I meditate to free myself from fear

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I’ve done it! I’ve done it! The first of my #12outofmycomfortzonechallenges for 2013!  I sang in public 🙂

So, in January 2013 I decided to set myself #12outofmycomfortzonechallenges for 2013, inspired by Natalie (who I met again whilst running a course at UCLan). Natalie had been doing something similar with her family in 2012 – choosing things to do which they’d never done before and then supporting one another to do them.

So, knowing we need to feel the fear & do it anyway, (thanks Susan Jeffers!) I thought I’d create a list of 12 things to do in 2013… roughly 1 per month as it was already the end of January when I decided to do it.

I felt that in 2011 and 2012 I had faced a number of fears; come through them and grown because of my willingness to face them and of course because the more fears you face… the less fear you have!  Because the more you step outside of your comfort zone… the bigger your comfort zone gets, I was on my way to feeling I could do anything… and I wanted more!  And also, because I now have a tool, a technique, which allows me to free myself from  fear …“effortless meditation”.

It seems fitting then that the first of my #12outofmycomfortzonechallenges happened at Dent Meditation Centre during my 6 day intensive Iuna Meditation Teacher Training…

Each night of the course we had homework… usually to go home to prepare and practice a talk which we would then deliver to the group the following day, but the previous night’s homework had been slightly different… it was to practice sounding aloud our meditation mantra – a sound, a vibration we were all very familiar with …in our heads.

I’d done my homework and practiced saying the sound aloud, but as I came into the meditation centre in the morning I was aware of feeling apprehension and anxiety. I put aside the feeling (as we all do all the time… instead of staying with it and truly feeling it!) and the course began.

The morning was focused on how we would lead people into meditation for the first time and as part of that we would each say the mantra aloud.  As we read ‘parts’ of the ‘leading in’ I got more and more nervous thinking about saying the mantra aloud – as it needed to be chanted… it needed to be sung.  Aaarrrggghh!

I was so nervous I started counting the people in front of me and how many ‘parts’ there were to read and realised that I was to be the first one to say the mantra aloud.  I couldn’t sit still… my feet were moving as if they wanted to get up and run away; my heart was racing; I had a churning feeling in my stomach….and just as it got to me… Eliza, our teacher, said to stop and we would all sound the mantra. Phew!  At least I didn’t have to do it alone.

…or did I? Eliza then announced we’d go round in turn and each person would sound the mantra 3 times. We started to the right of me and as it was coming towards me I felt shear panic even though the voice in my head was saying “you can do it…come on!” and as it finally got to me, I tried, but I really couldn’t… my fear, all the emotions on top of that and my limiting belief stopped me from taking the action and I suddenly realised how enormous this actually was for me.

The sound continued to echo around the room… without my voice.  When the group came back to me to give me another chance, this time I did manage to open my mouth and the sound did leave me… in a very weak and wobbly way which made me feel ashamed of how pathetic it was …how pathetic I was (oh hello gremlin… I knew you were around here somewhere!).

I knew to sing in public was a challenge – that exactly why I’d made it one of my #12outofmycomfortzonechallenges for 2013 (not knowing at the time when or how I would get the chance to take it on), but I hadn’t realised how difficult it would be or how much stuff it would bring up for me about singing in class at school or feeling ashamed of my singing or (one that’s just occurred to me as I write this) the fear of humiliation of pronouncing a word wrong (something that no doubt holds me back with speaking foreign languages).

This is why I meditate… meditation allows me to break these patterns by dissolving my insecurity and tapping into my true security deep within me. Meditation is what will help me achieve my #12outofmycomfortzonechallenges 🙂

Suffice to say we did the mantra chanting exercise again twice more during our 6 days together, with a larger and larger group each time and each time I voiced the sound it became stronger and stronger …reflecting my inner security, and each time the sound left me, it touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes …in some new way I’d found the voice of my heart!

So,

• What will you put on your #12outofmycomfortzonechallenges for 2013?
• How will you overcome your fears?
• What will facing those fears open up for you in your life?

I’d love to hear your thoughts… either by leaving a comment here or on twitter @ThePensiveCoach

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To goal set or not to goal set

visionboardI recently read a post about blossoming in the present – about not waiting for future conditions to be perfect for us to blossom – and it highlighted for me a feeling of contradiction between goal setting and going with the flow.  I keep wondering how I can set goals and go with the flow …or am I missing the point?

I’ve always thought it’s good to set goals. Not that I’ve done a great deal of goal setting in my life, but sometimes I’ve looked ahead & thought by the end of the year I want to be here & here in terms of perhaps my job, my earnings, etc.  I know that when I do that and then look back after a period of time, I have generally made progress… would I if I hadn’t spent the time thinking about those goals… setting them?

So the reason I’m questioning goal setting at the moment is that everything I read seems to be about the present – living in the present, not concerning oneself with the future (or the past for that matter) which has left me wondering how then does goal setting make sense in that context?  If it’s better to live in the present and let our lives unfold, then what place does planning and goal setting have?  Any?

Although I said I’m not a great goal setter in terms of life stuff I would say that in the past I’ve been very much of a planner in terms of work & my task list.  In recent years I feel I’ve ‘let go’ of that a little. I’m using my meditation to tap into my intuition much more and to make decisions based on that. My meditation is also helping me be more free of fear which often means that I don’t need to plan quite so much as I’m less fearful of not being able to deal with whatever comes up… hmmm that’s an interesting one to ponder…

My feeling at the moment is that I don’t want to set goals, but I do want a vision or intention for my life – I think it will help me to live in the present, to allow life to unfold and to trust the unfolding… I think! 

What are your thoughts? Are you a goal setter? Do you have a clear vision for your future? Or are you just letting life unfold trusting that it will go where it’s supposed to go?

In January this year (as at the same time last year) my husband & I created vision boards for the year ahead.  My vision boards feel like they really work for me …maybe because they allow some element of ‘wooliness’ …they don’t contain goals that have to be defined in words …in language which I don’t yet have …the things on there are often more like dreams than goals …allowing me take to first step without having to see the whole staircase 🙂

So,

  • How do you align goal setting and living in the present moment?
  • How clear is your vision for the future?
  • How do you trust that life will unfold as it should?

I’d love to hear your thoughts… either by leaving a comment here or on twitter @ThePensiveCoach

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My extroversion is my love and my introversion my fear

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A few years ago I did my Myers Briggs profiling and came out as an ISFJ.  I haven’t gone into it in great detail, but I was a little surprised by my “I” – introvert.  I suppose I’d always considered myself to be quite extrovert, but the more I thought about it the more I related to it.  When I compared myself with others I knew, I could see myself as introvert.  When I considered how I like to spend my time I saw that some of my favourite activities are indeed quite introverted …reading …writing …crafting … watching films.

I looked at my profile further and saw that I was on the cusp of “I” and “E” – introvert and extrovert.  I identified with that – recognising the need for balance in these two things in my life… I can go for periods of being at home… alone (or more often these days with my children and husband) – reading, playing, being, watching films and then all of a sudden I feel claustrophobic  and have to arrange some social dates with other people.  I do that for a while, rushing around all over the place and then after a few weeks of doing that, once I’ve sated the extrovert in me, I am happy again to be at home with my family again.

I can also see it in my work – after a week (or even sometimes just a day!) of intense facilitation with a group everything in me cries out to be alone …to meditate …to read …to have a quiet hour in the bath. Often after delivering a course the last thing I want is a conversation or any more ‘people time’.

Since seeing this in myself I’ve become aware of tipping towards introvert and then needing to redress the balance towards extrovert – never seeming to get the scales just right, always tipping one way or another and I guess I always thought that was OK.

In the past year new thinking has come to me regarding my sway between introvert and extrovert… when I’m fearful I default to introvert characteristics and when I’m feeling the opposite of that (defined here as feeling loved) I am my extrovert self.

Twelve months ago I found myself redundant for the second time in 6 years.  The first time it hit me really hard (as perhaps it would with my first child being  5 weeks old) and I was angry with the people involved; felt very hard done to; excluded from the communication and I blamed particular individuals for what happened.  This time around I decided I wasn’t going to do that – there was no self pity (OK, maybe there was, but I only allowed myself 5 minutes before pulling myself together!) and I wasn’t going to blame anyone or give my power away in the situation, I was instead going to take it in my stride; focus on what I could do; deal with the people involved empathically (they didn’t want to make me redundant any more than I wanted to be redundant) and to make the best of the situation …I decided to meditate through it and trust that what was right for me to do next would unfold.

At the time I remember someone asking me how I was doing & I replied “it depends if I get up feeling self employed or unemployed” and although there was some truth in that, what really helped me was forcing myself to be my extroverted self.  In the month or two whilst going through the redundancy consultation process and immediately after, I met with around 50 people … people I’d worked with in the past; people I respected; people I’d met on twitter, etc. I met with those people despite the fact that often all I wanted to do was let my fear consume me.  After all…

  • How would we pay the mortage?
  • How could we afford the childcare?
  • What job would I be able to get that was part time and challenging?
  • How could I still coach and facilitate for a living?
  • Where else could I earn a decent salary without having to travel to the city?
  • Where could I work that would be flexible and allow me to work from home?

But I meditated and I kept connecting with others and I believe it is those two things that forced the fear away.  I had some amazing conversations; talked to some inspirational people and those conversations kept my spirit up – helped me believe that I had something worthwhile to offer.

That was the start for me of the realisation that when I’m fearful my tendency is to hide myself away – to cut myself off from people; to talk less; to think more; to read more; to disappear from social media; to stop connecting and stop sharing myself with others and when that’s going on for me I need to do the exact opposite of that!  I need to get myself out there & connect, connect, connect…

That’s not to say that at the end of a tough day at work I won’t let myself disappear for a long soak with a  good book, just that (metaphorically!) I won’t let myself stay there for days!

So,

  • What behaviours play out for you when you’re feeling fearful?
  • What helps you get back on track?
  • How do you know when you need to switch behaviours?

I’d love to hear your thoughts… either by leaving a comment here or on twitter @ThePensiveCoach

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A Meeting of Souls

meeting of soulsRecently I read “I am here” which added to my new thinking around the idea that we’re not human beings on a spiritual journey, but spiritual beings on a human journey

The book was lent to me by my aunt.  A few weeks before I had shared with my mum that a few times in my meditations I’d got the message “I am here”… which I felt was a cry from my soul for acknowledgement, to trust it, to ask for help, to listen to the answers it was giving…my intuition.  My mum had in turn told my aunt who’d dug out the book to lend me.

It’s an interesting book and tells an interesting story.  Much of what I read developed my spiritual awareness but even though some of it felt to be new & things I hadn’t really thought of before, it also felt familiar and comfortable and not at all like it was opening up new thinking for me.  Does that make sense?  I know that sounds paradoxical but I feel that about much of my spiritual awakening… it’s not new thinking it’s just old thinking remembered.

One of the ideas the book introduced me to (reminded me of?!?) was that we live forever as spiritual beings and incarnate as human beings many times to experience separateness and learn from the experience for the purposes of spiritual growth.  And… that before we are born into each life we plan the life ahead of us, often with the people we’ll spend it with (sometimes the same people we’ve spent previous lifetimes with, perhaps related to differently).  It introduced me to the idea that listening to our intuition helps us to follow the path we planned before we incarnated and thus experience what we need to in order to achieve the spiritual growth we intended.

I believe this!  At the time I read it I felt it made a lot of sense but I didn’t really commit to fully believing it, but then just a couple of weeks later a friend asked me about my meditation practice… it led to me telling her what I believed about our eternal souls and their plans for each human incarnation.  I think she was a bit surprised having a more traditional (I get the impression, although we’ve not really talked about it) belief in God.  And that’s not to say that I don’t believe in God it’s just that I believe God to be made up of the souls of each and every one of us rather than the somewhat stern male authoritarian figure  who is always judging us that my C of E education left me thinking “he” was!

So, why am I telling you this?  Why am I telling me this?  I just wanted to ponder on the idea that our intuition is what guides us to make the choices; take the opportunities; move towards the things and people that we planned as our path before we were born.  And each time we let our head, not heart (or soul) choose the answers, we ignore that intuition and so our intuition has to give us another prod and it keeps doing so until we finally get the message.

Last January I started a new job and my new manager suggested I meet a lady called Sue Jones from Voluntary Acton Warrington.  I heard what she said, added a ‘task’ to meet Sue to my task list & then busied myself learning all about my new job and getting the ball rolling with my project.  I think my manager mentioned Sue again a couple of months into my new role saying she thought we’d have a lot in common and to meet with her… again I agreed it was a good idea & left the idea consigned to my task list.

In June, I ran a session on Engaging Volunteers through Social Media at the Volunteering Lancashire conference.  At the end of the session, one of the attendees came to me & asked if I was aware of ‘thoughtful Thursday’ – I wasn’t.  She went on to explain that each Thursday a blog is published on a subject relating to Volunteer Management and a conversation then ensues on twitter (search #ttvolmrs).  She promised to send me the details by email, which she did & when I looked into it, it was run by Sue Jones!

I followed Sue on twitter and tweeted with her a couple of times which led to us LinkingIn and exchanging a few emails.  Finally on the last day of October, 10 months after Sue’s name had initially been mentioned, I went over to Warrington to meet with her.

I knew we would connect, in fact I was so convinced that I’d already written Sue into my business plan as a potential partner for a new product!  And connect we did…

From LinkedIn and a couple of emails we’d already deduced that we had both worked at Barclays; had both come to the third sector from the private sector and had both experienced  similar challenges; were both trained coaches and that we shared some similar aspirations for the future.

So, our meeting… I felt a real connection with Sue and our conversation was one of openness, honesty and excitement at the connection we felt!  I wouldn’t say it was a meeting of minds… more a meeting of souls.  Reflecting after our meeting I came to thinking that Sue is someone I’m supposed to spend time with in this lifetime and that it was prearranged… thus the prods and reminders each time I ignored my intuition!

So,

  • What does your intuition keep prodding you to do that your rational & logical mind keeps ignoring?
  • What are you learning from the people you’ve chosen to spend this lifetime with?
  • and, a big one for me at the moment… How do you define God?

I’d love to hear your thoughts… either by leaving a comment here or on twitter @ThePensiveCoach

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A coincidence or something bigger at work?

coincidenceI coached someone a month or so ago about her daughter.  Her issue was that she had been made redundant and wasn’t motivated to find another job or do anything else with her life.  At the end of the session my coachee decided that what she wanted to do was to go away and have a different type of conversation with her daughter.  The next day when I saw her & asked how she’d got on she told me something weird had happened.  She’d left the coaching session and gone home to find her daughter waiting for her… to tell her that she’d found a job she was going to apply for and also that she’d decided she was going to go to university! 

A few weeks later I was involved in a group coaching session with someone whose issue was the behaviour of a manager and the impact it was having on the rest of the team.  Again this coachee decided to take an action to have a conversation with that person about the situation.  And again, before he’d even had a chance to raise the issue, the manager had come to him and said she’d been having personal issues and it was starting to affect her work and that she needed some support. 

What was happening here?  How was the situation changing without the coachees actually doing anything other than getting some coaching on the issue? 

A coincidence?  Today it happened again…

A couple of weeks ago, I had a coachee with a team member who had been transferred into her team and whose skills didn’t match the skills required for the role.  There were a number of issues with the team member and my coachee was trying to work out what she could do to make the best of the situation.  My coachee took an action to speak to another one of the team – to whom the ‘problem team member’ reported – which she did the very next day over lunch.  They decided the best plan of action was for the manager to arrange a meeting and start the conversation that was necessary.  The meeting was arranged for that afternoon.  The first thing the ‘problem team member’ said as she walked into the room was “I’ve got a new job and I start in 4 weeks!”

I’ve spoken to lots of people – coachees and coaches about this and it’s a common phenomenon! 

The coachee brings to coaching an issue with another person that they perhaps haven’t been tackling over a period of weeks, months, sometimes years. They take responsibility in the coaching session and start to plan what they’ll do to improve the situation.  Then, in some cases before, they’ve even begun to instigate their plan, the other person changes something!

I’m thinking it’s all to do with a change in the energy around the issue and the two people involved –  the taking of responsibility to change things; the coachee exploring the issue possibly from the other persons perspective and being more open to understanding it from their point of view; deciding what they want to be different and getting clearer about how they the situation to be and that clarity allowing them to attract that outcome – Law of Attraction.

  • Where have you seen this happen?
  • How have you experienced it?
  • What do you think makes it happen?

I’d love to hear your thoughts… either by leaving a comment here or on twitter @ThePensiveCoach

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Courage, serenity & wisdom

When I facilitate Management Development courses I notice that the biggest challenge managers face is their people. Invariably when we do coaching practice on the programmes the issues that managers bring for coaching are around their people and specifically their ‘difficult’ people.

Usually what makes their ‘difficult’ people difficult is

  • they don’t want to do what their managers want them to do
  • their behaviour is upsetting their manager or their team mates
  • all the conversations with them are difficult

So, what can we do? How can we change people’s behaviour? In reality, we can’t! We can’t change how other people behave…

However we can…

  • incentivise people to behave differently, so be clear about the behaviours we want to see & reward those behaviours or make the benefits of behaving in the way we want them to outweigh what they get from their current behaviour
  • penalise people – so have undesirable consequences for undesirable behaviour
  • simply raise people’s awareness of how their behaviours impact …on them …on you …on the wider team (when I say simply I don’t mean that raising people’s awareness of their behaviours is easy, I mean that we simply raise their awareness – not doing anything differently other than helping them to observe their behaviours)

So, we can’t change others, we can only raise their awareness and change the environment in which the behaviour takes place, i.e. influence.

One of the main ways of influencing how another person behaves (and often the most overlooked!) is to change the way we behave. For example changing slightly the way we communicate with someone can have a radical impact on our relationship with that person.

Often we have given up on our ‘difficult’ people and have accepted that that’s just the way they are without ever really modifying our behaviours and trying something different. We make it all about them but relationships and conversations are as much about us as they are about them. Sometimes we spend hours complaining about them (to anyone who will listen!) not realising that we could spend a fraction of that time doing something different with that person that would make a real difference to our relationship with them.

So, bring to mind a person who you regularly have ‘difficult’ conversations with…

  • What is your expectation of the conversation with them beforehand?  What might happen if you had different expectations?
  • How are you contributing to those difficult conversations?  What are you doing? What are you not doing?
  • Suppose your relationship with that person was the best it could possibly be, how would you be communicating with them then?
  • When was your relationship better and how did that play out in your conversations?

Remember that although we can’t control other peoples’ behaviours, we can influence them, which reminds me of the quote “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Wishing you courage, serenity & wisdom 🙂

I’d love to hear your thoughts… either by leaving a comment here or on twitter @ThePensiveCoach

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Through anothers’ eyes

Last week I was waiting in the doctors with my two year old son.  We were sat in an upstairs room, in a window seat and I was trying to keep him entertained after an already lengthy wait (for a 2 year old) I said to him “look out of the window… what can you see?” to which he replied “cars, tractors” i.e. the things he’s interested in.  It struck me that if I’d been asked the same question I would have answered “buildings, people”, i.e. the things I’m interested in!  It made me think of the Anais Nin quote ‘we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are’ – we see the world from our own world view, our own perspective.

I find other people’s perspectives most intriguing!  I have to admit I used to find them quite annoying… afterall they were different to mine …why did others not just see everything from my perspective?…but as I’ve aged and had my eyes opened to this diversity of perspective through my coaching training and experience I’m much more appreciative of other opinions, other perspectives and seek them out far more than I would’ve in the past.

This week I put together a briefing paper for a new product I want to offer based on Action Learning & instead of just sending it out, or asking opinion from perhaps one other person I sent it out to 11 people.  As I received their responses it made me smile to see their varied perspectives: some commented on price; others on colour; others on image; on layout of text; on content, etc. Amazing!  I think I’ve had 6 responses so far & 6 different perspectives!  The reason it made me smile is this is the very thing that’s so amazing about Action Learning… sharing challenges you face with 8 or 9 other people, showing a little vulnerability, asking for help and then hearing back what they have to say.  It’s not always comfortable, but it is invariably eye opening because, for me at least, there’s always one person in the room who blows me away with their perspective.  Someone who thinks about things from a polar opposite perspective to mine & I love the insight that that brings!

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about perspective, one of my very early blogs ‘Try on a Different Perspective’ was about just that … recognising how key perspectives are to coaching.  I think since then I’m realising how key perspectives are…to understanding …to learning …to appreciating …to relationships …to connecting!

So…

  • Next time someone disagrees with you… what questions can you ask to be truly curious about their perspective?
  • How can you adopt an approach of ‘seek first to understand and then to be understood’ (from Stephen Covey’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’)?
  • Who can you ask for feedback and opinions who you know will challenge your perspective?
  • Who can you choose to spend more time with to open you up to new perspectives?
  • What do you need to do to be more appreciative of people who are different to you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts… either by leaving a comment here or on twitter @ThePensiveCoach

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