It probably ‘doesn’t do’ for a life coach to admit to being judgemental on occasion, but whilst we’re being honest with each other, you and I, who doesn’t sometimes fall prey to judgementalism?
Being judgemental of others is about seeing the differences between things, rather than seeing the unities, and is probably the biggest problem that we as humanity are working on right now. You think I’m kidding? If I didn’t see other people as different than myself, would I condone war in any form? Would I eat to bursting and leave people on the other side of the world hungry? If I didn’t see the earth as being something different to myself would I extract everything I wanted from it and more and give nothing back? Enough said, and I’ll get off the soapbox. This is what happens when I write on a Sunday morning having read highbrow books and relaxed in the garden all of Saturday!
Well anyhow, there I was in Tesco, browsing the reduced shelf to see if any bargains lurked within (yep, life coach/hypnotherapists do that too – see how many myths I’m dispelling!) and there next to me was an old woman on one of those motorised scooter things. The kind of person whose eyes you might hesitate to meet. I mentally took a deep breath and bridged the gap. “Sometimes you get lucky” I commented. “Oh yes” she agreed in a voice that was stronger than I expected. “Oh well nothing here for me” I said, about to walk on. Then I noticed some Sabbath candles and picked them up to see if they were something I could use. They weren’t. “Oh you’re Jewish are you?” she said “I’m Jewish too. But both my mother and I married out. I do go to church on Sundays but I have great respect for the Jewish religion.” Well what a conversation starter that was! We stood there for several minutes talking comparative religion, messiahs and the Mayan calendar (really will have to write about that one of these days). I proposed that everything that existed was ‘of the light’. She said that Richard Dawkins surely wasn’t. I maintained that even he was, as somebody had to hold the opposite pole (I have Gregg Braden to thank for that idea). I was actually in a hurry – though you wouldn’t think it, with me finding the time to talk with strangers, so I had to make my apologies and go. “Everything is good” I called down the aisle as I walked off “sometimes it’s just hard to see it”. “Oh yes” she said again and we laughed as we parted.
Off I went, looking for light bulbs. Don’t you just hate it when the supermarkets move everything around so that you have to cruise all the aisles looking for something that’s been in the same place for the last 10 years! Finally I found an assistant. He came across as quite dopey … you know, a little, well, ‘David Beckham’. He didn’t know where the bulbs were and had to ask somebody. I remember thinking something to the effect that “You really can’t get the staff these days!” Found the light bulbs and several other bits and pieces and made it back to the tills, running even later than before.
There was the Beckham lookalike on the tills. Ok. But he was smiling, and of course we started talking. I like to chat with the people on the tills. It’s a bit of a game for me to see if I can cheer up the glum looking ones, and break up the tedium of the job for them a little. There was no need to cheer him up though, he was on form. “How much do you think this lot will cost?” I asked him. “Forty three pounds” he guessed. “Ok” I said “I’m going to go with fifty”. He tilled up all my shopping, and it came to forty two pounds and eighty eight pence! “Wow!” I exclaimed “You’re good, you beat me!” He leaned over and confided “You know why? Because when I first started to work here I used to play that game – so I got a lot of practice!” I just had to find out whether he played my other favourite supermarket game. “I know its a little un-pc” I asked with all the excitement of a child “but do you ever play this game: do you ever look at all the shopping on the belt, and then compare it to the person buying it and see if they match?” “You mean if they buy loads of fruits and vegetables” he started and then we both said “they look healthy” and I added “but if they’re buying loads of crisps and chocolate …” and he finished “they look overweight!” “Yeah” he said and we both agreed “…and they always match don’t they!” We were both grinning from ear to ear with the mischief of our shared supermarket games as we said goodbye.
As I pushed my shopping back to the car I mused that I had been wrong about him. Far from being dopey, and I guess rather like David Beckham, he was actually very intelligent. Intelligent enough to be amusing himself with mental exercises whilst carrying out the mundane task of checking out people’s shopping all day. “I really must stop judging people” I thought to myself.
I also found myself musing on the idea that you really can tell a person by their daily habits. You can have all the healthy intentions in the world but if all you buy is crisps, you’re going to be unhealthy. If you talk about peace but you keep needling people then you’re going to have arguments, and if you like the idea of being rich but you keep buying the latest gadget and don’t actually go and work to support that habit then you’re going to be skint. Conversely, if you buy and eat well on a regular basis, your body will glow with health, if you keep peaceful people around you and work on staying composed when others attempt to ‘rattle your cage’ you will have a peaceful life, and if you manage to arrange your finances so that you spend much less than you earn, eventually you get rich. Simple. Life is just so simple when you think about it. Life is just one action at a time. And having fun of course.
Which brings me to another game I play at the supermarket … riding the shopping trolleys. I must admit at this point that most life coaches probably DON’T do this. Whilst this may conjure up in your mind an image of some wild woman standing rodeo style aboard her wheeled ‘carriage’, waving a shopping list and yelling “Yee-hah!” I am not as yet that flamboyant! I may reserve that for old age, just to tease people. That and arriving on an elephant and parking him in one of the parking bays, whilst I go in and do my shop. I’ve always wanted to do that. Maybe one day. Meanwhile I do like to ride the trolleys whilst I’m shopping – I mean why walk when you can roll! So if I see a clear aisle, and I’m in the mood, I am not above squaring up the trolley so I don’t bash into anything, starting to run a little, leaning my weight on the handle so that my feet leave the ground, and then wheeeeeeeee! It’s so much faster, and less effortful. You think I’m crazy? Come on, loosen up a little and have some fun. Life can be hard work sometimes, so why take yourself so seriously all the time? And if you ever see me flying down one of Tesco’s aisles, with a huge smile on my face, don’t judge me, join me!
Have an irreverent, mischievous and judgement-free week!
Just how brilliant do you allow your children to be? How much of a chance do you give them to learn things for themselves? And do you let them think for themselves?
Due to what we shall term ‘A Baby-Sitting Malfunction’ I ended up taking my 7 year old son to Toastmasters, my speakers club, on Wednesday evening. In lots of ways it didn’t seem like a good idea. For a start he would be up very late – I don’t usually get back till at least 11pm – and in addition to that he would have to sit quietly for the best part of 3 hours and listen to a variety of adults speak, and respond appropriately. He would also have to listen to me speak, and manage himself whilst I wasn’t sitting with him. Now my little boy is a very intelligent and lively young man and at the age of 7 is still capable of a full-on-screaming-abdabs tantrum on rare occasions, so taking him with me did have an element of risk attached. However, the babysitter had indeed malfunctioned, and I was speaking that night so I couldn’t exactly ‘bunk off’. As it was the summer holidays he could be excused the late night … so off we went.
In the car on the way there I told him how the evening would go, and he was really excited about it. When we got there I introduced him to some of my friends and then we went and sat right at the front. The president of the club was lovely. She included his glove puppet ‘squeak mouse’ when she mentioned the guests that we had in the audience, which he loved, then the speeches began. Would you believe it? My little roof-raiser sat quietly through the evening, clapped at appropriate occasions, and conversed politely with people during the break. When it was time to go home he told me he had had the ‘best time in his life ever!’ ‘Ever?’ I asked. ‘Well so far!’ he said :-)
The club doesn’t allow you to join or speak till you’re 16, which is understandable given the fact that it’s a place for professionals to keep their speaking skills sharp, but it set me wondering. There are so many things our kids could do if we just gave them half the chance. I’ve talked about this before (Fearless as a Child). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about ‘hot-housing’ – forcing your kids into academic brilliance when they’re not up for it. But when you see your child has a natural ability for something, and most of all they enjoy it, how many of us support them to follow that thing through, even if it’s something they’re theoretically too young for? You know at the age of three and a half my son had an avid interest in dinosaurs. And I’m not talking ‘Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs’, I mean the real McCoy. We used to sit there reading from a book so heavy that he couldn’t even rest it on his little legs. The typeface was of course tiny, but the pictures were wonderful. He’d leaf through till one caught his eye, and then say ‘Mummy tell me about that one!’ and I’d read and explain the accompanying text. Then when he went to school he was suddenly plunged into a world of ‘Tom is here. Jill is here. Where is the dog?’ It switched him off for a long time, though thankfully he has had a brilliant teacher this last academic year who has turned him on to learning again. If your child picked up an academic book clearly written for adults, and asked you about the contents, would you read it to them? Not all parents would you know.
I think that as a culture we sometimes stunt our kids’ growth without even realising it. We don’t always give them the chance to find out for themselves. A dear friend once reprimanded me for giving her young son grapes still on the stem. ‘If you give it to him like that, he’s going to eat the stem too!’ she said. Well, maybe the first time, but he won’t do it again will he? How is he ever going to learn to pick the grapes off himself if you keep doing it for him? It’s a balance and not always an easy one to achieve. Of course you don’t let your children find out for themselves that walking into the road without looking could get you into trouble, part of a parent’s job is to keep their children safe. Yet there are so many things that they can work out for themselves thereby learning about the situation in hand, AND learning vital skills in terms of thinking and analysis.
Many years ago now I used to head up a Jewish Sunday school, and on one occasion the children and teachers were preparing for a meal to which all the parents would be invited. We were cutting a salad and I asked my teaching assistant to cut the tomatoes. I watched, astonished, as she pretty much annihilated them. She was doing her best. She explained to me that this was the first time she had ever cut a tomato! Wow! I was shocked. How is it possible for a person to reach a good 20 years of age and never learn to cut fruit and vegetables with a sharp knife?
Do you let your children use sharp knives? I do. How else will they learn? I allow my two and three year old to hold the knife with me so that they get used to the various motions of cutting. If it’s something easy, say my three year old has a small amount of cheese on her plate and she wants it in even smaller pieces I will allow her to use a sharp knife independently while I watch. And I let my seven year old son use a knife independently and unsupervised, because he has been using one so long that he knows how. If there’s something he isn’t confident about cutting he will ask for help. The other day he peeled a kiwi and cut it into pieces. That’s my boy! I don’t have to hide knives away from them because they know that knives can be dangerous if misused, so they treat them with respect. I explained to my kids that the most useful things are often also the most dangerous. Things like knives or fire, or cars or electricity. I explained that you shouldn’t be afraid of them, just learn how to use them safely and effectively.
Let’s empower our kids. Instead of cosseting them from life, leaving some of them ignorant and incapable and others so plain frustrated and angry that they have to launch a full scale rebellion just to gain themselves the right to live their own lives, let’s support them in following their capabilities and their dreams. I’ll tell you what, as a life coach and hypnotherapist I wouldn’t be dealing with half the cases I end up dealing with if people had given their kids a chance to start with. We all make mistakes, every one of us, so let’s not dwell on the past, but focus on the now and on the future. Ask yourself the question ‘How can I empower my child today to be the best that he or she can be?’
I was so proud of my son the other night. Several members of the club came up to him and congratulated him on doing so well, and he accepted the compliments most graciously. The experience may even have ignited in him a lifelong passion for the spoken word, and all because circumstance gave him a chance to experience being amongst people who have just that passion.
This week, empower yourself, others and most of all the children whose lives you are blessed to touch!
Ever suddenly discovered a really simple answer to something complex and asked yourself ‘Why didn’t I think of that before?’
Yesterday I was fitting out a small box room for my son’s use. Now this room had previously had in it a ‘shorty’ bed, that is a children’s bed, and actually the width of the room wouldn’t admit a bed any bigger. My son had set his heart on an office bed, you know, one of those bunk beds with an office underneath but of course as I discovered they don’t make office beds in a shorty size. So I used my brain and came up with an elaborate solution involving a bookcase and cupboard of similar height, several boards, a mattress and a stepladder – genius if I say so myself! It was only yesterday in constructing the first set of shelves that I realised what a simple error I’d made. I started to lay out the pieces of the shelf so I could put it together and of course the room was too small for me to lay them out width-wise, so I tried laying them out in a diagonal fashion. That didn’t seem to work either so I said to myself “Why don’t I try laying them out in the length of the room?” I tried it, and they fit … as would an adult size bed! What a first class idiot I felt! Seeing the bed that was already there I had not thought to question that you might put a bed along the other wall in that room. That wall was about 20cm longer. I could have bought him a regular office bed, and I would have got something perfect at a great price in the recent Argos sale!!! It’s rare to never that I stew in regret, but I did spend a few minutes kicking myself, before I started to see the advantages of what I’d done.
I had been the victim of what cognitive science describes as ‘functional fixedness’ – because of my previous experience with a particular object (the bed that was previously there) I had been unable to see a different way of using the object (putting the bed along the other wall). The opposite of this is ‘cognitive flexibility’ being able to transfer knowledge to novel situations. The classic experiment that displays these human tendencies of ours is Maier’s Two String Problem (1931). The subject is brought into a room in which two strings are hanging from the ceiling, given a chair and a number of objects including a pair of pliers and asked to join the two pieces of string. The strings are of such a length and such a distance apart that when you are holding one you are too far away to reach the other. Your task is to join the strings. The solution? You need to use the pliers in a novel way, as a weight, rather than as they were designed to be used, tie them to the end of one of the strings and set it swinging and then go grab the other string and wait for the first one to swing towards you, so that you can grab that one too! Most subjects in the experiment do not at first discover the pliers solution, although Maier found that if he walked across the room and ‘accidentally’ brushed against one of the strings, setting it swinging, then the subject often suddenly made the cognitive leap and worked out the solution. I too had accidentally discovered that a full size bed would have fit in the other direction, through trying to solve a different problem – that of how to construct the shelves in such a small room. Unaware of this experiment at the time, I redeemed myself in terms of cognitive flexibility later – by using an old pair of earphones as a string and a pair of pliers as a weight to give myself a line along which to nail the backboard to the shelf underneath that I couldn’t see … so I don’t have to feel too cognitively sorry for myself!!
How do you avoid ‘functional fixedness’ and embrace ‘cognitive flexibility’? In other words how do you become the kind of person that can come up with novel solutions to a problem? Well seeing as we tend to choose solutions based on our previous experience, I say ‘Get as Much Experience as Possible!’ Grab life by the horns, and learn everything you can – then you will have a great variety of previous experiences to choose from when finding a novel solution. I also recommend brainstorming and experimenting. When faced with an ‘unsolvable’ problem I like to use the ‘no holds barred’ approach, and list as many answers to the problem as I can, one after another, without filtering them for common sense or practicality. Sooner or later you then ‘accidentally’ discover a new approach that linear thinking would never have found for you. And if all else fails, sleep on it. How many times have you gone to bed with a question on your mind and woken up in an ‘Aha!’ moment, sometimes in the middle of the night, with the perfect key to your conundrum? By doing this you give your powerful and intuitive unconscious mind a chance to have a crack at it, and the solutions you discover are often so neat and simple that you can’t help asking yourself “Why didn’t I think of that before?!”
Have a week of novel approaches :-)
Dear Lovely Loyal Readers how I have missed you! In the last but one blog I laid before you I wrote: “Usually if I don’t manage to sit here and write about life it’s because I’m too busy living it!” and little did I know how predictive that comment would be. Life indeed got so intense that I was compelled to lay down my keyboard and actually concentrate on living. My apologies for my absence. Now I shall be getting back into the swing of things, ready to pass along to you any inspiration that comes my way and it’s lovely to be home!
Well here we are, just into Thursday, at least from where I’m sitting, and I’ve just come back from Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a speakers club where we all take turns to stand up and speak, and then we help each other work on our speaking technique. It’s all quite formal and very organized, and for me because I often find myself in front of an audience, it’s a great way of ‘sharpening the saw’ and making sure I can get my message across clearer and better each time I present – see how much I love the people I work with?
This week I got home earlier than from the last meeting a fortnight ago, due to the fact that this week I didn’t find a dead-but-still-warm-maybe-it’s-not-actually-dead-I’d-better-call-the-RSPCA-oh-shame-it-actually-is-dead-and-oh-dear-now-it’s-2am-hedgehog in the middle of the road, so I’ve arrived back home with a certain amount of gumption still available to me, and I’ve decided the time is now – time to jump back into the blogging pool with a splash!
I thought I’d tell you all about my inspirational evening at Toastmasters tonight. This week I’d volunteered/been talked into being the General Evaluator for the evening which is a formidable role, and one I’ve never done before. You have to sit at the back of the room for the whole meeting, assess everything that happens, notice the good stuff and give recommendations for improvement. At the end of the meeting you stand up for 10 minutes or so and report all this back. I’ve always avoided this role because it means so much to so many people that I wasn’t sure how well I would deliver what was needed.
Tonight when I got there, I skidded in at the last minute, really wasn’t very organized when introducing my team of evaluators, and when it came to informing the audience of what I was there to do, I actually ended by showing them ‘fingers crossed’ and telling them “I’ll do my best”. Not what you’d call the strongest of starts. I was nervous. Throughout the meeting I sat there at the back, making notes and hoping I could serve the room as I needed to when the time came to report back at the end. I decided I would simply go through my notes, in order, and not try any high shenanigans, just deliver the information.
Eventually I was called to the stage. I don’t know what happened to me. I’ve recently noticed it actually that when I have inspiring content to deliver to an audience that it’s almost like something takes me over and the job just gets done – it’s almost like I become an observer and the information just comes through me. And it happened again tonight. I was on fire! You wouldn’t think a general evaluation could be that interesting, but somehow it came out funny and engaging and above all useful. When I finished I got one of the biggest claps I’ve ever had, and the whole energy in the room had gone up a notch. Several people congratulated me, and the president of the club said that whatever I was on, she wanted some! To cap it all off, a colleague from the club whom I greatly admire for his splendid speaking skills told me that my report was ‘jealousy inducing’, that he himself wouldn’t be able to do the report in that style, and he’s happy that our club has someone that can! You can bet I flew home this evening, drunk on having done a splendid job.
Why am I telling you all this? Certainly not to brag. As I’ve said, I don’t know what came over me, only that I surrendered to something and the report came out brilliant. I just think there’s a great moral here. How often do we think that we can’t do something and we’re so convinced that we never even try? I was actually afraid to be the general evaluator, which is quite silly considering that I life coach for a living, and that I’m regularly up on my feet in front of an audience. But when I accepted the role, something in me stepped up to the mark. In fact I think all I had to do was step out of my own way and let my unconscious higher inspiration get on with it!
As regular readers will know, I am Jewish and occasionally share with you little things that inspire me from inside Judaism. Well in the Jewish calendar we are currently in a period of communal mourning called ‘The 9 Days’ which will culminate this year on Sunday 29th July in a day called ‘The 9th of Av’, the saddest and most unlucky day in the Jewish calendar. To me the energy during this time period is palpably heavy, and quite honestly every year (along with lots of other Jews, I’m sure) I can’t wait for the 9th of Av to pass, and take all the heaviness of spirit with it. And yet there is a flip side. Somebody told me the other day apparently we have a tradition that the dawn of an enlightened world age will begin on the 9th of Av one year and that all the mourning will be turned to a corresponding amount of joy and celebration forevermore. Stand by on the 29th July … it’s 2012 after all … it could be this year!
I was thinking about all this in a wider context as I drove home tonight, and I was thinking “Isn’t that pattern true generally?” It brought to mind a quote I recently heard, I’m not sure who said it. It goes something like: ‘Pay attention to the problems in life because the greatest problems often hide the greatest opportunities’. It’s just so true, isn’t it? The bigger the problem that you solve, the more potent and positive the result. That’s why the 9th of Av has such great potential. Because it’s such a terrible day, when it gets turned inside out, it can only ever be absolutely brilliant. In the wider context, it’s such a great way to change our thinking to realize that problems are actually positive things, because once you push through them, the result on the other side is more than worth the effort. For this reason, the thing you are most afraid of doing is probably the thing that will benefit you the most if you just jump in and get on with it. Additionally it is often the case that once you do break through to the other side, the so called problem often just crumbles away, as if it was never there in the first place. Perhaps the problem was just an illusion all along, it’s only purpose being to get you to step up to the next level in your life. Once you’ve done that, of course the problem vanishes – it has done it’s job!
Most of all, tonight I got a timely reminder that to push yourself beyond your comfort zone is a fantastic and rewarding thing. To quote Tony Robbins: “Everything grows or dies, contributes or is eliminated”. What a compelling quote! Dunno about you, but I’m gonna keep growing and contributing, pushing through any challenges that come my way, and bringing you anything I learn in the process :-)
Have a joyous week, get out there and be you!
The other day I was witness to a remarkable though simple ritual of connection. The whole family were at a shopping centre (the Mall to the Americans :-) ) – something that happens very rarely as I’m really not a shopping centre kind of person – and we’d stopped for lunch. Our seats were outside the establishment in what I’d guess you could call the hallway outside the shops, and we were right next door to a hairdresser. Our kids couldn’t sit down long and after a short while started to play, coming back for the occasional bites which was alright with us. So it wasn’t long before my 3 year old noticed a pair of sisters sitting bored at the hairdressers waiting for their mother to finish having her hair done. One of the children was a similar age to her. The girls had obviously been told to stay inside the hairdressers at all costs. My daughter on the other hand was reluctant to cross the threshold into the next shop, so the two three year olds faced each other across the open doorway.
I think first they stuck their tongues out. Then they started making faces at each other. Then they started copying each other’s faces. All this was wordlessly, amid the noise and bustle of the shopping centre, almost like a magical little oasis of connection. After that they started to add in various body movements, becoming more and more attuned. One would raise an arm, and the other would copy, one would bop her head and the other would copy. They took turns leading and following. Finally they progressed to full body movements, doing lunges and star jumps. At times they were so in tune with each other that they performed the actions at the same time, and it looked like one was the mirror image of the other. All this went on for a good ten minutes or so. Only then did they progress to a little conversation about brothers and sisters and such like, but by that time they were already friends! After a couple of minutes of that the sisters mother had finished having her hair done, and they trailed off after their mum, my daughter and her friend waving to each other and yelling ‘Bye!’
I was transfixed by the whole thing. There are times when I find this mortal state of humanity limiting, and there are times when I rejoice in it and just love being human! This was one of the latter. Isn’t it fantastic that two little people can build such a connection, without words, just by mirroring each other’s movements? And they had such fun doing it! From a young age it seems we are born to interact and to read and predict each other. NLP will have you intentionally match and mirror the actions of someone you wish to build up rapport with, and if that’s not done carefully it can be very artificial, actually a little creepy and more of a turn off than anything … you might also be so busy matching and mirroring that you neglect to actually listen to what the other person is saying. I personally prefer to pay deep attention to the conscious and unconscious messages the other person is sending my way. You know how you can soften and relax your vision, and then you get to see every little thing that happens even out of the corner of your eye? It’s something to experiment with whilst you’re driving. Rather than having your eyes dart sharply from one target to the next, try looking softly. Defocusing your vision a little. You’ll find you see a lot more. Then you can zoom in on anything that seems incongruent or relevant in some way. Well when I’m having a deep conversation with someone or if I’m working with a client I like to do that with all my senses, with my whole awareness rather than just my vision. I find that the most important things then jump right out at me. And I also find that I match and mirror spontaneously rather than by design. Rather like the two little girls at the shops! See, we have it all inbuilt already, all we have to do is remember…
I had my own mirror experience yesterday … I was having a one to one business meeting with someone I’d met and briefly chatted with several times. We’d previously noted that we had some common interests, and until that point we hadn’t actually talked deeply. To start with, when I came into the room and we greeted each other, I was once again astounded by our physical similarities – both petite frame, shoulder length brown hair left down, glasses. I had even narrowly missed wearing a similar jacket to the one she was wearing that morning! Our conversation quickly progressed from the mundane to life goals and our understanding of life’s deepest concepts. She grew up in Hinduism and I grew up in Judaism, so we had different words for things and a different framework … but many of the concepts were the same. In the course of the conversation we kept finding things we matched on … cue the creepy music! At one point I had to remark to her ‘You’re like my Hindu twin!’ At the end of the meeting it was something of an effort to float back down to earth and pin down some concrete steps we could take action on. At this point no one knows if we will collaborate on anything or what the results will be, but whatever happens it will certainly come from a place of mutual understanding.
When I think about it I’ve had this experience of deep similarity before, with a number of people and each time it has been a friendship that lasts and brings forth great things for both of us. You know when I watched my daughter playing with the little girl at the doorway of the hairdressers and their rapport seemed so effortless and light, and yet so deep, I wondered whether we as adults could still attain that same rapport or whether we had lost something, a certain simplicity and direct connection perhaps, that we needed to regain. Yesterday’s experience reminded me that we still have this vast ability to connect, even as adults – if we are open to it.
Have you had experiences of deep connection? I’m sure you have and we’d love to hear about them… please share!
Make it a great week :-)
The sky is suitably overcast as we meet at the graveyard. My great uncle has died, and here we all are for the funeral. People are gathered in clumps, as if being part of a group will protect them from death. I’m no different – I stick with my mother and brother. I never really know what to say on these occasions. What is there to say when the person lost is much loved, and has been there forever. Words can’t be enough. My presence will have to suffice. Though we children didn’t spend as much time as we should have with him, to me my great uncle was one of those people who was just a given. You know, someone who holds up part of the edge of your world just by being there. It’s strange that he is dead. It feels weird. One more of the old guard is gone and the rest of us move one step closer to becoming the old guard ourselves.
It feels disrespectful to walk amongst the gravestones, so I stand with some others a little back as the coffin is lowered and the prayers are said. I stand there remembering how not that many years ago despite his frailty he was part of the party that accompanied my granny, his sister to her final resting place, even though he didn’t have his coat and it was freezing. As we all watch the young lad with the digger fill in the grave, my eye roves over the nearby gravestones, and I read so many peoples’ final words to each other. I allow the words on the nearest gravestone to dissolve and envision my name there, and I ponder what I’d want my gravestone to say. Don’t you find these things make you value your life? If there’s one thing each of us can be sure of it’s that we will eventually die. I’m grateful to still be in the game.
After the funeral it’s back to the craziness of Passover preparations. Passover is really an all consuming festival. It celebrates the survival and rescue of the Jewish people from generations of slavery in ancient Egypt. The celebration involves a lot of symbolism, to help the participants feel like they too have been rescued from that same slavery. As part of the preparation involves removing even the tiniest amount of leavened grain product (bread, cake, pasta, biscuits etc) from your home, i.e. a massive and intense spring cleaning operation, by the time you get to the festival you really do feel like you’ve emerged from slavery! I’m a busy woman, being a wife and mother of three, and serving my clients too. There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done, so you have to prioritise. What usually falls off the list is the domestic stuff, so when Passover comes, there’s a lot to do. My kids bless them are like three little tornados of chaos leaving a tumult of disorder in their wake. So it’s pointless trying to remove said grain products more than a week before the event. And the clean up process when it does happen has to be a deep one – you find bits of pasta in the strangest places! All of which explains why you didn’t get your blog last week. Usually if I don’t manage to sit here and write about life it’s because I’m too busy living it!
As with a lot of religious practices, Passover is all about ‘as without, so within’. I found an interesting reference to this regarding spring cleaning. Written by David Ault, one of my personal development heroes, it’s a piece suggesting that you do some internal spring cleaning whilst you spring clean your house and really that’s part of what Passover is about – removing the leavened ‘puffed up’ ego, so that you can get to the real stuff underneath. It’s about leaving behind the past so that you can embrace the present and ever renewing life.
Which brings me to my final point. Has this been happening to anyone else, or is it just me? Things that you wouldn’t usually expect to have been springing to life around me. It all started with the chow chow. If you’ve never encountered one, a chow chow is a bright green hand sized vegetable, with paler green flesh inside, and a soft white seed in the middle. As I understand it, it’s native to places like the Philippines. It’s mild and slightly sweet in flavour and great as a steamed vegetable side dish. Well I had one of these chow chows sitting on my kitchen window ledge for a while and due to the other clutter there, if I’m honest I completely forgot about it. When I did eventually remember it and decide to cook it, an astonishing thing had happened. It had sprouted a shoot and was growing a plant straight out of the vegetable itself. Little roots were patiently waiting under the shoot for such a time when they would encounter some soil. Now I’m a sucker for a sprouting plant. If it has a root, I’ll plant it. Over the years I have loved many avocado plants, cobnut trees, and bulls eye seedlings. I currently have a 4 year old jackfruit sapling growing in my office. Don’t ask me why. Being a tropical plant it will never bear fruit in this country. If it asks for soil I provide. So I planted the chow chow. It has subsequently shot up, like Jack’s beanstalk, and I have it on good authority that if I take care of it, it will provide us with chow chows all summer.
Then the dead stick on the orchid started flowering again – never seen that before. Then I found sprouting ginger in the fridge – which I have since planted. And you know what I found this morning? We have a weekend treat in this house, for those who wake up early enough. We have a ‘fruit party’, which consists of a variety of the usual and some more exotic fruit. So I was about to crack this coconut, and I took off part of the hair at the top, and the coconut had sprouted! Now this was not something that had been sitting around in my kitchen, I’d only just bought it. Of course I’m going to plant it … so it looks like we’ll be hosting a baby coconut palm too :-) Now all we need is sunshine!
So, what with bidding a sad and grateful farewell to a stalwart of the past, cleaning out our house and hearts of the old us to make way for the new us, and new life emerging in all directions, it seems spring is really taking hold at this end of the world.
How is spring manifesting in your life?
I’d love to hear about it!
When we got married one of the gifts I was given was a beautiful pair of crystal candlesticks. They were quite obviously valuable, and they caught the light from every angle, to produce rainbows on the table. When I received them I even polished them up and held them admiringly, imagining what they would look like each with a burning candle atop. But I’ve never used them. I use my Grandma’s candle-holder. It’s a simple metal holder, dark grey in colour, with space for three candles, so that one is usually left empty. It doesn’t shine or glow. The wax collects and catches in various bits, mostly where it isn’t meant to. And every week when I light my candles, Grandma stands over my shoulder.
Yesterday, Grandma stood with me as I made my daughters breakfast. I was making semolina pudding, something I often stood by and watched her make as a child. As I pressed the hot pudding into the bowl with my flat oiled hand, as she used to do, for a moment I saw her old weathered hands instead of mine.
Granny puts in an appearance more often. In fact it’s usually her who arrives when I’m cooking. “Stir it or it will burn” she tells me. “Put a little water … put, put, don’t be a miser!” She’s always right of course. My mind turns to Granny when I hit one of life’s little snags/opportunities and I wish I could tell her. She has a way of approaching anything with calm, wisdom and a little mischievous humour. Once when she was staying over at our house, she slept in my room and on my table was a large jar of caterpillars that I had kept since their ailing mother moth laid their eggs in my shoe box. I must have left the lid partially open, because when my mother went upstairs to give my granny a cup of tea she quickly came back down with the message “Granny says to tell you your soldiers are marching!” I got up there to find that a good quarter of the 64 caterpillars had escaped and were heading for the hills … one had even made it half way up the bookcase, and was hanging off a large file! As I gathered them back into their jar Granny watched in amusement, sitting up in bed and drinking her tea. See what I mean? Cool, calm and collected … most other grannies would have screamed the house down.
Sadly neither of my grandmothers are still alive and every now and then I miss them terribly. I miss the story telling, the humour, the person who always made you feel like they had nothing else in the world to do than to spend their time with you. I learnt a lot from them, both about the serious things in life and the fun things too.
I like to talk about visualising what you want for your future and of course we all need to focus on mindfulness and being fully alive in the present … and doesn’t it make sense sometimes to also look back and acknowledge where we came from?
Of course everybody has had bumps and lumps in their past and some of our pasts are lumpier than others! Yet no matter what brought us to where we are now, we ARE here, and have our past to be thankful to for that. Sometimes it was loving, caring and enjoyable, and sometimes it was … well, at least you could say it was educational!
Did you get to spend time with your grandmothers? If you’re lucky enough to still have one or both, why not give them a call and let them know how much you love them. Or maybe you’re a grandmother (or even a grandfather) yourself … you know your memory lives on well after you’re gone, and your voice will be heard long after you’re there to project it. Each of us has multiple opportunities to leave our mark behind us as we progress through life, wherever we go and even when we go. Whether we touch the world community or even if our sphere of influence extends purely to our immediate family, we get to leave so many gems or grenades hidden in the sand ready to be discovered. What will you leave? The cool thing is, you get to choose!
Would you believe it? It’s almost the end of March and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve only just completed my year’s goals!!! Better late than never. I started as I meant to go on of course, in fact I started before January was even upon us. To do your goals properly, really you need a concentrated amount of time when you switch off the phone, put on some music to inspire you, and then you let your imagination and desires run free and see where they take you. Hmmm. Couldn’t have been more different this year.
For a start, being a life coach, I like to make sure I’m using the best system so that I can teach it to my clients and workshop attendees, so this year I tampered with the systems I usually use and ended up using an amalgamation of both! Then, being a mother of 3 active young kids, of course I didn’t get to do it all in one sitting – not by a long shot. So whilst the first sit down session was one with the phone off and music, by the time I got round to the last (yesterday) I was sitting in the hubbub of Costa, in between one errand and another, just getting it done.
Tell you what though there is something to be said for the ‘spaced repetition’ method. Over the course of the 3 months or so it has taken me, I’ve had to look over my desired outcomes and really think about them a number of times. You know what I realised yesterday? That just in reminding myself of them regularly, I’ve actually done quite a few of them already :-) I was able to cross a number of things off before they even made it onto my official list for the year.
I’ve also learned two things about the methods I use. Years ago I used to use the method a brilliant coach, Phillip Humbert http://www.philiphumbert.com/ made available to download. But I’ve also vacillated between that and the Wheel of Life method taught by Tony Robbins. This year I’ve decided for once and for all that I actually like the wheel of life method (with my adaptations to it) better. What I’ve learnt from PH though is the addition of the category of ‘Environment’ which I’m now going to add to the other categories I use: Family, Finances, Professional, Fun, Health, Spiritual, Relationship, Friendships, Contribution and Growing. And something else I’ve realised is that while every year your goal setting method invariably asks you to write down all your most farfetched and long term dreams in each area, you then only pick the most short term ones to work on. Now some of those farfetched long term things I really want, so I’m adding another category: ‘Plans’.
So who wants to know what I’m focusing on this year (now that I finally know!!!)? Here’s a short selection: Create an amazing summer, full of mountains and lakes etc, Make monthly inspirational hangout at my house, Read an enlightening book a month, Run a weekly personal development class, Write to change the world, Build my internet presence, Lovingly give each child their hour a week, Get 6-8 hours sleep a night, Put all birthdays on outlook and synchronise to phone, Grow my enlightened presence within my marriage. There are more of course – too many to list here! I know you’re supposed to emerge with three or four desired outcomes to focus on … but I don’t like to do things by halves…
So now let me ask you … I’m sure you’ve been far more organised than me and got your goals done in January – so the end of March is the end of the First Quarter of the year…. how are your goals going … come on now – I want answers! And for those of you that got delayed, like me, and haven’t finished, or even haven’t started, well are you going to wait till next January, or are you going to get going NOW? How are you supposed to have the life you want, if you haven’t even defined what you want? I want to hear some goals and desired outcomes, people!!! For those who are scared to comment in WordPress, if you comment in Facebook I will bring your comments over to WP – how’s that for an offer? And by the way, why do you think I told you some of my desired outcomes? So you could hold me to them! If you tell everyone what you want to achieve, you’re far more likely to achieve it – it’s people power!
Now is the time either to be re-evaluating your goals and how far you’ve got on them, or at least stating them before another year goes by. I’m not going to go into a full on goal setting session now – I’ll save that for the New Year. Just remember, ask for your heart’s desires – if you don’t ask you don’t get, be careful what you ask for, and make sure they’re things that you can bring about yourself – ie: that don’t rely on anyone else.
Here’s to persisting and getting things done (eventually :-o ), and here’s to the life of your desires!
How do you relate to Native Americans? If your upbringing was anything like mine, we grew up thinking of them as almost mythical characters that ran around hollering in feathered headdresses! Whereas of course they’re actually the original Americans, before the English came over and made themselves at home … and they’re very much alive and well and living in their own areas of the US.
The more I learn about traditional Native American philosophy, the more I warm to it. Check this link http://home.earthlink.net/~tessia/Native.html for some Native American thinking … like this for example:
American Indian Commandments
Sacred Instructions Given By The Creator To Native People At The Time Of Creation
Treat the Earth and all that dwell thereon with respect.
Remain close to the Great Spirit.
Show great respect for your fellow beings.
Work together for the benefit of all Mankind.
Give assistance and kindness wherever needed.
Do what you know to be right.
Look after the well being of mind and body.
Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good.
Be truthful and honest at all times.
Take full responsibility for your actions.
If all of humanity were to follow such a line of thought, the world would be a very different place, don’t you think? I also really recommend the book “The Wind is My Mother” by Bear Heart and Molly Larkin.
Guess what I was doing when I should have been writing your blog last week… I was partying! To be more precise two of my kids and I were attending various fancy dress parties in honour of the Jewish festival of Purim dressed as … Native Americans :-) – you see I was coming to a point!
One of the themes of Purim is to get your head around the idea that the world isn’t always as you see it. That there is a reality hidden under what you might think is reality. Hence the fancy dress part, which I embrace wholeheartedly, much to the bemusement of the more staid fellow adults around me … to whom I say: Chickens!
In the pre-party scramble for costumes I ended up picking the Native American theme almost by chance, but as we were driving down, I realised that I actually felt very at home in my costume – (despite the blazing red feather tucked into my headband … and suspect wig – I’m guessing not that authentic!)
Any other grownups out there who love fancy dress? I love it because it gives you a chance to see life and be life in a different way. You get to ask yourself the question “Who would l I be if I was a witch, scarecrow, elephant, fish, rock star etc ” and then you get to answer the question. I once dressed up as a very dishevelled tramp for the day of Purim, and it was an interesting experience. People didn’t want to go near me (ok, I was sitting at a bus stop, my bags scattered around me, eating out of a can at the time, but still), even people who knew I was in costume answered the door in an edgy manner, and one woman stopped her car and tried to take me into a shelter! So fancy dress can teach you something … and it’s not just a knowledge download, it’s experiential.
As well as just learning what it feels like to be another being for the day, I think you can choose to absorb something too. Just like you are what you eat, I think you also are (or you become) how you continuously present yourself. Want to feel like a professional? Dress like a professional. Want to be true to who you are? Dress and behave like yourself – even if it doesn’t always align with the whims of society. Want to be confident? Act confident and the feeling will come. What’s on the outside can come to be what’s on the inside. Though beware of being inauthentic – because what’s on the inside also inevitably leaks to the outside too.
In my case over the course of the day I really started to feel that Native American vibe! When evening came and I had to go back to being me, it was with reluctance. In getting my kids to bed various bits of the costume had to come off out of necessity. Finally when everyone was asleep I just had on my headband with feather, plaited wig and my ceremonial paint. I looked in the mirror. “You know” I thought to myself “I still look like a Native American”. I looked into my eyes. There was a love of nature there, a certain steely resolve, respect for the world, confidence, and pride. “Good” I thought, “it’s still there”. Slowly I took off my headband and feather. Checked my face and eyes again. Yep, it was still there. I took off the wig and finally I wiped off the face paint. Again I looked deeply into my own face in the mirror. And then I smiled … I still looked and felt a little bit Native American.
Have you ever dressed up like someone or something else for the day? How did you feel? And what did you learn? Any full time Native Americans want to comment?
It was 2001. After two very difficult years, I had just emerged from university with a Masters in Psychology, and miraculously had managed to get my bank balance back up to exactly zero at the same time. I didn’t have too much else – I had no idea what I was supposed to do with my life in so many arenas. It was like I was stepping off a shaky platform and … into a black hole. Then onto our doormat fell an advertising postcard for a Tony Robbins event.
Several years prior to that my NLP trained driving instructor who also doubled as my unofficial mentor at the time had put a copy of Robbins book ‘Unleash the Power Within’ in my hands. The book really spoke to me, so when I saw that this guy does events too I thought to myself “I wonder if he’s really the same guy he portrays himself as in his book”. I really didn’t know what else to do with myself at the time, so I put myself back in the red by £650 or so (which I later learnt is WAY too much to pay for one of those tickets) and went along to Unleash the Power Within – the event.
I have a principal in life that if I’m going to do something, then I do it thoroughly. I had just paid a huge sum of money for someone coming out of university to be at this gig and was investing a long weekend so I really took part! I scribbled down everything the man said, I yelled out the answers to all the questions asked from the stage and I fully engaged in every activity he lead. By the end of the event I was enlightened and exhausted.
There comes a point towards the end of these things where they try and sell you further amazing events for lots more money. So Tony had told everyone about his ‘Mastery University’ and said something like “so if you want to experience all that and you want to get it at this and this fantastic price then go, go, go!” and perhaps 3000 of the 5000 people in the auditorium streamed out of the doors to go and find out about getting on to the next stage. The stands started to empty out. There I stood, the lines of the tears I had cried in the last exercise still drying on my face, knowing I could never afford to travel all over the world to all these further events and yet desperate for more inspiration in my life. And I suddenly thought “I have to speak to this man”.
I made my way down from the stars, pushing against the crowd and to the front of the stage where Tony was talking to a few people. In just another five minutes or so crowds of people would return to the auditorium with the same idea but absolutely no hope of getting to the front. I only had to wait for a couple of people in front of me and I was talking with the man himself. I started to pour out my story. Trouble was, with all the crowd in the background I couldn’t hear a word he was saying, even though he was sitting on one of the huge speakers at the front of the stage. Like a two way mind read I reached up and he reached down and he pulled me up on to the edge of the stage so that we could talk into each others ears and have some hope of being heard. He has this story he tells about how before he started doing what he does his biggest worry was whether his car would hold together for the journey to work. I told him that my car was exactly the same! I told him that I had no money and no idea what to do with myself and was desperately unhappy. That I really wanted to go to the next series of events he was running, but there was no way I could afford it. And this is what he shouted in my ear (I might be paraphrasing a bit):
“I have a feeling that you have a problem with money. You think money is bad in some way. But actually money is very good. Look at all the things we have achieved with money. We do a lot of charity work – we wouldn’t be able to do that without money. You need to change your attitude to money and then everything will change for you. And if you really want to go to Mastery University the money will come”.
I thanked him and got down from the stage. I did actually go to Mastery University, which involved a lot of world travel and sleeping in cars etc and it was paid for by a whiplash injury I got, but that is another story in itself! Tony Robbins is one of the reasons I got into what I do, and I don’t know who gets more out of it, my clients or I.
He was absolutely right about the money thing. I had grown up skint. And it seemed to me that anyone around me who had money was full of themselves, and lorded it over the rest of us peasants. In my community I felt like a little nothing because I had nothing to show for myself. That people didn’t talk to me because I wasn’t wealthy enough for them. Indeed there was a big part of me that felt that ever getting money and any form of financial stability would make me into a horrible person. I think I mentally chose rather to be poor than horrible.
I am happy to say that over the years my attitude to money and people with money has changed considerably. As I traveled and widened my horizons I met many people who had loads of money and were still really nice! I learnt that money is far more of a blessing than a curse – if you know what do to with it. My bank balance has also changed somewhat though there is still plenty of room for improvement :-)
Back to now … I’ve been having a financial sort out in the last few weeks. An old school teacher of mine once compared what you have in your life to the water inside a big tea urn. He said “if you want more to be poured in from the top, you have to let water out from the tap at the bottom.” I truly think he was on to something there. For the last few years every time someone gave one of my children a tenner or whatever for a birthday present I was lazy to put it in their account for them, and have been stockpiling the envelopes. Then every time I didn’t have cash to pay the cleaner or whatever I’d end up borrowing the birthday money, so these envelopes had IOU’s written all over them. Well I’ve sorted it all out. I worked out what I owed and I’ve paid everybody back, or will do shortly. Also, being Jewish, I have a law (or maybe a custom) that tells me to give 10% of everything I earn to charity. I owe a bit of money that way too. Now I’ve worked out exactly what I owe, and I’m going to pay that back as well. You see if you want it to flow in from the top you do have to let it out at the bottom! The two other things I remember that teacher saying was that he reckoned I’d hold some form of communal responsibility when I grew up (right again, Sir) and some reference to receiving a giraffe-shaped jumper as a gift!
So how are your finances? What is your attitude to money like? – be honest now. These are tough financial times for all. The rich are suffering along with the poor – some of the wealthiest individuals have taken some of the biggest tumbles. It isn’t easy for many people. In the midst of all this, changing your attitude to money can be challenging … and yet it’s essential if you want more to flow your way.
All together now (in the words of The Secret, I believe): “Money flows freely and abundantly into my life” say it like you mean it and say it often. Think rich, feel rich, act rich and talk rich. Remember, your reality follows your FEELINGS. Do what it takes to feel great and feel abundant and your reality is obliged to match that. If all else fails, remember the best things in life really are free, so we’re all rich anyway.
Here’s to your wealth and mine!