Marketing the unmarketable

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I asked Garret Kramer, one of the world’s top sports coaches what he promises teams and individuals.

He replied: “I assure clients love, support and a resolute point within. Other than that: zilch.”

Wow. I said. Because shit where do you go with that as a coach? I want to walk into a business and promise increased profit or into a school and promise higher grades or into a community and promise each individual higher income, better health and more friends.

But the truth is that I can’t.

I have seen the most extraordinary transformation in myself. I know that I am now connecting with people I would never have thought possible, being offered projects I would never have dreamed of, living from a curiosity and openness that is the polar opposite of the fearful, self-protective way I used to live.

I know what I have seen in my clients – businesses taking off, estranged families re-uniting, extraordinary creative feats, anger, fear and stress turning to peace and engagement to mention just a few of hundreds of different outcomes…

But because this understanding is based on each of us receiving own personal unlimited wisdom, I really have no idea what will happen when people start realising the truth of who they are and what they have access to. I know it will be beyond awesome. I just don’t know exactly what it will be.

And, as Garret says, when we are clear that our entire experience comes from within, it defies logic to begin the conversation by talking about the things on the outside that shape shift like the weather.

From the point of view of conventional marketing, this sets up those of us working and coaching from the inside out understanding for quite some challenge. But the truth is that to offer ‘worldly benefits’ is to sell woefully short the magnitude of what we really offer.

This is what I have seen as the reality of what we coaches who work from this understanding really bring to our clients:

The claim: Better relationships!
The reality: Love.

How we perceive another person is a reflection of our state of mind in any given moment. A ‘relationship’ therefore is an illusion created out of thought and whether it is considered good or bad can change from one thought to the next. It just doesn’t make sense to talk about relationships. There is no such thing.

To offer ‘better relationships’ is to hand out stones when we are sitting on a pile of diamonds. In truth, we are offering the possibility of unlimited compassion in the understanding that we and other people perceive the world through our current state of mind which is out of our control. We help people see through their judgements and insecurities and realise that they are the origin of their experience. As a result we watch them start to fall head over heels in love with the world and the people that they are creating moment by moment.

The claim: Find your purpose!
The reality: Watch the bigger plan unfold.

The further we go in this understanding, the more we realise that knowing the purpose of our life is an utter impossibility. We will never ever know the domino cascade that we begin with even the most casual meetings or simple actions. Our reach and impact is exponential and impossible to quantify or qualify. In which bit of that infinity lies our purpose?

We have no idea of the next thought that will occur to us let alone the reason why we are receiving it. We point our clients in the direction of the ever-present wisdom and infinite creative intelligence that is guiding them. What that is, why it is there and what they will do with it is beyond any of us to know.

 

The claim: Have more self-esteem!
The reality: Lose any sense of self.

How desperately we crave more self esteem and self confidence. That is until we realise that there is no self to esteem and no self in which to have confidence. The deeper we go in this understanding, the more we realise that everything we think about ourselves is, of course, made of thought.

As we take our clients deeper in this understanding they begin to let go of everything they have ever believed about themselves, who they are, their personality and identity. Instead they take up their place as a channel for pure inspiration and creativity. Who they are is impossible to describe. There is no beginning. No end. Esteem? Really?

The claim: Be more productive!
The reality: Play your game wholeheartedly.

When we realise that concepts such as success and failure are simply made up, it becomes nonsensical to work to the point of stress or burn out to feed those illusions. Productivity for the sake of producing or impressing or securing no longer makes sense. Instead we help our clients treat everything they do with a lightness and playfulness that keeps them alert to fresh thinking and new ideas. We help them drop any idea of what they think productive means and to simply put their entire being into whatever occurs to them to do.

Claim: Stop the negative thoughts!
Reality: Ride the craziest wildest roller coaster into the truth of life

This is the big one. Everyone wants to control their mind. People are grabbing their coaches, therapists, yoga teachers and counsellors by the lapels and shouting in their faces: TELL ME HOW I CAN STOP THESE THOUGHTS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD TELL ME NOW. TELL. ME. NOW…

The absence of thought? That’s not going to happen. We create our world through thought. Only thinking peaceful thoughts? What would that even be? Kittens and clouds? Constant feeling of security? Good luck with that.

The truth is that to offer control of the mind or of thoughts is to offer a flat line of no experience. We offer the opportunity to explore what is really going and the chance to get to the mind-blowing truth of who they are. Above all, we help our clients to continue experiencing all the highs and lows of being human with the insight and understanding to see it all for the magnificent impermanent gift of life it is.

The single most important distinction of our lives. And why it doesn’t matter.

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einstein reality

A client that I have recently started seeing emailed me to tell me she had left her job.

What will she say when I ask her why, I wondered. Something like…?

“It didn’t make me happy.”

“I really don’t like the people.”

“The politics were toxic.”

“They didn’t make me feel secure.”

Or will she pause for a while, gazing into the distance, searching for a reason and then shrug, “It’s weird. I actually don’t know why. It just made sense to leave.”

Same decision. But the places that decision can come from represent the single most important distinction we can ever make.

Getting married, beginning a project, starting a job, creating a friendship, initiating a programme or trying out a sport…

Or staying married, completing a project, continuing in a job, keeping a friendship, running a programme or staying with a sport…

Or divorcing a spouse, quitting a project, resigning a job, ending a friendship,  ditching a programme or stopping a sport…

We can start, continue or stop all of these out of a huge misunderstanding about the nature of reality. We can act believing that we are securing our happiness or avoiding unhappiness. We can act to feel more secure or more successful or less fearful. We can act to make people love, respect or admire us or because we feel we should. All of this is to act according to an illusion.

Or we can start, continue or stop all of these things because doing so simply, in that moment, knowing that whatever we think about it is made up, makes sense for us to do.

This is the single most important distinction of our lives.

It is the distinction between insanity and sanity, between the trap of an illusion and unfettered creativity, between suffering and bliss, between contraction and expansion.

In that moment, acting out of insecure thought, we suffer.  We are desperately searching for something different or clinging on to things or ending things in the hope of finding happiness or security or love in places where they will never be found. Underneath our fearful thinking we know this, we know we are acting on an illusion but our minds are so tired and full we believe there is no other choice.

When we act from what simply makes sense, not only is there no suffering but we open wide the gates to the glorious unknown. We enter the portal to a whole new world in which everything is possible. In partnership with ultimate creativity, freshness and inspiration we create a new reality for ourselves and others. We have no clue why we are doing it or what will result, we just know deep down it makes sense for us to do.

This is the single most important distinction we can ever make.

So why doesn’t it matter?

It doesn’t matter because the possibility to make that distinction is our birthright.

If we aren’t opening the portal in this moment, there is always, always, always the next moment.

Whatever decisions have been made, no matter how tragic or irreversible they seem, no matter how stuck we have been in the mire of our insecure thinking, there is always the next moment. There is always the possibility of fresh thought.

And the next moment will bring with it the opportunity to exit the illusion and act on what we know to do. Guaranteed.

This is the miracle of our lives.

There is never a moment that does not contain the possibility of inspiration, no matter what has gone before.

There is never a moment in which we aren’t choosing between the two vastly separate worlds of illusion or inspiration.

There is never a moment when that choice matters.

 

 

 

 

 

How to get what you want – 80s disco style

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disco ball use

When I was about 14 in the mid 80s, there was a disco every Tuesday evening (Tuesday!) in St Luke’s Church Hall. There would be a DJ, a in retrospect, slightly spotty, excessively hair-gelled youth devastatingly gorgeous adonis there up on a little platform, two turntables in front of him, surrounded by records, who thanks to the amount of power he had, was literally (we’ve gone way beyond metaphor now) God…

It wasn’t until I’d been to about five of these discos that I realised that the people next to the DJ’s platform weren’t just chatting to him. Oh no. They were asking for songs to be played. They were actually making requests and then they would get to have their favourite song booming out and the whole room dancing to it.

It was a revelation. It changed my Tuesday evenings even more profoundly than that slow dance to Careless Whisper with the boy from Radyr High School…

I was thinking about this recently (the realisation not the boy) in relation to the clients that come to see me wanting something different in their lives. It struck me that there are parallels with the disco and the understanding we have about who we are and what we are capable of.

The Dancer

We are in the disco. Sometimes a song comes on that we like and we dance away to it. Sometimes we don’t like the song playing and we sit it out. If two or more songs come on in a row that we don’t like we start getting fed up. If the whole evening has been largely filled with songs we don’t like we put the entire thing down as a total waste of time.

Great time? Terrible time? There is nothing we can do about it. It’s all in the hands of the DJ.

The Request Maker

Then one day we realise that other people are making requests and so can we! We queue up by the side of the platform and wait for the DJ to deign to move his right head phone a fraction of a centimetre. When he does, we shout as loudly as we can ‘Thriller!’ or ‘Blue Monday’ or ‘Tainted Love’.  He shrugs and turns away.  Then at some time during the evening the song comes on! We scream and run into the middle of the room as fast as we can in our floor length neon tube skirts and moon walk like there is no tomorrow.

We realise we can request what we want and it helps to know what we want. Saying, “I think the singer is the one with the eyeliner and highlights wearing the leather dress and the song has a synthesiser in it” wouldn’t even narrow down the gender in the 80s, let alone the song. It’s the same with requesting anything, the clearer and more specific we are the far more likely we are to get it.

But the problem with requests is it looks as though whether we get it or not depends on the will and decisions of someone else. It definitely seems to depend on availability and supply and timing, on what other people have requested and whether we are interesting/attractive/loud enough to persuade the DJ.

The DJ

Later on, we realise that we are the DJ himself. We realise that not only do we not have to be the recipient of someone else’s choices, we do not even have to wait for a request to be granted. Because we have an entire box of records and can play them whenever we want. We can rifle through all the classics, put them on the turntable and bask in all the familiar associations, memories and feelings.

We can steer the evening or our life through the choices we make of the records we own. These are limited of course but that’s OK. There is enough variety there to keep us entertained. It’s just that sometimes… sometimes… we get the feeling that our record collection isn’t quite enough…

The Record Producer

Then we start thinking about creating something new and we realise that our personal power goes way beyond the ability to simply chose between the creations of other people. We have our own source of inspiration that we can use in a way that is unique to us. We can create our own great music or writing or relationships or businesses or whatever we are inspired to create.

The more we create space for it, the more open we are to new thoughts. The creations of other people inspire us. We don’t compare ourselves to them as we used to do.  We can appreciate more deeply the music of others because we have our own music to write and play and put out in the world.

Then it occurs to us, it is not just music we are creating…

The Disco

We are the creator of the entire  thing – the disco, the kids dancing, the DJ, the records, the music, the atmosphere, the vibrations in the floor. It’s all us.

As we see the power of thought to create every single thing in our lives we realise at the same time the all-ness and nothing-ness of thought. The whole thing is ours to create, maintain or destroy.

This is a huge realisation. The enormity of this power strikes us and at the same time we realise the impermanence of what we are creating. We look for something that has the same power and magnificence but that is more permanent, more trustworthy…

The Dancer  

Then everything is quiet. We are dancing.

This time to a music that  we have never heard before. The music that is flowing through us is so unique, so beautiful that we cannot do anything but listen, make space for it and move to it. Our movements cast shadows on the walls. The shadows come alive before our eyes.

We are raised up and carried by the ebb and flow of the notes that only we can interpret and express. And through us, through the way we move and sway, the rest of the world can hear the music too.

We are the dancer.

Death, disease, devastation… and other reasons to believe the universe has got our back.

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butterflyOne week, Phil Hathaway, the gently nurturing and supportive leader of our coaching group suggested the discussion topic: ’Is the universe kind?’

Before we start, he said, I’d like us to watch a short video.

The video he showed was of a cuckoo pushing an egg out of a starling’s nest and laying its own egg in the space. The cuckoo’s egg hatched before the others and within minutes of its emergence, bits of shell still stuck in its sticky feathers, the baby bird was using its beak to push the other eggs up and over the edge of the nest. It then had the nest to itself. The tiny parent starlings, much smaller in size than the baby cuckoo returned again and again to the nest with food to satisfy the ravenous chick that had killed their offspring.

The video ended.

Silence.

Unhatched baby chicks smashed on the floor… Parent birds exhausting themselves to the brink of death to feed a usurper in their nest… A kind universe?

To me he could just as easily have shown, if a video had existed, my father dying of leukaemia leaving two daughters aged 10 and 8 and a wife who adored him. Or my 11 IVF attempts and two miscarriages. Or my sister being born with Cystic Fibrosis and a 16 year life expectancy.

He could have replayed to the other members of the group their own personal experiences of death, sadness, ill-treatment, pain and discomfort.

He could have shown to all of us a reel of the tragedies we see every night on the news. Natural disasters. Starvation. Torture and abuse. Violence. The deaths of children. Bullying in schools.

A kind universe? Seems pretty cruel to me. At best, indifferent, surely?

Why on earth would we trust in this intelligence? Well, here is what I have seen:

  1. There is no alternative

We are born with the capacity to create our world through the power of Thought. We cannot experience the world directly which means that whatever experience we are having is generated by thought in that moment. This also means that whatever experience we are having can change from one second to another. All of this is fluid, volatile, ever-changing and impermanent. There is nothing in here which we can reliably use as guide for our lives.

Sometimes thought comes to us in the form of insight or a fresh new idea that nudges and prompts and makes sense. We have no control over the content, timing or frequency of these ideas. One moment they are formless the next they are there in our mind. The only place they can come from therefore is Universal Intelligence or formless energy or Mind or whatever words you choose to use.

These suggestions that come to us are unique to us. We can receive them and know that anything we think about them will change and yet the insight or idea remains as something that simply seems to make sense for us to do, that seems to have a truth to it.

So we have two options:

a) Act on what we know is not true.

b) Act on what is occurring to us to do from a place of simplicity, truth and insight.

The more clearly we see this choice the more we realise we have no other option but to act on what is occurring us to do, knowing that any meaning we make of it, anything we think of it is made up.

 

2. It is our greatest gift

I hope that first point didn’t sound grudging… because the reality is that this one viable option we are left with (acting on what we know to do) has a power, magnificence, benevolence and enormity that is beyond words or comprehension.

It is as though someone has taken the mystery of Stone Henge, the first words of Pride and Prejudice, the clarity of Einstein, the vocal reach of Aretha Franklin, the peacefulness of dawn… (those are mine by the way, you’ll have your own..) and distilled them into an essence of genius, inspiration and beauty designed expressly for you and expressly for you in every moment.

That is the gift to you. Designed for you to use in the way that only you can, express in the only way that you can express, experience this in the only way that you can experience it.’

That is the purest possible kindness. A gift that can never be equalled. It is you, in the only way you can be, receiving inspiration designed only for you in order that you live in the greatest, most creative, most graceful way imaginable.

And the beauty is that our entire life on earth is designed to continually remind us of this gift.

 

3. Life is designed for appreciation

There is not a single thing in our life that stays the same, that we have control over or that belongs to us. Even mountains are moving, changing colour and shape before our eyes. We have no guarantee that we will be alive tomorrow or even in the next ten minutes. Change is the nature of our universe. It has to be this way for the infinite variety of life to exist.

Built into the nature of change is the nature of detachment and of appreciation.

Nothing is permanent and nothing belongs to us. In our deepest wisdom we know this. The clinging on, the desperation, come from the thoughts of how things should be, of what we need in order to be OK.

In the detachment is the genuine appreciation. Like a butterfly landing on my finger. It is not mine. It will not last. All I can do is appreciate it in the time it is in my life.

Life is designed for appreciation and detachment in the moment. It is in this moment that we have everything and change, and that means death, kindly reminds us of that.

 

4. No circumstances or outcomes are better than any other

This seems crazy. This is ‘positive thinking gone mad’! (If you are from Britain that will be said with Victor Meldrew type outrage.)

How can we say that making a meal from a cupboard full of food isn’t better than dying of starvation in an African camp? Or that sailing a yacht around the Bahamas is no better than being one of 200 refugees crammed into a boat designed for 50?

I have a client who taught in a school for children from some of the poorest families. She was experiencing burn out at how hopeless she believed her job to be. She told me how she would look out at the pupils and inwardly weep for them, for their circumstances, the bleakness of their futures. She couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, could barely get to school in the mornings. Yet many of those pupils would have been far more in touch with their own inner well-being than my client at the time. She was exhausted, hopeless. They, on the other hand, were vibrant, full of life, energy and creativity.

My colleague Jane Cockerell, a humanitarian aid expert, talks of seeing the same range of human experience from exhaustion and disillusion to optimism and laughter whether she is handing out food packs in the Sudan or working in her office in London.

The circumstances are always neutral. It is our thoughts that make them something that has the power to destroy us or that turn them into moments of life to cherish.

And the fascinating thing about this is that the more we realise our own innate wellbeing and that of others regardless of the circumstances, the clearer we are about how to change the circumstances. That is the in-built kindness.

 

5 It has given us the gift of watching and the gift of immersion

Imagine if all we had was thought with no discrimination. Every piece of thinking that went through our mind would be real, believed, experienced, acted on. We would be trapped in a cinema for eternity, head fixed so that we could not turn away from the screen, doomed to experience every emotion that the film dictated.

Or imagine if all we had was inspiration. We could never experience our version of life. We would never experience the wonderful illusion of self. There would be no bringing alive of the technicolour power of thought. We would miss out on the roller coaster, the love and loss of life, the simple, complex humanness of it all.

We have both. The power to immerse ourselves in life and the power to detach. The ability to experience thought and the ability to see through it. The realisation of who we are through the realisation of who we are not.

To live fully we need both. That is kindness.

 

6. If we value life then every moment has to be for living.

Byron Katie talks of watching her grand daughter struggling for breath seconds after birth. She describes the hospital staff rushing to help the baby and her daughter and husband starting to panic. She describes how her own mind remained totally open and free. If her granddaughter was only going to live for one minute then she was going to have that one minute with her. She was not prepared to miss even one fraction of a second of that time.

Resistance to anything in the moment reduces our experience of the moment. It is living but it is also not living. It is living with conditions on what it means to live.

When we see through those conditions we automatically know what to do to expand more fully into life, to live in a way that does justice to the gift of life.

 

7. What is kindness anyway?

If no circumstance is better than any other. If no particular outcome is preferable. Then what does it mean to say ‘The universe has our back’. What would this kindness even be?

Well we know it is not a kindness that prevents death because kindness gives us this gift of life, of change, of appreciation through this gift of death.

It is not a kindness that prevents suffering because suffering is a loving way of reminding us we do not need to suffer.

It is not a kindness that gives us what we need to feel secure because feelings of insecurity come and go from one moment to the next.

The kindness is the death and the suffering.
It is the reminder of the magnificent truth of life.
It is the reminder of our creative power to make up whatever we want our life to be.
It is the elbow in the ribs to look up from our phone and notice the spectacular display that the universe is putting on right now.
It is the gentle nudge to live fully, in this moment.

The kindness is the design. The design is kindness.
The universe has got our back.

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

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VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

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.

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.

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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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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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.