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 🙂
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!
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?
Anybody miss me last week? My apologies for vanishing. We ran our fantastic event ‘Cocktails and Consciousness’ on Thursday – recording should be available soon – and suffice it to say that preparing for it occupied so much of my non-family time that I didn’t get to change my clothes for 3 days prior. Ugh I know, but that’s dedication for you! I just worked till I fell asleep each day, then got up at 4am and worked some more. Then I had a shower, stepped out, got my hair done and looking gorgeous did my best to entertain and educate – see how much I love my ‘job’?
And my computer died. Astonishing how much a part of life these little purring electronic beasties have become, isn’t it? This happened an hour before I had to leave for the event, which was a real pain and also put paid to any thoughts of me putting out my blog on Thursday evening. So now you know.
Well anyway I had to replace the thing. Now generally I’m pretty good at traditional boys stuff – I can hang light fittings, confidently and usefully handle a variety of power tools and singlehandedly monkey strap 4 fencing panels to my roof rack if the situation calls for it. I once even changed the points in my car. Back in my student days I drove a succession of ‘old bangers’ which broke down with such frequency that I got warned I was using the AA too much (that’s AAA to the Americans) and would have to pay next time I was rescued. I even got to know the local AA rescue guys! I would stand with them as they tinkered under the bonnet and annoyingly ask question after question, so that over time I got pretty familiar with the workings of my various vehicles. When one of these vehicles took longer and longer to start and eventually wouldn’t start at all, I reluctantly called a local mechanic. They wanted £50 just to tow it to the garage and couldn’t tell me how long they would have it or how much it would cost to fix it. “It might be something really simple” I said “couldn’t you just take a look?” “Oh it could be anything” said Mr Know-It-All Mechanic Man “It could be the engine, the tyres, the brakes … we’d have to bring it in and take a proper look”. This comment incensed me so much I just said thank you and hung up. How thick did he think I was that I would buy the idea the car might not be starting because the tyres or brakes were faulty! Steaming, I stomped over to the local auto spares shop, described the situation and what I had done so far and said that I wanted to have a go at fixing it myself. Did he know what the problem was? “Well it could be your points” he said. He told me where the distributor cap was, described what the points looked like and sold me a new set for £4.34. “It might or might not work” he said. Well it wasn’t working at the moment and I wasn’t going to pay the con-artists down the road several months budget to fleece me, so I would have to have a go. It took me an hour and a half under the bonnet and the car sprung to life. Hah!
So as I say I’m generally pretty good at boys stuff. One of the exceptions is computers though. I’m not talking about using them – I’m great at that. But once you start talking specifications my eyes glaze over. You say “500 Megabytes of RAM with a Pentium Dual-Core Processor” and I hear “nya nya nya ga ga ga ga ga”. I go to my happy place. If you could see inside my head I’d be sitting by a lake watching the swans. If you keep talking about it, eventually the top of my head creaks open, and a bird boings out on a spring saying “coo coo, coo coo”!
Which is why I decided that I would have to do this myself. Armed with the information that I currently had 4 Gig of one thing and 250 Gig of another, off I toddled to Costco, 3 kids in tow. Costco was ridiculously busy, so much so that I had to approach someone who was leaving just to get a trolley, in which I safely installed the kids. They gave me the coupon book and leafing through I noticed that there was an offer on an Acer. I had to visit the membership desk first because I’d lost my membership card and (after an hour’s wait) happened to get a computer geek as an assistant. In chatting I told him I had come for a laptop. “Oh are you getting the Acer?” he said “I just got one for my mum”.
Card sorted, we plunged through the crowds to the computer section. There were two in my price range. The cheaper one was barely better than what I had in that it also had 4 Gig of whatever and about 350 Gig of whatever else. A little beyond my budget, the Acer was the next one up and crowds were buzzing round it like flies. There were so many people there I couldn’t even get my hands on the thing. By now my son had worked out that you can pull up the wall of one side of the trolley from the bottom and was masterminding the escape of all three children. I plunked them back in, gave them sweets to keep them quiet (yes, I do it too) and looked at the specifications again. Nya nya nya. But it looked a lot better than the other one. To stop any further escapes and give me a little thinking time I set off ‘around the block’ of printers, DVD players etc. What to do?
Well, computer geek at the front had bought the Acer. The crowds were buzzing round it which meant it had to be worth considering (read ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’ by James Surowiecki) and Costco have a habit of finding something great and discounting it so that they’re far cheaper than anyone else. I chose the Acer.
Later that evening computer geek hubby, who had desperately wanted to help me make the purchase, asked me what I’d got. I showed him, saying “I think you’ll find I’ve done well!” with a lot more confidence than I felt. He looked and was actually impressed. “Do you know it has a nya nya nya processor?” He said. “I don’t know what that means” I smiled “I bought on psychological principals, you know.” It took him several hours of research to find a comparable Dell computer at the same price, online. Bare-faced cheek and a little right-brained thinking won the day!
The moral of the story? Well sometimes I think it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and do something you previously thought you couldn’t. If you can’t do it the conventional way, just do what it takes. It’s very easy to get stuck in your beliefs about what you can and can’t do, but where’s the fun in that? Pushing your limits isn’t always easy or comfortable, but in the words of Peter Mc Williams, a self help author:
Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream.
You never know what you can achieve till you give it a go, so this week push some boundaries!
I am soooo excited!!!! My good friend has just gone into labour 🙂 This will be a friend’s birth with a difference though, because she’s asked me to be there … crumbs! I’ve never been at anyone else’s birth except my own 3 children … and myself of course, though I can’t remember very much about that … childcare has been suitably rearranged, clients put on hold and I’ve made sure to have a good healthy lunch – anyone would think I was preparing to give birth myself! Now I’m sitting here ‘on call’, and whilst waiting what else would I be doing but blathering away at the keyboard – I guess I’m a true blogger at heart.
Now anyone who knows me well will know that I could go on forever about my beliefs regarding the intricate details of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding etc etc but never fear, I will hold off, for the sake of those who have a problem with anything blood or bodily fluid related, and of course for any gentlemen reading this, a percentage of whom would scurry quickly in a different direction or faint gallantly at the thought – you’re safe! You may read on indignantly and then put me right in the comments section below with your incredible stories of the fastest drive of your life to the hospital delivery room, or how you videoed the whole thing from up close right until the moment you got kicked in the face, ok? (I know, I know, I’ve set myself up for it now )
Now where was I … ah yes, birth. You know, in the personal development field we tend to make a big deal out of the idea that each of us needs to be in charge of our lives. Oft repeated phrases come to mind such as- ‘If you don’t make a plan for your life, someone else will’ or of course ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’. As a life coach I routinely encourage my clients (and anyone else who will listen) to live with forethought and act with deliberation. Somewhat like James Bond to take calculated risks as opposed to irrational ones. To ‘begin with the end in mind’. To do yearly planning and weekly planning, and to take time to decide on three things you want to achieve each morning. And I strive to do each of these things myself. So it may come as a surprise when I wholeheartedly suggest there are occasions when you might be best off chucking your planning in the nearest river and going with the flow. Giving birth can be one of them. A wise woman friend of mine, Chamutal – and I’m giving her a shout-out here because I think she’s brilliant – see below – has often said to me that “you give birth how you live life”. I think that is true on many levels. I think that in both it is important to plan for what you want, to point yourself in the right direction for getting what you want, and to make sure you set up your environment so that what you want is possible and can get to you. After that there comes a point where you just have to let go.
Control freaks will be tearing their hair out at the thought … ‘What?’ you might say ‘You mean I can’t control every little detail all the way to the end?’ Nope. You see life is rather like giving birth, too. You can plan till the cows come home but at the end of the day you can’t control the weather, or other people, or chance itself. You can maybe guide life, funnel or magnetise it along a certain route, to a certain degree, but at the end of the day the world around you is going to do its thing, and blow you off course on occasion. At that point you could waste your energy yelling at the wind or you could just get back on course. Sometimes you do your best, and you still can’t go in the direction you think you need to. Sometimes the only thing left in your control is your decision as to how you are going to react and what meaning you are going to give events.
It all sounds a bit ominous, doesn’t it. So let me tell you a little secret … sometimes letting go of what you think needs to happen is the one key that unlocks progress again. For example if you want to get into a certain training course and you fail to get in every time you apply, the point at which you eventually let go and say ‘you know what I’ll do that other course instead’ might be the defining moment of your life. Maybe you wanted to be a teacher, and you ended up being a plumber … you could find that you’re a jolly good plumber, get amazing job satisfaction, very little homework, and will almost certainly be richer too!
Sometimes you might not even have a plan B. Sometimes you just need to let go and forget about the thing entirely. Not even wait for it. Sometimes, dare I say it, I think you need to give up. Give up trying to direct the course of events at all, and just surrender to chance or a force bigger than yourself. Let’s be clear, I’m not advocating this as a general attitude to life. I mean once you’ve done all you can and can go no further under your own steam, once you’ve really, deeply and completely exhausted all your options, I think in those cases it is not only ok to give up, I would say it is required. And then something incredible happens. It’s as though existence steps in saying ‘Phew! She finally got out of the way! Now let’s give her what she really needed all along.’ And you suddenly find that things start working again. Like a creaky old cartwheel that has finally got some grease, life starts to move forward again, and you get everything you ever needed, almost effortlessly.
Without quite getting on my soapbox, birth-wise, I can tell you that I think a lot of the work of Michel Odent, a well known voice in the natural childbirth movement. I heard him speak once, well before I gave birth to any of my children, and remember him saying something to the effect that childbirth is something the animal body does pretty much by itself if you give it half a chance. His suggestion was to surrender to the animal side of things, and let your body do what it needs to do, and whatever it needs to do, without letting your mind get in the way.
I think life is the same – sometimes you just have to surrender and let things happen. Sometimes you have to get out of your own way. When you let go, a beautiful healthy baby pops out!
So this week, here’s to surrender and letting go –
Now I’m off to go give birth with my friend – wish us luck!
Update: … and we have a lovely baby boy, Thank Gd! My inspirational friend made light work of the whole thing. It was a privilege to be by her side, and I am profoundly grateful for the experience.
Quick event plug: www.dashofsparkle.com/cocktails_and_consciousness.html
If you are considering joining us for our inspirational ‘girls night out’ event, Cocktails and Consciousness on Thursday evening 9th February- there’s no time like the present! Please follow the link above for more information and to book. Tickets are £15 each, and include one cocktail. If you let me know you have booked as a result of reading this blog, you can claim your complementary life coaching session with me too – 30 mins by phone or skype.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Odent – about Michel Odent
Chamutal Isaacs – is a seasoned doula, teaches natural fertility awareness, natural gender selection and provides coaching sessions on all things fertility, birth and breastfeeding related. She is a well-spring of knowledge in my very personal opinion and you can reach her on 0044 (0)7903 268 551 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
This week my nephew becomes a man. At the tender age of 13, his reading of a portion of the Torah marks the beginning of his responsibility as an adult in the Jewish religion. You might think 13 is quite young to suddenly be considered an adult, but some youngsters are out there making babies at that age, so perhaps it’s appropriate after all! “What’s the point?” You might ask? So there will be a great hoo-hah, everyone will be looking even more young and beautiful than usual, you know who you are ;-), and we’ll all mark the occasion with the solemnity it deserves and then party on afterwards, but so what?
Actually I think these things are really important, and I’ll tell you why. You know in the old days when pretty much everyone had some form of religion or at least some form of superstition, don’t you think that life’s events were marked a little better? Important occasions in a person’s life were always communal occasions- be they births, marriages, deaths or anywhere in between. You had some form of support and acknowledgement as you passed from one stage to another – and you had living proof around you that other people had done the same and survived it. Except death of course – and even then many traditions had it that your deceased relatives would come out and accompany you to heaven, if you were lucky enough to get there. So what could potentially be a scary event if you did it alone became a celebration of moving on and moving up. A celebration of becoming more than you were. Religion has done harm as well as good of course and hence been ditched by many, but sadly I think a number of bathing babies have been thrown out with the bath water, one of them being that we don’t have the same sense of community as we used to and sometimes have to navigate life’s passages alone.
I’m glad my nephew has his loving family around him as he begins to move away from being a child and starts to take more responsibility for his world – I wish him Mazal Tov (congratulations) and would like to reassure him that whilst adulthood brings responsibility, it also brings you the power and resources to do all the things you’ve always wanted to do. Just as having power gives you responsibility, taking responsibility gives you power … use it wisely!
Ritual isn’t only found in religion of course. When you think of ritual as something you oblige yourself to make a habit out of, or something you engage in ‘religiously’ until it becomes an action you almost can’t stop yourself doing, in it’s looser sense we engage in ritual quite a lot. There are global rituals e.g. taking a bath every now and then and personal rituals – e.g. the time you choose to wake up each day. I have a road ritual, to do with what I think is called ‘lane discipline’. I make sure I ALWAYS stay cleanly in whatever road lane I’m in, or if I’m changing lanes that I do so tidily and having indicated, instead of making free with the road as some drivers do when there are no other cars around. I do that because I want it to be such an ingrained habit that I’ll drive safely even if I’m exhausted, or if my concentration is low that day.
That particular ritual has served me well (so far at least!). Which brings me to my point. Rituals are there to serve us. What you do repeatedly and with focus becomes who you are. What you practice when you have energy to spare can save you when you are low on gumption. So here are my questions to you:
*What rituals do you have that serve you? Do you regularly get enough sleep and wake up at a sensible hour? Do you make a ritual out of regular exercise? Do you have a group of positive people that you regularly spend time with. so much so that you’re almost obliged to touch base with inspiration, no matter what mood you’re in?
*Are there any rituals you have that don’t serve you? Destructive eating habits? Smoking? Watching the same TV programme each week that you know is going to annoy you, just because everyone else is? Renewed awareness is the first step to making a change!
*And finally, what rituals can you install? Remember, what you do repeatedly becomes who you are. So who are you now, and who do you want to be?
Want to be healthy and fit? Get thee to a gym, or find what else works for you. Make a habit of buying the right foods. Make time to prepare the right foods – very few healthy things come plopping out of a tin, so if you want healthy food you’re going to have to make time for that. Want to be inspired and inspiring? Hang out with those kinds of people regularly, and read and watch things that inspire you … on a regular basis. Want to be a giving person? Sign up for volunteer work, or perhaps set regular charity payments on your account even if it’s only a small amount of money a month. Maybe make a habit of considering the well being of strangers around you to be your partial responsibility. This is something I’m personally working on at the moment. To be honest it doesn’t come naturally to pick up other people’s litter when I’m walking out in nature, or stop my car in the middle of the road to move the stray road cone out of other people’s way, instead of just driving round it. I’m doing those sorts of things anyway when I can – because that is the kind of person I want to be.
I find a diary helps with installing regular habits, and if you can set alerts on your phone and actually schedule in time for the habits you want to take on, you’re on to a winner. You can also use NLP to install triggers that remind you to do a certain action, when a particular event occurs – ask me how – it’s a pet subject! However you do it, make sure you do it – and you WILL change your life for the better, guaranteed.
Take on great rituals and celebrate the great rituals you already have … in fact why not go forth, get your rain dance on (or whatever those guys in that fantastic picture are doing) and have a ritualistic week!