That weekend of the photo was itself very memorable. For one thing we were on the beautiful Gower coast in Pembrokeshire on an August Bank Holiday. We had great company, fantastic weather and amazing nature. What more can you ask for!
That weekend of the photo was itself very memorable. For one thing we were on the beautiful Gower coast in Pembrokeshire on an August Bank Holiday. We had great company, fantastic weather and amazing nature. What more can you ask for!
I know that I do make mistakes and sometimes they are big ones – ones that I really wished I hadn’t made.
Sometimes when you make a mistake you can do real damage. You can hurt yourself, or other people. For example, if you do a bad mistake whilst driving you might cause an accident and people will get hurt or worse. If you make a mistake when you are talking to a friend or colleague, you can say something that you didn’t mean to. The other person might feel hurt by what you said and you might have caused damage in the relationship. In the long run it means you have hurt yourself as well. Point being, it matters when you make a mistake, but we all do it as we are all human beings. Sometimes the impact of the mistake can be much greater than the thing we did itself.
Recently I made a bunch of mistakes, so I’ve been thinking about mistakes and how we treat ourselves. I do not want to diminish the wrong action, but to find a way to come back to learn from the mistakes and so to move on.
I was observing how I treated myself afterwards. Perhaps the mistake I made was foolish or ignorant but it was too late to change the outcome. In England there is an expression ‘There is no use crying over spilled milk’. It means after you spilled the milk, its too late to be complaining that your milk is gone.
In my case I was doing something for the first time, and if I am honest with myself, I wasn’t thinking straight. It happens even to the best of us! I didn’t realise it at the time, so I made the mistakes and I didn’t get what I wanted. Then I was gutted!!
That was when I got really hard on myself…. I kept trying to tell myself that it was a mistake, mistakes happen, everyone makes mistake sometimes!! But I was still hard on myself! Later I realised that I was so very hard on myself because I was also disappointed in the outcome. I hadn’t realised how much I really wanted it. 20:20 hindsight is a marvelous thing!
Once I recognised that the hardness came from my disappointment, and not from anything harsher, it was easier to have compassion for myself! I could give myself a break. The harshness came because I felt I had let myself down, and that was painful for me, but it was nothing worse. That was a relief!
Somehow, even after that realisation, I still wasn’t done with this. – I fell into a dark and unhappy state that I haven’t seen for a while. It was odd to see it, but I realised that this part of me doesn’t actually want me to be happy, right now. It was a surprise to recognise that this part of me actually wants me to wallow in misery! Maybe other people have that place as well…. its not an easy place to admit to and for me it was a startling realisation!
So I asked myself ‘Is this a place I actually want to live from ?’ The answer came back, NO! That was when I remembered my first antidote to all this darkness is to remember to stop complaining and to get grateful…. there is always, always so much to be grateful for!
Gratitude, and choosing to feel grateful is like taking a medicine for your brain. That’s true, even when it doesn’t feel natural or obvious. Its even true when it feels like the last thing on earth you want to do. Gratitude changes something in the chemistry of your brain. They say that joy and gratitude go together. Its not that joyful people have more to feel grateful for, it is that grateful people experience more joy.! If you don’t want to take my word for it, you can check out Brene Brown on this topic over here. You really can resource yourself with gratitude, and it works!
Now that I had resourced myself, I could see that it was not surprising that I made that mistake. I was doing something new and I had been anxious about it.
Then I remembered to looked back on the last few months. I recognised that globally, I feel more lightness and more openness. And yes I do have a a lot to be grateful for. Simple things like having good food to eat – a nice apartment, things that nourish me, people who care about me and so on.
It reminds me that being happy is a choice. Sometimes I need to re-choose it over and over again. Old habits sometimes take hold and they can be hard to break. The thing is though there really are times when being happy is just not it, at least for me. In those moments, if I am honest, I don’t choose happiness. The challenge I have then is to be kind to myself, in the face of choosing ‘not happiness’. So that I can be a friend to myself no matter what.
As soon as I can find kindness for myself in the face of choosing ‘not happiness’ , then something shifts inside me. Its amazing! There is more space for me to be myself and I find my centre again. Once I find my gratitude for life, happiness, calm, being centred, is never far away.
It has been an interesting journey these last days and not an easy one…. I felt pulled in many different directions, and not easy to find the distance I needed inside me. I am deeply grateful for the tool of Focusing which has helped me find my way.
What happens for you when you make mistakes?
By the way upcoming I have 2 workshops one on Self Compassion on March 12 2017 where we can really dive into methods to find kindness for yourself. Details here
And on April 23rd an Introduction to Whole Body Focusing in which we will learn the basics of Focusing.
A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege and the honour to speak at the first ever Serious Waffle Session. If you haven’t heard about them you might be wondering what on earth is a Serious Waffle Session? Whilst the TED talks https://www.ted.com/ seek to inspire Serious Waffle Sessions seek to educate. I was invited to give 3 key learning points on my talk on happiness. Why Waffle Session? Whilst Brussels is well-known for its waffles, there is also a pun involved here. In the UK to ‘waffle on’ about something means to talk at great length on a subject – often in a boring and roundabout way. A Serious Waffle is not a long and boring talk, but a short one and to the point – I had 15 minutes. There are two more Serious Waffle Sessions in the coming series. You may like to join me as part of the audience. I am sure the next round of speakers will be excellent and thought provoking. Serious Waffle Talks
I had agreed to give this speech because I believe I have something of value to say about happiness, and it was also a good opportunity to raise my profile. As one of three speakers for the evening, we addressed the topic of happiness. Sascha Siegmund kicked us off, by talking about some of the myths about happiness. Andy Whittle followed with some principles to follow. You can check out what he said over here Andy Whittle’s principles of happiness
For my own talk I wanted to give some tools that can be useful in everyday life. Keeping my talk practical and hands-on idea was a key motivator for me in giving this talk. After I had said YES a few months ago, there were quite a few moments when I had serious second thoughts. What did I know, really? What made me think I had something useful to say on the subject? I noticed the barrage of negative thoughts, but I kept reminding myself why I wanted to give this talk. What it meant for me, was a big motivator.
As a trainer and facilitator, I am used to standing up and talking to people . But I had never given a proper speech before!! Truth be told, I was terrified! We met as a group a couple of months before, to review the planned event. I wasn’t liking it – it was feeling too formal, too real even. I was very much in contact with my own fears of about giving this kind of speech. But I felt committed. I wanted to do this even though I felt scared about it.
Agreeing to give this talk was challenging me in more ways than I had bargained for. I had forgotten that I had spent much of my earlier life perfecting the art of invisibility. When I look back at my childhood, it seems that being visible almost always got me in to trouble. Even when I had done something good. A memory is standing out, of me at about 8 years old. I was given a certificate for some good work I had done. I was called out in school assembly and congratulated, for my hard work and endeavors. It should have been a nice happy moment for me. Unfortunately for me, my elder siblings were also present and they found it hilarious. They didn’t rate my youthful hard work as they were not as studious as me. They laughed at me, as only elder siblings can. I was young enough and sensitive enough to take it to heart and it was painful! I ended up feeling that I had done something wrong , when I was just being a good conscientious student!
Through that event, and others like, it I learnt not to stand out. It was never good news, so I became a master of being there without ever being noticed. So now, what on earth was I doing, thinking that I would stand up and make a speech?! I had never done anything like that before!! In a sense, I was challenging myself to rewrite my history. I needed to create a positive memory in the present to counter-balance the negative memories from the past that were still impacting me. Even after all this time. Its only now after the fact that I recognise why this was so important for me, and so scary.
Before Christmas I had a vague notion of what I wanted to talk about. When I was in the shower, or out for a walk, thoughts arrived that belonged in my talk on happiness. Most of all, I realised that I definitely did have something to say about this topic. I realised that I used to be invested in being unhappy – without even knowing it. No longer! My perspective had changed so much that I definitely wanted to share some of it. This was already building my confidence, as was my excitement about my topic.
Then I had the good fortune to go on holiday over the Christmas break. It turned out to be perfect opportunity to think about my talk. I went away with a group but I hadn’t bargained on being almost the only single amongst many couples. This not a topic that I think about much in daily life. But I was on holiday now, and some moments were excruciating!
I asked myself if I believed everything I said about happiness? What a perfect opportunity to find out! As I realised this, I remembered the practice I had received years before, from my then teacher Alan Lowen, from the Art of Being. This practice of ‘No complaining’. It took me a long time to learn that one, and now I can talk about it!! This practice of ‘no complaining’ pulled me out of the pity party I had fallen into. There is so much here and now to be grateful for, even if its not ideal. I am fortunate to have this opportunity, to go on this holiday. I am enjoying this glorious sunny weather in the middle of winter. The people were all friendly and inclusive, some of them were going out of their way for me. Thats plenty to be grateful for.
This was my first tip that I could speak about. And I had some good anecdotes from my holiday
By now my speech was writing itself, new memories and old ones kept coming. I even learnt my speech by heart, all 15 minutes of it. I had not never imagined I could do that. The words were alive inside me. I am glad to report that my speech went super well. It has helped my confidence no end and I am looking forward to the next opportunity!
And here you can see me in action
Is happiness an inside job? No doubt about it now, I am sure of it. What about you? Please add your thoughts in the comments below.
The other day I managed to lock myself out of the house. Did that ever happen to you? I had just come back from holiday and I was on a planned Skype call. I was expecting a furniture delivery but it wasn’t scheduled til later. So of course on this occasion my furniture arrived EARLY – and sure enough I had to get some cash from the bank around the corner for their delivery fee. I came back into the building, and when I got back to my front door I realised that I had left my other key on the other side of the door and so I had locked myself out! What to do?! – Time was I would have panicked and stressed out, giving myself a hard time about how foolish I had been. Fortunately for me this problem was easily solved as my upstairs neighbour was home and could help me connect with my landlord. Everything was sorted out super fast, and I was home What a relief!!. Sure I spent a few hours hanging around waiting but globally I was extremely lucky, it was so easy and straightforward to solve it, and I was feeling grateful…..
Grateful for all the people who dropped everything so I could get back in to my home, grateful that I could get into the building so I was warm and dry, grateful that I have somewhere nice to live, that I can pay my rent, that Id had a super holiday, that I was feeling calm, healthy, alive – the list is long once you get started!. I wasn’t remotely bothered about the time I had lost that day – I was so grateful to be home again, sure I had to reschedule my call but the other person was understanding once I told them what had happened.
What I m noticing is that once I take time to feel grateful all those other voices – the ‘beat me up’ voices – I am sure I am not the only one that has them – don’t need to be heard so much – I am so busy feeling grateful that they go a way of their own accord – how marvelous is that!!
And as a follow up to this little story, This morning, on my way to my office, I realised that perhaps I had gotten out of bed the wrong side as I wasn’t in a particularly good mood, and I had just missed my bus – there wasn’t another one in ages, darn it!! So I decided to walk – it was a beautiful sunny morning –a bit cold but the exercise was good. I realised that it was time to start practicing what I am on about – Get grateful! Its a practice – which means that sometimes gratitude is not spontaneous when you start -= its like showing the mind the groves in the tracks look over here – GRATITUDE – you know you feel great when you feel grateful –
What am I grateful for today? – well actually this walk, being out in the sunshine on this cold Belgian day is pretty good to start with, I am fit and healthy and I love walking . Its Friday today and I have some nice plans for the weekend, starting this evening , and then the mind takes over finding more and more things I feel grateful for. By the time I got to my office I was in a great mood and ready for a full day ahead of me.
What are you feeling grateful for today?
Please Share in the comments below
Today, well all week actually, I am in a bit of a spat with someone – they did something that really upset me, made me angry, that has consequences for me –I could go on, but I will spare you. In any case, I am still pretty upset about the whole situation…
I am writing about it here because I’d like to reflect on how my response to it today is so different than how I’d deal with this type of situation in the past. Previously I have not been known to do well with anger…… I have been reactive and difficult to be around. In fact, I’d do anything other than just feel the anger, so that I can move on to get life back on track – despite this irritating thing this other person did.
Through my work with focusing – I have learnt a new way to respond , to ground myself and the results this morning were remarkable.
This morning before leaving home, I was triggered again by an email I read. There I was fuming mad all over again!! I had been planning to ride my bike to my office – and I was suddenly was aware of an inner voice saying ‘ be careful – you’re ungrounded , it ‘ll be a mess!’. This voice knowing that I have a history of accidents happening when I’v e been ungrounded – and some of them have been pretty nasty over the years. It has been at my peril when I didn’t pay attention to this voice in the past!
Today though I heard an inner response ‘Hang on a minute, I want to ride my bike! – I just got it repaired yesterday and it’s no good just sitting in the shed’. I took another moment – and sat with these two voices, allowing them both to be there. Then I realised that I needed to ground myself and it would be fine! So I did just that, I took the moment to feel my whole body – to feel the ground beneath my feet , to feel the energy and to feel everything that was going on for me right there in the moment. I felt the energy pulsating through me, as I sent it down into the ground.
Quite quickly I felt gratitude, for my life and for this practice, even as the anger was still present – but I felt alive in it, in a totally new way. So I duly cycled to work, and even as I was cycling along I could feel the ground through my feet, through the pedals in fact – that was a bit of a weird experience I have to admit!!
I am glad to say I am now safely sitting in my office writing this blog!!
It never ceases to amaze me how the simple act of grounding and making space for everything thats there gives me more space and freedom in my life.
The young man told me he had a fear of flying – so much so, that he was working on it with another therapist. He was curious to see what focusing would bring in helping him with this phobia. Lets take a look at what happened in Jospeh;’s session ( not his real name) which I describe here with his permission.
By way of introduction I asked Joseph what happens for him when he flies and he described the panic and anxiety that he often had before and during flying. After our introductory grounding I invited him to get in contact with his memories in a physical way and we invited his body to show him something . Right at the beginning of the session a lot of anxious feelings came up for him and he noticed there was a pressure in his chest. It seemed that lying on the ground was a good position, lots of contact between him and the ground. I invited him to really feel the ground. Then I suggested that just for a moment, he get back into contact with the anxiety and then immediately to come back to bring his awareness to the ground. Already there was more calmness as he did this.
Then he announced that he needed to sit up – ‘you know, like in an airplane’. I found us some suitable chairs – sitting opposite each other on upright chairs, not exactly like airplane seats but it seems to have been close enough. I kept inviting him to reconnect with the anxious part and to keep bringing his awareness back to his feet and to the support from the chair. Before long Joseph was on a memory carousel of challenging flights – from years ago – in Surinam, in Nicaragua, in Indonesia as well as closer to home. All I was doing was sitting opposite him and inviting him to feel the stable ground beneath his feet and the support from the chair. And I kept inviting him to make space for whatever was there, over and over again.
A little while later Joseph informed me that the bad flight memory carousel was still going round, but spinning off –further and further away. Suddenly Joseph reported that there is more space in him, the memories still there – but ‘over there’ and in him now – more space. Something had shifted in him and my role was simply to remind him to bring awareness to the solid ground underneath him – and over here on my side I was extremely aware of my feet and the contact I had with the ground I noticed that my feet were warm and definitely connected to the ground..
Later on Joseph told me that he will be flying again very soon and that he could see himself at the airport about to fly – The self he sees he sees is telling him ‘It’s going to be fine, I can handle this now’.
With focusing when you start a session you never really know what is going to show up, or even whether your body will want to go where you are intending it to go – sometimes other things that are more pressing need to be dealt with first . Sitting over here as Joseph’s listener and guide I am struck again by the simplicity of this process, and its beauty.
In this situation where Joseph’s sense of panic at the start of the session was almost completely overwhelming him, having a listener was essential in his process. This is definitely not a topic to try at home! Nonetheless the simple practice of finding the contact between you feet and the ground can help brings more presence, calm and more aliveness , wherever you are and whatever is going on in the moment.
I was presenting at a conference the other week, giving a workshop on grounded presence. Over here . It was a new idea for most of the participants in the room, some of the people really got into it – and got a lot out of it. Almost inevitably though, there was a reluctant participant.
At the end of our session she told me that she did give it a short try but quickly decided that it wasn’t for her. ‘With this technique I may as well go for a run, I was hoping for something that will help me when I am talking for example with my boss, this obviously won’t help me there’.
Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to give her my full answer at the time – so I am posting it here. Actually I am a great fan of running – at least I used to be. My Dad got us all into running when I was a kid and I had often found it was a great way to let off steam when I got frustrated with people – especially for example, a difficult boss. Years ago pounding the pavements was the best tool I had and I will be forever grateful for the Happy Mondays Running Club in Norwich for getting me running again. Running brings you back into contact with your breathing, your body, with the environment, with yourself, and with the people you are with – if you are running in company. It’s all good stuff.
However running does have its limitations – when you are in the middle of a conversation and you don’t like the way its going – it’s usually quite difficult to drop it all, and come back to it after your run and your shower….. when you might still get triggered all over again.
Grounded presence is much more immediate – you simply stay present with what is happening, and start noticing – sounds simple doesn’t it !
‘Oh, I am trying to have a conversation with this person, but I find they don’t give me much time to answer. They seem to be a bit aggressive. Hmmm …. I am noticing that my feet are on the floor and the chair is supporting me, the air is warm. Let’s see what happens if I ask them to slow down a little and give me a bit of space to find what I want to say…..
Just taking a moment to notice the obvious might seem a strange thing to do . Like it’s so obvious why would you bother? On the other hand, its so immediate and can be done so quickly, why wouldn’t you bother?
In the past, in those difficult situations, I would get more and more frustrated and wound up, and then be hard on myself at the end of it for how reactive I had been. Worse, I might feel like I had completely abandoned myself and let the other person say whatever they wanted. I could end up feeling that they had walked all over me. These days, thankfully, it’s a different story….. I still get frustrated sometimes of course – but I notice the signals early, I come back to myself, I find my feet on the floor, find the chair supporting me. I suddenly feel I am somehow bigger and I can watch compassionately the part of me that is caught up in this struggle. This gives me the wherewithal to say ‘Erm …..I can see that is your perspective on things – but I have a different perspective that is equally valid and different to yours, and this is how I see it …. ‘ Usually the other person can hear my views and we can together find a way forward that works for us both. It’s definitely better than storming out the door and looking for my running shoes as I did in the past! Why don’t you give it a try!
There I was at the end of my holiday in beautiful sunny Brittany, perfect weather, sandy beaches, turquoise clear water just perfect for paddling, and amazingly beautiful scenery. I had one hour left before catching my train home, and I was just contemplating how to spend this time. My head was buried in google maps, but I was still ambling towards the station, and I wasn’t looking where I was going. So it’s not really a surprise that I stumbled – could have happened to anyone. I was a carrying a not-so-heavy back-pack, but it was just heavy enough to topple me – and there I was on the ground – I heard my own cry ‘ Sh…t’ as if from a distance and I was hurting.
Next thing I knew some burly guy was trying to get me to stand up! No, actually I want to get myself together first, and then stand up in my own time, thanks. Suddenly there were 3 of them trying to make me stand up….. Non! I said in my best French. I was not liking this so-called ‘help’!
A moment later there is another guy who showed up, he told us all that he was a fireman and those other guys disappeared as rapidly as they had arrived. The fireman went on to ask me all those formlaic questions, to get me talking, to check I was Ok, that I knew my own name and where I was from, and to check I was am not concussed. I participated in this exercise willingly, understanding this process. He did a great job, and kept telling me that we shoudl get the firemen to check me out. He told me it’s not normal to fall over for no reason ! Well maybe it IS normal to trip up when you aren’t looking where you are going – could have happened to anyone! I asked him if there is a bench nearby that I can sit on, as I was still a bit wobbly at that point. The nice friendly fireman helped me over to the bench that was conveniently placed over there, I felt shaken but not stirred.
Sitting there on the bench, I check myself over,there was a scrape on my knee, and another on my hand, and yes probably a nice big bruise on my cheek bone. I checked in with the whole of my body –I could still feel my toes and the whole of my feet inside my boots, – it felt really good. I could feel the metal texture of the seat beneath my sit bones. Ah, yes, there was something inside me screaming at me, in pain. I guess that must be normal too, given that I had just taken a fall. I became aware of the sunlight behind my closed eyes, the sounds of traffic in teh distance, slow traffic parking nearby and birds singing. And I could feel that ‘I am all here, and I am OK’!
Mostly, if I let myself know it, I felt grateful. I heard this wise and caring voice inside me pointing out that if I did have to fall over, it was much better that it happened here in town where there were people around. Much better than on a remote cliff edge on Ouessant (a mostly unpopulated beautiful island of the coast of Brittany) where I had been few days before. I did indeed have a few scratches, but this little mishap was much milder that other times I had fallen. There were no broken bones, no blood, and people were around – even though the first guy that came along didn’t give me the support I needed right then, I am sure he was well-intentioned.
I sat there for a while, and made space for the shock to be there . What a relief to know there was no need to change anything, and that everything was OK, just exactly as it was. Then I realised that I was hungry, and treated myself to a really nice lunch. Evidently today was not the day to explore this city….. It was time to catch the train and go home, and uncharacteristically for me, I slept most of the way home –so may be falling over wasn’t so bad after all!
I definitely wasn’t hard on myself for this having happened, as I would have been in the past, and I found many small moments of kindness, and tenderness towards myself on the way home. There is one inside me who can be hard on me sometimes – but on this little mishap I felt only self-acceptance and self-kindness. It could have happened to anyone and thank goodness it was so minor!
This first blog post entry I share an experience of grounded presence, the foundation stone focusing, and how it is helping me in my life.
What does it mean to be really PRESENT – alive and awake and aware of the ground beneath my feet, the sky above me, aware of the sounds coming in from out side, aware of the thoughts that whizz thru’ my brain.
I am watching the tirade of thoughts spilling out of me now as a I write. I notice them, not really caught in them, just acknowledging them, putting them gently aside – one by one as they come up. Then I come back to my thought-process as I write – I notice the self-judgements that come in thick and fast. In me, these voices, and similar ones, are cajoling around, too much of the time.
It was certainly like that for the longest time. In the past little things would trigger huge reactions, that afterwords left me feeling embarrassed and a bit hopeless – how did that situation repeat – again?
One day, midway through yet another challenging situation, something different happened. A new friend invited me quite simply just to feel my toes, and to feel the contact between my toes and the ground, and from there slowly to bring in to awareness all the parts of my body one by one. By the end of it I felt calmer, more present, more alive and simply aware of my energy and everything that had been triggered by this challenging situation
You can always wiggle your toes! It might sound silly, but its remarkable what a huge difference this simple step can make. Here am I, standing here, sitting here, and whatever else is going on. I can feel my toes, I am in contact with the earth through the soles of my feet. Gravity is acting downwards and, sure enough the gentle reaction from the floor pushing back. I can feel my own presence more strongly, I am more alive and awake and it all starts with the simple step of wiggling my toes!
Check it out and experiment!
I am writing this blog to share some of the insights I and my clients get from Whole Body Focusing Sessions. Sometimes I am really moved by something that happens for a client in a session with me, and a vignette of that session may appear on the is blog. It will give you an insight into the types of things that can happen in a focusing session . Obviously every session is unique, but these posts may give you an idea of the types of topics that people work with in a focusing session – and the types of benefits people get when they work with me.
Equally, I am using focusing in my own life – sometimes situations stand out and the blog will come out of my gratitude for how focusing is helping me in my own life.