Accessing your Intuition through Visualisation and Embodiment

What is your relationship with Intuition?  Do you doubt that you have intuition?  Do you second guess intuition and find yourself plagued with doubt, indecision and confusion?  If you get that intuitive hit, how does it come to you- through words, pictures, thoughts or feelings?  And when that hit comes, do you act on it, or do you ignore it?  Perhaps it scares you, or you don’t like what it says, think it’s mundane or pointless?

Intuition and Transformation

When a coaching client connects to their intuition, listens and takes action, it can be one of the most empowering transformations they can make.  Suddenly, they move from needing advice and support from others, to independence, self-sufficiency and clarity.  Advice and support have their place, but when they stop a person from trusting themselves and undermine their sense of autonomy, they become disempowering.  The client becomes small in their body through lack of confidence, plays small in their life by acting without courage and feels small in themselves by staying inside their comfort zone and resisting risk and failure.

Building trust in Intuition has become an important part of the work I do with clients.  And I have begun to run training to empower people to connect to Intuition, learn how to use it, listen to it and act from that place of inspiration.  In collaboration with Thea Allison and Catelijne Coopmans, we devised a series of five sessions focusing on Embodying Archetypes for Personal Growth.  These were part of the Embodiment Circles Online in 2020.  This blog focuses on Magician.

Intuition and Magician Archetype

The Magician archetype is an excellent way to access these inherent skills and build trust in imagination, creativity and vision making.  Magician is not an illusionist.  It is a transformer and synthesiser that brings things together to create something new.  It creates from the ether, sensing that which is beyond the senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell) and bringing it to life.  Magician captures dreams (like the Big Friendly Giant by Roald Dahl), creates vision, senses what is on the verge of becoming and helping it manifest.

One Magician in our modern day was Steve Jobs.  He sensed that people wanted a computer that could be used easily, intuitively, immediately and would not be a struggle to learn.  And so he created the Macintosh and computing, animation, publishing and education have never been the same since (see this article Giving People What They Want Before They Know They Want It for more information). Jobs instinctively knew how to listen to Intuition as do many actors, visionaries, authors, musicians, thought leaders, artists, trail-blazers, entrepreneurs and anyone who uses imagination to create a solution.  Stephen Hawking, Paul McCartney, Lin Miguel Miranda and Banksie are all 21st century Magicians.

How Intuition Speaks

We are all born with the instinct to listen to Intuition.  Many of us unlearn that skill.  Fortunately, you can relearn it too.

Intuition communicates with you predominantly in one of four ways:

  1. Words- your inspiration comes in individual words or phrases. Less often it might come as a sentence or perhaps a stream of words.  If it does flow, it is usually because you are writing it down or saying it out loud in some way.  Once you act on the individual word or phrase, you may receive the next step on the journey.
  2. Pictures- flashes or glimpses of insight come to your mind’s eye. Or you may get a moving image like a film playing in your head.
  3. Thoughts- you’ll get an idea jump into your mind or the thought to call or reach out to a specific person.
  4. Feelings- intuition often speaks through the body. A gut reaction, your heart skips a beat, you feel an urge to take action in some way.  Perhaps you’ll meet someone and take an instant liking, or disliking, to them, without having spoken a word.  Or that urge to eat a particular food or be clear that you don’t want to eat something.  You might be inspired to speak your truth.

Bolts from the Blue

Intuition speaks to us through these means.  Most people have a dominant one or two ways, but we have all four.    The one thing they have in common, is that the insight is usually out of the blue.  It has no reference to what you may have been thinking about beforehand.  To the point where it seems weird or freaky.

As an example, I was at a particularly low ebb one New Year’s day.  I felt lost at that point in my life and was wondering what I could do to change it.  A person’s name, someone I had not thought about in months, sprang to mind.  I reached out to him and he helped guide me back on track.

One of the reasons I work with archetypes is because Intuition keeps bringing me back to them as an answer to my questions in life.  When opportunities for new and inspiring work come up, archetypes come, unbidden, front and centre in my mind and workshops and seminars come together with ease.

I will plan what I am going to say when I present workshops or give seminars, but often the script goes out the window when I get an intuitive push to approach the work differently.  In the moment, I’ll change tack and go with it, because I trust my intuition- at least much more than I used to.  Every time, without fail, I ask for feedback and participants say the material was just what was needed.  When I suggest I could have done it differently, hinting at what I had meticulously planned for the event, they always shake their heads and say what I did was better.  I can’t explain it, but it works every time.  I know it works and I have learned to trust it.

Learning to Listen

There are many ways to cultivate your relationship with Intuition.  Over the years I have practised many forms of spontaneous creative output including writing, movement (dance, martial arts), music, play (such as comedy improvisation or playing with children) and public speaking.

Here are a couple of ways in which you can connect to Intuition from the Embodying Archetypes for Personal Growth series about Magician:

1. Meditation to Access Intuition

One of the reasons you may not hear Intuition is because your conscious, logical and rational mind is so busy, it is a distraction. It’s so loud and consistently active that you rarely if ever hear Intuition.  And the world is a busy and loud place too.  Lots of distractions there as well- TV, internet, social media and so on.  You may not know it, but Intuition is reaching out to you all the time.  For most of us in the modern world, our focus is towards the busyness and loudness of life.  Intuition often does not get a look in.  Sometimes, its messages get through the cracks when there is a pause- like when you’re taking a shower, running, driving, day-dreaming and so on.

If you want to access Intuition more purposefully, take time to remove some of those distractions from time to time and learn to recognise when Intuition is communicating to you.  Ask for the answer to something about a relationship, a business challenge, health concerns, problem solving and Intuition will give you the next step.  This video is a guided visualisation that will give you a chance to connect to your intuitive voice:

Guided Visualisation

The key is to go with the thing that first comes to mind.  Don’t second guess it.  If you don’t like what you hear, don’t waste your time listening out for something different.  It might be scary, mundane, obvious, not glamorous or glitzy enough for you.  But if that is what Intuition says, then that is the message.  So often, Intuition has me stepping out of my comfort zone that feels great once I’ve done it and isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.  Or doing the mundane things like keeping the house tidy or organising my accounts.  It means that I can relax, which feels good and allows me to focus on more important things for my development.  Important things that without that organisation, I wouldn’t have the time or space to do.

Intuition isn’t some woo woo hocus pocus.  It is eminently practical and useful and very often flies in the face of logic, reason and common sense.

2. Embodying Intuition

The Magician in you nurtures your natural ability to go into the unknown, using imagination and intuition to seek new understanding and wisdom to be of service in the world.

Magician can hold itself in the practical, real world, and also transcend the physical to allow valuable information and guidance to come through.

As individuals we access intuition differently. This movement practice, devised by Thea Allison*, uses three different, embodied techniques to access intuition to test them for effectiveness and appropriateness to you personally.

Using the over-arching question What am I here to learn and share? we explored these three embodied enquiries:

1. Transcendence Pose.

We used the Embodied Yoga Principles pose of Transcendence to experience that lift into the higher, into the airy realm of intuition and vision. Standing on tip toe, with your arms straight up, your palms facing each other a shoulder width apart and your gaze going upwards. Holding the question, we used movement to reach out, plucking ideas and possibilities from the ether and intuitively putting those ideas into the body, wherever it felt true to ‘land’ them. Like plucking apples from a tree, or the stars from the sky.

2. Circles

Using circles is an ancient intuitive technique. Create or imagine a circle and define that space to suit your needs, for example, my true vision, or clarity on this project. When you connect with, or step into the circle you will have an experience of how you have defined it. We walked around the edge of the circle, holding the question ‘What am I here to learn and share?’ purposefully imagining the circle to be empty and free of other influences. Stepping into the circle we waited to receive whatever information came.

3. Centring

We went through a simple centring process.  Starting on the external environment by feeling our feet on the floor, standing tall, becoming aware of the feeling of the air on our skin. Moving internally, we noticed our breathing and relaxed our core – eyes, mouth and jaw, down to the belly. With relaxed breath, in this centred state, we asked the question and listened for what came. (Based on ABC Centring technique as taught at The Embodied Facilitators Course.

Intuition is a natural gift that can be practised and nurtured in all of us. We all have aspects of the Magician to call on. The important thing is to find the best way for you to be in the unknown, free of the normal layers of conditioning and bias that direct your thinking, and then hold onto the first thing you get.

To complete the session, we continued walking while considering three questions:

  • 1) Where/how do you experience intuition in your body?
  • 2) What was your reaction to the first thing you got (e.g. reject it, want something more, want something less, doubt it)?
  • 3) What can you do now to make this information useful?

Over to you

How is your relationship with Intuition?  What practices do you have to connect to it?  Were the two offered here useful for you?  What is Intuition telling you?  How will you use Intuition in the future?  If you did use Intuition, how would your life look different in a year from now?  Or five years from now?

We will be creating and delivering further sessions and courses on Embodying Archetypes for Personal Growth.  If you’d like to know more about future content and dates with the interest of possibly attending, please e-mail David at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk and I will contact you with additional details as we publish them.  Alternatively, you can subscribe to my newsletter on the right hand side of this page.

Pass It on

Did you find this blog valuable and gain something from it? Do you know a friend, colleague or family member who would find it valuable too?  I’d really appreciate it, and I’m sure they would too.  Thank you.

*Thea Allison specialises in teaching people to use intuition and embodiment to create what is most important to them. She put together this simple exploration of intuition and embodiment.

Responsibility- how do you bear it?

How do you view responsibility?  A necessary evil?  Part of the blame game?  Something to avoid at all costs?  When you think of responsibility, do you get a sinking feeling in your stomach?  Or does it lighten you and bring a thrill of what is possible, excitement and potential?

Very often, responsibility gets a bad press.  It can be linked to blame, in that other people can point the finger if things go wrong or it doesn’t work.  Many think of it as a burden that comes with mortgages, job roles, parenthood, relationships.

Others avoid responsibility because they feel the weight of it crushes their creativity, freedom and sense of fun with life.  And there are those that see it as unavoidable, like shackles that hold them back and stop life being fun and exciting.

Embodying Archetypes to explore Responsibility

On a recent Embodiment Circle Online co-hosted by myself, Thea Allison and Catelijne Coopmans, we explored responsibility through the archetype of Sovereign.  We built on the theme that alignment of the body allows you to relax and bear weight more lightly.  And that alignment relates directly to the weight of responsibility and how that burden can be lightened when it is aligned to your values.  Here is the body-based meditation we ran in the Circle:

Responsibility and Personal Sovereignty

Sovereign is a powerful metaphor for your personal sovereignty.  To take responsibility for your own fulfilment, meaning and purpose.  To create the order, structure and stability for yourself and therefore for others so that they may thrive.

You must align with you values if you are to take on that responsibility willingly, openly and with commitment.  As a business leader, to see your colleagues thrive and develop in their jobs and contribute in a way that sees your industry and the economy at large prosper.  As a parent, to witness your children grow and find fulfilment in their own lives.  Or as a manager, to create teams that are motivated and inspired and instrumental in the success of the company.  And central to all that is honouring what is most important to you so that you flourish too.  You are Sovereign of your own life and no one can benefit from your skills, talents and qualities if you are not fulfilled and living life on purpose.

That takes responsibility, a commitment within yourself to stay true to what is most important to you, for your well-being and the well-being of those your life touches.  There is something about bearing the weight of responsibility as a gift that lightens you, inspires you, when you are aligned to your values, meaning and purpose.

Embodying Responsibility

An equivalent alignment in the body would be with the Head (mind), Heart (chest) and Hara (pelvis).  When these three centres align, the weight of the body is supported by the skeleton and the muscles can relax.  Without that alignment, the muscles remain tense and become tired.  Life becomes effortful, and increasingly so as the body tires, weakens and struggles more.

Responsibility aligned to Values

This relationship between alignment of the body and aligning your responsibility with values, meaning and purpose is essential if you are to bear the weight of responsibility without effort and with dignity and wisdom.  Wisdom comes from understanding that there is a great price to be paid if you take action that is out of alignment with your values, meaning and purpose.  Just like when you move your body when it is out of alignment and you damage a muscle or break a bone.  The price is too high for you and those around you.

Bearing Responsibility Lightly

The mantle or cloak, crown and insignia are the ceremonial garments Sovereign wears to represent this responsibility.  Together these garments are a weight that is best carried with good alignment of posture.  Aligning Head, Heart and Hara allows the muscles to relax.  Muscles free of tension allow the weight to drop into the floor.  And because every action has an equal and opposite reaction (Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion), the Earth pushes back against that weight, lightening the body.  No matter how great the weight, the force pushing back will always reciprocate, offering support and bearing the load.  It is universal law.

A person who lives aligned to their values walks with confidence, a lightness and ease in their step.  They walk tall, take up space and have a presence and power that are commanding.  They own their sovereignty and bear responsibility lightly.  Alignment of values shows itself through alignment of body.  An aligned body shows the strength of character to honour values through action.

Values-based Responsibility

In your own life, responsibility will include your relationships, career, finances, bringing up the kids, job responsibilities, upkeep of the home and bills, offering emotional support and helping others thrive.  You also maintain self-care, so that you can live life to the full as well as continue with this responsibility.  If you are to bear these responsibilities lightly, joyfully, with ease and dignity they must align with your values.  What responsibilities do you have that align with your values?  What is the feeling of that alignment?  Energising, invigorating, inspiring?

It is not enough to feel responsible for the finances of the family for example.  That responsibility will crush you if what you do to live up to that responsibility gives you no joy, fulfilment and a sense of purpose.  It is such a common situation for a person to work all hours so that they can provide for their family.  Yet, they are missing their children and spouse because they are working all the time.  They are out of alignment with their values.  The long hours would be more bearable if they had great relationships with their family.

But so often they do not.  They feel lonely and isolated and find themselves longing for the intimacy of family.  Meanwhile, the family misses their presence and they fall short of thriving as a result.  For your own sovereignty, it is important to get that alignment right and find the balance so that the weight of financial responsibility is lightened.

Aligning Responsibility to Values

If your responsibility does not align, can you find a way to do so?

I have a love/ hate relationship with the responsibility of keeping a clean and tidy home.  It gets in the way of my creativity and freedom if I do it too much.  And yet, if I let it slide too long, the mess and lack of calm inhibits the creative flow.  So, I balance the responsibility of cleaning and tidying with the values of creativity and being productive in my work.  What responsibilities do you have that you can align to your values that are currently not aligned?  How might you find a way to align them?  What is the feeling of finding that alignment having been out of whack?  Relief, coming home, relaxing, light, free?

If you cannot find that alignment, can you drop that responsibility?

When new opportunities come my way, I think carefully about whether they align to my values.  There is a factor of time of course.  And there is a question of alignment that gives me energy, vitality and enthusiasm for the work.  Is the opportunity aligned or not?  If not, it will drain me and allow less time and energy for what really matters to me.  So, I let it go.  If it is aligned, it will add to the momentum and energy of my life and so I willingly accept it.  And allow the responsibility of taking it on to lighten my soul through joy and fulfilment.

The bigger your life gets, the more important it is to stay aligned to your values.  That structure, support and order both internally (through Head, Heart and Hara) and externally (with values, purpose and responsibility) are vital for you to maintain your power and vitality.  Without them, your reach, impact and capacity become diminished.  Sovereign is about thriving and creating and maintaining order to do so.  Responsibility can help you thrive, or not.  It all depends on how your responsibilities align with what is most important to your head, heart and soul.

Over to You

What responsibilities do you have that help you thrive?  And what responsibilities drain and weaken you?  Are they aligned to your values? What can you do about those responsibilities that are not aligned?  How can you get more alignment?  I’d love to hear how you are doing with these enquiries.  Please post your discoveries in the comments box.  Alternatively, you can e-mail me if you’d rather keep things private or you’d prefer to discuss what is coming up for you.

Pass it on

If you have enjoyed this blog and found it useful, what in particular was beneficial to you?  Is there someone you know who would benefit from that too?  If so, please forward this blog to them.  They’d really appreciate the thoughtful gesture and it shows them how much you care.  Thank you.

What support are you giving yourself?

Do you find it hard to relax?  Are your muscles tight and painful?  Would it be useful to be able to let them release so that you feel at ease and calm?  Could that muscle tension and discomfort come from stress and anxiety?  Where can you find the support to ease that pressure?

Do you feel on the back foot all the time?  Are you finding it hard to keep up?  Do you have commitments coming to you faster than you can deal with them?  Does your mind feel cluttered?  How about your home?  Or your workspace?  Would you like some time and space to breathe?  Would you like support structures you could put in place to reduce that sense of overwhelm?

Time for support

I imagine that you would.  But who has the time?  You want something that is quick and easy to do that gives you that instant relief.  When you are stressed, your body is in fight or flight, pumping adrenaline and cortisol around to help you cope with the challenges you are facing.  This is great short term, but long term it is exhausting.  You need a break.

You want to create an atmosphere that does not support flight or flight (stress response).  Or, put another way, create an environment that encourages calm and relaxation.  If you can create that in your body, you become less stressed.  By creating that in your environment, your stress is reduced.

Creating support for relaxation

One way you can do that is to call upon the support and structures in your life that will allow you to relax as a result.  Your body has a wonderful support and structure system that can offer tremendous muscular relaxation.  And that is your skeleton.  By focusing on your bones and aligning them, you can encourage your muscles to relax and give you the relief from tension that you are looking for.  This is a video taking you through an exercise that focuses on the skeleton and allows your muscles to let go and surrender to gravity:

The exercise might take more time than you have on a regular basis.  But even taking a minute, or 30 seconds, to stand, sit or lie down with your skeleton aligned would go some way to reducing your stress and anxiety.  And the longer you do it, the more relaxed you’ll become.  Try it in bed before you fall asleep or as you commute on the train or bus.  There is a lot to be said for doing these sorts of exercises little and often so that you get the benefit over a longer period.

What are the other benefits?

As well as relax the muscles, you might also notice that you slow down.  Your heart might feel calmer, your mind may have stopped racing and you may no longer feel that urgent need to rush onto the next thing.  You may feel more grounded, centred and stable.  I purposefully recorded the video with the window open so that the sound of the birds could be heard.  Isn’t it nice to stop and notice what is all around you-the sounds, sights and feelings of the world?

This is the power of calling upon your support and structure to feel calm and tranquil.  And there are other structures and supports you can call upon.

  1. Routines

When there are important things to get done regularly, it is often useful to get into a rhythm of doing them.  The daily routine of brushing your teeth and bathing is an example.  How about a routine for starting the day so that you are in the right mindset before things kick-off?  Or creating specific time slots in which you look at e-mails, interact with social media or take phone calls.  And then shutting off all interruptions for specified periods so you can concentrate on writing articles or blogs, creating workshop or seminar material, planning meetings or tomorrow’s agenda.  Blocking out time in your diary (hard landscaping your diary as a colleague calls it) can reduce your stress and anxiety about remembering to do these tasks.  And, by doing them, it keeps you calm because you know you are on point.

  1. Declutter

Another thing that adds to your stress is mess and disorganisation.  When you are looking for something and you just can’t find it, it adds to your anxiety.  You spend precious time searching for it which eats up into other time where you could be more productive, or spend it relaxing.  The precision that everything has its place, where things are tidy and easy to get to, keeps things calm.  It doesn’t have to be all straight lines and right angles if that doesn’t work for you.  For some people that level of organisation is overwhelming.  While for others, it cannot be any other way.  But, if you know where things are and you get in the habit of returning them to their home, it takes a lot of pressure off.

  1. Knowing your Onions

Doesn’t it feel great to know your stuff?  To feel that confidence in your chest that you have a deep knowledge about a subject that is important to you- like your business or job.  Continual professional development means you gather a tremendous volume of knowledge that serves to build trust, reliability and confidence in your ability.  Not just for yourself, though that is a huge bonus.  But also, that confidence is embodied and transmits to your clients and colleagues.  When people feel they can trust you, that confers calm and relaxation.

Making time to keep learning about your subject and hone your art lends you confidence and gravitas.  When I speak to experts in their field, generally they tell me that they use perhaps 10% of their knowledge.  But the other 90% empowers them to deliver that knowledge with confidence.

Bringing your awareness to the skeleton aligns you to the support your body gives you so that you can be relaxed, more present and at ease.

Support and Structure

Focusing on the things that give you support and structure allow you to relax.  In the 4 elements model, Earth is the element of support, structure, precision and grounding.  Bringing your awareness to the skeleton aligns you to the support your body gives you so that you can be relaxed, more present and at ease.  Paying attention to the things in your daily life that offer you support and structure so that you can enjoy your day is a key habit to instilling and maintaining calm in your life.

What are you doing during this lockdown period to stay calm?  What structures and support are you using to keep the pressure off and ease the tension?  I’d love to hear how you are doing in lockdown.

Pass it on

Found this blog and the video useful?  Why not send it to someone you know who is perhaps struggling with relaxation and managing stress at this time.

Resilience in Lockdown- what is your emotional response?

Covid-19 and lockdown are both emotional subjects for a lot of people.  I am noticing that there are many emotional responses as individuals, families, businesses and communities come to terms with the impact this pandemic is having on all our lives.  This varied emotional response is completely normal, natural and healthy.  And you should expect your emotional response to change over time as circumstances change.

Expressing your emotional response

Lockdown- what is your emotional response

When people take the time to speak about what is happening for them emotionally right now, the emotional charge decreases.  This alone can make it easier to manage.  Speaking about your concerns, fears and worries can help to reduce the stress, anxiety and fear you might be feeling.  Holding it in and bottling it up only exacerbates the problem.  As I said, your concerns for loved ones, finances, health, uncertainty about work, isolation, grief and loss are normal and natural emotions to have at this time.

They do not mean you are not coping.  And they do not mean there is anything wrong.  Any situation in life that leaves you with uncertainty, doubt, fear and confusion, you will have an emotional response.  But, if you do not find a way to express that emotion in SOME way, it can have an on-going negative impact on your well-being.**  Which can affect your resilience and your ability to manage the challenges you face- and that includes lockdown and Covid-19.

For many, the normal structures and habits you have in place to manage your emotional and mental well-being are often out of reach.  Speaking with family and friends over the telephone or on Zoom is not the same as being with them in the room.  And there is no substitute for a real hug or the comforting touch of a loved one.  The social joys of getting together for a drink at the pub, a coffee in town or a meal out are currently not possible.

How are you managing your emotional response?

Our minds and bodies, in response, begin to become more on edge, stressed, tense and anxious as the restrictions continue and show no signs of abating.  Which is as it should be, as the global population does what it must to contain the spread of the virus and together, we look after the health of everyone on the planet.

Without your typical resources available, perhaps it is time to explore new resources that can help support you?  It seems that these are some of the areas where people are struggling:

  • Reduced exercise and movement mean that muscles are getting tight.  Tension also comes from holding the emotional tension of stress, anxiety and worry
  • Lack of touch and the guardedness of social distancing creates its own anxiety that leads to more tension
  • Unfamiliar feelings and sensations in reaction to these unprecedented times which are challenging to express.  Such as lack of freedom, health concerns, uncertainty, more free time, overwhelm, boredom, job and financial security, isolation etc.

Here are some opportunities that I am involved in that might help to calm your anxiety, support your connection to others and share in safe and confidential spaces:

  1. Embodiment Circles Online:

Since the beginning of lockdown, I have been involved with Online Embodiment Circles.  Very quickly it has blossomed into a global community online, with over 80 one-hour sessions every week.  Most circles are in English, but there are some in other languages.  Circles were created to support well-being, learning and connection. They are practical and accessible, with three sections to them.  The first is a light, non-athletic movement session (accessible yoga or dance for example).  The second, a secular, body-based meditation.  And lastly an opportunity for sharing.

In fact, this third section is perhaps the most effective and powerful part of the hour.  People take the opportunity, if they want it, to share a little about how they are fairing right now.  Every circle addresses the three challenges I mentioned above.  So, if you’d like to be with others in a positive virtual environment, reduce your stress, and move a little to support your health, then join in.  Groups use Zoom and are free of charge.  You can find out more on the Embodiment Circle Online website.

  1. Processing on the Run

I have been an active volunteer of the Samaritans for over two years.  And now, there are also a number of organisations I am involved with on a charitable basis, including Project 5 for NHS staff and Spotlight, offering coaching for actors, give the people in these professions, the opportunity to process their emotional state on the run.  This helps them remain more resilient as well as be more present and productive at work.  It also means they can transition to and from home life more easily.  And therefore be more present to partners and children.

The benefit of speaking about how you feel

Both in the Samaritans and coaching, I see the benefit to people of expressing the emotions they feel in the moment.  Before they have the opportunity to express them, they are often agitated.  They also find it hard to concentrate and focus, feel withdrawn or find it hard to connect with others.  If they have been carrying that emotion for a while, it can impact their resilience to cope with life’s challenges.  It also impacts their creativity and productivity at work, presence at home and their ability to focus on solutions.

From personal experience as well, that inability to express emotions negatively impacts your ability to create, sustain and build relationships.  All of which are essential for thriving through these challenging times as well as in life in general.  I have noticed my improved ability to express how I am feeling makes me a better father, partner, person in business, family member and friend.  And life is just more fun, and rich, with the freedom to express how I feel.  When life is more challenging, sharing how I feel means those challenging times are easier to cope with.

A limited, free coaching offer

Therefore, I am offering individuals a single free session of life coaching to provide a safe space to explore and express their emotions or to work out how best to move forward through the pandemic.  If you’d like to take advantage of this offer, please contact me here: david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk

  1. Stress Management for Healthcare Professionals

If you are a healthcare professional, or know someone in the healthcare profession, Covid Calm is an online session, sharing tools to manage stress for medical staff under pressure.  This is a free initiative, run by volunteers who are very experienced stress management facilitators.  Each 30- minute session takes participants through the A.S.S.E.T. toolbox, which includes:

  • ABC Equilibrium Technique
  • Stretching, shaking and tapping
  • Sitting Mindfulness
  • Empathic sharing
  • Thankfulness and gratitude

These are all evidence-based techniques shown to resource people to more effectively manage stress.  You can find out more at the Covid Calm website and in this LinkedIn article, which also highlights some of the research-based evidence out there to support the effectiveness of these techniques.

Over to You

So, these are some of the things I am offering and involved with that can support people in sharing their emotions.  Allowing them to manage their stress more effectively and develop greater resilience.

Please share these initiatives where you can.

And if you would like to support Project 5 (which offers coaching and tiered psychological support for NHS staff), you can donate here.

Thank you.

** Speaking about how you feel may not be your bag.  Although it is useful to be able to express your feelings in words so that you can communicate with the people you share your life with.  Having said that, painting, drawing, dance, movement, music and poetry can all be ways in which you might prefer to process your emotions.  Having done that clarifying work, it can be easier to talk about what is going on for you.

Lockdown- Resistance and Acceptance in our Coronavirus World

How are you doing as lockdown progresses?

Are you resisting the slowing down, or the speeding up, of your life?  Do you let the sense of limbo frustrate you or are you letting it go?  Are you being drawn further into your screens and out of your body, or is it the other way around?  Do you enjoy the stillness?  Or is it driving you crazy?

I am noticing a shift in myself, and other people, as this enforced lockdown, globally, is encouraging us to say “no” to the rat race and the relentless pressures of growth, expansion and competition.  It is also giving us the opportunity to say “yes” to being more present and mindful with ourselves, others and the world around us.  It opens us to being content with what we have as well as connecting to and sustaining community.  What gifts these things are.

Resistance

At the beginning, I also noticed an initial resistance.  Maybe you felt it too?  Or perhaps you are still resisting the inevitability and uncertainty of this Coronavirus situation.  It manifests as a “I can’t believe this is happening” or “What will I do?” or “What can I do?” “How will I cope?”  The tension that comes from worrying about money, business, family and friends is another sign of the resistance around having to give up control.  And frustration that so much is on-hold: house moves, career progress, business growth, birthdays, family and business events, weddings, schooling, funerals.  “When will things return to normal?” and “How long will I have to wait?” speak to that anxiety as well.

As a society, we are in pain over the loss of our old lives and the way we used to live.  Our resistance, though understandable, only leads to suffering as we grasp for more of what is not available to us right now.  Some of our old ways may never return and we will have to make our peace with that.  But, in the short-term, resistance prevents our ability to adapt, be flexible and creative.  The tension resistance creates stops our minds from finding solutions to the problems and prevents our bodies from living in peace and harmony with the landscape of ever-changing challenges.

Acceptance

But, if you can let go of the resistance and allow it to give way to acceptance, you can let go of this struggle that is beyond your power to control.  The questions then shift to “How can I make the best of this situation?”  “What are the advantages and possibilities?”  “What can I create from this?” “Where are the opportunities and how can I make them happen?”  People are adapting to a new normal.  They are appreciating that they could use their time differently.  That this way of life might have unforeseen advantages that could be sustainable in a post-Coronavirus world.

The impact of resistance on the mind and body is one of stress, anxiety, tension and dis-ease.  In contrast, acceptance leaves the body and mind at peace, ease and tranquil.  It’s just more pleasant to live through the Coronavirus experience this way, if you can.  Let go of what you cannot control, accept the reality of your situation, pay attention to your breath and notice your body.  Then, from this grounded place, take action.  Here is a video on these four points:

Here are 4 things I have noticed in myself and my community (both on- and off-line) that have come about as people have let go of their resistance and opened to acceptance.

  1. Opportunity

Your life was going in a particular direction and focused in a specific way before Coronavirus appeared.  And now, much of that is on-hold.  Others are completely blown out of the water.  Some things are accelerating.  This is an opportunity to pivot or change direction completely:

  • Working from home, shifting face-to-face meetings and training to online platforms.
  • Now you have time and space to create new projects and complete them, perhaps start new types of work or revenue-generating opportunities.
  • Many of us are travelling less and enjoying the extra time that gives to sleep longer, exercise and move more, connect with your loved ones more frequently and deeply and enjoy your local environment.
  • Old hobbies can be done in a different way now and with the additional time you have, why not take on a new hobby? Learn a language, develop a skill, try something you’ve always wanted to do or something completely new.  The opportunities are endless.
  • We are collectively taking a breath- humanity and the planet. As we pause, new insights come to us and we can embrace the potential opening.  This is a valuable opportunity to make slight and gentle adjustments that could have profound positive impact ten years from now and beyond.  Already the air is clearing, the oceans and rivers are cleaner and wildlife is safer to roam.
  1. Community

People are being so kind.  Reaching out to acquaintances and strangers to help and support.  We are reaching out to friends we barely speak with normally and building new relationships as people come together for a common cause.

We are, for the first time in human history, united under a common threat.  Imagine that?  Many of the differences that usually divide us are being put to one side so that we may come together and collaborate and help each other. Giving us the opportunity to come together and connect regardless of faith, gender, colour, nationality, sexual orientation or political persuasion.  Humanity is coming together as one and that is priceless.   What if we could keep that going once this threat is over?

This is also an ideal time to connect to people in your personal and professional networks and cement those relationships.  And, by opening new ventures, create new relationships that might breathe new life into your business or life in general.

  1. Simple Pleasures

Hasn’t life become much simpler suddenly?

We are being given the chance to enjoy the simple pleasures of life: walking, cycling, running, the natural world, cooking, gardening and conversation to name a few.  Life was so complex before Coronavirus that many people didn’t pay attention to these things.  You may have done them.  But you may not have been as attentive as you might have been while doing them.  Rushing to move on to the next thing?  Or thinking about the future or the past rather than paying attention to the present?  These are common ways of doing things in our modern world.

Coronavirus has slowed things down.  There is less of a rush.  Less of a drive to push that extra mile or two all the time.  Without that pressure, we are better able to enjoy each task as we are doing it.  Now, in the simplicity of life, there is a mindfulness that perhaps was not there before.

Taking time to notice the simple pleasures makes tasks that feel mundane when we are rushing, more pleasurable, purposeful and powerful when life is slower and simplified.

  1. Being Present

The opportunities, the connection to community and the simple pleasures allow us to be more present.  The slowing down allows us to take notice.  There is so much you could worry about for tomorrow, but you cannot answer or control those things.  So, let them go.  The slowing down means there is less to preoccupy your mind.  If you let it.  You could always let yourself worry more and more about the unknowns and the things out of your control.  But, when you let go and only focus on what is in your sphere of influence, you realise that, for now, there are only certain things you can do.

I have heard many people say that they are on their hamster wheel of worry and concern.  When I probe deeper, they say that they are thinking about things over which they have no control.  Nor can they answer the questions they are posing.  Lockdown is imposing a long horizon.  Much of our worlds are on-hold, an enforced stillness that we can either fight and know turmoil and distress.  Or let go into so that we might know greater tranquillity and peace.

So, allow yourself to be present in all that you are doing during the Coronavirus lockdown.  Allow these special moments to keep you present with what is in front of you.  Bask in the immediacy of what you are doing.  Know that there is no rat-race today.  There is nothing to chase.  Enjoy the reprieve that Coronavirus has given you, if you can.

An Invitation

Will you accept or resist?

This enforced lockdown has encouraged these behaviours.  Whether you are doing these things or not is a choice.  Perhaps the events are making that choice easier?  But never forget that it is a choice.

My invitation is to ask you to decide which of these choices will you chose to keep after Coronavirus.  When lockdown is done and the threat to our health is significantly reduced, what of this will you decide to maintain?  Here’s an earlier blog on what you might want to be thinking about when you are making choices.

When the world changes back, if it changes back, what will you commit to keeping the same?  The community?  The presence?  Your simple pleasures?  The opportunities?  Something else entirely?  If enough of us commit to keeping some of these things, perhaps the world will not go back to how it was.  Perhaps our working lives will change so that we commute less or connect more online at work.  Maybe we’ll socialise with our friends, family and communities more?  Perhaps we’ll travel less and care for the environment more?  Maybe we’ll reassess what productivity means and what a healthy economy and financial system looks like.

I don’t know.  But something is changing for the better in amongst all the pain, fear and anxiety.  What will you change and take into your new future?

Saboteurs- are you listening to those negative voices that stop you achieving your dreams?

Do you have an inner voice that tells you are not good enough?  Or declares you will not get a better job, or lose that weight you so desperately want to shift?  May be that voice says you’re not intelligent or talented enough?  Perhaps you have an inner voice that says you just need to go on one more course before you’re ready to get that promotion, write that book, or start that business?  These inner voices have many names- saboteurs, gremlins, the committee, inner critics, demons.

Whatever name you give them, you probably face these voices many times a day.  From getting out of bed on time to eating healthy meals and working out to getting your filing done, your saboteurs have a lot to say about what you do and think and what you don’t do and think.  So, if you are finding these saboteur voices are particularly loud, especially during this new year resolution period, here are some things to think about to help you manage your saboteurs more effectively:

Recognise the voice and the feeling of your saboteurs

When that negative voice starts talking, how does it make you feel?

When that negative voice starts talking, how does it make you feel?  Low? Lousy? Depressed?  Negative? Does it make you feel like giving up or not bothering?  Are you focused on the problem or the solution?  Do you feel particularly creative or inspired?

When the saboteurs have their grip, you feel heavy, low and uninspired.  It’s not a great place to be.  It also makes your body feel lethargic and you may experience tension in you stomach, chest, shoulders, neck or other places.  You might be confused, conflicted and find you are second-guessing yourself.  Worst of all, you don’t have clarity and you feel stuck.

The saboteurs use words like “can’t” such as “You can’t do that!”, “should” like “You really should do it this way!”, “shouldn’t” for example “I shouldn’t make that phone call………”, “would” such as “I would do it this way rather than that way”, “wouldn’t” for example “I wouldn’t do that”, “ought to” like “I ought to do what he wants”, “don’t” such as “Don’t do it like that!”

Saboteurs hold you back and stop you moving forward.  When there is any growth, your saboteurs are there to stop you taking risks.  The bigger the risk, the louder and sharper the voice, the heavier the feelings.  The voice and feelings are designed to get you to take notice, shrink back and stay well inside your comfort zone.

What are the embodied resources to counter your saboteurs?

Like any superhero movie, there is the hero and the villain.  In fact, you cannot have one without the other.  They are the yin and the yang, opposing forces that keep things dynamic and flowing.  If your saboteurs are the villains in your tale, who are your heroes?

The heroes to counter-balance and hold in check your saboteurs are the positive voices and feelings that make you feel empowered.  While the embodiment of the saboteurs is usually contracted, small and reduced, the embodiment of your inner heroes is expanded, large and takes up space.  When you were a kid and pretended to be Batman and Tarzan or Xena warrior princess and Electra, you felt invincible.  You could achieve anything………….. and often did.

Simply envisioning yourself as this character (putting your big boy/girl pants on) can be enough to feel more confident and do something you wouldn’t ordinarily feel willing to do.  If TV and movie characters don’t work for you, why not try a mentor, sports personality or a person in history you respect and emulate the qualities you admire in them.  You are not trying to be them.  You are embodying the qualities they possess that bring you confidence and an opposing voice to the saboteurs.

If that doesn’t work, stand and move like them. When I feel the grip of one of my saboteurs, one of my strategies is to go for a fast and determined walk, which breaks the lethargy and gives me more energy, focus and determination for the task ahead.  I call it my “fire walk” as it gets me all fired up and I stop listening to the limiting voice of my saboteur.

What is the 2% truth?

What is the truth behind what the saboteur is saying?  Saboteurs will take the smallest grain of truth and blow it out of all proportion.  When you can see the core of the truth, you can dismiss the rest and you can deal with the truth of the situation more effectively.  For example, I don’t like calling people.  My saboteur tells me that they are busy, or they do not want to talk to me and that I am wasting my time.  Then, when I call and they do not answer of brush me off, my saboteur then says “I told you so” and tells me not to bother and makes up stuff like “they don’t like me” or “they are not interested in the work I’m doing” or that my work is pointless and useless.  And even worse, that I am pointless and useless.

See how insidious these saboteurs can be?  Maybe you relate to this direction and momentum of thought?  When I can look at it clearly, I can see that being rejected or ignored are possibilities when I call, and that has nothing to do with me.  The rest is make-believe.  Sometimes it’s easier to stop that train of thought than others.  The key is to catch it early as your thoughts have less momentum.  With greater saboteur awareness, the sooner you can head it off and with greater ease.

What do your saboteurs look like?

Rather than a disembodied voice, it can be easier to work with your saboteur when it has a face, body, clothes, habits, character and personality.  Create a stereotype of your saboteurs.  Have fun creating a caricature that gives you a more manageable perspective on your saboteur.  One of mine is The Drill Sargent, like the one from Full Metal Jacket.  He shouts and rants and raves at me, saying that I’ll amount to nothing and give in.  Another is The Sex God.  I’m sure you can imagine what negative and undermining things he says to me!  But, when those voices have a comedy caricature, like a cartoon, it makes it easier to dismiss them and even send them somewhere so that I am apart from their negative influence.

Saboteurs are trying to help

As frustrating as they are, saboteurs are actually created to keep you safe.  Though you may want to change and do things differently, your saboteur is designed to stop you failing, being humiliated, getting hurt and taking risks.  The truth is, change involves risk and failure is possible.  So, learning to manage your saboteurs for the sake of change, growth and evolution is important.

It seems our habit is to fight our saboteurs.  We push against them, refuse to accept them, tense up and rant and rave in the face of them.  And all that does is make them come on stronger.  It’s human nature to push against what pushes against us.  So, rather than steam roller him, try thanking him.  That’s right.  It’s not a type-o! Thank your saboteurs for trying to help and explain that while you understand they are trying to keep you safe, you no longer want to act and live like this, so it’s time to change.  I was amazed how well this worked the first time I used it.  Faced with lots of negative talk about growing my business, I continually thank my saboteurs for their input and respectfully say that I choose a different way that I believe will get me the results I want.

Because of their helpful nature, I’m not sure we ever stop the saboteurs’ voices.  Perhaps they become easier to manage.  And remember, the bigger the risk you take, the louder the voice they have.  In a way, we don’t want them to stop- as they tell you that you are on the right track!!

Another useful tip given to me by my coach was the more saboteurs you have and the louder they speak, the bigger the dreams you have and the more capable you are of creating them.

Over to You

So, there are five strategies to manage your saboteurs.  Use one, use all, use them in different scenarios.  Work with what works best for you.  Do you recognise the voices of your saboteurs?  Are there more than one?  How do they sound different?  Have you noticed how you stand and move differently when you are lacking confidence and in the grip of a saboteur, compared to when you are feeling like a superhero?  Can you see the truth in what the saboteur is saying and separate it from the lies?  Will you face that 2% of truth and let it teach you what your next moves need to be?  Does it help to personify your saboteurs?  What becomes possible when your saboteurs are no longer holding you back?

Pass it on

Saboteurs are active all the time, not just when new years resolutions are at the fore front of your mind.  Whenever change is afoot, saboteurs are there to hold you back and keep you safe.  They are there to stop change.  So, if you know someone who is struggling with making changes, perhaps their saboteurs have got a hold of them.  Maybe this blog could give them some insight that could make all the difference.  Why not send it their way?

** inspired by personal life events, clients’ conversations and Taming your Gremlin by Rick Carson **

The four elements in leadership and embodiment

The four elements model

In business, do you sometimes wish you could capitalise on your strengths more?  Would you and your business or career benefit from cultivating those strengths?  Are you unsure how to take advantage of your skills and talents more effectively?  Do you notice where your short-comings may lie and how they might impact you personally and professionally?  Would you like to be able to identify those areas you might develop so that you can take your self-employed business or career to the next level?

Would it be useful to have a model that allowed you to identify all these aspects of yourself, and others, and improve your business as a result?  The four elements model is such a framework, bringing ancient wisdom into modern relevance, benefiting people’s personal and professional lives.

The beauty of the model is that it allows you to identify the preferences, patterns and habits of yourself and others.  This empowers you to know where your strengths lie as well as the strengths of those around you.  It also shows your short-comings.  We even use the elements in our everyday language, as a hint to it’s intuitive descriptive qualities: “they have a fiery temper”, “what an air head”, “he is the salt-of-the-earth” and “she moves like water”.

All this to bring awareness to your short-term states and long-term dispositions and, consequently, develop your range and choice about how you respond to situations and circumstances.  Therefore, you also have the tools to build a team or community around you that is mutually supportive and nurturing.  As well as grow yourself and your impact in the world and on those you share your life with.

Ancient Wisdom

What I love about ancient wisdom is that it has stood the test of time and remains relevant, sometimes thousands of years after its origin.  For millennia, people have found ancient wisdom like the four elements useful, because it enhances their lives through the observation of human nature.  And it gives practical answers to everyday challenges, goals and questions.

The human condition has not changed much in all that time.  We may get caught up in the language and stories of the time and find them hard to understand: Ancient philosophers like Rumi, Lao Tzu or Plato; playwrights like William Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw and Andrew Lloyd Webber; American Indian Chiefs like Black Elk or Sitting Bull; the European Pagan stories popularised by The Brothers Grimm and; the Bible or Koran.  They may all seem impenetrable without deep study.  In fact, they simply share wisdom about human nature and our place in the world.  What’s great about the four elements model is that it is an intuitive description of human behaviour that you can test and play with from day one.  And, you can explore each element through your own embodiment, giving you real time feedback about what:

  • it feels like
  • seems familiar
  • you’d like more or less of
  • you could do differently
  • you would wish to leave behind
  • is no longer serving you
  • you long for

The four elements explained

The beauty of the four elements model is that it allows you to identify the preferences, patterns and habits of yourself and others

Throughout history, humanity has sought out answers to questions about the human condition.  Therefore, each culture in every age, has found a way to explain the human condition and help improve how we respond to life’s challenges.  For some it is a model with animals.  Others may use archetypes, spirits or gods.  An enduring model uses 4 elements (some use 5 or more like the Chinese) which are relatively organic and intuitive to interpret and are, to a degree, relatively subjective.  This is a model I have learned while studying The Embodied Facilitator Course (EFC- find out more here) and makes as much if not more sense than many of the models I have studied in the past.

So, let’s take each element in turn and see what you notice in your behaviour.  Which one or two elements are most familiar?  Do certain elements show up in particular situations/ contexts in life?  Did any feel unfamiliar to you?  Is there an element you long for?  Or one that you are sick of?  Pay attention to where the elements show up in significant relationships with others in your life: parents, partners, friends, colleagues, bosses etc.  How do these impact your relationships?  Are there patterns and preferences?  What are the strengths of your preferences?  What are the risks?

Earth

Earthy people like structure.  They like stability, reliability, control, things to be correct and organised.  Therefore, they like planning, management, budgeting and making lists.  You want your accountant or lawyer to be an earthy type.  However, too much Earth and things can get stuck and uninspiring.  Earthy people will maintain standards and hold to tradition.  When things get chaotic, the Earth quality will bring fairness, stability, reliability and self-control.

If you want to engage with an Earthy person, show them the facts.  Go slow and be structured and methodical.  In turn, they communicate in a factual and practical manner and will offer a supportive and reliable role.  If you find yourself lacking this element, slow down and get into the garden.  Literally, work with the Earth.  Take a walk in nature and breathe deep into the belly.  In excess of Earth?  Use qualities of the other elements, especially Water to create more movement, action and challenge some of that physical, mental and emotional rigidity.  Air can also bring a lightness, playfulness and creativity to counter Earthy heaviness and conformity.

Water

This element’s primary focus is relationship and acceptance.  Watery people love to listen, accommodate and care for others and support people.  They want loyalty and harmony in relationship.  Dislikes are rejection, conflict and loss.  They are great in feedback, networking, staff-care and HR roles.  You want your HR manager, coach and therapist to be a Watery person.  Too much Water and someone is a push over with weak boundaries and prone to collusion.  Empathy, connection, intimacy and relationship building are all Water qualities.

If you want to engage with a Watery person, take your time to listen and build the relationship.  Be sincere with your thoughts and feelings and show that you care.  Water’s communication style is empathic and relational.  In need of more Water?  Get to the sea or a river or failing that create comfort and soft lighting in the home.  Too much Water can be balanced with all the other elements, especially Earth to give structure and Fire to create and maintain boundaries.

Fire

What needs to be done?  When you need to take action, get results, prioritise and make tough choices, Fire is what you want to embody.  It will come as no surprise to hear that Fire is about directness, assertiveness, energising and doing more, being stronger and getting it done faster.  You want your boss or manager to have Fire.  If you are self-employed, you benefit from Fire too as you are the one who has to get the job done.  At their best, Fiery people will be challenging, name what needs to be said, be sincere and cut to the chase.  Too much Fire and you will rush and get pushy (perhaps to the point of brutality).

If you want buy-in from Fiery people, tell them what the results will be and the benefits.  Motivate to action through challenge, creating competition, setting goals, having a fast pace and being competent at what you do.  They will likely talk to you in a challenging and direct way.  Too much Fire can be balanced with Water for more relational integrity and with Earth for the rushing and potential burnout.  If you have too little Fire, get to the bright lights of big cities like London or New York or indulge in fiery activity like martial arts or tango.

Air

What is possible?  Sky-high, big picture thinking without a box is how Air people envision and strategise.  Leadership, innovation, brainstorming and creativity come from Air energy.  The light side of Air also leads to humour, flexibility, inspiration, and spontaneity.  Air types love freedom, creativity and perfection and fear boredom, imperfection and being controlled.  Use Air to over-come challenges, get clarity and come at things with lightness and fresh ideas.

Want to engage Air people?  Inspire, explore, study and learn with them, be original, use humour and pace.  Get them curious and fuel their joy of whatever you are trying to enrol them in.  Too much Air and people are vague, chaotic and silly.  Use the other elements to balance the excess Air, especially Fire for directness and Earth to bring order and calm.  Too little Air can be balanced with open space, bright lights, colour and chaos.  Head for the hills and mountains.  All this will inspire creativity, joy and excitement.

Four elements embodied

As you may have noticed in the descriptions, there are embodied qualities to each element.  You can evoke each one by moving, standing and sitting differently and even by subtly changing your posture.  This empowers you to bring more of what you think you might need to a situation or dial down what you might need less of.  We will be exploring the embodiment of the four elements in the next Be the Best Boss event in Cambridge on September 19th, 2019.

You will learn your particular mix of elements and be able to work out the mix of others.  This will allow you to better communicate with other people, teams and organisations. You will learn how to work with the elements through embodiment, to get better results in business situations as well as personal ones. The elements will give you more adaptability and versatility in work situations and work better with different people, groups and cultures, thus developing your leadership skills.  You can find further details here.

Over to you

What are your element preferences?  How do they impact on what you’re good at?  How do they limit you?  What elements would you wish to cultivate?  What impact could that have on your business, career and relationships?

Pass it on

If you found this blog interesting, please forward it to people you think might be interested too.  And if you know people in your network that might be interested in attending the Be the Best Boss workshop on leadership and embodiment, please send them the link (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/be-the-best-boss-you-ever-had-a-workshop-on-leadership-and-embodiment-tickets-67255712647).

Thank you.

How to find answers within yourself- is it all in your head?

Is it all in your head?

Do you have so many thoughts sometimes that you cannot make a decision?  Or work out what the right answer is?  Does this lead to procrastination or not delivering on deadlines?  When you get like this do you become absent minded, forgetting basic things?  Do you sometimes second guess yourself?  Are there times when your mind is whizzing with ideas that you just can’t sleep?  Does it undermine your confidence and your belief in yourself and your ability?  Do these endless thoughts leave you feeling tired, irritable, unmotivated or unable to cope?  Sometimes, do you just not know what to do for the best?

These are really common situations that come up for me, friends, family and clients.  I think it is part of the human condition.  Sometimes you get to this place when your head is just SO full of stuff that you cannot think straight.  I call this “being in your head”.  Your awareness and focus are concentrated between your ears.  It feels like a loud and jumbled place in there and can often lead to headaches, tension in neck and shoulders and a sense that you are living in your head, not your body.

Is there an alternative?

This is a common way of living for most people.  In fact, when I suggest there is an alternative, people often seem surprised.  It rarely occurs to people that they could bring their awareness to other parts of their body and have it serve them to make decisions or have a sense about what to do next.

This habit that people have for “being in their heads” seems to come from our training to listen to our intellect ahead of anything else.  At school we are encouraged to think logically and rationally, rather than trust our intuition and follow our gut instinct about something.  When we move into working life, we often get jobs that have us sitting in front of a computer all day.  Our bodies barely move, while our minds are whirring with thoughts, ideas and concepts.  Over time this creates a greater and greater gap between mind and body.

What can Body Wisdom give you?

Yet you are more than a head.  And your body is more than a convenient transporter for your brain.  Sport at school that you may or may not take with you into adult life, helps to keep that connection between body and mind.  Even sport though does not necessarily build that awareness and sensitivity to your innate body wisdom.  Awareness of movement and body coordination are part of that body wisdom library of knowledge.  Yet your body is full of groups of nerve cells, not unlike your brain, that provide insight and awareness beyond your intellectual understanding.  Not all wisdom lies in the head.

You know about these sources of wisdom.  You use them in your everyday language all the time in English.  “I had a gut feeling about that.” You might say.  Or “My heart just isn’t in it anymore!”. “I feel it in my water” is another common expression.  “I don’t know how I know, I just know!” is something entrepreneurs and business leaders say from time to time.  Or that sense that a mother has about her infant child- no words are spoken, she just knows.  And us men, how often have you known there was going to be trouble at that party or pub?  We may experience it in many different ways.  The gift is to come to understand how your body uniquely communicates its wisdom to you and how you can use it to make your life even better.

The Second Brain is not in the head

Not all wisdom lies in the head.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could call upon other sources of intelligence and wisdom, that gave you insight about where you are right now in life, how you feel and therefore what the next step should be, whether to trust someone or not, to have clarity about what your next action could be, what to say next in a conversation, to know what best serves you, to keep you calm under pressure and react spontaneously and appropriately to life’s myriad situations?

The gut for example, known as “the second brain”, is a huge influence and indicator of mood.  95% of the body’s serotonin (good mood, well-being and happiness neurotransmitter) is found in the gut.  Those gut feelings and butterflies in your stomach as well as that twitching feeling in your derriere, might well have valuable information for you if you paid attention.

According to Deborah Rozman, Ph.D., president and CEO of HeartMath LLC “the human heart, in addition to its other functions, actually possesses a heart-brain composed of about 40,000 neurons that can sense, feel, learn and remember. The heart brain sends messages to the head brain about how the body feels and more.”

Breathing, relaxation and metaphor

When I am with a client who is confused or struggling to find the answer to an issue in their life, I will spend time with them connecting to the body rather than trying to work it out logically in the head.  Deep breathing and relaxing tension from muscles can help to shift the awareness and attention to the body.  Often, they become aware of feelings in the gut or the heart or even specific emotions showing up in the body in general.

Another way of accessing this body wisdom is to use metaphors.  Painting pictures in words can access insight and understanding that logic cannot touch.  I believe this is why there is prolific poetry from World War I.  Soldiers needed to find a way to process the horror of the battlefield and poetry was a useful way to express those feelings through metaphor.  Poets and song writers throughout time have done so to express sadness, joy, despair and rage.  It is part of who we are.

Going to the body for it’s wisdom leaves the head free to do what it does best.  Daily life is a dance between the head and the body.  Neither is right or wrong.  They each have their strengths and weaknesses.  Let the head do its logical and rational thing-its great for business strategising, number crunching and making sure you get to a meeting on time.  And let the body tell you what is really going on for you right now and point away from what makes you stressed, irritable and anxious and towards more of what makes you happy, enlivened, empowered and healthy.

Body Wisdom in Action

The next time you feel that confused or overwhelmed feeling that feels like SUCH hard work to sort it out.  Step back, take a break, connect inward to the body and find the wisdom within.  Sometimes it is a whisper, other times it is a shout, or a feeling or even a movement or posture with the body that points the way to the answer.

My brother took his life 36 years ago today.  It left a huge gap in my life.  When I used to think about it, I had a crushing weight on my chest that made it hard to breath.  It was like I was struggling to live and be alive in the world.  I have to admit my life came to a stand still after his death.

Now I have come to terms with it much more and it is a driving force in my life.  As I write this, I can feel my heart expanding in its energy as I acknowledge the life directions I have taken as a direct result of his suicide.  It is still sad and there is great good that has come from it (you can learn more here in this video).

My body feels the difference and tells me I am well on my way to healing that wound.  My brain could not work that out- it is too caught up in the fear and the turmoil it creates.  The body gives me clarity and focus and tells me I am heading in the right direction.  Listen less to the head.  Logic cannot solve the troubles of the heart.

Over to You

Do you get caught up in your head?  Are you struggling to find the answer to your problems by racking your brains?  What happens when you bring your attention to your body instead?  Do you get the answers in words, feelings, pictures or sounds?  Do you find it easy to connect to your body?  Or do you struggle to make that connection?  I’d love to hear what methods you use.  What success do you have?  Where do you struggle?  Please comment in the box below and on social media.  I look forward to engaging with you on line and in- person.

Pass it on

If you know someone who is in their head a lot of the time, please pass this on to them.  They might be able to access wisdom and answers for themselves that have eluded them for years.  Please share and retweet the social media posts as well and spread the Light and Love.

Workshop case study- developing practical strategies to manage the pressures of everyday life

“David and I discussed at length how best to help staff to manage physical and emotional well-being, which is a key priority for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health as without a healthy workforce we will not be able to deliver our ambitious agenda.” Louise Frayne

I was approached by The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to do a workshop at their London offices.  The workshop was designed after detailed discussion with the Head of HR & Organisational Development, Louise Frayne, who was looking for content relating to stress- management, well- being and confidence.  We had “met” on an on- line discussion I was running about confidence.  Louise was intrigued about my use of the mind- body connection for greater confidence, managing stress and workplace wellness.  Because of my martial arts background, I designed a workshop that focused on mindset, body and posture.  It also centred around movement, connection and the relationship between mind and body.

“I contacted David to design and deliver workshops here at our London office to help staff develop practical strategies to manage the pressures of everyday life. David and I discussed at length how best to help staff to manage physical and emotional well-being, which is a key priority for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health as without a healthy workforce we will not be able to deliver our ambitious agenda.”  Louise Frayne, Head of HR & Organisational Development, RCPCH

Stress, Communication and the Body

We started by using the work of Paul Linden and gaining awareness of how the body responds to threat.  By eliciting a stress response, attendees paid attention to where they became tense in their bodies and how they moved when threatened.  Then they learned a centring technique by balancing and relaxing the body, bringing them to a calm and broadened awareness.  As a result, they responded to threat in a much more effective and confident manner.  We explored how and where we might use this in our personal and professional lives.

We extended this theme by looking further at posture and breathing.  How do they impact on our confidence and perception of the world?  Also, how that impacts the people we interact with. We practised scenarios and realised how some postures and breathing made for more receptive and open communication than others.  It was agreed that using these more open postures for meetings and general communication around the office and at home would be beneficial.

We continued the embodied theme by looking at boundaries and being able to maintain those boundaries in the face of challenge and conflict.  These challenges and conflicts can be external and internal, yet it is the person’s personal relationship with the challenge or conflict that is vital for success. Thinking about boundaries alone is not powerful enough.  Integrating the work in the body can make for much more empowered behaviours and statements.  Attendees chose challenges they wished to say “yes” to and “no” to. These were as diverse as requests from work colleagues, personal health challenges such as diet and exercise and behaviours that improve well- being such as relaxation.  Embodying and centring gave more powerful and assertive “yes” statements, giving inner confidence and resolve.  “No” statements could be said confidently and calmly so that it would not damage relationships.

Finally, we tied all these strands together with a communication exercise.  Using Aikido principles of flow, we built a metaphor for communication based on remaining engaged and curious in conversation through movement.  We explored the relationships between leading and following and coming to conversations with an agenda and being agenda free.  Also, we discovered that entering the relationship with our own personal confidence and strength gave us the ability to play our role well, contribute effectively and enjoy the process.  We used the centring, breathing and postural techniques learned earlier in the workshop to make for better communication in a range of relationships so that we experienced win- win outcomes.

Feedback and further workshop development

The feedback from this workshop was very positive:

“David’s wealth of knowledge and expertise was invaluable.  The first workshop introduced core principles of breathing and relaxation. Feedback was so positive that I commissioned two further workshops to build on the themes of the first workshop.  Take up by staff was enthusiastic. Feedback from staff who attended showed that they felt able to use the strategies David had shown them in a variety of settings and they particularly liked how David developed trust and rapport in the room, so everyone could talk openly, which is so important for this type of event to work well. I would have no hesitation in recommending David and his workshops to any organisation.”  Louise Frayne, Head of HR & Organisational Development, RCPCH

Louise and I discussed the content for two further workshops to be carried out the following year.

Presence, Values and the Body

We continued these themes in the second workshop six months later.  Our objective here was to explore values.  How do they impact on stress?  In what way do posture and energy affect our presence?  How does all that impact our relationships with others.  Finally, we looked at meditation for greater rest, resilience and relaxation.

Attendees noticed how posture improved responsiveness, agility, intention and commitment to values.  Focus led to more power, strength and resilience.  Combining these qualities, it was easier to express their individual values, stand up for them when challenged and work more effectively and productively when their values were aligned with those of the College.  We also drew on learning from the previous workshop, adding further strength and confidence to participants’ resolve, resilience and presence.

We finished this workshop with some simple relaxation exercises.  Requests for issues to be addressed included the negative impact the commute has on employees’ health and well- being.  I thought it would be useful to offer attendees relaxation exercises they could do on the train, in the car or while they walked to work.  These exercises could be used as a method to get to sleep or return to sleep so that they felt more rested.  We explored how breathing and muscular relaxation can reduce muscle tension, pain and discomfort.  They can also be used to calm the mind and bring mind and body to a centred space.  We also explored the build- up of negative energy in the body (through unexpressed emotion, lack of movement and exercise as well as compounded stress) and how that impacts health, well- being, relaxation, productivity and creativity.

Resilience, Emotions and the Body

The third and final workshop saw us look at resilience and managing emotions at work.  We used the metaphor of a bank account to explain how resilience works.

We focused the resilience exploration on three areas:

  • goal setting and the intention and focus to achieve those goals
  • effective emotional communication
  • how the body can be used to achieve these ends

We discussed goal setting and how it can positively impact resilience. We also looked at how set- backs and challenges can be dealt with more effectively and a more resilient mind set can be achieved through focus, commitment, body posture and intention.  In addition, we explored the power of surrounding yourself with people committed to and supportive of a similar goal.

The final section of the workshop looked at managing emotions, particularly anger.  The plan was to use the centring exercise from Paul Linden used in the first workshop, to show how it is possible to express and receive anger in a healthy way at work.  The attendees got a lot out of the different perspective offered.

In conclusion

The body is so often over- looked.  For many our primary concern is “the body beautiful”.  Perhaps that might extend to body health.  Yet, my hope is that these workshops presented new awareness of “the body powerful”.  That the resources of the body are so much more than how good it looks and physical health.  These are important factors in their own right.  And there are more.  The body can influence impact on:

  • stress
  • health and well- being
  • mental health and agility
  • living life on purpose and with meaning
  • presence
  • confidence
  • creativity and productivity
  • self- management and regulation
  • personal power and empowerment
  • employee engagement
  • communication
  • relationships with oneself and others

Caring for the body’s health increases its capacity to support us in all areas of our lives.  Awareness of our body’s sensations, feelings and emotions gives greater scope to explore the full human experience and perform at work and beyond in fulfilment.

If you would like bespoke workshops designed for you and your teams around stress management, resilience and well- being using the body, please get in touch and we can discuss your requirements.

Would you Know if you were experiencing Stress? Part 2- Awareness

Here are some of the signs to look out for that tell you that you might be experiencing stress

As I said in Part 1 of this blog series, stress is a natural part of life.  We all experience it.  If you think that you do not, perhaps you have a different word for it?  May be instead of stress you would say you are anxious, worried, excited, challenged, driven, focused, frustrated, upset, in anticipation, overwhelmed, exhausted, tired or withdrawn.  Whatever the word, my meaning of stress is that there is something in this lifestyle of yours that generates the Stress Response in you.

Are you experiencing stress?

The Stress Response is a term for a group of physiological symptoms generated when you are feeling threatened in some way.  You are getting ready to fight or run away.  So, you might experience quickened heart rate, dilated blood vessels and shallow breathing accompany increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormones).  For short periods this is beneficial for your health and well- being.  Long term however, and the negative impact on your immune system, mental health, quality of sleep, productivity, overall resilience, creativity, relationships and vitality are immense.  Here are some of the signs to look out for that tell you that you might be experiencing stress (or whatever word you might use):

  • Do you find it hard to get to sleep?  If you wake up in the night, do you struggle to go back to sleep?  Do you feel tired in the morning?  Are you getting less than 7 hours sleep a night?  If you say yes to any of these, you may well be experiencing stress.  These may happen as a consequence of your stress.  They may also be contributing factors to your stress.  Either way, good quality sleep is essential for many reasons.  If you do struggle to sleep or wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep, this audio might be useful.
  • Do you eat a lot of sugary foods or foods high in fat?  Can you get through the day only if you have sugary and caffeinated drinks?  Sugar, fat and caffeine interfere with your body’s natural rhythms, disrupting sleep and other natural highs and lows of your day.  Many processed foods place your body under a lot of burden, damaging blood vessels, creating bloating and inflammation.  Not to mention the effect of artificial chemicals in our food that poison the body and bring it into imbalance.  All of this is stressful for your body and impacts on your overall ability to cope.
  • Muscular Tension. Light, regular exercise and movement leave the body feeling flexible, mobile and limber.  Sitting still all day, barely moving your body, makes your muscles short, tight and painful.  It puts the body under a lot of stress.  Think how lovely it feels to have a stretch at your desk after you’ve been working at your computer for a couple of hours.  Feels great right? Also, little body movement leaves people in “their heads”.  In other words, listening to the logical and rational part of the mind rather than balancing it with the instinct and intuition of which the body is a part.  Muscles also become tense due to unexpressed emotion.  Emotions are energy in motion.  If they are not expressed, they are internalised (in muscles and internal organs), another source of stress for the body.  Muscular tension from all sources pulls the body out of alignment, generating postural stress that can have long term impact such as shoulder, knee and hip replacement operations, diminished mobility, nerve damage and quality of life.
  • Suppressed Emotion. Are you the type of person who never feels or expresses emotion?  Or if you do it is usually fits of anger or rage?  Do you have a “stiff upper lip” or are you known as the “strong one” in the family/ relationship?  This can lead to a lot of stress in the body.  Gabor Mate, in his book “When the Body Says No- the cost of hidden stress”, explores the impact of suppressed emotion and how it can lead to many debilitating/ life threatening diseases such as MS, ME, numerous types of cancer, motor neuron disease, IBS and more.  In short, the stress on the body from unexpressed emotion is so great, it manifests over time as physical illness.
  • Grinding/ clenching your teeth. This is a sure sign you are experiencing stress.  If people mention that you are doing either of these, it’s a strong indicator you are stressed.
  • Holding your breath. Or breathing in a shallow manner.  This can be a response to stress.  It can also become a habit that keeps the body in a more heightened anxious state.  Learning deep breathing exercises will lower blood pressure, deactivate the stress response in the body and generally make you feel more calm, relaxed and mobile.  Belissa Vranich’s book Breathe gives detailed instructions and exercises about how to breathe more effectively for better health.
  • Lack of focus. The Stress Response makes you very insular.  Therefore, focus on other people, projects at work, problem solving and other things that require focus just doesn’t happen.  It’s your body’s way of saying “Stop paying attention to other things, I need some attention here!!!!”
  • Short temper and irritability. If your body is tired and debilitated by long term exposure to the effects of the Stress Response, you have no or very little reserves in the tank for additional stress.  My experience of this is that as a response to feeling powerless or out of control, we tend to lash out to protect ourselves.  This is a sure sign that you are reaching the end of your tether.  Consciously activating the Relaxation Response will give you more reserves to tackle any additional stress whilst keeping off “Red Alert”.
  • A little worry is healthy.  We can use it to assess situations and scan for trouble before the event.  Anxiety takes it to another level, assessing endless scenarios without resolution.  This is usually a clear sign that you are stressed.  There is a much calmer life for you to enjoy beyond anxiety if you can find the ways to manage your stress.
  • Feeling like life has no purpose or direction. Life without purpose has no direction.  Without meaningful goals, aligned to what is most important to us (whatever that may be), life can feel pointless and meaningless.  We can feel powerless and that comes with its own stress.  A lack of energy, vitality, engagement, power, strength and focus.  Purpose infuses our life with direction and meaning that gives momentum, energy, pace and vitality to life.

Natural Ways to manage stress

Please note, this is not an exact science.  There might be many reasons why you are experiencing these symptoms.  If you suspect stress at all, consult your doctor and a healthy dose of common sense and discover the ways YOU can undo the effects of stress.  Rather than pop a pill which might be the easiest way to deal with it, I invite you to explore more natural ways to manage your stress.  I am not a trained medical professional, so please do not take my word as gospel.  However, there is something empowering about listening to your body and intuition and finding the right answer for you.  Managing the stress is the key.  I discuss some of the strategies I have discovered on my travels with stress in Part 3.

Over to You

Do you notice that you often do not sleep well?  Perhaps you sleep very soundly.  Or maybe you are affected by someone who has disturbed sleep?  Are there parts of your body that get very tight?  Is that due to lack of movement, emotional stress, worry, anxiety or body misalignment?  Or is your body limber, relaxed and agile?  Would you say you were an emotional eater?  Do you find it hard to focus?  Or do you have laser- type focus and excellent concentration?  Are you more irritable than you used to be?  Perhaps you are more calm and unflappable than ever before?

Do you feel lost in your life and feel life is getting smaller?  Or is your life expanding and you are discovering new horizons?  I’d love to hear your experiences and grow this body of wisdom in the Potentiality Coaching community.  Please share in the comment box below or on social media.  Thank you.

Pass it On

If what I have been talking about sounds like someone you know, why no forward this blog to them and ask them to give it a read.  It might be the turning point for them to start listening to their body and recognise the signs that stress is present.  It’s so easy to deal with.  Awareness is the first step.  The next is action.  See you next time for Part 3.