Saturday, 17 December 2016

The Crazies.....

This is how it’s been going for me recently....
Messily. Stressily. Agitatedly. Exhaustingly. I-don’t-want-to-feel-this-way-edly.

Moving home; the second highest stress-inducer there is after bereavement, which it kind of is too. For me, in this case, anyway. And it’s Christmas time, too.

Why? Why is it feeling so tough? How am I being to experience this as 'tough'? That’s what I have been asking recently. ‘Stalking myself’ to see how I react to this whole moving thing. Watching lightly - corner-of-the-eye stuff, like watching butterflies, to see what it is I do to move house. 

The obvious is obvious: clearing stuff out - going through things to see if they warrant the moving and possible storage charge. That’s a tricky one in itself; do times of my life, and the photos, books, letters, crockery, clothes thereof have to prove themselves to me in order to stay? Does half my life have to be worthy of staying? Who says? It’s all worthy; it’s me! So, I recently decided to change my approach to the sorting; if I still like it it stays, if not, it goes. Yes, a sort of version of all the current books on Japanese and Danish clutter-clearing, but softer, more honouring of the life they have been attached to - mine. 

There seems such guilt around ‘having too much’, and yet out we all go, buying more much. I’ve been stepping into more gratitude and less guilt. More poignant tenderness than shame. More smiles than derisive laughter. (Well, some of the hair-do’s in the photos....!) Guilt helps no one. My take is that if I have these things, and have had, and have, the life I have, Aren’t I Lucky! 

So, lifting the guilt about, the resistance to, and the heavy burden of, revealed a path through and out of the fatigue.

Then came dealing with the fumbling, stumbling, ‘I’m-surely-going-mad’ness. And more crunching and crushing ‘I hope no one can see this’ness; I’m meant to be able to handle this; I teach how to handle things with more ease. I’ve taught it for 35 years, for goodness’ sake..... What is WRONG with me...???’ (Hark, the Herald Judgements Sing...!) I must have a serious illness... (Good Inner Panic-ers Rejoice...! It is the festive season after all.)

The frantic reasoning and management was clearly not working. What could I do? 
But, no, not that one. I’m not listening to that one. I CAN’T do that one; there is So Much To Do... 
But I did. I stopped. Only for a moment. But a real stop. Not an ‘I’m thinking about stopping’, whilst still careening along at 100mph. Not an emergency stop with screaming tyres and burning rubber, foot still firmly planted on the gas. And not a total collapse - a soggy sag, a flumph on the sofa, a despondent-give-up. Neither is a stop. Those are battle or victim. I know there is a place in between, I know there is. I just have to find my way there...

The place, being made by the very act of stopping, appeared the moment I stopped. Did I fix, hold, constrain, and resist my self? No. All I did was become very present to what I was doing. Not what I should be doing. Just what I was doing. Observing. Witnessing. Watching without judgement. That last bit is key; if I judged what I saw, I would immediately try to change it into a perceived ‘should’. I would interpret instead of observe. I would get caught up in the future should and lose the present now. 

So, what did I see? This is what I saw in the simple act of making myself a cup of coffee....

I click on the kettle whilst looking up at the mugs, and whilst moving towards the fridge for the milk. All at once... I know I can’t do them all at once, for they are one-at-a-time actions. They don’t need to be done all at once, but, of course, if I do them all at once I will gain more time for ‘it’, wont I? Nope. I wont. And what is this ‘it’ anyway? In my case it’s ‘selling and buying a house’. And, no, doing three things at once wont buy and sell a house any quicker or more smoothly. That’s as if I think I can gain life-time by playing all the notes of a symphony at the same time... The result is no music, just an ear-splitting crash! Oh, blessss....!!

Actually, how sweet something in me thinks that will idea work! Maybe a product of the ubiquitous early-years’ experiences of, ‘Hurry UP! We’ve to be somewhere important, and you’re holding us up!’, because the adult ‘important’ wasn’t important to me as a child; that puddle was... 

Where was I with that puddle? Content and un-rushed as I was? I was there. Present. Nowhere else. The puddle and me. Us, as one. Back to my coffee-making, where was I with the kettle? I was with the mug. Where was I with the mug? With the fridge. Was I with the fridge? No, I was with the squirty-cream inside the door. (It's an Annie thing.) Was I with the cream? No, I was with the chocolate dust I like on top and which lives on the shelf across the kitchen. Was I with the chocolate dust? No, I was with my laptop in my bedroom. Was I with my laptop - bearing in mind I’m actually still at the kettle....  No,  I was with my cousin in Wiltshire whose email I was going to reply to when I got downstairs.... Only I already ‘was’ downstairs, except I wasn’t; I was upstairs attempting to jab my finger at the kettle-switch and thinking I had an incurable disease because this simple task seemed beyond my capabilities.... And I was wondering why I felt even just clicking on a kettle 'had' to include all the things I wanted to lose - Messy. Stressy. Agitation. Exhaustion. I-don’t-want-to-feel-this-way-ness.

It gets to us all this thing; this busy-ness of not being present. I mean, how can being present to the kettle switch help me move house? How can watching my hand reach up to the chocolate dust in its old sugar-shaker on the shelf release me from the mind-twisting worry of whether it’s all going ok in my purchaser’s mind? How can observing my hand on the cupboard handle still my inner-judges and quieten their endless yabbering of, ‘You’re Not Doing Enough!’...?

And yet it does all these things. As I come to them all with every part of me I feel a release. I feel stillness within me. Not one I create, but the one that is there all the time. I sense the inner football crowd turning down the volume. Right there, softly, my fore-finger-tip alights on the kettle switch; its ease of depression happening with a surprisingly sensual click. My hand can both see and sense the brushed steel, squared-edged, cupboard handle. How good it feels in my palm and fingers. My eyes actually see the old glass sugar-shaker with its silver top, and even in a nanosecond takes in its story - the wonder of where it has been on its own journey, both with me and before I found it in a charity-shop 8 years ago...  As I pick it up I feel the coolness of the glass, and its hexagonal shape in my palm, the weight of it, it’s steady real-ness. Then the fridge, and the gratitude which simply self-ignites as I see its wonderful contents, and witness its continuously willing job of keeping food safe for my nourishment... 

I didn’t think or look for these things, I found them within the action. And the funny thing? I didn’t sense a stopping; I sensed movement. I felt in flow. I felt easy. I felt I was actually getting somewhere for the first time in days. Through stopping, I had stopped stopping myself.  

In a second things really did change into something quite different, and all by simply witnessing where I was now, and without judgement

I offer you your own curiosity. I invite you to get inquisitive. Discover how you are being whilst you do what you are doing. (Read that one again, slowly. 😊 ) Christmas is a pretty crazy time for most of us. Maybe a word or two of this can support you too. Or not. Both are really ok.

As I sense the laptop keys under my fingertips, gratitude for modern technology floods my body. The chair is beneath me. The coffee is coldly still delicious. The soft dog curled up beside me. The house sale? Oh, that. Well, it’s not here now; it’s for later, when I will consciously choose the time to be present to just that matter, and not down the road in my mind with the Christmas list....

Lots of love, and Happy Crimbo! 

Monday, 15 August 2016

On Being Lazy, Or Not...

Interesting word - wonder what it means? 
Out of the 46 words accompanying it in Thesaurus, I find only maybe 7 or 8 which are what I would call ‘consciously wont’ words - things like careless, indolent, lackadaisical. But even then many of those would fall amongst the other 38 or so words which say many other less crushing things about the ‘state of being lazy’. The dictionary says for ‘lazy’, ‘Averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion; indolent.’ (Interestingly ‘dolent’ means ‘to be in pain’, so ‘indolent’ seems a pretty good plan to me!)
So what are the other descriptions? Apathetic, comatose, dallying, flagging, languid, lifeless, procrastinating, sleepy, unconcerned, unready, weary, are but a taster.
This is what I think could be put after these: 
Apathetic - not really bothered about the job in hand, which, if you don’t have to do it, or do it right now, doesn’t make you lazy, only someone who hasn’t actually stated they don’t want to do it, ever or now, but instead is caught up in a ‘should & ought’. It’s only when you have to do it - your job, or to carry out a promise, which is commitment - that something else has to be looked for, whether discipline or incentive. But what mostly happens? Yes, your inner judge tells you in no uncertain terms that, having not done or started the thing, you’re the worst person on the planet with no right to any joy or pleasure, so you do it just to redress that threat. Not a good method really, because Job done + Guilt = More Resistance next time. Sometimes though many of us don’t do things until we force ourselves, because then we feel really noble and good! Duh! (Oh, and trying is this: ‘Do it, or don’t do it; there is no try’. Yoda. I rest my case.)
Then there’s comatose, flagging, sleepy, and weary - well, they tell their own story!  But maybe they crop up when you've actually done enough, or even too much and need rest. Maybe you've gone over the line into boredom and just need a break. Maybe your energy isn't focussed and your leaching it and need clarity. (Looking busy is a fine way to flag - best stop and find balance again!)
Then lifeless - definitely nothing more needed, from any one or anything! But of course this word really just lives with the ones above.
Dallying? Maybe something has caught your eye which is interesting. Genuinely interesting, like a view, a friend, a butterfly, a book on the shelf, even a Facebook post from a friend. And if these are more interesting than putting in a load of washing, or doing the filing or banking, is that really lazy? Or just the sign of a curious and intelligent mind? If it makes you miss the bus, well, it's a reminder to decide how best to deal with dallying next time!
I think unconcerned lives with apathetic - how about you? Not doing what doesn’t concern you is valid, and honest. If it should (a rarely right use of the word!) concern you, what else do you need for it to get done? Help? Loud music? Food to energise you? More information? A different time or conditions? Self-belief or reassurance from a friend? When unconcerned is around there’s usually something missing which can be found.
Then the goody - procrastination. I love how a word which implies nothing’s getting done, yet has 5 syllables, is long to write and say, and is quite complex in the characters used. That’s why nothings’ getting done; the word’s too long!  Seriously, it’s a word with a heavy cloak of shame, but what does it really imply? To me it says, ‘this isn’t the right time’, or ‘I need more information’, or its because I’m trying to ‘push the river’ beyond where I can be in the process right now. Often it's that I’m scared of failure, or getting it wrong in making the wrong choice, or that I need support. Or it's even, ‘I don’t know how to do this’, or even where to start asking for help. It's not being lazy.
Who has ever procrastinated when they are about to do something they really want to do? And why wouldn’t you have all the info, support, excitement, information about something you love? And why would you have all that for something you don’t love?! So, for me, procrastination means, if I'm doing something I am not loving, I need to find support, information, a plan, a friend to at least help me start, and to not try and do the whole thing in one. ‘The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step’ is a lovely saying, and one which needs remembering when we’re feeling ‘lazy’ for not having taken all the steps in one!
Life will include all forty-six words many times, and for many good reasons, so please, please can the one ‘lazy’ word be dropped? It's such a shame-laden word, and action-under-shame is always harder to do. Can I notice when it crops up in my judge’s nagging and hear what’s behind it? Can I find one of the other 42 words which will help me find what I need in order to begin or continue,or to put down the job, because it’s only an ought or should and not relevant for me?

I reckon the score looks ways better like this: Lazy 0 - 42 Way More Neutral Versions. What say you? Let me know in the comments box?  

Friday, 12 August 2016

Growing Up The Kind Way...

‘Oh, grow up.’ Or, ‘Hey, you’ll grow out of it’. Which do you prefer?  
I’d like to invite you to go to a pot plant in your home or garden, look at it sternly, and say, “Oh, grow up.”. Then a gentle, ‘Hey, you’ll grow out of it’. 
How was it to shout at your plant in a way so as to suggest it was failing in some way? How was it to suggest that it should be bigger and better than it is right now? That if it did not just ‘grow up, now,’ at your behest, you would throw it out?  Did you feel really quite silly because you knew it was a castigation the plant really did not need, want, or deserve? That it only needs the things it needs for life, for growth, is the time it takes to do so? An acorn cannot be pushed, coerced, or punished into being an oak tree.
Now, please, repeat to yourself the same words as you did to the plant in the second paragraph.... I rest my case. :-) 
The only thing that matters about your own growth on your journey from tiny to large pot is your own self-kindness - your very own water, light and attention. And remember, like plants, every one of us needs a different pot size; some huge plants grow slowly in small pots, and small plants grow very fast, needing massive pots. Select your own appropriate pot as you nurture yourself into growing out of old behaviours and ever more into yourself. 
But ‘grow up’ because you should be bigger than you are right now? Please, no! Nurture and encourage yourself on your natural journey to being the greatest you you are here to be.

Friday, 1 July 2016

The Messy Moment in the Midst of Change...

I am finding a couple of analogies to be helpful to describe how things feel for me at the moment. Within the mayhem of current changes, deceits, broken promises, and the huge uncertainty of the last two weeks especially, we are left wondering what on earth is going on on our small blue dot in space.

Change. Big change. That's what's going on. And although change is the only thing of which we will ever be sure, we seem never to get to find change comfortable.

But I have two images running in my mind - one is automotive, and the other nautical. The first comes from my (somewhat vague, it has to be said) understanding of what goes on in a gear-box when we change gear in a car. (If you're in the US, we're talking 'stick-shift' here!) As we depress the clutch, the cogs in the gear-box begin to spin pretty uncontrollably. They are not now driving the car forwards; we are in free-wheel mode. Then we engage another gear, release the clutch, magic happens, and we are able to drive forwards again. If we think back to when we learned to drive, sometimes we would be in that 'neutral' space for a l-o-n-g time whilst we tried to engage a new gear without putting little bits of metal all over the road. We had no drive, weren't able to concentrate quite so clearly on the steering, and it was all a bit of a relief when both hands could be back on the wheel, feet settled on the 'familiar' pedals, and we were off again to where we wanted to go. Neutral - no drive - everything spinning out of control - only one hand on the wheel - feet doing a complicated dance.... Hmm, yes, change....

The other image I have is nautical. When one is sailing along merrily, sails full, hand on the tiller or wheel, boat leaning a little/lot, but balanced and happy, all is well. Then someone suggests 'tacking', or 'going about'.... This means quite a lot of noise, motion, angle-changes (with spilt tea!),  bouncing about, clambering around, and probably a considerable amount of shouting (!)..... There is a moment when the helmsman calls 'Ready about'....and people get to their stations to hold the appropriate sheets (ropes) to either let go of, or pull in on, depending, things are placed where they can't fall over (which rarely works, but there you go...), and the call is given, 'helm to lee', or 'lee-oh' as the tiller or wheel is turned into the wind and the boat's bow (nose) turns to another direction. The thing is, depending on the amount of wind and the size of the sea-state, there can be an incredible amount of noise and racket, bluster and ungainly movement - not to mention the possible explosion of enough swear words to turn Ann Widecombe's swear-loathing face a very disapproving shape - until the sails fill again from the other side and 'way' (forward movement) is found again in the new direction. The space between sailing balanced and happy in one direction and sailing balanced and happy in another is full of, shall we say, moments which are often difficult to understand, cope with, or enjoy!

Recognise this at the moment? Spinning cogs, held breath, one-handing steering, the dicey uncertainty of gear-changing on the road...? And the bumpy, rolly, noisy, shouty, uncomfortable, can't see straight, often downright terrifying 'tacking' at sea....?

Hang in there everyone - it's just change....! The wind will fill the sails soon, the new direction will pick up, and we'll feel more settled again. The important thing? Yes, keep your eye on the road signs, and on the wind, sails, and compass, and let's choose our direction wisely. I reckon we've got a right old 'headwind' just now - meaning the wind is coming right out of the direction we want to go, so, as one can't sail directly into the wind, we are going to have to 'tack' (zigzag') our way to the new, but that's just sailing for you!

"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore." (Andre Gide)

Painful or stiff legs? Donkey-Leg Syndrome....

I've been finding a lot of 'leg-work' going on in my students these last couple of weeks. And in several people I know. Stiff legs, sore legs, cramps, legs which don't seem to want to work. For many this is a new and unexplained 'symptom'. Well, this is how it seems to be to me...

Imagine you're walking down the path, and suddenly there's a whoosh and a bang... The path before you disappears.... First thing you will likely do is take a sharp intake of breath, pull your head down into your shoulders, and at least release all that in-breath on a yelp, if not a shout... Then, you would experience what I call 'donkey-legs'....

Years ago, when Donkey Derbys (races) were a regular part of the annual village fetes around England, I would pay my money, take to a donkey, kick it on at the start line, and we would all set off for about 5 metres and then the donkeys would, one by one, stop dead in their tracks; forelegs braced out before them, refusing to move forward an inch. If I was lucky I stayed on board, but considering a donkey's shoulders are about as wide as a knife-edge, that was rare. I think this was the donkey's idea of fun! But I digress....

The point is that with their forelegs braced firmly out in front of them, all movement was halted. And bracing the legs requires much tension within them. So, when the path ahead of you, like in the last two weeks, has disappeared, you find your legs are stopping you falling over the edge/into the abyss/ going where you haven't decided to go... Whichever...

Two weeks ago the UK experienced a referendum about their remaining in or leaving the EU. Many thought it a given that we would remain, - so much so that a 'Brexiter' even set up a government petition in readiness to swing the result back to leaving when they lost the vote. Yet we're leaving....

But now we have a conundrum for both leavers and remainers... Where is the path? Is there a road ahead? Is it smooth or bumpy? Flooded? Or maybe crumbling on the edge of a ravine...? It's dark. No one seems to have a map. No one is going ahead to lead us forwards. There's a lot of noise and bluster, but no information. And yet we're, in reality, having to walk forwards because life doesn't wait.... So we're walking forwards on 'donkey-legs'.... Trying to go in two directions at the same time.

No wonder a lot of legs are stiff and/or hurt just now!!

My advice has been - and is (no matter your particular 'disappeared path' within your life at any time) is to be willing to stop, just for a moment, even just mentally, in order to acknowledge the shocking change in your life. It doesn't matter if it's shocking to everyone; if it's shocking to you, it's shocking. Come to a pause, letting your legs know that you won't rush them, forcing them to move as if the road ahead is still there, smooth and level. Ask them to soften a little - remind your knees and all your toe joints that they are designed to be bendy - and then walk forward with them gently, kindly, baby-steps if needed, so you are on them. Let them balance you as you step into the dust and mire, able to halt at any time you need to in order to think more clearly as to what to do next. It's the charging forwards in grand bravado on legs which want to hold you back in safety which creates the stiffness and pain.

For us in the UK, whether one is a Brexiter or a Remainer, (how quickly new words are born!) slow and steady gains the end right now. Feel gently for the new path within the air thick with everything it is thick with just now. Which is a lot.

Thank you legs. Thank you for caring about me.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

An Amoeba goes out with a Paramecium….

An amoeba engulfing a paramecium….

Way back when when I was, I guess, 16, I was working my socks off to prove I wasn't stupid. I had to remain down in the fifth form after 'O' levels as three passes were needed to go up into the sixth form and I only got three…. Yes, I got the three, 'but art doesn't count' was touted out. So, there I was, the only girl out of 73 others, still in uniform, being 'held up as an example' to the others of what happens when you're 'stupid, lazy, and don't bother to work hard enough'. (What happens is SHAME, and the givers of this salivate as they walk past you with a smug look - nasty.)

So, I-Was-Going-To-Show-Them. And not because my mother told me to, or to show her that her pleadings of 'Just try, darling, just try!!!" might work. The thing was, I always had tried, it was just not known then that my brain didn't work quite like others' brains. I read 'well', but I actually made most of it up in my head so I wasn't actually answering the question asked. I could have a PhD if that could be based on the most gained 'read the question' and 'that isn't what I asked' comments written in fiery red ink in the margins of my books and exam papers.

So, I was allowed - how magnanimous of the headmistress - to begin my 'A' levels in English and Biology whilst I (successfully) re-took my failed 'O' levels. I loved biology and english and worked hard at them, but, of course, I was 'stupid' so I was never taken seriously. So….

There was one essay set for biology that I decided, I set the intention for, I willed, for which I was bloody-well going to manifest an 'A' grade….

'The Difference Between the Organism of the Amoeba and the Paramecium - discuss'.

I wrote long and hard. I drew really, really good (and they were) pencil drawings of said creatures. I wrote and I wrote, and then I wrote some more. (Everything I wrote was - apparently - way too short. Because, 'of course', I was stupid and lazy and didn't bother to try.)

I wrote all night - kneeling on the floor before my bed, the old foolscap paper (longer than A4) laid out on a sturdy atlas, torch becoming ever more dim as the night wore on. And then I wrote again the next day. And the next night (new batteries). And then I proudly handed in my 32 page essay.

I put it on Miss Ponting's shelf in the 'homework cupboard' on the main corridor - a small shelved room with space for marking to be placed above each teacher's name. One would then go back and collect the marked work the next day, or whenever…

Only about an hour later I went to drop off some other homework and was surprised to see my essay already back…..with the most enormous (foolscap sized) red R (for so bad it's returned un-graded) completely coving the front page - so much so that the downward, final stroke of the R had been written so forcefully that the biro point had cut right through the paper down to page 10….

I couldn't believe it. What had I done, or not done, now…?!?!???!???!

Friends gathered around me as I spluttered and frazzled, reading furiously to see if I could discover why this had happened…. Then they began to laugh….

"What?" I said.
"Look!!!" they said.
"What??" I said again.
"Looooooook!!!!!" they laughed. "You've written an essay discussing the difference between the orgasms of the amoeba and the paramecium!!!!"
They were, by now, rolling on the floor in paroxysms of laughter.

I had little idea of what they were speaking. No, I really didn't. I was very, and annoyingly, sheltered in my only-child, religion-riddled, upbringing. But yes, I had written 32 pages about the orgasms of the amoeba and the paramecium. And there were a lot of orgasms in 32 pages….

My head-mistress then called me into her office:
"You have the mental age of a three-year-old", she whined at me (because she had a mean and whiney voice). "You will end up cleaning lavatories on Waterloo station."*

I left school. Not expelled, but I had had enough of being bullied and shamed. But still the damage was done.

I have laughed long and hard about this one for well over 45 years. And I have not been found cleaning the lavatories on Waterloo station - toilets I have even gone past giving a 'V' sign too as I pass; now it's a cheery and self-kind wave of 'ok-ness'. Instead I have been offering my teaching, based deeply on Alexander work, for 35 years now. And I know that nowadays my essay might well be the annual-silly-but-loved-prize-winning essay in a school magazine, and definitely all over Facebook to great acclaim, and probably even published…. But clearly it still hurts. So I've shared it.

And I put it in my Self-Kindness blog to be kind to myself. To remind myself that, no matter that Miss Ponting was an elderly (younger than I am now?!?) spinster in the mid-1970s, embarrassed as hell about 'that word', and that I was well disliked in my school, because…. Well, because…. Actually I have no idea…. I guess a left-handed red-head is a pretty good bullying point, but I did assist the school in winning many a sports trophy, so there….  And because I wish I still had that essay - it was, of course, confiscated and burned and I had to write another, far less successful C- one - because I know, I really, really know, it was good. And worthy of being honoured for its content, not scorned for the hang-ups of its reader and marker.

I have long 'healed' this, even if layers sometimes come up to remind me of its echo. These, too, I can heal through the holding of the pain gently. But of one thing I am now sure; I no longer allow anyone to mock, judge, criticise my work. I am open to comment, feedback - what they liked, what they would like more of - but not the telling of how my, or another's, creativity is 'not good enough', or 'should be other than it is'. Please remember this, no one, but no one, has the right to 'prune' you without your permission... To tell you you aren't good enough as you are. This is their story, not yours.

This is why I work with people in the respectful holding of their own creativity, nurturing their self-belief in a safe and kind way. We are all capable of growing into big, strong plants, but even if some plants only thrive on very hard pruning, every plant is different; some plants die if cut back harshly and insensitively. I work with these 'plants' - these beautiful, maybe delicate or tender 'plants'. The people who need a slow pace, gentle nurture, and bespoke protection as they become the full and glorious bloom they are.

(* Waterloo station is one of London's largest train stations.)

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Vulnerability vs Transparency

I have been having another ponder today: what is the difference between Vulnerability and Transparency? The first word is on a lot of our lips just now following the awesome talks and writings of Brene Brown. The latter seems a humble, rather old-fashioned cousin to the more fashionable 'v' word. So, I wondered how does the dictionary define these two words? This is what I found:

Vulnerable - capable of or susceptible to being wounded, as by a weapon: a vulnerable part of the body. Open to attack, criticism, temptation. 

Transparent - having the property of transmitting rays of light through its substance so that bodies beyond or behind can be distinctly seen. Easily seen through, recognised, or detected. Open, frank, candid.  

Quite different, aren't they? One, vulnerable, seems to describe being wide-open-to-be-seen-without-any-protection, and the other, transparent, seems to describe being seen-but-protected. The latter, when it comes to transparency in a human being, seems to me to be about allowing ourself to be seen in a protected way, which, by definition, isn't vulnerability. And being vulnerable means allowing ourselves to be seen in a totally open, nothing-between-viewer-and-person way, which by definition isn't transparent; there's nothing to be 'seen through'. 

My ponderings rambled on into, 'can one decide which to be?' Can I choose to live, or write something, from my vulnerable self or my transparent self at will? Or am I and my writing whichever they are simply because I am either vulnerable or transparent? Meaning that each piece I write comes over in vulnerability or transparency depending on how I am with the subject matter at that time.

I came up with the likelihood that if I am writing about something I understand, have worked on, can describe in fine detail on a psychological level, but haven't truly healed deeply within me, I am likely being transparent. If I write about something I have worked right through, understood, but also healed and released from the cells of my body, I am likely being vulnerable. Vulnerability comes from the fact that I have nothing to hide about it any more, nothing to shield, to protect and the subject matter has simply become part of my story. I can talk or write about it without any old emotional triggers being fired within me, and without any need for the reader to 'get it', or believe me, or be moved by me. If I am being transparent about it, I can write it, tell it, have intellectually understood it, but I am likely to use it to tell others what to do in their (only ever vaguely similar) situation, but still have to quash the rumblings of emotion still firing off in my body. I can even be transparent about these emotions and tell people what they are - in speech or writing - but I am still only being transparent, not vulnerable. I sense that, for me, the bookshop tables of misty-imaged 'misery books' of the last ten years were left there by me as they felt way too indigestible; they were written from transparency, not vulnerability. 

When I read a piece about a difficult time in someone's life, different sensations arise within me; sometimes, when the author is being transparent, I feel it unpleasantly in my own body (yet without being offered space to heal it in me), sometimes I feel the weight of an 'I should suffer with you' about itand sometimes, when the author is being vulnerable, I gain a valuably simple sense of unconditional companionship with my own 'stuff'. I can see the difference between the author being transparent or vulnerable; the former has an expectation of me, the latter doesn't. Transparency is heavy, and even embarrassing. Vulnerability is, perhaps unexpectedly, light and helpful. 

Being truly vulnerable is the result of not having to put up any shields - see-through or not - and being able to touch and be touched. Being transparent is about letting another see me, but not touching them or having them touch me, because of the deceptively invisible barrier of protection. These two are often confused, from both sides, and getting stuck at the transparency stage a common situation.

My answer to my pondering then? That whilst becoming transparent is a great step forward on the road home to self, there's actually more to do on the journey onwards as I continue to move from transparency to vulnerability. 

I've not read Brene's book for a while - it's time for another read to see what she says about this!

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Success Often Comes in a Locked Box

You know theses posts and blogs, books and articles, on ‘How to Become Successful’? Are you aware of the myriad of reactions and feelings they trigger inside you as soon as you see even the title? Have a look and listen inside your body next time, because there are important hints as to why you’re even attracted to such titles, and why you have to keep reading them instead of writing them. 

I remember reading the words below many years ago and feeling them resonate powerfully within me, but I had no idea why, or what to do about it…until later when I transformed those parts of me which believed deeply that I couldn't, and didn't deserve to be, successful. 

Here are the words:
"My heart wasn't in it, you see, so I could only allow myself a limited amount of success. Every time it threatened to go beyond that, I'd turn down a great part or run away or get sick - I'd do something to wreck it. There was never a clear choice to really succeed." From 'One' by Richard Bach.

I had, from many viewpoint moments in my life, clearly made a bizarre choice to not succeed. But why? And how was this so, when my mind kept telling me I could be successful if I just kept seeing myself as thus and doing everything required to manifest it? My mind knew what to do, but something was stopping success from happening…

Well, this is how it was for me; I grew up being told two things, often simultaneously. “You are useless”, and “You must be very successful, for me”. I was confused. Like all human beings I had a goodly amount of the natural desire to achieve, to live, to discover and experience - my early school reports described me as being highly inquisitive and having loads of curiosity. But I was told way more often that I was ‘stupid’ and ‘useless’, and this I was gradually, not believing, but embodying. 

What was happening inside me, deep in the very cells of me, were endless experiences of 'can't', and even 'mustn't. A stifling of the positive and a feeding of the negative. It was as if my cells were inadvertently being programmed for failure. This resulted in my body expecting, and even courting, failure each and every time I became curious or inquisitive about improving at anything. Trying to go out there into the field called success became ever more horrible due to the guaranteed discomfort of failure and subsequent familiar shame. They hurt, and they screw up life's dreams.

So, I did what many of us do; I had years and years of counseling. And I read every book on the subject of blame, shame, depression, anger, angst, and success which had ever been written. (By the way, see that? How can 'success' ever succeed in a sentence with such uneasy bedfellows?!) And then I went to workshops, trainings, and later surfed the web-waves about success on the internet. But, despite moments of surging excitement, or brief ‘successes’, nothing really changed.

You see, you can’t change your mind with your own mind. It just doesn’t work that way. In the same way, you can tell yourself you are not afraid of spiders, but if your body has a negative memory around spiders, your fear is embodied. And you can't tell yourself to be successful when every cell in your body tells you you won't be. Why? Because it’s not your mind which is afraid of spiders, it’s your body.  It's not your mind which isn't strong enough to manifest success, it's your body's strong memories of all the times you were told you weren't good enough, or of when you failed, often spectacularly. We all fail at times, but failure is rarely held compassionately; instead with damaging ridicule. 

Your body holds the memory of each and every experience you have ever had, including those with spiders or with failure. Your mind simply translates the triggered memory of those feelings into words with which to inform both you (thought) and the world (speech). Your mind can’t ‘feel grief’, but your body does. Try this? Next time you have an uncomfortable moment around an event, hear how your mind describes it - sadness, fear, anger - and then immediately go to your body and see where in it you feel it. Then ask yourself this, could you have known how you were feeling without your body’s signals? This is your body's re-feeling of the sensation it had at the time the discomfort was sown - maybe with a mocking by your class in junior school when you answered a question wrongly - which is informing you now of your mood or emotion to a similar event in adulthood. 

Each time I wanted ‘success', stimulated by the very word, my body ‘told’ me I was useless through its re-expression of the old shame set up in childhood. My mind wasn’t able to tell my body things were different now, because it was my body which needed to experience it differently in order to have and express new sensory information. In Alexander work, teachers give students new experiences of movement in order for them to be able to change old and unhelpful movement patterns from within, because the same thing stands: we can’t change ourself with ourself; we are always going to do the familiar, the well-grooved, and our body just does what it’s always done until that way is transformed into a space where a new, more appropriate-for-now, way can begin.

But no one can give me the experience of ‘being successful’ - that is so personal, so subjective, so illusive, and the journey there an important part of my life. Even winning the lottery wouldn’t give me the bodily experience of my taking my own road to my own sense of success. So, how can this be done? How can I get to experience me as a success?

For me it happened thus: Twelve years ago I was introduced to a way of working in which, deeply and compassionately, I was able to witness my body - even the very cells of my body. Instead of the ‘just think differently’, I was allowed to acknowledge how the message ‘You’re useless’ had embedded itself within me. Instead of using my mind to tell myself that thought was stupid (!) for still thinking that and to think the opposite, as in affirmations, I was simply and safely companioned as I deeply acknowledged the pain of that early message. My companion (facilitator) often didn’t know what I was releasing, but release it I did. And I learned to ask my well-meaning mind to stay out of the process as I set my intention to shift whatever it was hidden in my body which was blocking the way to my being successful. 

Oftentimes I might know where it was likely to come from and I would set the intention for the ‘inner button’ to dissolve. But mostly I never knew - or know, for the work is part of my life now - as I just asked that whatever needed to go, to leave me. I have been amazed at times at the flash of memory of an event long forgotten, and to which my witnessing mind says, “Wow! No wonder..!!”. But, importantly, in the space of no judgement, no interpretation of the memory, I sense a higher part of me touching that terror/shame/anger deep within my body, whereupon it simply transforms - like popping bubble-wrap. After the process it is likely that an event will happen which would have previously ‘pushed my button’, but instead there doesn’t seem to be a button any more and I experience responding quite differently to the stimulus, or even not responding at all. 

As I go on transforming those buttons within my body which tell me I can never be successful, things are changing. My mind still loves to tell me I need the ‘success writings’, for I guess that makes  the mind feel ‘important and clever’, but my body feels gentle, kind, and encouraging, reminding me that, yes, I can be more successful, but only when I have assisted it to release all the ‘stuff’ which is getting in the way of my natural gift, the one we all have: our human potential for success, whatever that is for each individual. 

Successful people begin to be successful through the absence of all that which gets in the way of succeeding, and then they work hard at gaining mastery with their chosen subject. Unsuccessful people work incredibly hard all the time, yet the hard work is the stumbling and struggling ‘against the odds’ - the odds being all the old, cellular memories that can be roughly translated into ‘You can’t’ or ‘You wont’. Reading the success books just tells us to rail against those beliefs ever harder, but 'What we resist, persists', and success remains in the shadows. The Transformational Process, in which I qualified as a facilitator in 2009, smooths the path ahead towards success. And it paves my road to my success. Not the road suggested by another, down which so many of us struggle for years until we wake up to our own. For me, these JFDI ('just * do it') reasons are why so many highly successful people aren’t very happy; they are always waiting for the shoe to drop, to be found out to be the ‘less-than’ belief which their body still holds. Or because they can’t bear to stop and find they’re on the wrong horse heading for someone else’s success. This is a tough way to live.

Personally I go on working through my blocks, my unconscious agreements made when too young to know any other way - the agreements which have set up something like these: ‘I can’t, I wont, they can, not me. Not good enough. Not clever enough. Not qualified enough. Not nice enough. Not bold enough. Not clear enough. Lazy. Selfish. Just plain wrong through and through.’ Each time a layer of these clears, something happens which sees me move ever closer to that elusive thing called ‘success’.

And the funny thing? Success is becoming less 'out there' than an in ‘inside job’ - one which has less care and more joy. Less worry and more peace. It’s my success and not tied up with proving anything. It’s my sense of my self-worth in my beloved subject, not another’s. I can still wish to be the best I can be, but it’s the best Annie I can be, not me having to be better than everyone else.... And each time I sense care and worry, I take them to my self, to my quietly loving higher-self and let them express themselves itself until heard unconditionally. Then they leave my path and I can step forward with more ease. As this happens I sense I am re-writing the story of my life without my mind’s old rod-and-stick, punishment-type method, and instead with my heart’s self-kindness and self-belief version. I know which I prefer, and which method I desire to share with my clients and my students.

So, success is an inside job, a body job, not a mind job. Shift the blockages in the cells and things truly change. Oh! And when you do have moments of joyful success and achievement, please tell your mind to leave the room in order for your beautiful body to bathe in and embody the new sensation and all this success means to you, now. This delight in success isn't a mind job, it's an important body job! Let it feel it! 

Friday, 10 June 2016

Change - the smooth way.

I was reminded today of the days back when we changed gears in our cars without the blessing of a gear-box that was ‘synchromeshed’. The result of changing gear in these vehicles meant one had to be prepared for a great deal of grinding and graunching (*) sounds during gear changes as metal plates found their way into re-emeshing correctly for the next gear - from first to second in acceleration, or for ‘changing down’ in slowing for a junction. The skill was to wait for the moment in which the all the cog-wheels flew into equal revolutions - float shifting - before engaging the next gear. Then the noise and graunching was minimalised. It took a skillful driver to sense and hear the engine, feel the impulsion, 'double clutch' well enough, read the incline up or slope down, in order to manage this successfully. Now we have modern clutches and well synchronised gear-boxes and have to do very little in the way of being present to the changing of gears as we drive. On we go, stereo blaring, car practically driving itself, mind elsewhere….

This is so like life nowadays; when we come to an inevitable (we are alive) point of change, we expect to ‘just change’ - to depress the clutch and have everything change smoothly and without any graunching. And if we find change sticky or uncomfortable, we assume there is a problem, and that we have clearly ‘got it wrong’... Yet, we haven’t; we just feel this because we aren’t 'sychnronised'. We haven’t been mechanised and homogenised like our modern vehicles. Life offers us change - over, and over, and over, and as FM Alexander once said, “Change is the one thing about which we can be sure in our life. It’s how we manage it which counts.” This is the thing: how we manage it is to not rush it. To not ‘graunch’ in an effort to get through it as soon as we can. No, we have to let the gear-box wheels fly - the metal plates spin - until they find a moment when they all co-ordinate and settle together in a new gear with which to move us forward. The spinning doesn’t really take long in the grand scheme of things, but if we push it, try to engage them too soon, there will likely be little bits of metal all over the road, passers-by leaping into the bushes in alarm, and a compromised, slowed-up vehicle to contend with. Yet if we lose focus and go beyond the point of co-ordination, we lose momentum and still hear graunching. There is a moment on the flying cogs, and life; a magic moment when it just happens, but only if we are both patient-and-present-in-the-pause. It's the pausing which is the magic trick.

So, during a life-change, and during forward movement into a plan, let your gear-box cog-wheels fly until they naturally fall into their new relationship for your next move ahead. Which basically means, listen, sense, and honour the space between, the pause, the zero, the neutral point; for it is here that change can happen most effectively and un-alarmingly.

(* graunching - my engineering father's onomatopoeic word for, well, the sound of metal parts graunching together!)

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Being Heard and Hearing Others.

I looked up ‘being heard’ on the internet. I could find one solitary poem about it, and a heap of business venture type ‘should-listen-in-order-to-make-the-sale' posts... Nothing more? Nothing about the most tiny-yet-valuable moment we can give another, or receive from another? Nope, nothing. And I am not surprised in fact; hearing, or being heard, is so darned rare it’s tragic. 

What do I even mean? I mean those times when you aren’t feeling that brilliant, you’ve no idea what to do about something, and you know no one is likely to know, yet also that it will work out in the end, but you wish it were soon.... You don't even want to say much about, you just let someone else know it's happening to you. You want to experience a little of the 'a problem shared about is a problem halved'. So you tell someone what’s going on for you and, if they don't plain ignore you, they either shrug and say 'Oh, it’ll be fine', or they can’t help (which wasn't what you asked for), or even that you’re imagining it... All ways of saying, “I don’t give a purple sh*t; I’ve my own problems, and I don’t want to catch yours.”  That old 'I don't want to get involved' cruelty. Worth remembering here the poet John Donne's important words, 'No man is an island…', which finishes with the reminder, 'because I am involved in mankind'.

Of course, you may you get the other arrogant ‘rescue service’, the ‘Why don’t you?' Oh great, three words which basically say, ‘I know what you should have done to stop this, why didn’t you, you idiot? I would have done it, but you...well... tch!’ This one might be called the red-rag-to-a-bull sh*t. And with neither versions have you been heard, acknowledged, re-cognised, witnessed, and thus you feel utterly alone and having to handle it all on your own. 

Yes, sometimes people seem to be ‘dumping’, but this has become a tidy label to give someone who is asking for an ear about something which really pushes your own buttons. Something which you are trying desperately to pretend isn’t in your mood-repertoire. Something you wish to God you could sort out in your own life, if you even acknowledged its presence that is; buried so far down in your awareness under your “I’m fine’ cloak. The funny thing I have found is, as I go on sorting out the cr*p under my own cloaks, people don't seem to 'dump on me any more...

Here on planet earth something very simple happens each day. We humans just share how it is to be human. In all sorts of ways, from speaking, writing, posting on social media. And being human IS pretty darned humanly messy. Plans don’t work out in time - or ever. Dreams dribble dust from their lofty shelves. Ideals are smashed to smithereens all over the floor. And God-forbid anyone come along in a 'mess', and let you see from the outside what your own sadness, disappointment, confusion, anger, hurt, or, worst of all, fear might look like, because you’re trying so darned hard to pretend you’ve got it all sussed and the mood-crew left your building years ago....

But ‘bad moods’ are NOT catching. Low moods in another do NOT drag you down, unless you let them; a low mood in another might alert you to one in yourself which you are denying, but if low mood isn’t in you, it isn’t in you. And if high mood is in you, you’re quite ‘safe’. But don’t put that high on your low-mood friend either; rub salt in their wound, would you? 

Just Hear Them. 
Just stay in your own space and witness them.
See them.
Hear them.
Acknowledge them.
Agree with them quietly that it looks and sounds like it sucks.
Smile kindly - yes, kindly. Not mockingly, or jovially, or dismissively, just kindly. Which you can do the more you discover and allow your own messy human-ness and your own self-compassion for it. And, through your heart being open to their human-ness, and to your own, you'll be letting them know you know they’ll come through ok, and not alone, because you heard them.

And while you’re at it, do this for yourself, too, when you are low, because then you’ll be better at it for the next person who comes along, and they for you.
We can change the world this way.

Too simple? Well, simple works. Simple isn't easy, but simple is beauty-full.

My daughter taught me this years ago… When reassuring her, 'helping' her out of her low mood by 'helping' her understand her irritating teacher’s possible point of view, and all that it ‘might’ have been about, she stopped me and said, “Stop it! I know all this. I just want you to agree with me first, and then you can say all that stuff which will help. But not yet! Just hear me!”

She was, and is, so right. And I am still learning.

Just hear people. Read their words. See them. And ask this of others for your self. Because to be witnessed as we are at any moment is the greatest gift we can receive from another, and also to give another.

Wiggle room...

After yesterday's blog ( Please Just Be You ) I was asked to say more on the '7 billion people needing to shift a bit for my growth' ... For me, it's like this: I see my whole self as a big, jute sack of rice - when a little bit of me releases or contracts, every other little grain of rice inside me has to move around a tiny bit to accommodate this. If I compress my sack too tightly, there is no wiggle room, and things get awkward and often painful. If I allow movement within the fabric of my sack, the wee grains of rice can manoeuvre about more easily. 

Then I see the my world - the characters and players on stage with me at any period of time, and I on theirs - as grains of rice in an even bigger 'life sack'. When I change my mind on something - the place I live, my work methods, my intentions, the size of my dreams, my choices and actions - everyone else in 'my world' has to manoeuvre about a bit to accommodate this. The same goes when those around me do something 'different', needing me to wiggle a bit for their change to happen. And then this goes for the even bigger world - changes in our bodies, our worlds, our villages and towns, counties, countries, the whole world, and probably even our planet within the universe, and beyond...

There are grains of rice in me which may, having wiggled a bit to accommodate change in me or another, go back to where they were; they just had to wiggle to allow the other to change. Or things may change dramatically with not a grain of rice anywhere near where it was.

But wiggle room is needed, as is patience; wiggling takes time. It takes the time it takes, too; some wiggles are delicate and slow, requiring subtle changes a long way away from my particular grain of rice, and some are localised, smooth, swift, barely noticeable in the ease in which they occur.

But one thing I do know is wiggles happen. Change within or without requires much wiggle room, which benefits from a 'permissionary sack' which undulates to allow movement within, and both soft elastic grains and hard fulcrum-like grains in order to facilitate the shifts.

Isn't that just like life?! I have met those rice grains on my journey - within and without - which are soft and pliant, and then been brought up short by those which feel like rocks on my path. But like with the combustion engine - where the solidly immobile engine 'block' has to exist as a fulcrum, in order for everything else to move smoothly in sequence, in order to produce propulsion - these solid grains are in my worlds to assist my own movement. I, in turn, will often be a fulcrum-grain in another's sack. (And when I think about something like the world of politics - there's lots of fulcrum-grains out there just now!)

So, within a world of 7 billion beautiful grains of rice in the sack called planet earth, there is endless wiggling going on all the time. So, if the changes you are searching for aren't revealing themselves yet, maybe they are just still needing to wiggle. In that case, give them room, be flexible, soft, be ok with having to wiggle out of place in order to wiggle back into where you most need to be right now. And happy wiggling!

Monday, 30 May 2016

Be Anything You Want? No, Please Just Be You.

You know when those posts about ‘You can be anything you want to be; it only takes a decision’ come up? The ones which, on some days, give you a real boost? But on other days.... I’m talking about those days when you could happily crumple posts like this up into fire-lighting stuff and add a lit match, because they plain old hurt 

Oh, that life were as simple as a decision. Yes, we can and do make them, but life is about a lot of other people than just us, and when we change out minds about something as big as Being Greater Than I Am Now, the others around us have to shift a bit too. And with 7 billion people on planet earth, that takes some patience and requires quite a lot of wiggle-room. 

So, I’m just saying here, I hear you when/if it’s one of those days for you, because I have them too. When it’s one of those days in which to be told your life is a little less than you would like it to be - you know, more bills in tomorrow, diary too full / too empty, book still not written, name not yet in lights, golf handicap still in the thousands, washing not done - because you clearly haven’t made a strong enough decision to be super-person (and obviously they have, or they wouldn’t be writing such posts... yet have they?), yes, one of those days when what you want to have happen is for someone to see you and say, ‘Tough sometimes, innit?  Hang in there right where you are now, and rest up a tiny moment. I think you’re awesome for being you. For having dreams and hopes. For wanting a good life. For wanting to shine, and share, and grow, and make a difference. Whether you make your dream today, tomorrow, or next decade, I still like you, and I thank you for being here, right now, as you. Make decisions all you like, and I will support you where you are and where you’ll be, and I will walk with you towards your dreams, but I wont ever tell you you ought to be there already.’

Monday, 28 March 2016

Keeping Watch….

Keeping Watch 

Frustration - rushing - impatience - even the dog wary....
What is this? 
This oh-so-familiar feeling? 
It’s that I want to be doing something other than that which I am doing now.
I don’t know.
Stop then....
Can; it’s what you teach!
Yea, I should....
And then, 
I stop.
And not the suppression-like stop of 
“Count to ten! You naughty girl!”,
But the gentle pause of attention -
Compassionate attention, to me.
Compassionate, because it’s empty of judgement;
I left the plug open for all that to flow out before looking,
Because judgement is futile stuff; 
The stuff of old - 
Other’s stuff - 
Stuff of what isn’t,
And I need to discover what is.
So, what is...?
Is, is that I feel held up - 
Halted -
Stuck - 
By wilting flowers.
Hungry rabbits.
Noisy storms wreaking time-taking damage -
Rattling and rumbling - sleep interruptions.
Recalcitrant iPlayer
Messing me about.
Slow drivers and
Ornery traffic lights...
Getting in the way of
Me, getting there.
Where's there?
Over there - not here:
Not where I am now.
(Even if I, of course, am.)
What’s there?
New direction.
How do you know this?
From my shallow breath,
My scattered thinking,
My tightness and holdings,
The inner fight....
So, what to do...?
Just nothing.
Not stopping, 
Not pushing,
Not fixing,
Not holding,
Not repressing,
And not, not judging,
De-finite-ly not that....
Just non-doing no-thing.

And wait waiting.
And waiting wait.
And notice....
Notice the whys and whens,
And shouldn’ts and oughtn’ts...
Notice how they physicalise within me....
And wait; wait with them.

Remember the light touch when I was an Alexander student - 
The quiet hands waiting with me,
Showing me how to embody the quiet pause,
How to release my mind’s net on my body.
Companioning me in the lonely, 
Rather scary no thing place - 
The neutral between gears - 
Where births my potential,
And where most wont stay long enough.
Reassuring hands saying, “This is ok’.
Not preventing me,
Not pushing me,
Just waiting with me.
Waiting until I heard,
And saw,
And felt myself
And understood
By me.

I am rushing because
I want more,
I want it now,
I want what I haven’t gone for
For far too long.
For ever.
And I want it now.
I want to step up,
To shine as me - 
Seen or unseen,
Shine nonetheless.
I want to drop
The veil of ‘mustn’t’.
Oughtn’t, shouldn’t.
My ball and chain of ‘What if?’
‘And, but, why, who, you?’
Rolling, grindingly, away.

The hare and the tortoise; 
Is a good story,
But the hare is catching me up - 
The hares are about to win!
The story ending’s about to alter
So, wake up and run!
Run, tortoise! Run!
You are worth it!
You are good enough!
You can, you can, you can!
Wake up!
Oh! Run!

Oh my! Oh yes!

Out of my way plants,
Rabbits,  storms and drivers!
Out of my way old beliefs,
Agreements, and habits!
I have places to go and people to reach!
Yet, also include 
The Immaculate Pause...
The waiting....
Wait for the tide,
Wait for the wind.
Pushing the river never worked for anyone.
The tide will turn each day - 
Ride it then,
But don’t miss it.
The wind will back and veer;
Be ready to respond as it does...

Move within waiting,
Wait within moving - 
Remember those gentle hands 
Teaching you how to pause in faith.
Remember how you teach that too,
Because you know it works so well.

Then flow.......
And happen!