched the news.  She felt that I would not be aware of what was happening in our world.  For me it was a conscious choice as most news whether it is what you read in the papers, listen to on the radio or watch on the TV, has a negative spin.  An unrelenting diet of this can lead to fear and ultimately a sense of hopelessness.  A belief that there is nothing that you can do to halt the destruction.

Interestingly, studies by neuroscientists have shown that our brains find it easier to remember negative information. This is all due to the functioning of the amygdala, a primal part of our brain located in the brain stem. The purpose of the amygdala is to be our early warning system for any danger that may be in our vicinity. It creates the fight-or-flight response we feel when we are afraid. This is to ensure our survival. This aspect of human nature is the foundation on which marketers like Bernays based their work.

In other words, this is what Charles Eisenstein and others call the story of separation.  It is based on the belief that we are separate individuals living amongst isolated individuals.  It condones self-interest and suggests that my self-interest is likely to be at the expense of your self-interest.  The narrative suggests that we live in a hostile environment.  The whole focus of life is survival.

When I reflect on that narrative, it leads to a deep sense of sadness and helplessness.  It causes so much pain and it is not a world that I want to be part of.  Doug Breibart described it in this way:

What does it mean when the hope and the promise of the #AmericanDream   stops two stations short of the Boomer generation,  just in time to decimate their savings and security and eliminate an entire job strata leaving nothing in substitution to provide salvation.

What does it mean when the Endangered Species Act is a light to the salvation of species under threat is threatened within a decade; while science reports global species disappearances on a monthly basis that maps to our own global extinction.

What does it mean when the greatest constitutional government, and democratic country in the world experiences its government brought to its knees, and its financial operations threatened with shut down.

Alternatively when I watch the trailer for the forthcoming film of Joanna Macy’s work, I am filled with joy.  Last year I bought a copy of Velcrow Ripper’s film Occupy Love and held a couple of viewings of it for those in my tribe who are keen to be part of the emerging story.  The numbers of people that believe that there is a new way of being are growing all the time and it is an energizing space to occupy.

Some of the key elements of this new narrative are that the whole purpose of our being here is to experience connection.  Real connection with others only comes when we have found a way to connect to ourselves and to source. We are meant to be in relationship with others that is one of the main reasons for our existence.  Everything we do to others we do to ourselves.  Every act however small has significance.  This is because we are plugged into the greater consciousness through the invisible divine energetic web of connection.  Each of us has a unique gift to give the world and the purpose of our life is to express our gifts.  Encompassing all of this is the view that everything is sacred.

Close your eyes and feel into both these stories: the story of separation and the story of connection.  Which one gives you hope?  Which narrative enables you to be whole?

For me without doubt, it is the second one.  There are miracles happening every day.  When you watch George Monbiot’s video about what happened when wolves were reintroduced into the ecosystem of Yellowstone Park, you will see they had a fundamental and positive impact not only on the wildlife populations and vegetation but also the physical geography in terms of what happened to the rivers.

Recently I explored what connection looked like with an amazing group of people in a workshop facilitated by Debbie Warrener.  A common thread in each story was that it came out of something unexpected.  In other words we need to learn how to get out of our own way then as Arundhati Roy writes,

Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.

Doug Breibart described it very well when he said

What does it mean when the eyes of the world are allowed to see, the ears of the world are allowed to hear, the voices of the world are allowed to speak; and a million small groups and collectives begin to connect and align and harmonise their efforts and contributions toward serving the needs and interests of a global commons. …..It means there is hope. 

You too can be part of this new story.  The first step is connection.  You can start this journey by embracing uncertainty and living on the edge of the known and creating from the unknown.  If you or your organisation wants to find out more then contact me and I will be happy to show you.  Also I would love to hear your thoughts 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.  The next one will be here in Great Offley on 9 May.  She also teaches 8 week mindfulness courses at Harmony in Hitchin; the next two start on Thurs 8 May in the evening and Mon 12 May in the morning.  If you prefer, get in touch with Kate to set up an initial consultation to explore working one to one.

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.