Oblivious… Exhausted… ‘Realistic’… Inspired. The four stages of ‘no choice’

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The simple fact is we that we never have any choice about what we do. Ever.

That might sound frightening to you. It might be a relief. Or you might well not believe it.

What about personal responsibility you might ask? Or will power? Or mind over matter?

Are you saying that we are all just floating around in a soup of anarchy? Or that we are all zombies or robots? Or our lives are pre-destined? Or that we can do what the hell we want because it is not up to us?

Actually, none of the above.

There are levels of understanding, clarity and awareness that mean our experience of this ‘no choice’ and the result of our actions can range from hell to heaven on earth.

We are on a journey of discovery. We might slip back down the scale of awareness and more towards hell from time to time. Or we might have a part of our life that is stuck in exhaustion while the rest is inspired.

But once we start realising the truth of how we are, the momentum of our life is towards clarity in all aspects. And that clarity (which is essentially clarity about the universal ‘no choice’ nature of life), brings with it absolute transformation of our experience.

Because, (with apologies to Orwell): All ‘no choices’ are equal but some are more equal than others…

 

1. Oblivious

There are two aspects of oblivious

i) I don’t know what I am doing or why I am doing it. I don’t see the impact of behaviour on other people, the world or my own life. I act mindlessly on compulsions or voices in my head. I am out of control. Other people step in to avoid my harming self or others.

These are the people who have been sectioned, who are uncontrollably violent. There is no recognition of any distinction between thought and reality or awareness of the impact of behaviour .

ii) I realise what I am doing and I believe the thoughts that justify why I am doing it. I live in extreme fear or anger towards myself or others. I see myself or others as evil and deserving of harm or even death. I am consciously violent or abusive to myself or others out of the utter conviction that the world will be a better place or I will be better off as a result.

These are the people who see fearful and angry thought as reality. Who have no idea of the independence between the outside world and their feelings of intense insecurity. The difference between the first and the second group is that the latter is aware of their behaviour. Neither questions or doubts their thoughts and beliefs.

People in this category are those who believe so completely that the death or harm of themselves or other people is the only way to relieve the feelings of fear, anger or insecurity that they act in accordance. Hitler or people who commit suicide are here. Oblivion.

 

2. Exhausted.

I am aware of my thoughts and feelings. I am aware of my behaviour and I know it harms or restricts me or other people. I know I should stop but I feel terrible when I do and I believe I need to keep doing what I am doing to feel better, to relieve my feelings. I am exhausted from trying to change, from trying to be a better person or to fulfil my potential. I believe I have the ability to choose but it seems I just can’t make my life go the way I want it to. I am caught up in my feelings, trying not to act on them and then feeling bad when I do, which makes me feel worse. With all this noise, I can’t really hear the quiet inspiration that is always available to me.

People at this stage are those who believe they should be different or behave differently in some way. They may want to drink less alcohol, take less drugs, shop less, play less video games, argue less or watch less tv, or whatever other habit.

But the drinking, drugs, shopping and tv is a way of blanking the thoughts which blanks the feelings. When I think I have to feel better, I have no choice about whether I will go shopping or drink wine. There is will power of course. I can hold out for a while. But holding out against our own beliefs is limited, exhausting and temporary.

The other aspect is that I believe I do have a choice. I see other people who eat less or shop less or watch less tv. I believe I could be more like them. Then I feel bad and I do what I do to feel better. I beat myself up for the ‘bad choices’ I continue to make. And each bad choice I make is more evidence for me that I am ‘weak’ or ‘wrong’, is more evidence that I need to do something to feel better.

So I struggle on, blaming myself for every bad decision or wrong choice or unkind act as though I had a choice. But I don’t.  Exhausting.

 

3. ‘Realistic’ and frustrated

I notice the ideas that come to me while I am in the shower or out on a walk or when my mind is quiet. I recognise momentarily that these are good ideas, that they would lead to expansion of what I can do out into the world or to a deeper, clearer engagement with life or with myself.

For a moment I allow myself to imagine what these ideas would look like in form in the world. I am curious and intrigued. They seem to make sense…

And then my insecure thinking takes over. “Realistically, you would never get that off the ground, you haven’t got the staying power”. “Where would you find the money to do that?” “You don’t have time to do what’s on your to-do list right now, let alone this huge project.” “In reality, you would start it and then fail and look ridiculous. Why bother?”

The inspiration is noticed but insecure thinking steps in and is believed. It is under the guise of being rational, having our feet on the ground and that seems safe and sensible but deep down we know there is more to us and more to life.

This is the world of the unfinished manuscript, the painting classes with no final exhibition, the web search for mature undergraduate courses with no application, the unbooked theatre tickets, the dream holiday that stays a dream, the declarations of love that go unspoken, the soaring mission for humanity that never gets clearance for take off. We have felt the prompt, the nudge in our ribs but we haven’t seen the inconsequence of insecure thinking clearly enough to stand up in wisdom. ‘Realistic’ but frustrated.

 

4. Inspired

I am fully aware that I invent my world and myself through the creative power of thought. I know that I feel my thinking, nothing else. I know that these thoughts and these feelings are ever changing, transient and insubstantial. They are not important to me. I don’t need to change them in any way. I know not to send any energy in that direction.

I listen beneath the noise of my thinking to the quiet wisdom beneath. I notice the ideas and inspiration that make sense, that come from love, expansion, creativity, curiosity and peace. I know that there is a truth and a guidance in this inspiration.

I know that anything I think about the reasons to act, about whether this will make me happy or not, successful or not, a good person or not, loved or not is made up. I drop all of that.

I also notice the insecure thinking that appears. The thoughts telling me not to risk myself or my reputation, not to waste my time and effort. I notice how these thoughts come with a feeling of unease, insecurity, fear or anxiety. I know to let them pass.

I turn back to the inspiration. I know I can’t control the timing, content or form of inspiration. I am passive in this process. I can only ever act on what occurs to me. If it doesn’t occur to me, then it is not in my reality, it is not part of my life. The only reason I would not act on this wisdom, over which I have no control, is because I am believing my thoughts, over which I have no control. Act on wisdom? Act on insecure thinking? I know, ultimately, I have no choice about what I do.

I know that inspiration brings with it its own feasibility as I start to work on it. Doors will open, people will appear. I will have as much energy and time as I need. I continue to act on the personal wisdom sent specifically for me and I express it in the way that only I can. As I do so, I take my place among the greatest, most creative, most impactful people to ever grace the planet.
I am inspired.

Donald Trump: a conversation with Reality.

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Clare’s thoughts: Donald Trump is terrifying. He could destroy the world. He could be the Hitler of the 21st Century.

Reality: You know that he is just a figment of your imagination don’t you? You do know that everything you are thinking about him is made up? And that any feelings of concern and anxiety are a response to your thoughts and nothing to do with him whatsoever.

Clare’s thoughts: But he is actually there in the White House. He is an objective, independently alive entity. He is banning immigration from certain countries. He is sexist and homophobic. And the way I am responding to him is the way that every sane person would respond to him.

Reality: How can that possibly be true?  You know that anything you think about even the people you live with that you see every day – your husband and kids – can change from one moment to the next. There is nothing objective or ‘real’ about them in that sense. How could anyone be an ‘objective entity’?

Clare’s thoughts: But I’m so scared of what might happen. I feel like I have to do something. To ‘be on the right side of history’.

Reality: If there is one thing you know after this year of exploring the Inside Out Understanding, it is that scared and panicked feelings come from scared and panicked thoughts and following that path just leads to more of the same and less and less clarity.

Clare’s thoughts: But he is harming people…

Reality: Even if he held you and your family up at gun point in a dark alley, anything you would be thinking would be imagination. And the more you realise that in the moment, the more you will hear the wisdom telling you what to do.

Clare’s thoughts: So how do we ward off the bad stuff? How do we protect people? How would Hitler have been stopped if the Allied leaders had sat around talking about how Hitler was a figment of their imagination?

Reality: the anxious thoughts generate their own stuff, independently of whatever it is we think we are thinking about. There are no solutions to the anxiety. There is just a great deal of division and not listening. Your version of Donald Trump has been created out of your insecure mind. Just as your insecure mind creates your scary tax return or a fear of talking in public.

When you realise that, you come into reality. And you can ask, right now, in this moment, knowing that I don’t need to try to solve my insecure feelings and thoughts, what makes sense for me to do?

Viktor Frankl wrote in his book about his experience in Auschwitz, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’: “Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

What would it mean if you were genuinely responsible Clare?  Owning your thoughts and your insecurities and the behaviour that results? Owning your inconsistency when it comes to protesting world leaders? Owning your lack of support for people who are actually at this moment asking for your help? Owning and acting on all the ways you could contribute to more physical freedom for individuals and groups of people? Standing for love by loving everyone?

When you see Donald Trump as your own creation, then you are in reality for the first time. Then and only then are you creating a space for wisdom. Then you will know what to do, right now. In reality.

 

 

The Empty Vessel (but what a vessel…)

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I have a client who I speak to on the phone. I have never met her in person. I look forward to her calls in the way my four year old looks forward to Christmas. What will it be this time? What joke or warm comment or beautiful insight or humble confession will I hear from her this week?

We talked about how as we pay less attention to all the stuff that is whirring round in our minds, we become empty vessels, open and ready to receive and act on the wisdom that is continually coming our way.

As we were talking, I knew that the principle was true. We are walking, talking, moving spaces. Yet equally fascinating to me was the form of my client that surrounds and shapes this space, the form that makes the shape possible. As we spoke, I knew without doubt that there is an essence of her, my client, that is indefinable and that is as magnificent as the space that we were discussing.

And it is the same for all of us. The same in the sense that we are not the same.

In focusing on the space within, we forget the vessel that is making it possible for the space to be.

That is how it should be.

Because any thought of what are they thinking of me, how am I coming across, am I getting what I want, I’m so different from them, we will never agree on this, do I like this person, do they like me?  All of that just gets in the way.

And those thoughts can’t come anywhere close to the vessel anyway. Anything that we think about how and who we are and how and who someone else is is held in thought and has no truth to it. We cannot define it in words.

And yet… and yet… this vessel is there. It is the unmatchable indefinable essence of each individual. It is a miracle, it is unique, it is a work of art, it is exquisite, infinitely detailed, complex, profound. It is far beyond description.

To say that we are waves of an ocean, made of the same energy, appearing and disappearing is absolutely true. Yet in pointing to the sameness, we miss the indefinable, momentary glorious uniqueness of each of the waves.

Each wave is a shape for the universe to express itself. And the shape is beautiful and beyond thought. As we realise that our idea of who we are is absolutely made up, the more this essence of who we are sparkles and dances and sets the world alight. The more intensely ourselves we become. The letting go of being just makes the being more beautiful, more mesmerising.

Even more miraculously specific, is that the wisdom that flows into the space that this vessel creates is designed expressly for that vessel and for the precise situation in which the vessel finds him or herself.

Then the individual will shape it, express it, say it or turn that wisdom into a form that no one else on the planet could do.

Occasionally, the universal-turned-individual wisdom is fully, truthfully expressed, through someone’s unique personal essence with so little of the person in the way that it speaks to everyone.

The magnificence is such that world catches its breath for a moment, takes a step back to hold onto a chair.

This is when the most profoundly moving works of art are created, when humanity’s greatest leaders speak words that end centuries of hatred and violence, when huge leaps are gained in our medical and scientific knowledge.

And it is also present, in the tiny, numerous, every day unique expressions of wisdom. When a parent turns a squabble over who gets the blue cup into a moment of hilarity for the whole family. Or when a nurse comforts a patient. Or when we decorate our house. Or laugh with our friends. Or become absorbed in our hobbies. Or work for a charity. Or write a letter. Or choose a new outfit or a new job or a country to live in.

On Michael Neill’s Creating the Impossible programme everyone gets to chose something that seems way beyond them that they really want.  All of these projects are powered by universal wisdom, expressed through the unique essence of each individual.

Helping 1000 young people see their power to change the world, won’t be for everyone. But how amazing that Stephanie is doing it. We might have no desire to coach Benedict Cumberbatch but we can love that Katarina does. Holding poetry workshops for businesses is something that might never occur to us. Wonderful that Peter is doing it. How great that Stef is learning Spanish to train people in Latin America. And those exquisite paintings from Molly created in the way that only she can…

This is the real wonder of life. All of us experience life in exactly the same way. All of us are wisdom receptors and all of us have a shape and a way of turning the formless into form that is impossible to replicate.

Actually, perhaps the real wonder of it all is that for this essence to be appreciated it needs a witness.

This is where we come in. When we really see this essence in another, when we are free of any agenda other than to simply marvel at the unique being before us, we are seeing, in that beautiful distinction from ourself, ourself.

In that one exquisite moment, we witness the infinite kaleidoscopic gift of life and we know that is who we are.

We are uniqueness noticing uniqueness.

We are life realising itself.

 

The only reliable navigation system

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crossroads

Something weird has happened over this last year. Every single one of the means I used to navigate my world has shown itself to be utterly unreliable.

As all of these previously vital systems gradually left my life, I was briefly like someone wandering in the middle of the desert without a compass.

Then, as I stayed in the conversation about what is really true about our minds and how they work, I saw how we all have access to the only true navigation system that we will ever need.

Here are the ways I used to rely on:

What other people told me to do – I’ve just finished re-reading the Remains of the Day. It is a story of a butler who did what his employer told him to do, because he believed that was his duty and that his employer would always be right. At every turn, the butler ignored his own wisdom. It is devastatingly sad.

My thoughts – from one moment to the next I think something is a good idea, then I don’t, I like someone then I don’t, I want something, then I don’t. Deciding something on the basis of what I think about it in that moment is like deciding something according to whether the sun is behind a cloud or not.

My feelings – all of these changing thoughts create ever-changing feelings: happy/sad, fearful/gung-ho, calm/angry. It really no longer makes sense to do something because I feel like doing it or not doing it because I don’t.

The effect I want on other people – I’ve done so much stuff in the past to try to impress people or have them like me and I’ve not done even more stuff because I worried what they would think. I will never ever know what people are thinking of me. I will never know what impresses them or not. To second guess all of this and then act accordingly is a total waste of time

My insecurities – ’nuff said.

Because it is difficult – this is a really interesting one. Some of my clients talk about how life should be tough and hard as it shows you are putting in the effort. If it is not, then you are just coasting. I’ve had the same belief in the past. What I am seeing now is that a belief in whether something is difficult or not is just a thought. Using ‘difficulty’ as a synonym for validity and for a reason to do it just does not make sense.

Because it is easy – it is also interesting to see what clients believe is easy for them and therefore something they should stick with. I had this in relation to public speaking. Speaking to one person at a time was ok, two was difficult, three was scary, four was a presentation and was therefore terrifying. My ‘comfort zone’ of one person was totally made up and arbitrary. Sticking with what feels comfortable and easy is to lock ourselves up in an imaginary castle.

Whether I had time or energy: the truth is that both of these ideas are held in thought and change in accordance with our state of mind. We have as much time and energy as we ever need.

So what are we left with?

We are left with the absolute pure miracle of knowing or not knowing. Both are 100% reliable. Both are personally unique to us and universal in quality. Both are, in effect, the same thing.

Both are pointing in the same direction – inside. Within us is the space for the answer. It might not be there right now but it will be. The not knowing is simply knowing that the answer is there.

The knowing can appear in many ways. It can be a quiet inner voice saying “That just makes sense”. It can be a sense of deepest calm or inevitability or obviousness. Or it could be upbeat and sparky ‘Of course! That’s it!’ It is the naked Archimedes running into Syracuse shouting ‘Eureka’. It is the ah ha moment. You might sense it in your gut or in your heart or in your whole body. It is the clearest recognition of truth or rightness or fit. You might rush out to take action immediately or know you need do nothing.

Everyone reading this blog will have had this knowing many many times in their lives whether it was what curtains to put up in the living room or who to marry/not marry, whether to take a new job or what to have for dinner, what to do that saves a situation or a life or what to watch on tv.

The not knowing is equally peaceful and exciting, equally clear and obvious.

And when we see it, this brilliant creative idea, this peacefully exciting knowledge, we have two choices

  1. Allow it to simply flow out in the world through us, in the way that only we can express it, to do what it is there to do
  2. Assess it according to what someone is telling us to do / our thoughts about it / our feelings about it / whether it is too difficult or too easy / our insecurities / what others will think of us as a result. Then decide it was a terrible idea.

Let’s go with option 1.  Better all round.

 

 

Mousy-locks and the two bears.

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two-bears

Once upon a time there was a beautiful young girl with long golden hair. Well… an average looking 35 year old with shortish brown hair. Her name was Mousy-locks.

Mousy-locks worked in marketing. She wasn’t particularly confident at the best of times. Speaking in front of people was always an ordeal for her. She feared all sorts of things: criticism, people laughing at her, getting things wrong, looking foolish or stupid…

Above all, though, she dreaded meetings with her boss’s, boss’s boss. He was roundish in shape with a head that sunk into his shoulders and a grizzly brown beard. Mousy-locks was terrified of him.  She did everything she could to avoid his bark of disapproval. Let’s call him Boss-Bear.

Before a meeting with him she would have weeks of preparation, weeks of sleepless nights and then would sit in silence as he dismissed her proposal with a flick of his head or worse slammed a huge paw down on the table, growling about her incompetence and the-entry-level-basics-that-she-had-completely-failed-to-grasp-and-did-she-even-know-anything-about-marketing-anyway…?

Then one day Mousy-locks went on holiday to Canada, rounded a corner and came face to face with a bear. A real bear. A mother bear. Up on two legs, teeth bared, claws extended, two young cubs copying her. Mousy-locks and her dear husband, who for some godforsaken reason only known to him had arranged for them to stay in a lodge to which the only access was on mountain bike through a bear-filled forest who she loved with all her heart and whose judgement especially when it came to booking holidays she never questioned, backed away. They moved behind the corner, slowly got their bear spray cans out of their back packs and waited. After half an hour they moved slowly forward again. The bear (let’s call her Real Bear) was gone.

Back in the office, a meeting was scheduled with Boss Bear. Mousy Locks realised something was different. In Canada she had rounded a corner, stared possible death in the face and had known what to do. In the office, what would happen to her? Being criticised? Not getting a promotion? Being shouted at or sacked. Strangely, none of it seemed a problem. She wasn’t so afraid any more.

The End

Except it’s not of course. Because many years later Mousy-locks went on Michael Neill’s Super Coach Academy and thought a bit more about Boss Bear and Real Bear.

She realised that Real Bear was real. A real bear up on her hind legs. Mousy-locks realised that in that moment in the Canadian forest, 100% present, no time for over-thinking or second guessing, she had known what to do. That she always would. Wisdom is always available.

She also realised that Boss Bear was a character in a story. Well there was a bearded person there in the room who was paid more than her but apart from that, she was pretty much making everything else up. A whole long story about what he thought of her and what that imaginary opinion meant, what other people thought of what he said and what would be the consequence of his disapproval, how she couldn’t possibly ever simply say what she saw to be true.

All of it was a carefully constructed story with a carefully constructed villain designed to keep the heroine of our tale as a small mousey person who can’t speak up in meetings, can’t say what she wants and who is scared of people in high places.

So Mousy-locks finished SuperCoach Academy, along the way realising that fairy tales are great until you mistake them for real life. She changed her name to Clare Dimond, Transformative Coach and lived happily ever after.

The End

Not quite:

postscript 1: she hasn’t been back to Canada yet but she definitely will.

postscript 2: her husband really is very good at arranging holidays

postscript 3: she hasn’t seen Boss Bear in a long time but would like to. She owes him an apology.

 

 

 

 

The Minimal Maximal Life

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I love minimalism. I once bought five books on it in one go. (That sounds like a joke. I wish it was. No idea, until I’d read the first one, of the sad irony.)

The idea of simplicity, of doing with less, of creating space in our living environment is beginning to take hold of the world. It makes so much sense. Stuff we don’t need, stuff we trip over, stuff that blocks our way – it all takes up time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere.

A movement is now gathering pace which creates the same effect in the ultimate of living spaces: the mind.

When we see that our entire experience is created by thought in the moment, we realise (TA DA!!!) that the only thing that ever stands between us and life is our thinking in that moment. And the more we realise this, the more we fall out of that circular, going-nowhere stuck thinking and the more we can access the fresh, new, helpful thought that is there waiting for us.

What more incentive is there for a bit of minimalism?

Like Marie Kondo, holding up a possession to see if ‘it sparks joy’, we can hold up the stuff that we thought was real, that we thought was out there in the world as a fixed thing for us to react to or comply with or to beat ourselves up with. The beliefs of who we are and who other people are. The ideas about what we can and can’t do. The confusions about how to live and who to love. The ideas about what it takes to be worthy, successful, valued. The ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’.

When we hold all this up and own it as our own thinking then we have a choice. Perhaps not the keep, throw away or recycle choice. Something more like ‘Is this loving?’ or ‘Is this in the way?’ or ‘What is actually real here?’

In a workshop, Mara Gleason talked about being with a client and mentally saying ‘Next… next… next… next…’ to each unhelpful thought until her mind quietened down and she could properly connect.

All that stuff that was jamming up our mental cupboards can be put in the boot of the car and taken to the dump.

And an enormous space is created.

Then what happens in that Space? In a talk I gave recently, a wonderful woman started crying. “It’s frightening” she said “If I’m not who I thought I was, if I’m not all those beliefs then who am I?”

I had a similar conversation with a client. “I’ve used ‘shoulds’ all my life to motivate me” she said. “If I don’t have that then I’m worried I’ll just sit around doing nothing.”

Space. You might expect that letting go of all that compulsive obstructive rumination would leave us with an emptiness or dullness. Floating around without direction on a yoga cushion. If I’m not who I thought I was, am I nothing? If I don’t have to do anything, will I do nothing? If I don’t believe the thoughts that are fixing me and the world in place, will I disappear from life altogether?

Well, hold onto your hat because that is the exact opposite of what actually happens.

Because, when we thin out our personal thinking by giving it less and less priority, we fling open the giant doors to the roaring intensity of everything else. So if you are embarking on some New Year mental minimalism, prepare for the rich, diverse, hugeness of the life that awaits. Here are some of the things that I’ve seen come tumbling in:

NEW STUFF.  The hobbies, jobs and opportunities we had written off because… “I’m not musical…” “I’m no good at public speaking…” “I don’t dance…” “I’m shy…” “I don’t like being on my own…” “I don’t travel well…” “I’m not sporty…” When all of those beliefs are seen through as nothing more than a thought in the moment, then whatever occurs to us to do in the moment is up for grabs. There are literally no limits. The extraordinary diversity of nature is there in us, expressing itself in a way that is unique, personal and specific.

OLD STUFF IN NEW WAYS. As our minds are less bogged down, we have clearer access to everything we have ever done, known and experienced if it is relevant and useful to us in the moment. Something we learned in that bizarre or boring job we did years ago might suddenly be remembered at exactly the right time. We make connections with what we used to do. We put things together in new ways. As we do so we get a sense of that magnificent organising force that connects us to the moon and the seasons and the cycle of day and night.

NEW PEOPLE.  All that new stuff we are doing because it makes sense to us right now will bring along with it a stream of loving, supportive, fascinating people. We are having so much fun doing what we are doing, we are so in love with our world that other people can’t help wanting to get involved too.

OLD PEOPLE. As our old sense of self with all its limits and sensitivities starts dissolving, all those people we had got offended by, who we thought were too important or too busy for us, who we had written out of our lives for one reason or another can come back. When we don’t need to protect an idea of who we are, we can connect with everyone. They are all there for us. We are surrounded by love, by people who want to help us, see us flourish because that is exactly what we want for them.

CRAZY EMOTIONS. Get ready for this one. When we believed that the world could make us feel a certain way, we had to protect ourselves from whatever we believed could cause us upset, fear, jealousy, anger. Now we know it is all a thought in the moment, there is no shield or armour. The whole kaleidoscopic rainbow of feeling is coming our way. Rage, terror, ecstasy, passion. All of it is safe to experience (albeit in a eye-popping roller coaster sort of way) in this new expanse of life.

FUN. TIME. ENERGY. LOVE. It is extraordinary the weight we lug around with us in the form of stuck, heavy, limiting personal thought and it is extraordinary what is unleashed as we see it for what it is. More fun. More time for everything. More energy to do what our wisdom suggests we do. And so much love.

We realise that we are not creating the space, we are the space. We are the immense ballroom for life to dance on. The empty field for life’s festival. The grand stage for the ultimate production. We can watch it all, enjoy it all, be fascinated by it all, knowing we are it all.

Minimalism. Maximalism. New Year. No You. New You.

The projection room

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reels

I was sitting in an elegant drawing room of an iconic London hotel. I was with 12 outstanding professionals hosted by two of the world’s most influential coaches.

We were talking about projection. About how everything we experience comes from the inside out. How the world is essentially a projection of our thinking about it.

I looked around at the exquisite decor, listened to the intelligent discussion and had a secret smug smile to myself. If everything is a projection, I thought, then I’m pretty damn good at this game.

Then I came home and found out my Mum was ill. I argued over nonsense with husband.  I lost a client who I thought was going well and had a tricky session with another. I got cross with my kids before school. I received an unexpected tax bill and a load of other stuff I didn’t want appeared in my life. I was stressed, insecure and ill at ease.

All this puzzled me. I knew enough to know (well.. ok… after a while) that I was experiencing my thinking.  In London, I felt that I was reaping the rewards of getting it all together. Why, when I got home, would my thinking give me such a miserable time?

There is no answer to any of that because it is a false question. The reason it is false is it hinges on an entity that is also false – the self.  The I. The Me.

A few of us were down in the dumps after London and Garret Kramer posted in our Facebook group, “Remember, the quickest way to jam the system is to aim for personal satisfaction. This workshop was not conducted for your personal benefit.”

I probably gave that a little blue thumbs up on the page but in my head I was running round, beating the walls with my fists, shouting WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN…?

I sat with it for a good while. And this is what I’ve seen.

There are two ways of experiencing life:

1. Projecting it

Most of the time we are living our life through our own personal thinking.

All this thinking is like reels and reels of film from the archives of our mind. We put on a film and we’re stuck with its script, characters and set directions for a moment, a while or a lifetime.

We project a story out of our old thinking and then we react to it as though it has come from anywhere other than directly from us.  “Why do I always lose out?” “I can’t believe I’ve got another shit boss.” “I’m doing my best but she is such a bitch.” “It’s a dog eat dog world.” These are the patterns and stories that dictate our lives and the people in them.

The common theme in all these reels is the self, the me of it all.

Superior. Victimised. Defensive. Passive. Aggressive. Lucky. Lonely. Charming. The Self.

It’s the biggest piece of stuck thinking of them all. So fixed and unmoving that, like a huge piece of furniture in a small room, we don’t even see that it’s there.

Sitting there smug in the hotel, I thought I was so free and clear minded but my experience was entirely stuck at the level of my personal thinking. Look how great I am here in this place. Tra la la. Then I come home and my mind dips because that is what minds do. Instead of just shrugging it off. I search through the film archive for some entertainment. I put on the reel of ‘sorry for myself’ or ‘not wanting unexpected tax bills’ or ‘wants everyone to think I’m a brilliant coach’ and I react to what I’ve put out there.

We experience whatever film it is we are living in that moment. But even the happiest of films is no match for the second way of experiencing life.

2. Simply experiencing it

I’ve had moments, as I’m sure you have too, when I see the world immediately before me with such freshness, such original clarity,  in such intricate, vibrant, unobscured detail that it takes my breath away.

The feeling that accompanies these moments of observation is other-wordly. It is as though by experiencing the truth of what we see or hear or feel we are actually experiencing the truth of ourselves. The miraculous, loving aliveness that we are witnessing, from the infinite to the microscopic, is us. We are all of it.

There is nothing in the way of the crystal clear awareness. No judgement. No criticism. No opinion. No ‘how does this reflect on me?’All of that falls away, utterly irrelevant.

The difference between this fresh experience of life and the living in one of our films from the projection room is immense. Michael Neill once described it as the difference between a blade of grass and a lawn mower . This breath-taking clarity and the feeling that goes with it is like the most powerful drug. Everything else, even the happiest of our projected films, is miserly short change.

Our group had a conversation about how as you go deeper in this understanding, life seems to throw more at you, not less. This is the greatest gift we could have. Because every feeling of resistance is a reminder that we are in the projection room and, with that realisation, we now have a choice.  We have a chance to see the pain, and also the impermanent happiness, for what they are, reels of film. Nothing more than that. And when we see them for what they are, they lose their grip on us.

We move, one discarded story reel at a time, away from the projection room and towards the blissful reality of the unfiltered, unprojected experience of life.

 

 

Indifferently engaged. Passively dynamic. The ‘contradictions’ of a magnificent life.

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I spent the first 26 years of my career thinking I had to be more, do more, have more, add in more, care more, act more, fire myself up more.

Exhausting.

What I’m seeing now is that the secret to living the fullest, most magnificent life is in these two surprising contradictions. Let’s take the first one:

Indifferently engaged

Indifference means a lack of concern, a not caring either way.  That’s got to be a terrible thing, right? If we don’t care then we won’t do anything. How can that lead us towards a great life?

Well, when we realise that 100% of our experience of life is from thought in the moment then we stop trying to manipulate the future, our friends and family, our careers, our finances, our homes to give us a sense of security and well-being.  We inevitably become indifferent to the questions that no longer make sense. What do they think of me? How can I secure my future? How can I be a better person? There is no answer that will not change from moment to moment.

I have most clearly seen the power of this indifference with my children. For most of their lives, my ‘care’ was just a synonym for my concern or worry about them and me. Were they OK? Was I a good Mum? What would their future hold? Was I doing this right? What were other people thinking of me?

I see now that all of these questions pointed me in the direction of a made up world and that all this ‘caring’ did was distract me from the simple reality of these miracles being here in front of me: the tone of their voices, the colour of their eyes, the movement of their fingers… And the more real I am and the less I ‘care’, the more I know what to do and the more head over heels in love with them I am.

In the moment, we can be quiet, aware and as close to the truth as we will get in our lifetime. To the rest of it, to the illusions, we can be gloriously, easily indifferent.

Indifferently engaged.

So if nothing outside us has the power to change how I feel, why would I do anything at all? Wouldn’t I just sit around all day and watch TV?

As we come into the simple truth of who we are, we realise with absolute clarity that there is nothing we need to do to feel better about ourself. In fact, we even realise the illusory nature of the self.  There is nothing for us to do. Nothing for us to prove. Nothing to change. Life is simply a gift. Laid out for us to experience. A multi-dimensional, full colour, all singing, all dancing gift.

On a call recently, George Pransky said of Michael Neill: “He throws himself into everything as though his life depends on it, knowing all the time that nothing depends on it.”

When we have nothing to fear and nothing to prove, then we can go all out hell for leather right into the centre of the whole mind-blowing thing. We can be the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.

The more indifferent we are to the illusion, the more we live in absolute freedom to participate, in love with the whole show.  Laughing, crying, fearless, terrified, angry, happy… this is our life. We are fully, whole body, mind, soul and spirit, engaged.

Passively dynamic.

There was a stage in my life (the last 40 or so years) when I believed that it was all on my shoulders to achieve and to do stuff and to control outcomes and to make things happen. The buck stopped with me and if I stopped then it was all over.

Then I did stop and got a bit quieter and saw that actually there is something beyond me that keeps sending the bucks my way.

Let’s take this blog for example.  I don’t know where the idea to write it came from, or where each word comes from, or how I know that one word fits and another doesn’t. It just comes and the more I settle down into the writing,  the more easily the ideas come.

When I believe I have to anticipate and try and control, my head is full of “what will they think of this one will it get any likes on Facebook how awful if it doesn’t will I just be embarrassing myself what if all this is wrong and Garret Kramer who I admire with all my heart calls me out on it do I just sound really stupid what if my mum reads it and thinks I have lost the plot…” then it all takes longer and is rather tiring.

At a workshop recently I asked the two renowned speakers how they defined being productive. Michael Neill said, “Doing what I know to do.” And George Pransky said, “Acting on my wisdom.”

These ideas, this wisdom and this knowing do not come from striving, analysing or force. They come from waiting, watching, listening, being curious, making space. The quieter, more available we are, the more obvious the solution or the next step. There is nothing we can do to speed up the arrival of the insights or ideas and the harder we try the more disruptive we are. We are absolutely, utterly passive in this process.

Passively dynamic

Then we have an idea of something we want to create or do or bring to the world and we know it is just an idea, we know we can’t control the outcome, we know it won’t make us any more worthy or make people love us, we know it won’t bring us security.

And, far from keeping us stuck in front of the TV, knowing all of this releases the brakes.

We are powered by the force of the oceans, the energy of the tiger, the brilliance of Einstein, the stamina of the Masai, the lightness of the sunbeam. It is all there, coming out into the world through us, in the way that only we can do it, say it, create it.

There is nothing in the world to stop us going all out to bring into the world whatever came into our head. We are life’s energy, force, might and pure dynamism.

Indifferently engaged.

Passively dynamic.

Magnificent.

How to be a well-intentioned but less than brilliant parent (or coach, teacher, boss…)

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DOH-Homer-350x196I doubt that anyone becomes a parent with the intention of holding someone back. That would be a pretty laborious way of scuppering the human race. But as parents (and coaches, teachers, employers) it can happen that in our earnest desire to help someone we end up doing the opposite.

I know that in pretty much every role I have in my life that involves other people, I have unintentionally got in their way. I also know that, despite my sometimes worse than useless interventions, my kids, clients, students and colleagues will have found their way through regardless…

As I become clearer about the innate wisdom, health, resilience and joy of every individual on the planet, the far less inclined I am to do anything that points them in any direction other than inside them.

Here is how I have been well-intentioned but far less than brilliant over the years (and in all cases it is still work in progress).

I helped them put so much ‘on’ an idea or a desire that we choked the life out of it

We are born to live a beautiful life of curiosity, creation, exploration, learning, fun and love.

But in the well-intentioned attempt to build up a child’s (or client’s or pupil’s or employee’s) motivation to do something, we point them in the opposite direction. We load up the doing with meaning. Misguidedly, we make it about their self esteem or their value. We bring in what we think other people will think of them. We make it important and worthy, about success and failure, about awards and titles.

If they were stuck and weighted down before talking to us then the chances are they will become even more stuck as a result.

It is in creating the quiet, honest space, in which it is clear that all meanings and beliefs are arbitrary and transient (yes, even our own…), that we point people back to their birthright.

I took out the fun

There have been many times at the dinner table when I have wanted one of my children to finish their dinner. I have got cross them, my voice has got tense. I’ve stopped smiling. They become sullen and defiant. Not only are they not eating but we are all miserable. Then their Dad turns it into a game and soon we are all laughing and they are eating or not eating and either way we all know that it is OK .

When I make life about bringing something in – discipline, mind over matter, duty or showing character, I take the focus off what we all have already – our innate well-being and wisdom.

Now I use that sense of heaviness in the air as a sign I am creating arbitrary reasons why this matters and I look for a way to remind all of us of the free, joyful, creative beings that we really are. That is where the fun is.

I worried about them

Imagine I am in a room with a client and I’m smiling away and keeping my voice nice and light but underneath I am thinking ‘What a disaster. How on earth are they going to get through this?’. No prizes for guessing what they’ll take out from that session.

Worrying about someone is all about us and nothing about them. When we worry about someone we communicate to them that we have no belief in them to find their way through. And it is all about our beliefs and fears (which come and go) and nothing to do with the reality of their own access to intelligence and inspiration (which is always there).

I see now that my child or client could be telling me the most difficult situations they face and I can be with them in the full knowledge of their resourcefulness. If I have the slightest doubt about this I am living in a make-believe world of my own.

I took my fears seriously and lied about being afraid

I used to think that being responsible meant showing no fear.  The result was that I took every fear extremely seriously, saw it as weakness, tried to squash it and ended up a quivering wreck.

What I’ve seen now is that fear is just part of being human. We can pay to experience it on on a roller coaster or do anything to avoid it in a presentation.

We can welcome or resist fear according to what we think it means. This takes us to the strange conundrum that we never have to take our fears seriously AND we don’t have to deny or resist them.

It means I can tell my son and daughter when I am queuing up with them to go down the death slide that I am absolutely, can-barely-stand, terrified. And still go down the slide with them. Or I can show the guests at my first public talk that my hands are shaking. And still do the talk.

This way I am using myself as a sign post towards the transience of thought and the reality of feelings. There are few things more powerful and honest than that.

I believed that I was essential 

I know of a therapist that has been seeing one of his clients every fortnight for the last 30 years. Thirty years. The therapist is quite proud of the fact that if he goes away or has to postpone a session, his client goes to pieces.

Over twenty years ago, Steve Chandler started working with a coach, Steve Hardison. A coaching relationship that continues to this day. Since then, Chandler has changed the lives of thousands of his own clients, written over 20 best selling books and is now on a mission to help everyone on the planet suffering from addiction.

The first scenario is about keeping someone small, stuck and dependent on you. The second is continually reminding someone they have everything they need to thrive and contribute at ever more profound levels of clarity, service and love. And seeing it for them, when they really can’t see it themselves.

In any situation or role in which someone is looking to me for guidance, my focus can be on making myself inessential as quickly as possible.

It is the difference between my child coming to me to be told what to do or coming to me because I remind her that she knows what to do. Or between a coaching client coming to me for a pep talk or coming to me for the space to find their own inner knowledge.

Being a parent, teacher, coach or boss is never about flying with a permanent apprentice.

It is about teaching someone to fly a plane and having the privilege of watching their unique, one of a kind airshow that you could never have predicted. Maybe you’ll get a big ‘thank you’ written in the smoke-trail and, if not, the spectacle itself is always reward enough.

The end of stress. Even when it seems like the end of the world.

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The coaching I do is based on the understanding that we experience everything through thought. We cannot experience anything directly. However real it seems, it is always perceived through our state of mind in that moment.

Our state of mind changes from one moment to the next. One moment it is high and we see solutions and possibility. The next moment it is low and we see people who are out to get us and situations that seem impossible. We all experience this. Things that seem insurmountable at one moment, seem manageable in the next. Our spouse or children can seem intolerable at one moment and the loves of our life in the next. It is not the situation and the people that change from minute to minute it is us.

Our state of mind is not in our control. Which would be a problem if we felt we always needed to see solutions and possibility. But when we realise that our state of mind changes all the time, we can just let it do its thing and take it less seriously.

This for me is the end of stress.

Before, when my state of mind dipped and all I saw were problems and awful people, I took this as reality. I thought I had to do something to solve what I was seeing. In that low state of mind, my mind would thrash around trying to come up with an answer it simply couldn’t access. I piled on more anxious thinking and I prolonged my time in this low state of mind.

It didn’t help that stress and anxiety at that time was my navigating system. If it caused stress, then I believed it was worth thinking and worrying about. Stress meant valid, important and urgent. Stress meant taking responsibility. The result of course was more stress.

What a breakthrough it was to realise that in a low state of mind I can’t easily see answers and also that there is nothing I need to do to try to fix that state of mind. High. Low. High. Low. High. Low. High. Low. This is simply the human experience.

When the UK voted to exit the European Union, I plunged into deep anger and dismay about this future division.  I deliberately separated myself through my actions and words from those who had voted to leave. I was furious with those people. My stress about a future division led to actual division in my life. Created by me.

In my anxiety about the security of the economy, I cancelled the building work we had planned. My concern about a possible future (and therefore non-existent at that moment) downturn created a real-world, real-time loss of work for a friend and who knows who else as a result.

When I came out of the panic and into a clearer state of mind, I could see that the leave voters were just people like me trying to do their best. I could have actual conversations with people who had voted differently…(!) In a low state of mind, angry at division, I spread division. In a low state of mind, fearful about the economy, I take away income from someone. In a clear state of mind, I am more able to connect and actually hear someone.

If, when I hear of an attack on something I value, my stressful, fearful, low state of mind believes the thoughts telling me to distrust others, particularly those with certain beliefs. I fear and even wish harm on another because of what they think. If I believe my thoughts in a low state of mind and act on them, I am my own version of a terrorist.

In a clearer state of mind, I can look at every person in my life and see where what I believe about them gets it the way of my unconditional love and acceptance. At that moment I can see my thinking. This to me feels like the beginning of the end of discrimination and terrorism. Right here, in this moment, in this house.

When we take this to its logical conclusion we are left with what Garret Kramer, author of The Path of No Resistance, summed up so succinctly: “Any feeling, emotion, judgement, idea, concept or theory that comes from your ability to think (given that it’s subject to change) is not true. Love is the only thing that doesn’t come from your ability to think. Love is the only thing that’s true.”

His words have strong precedence. Gandhi said, “Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.” and Martin Luther Kind said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

When I take my low state of mind seriously, I am caught up in what I imagine and believe, in fear, anger, anxiety, hate. There are no solutions to this state however much I lose myself in trying to find them.

When I don’t take that low state seriously, I let the roller coaster of mind take its course and soon I will be back in touch with my innate love, creativity, peace and connection. And when the roller coaster goes back down and for that moment I lose that sense of who I am, I know that that is OK too.

What’s the point, anyway?

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What is the point of life?

I’m asking this because, well, useful to know. And also as a coach who is supposed to help people get better at this life business, I would like to know what I am doing.

Until quite recently I was on a very clear, logical journey. The point of school was to get to a good university. The point of a good degree was a good first job. The point of a good first job was a better second job. The point of the better second job was an even better third job. The point of a sequence of better jobs was to save enough for a good retirement and then… what….? [sound of brakes squealing as the whole thing comes to a screeching halt]… Uh oh.

I’d been living as though the point of living is to fix my gaze on the future until the curtain comes down.

If the point of this minute is to set myself up for a great next minute (which will never come because I am only ever living in this minute), I am living in order to die.

Death cannot be the point of life.

The point of life has to exist, therefore, in this moment.

So the question becomes: what can we do in this one moment that will give point to our life right now?

Two beautiful quotes help us here: Philip Pullman said “the point of life is to bring about more consciousness”. And Henry Miller said that “the aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”

Two other quotes take us a bit further: The point of life is, according to John Burnside, the poet, “The shedding of illusions” and to Oscar Wilde, “To realise one’s own nature perfectly”.

Which leads us to the questions: Who are we really? What is our true nature? What are the illusions?

But we know this already.

We have all had those moments when we see our truth.

Perhaps when we gaze into the eyes of a new born, or when we learnt how to walk, talk or ride a bike. Or when we see an elderly couple holding hands on the train. Or when we have done something that scared us. Or when we were so absorbed in something we almost stopped breathing. Or when we created something that seemed to come from nowhere. Or when we saw the sun set or the inside of a rose or the night sky. The moments when we are in love with the world, in love with ourself. When we are an awareness of the creative, loving miracle of life.

That’s who we are.

And those moments when we are aware of it, we feel magnificent and humble, unique and connected, supernatural and natural, truthful and beyond truth, alive and larger than life. We know from the absolute rightness of this feeling that this is who we really are.

We also know from the ill-feeling in our body and mind when we are clinging to illusion. I’m worried. The world is harsh. He doesn’t love me. I don’t love her. I’m not enough. I’m flawed. I’m inadequate. I’m despicable. I am limited. I mess things up. My future is bleak.

All illusions and we know they are because they feel so wrong. They sit so badly with us that everything feels out of joint.

The only thing that ever gets in the way of ‘realising our own nature perfectly’ are those ‘illusions’ created by what we are thinking and believing right now in this moment. We can let those go.

Who cares if we didn’t remember this yesterday or whether we will remember it tomorrow.

All that matters is that we can be ‘joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely’ aware of who we are, right now.

This is the point of life.

No journey necessary.

If it’s just my thinking, I should stay here, right?

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I’m lying on a bed, locked in a remote house with an obsessed fan who is about to destroy my legs.

You could come and talk to me about how everything is experienced through thought. But to be honest, that wouldn’t be massively helpful at the moment. What I’d find most useful is a way out of this Misery and never see Annie Wilkes again.

In my coaching work, I talk to teenagers who are bullied, teachers who face taunts every day, people who want to leave their marriage, professionals who cry in the toilets, parents whose kids hate their schools.

From how they describe the situations to me in my study, it seems like this is their own version of Annie Wilkes. The humane response would seem to be, “Get the hell away from all that. Here, let me help you.”

And let’s be clear, if you come to a coach in fear for your life, they will help you find safety, immediately. If you want food or drink or rest they will help you get that. If you want a literal or a metaphorical hand holding they will do that. If you want space just to be quiet and alone, they will make that happen. If you want help to leave your partner, change job or find a new school, they will give you that help. Clear requests don’t need discussion.

But often the clients in my study don’t know what they want. They see a terrible situation, horrible people and they don’t know what to do. And when you come to a coach stuck, stressed, in confusion or believing you have no options, what you need is clarity.

This is where the discussion comes in, because no matter how obvious it seems that the outside world is the cause of our anguish, we ONLY ever experience it through our state of mind in that moment. And according to that state of mind, we see things more or less clearly and have more or less options.

It is always our beliefs and thoughts about a situation (and never the situation itself) that mean we fear, resist, change, tolerate, accept, welcome or choose it.

Homelessness and living on donations, for example, can be an easy choice for a monk or a 3 am terror for a city worker in his million pound apartment. This doesn’t mean we should all choose homelessness but it does mean that when we are woken up by the fear of it we are in a stressed, low state of mind.

Insults can be heard with love by the parent of a distressed child or believed with fear and humiliation by an abused spouse. This doesn’t mean we should all choose to be insulted but it does mean that if we believe the insults then we are not seeing clearly.

Our state of mind will determine how we see, hear, notice and experience the outside world, what we make this mean and the options we have as a result.

If you are stuck, a coach will work with you to take your mind from a low state to a high state, and in doing so they are not denying the elements in your life – the pupils, the spouse, the job or the boss. But they will help you understand that in a low state of mind we see those pupils, that spouse or boss through the veil of our own insecure thinking.

In a low state of mind, we are more likely to experience other people as indifferent or hostile and situations as difficult, hopeless or harmful. And this doesn’t mean that a new school, a divorce or a new job isn’t the best option.

It just means that, as our mind clears, we realise that other people behave (just as we do) according to the illusion of what they are thinking and believing. We will realise that situations are inherently neutral apart from what we are thinking and believing about them.

In this state, we see the illusions we have been making up: dependency, a need for approval and security, the past, the future, what other people think of us, what we ‘should’ do, success and failure…

And we see what is real: our birthright and natural desire to flourish, expand, enjoy life, connect and create.

With this freedom of mind our own inner wisdom will guide us to where we want to be, who we want to be with and where and how we want to work.

In other words, as my mind clears, Annie Wilkes may disappear along with all those other illusions of my low state of mind or she will be there, large as life, and I, no longer frozen with fear and indecision, will have all the mental resources I need to do what I want to do.

The end of self-improvement / self-acceptance / self-development / self-anything. The start of getting real.

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I spent decades believing that I had to improve and develop myself. According to where I was working, who I was admiring, what I was watching or reading, how I was being told to be, I knew I had to be stronger, cleverer, wittier, funnier, fitter, better dressed, more ambitious, beautiful, creative, decisive, organised, articulate, charismatic and on and on… There was no end of flaws to correct and a deluge of self help books, self development courses and self denigration to the point of self obsession followed.

And then I came across an understanding that has put an end to all of that for the rest of my life. This understanding is called the Three Principles and it describes how we experience ourselves, our lives, other people, the world through our thoughts. The more aware we are of the creative power of thought the more arbitrary and transient we realise our actual thinking to be.  When we live in this awareness instead of in the actual thoughts themselves we give space for fresh thinking, inspiration and our natural well-ness. This is how we were designed to flourish.

Through this understanding I have come to realise that, like any thought, a ‘flaw’ or an ‘imperfection’ in ourself or another is simply an opinion at that moment. And that the opinion changes from person to person, moment to moment, mind state to mind state. Porridge can be too hot too cold or just right and all of those judgements depend on whether it is Goldilocks eating it or someone else and what Goldilocks is thinking at that exact moment.

If we think we have flaws – in appearance, character, ability, mentality –  then we can set out, as I did, on a lifetime to correct them and the multi-billion dollar self improvement industry gets a new recruit. Or we can set out on a lifetime of pretending ‘self acceptance’ I have this flaw but I’m pretending to myself that it doesn’t exist. And none of it works because the more we try to accept or correct these ‘flaws’, the more real we think they are. The more real we think they are, the more we think we have to do something about them, the more real they seem.

Let’s not underestimate the power of this vicious circle of believing critical thoughts. A person can believe themselves so flawed that they act on the thought that the world would be better without them. Or we can believe other people to be so inferior that they deserve disrespect, ill-treatment or even to be killed. A world of violence to self or others is held in thought and can disappear the minute we realise the illusion of it.

If everything we think about ourselves and others is a simply a thought that can change then we are left with the enormous question:  what am I?

In the truest possible sense I am nothing. I am not a fixed entity in any way. I am a presence that experiences and lives a life according to what she is believing and thinking at that moment. There is nothing that cannot change from one thought to another. No fixed self, no fixed personality or identity, no fixed character, no flaws, no imperfections. In my clearest state of mind I am witness to the beliefs and thoughts about all those things. I am never those things.

And while I am nothing, I am also everything. Everything I experience about the world, myself and other people is my own unique version. My version has come through the infinity of influences, experiences, thoughts, beliefs, people met, places seen. There is no one on the planet who can experience the world in the way that I experience it or who can create, speak, act and love in the way that I can. None of this would exist without me. I am everything.

Nothing and Everything.

Impossible even to define.

Improve on? Ha.

 

 

I’m terrified. How awful / amazing / neutral.

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wiredtoworryOn Monday evening, I’ll be giving a talk on what I have learned about how people can easily start living the joyful, peaceful, creative and loving life they are designed to live.

The simple fact that I am giving a talk is all the evidence I need of how this works.

For decades I had an abject fear of public speaking. Even the mention of a presentation at work made me feel sick and faint. I couldn’t even ask a question in a meeting. I tried everything to get rid of that terrible anxiety: courses, deep breathing, relaxation techniques, hypnosis, rescue remedies, brandy… Nothing worked. When forced to, I stood in front of colleagues shaking and sweat appearing in dark patches through my jacket, unable to say a single word….

The more I tried to get rid of this fear the more of a thing it became. It became an Issue. A Phobia. A Problem. I had to Deal With It. Find a Solution. And the more the capital letters appeared the more impossible it became.

What I realise, as I understand more about how we experience life, is that fear can be terrible. It can be something that, like me, someone will try to avoid at all costs.

Or it can be something we pay hundreds of dollars to experience in Disney Land. Or something we want so much that we demand a refund if the Blair Witch sequel doesn’t live up to the hype.

Awful or amazing. Devastating or desirable.

The only difference is whether we think we want it or not. Which means that apart from our thinking about it, fear is neutral. Like everything else: anger, sadness, approval, concern, anxiety, grief…

Wow.

This means I can stand up this evening and my hands can be shaking and my voice can tremble and I can blush and sweat and lose my words and dry up and fumble and stumble and the only way any of that would matter even slightly is if I think it does.

For me, having come through years of resisting this fear, only to realise that it is only the resistance that creates any issue, this is the definition of freedom.

When I don’t cling to thoughts of how any experience is to be avoided then I just experience it. And in that openness to what is true and in the letting go of what is made up, I create a space in my mind for something miraculous.

So on Monday, if I stand there gaping like a gold fish for two hours, I really know, deep down that I am still OK and my guests are OK, and that for me is the transformation.

Because after all, all any of us can ever do is (in the words of Michael Neill) show up and respond to what happens. And the fact that I am showing up, whether shaking with fear or not, is the best way I can think of to show the creative power we all possess.

What is true transformation?

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Butterfly-Transformation

What has the end of stress got to do with learning to play the violin?

What has learning to play the violin got to do with being able to read books that before seemed too hard?

What has reading three books a week got to do with having much much more fun?

What has having much more fun got to do with having more clients?

What has having more clients got to do with no longer worrying about being scared?

The answer is everything.

All of these changes and many more have come into my life since January. All of them are a direct result of having a quieter mind. And the quieter mind has come as a direct result of understanding how our mind works (thanks to Michael Neill and the Super Coach Academy).

And this understanding is all it takes for a person’s experience of life to completely and utterly transform.

We experience life through our thoughts. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week there  is a stream of thoughts running through our minds.

Often we believe those thoughts.

The thoughts we believe might be a stressful.

They might be something like – I am lonely or I don’t have enough money or I am not successful enough or I said the wrong thing. So we try to fix the problem. Our mind starts to stress about how we have to find friends or earn more or study more or be more sensitive. We get more stressed. More thoughts come in about friends we have lost or homelessness or how we aren’t clever enough or all the ways we offend people. Stressful thought upon stressful thought upon stressful thought.

Transformation is knowing that in that pile of stressful stale thoughts there is no solution, no fresh thinking, no inspiration. Transformation is knowing that we can let the stressful thoughts pass because when we do we create the space for something great to occur to us. Transformation is living life in this creative space.

That is the simplicity of these principles.

  1. We experience life through the creative power of Thought.
  2. We have the gift of Consciousness that helps us realise this.
  3. When we allow the system to work in the way it is designed to, we make space for Mind or inspiration and we can create whatever we want.

This is the foundation to live the rest of our lives in the certainty of our own innate well-being, health and resourcefulness.

We live in the knowledge that whatever happens in our life we will have access to a fresh thought about what to do. With this we need never fear, sadness, grief, disappointment or anger because we know that these will pass through of their own accord.

The space this understanding creates changes everything. We have more time, patience, grace, understanding, joy, freedom, purpose, love, health…

After this year, I know without any question what transformation really means. I have never experienced anything like it before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stress test – how to know you are in your full power

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stressed-simpsonI have a wonderful new client who came to me with some goals that she wanted to work on through coaching. Not so unreasonable you might be thinking.

And a couple of months ago I would have jumped right into the goals with her, making sure they were SMART and all the rest of it, being there to encourage and spur her on.

But with the clarity I have now, I could see that there was a stress around the goals. She was making them mean something about her value and worth which created a pressure to achieve them. I knew that she could work really hard, achieve the goals, but still have the sense of something missing that she started with.

At the other end of the spectrum I have heard a few people recently say, “It doesn’t feel right to me to do this now. I’ll wait for a sign to act.” And it is clear from the way they say it that they are being held back by insecurity or fear that has nothing to do with a higher intelligence.

It got me thinking about goals, hard work, inspiration and stress.  It seems to me there are three ways of understanding our personal agency and the indication of how accurate this is is how we use and respond to negative feelings.  I am calling it the stress test.

1. I have to make it happen

From this place, we place tremendous responsibility on our shoulders because we believe we are on our own in this game. We work out of our intellect, acquiring more and more knowledge, working harder and harder and keeping an ever tighter control. We make it about our personal discipline and commitment. This is the place I was in for most of my life, believing I had to prove myself to myself and to other people or lose everything. It is true that a lot can get done here, exams are passed, promotions happen, more money is earned but at what cost to the individual?

Goals – When we are acting from this perspective, we use a goal as a symbol of our value and our character. As long as it involves some form of apparent progress, a goal is taken as a good thing simply because it is a goal. We don’t question why we want to achieve it. We don’t have the insight to see that when we do things to save face or impress others or to prove our value we are only reinforcing the thoughts that tell us we are unworthy or that we need to earn respect.  We need to achieve the goal at all costs and if we don’t we feel like a failure. Then even when we achieve it, we still don’t feel worthy or respected.

Discipline and commitment – we believe that we make things happen through the pure force of our will. There is a tension and restlessness that goes along with everything we do.

Personal role – it is about our identity as an individual. What we achieve reflects how worthy we are and how hard we can work. We are on a treadmill and the minute we take a break we lose our sense of who we are.

The stress test – We force ourselves out of our comfort zone in order to grow, feeling the fear and stress the whole way. Indeed, we use stress and fear as an indication that the goal is worthy enough. Being comfortable or relaxed is a sign that we are not pushing ourselves hard enough, that we are lazy or uncommitted.  We only deserve the good stuff that comes our way if we have worked hard for it. Stress is a sign that we are working hard and deserve the rewards. 

 

2. I’m leaving it all up to the universe/God/higher intelligence

Here, we wait for the conditions in our mind and environment to be perfect before we will act.

The problem is that this is unlikely to happen.

There is a constant stream of thoughts going through our mind. We have the ability to create our own reality according to which of those thoughts we believe and act on. If we passively wait for the mind to clear  before we do anything then we could be waiting a very long time. This ‘waiting for wisdom’ becomes an excuse to avoid doing anything that we have thoughts about.

Goals – Goals are seen as too wordly or egotistical, about imposing our will on the universe

Discipline and commitment – discipline, commitment or personal agency is seen as a bad thing. We are like a leaf being blown around by whatever signs we perceive.

Personal role – there is no awareness of our personal role and of how we can use our free will to create from a place of deep intelligence and connection.

The stress test – we use stress and fear as a sign to stop, do nothing or change direction.  We feel that everything should align in harmony as a sign to act.
Stress is a sign to stop. 

3. I use my free will to make decisions from my deepest intelligence and to stay on the course when thoughts are stressful  

This is the really wonderful place to be. I have seen this in action many times with the great coaches I have been working with this year. The extraordinary peaceful dynamism of these people who live from a place of inspiration and free will is deeply inspiring

Goals –  We question why we want what we want. We ask ourselves what we are making it mean. Are we making the achievement of the goal about our value? Are we doing it to earn someone’s respect or love? Do we think we will become a better, more worthy person for having achieved the goal. We have the insight to let go of all goals that relate to a lack in our sense of self because we know that pursing a goal to achieve this will only reinforce the belief that we are lacking something.

When a goal or venture comes to us from deep within, with nothing on it other than the simple sense that it is for us to do, then we know we have a goal worth pursuing. As we stay in a place of clarity, we know that if our insight indicated a change of direction, tactic or goal, we could do that instantly without any sense of failure.

Discipline and commitment – we are committed to recognising when we have a clear mind, to distinguishing between thoughts and the unchanging principles of our experience. We exercise discipline in continuing to do what we know we are here to do despite stressful, angry or fearful thoughts. We are committed to creating the reality we want through our choice of which thoughts to believe.

Personal role – we understand that we have an individual purpose on earth. We show up to this purpose even (especially?) when our thoughts are trying to tell us it is too difficult. We act on insights that come at moments of clarity, connection and peacefulness. We know that everything we do comes from a higher intelligence and at the same time through our free will and who we are being, we shape how that intelligence is manifested.

The stress test – we know that stress and fear are simply created from stressful and anxious thoughts. We know we have the free will to continue what we are doing regardless of these thoughts and that the less attention we put on them the sooner they will disappear from our minds. As we continually move forward, using our clarity and inner guidance to navigate, we find that we easily take on bigger and bigger ventures  that would have terrified us before. Stress is a sign that we are stuck in our thoughts and not to make changes from this place. We stay in the game and we make our decisions when the stress has cleared. 

Uninterested, clueless, sceptical… the essential qualities to look for in a life coach

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changes ahead

This year I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time working with, observing and being coached by some of the best coaches on the planet.

This is my take on what makes an outstanding coach.

1. They know you don’t need them and they tell you that… They know that you have everything you need to live your life in the most joyful, peaceful, healthy and prosperous way. The only job of a coach is to help you see that for yourself. This is about clarity never dependency.

2. Often they won’t believe what you are telling them… and they will let you know that in no uncertain terms. That story about how you can’t do the thing you have always longed to do? Meh. Your description of yourself as weak or incapable? Not buying it. They know that well-being, health, joy and creativity is the essence of who you are. However enormous the problems that you bring to them seem to you,  they can show you how to live from that true essence. There is nothing to fix. There is just thinking to let go of.

3. They couldn’t care less what you think of them…  They know that we have no control over what others think. They know that we never even really know what other people think. So why waste time on trying to guess when you could simply be connected to and loving someone whatever they say or do.

4. They aren’t interested in your past…   They know that we can only experience the past as a memory in this present moment and that memories change as our consciousness changes. Regrets about the past are only useful in how they inform what we want to do right now. Stories about the past are only useful in showing us how much more useful a new story would be.

5. They aren’t overly interested in your future… They know that in trying to control and pin down a version of how things should be we miss out on the intelligence and insight that comes in the present moment. They care deeply about helping you to recognise the place of peacefulness, connection and acceptance from which you will transform your life. Where you are coming from matters infinitely more than what you are doing.

6. They live in a tent… or a ten bedroom mansion in Eaton Square. Or anything in between. They ride a bike or a Ferrari or something else. They earn enough to get by or enough to buy half of Wales. They know that money and wealth is only what we make it mean and that they can create (and help anyone else create) the wealth and lifestyle that is exactly right for them.

7. They are divorced… or single or happily in love with their childhood sweetheart. Whatever their ‘relationship status’, they come from a place of love with everyone in their lives.  They understand that how we perceive other people is a reflection of how we perceive ourselves. They have such deep love and acceptance of themselves and everyone else that it shines out to the world around them.

8. They have no idea how to advise you… Should you leave your spouse? Change job? Move country? Start a course? A great coach knows that only you know what is right for you. Their job is to help you distinguish between deep knowing and all the shoulds/should nots fighting it out in your mind.  The coach will help you relax into the place where you simply know in your heart the right thing for you to do.  They help you find your deepest inner purpose and live from there.

9. They might laugh at the most tragic story in your life… and if they do you will be laughing too. They bring a lightness to the stories we have about ourselves. They live their life from the place of infinite creativity and playfulness. They create anything they want to and they know that all of it is made up. You find yourself grinning at the wonderful ridiculousness of it all.

10. They are angry, confused, irritated, scared, jealous… They  own and accept their humanness. They notice and even love the fact that sometimes they get caught up in thoughts or beliefs and they willingly share those stories with their clients. They know that thoughts come and go and they make it their life’s work to do what they want to do regardless of what their thoughts are saying.

11. They only have one client… you. When you are with them it is as if you are the only other person on the planet. The intensity of their focus and their pure recognition of your innate potential and magnificence takes your breath away. You know you have an outstanding coach.

 

Creating reality

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reality

Recently I’ve been wondering about what in my life is fixed and unchanging. There are the walls of my house. There is the physical reality of gravity keeping my feet on the ground (literally, at least, if not metaphorically). There is the fact that I have a body and a husband and two children.

But beyond the material facts, anything beyond an objective description of protons and neutrons is based on meaning and interpretation and this is subject to my perspective at that moment. My perspective changes at any second with different information, new stimuli, according to whether I am hungry, tired, energised, well rested, whether I feel safe or at risk, loved or neglected and an infinite number of other factors.

Anything I think about the walls of my house is an interpretation. Whether these walls represent freedom or confinement, security or debt, completion or a to-do list, achievement or vulnerability depends entirely on my perspective. The same goes for what I think about my body, my family or my presence on the earth.

Similarly, how I perceive the people around me has nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. Flaws and character strengths in another are personal, not to them though, to me. Aspects of another that make me feel insecure or jealous I see as flaws. Aspects that make me feel good or kind I see as strengths.

If I am in a bad mood, the people around me are annoying and inconsiderate. If I am in a wonderful mood, I am blessed to have such kind and interesting people in my life. The people around me change because I change. If they are great or awful it is because I am perceiving them to be great or awful.

The same is true of my past. Of the infinite number of events and moments I could remember from my past, the tiny fraction I select are those that fit my perspective at any one moment. And even these memories themselves are distorted, with some elements enhanced and others deleted altogether, again according to the filters of my beliefs, expectations and perspective.

As I think about all this I feel as though I am simultaneously lost in space and as though I have found the only piece of solid ground available to be found.

I am lost because everything around me is a swirling mist of my own creation, a creation that can dissolve and reassemble as something other according to who I am being at that moment. There are no other people. There are only people that I am creating according to how I expect or want them to be. There are no fixed meanings there are just interpretations that change as I change.

I am on rock solid ground because I am beginning to distinguish between the mist and the only things I know are true and unchanging: I have a mind beyond my thoughts and beliefs that is connected to the energy and intelligence of all life. I have the power of thought with which I create my experience of the world.  I have awareness of those changing thoughts and of the unchanging universal mind.

I feel as though I am insane. That everything I thought was true and real is sliding away from me. I also feel that I have never been more sane. I am no longer basing my life on something that doesn’t exist.

The illusion of the life-size Finn.

Finn.jpg

One Friday, our four year old son brought home a life size self portrait from nursery. He told us how all the children had lain on a big sheet of paper. The teacher drew around them and cut out the shapes then the children painted in their clothes and faces.

Finn was really proud of his painting. He had managed to do some light brown hair, eyes and nose and a red smudge for a mouth and some blue and red smudges to fill in the t-shirt and shorts. We pinned it to the wall of the kitchen with the feet of the painting level with the floor so that it was his actual height.

Then we went away for the weekend.

When we returned my husband dropped me off at home while he took the kids to pick up some groceries. I walked into the kitchen with the cases and screamed out in horror at what I saw.

There standing against the wall, was my son.

“Oh my dear God” shrieked the panic in my head, “We left him at home. ALL WEEKEND. How on earth did we do that?” I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I could barely stand.

All of that lasted a fraction of a second of course. And then I realised. It’s the painting.  It’s the painting. My thoughts calmed down instantly but my heart was still pounding and my stomach was upside down.

For that brief moment I had been utterly fooled by what was not there.

I’d like to say that was the end of it but rather ridiculously, for at least another two weeks, it wasn’t. I’d go into his bedroom, kiss him goodnight, come downstairs and be horrified to see him there in the kitchen. Or I’d see him in one room and do a bewildered double take when he had suddenly been transported right in front of me. I’d drop him at school, arrive home, there he would be.

Eventually, I got used to the painting. I would see it, even in the corner of my eye, even as a blur of brown hair and red t-shirt, and know that it wasn’t Finn. There was no shock or momentarily bewilderment. There was just simple knowledge. Painting.

I look at this painting and I love it. It was created by a boy with brown hair and brown eyes that I adore.  I love him and I love what he has created.

And, yet for a while, I reacted to it with horror, shock, confusion, bewilderment. This was temporary madness.

We all have this madness from time to time. It might last half a second, two weeks, two decades or a lifetime.

The feelings of horror, fear, anxiety, concern, anger are telling us we are temporarily mad. We are believing that something outside of us has the power to make us feel these things.

When I find myself again in madness (and I will of course) and it might last half a second or decades, I will keep reminding myself (when I remember to do so), “It’s a painting. It’s a painting.”

And eventually, even if it takes what seems like a ridiculously long time, I will see it for what it is.  And when I really see it, I will love it. There is no other way.

The Four Secrets of a Great Life

4-keys

At first, everything is an adventure. There is so much to explore and see and listen to and do and make and learn and take apart. You reach and crawl and pull yourself up and toddle towards whatever catches your attention.

Sometimes you cry and sometimes you smile. Sometimes you are cross and sometimes you are not. Sometimes you are tired and you sleep and sometimes you are wide awake and ready for adventure. All of life is in you. The world is there for you. You do what is in front of you to do. It is your playground.

Then one day someone gives you a box. It is heavy and you try to put it down but it seems you cannot. “Carry this at all times,” says a voice. “It contains the secret to finding love.”

That sounds important. You try to look in the box but it won’t open.

Then another box is put in your hands and the voice says, “This box tells you how to succeed.”

You realise this secret is important too but that box won’t open either.

Then another box is thrust on you. “The secret to Happiness.” Obviously you want to be happy. Again, the box will not open.

All of a sudden, life seems very difficult and complicated. There is a way that you must be in order to have a good life. You realise it is vital you discover how to open these boxes and find out these secrets. Otherwise what will happen to you?

A final box is handed to you and a voice says,
“This has the secret of creating what you want.”

“Thank goodness,” you think, “I really need to know this right now”. And you try so hard to open that box but the lid is stuck fast.

Now, you are fully loaded with the boxes that are getting heavier by the minute.  In the distance you see four huge doors and you know that behind the doors is Life. You hear people laughing and talking.

Everything sounds amazing and exciting. You want to be part of it. You try to walk over to the doors but the boxes weigh you down. You know that the secrets to unlocking the doors are in the boxes.  You try but the boxes will not open.  The laughter behind the doors sounds mocking.

You slump down. You are desperate. “Please help me someone” you cry. And a genie appears before you.

“I can help you,” he says. “But first you need to tell me what you know to be true.”

You are so confused and low and bewildered. For a long time it has seemed that you don’t know anything.

You look in the depths of your being, it seems there is only one thing you know. You say in a quiet voice, “I only know there must be something better than this.”

The genie smiles, waves his hand and immediately the scene looks different. You can make out shapes and blurred noise but nothing is distinct. There seems to be possibility in the air but nothing is clear.

The genie says, “Now, tell me what else you know to be true.”

“I know these secrets are heavy.”

He smiles. “Let me take them from you.”

You clutch the boxes tightly to your chest, thinking of Life behind those doors. ”I need them.”

“Then tell me something else that is true.”

There is nothing else. It is hopeless. You shake your head.

He prompts you, “Tell me – have you always had these boxes?”

You look down at one of the boxes. The label on the top says, ‘The Secret of Love’. You think back to a time, long ago, when it didn’t occur to you that you had to do anything to be loved. You just were. The awareness of this sinks deeper and, as it does, the box gets lighter in your hands. You realise you don’t need that secret, have never needed it. There is no secret. The box disappears, and you feel the profound love that has always been there, all around you.

“What else?” asks the genie.

You look at the next box, “The Secret of Success”. You remember a time when you just did what you did and were how you were. You realise the simple, unique, perfection of this. The lid of the box flies open and in front of you appears a display of the immeasurable diversity of nature. Rainbows, snowflakes, oak trees, daisies, clouds, sunshine, ants, elephants,…  You smile. You get it.

“What else?”

You look at the box with the secret of happiness. You remember a time when all of life flowed through you, when you were sometimes sad and sometimes happy, sometimes scared and sometimes bold. You welcomed it all. You realise you are here to experience life so why resist any part of it? You know you don’t need that secret. The box turns into a light that bathes you and the ground beneath you feels beyond secure. You feel a profound sense of well-being as you look out towards the horizon with curiosity and peacefulness.

“What else?”

You look at the final box: The secret to creating anything you want.” You think back to when you were a small child playing with sand. “I used to create whatever I wanted,” you say to the genie. You look at the box expecting it to disappear but it remains as it is. You give it a shake but it stays stuck to your hands.

You frown and look at the genie. He shrugs his shoulders.

Then the insight rolls through you like thunder. You realise with a shock that you still create anything you want. That you always have and always will. That the boxes were heavy or light, there or not there according to what you thought about them.

As this insight deepens, the box turns into a canvas and paints and a brush appears in your hand. Slowly, smiling now, you dip the brush in a colour and, with the realisation of unlimited freedom, you paint a….