Monday, 24 December 2012

Pain, Suffering and Laundry

It's a character flaw on my part; the minute someone says to me " should really..." my heels dig in and I generally do the opposite. I was like this as a child and as a grown woman, I've only got better at doing the opposite of what I "should" be doing. It doesn't matter if the advice is good, accurate, well meaning or initial reaction is intractability. I just don't do what I'm told.

Like all 'flaws', it's a useful response. It means that I sanity check advice first. I don't blindly follow any one or doctrine. I critique the advice I'm given...and then I do the opposite anyway. My stubbornness makes me difficult to bully, bowing into peer pressure doesn't happen. I've learnt to trust that immediate response.

Since I last posted on my thoughts on Positive Mental Attitude and whether I 'should' have one, I've continued to think about it. One of the things that struck me comes from a Buddhist saying: 

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional

Why is pain inevitable? It's a harsh and bitter to pill to swallow. No one wants to be in pain. I look to biology for this: what is pain? Pain is a sensation. At it's core, that's all it is. A sensation. It happens for a very good and logical reason, it's a feedback system between our  mind, body and environment that is meant to keep us safe and well. There is a medical condition called Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis (CIPA), it's a rare and a debilitating condition where the sufferers are not able to feel pain, heat or cold. Sufferers can't tell when they've been injured, so can walk around on broken limbs, develop infections they were completely unaware of; some can't even control their bladders or bowels. They experience no feedback from their bodies at all.

So physical pain, although it's uncomfortable, is a necessary survival mechanism.

Emotional pain, I believe is also a necessary survival mechanism. The ability to feel a whole range of emotions in reaction to a situation or circumstance is emotionally healthy. To feel grief, anger, disappointment, grumpy, low...all of these things point to the healthy functioning of our emotional feedback system. They are pointing out that something isn't working, your attention is required. It can be neither comfortable or pleasant to sit with these emotions. They are painful.

But you know what? That's okay. Here's the thing, it's supposed to hurt. It's supposed to hurt when you say goodbye to someone you love. It's okay to be angry because you've been let down or betrayed. It's okay to be disappointed because something didn't work out.

Feel the emotions for what they are. Emotions. 

Suffering comes from being stuck in those emotions. Suffering comes from the stories that are created out of the pain. The internal dialogues that continually undermine. In Buddhist terms, it's about attachment. I like that idea. 

I think of my emotions being something like a washing line, strung out in my garden on a warm sunny day. The stories I tell myself about a situation or what I'm feeling are the clothes I hang up to dry on the line. I can do a dark wash and hang negative thoughts, or a white wash - hanging the light things to reflect the sunshine; or I could just do the laundry, let the clothes dry without judging how they look, put them away and enjoy the garden.

What is the appropriate response when dealing with physical pain? Attending to the cause, removing it if possible and healing the injury. Why should the appropriate response be any different to emotional pain? 

*   *   *

Not a terribly seasonal post I know, but that's where my thinking was going and I wanted to write it down. 

The last quarter of 2012 has not been easy. Flow turned to stagnation, in both my work and emotional spheres. This has led to me re-thinking much of what I learnt doing NLP and living in it's aftermath. It's clear to me that I have more to learn. I will not abandon this blog, I will continue to think about Life, the Universe and Everything and post my musings here. I hope you continue to find it useful. 

My wish for you all over the festive season, if indeed you are celebrating it, is that you and yours are happy, safe and well. May 2013 bring you prosperity, good luck, opportunities, love and fun.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Going with The Flow

There's been a bit of a debate that raged over in an NLP Facebook page that I frequent. I threw my tuppence worth in and then took a step back. I was somewhat surprised by the vehemence of the argument, but then over the Internet, people will argue their opinions on red onions with the stridency of a fundamentalist religious believer. When it got to that stage, I took a step back and considered the bones of the argument itself.

It was about Positive Mental Attitude.

How about that eh? Who'd have thought people would get all hot under the collar from that?

NLP purists argue that it's your attitude that dictates your reality. Your attitude creates the filters through which you experience life. In other words, if you're an optimist good things are there for you and conversely, if you're a pessimist, Life will give you lemons.

To a certain extent, I think there's a lot of weight to the positive argument. Depending on your filter, you'll see opportunity or difficulty. NLP has quite a few good strategies and techniques to get yourself into a positive state, to give you control over your thinking and emotions. These strategies and techniques are incredibly useful.

I did my NLP training a couple of years ago and since then, my internal experience of Life has been far more enriched and considered. The biggest thing it has given me, is awareness. 

The thing is, I'm not an NLP purist. If you ask me about specific techniques and strategies, I'll have to stop and think about it. I can do it, but it might take me a moment or two. For me, NLP is about flexibility and attitude. 

I spent two months during a summer two years ago, with my father before he died. It was perhaps one of the most profound experiences I've had and it rocked me to the very core. When I returned to my life in Norwich, I went to see someone, who suggested that I'd experienced "challenges". Ladies and Gentlemen, it's a testament to my self-control that I didn't pick up the metal folding chair I was sat on, and beat the man to death with it. Challenges? Really?

It was the trivialising of that profound experience which fuelled my rage. And yes, it was rage. Perhaps a little bit over the top, you might say. Perhaps. I got off the chair and haven't seen him since.

NLP, ultimately is about easing suffering. It's about: not making a bad situation worse.

The problem I have with the strident defenders of Positive Mental Attitude is that they argue that there is no such thing as a "bad situation", it's only "a challenge" that you're failing because of a poor attitude. If you change your state, no problem.

Part of my resistance to the paradigm of Positive Mental Attitude comes from the fact I'm a writer and a Pagan. As a writer I am driven to communicate Life's experiences; as a Pagan, the natural world informs my spirituality. My own experiences include: joy, love, laughter, friendship and also, grief, disappointment, pain. I have suffered. My Life is a rich mix of these things. If I was happy, happy, happy all the time, would my life be as rich?

NLP has meant I experience the lows without fear. In fact, there are days when I positively enjoy my moodiness. I relish my grumpiness. I experience these moods knowing I'm not stuck in them. They pass like the rain in winter.

Nature is a great teacher and many of my Facebook posts reflect the metaphors Nature and Science contributes to life. 

You see, if we are the sapling, we need the sun and rain to flourish. The wind to blow off the leaves and the deadwood. The change in seasons to bring periods of rest and growth. NLP has given me more flexibility. Why would I need it, if there wasn't a stiff wind to bend with?

The stiff wind, the low moments, are all part of Life. For me there is power in these experiences. They are the teachers. Great insight comes from them. Insight, I could not have gained with the highs.

Being able to say to those around me: I'm having a really hard time right now, gave the people around me, the opportunity to give me the comfort I needed. I try to return the favour, sometimes more successfully than others, but I do try. There is a great joy in being able to comfort. It reminds us we are not alone. Sharing compassion and love are rich experiences in themselves.

The Work of Byron Katie and Buddhism continue to inform my learnings. I think of myself as a student of Life, not a teacher. This blog is about sharing my thoughts on my experiences, with a hope that you, my readers might find it a trigger for your own thoughts. I don't have answers, I only have more questions.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Control - to be, or not to be?

There have been three excellent bits of writing which have stopped and made me think this week. It started with Super Coach's Michael Neill's Monday morning e-newsletter and continued with Chris Morris and Stephen Woolston. Each in their own way, talking about Life and the effect our perceptions have upon our experiences. I'd recommend you having a look to see what you think of their work. These are all men who are well experienced and qualified in their areas of expertise.

Me? I'm just throwing in my tuppence worth.

What is reality? How do you perceive it and Life around you? These are the big questions personal and spiritual development try to answer. I say 'try', because I believe there is no one answer, no one way which is right above all others. Ultimately, we all bring to our lives our experiences, hopes and dreams and for me learning is the key.

Being aware of where you are in The Moment, being able to recognise how you are feeling and thinking, is an incredibly powerful place to start. In this, I would follow Richard Bandler's thoughts on leaving out the 'why'. The 'why' can lead into so many justifications which can be a dead-end road. Sometimes we really don't know why. Why people choose to behave the way they's a mystery - all we know is that they did it, and we live with the consequences.

As I wrote that last paragraph, I realised I'm bringing in learnings from Buddhism as well. A bit of detachment and acceptance is part of this process. Being able to let your thoughts be what they are, without judging them, buying into them or believing them gives you more room to manoeuvre. Meditation and trance is a great way to still the mind and to learn how to be. 

My mind is like a troop of chattering monkeys. Any meditation which starts: let your mind be still, go blank...that's a non-starter for me. Instead, I give my mind something else to do. I focus on repeated phrases and I particularly like the meditations from Jack Kornfield in A Path with Heart. 

How much control do you have in your life? This was Michael Neill's question. I think it's a valid one. I like the fact that the point he was raising is that it's okay not to feel or be in control. That giving up on the illusion of control, leaping into the chaos and being well, as you deal with all manner of situations is the authentic response.

Are we really in control? No. I'm with him on this one. I'm not in control of my government, the World, the economy, my family, my lover or my child. I sure as hell can't make them do what I want...believe me, I've tried. That is what Byron Katie calls arguing with reality. And yes, I did and I only lost 100% of the time. Do I control my thoughts? Do I control how I feel? Umm....I can. I've learnt to guide my thinking in certain circumstances, to boost my mood when I've got to do something to meet my responsibilities. But by in large, I'm not blessed with an over-abundance of energy. I've learnt, I don't have to. Things get done, or they don't. 

Mostly, I've learnt to work with my body, work with my thinking, moods and energy levels. It's created more of a flow. I realise now that NLP has given me flexibility and more options. This has been it's greatest gift to me. 

This has been a bit of a ramble. I suppose I don't really have a point, per se. If I do, it's simply this: be well.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


Be yourself. Good advice isn't it? But it's not always easy, nor is it as straightforward as it might seem. In daily life we act out different roles: parent, child, sibling, employee, employer, partner... We adjust ourselves to the company we keep. After all, standing out in a crowd is supposed to be good, but mostly we really want just to get along.

If we are surrounded by like-minded people, who share our values, beliefs and goals, it's much easier. They are the glue that holds families and groups together.

Not so easy, if your day-to-day life is living and working with people who are not on the same wavelength. You are forced to choose two options. You conform. You laugh at their jokes, try to look like they do, act like they do, think like they do. Or you rebel. You stand up for yourself, you look different than they do, defend your identity aggressively.

Both options are isolating. If you're acting in your daily life, you draw your energy from illusions and you never really fit in. It's a lie. You're fracturing yourself which causes a whole gamut of unpleasantness: ill health, depression, stress. You're alone in a crowd. You might say what they think, laugh at their jokes, but are still lonely because this fracturing can still be sensed by those around you. They don't believe you and don't entirely trust you because of it.

If you feel like you must constantly defend your identity against people who don't think like you; it's a battle. Conflict is inevitable. You against the world, and boy is the world out to get you. People just don't understand. Teenage rebellion, but in an adult arena.

Here's the thing: life is short. We are like footsteps in the sand: we make brief impressions and then are washed away by the incoming tide. Life is too short to be lying to everyone around you about who you are, or having to defend yourself constantly.

The third way? Sometimes it is better to hold your tongue, to go with the pack. Fighting to be heard is a tiring way to live. Sometimes you do need to stand up for yourself, acknowledge your values, principles and rights. 

It's okay to be you. However you really are. By being yourself, acknowledging your uniqueness, it allows other people to see you for who you really are. And if you're insulted by being yourself, for being different - the person who is trying to hurt you is actually just stating the obvious with malicious intent. If you are comfortable in your own skin, the malicious intent slides away and ultimately, shows their true colours. It actually says nothing about you and everything about them.

Accepting yourself: your strengths, weaknesses, foibles, quirks, humour...all of it, means you know who you really are. You know what works and what doesn't in your life. After all, you're living the reality of it. It's not a quick fix. Life has a funny way of throwing up situations, you weren't expecting and shaking your resolve. Plans can fly out the window in the face of challenges. 

There are over 7 billion people now living on this planet. It's okay to be you. In fact, by being the most you, you can be, you'll inspire the people around you. I figure we need more authentic, switched on, aware and inspiring people. So speak your truth, live your life the best way you can. 

Because Life is short. Get out there and Live it!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Taking Time Out

Sometimes we need different things: a kick up the back side, a hug from a friend, silence, excitement, stimulation, hard work. It's important to recognise, acknowledge and meet your needs. At the moment, I need some time to reflect and to re-energise.

Yes, I could change my state, wind myself up and go forth and be fabulous. But at the moment, quiet contemplation is where I'm at.

It's too easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life and to expend a huge amount of energy being busy and productive. 

The thing is, if you don't look after yourself, you're not going to be able to meet your responsibilities at home, at work or to your family. Looking after yourself isn't selfish. It's necessary. There are some things that really can wait 5 minutes.

Stop for a minute.

Feel your breath as it enters and leaves your body. What does your body need right now? It needs your next breath. That's all. In this instant, that's all that matters. 

The sun will rise tomorrow, the earth will dance through the universe.

These things happen whilst we are breathing.

It's hard at the moment. I don't know anyone who isn't carrying worry. Who isn't concerned about their finances, their loved ones, their health and wellbeing. I see it in the faces of the people on the street, as they drive to work in the morning, as they try and keep it together. If we're finding Life a bit hard, maybe it's time to find compassion for ourselves, so we can be compassionate to other people.

We're all trying to figure out what we're doing here on this Earth. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn't. And do you know what - that's okay. It's okay to be confused, worried and scared.

But tomorrow, the sun will rise and the earth will continue to dance around the universe.

Every day is a new beginning.

So taking some time to breathe, to relax; it means you'll be better able to deal with what lies in front of you. It's not self-indulgence; it's necessary. Even if it's a few minutes every day just sitting, staring out the window and being aware as the breath enters and leaves your body.

Be well darlings.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A New Look

Lighthouse image supplied by Stuart Monk
All round awesome photographer

I have had a bit of a revamp.

What do you think? Do you like?

I've spent the morning going through my blogs and choosing new designs, tightening up the side-bars and generally tidying up. I like it, but I would value your feedback, because this blog is not just about me and what I think.

Also, if you work in personal development as a coach, mentor, NLP Practitioner or are a therapist of a particular flavour, send me your link and it would be my pleasure to add your website/blog to the Lighting My Way section. 

Blogging is as much about building an internet community, as it is about being a platform for one's voice. There's a reason this blog is called The Lighthouse Network.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Past, Present and Future - where are you?

You can't have a better tomorrow if you don't stop thinking about yesterday

Anyone working in Personal Development is motivated by the belief that people can make their tomorrows better. How a person gets there...well that's where the arguments start. Freud began psychoanalysis and talking therapy which has had a major impact on counselling and therapies of different flavours. 

Hear Richard Bandler talking about talking therapies and you're going see a man on his soap box and hear a lot of swearing. Bandler believes that talking therapies involve taking clients through their most painful experiences and re-living every last detail. Don't get me wrong, he's scathing for a reason, he doesn't want his clients to suffer and he believes that all talking therapies do, is cause clients to suffer and suffer again.

I'm not sure I am with him 100% on this. I believe that a client can learn about why they made the choices they did, if indeed they had any part in the decision-making that caused their suffering. I do believe being self-aware and self-analysis are useful. Recognising your patterns of behaviour, triggers, people that don't bring out the best in you....these are things which can be incredibly useful in self-development.

However, I think he is absolutely right. There comes a point when a line has to be drawn under the past. After all it's done and dusted. We've all got our escalator moments; arguments in which we wish we would have been more clever, more cutting or would just rather not have indulged. We all have regrets. Situations in which a do-over would be a blessing.

Unfortunately, it's not going to happen. 

The Past is done. And that's a huge blessing. We don't have to live there. Every time we bring our pasts into our present, it brings poison. We punish the innocents in our lives, because someone else punished us. We don't trust other people or worse, ourselves. We exist in suffering.

It blights our Future.

So how do we get our brighter Future? Well, many coaches will give their clients exercises to set goals, aims and objectives. There are timelines and Plans. After all, if you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?

Again, I'm not sure I'm with this 100%. Life can change between one breath and the next. There are a whole raft of things which can take your Life Plan, shake it up and spit it out. I can guarantee that however good and realistic your Plan, and all of the contingencies you may have in place, that you'll be hit, completely out of the blue by something you never could have foreseen. Just to clarify, I mean good things as well as bad, I'm not being negative here.

But a real issue that many people have by living in the Future, is when they get to their goal, they can be left scratching their heads. It's not what they expected. They can be left disappointed, deflated and confused. "I was supposed to be happy!"

What's the answer?

It's here in your Present.

You've survived your Past. The proof Ladies and Gentlemen is staring at you in the mirror. You're still breathing in and out. Therefore, stop a moment and pat yourselves on the back. You lived through it. Whatever it was, no matter how horrendous or painful; you're here now.

This is where you take control. 

First, listen to what you're saying to yourself. Look at the pictures you make in your head when you start re-playing the movie of the Past. An NLP Practitioner will tell you to play different movies, swish the Past away and that little nagging voice...well, stick a clown's nose on it, give it big shoes and a squeaky voice. These are useful techniques. If you want to learn how to do it for yourself, look up Get the Life you Want and Trance-formations, by Richard Bandler. Both books are packed full of useful tips and techniques to get yourself on a good path. Or find an NLP Practitioner near you to help you to do this for yourself.

Secondly, I've found The Work of Byron Katie to be incredibly useful. If you visit her website and have a good look around, she's got free downloads of the work sheets with instructions and there's also a useful iPad app, though you've got to pay for that. Her take on internal dialogue is slightly different. She says that thoughts are like rain, they just fall. The problems start when you believe them and give them power by making stories around them. Her approach is much like Buddhism, the cause of suffering is attachment. She believes that if you do The Work, you don't let go of your thoughts, they simply let go of you. They fall away of their own accord.

Making the promise to yourself, that you will do things differently is enough to get you started. How you continue, well that's your Path and you'll figure things out. You'll find out what works for you.

How do you make your Present better? Well, a great way to start is with gratitude. There are blessings all around you. A journal of gratitude or a book of blessings is a brilliant way to remind yourself that things might be difficult at the moment, but look at what you have got. Even if, at the end of a hard day, you say to yourself 'thank goodness, I never have to do today again,' it's a great way of re-inforcing that tomorrow is a new day, a new beginning...a chance to do things differently. 

If you are in the midst of a difficult or challenging situation, staying focused in the Present is the only sane strategy. Procrastinate the worry, there's nothing to be gained by dragging it into your Present. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Find the joy now. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And finally, you're not alone. Support for you is out there, wherever you are.

Be well my darlings.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Which Way is Up?

Within the Meta Model in NLP, there's a couple of interesting concepts in the way people have a sliding scale of referencing their beliefs either internally or externally. In other words, do people look outside of themselves for their truths, or do they base their decisions and actions on what they think and feel? Hands up if you've ever had lunch with an externally referencing person, they go around the table asking everyone what they're having before making their decision about what they're going to eat (and are usually unhappy with their choice).

Actually, I have been that person. 

I have been the person who reality checks things with other people, rather than trusting my own judgement. The problem with this approach is manyfold. For a start, you have to trust that the people around you fully understands what's happening and they have to have your best interests at heart. I've been very lucky, I have been able to trust the judgement of those closest to me. 

But by far the biggest problem with this, is the lack of trust in myself. When I was going outside of myself for wisdom, what I was really saying is that I didn't trust myself to make the best decisions for me. This reinforces feelings of worthlessness and envy. Neither of which are of any use.

Things really began to shift for me, the more time I spent sitting with my feelings, no matter how uncomfortable or unpleasant they were. But the real change came when I started to accept myself, when I stopped giving myself a hard time, when I started enjoying spending time on my own.

Accepting yourself is one of the easiest things to say...and one of the hardest things to do. It means you take responsibility for yourself fully and you stand by the good, bad and ugly decisions you've made. It's a process, not the destination. Because, like everyone else, you still have days you wish would never end, and the days when you regret opening your eyes and getting out of bed. It means you take control of your internal dialogue, you catch the thoughts where you undermine yourself. It means you start owning up to the great things you do, the goodness in your Life and start taking pride in your accomplishments, no matter how seemingly trivial.

The trouble with constantly referencing externally, is that whilst you're stuck in that mentality, it's easy to slip into believing that other people have it much easier than you, that people have better and more fulfilling jobs, that other couples have better relationships; you slip into sour grapes.

Personally, I don't see the sense in that kind of thinking and it confounds me when I do see it. I think it's narrow and mean-spirited. I'm having enough challenges with my Life as it is, I sure as heck wouldn't want someone else's Life and their problems. You might think that other people have it easy, but in my experience those other peoples' Perfect Lives are their own personal Hells. 

I've also got too much to be getting on with to worry about what other people are doing. The time spent bitching about other people, could be spent in more pleasurable pursuits. Like hugging. Hugging and cuddling are the best remedies for feeling crap. Or going for a walk. Or just taking a few moments to breathe deeply. The attitude of gratitude is a fantastic remedy. Because once you start counting your blessings, you'll find it difficult to stop, even when the going gets challenging. Learning to be kind to yourself allows you to be kind to other people and about other people.

And I don't know about you, but I sure as hell think the World could do with more kindness.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Small Moments of Beauty

Sometimes it's the little things that we feel the most grateful for: Like a cup of coffee, a glimpse of sunshine on a cloudy day, an unexpected smile. And when we remember that we can actually create these small moments for others, our power to do good is unleashed and the world is literally changed in an instant. 
Paul Boynton - Begin with Yes

I'm a big fan of Paul's Facebook page. His messages are pertinent and timely. And this one, particularly struck a chord.

When my father was dying in Trinidad, I would stand outside in my brother's back yard and smoke like a train. As I stood there desperately trying to keep focused in the present, trying not to despair, keeping it together, I looked around and found beauty.

It was sometimes subtle: a butterfly, a small lizard darting amongst the plants or fire flies blinking in the darkness. It was sometimes spectacular: a flock of parrots raucously chatting to each other as they flew around the neighbourhood. Let me tell you, 1 parrot makes a whole heap of noise, a flock of 15-20...well, they are deafening.

Beauty was there. It reminded me that we are all part of this Life together, held by something more wonderful than we can imagine.

Back home in the real world. I carried on my 'normal' life. 

Sometimes, I need reminders that the beauty and wonder is still there. I have to make time to look. But they are still there: a furry caterpillar undulating up a sprig of lavender, the bright waning moon.

What moments of beauty can you find today? This is my challenge to you. Especially, if you're feeling tired, low and fed-up. What's there waiting for you to see? I'd really appreciate it if you'd share. 

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Personal Development Guru or Human Being

An article earlier on in the week, about Paul McKenna battling depression, sparked a heated debate on a Facebook, NLP wall. The debate itself didn't surprise me too much, but it did stay with me.

The debate was polarised into two camps: the first being - he's human after all and the second, quite vociferous - he had no right being depressed, he's supposed to be a guru.

The whole thing resonates with me because it's a bit of battle I wage within myself. Given the really quite poor choices I made in the past, what right do I have to say don't do this? My life and personal history has been far from drama-free...most of which was self-inflicted. How on earth do I guide people, knowing that I've done the same or worse myself? 

It also brings peoples' expectations of their personal development guides to the forefront.

It seems they are not allowed to make mistakes, or to have bad days, or to go through the trials and tribulations that all human beings go through.

Part of this is to do with expectations created within the media - politicians, actors and people who work within the public sphere often fall short of these high expectations. The Press and society tuts loudly in disapproval when the latest scandal breaks. The person we all thought was perfect fails again.

Personally, I can't trust someone who is totally charismatic and maintains an aura of permanent good cheer and/or other worldliness. In the personal development world, there are quite a few with the perfect facade. Their work borders on cult, as they wind their 'followers' up into a frenzy, charge them loads of money and head out to the next seminar/CD/book/DVD, breeding more dependence.

My problem with the 'always happy', 'always positive' persona is that it's not authentic. I don't care if the person I'm learning from doesn't have The Perfect Life. In fact, I'd rather know that they understand what it's like to hit rock bottom and have had to claw their way back to the sunshine. That they've used their own teachings to sort their own shit out.

But I suspect, I'm in the minority here.

And therein lies the problem for me trying to set up my own Personal Development business. 

I'm not willing to create a Perfect Life facade. I just can't do it. And if that's what it takes, well, I'm walking away. I have recently had some amazingly shitty days. I have felt honest-to-goodness despair, frustration and have disliked myself intensely. And it's all out there. I've vented on Facebook, twitter and Google +. So in 10 years time one of my clients could do some digging and find me effing and blinding about how crap things are - cue one disappointed person.

I've learnt some great skills, there is wisdom which I am trying very hard to incorporate into my daily life. Perhaps, I am still a student and will never become a teacher. I'm cool with that. I do still have so much to learn. I am up for sharing what I've learnt. If my life's work is to be the terrible warning, rather than the shining example, so be it.

I want to lead an authentic life. And that means owning the down days, the crap decisions, the days I don't like myself very much. 

On an end note, I feel for Paul McKenna. It's hard losing a parent. It must be so much worse never to be able acknowledge the pain and loss, to have to keep the facade going. I have much more respect for him now, because he was able to say it, like it was. Good on him.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Adventurer

It never ceases to amaze me, how a different perspective can really change things. A different view on an old problem, can bring about resolution; and things shift from then on incredibly quickly.

A lot of the work I've been doing has been about bringing my focus into the Present. 

Taking it away from the Past, because that's been and done, and obsessing about it, doesn't resolve what actually happened. It happened. And the best thing about it is the fact that it's done! Because it's done, I don't have to relieve the situation, the feelings all over again. 

Bringing my focus away from the Future. It hasn't happened yet. My focus was full of fear: what ifs, disasters lurking in the bushes, people waiting to stomp all over me, a vision of me being a mad old woman with cats all by myself.

All of this fear from the Past, worry about the Future, really buggers up the Present. It's hard to enjoy your next breath if you're in such pain. It's hard to see the people trying to love you when you're busy being angry about the stuff that happened so long ago. It's hard to be hopeful when you believe that you're doomed to repeat the patterns of the past. There really is no point.

The realisation that the Past and Future are mere constructs. They don't really exist except in the recesses of the mind, is so liberating. Their power to limit and constrict diminishes, with the realisation that it's all about attitude. Byron Katie has been instrumental in adjusting my thinking about reality. Her Work has honed and refined what Richard Bandler started. Have a look what she says about arguing with reality: you only lose 100% of the time. And as for Bandler, he's all about blowing limiting beliefs out of the water. If your life is determined by your perspective (is your glass half-full, half-empty or are you getting a jug to fill it up with?), then why not choose the perspective where you have fun?

Allowing the fear, pain and disappointment of the Past and Future, gives you the freedom of the Present. Everything becomes possible.

If you accept the Freedom of your Life, doesn't that make you an adventurer? Every day has surprises, beauty, laughter in it because it unfolds without your expectation. Nothing is disappointing.

Being the adventurer doesn't mean Life becomes Easy. 

It's funny, but when I've talked to people about this, 'easy' tends to come up in the conversation.

"It's easy for you to say that, it's not so easy to do."

I do wonder about where this expectation came from. Who said it would be Easy? And since when is Easy better? Bluntly, the expectation that personal development work should be Easy, is lazy thinking. It's lazy thinking coming from a place of weariness and despair. Nothing grows out of weariness and despair; only more of the same. It's impossible to be an adventurer if you stay at home in the same old, same old. It requires action, a willingness to try, to experiment. And when you're exhausted by your Life and it's limitations, it all starts with inspiration.

What inspires you? What excites you? What pleasures you?

My Facebook friend Paul Boynton, has a fabulous framework for getting you moving, it's called Begin with Yes.

And if you're trying a new way of thinking, a new perspective, a new way of living, it's bound to be a bit clunky at first. It's called learning, which means unless you are a savant, you've got to practice, work hard to catch the old patterns of thought until the new stuff beds in and becomes second nature.

Think this isn't possible? When you were a small child and you had to tie your own shoe laces by yourself for the first time...didn't it take you a few goes before you get it right? Worst case scenario is you end up with loads of grannie knots to stop your shoes from falling off - as long as you can keep going, tie them up again if they become's all that counts.

Where is your adventure going to take you?

Sunday, 19 August 2012

In Search of: Love

Love does not cause suffering; what causes it is the sense of ownership, which is love's opposite. 
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I spend a lot of time thinking about Love. Part of this fascination comes from my curiosity about relationships and the way people relate to each other, part of it is due to my romantic and idealistic nature; and then, there's the spiritual questor and philosopher in me that can't resist.

Apparently, there are lots of different kinds of love: familial, platonic, unconditional, conditional, romantic, religious, self-love etc. People really do like sticking things into boxes. As if it makes it any easier to understand.

We could start from the beginning. Love is a feeling. When a person experiences this emotion, their system is flooded with happy hormones which makes the sun shine brighter, their smile even wider. The absence of love causes all manner of physical and emotional problems. Children have been known to wither and die without it; growing up in an un-loving environment creates shocks that may take years to over-come and some people never do. Living without love can create a state of un-health and non-wellbeing.

The personal development industry moves to address these issues and it's so saddening to see the genuine suffering of so many. And all from the poverty of emotional experience. It seems to be the root cause of so much unhappiness.

I wonder if by trying to define Love causes part of the suffering? Or if it is more the lack of expression and acknowledgment? Sometimes I think people say "I love you" and there's so much more attached at the end of the sentence. The full-stop at the end of "I love you" is actually a colon and what comes after is a litany of expectation, demands and conditions.

I wonder what would happen if people say "I love you", enforced that full-stop and breathed through the silence.

Wouldn't this keep things really simple? Love would just be, what it is; with acceptance, reverence and joy. Just to be able to be acknowledged, for itself. I think there would be so much freedom: freedom to be yourself completely. There would be freedom from pain, because there's no disappointment, no lack, no expectation, no judgement. Nothing to cause discomfort.

And of course, Love is free to be expressed and experienced universally. Because, if you're not expecting love to be fulfilled by one individual - you are experiencing Love for yourself, so you don't need them to love you back, or even from a human being, you are free to experience Love all around you. You see it in your pets' eyes when they look into yours. You lavish it on your home, your economic endeavours, your community...there is so much abundance. 

I am Love; you are Love; we live in Love. 

How simple it is really, how incredibly complicated we try to make things.

Our soul journey then is the quest to come back to this simple state of being: joy.

Friday, 10 August 2012


After a particularly unsuccessful relationship, I took away a couple insights that I've found particularly useful and will share with you today. 

When I started writing essays for the various humanities subjects I studies, I was taught to state the definitions of the words I was using to formulate my argument. It's a standard part of academic writing and beginning your argument with clear frameworks means that you're less likely to go wandering off into the intellectual wilderness and never find your way home. It sets up your thinking, which informs your argument (because all essays are supposed to be arguments).

Please let me make it clear, I believe relationships are not arguments.

I do believe in communication within relationships (oh yeah, and I'm using relationships in the broadest sense of the word, not just loving, intimate relationships). I believe in communication, mostly because my own telepathy is pretty rubbish, and sometimes people do things which confuse and may make perfect sense to them...but leaves me scratching my head. Rather than try to rationalise or create stories around someone's actions, I'd rather ask.

When I first start getting to know someone, I like to find out their definitions of things. Firstly, because I'm nosy, I remain deeply interested in how people create their realities. Being a writer and an NLP Practitioner...only adds to this nosiness. The definitions people use reveal the frameworks for their thinking, it reveals how they construct their world and it because as human beings there will be tension between what they want and what they do.

I find people endlessly fascinating.

When you know where people are coming from, what their core values are, where their beliefs lie, you've got the foundations for a strong friendship or loving relationship.

I have found this to be very useful when talking about the vague words we use all the time. Consider 'love', 'friendship' and 'relationship'. 

It all sounds straightforward doesn't it? Not quite.

Using someone's definition assumes a couple of things: firstly, they are articulate and self-aware and secondly, that they will always follow through on their definitions.

You see, there exists a kind of schism between what I would like to be, as a person and what  I actually do. Within my behaviours there are paradoxes, anomalies and contradictions. And that's what makes human beings endlessly fascinating to me.

And what do I trust, when someone's behaviour and action are not joined up?

I trust the action. Always.

And I trust how their actions make me feel.

I once dated someone who claimed to be 'into me, big-time'. Yet, he was always late. He was stingy emotionally and he'd change/downgrade our plans at the last minute. I'd gently broach the subject, he'd say 'baby, you're fun and hot, of course I want to be with you.' I'd leave the conversations feeling insecure. In the end, I called things off.

I don't particularly like being called 'baby'. I'm a grown woman with a long and lanky teenager. I've gone past the age where being called 'baby' is cute.

And I didn't like how I felt around him.

And that was the other big lesson I've learnt in relationships.

It's not how I feel about someone, which I take most notice of now. It's how the other person makes me feel when we're together and when we're apart. But we'll maybe talk about that another time. 

So, has that been useful for you? What are your definitions? What are your partner's definitions? How do you resolve the differences?

Thursday, 2 August 2012


Desire is the key to motivation, but it's determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal - a commitment to excellence - that will enable you to attain the success you seek.
Mario Andretti

What do you want?
What would you like?
What do you need?
What do you desire?

Small innocuous questions aren't they? Bet they've got big resonance for you. Have you noticed the difference in the intensity when you ask yourself these questions?

I find them incredibly useful in goal setting. When you start trying to fill in the columns, you come to realise that the things you thought you wanted...well...those really live on the Like Section, the things you thought you start scratching your head and asking why and as for the things you desire...

How often do you feel desire? Wanton desire? And no, I'm not talking about sex. I am talking about the salivating mouth, churning, got to have/do this thing or you're going to explode! When did you last feel like that?

I bet you felt it when you were a small child, prepared to throw yourself on the floor and scream with the frustration of not having/doing the thing. Hopefully, you were encouraged not to share your emotions in quite such a loud and disruptive manner. Hopefully, you don't do that any more.

But, when you stop and consider, when did you want something that badly in your adult life? Did the fear of disappointment take over? Did you start to think desire was a bad thing because you might not get it? Do you talk yourself out of wanting something because if you get might not live up to your expectations?

Mario Andretti talks about determination and commitment as being key to success, desire being the mere starting point. I'm not sure I agree with him. I think it's desire that feeds and fans the flames of determination and commitment. Because, let's face facts here: Life doesn't always hand you the things you want. Sometimes, in order to get what you desire you have to dig deep into your resources, your determination and get up off the floor to carry on moving  towards your goal. There are shifts along the way to be made, sometimes the path to a goal is a long and winding road. Life may insist on adjustments.

In personal development terms, the safer version of desire is motivation. It's less primitive, more in control. 

But, I'm not sure about this whole control thing either. No, I'm not talking about the control that stops a person from committing mass murder; people, that's a good thing. I'm talking about that part of you that's afraid to let go of safety. There is no safety in nature, there are no guarantees either. So doesn't it boil down to 'Why not?'

What do you think? Tell me your experience of desire (not sex, please. This is *not* that kind of blog) and how did it work out for you? Are you working towards your goal? Did you have to change your plan? What is it like for you?

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Embracing the Power of 'No'

It occurred to me as I was driving home today that in the personal development, we focus on the positive. During my training, it was drummed home to me that the unconscious does not hear the negative, to use positive language only during hypnosis. Even my recent book review 'Begin with Yes' was all about the positive.

Today, I am thinking about my experience and the Power of No.


In itself, it's a very simple word. Two letters only. But the stories it brings with it are immensely complicated...and painful.

I started hearing NO from my mother. No, don't touch. No, you can't have sweeties now. No, you can't go play get the picture. But somewhere along the line it becomes No with additional subtext.

People say No and then a whole backstory is added, as if by magic. No, I don't want to go out with you, turns into No, you're boring, unloveable, undesirable and I don't like you. No, suddenly becomes a scary word. No, suddenly means I don't love you or I don't like you or I think you're a horrible person. And then it subtly changes, only other people are allowed to say No. After all, your parents said No to you, but you aren't allowed to say No to them. If you say No, you are a bad person and if you're a bad person, no one will love you, no one will want to be your friend.

Suddenly, No becomes all about rejection and powerlessness and helplessness. Hearing No and saying No are obviously two very different experiences. I would strongly argue that both are equally difficult, but for very different reasons.

Saying No is actually saying Yes, but to something else. For example No, I don't want to go to the pub with you; Yes I want to stay in my comfy clothes and watch crap on tv. 

Hearing No means that you have to adjust your plans, desires and behaviours. No, I don't want to go to the pub with you, becomes 'Damn. I have to either decide to stay in and watch tv with you, or go to the pub myself.' A frivolous example, but you see where I'm coming from?

Let's look at it using more serious examples:

No, I don't want to be with you as a lover, or friend because...[insert reasons here]

Ladies and Gentlemen, hold up your hands if you've never, ever had that experience. I don't care who you are, how enlightened you are...that experience of No, sucks. In fact, I'd go so far as to say: it totally sucks arse.

I will hold my hand up and say I have had my fair share of hearing No. I have heard No from people who should have loved and cherished me...and they didn't. I've had No from people who said they loved me and still said No. I have spent hours, days, weeks and months trying to get them to say Yes. And guess what, they never did. Even when they said Yes, it wasn't really a Yes. It was still No in the end.

The deaths of my parents taught me many valuable lessons. One of which was 'what's the worst thing that can happen?'

So someone says No, I don't want to be with you. I have learnt to think 'okay, I'll go spend time with the people who do want to be with me.' I stopped filling in the back-story for the other person, hearing No, reminds me there are other options. I feel hurt. What I do with it, well that's up to me. I can invite the Self-Pity Gnome in and we can have a great party together. I can choose to do something else. And there is always something else to do, other people to go and hang out with, other choices to be made, if I'm feeling up for it.

I have found in my experience, that the biggest, most unpleasant and hurtful Nos, have been blessings. It might have taken awhile to pick myself up off the floor, grab my self-esteem and head for the other options, but looking back on those people...if they'd have said Yes, it would have been a complete nightmare. A disaster. And I wouldn't be sitting here contemplating the Power of No.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Chatting to The English Sisters

A couple of weeks ago, the lovely English Sisters asked whether I'd 'meet' them for a Chat-View. I was so pleased to be asked. And excited! It was the first time I've been interviewed for this work.

I came away from this energised and inspired!

Here's the link:

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

What did you Learn Today?

One of the great things I get to do regularly, is look for inspirational quotes. They pepper my marketing work and the other work I do. I pick them up, try to remember them and off I go. I was struck by this question and I'm buggered if I can remember who it came from. So if you know, do feel free to let me know. In fact, I'd really appreciate it.

Anyway, despite my lack of attention of where it came from...this resonated with me on a deep, deep level. You see I'm a committed learner. Doesn't matter what I'm studying, I'm a happy bunny. It would be true to say that if I won an obscene amount of money tomorrow, I'd set up a multi-disciplinary centre for learning. I think they used to be called universities. I'd focus on any subject with the potential to improve peoples' lives: art, literature, science, get my drift. And to get in, a student would have to justify their being there. They'd have to argue how they would use their learning to help others or make the world a better place. There would also be places for the complete geniuses who are too lunatic to make it in the real world.

Hey! It's my lottery fantasy. It's not supposed to be realistic. The chances of me winning an obscene amount of money are severely limited by the fact that I don't do the lottery. I'm actually genetically incapable of gambling. I lose every time. Without fail. And it's cool really. Though setting up my learning commune would be very many shades of awesome. If there's anyone with an obscene amount of money who wants to invest it in purely philanthropic activities...I'm your bitch. Yes I am. Honest to goodness.

So, what have I learnt today?

Today, I have learnt that I am still learning. And it's exciting. 

You see, I'm having a rough day. And that's great! No, honestly, it really is great. Because it's become an opportunity to practice digging deep inside myself to find more resources. It gives me the opportunity to have a good old whinge and for that to be okay. It's giving me the opportunity to test out my beliefs to see whether they are robust. 

And the best thing about today? I can go to bed and tomorrow will be a new day, a fresh start, the chance to learn something else.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Thought for the Day

Because this is more of my 'professional' blog, I am more thoughtful about what I blog about and try to ensure that it's directly relevant to personal development, spirituality or whatever.

I've had a couple of ideas kicking about, but haven't got around to writing anything just about yet.

As you may (or may not) be aware, I hang out a lot on my social media. As a medium for keeping in touch with people, it totally rocks. It allows for connections with people I have 'known' for a long time, even if I've never met them.

One thing is for certain: Times are hard all over. Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances.

Unfortunately, my magic wand is all waved out. I can't make it better for everyone. I can't give anyone else a happily-ever-after and the Gods know, I would love to be able to.

What I can do is remind you that Times is Tough. Please be gentle with yourself and be gentle with the people around you. And when things happen out of your direct control, be the best friend you can to yourself, let kindness start with you. And if you can...

Monday, 18 June 2012

Who Would you be Without your Story - Byron Katie

"An unquestioned mind is the world of suffering." Byron Katie

Last Saturday, I went down to London with my friend and NLP Mentor Stephen Woolston. I hadn't realised it, but he is a big fan of Byron Katie, and when he saw I was interested, he suggested we travel together. It meant there were two 5 o'clocks in my day, something I'm not altogether very keen on, but needs must. It was either that or pay an exorbitant amount for a hotel in Central London.

While we were queuing to get in three people approached us and parted us to go straight through. It was Byron Katie herself! She paused and greeted another attendee and off she went. She was not even quite my height, but when she was on goodness, she seemed six feet tall. She really does exude the aura of calmness and determination that you sense in the YouTube clips and in her books.

We met up with some of Stephen's NLP friends, they were all trainers and very experienced in their fields, and frankly, they were just brilliant fun. Open minded, great sense of humour and they welcomed me into their midst without a second thought. By some lateral thinking we managed to bag some brilliant front row seats on the balcony, so for once I was not trying to peer over the back of some tall person's head. We were given copies of the Judge-Your-Neighbour worksheet in some very nice folders. 

Byron Katie came up on stage, talked a bit about herself and how The Work came to be and then we were all invited to fill out a work-sheet. The rest of the day was spent with Byron Katie inviting people to come up on stage and do the Work. There is nothing complicated or mystical about Katie's approach, though, I would make the argument that there are very, very strong parallels between The Work and Buddhism. The cause of suffering is attachment. She says that thoughts are like rain, they fall unbidden; our problems start with believing our thoughts. We see The World through our filters, therefore we create our realities and act as though they are true. If we take a step back and using inquiry, we see that it is our thoughts and reactions to situations and people that cause our pain and suffering. By doing The Work, we free ourselves from these attachments.

I cherish the abundance of her concept of Love. It is truly generous. The Work is all about Love, it is knowing that we are Love and her job is to awaken our minds and hearts to the reality of this. She did The Work with quite a few people, through inquiry they questioned their thinking and actions and came to see there was another way of living. She was relentless. It was amazing to see. The people she invited to come up on stage were suffering, by the time they hugged and thanked her and returned to their seats, they were lifted. They stood straighter, held themselves more firmly, the tenseness left their shoulders. And it was great to see how open they were with the other attendees afterwards.

The thing that amazes me is how simple and effective The Work is. And how similar to NLP. The Work has absolutely nothing to do with the content of a person's suffering. It addresses how suffering is manifested, challenges the thinking behind it and invites an end to it. The Work places responsibility squarely in the head of the person suffering; everything is a learning opportunity and it is through our relationships we have with other people that we learn about ourselves. She also teaches that we should thank the people who have taught us. 

I have found The Work incredibly powerful and moving. It has certainly enriched my thinking considerably. I am very tempted to do the facilitators' training. It would certainly add to what I can offer my clients. However, at the moment, I am content to sit with my learning and take things slowly. What I would say, is if you have the opportunity, the means and the inclination, visit her website, do The Work and if you can, see her live. It will be worth it.