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Taking Conscious Control by Embodying Archetypes

When you’re under pressure, what tools do you use to ensure you respond effectively?  How do you manage yourself when you are up against it?  Life is full of challenging conversations, situations and relationships.  As well as regularly facing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.  It is how you choose to act and your conscious control that determines how well you respond.  And with experience, reflection and learning, that gets better over time.

How can you self-manage through these inevitable challenges of life?  Think of a situation that is challenging for you right now.  A personal or professional relationship, a goal you are striving for, a difficult conversation or meeting, a challenge with your children or a health issue?  Take a moment to bring it vividly to mind.

Then follow these three steps.

Awareness

You’ve got to recognise the signs that you are facing a challenging situation.  This is the first step in taking conscious control.  Not just the intellectual challenge of a problem that requires a solution.  You also want to be aware of how your body responds.  Is it open, expansive and relaxed?  Ready to meet the challenge before you?  Or are you tense, contracted and closed, the mark of someone in fight, flight or overwhelm?

If you are in the former camp, jump straight to number three.  If in the latter camp, you want to centre before you do anything else.

Centre

When your breathing is fast and shallow, jaw, neck and shoulders tense, stomach tight, chest contracted, heart pounding, you want to use methods that bring you to an open and receptive state of being.

Focus on your breath and make a conscious effort to deepen and lengthen each inhale.  Feel your feet on the floor or bum on the seat.  Relax your gaze and let your focus broaden as wide as you can.  Let go the tension in your face, stomach, chest, tongue.  Feel your weight drop towards the floor and, as best you can, bring your attention to the present.

Doing this for 10-20 seconds is enough to reverse that contracted state and bring you to a place of relaxation and expansion.  Now you are ready to take conscious control and step into action.

Taking Conscious Control

How are you going to act from here?  What is the best way to respond?  So many options and each one has its benefits.  I have found four perspectives, that are incredibly useful for making decisions about what action to take.  Each perspective corresponds to an archetype (an intuitive map and set of patterns that can inform human behaviour).

By embodying archetypes, you can get a felt sense of their qualities, and allow that to inform your decision making.  The empowering qualities of each archetype bring you to a place of confidence. They open you to awareness that you may not have been conscious of before.  Let’s build a picture of each archetype and see what qualities you embody and how that informs you.

Sovereign

How would you stand or sit with dignity?  Back straight?  Face calm?  Chest and heart open?  Spine neutral so that head and pelvis are aligned?  Attention expanded in all directions, aware of the space around you?  The symbols of your office (crown, mantle (cloak) and sceptre) are responsibilities that can crush or enliven you.  How can you bear the responsibilities of family, employer or business owner, parenthood, partner or homeowner lightly, joyfully, with honour and humility?  What is of greatest service to you and those you share your life with?  How can your sovereignty enrich your life and the life of others?  Who do you need to reach out to?  What support do you need?  Where do you feel Sovereign in your life and body?

Warrior

How do you get the job done and step up when needed? Eyes focused forward on the goal?  Chest open and forward with determination?  Taking up space to be seen and heard as you declare your intention?  Walking forward with commitment, clarity and purpose?  Courageously protect what you most value, regardless of how vulnerable it leaves you or challenging the task?

The armour of Warrior (helmet, breastplate and shield) allow you courage to say “yes” to life.  Your weapons empower your fierceness so that you can say “no” when your boundaries are threatened.  What do you cherish that wants protecting?  What are you a commitment to?  Where does Warrior live in your body and show up in your life?

Lover

Soften now.  Relax and receive.  Let the spine and chest open to allow life in.  Open your arms.  Smile, soften the jaw and face.  How do you give and receive?  What resources bring you to deeper relationship?

What are you open to here?  Where are the opportunities and possibilities?  New relationships, collaboration, co-operation?  What can you say “yes” to?  How can you bring more of yourself to this situation?  Where might you be giving yourself away and so need to create a strong “no” for your self-care?

How fully do you trust?  Where is your resistance to trust?  How would life be different with more compassion and empathy?  Where does Lover reside in your body?

Magician

Let your weight and attention move upward.  Feel light.  You might want to bring your hands up above your shoulders and head.  Cast your eyes up to the sky.  Perhaps come up on your tip toes and move as if floating, gliding, jumping.

What fun and opportunities are available here?  What can be created?  How can new things be formed and put into motion?  What alchemy or transformation can happen…… new ideas, learning, vision, collaboration and co-creation?

What do you need to bring into reality?  Start that process by becoming grounded.  What action is required to bring thoughts, ideas and inspiration into form?

Over to You

What insights did you get?  How is this process different to your usual way of finding solutions?  I’d love to hear your discoveries.  If you found the idea of using archetypes useful and would like to learn more, I will be speaking at The Embodiment Conference (October 14-25th, 2020) and sharing more powerful tools.

Pass it on

Did you find this blog useful?  What have been your take-aways?  Know someone who would appreciate the same take-aways?  If so, please pass on the link and even let them know about The Embodiment Conference.

Dancing with Uncertainty

The raw nerve of uncertainty has definitely been touched by Covid-19.  The nature of Coronavirus plagues us with uncertainty.  We cannot plan long term, which impacts holidays, business plans, social activities, delivering on business commitments, education and care for our children and the elderly.  At every turn there are distractions, leading to over-thinking, procrastination and putting off making decisions.  What uncertainty are you challenged by during the Covid-19 pandemic?

I was asked recently to run a workshop on uncertainty.  Primarily to bring people’s focus back to what was most important to them.  So that they could put their energy into what would allow their businesses to flourish as well as maintain life-work balance.

The Impact of Uncertainty

The uncertainty of Covid-19 is making it hard to concentrate, get your mojo back for working on your business or career.  It’s hard to know where to start and what goals to set.  As well as the safety implications of every day activities and the low level anxiety that brings.

When researching for this workshop, I found a study by University College London in 2016 about the relationship between uncertainty and stress.  In essence, it said that not being sure is more stressful than not knowing at all.  It confirmed what I knew from experience and intuitively, that being tantalised by the prospect of something is more unsettling than knowing it will, or won’t, happen for sure.

Think about your own experience: isn’t it harder to step out in front of people not sure how you’ll be received than knowing what you’re going to say will be celebrated or ridiculed; or asking someone out on a date; going for that job interview or; travelling abroad in these Covid-19 times right now, when infection spikes are happening all over the world?  If you knew you wouldn’t catch Covid-19, you’d travel without concern.  If you knew you would catch it, you definitely wouldn’t travel.  But this half-way house is agonising.  And this study points to all the signs that uncertainty leads to stress.

Covid-19 leads to long-term uncertainty, which means long-term stress.  It has been 4 months so far and there is more to come.  Long-term, or chronic, stress is not good for your system or your physical, mental, emotional well-being.  So, it is no wonder that in these times of on-going uncertainty, we are finding it hard to make decisions, create plans, set goals and give ourselves and others the assurance that so many people feel they want and need.

Managing your Reaction to Uncertainty

One of the most effective things you can do is manage your anxiety.  In the face of uncertainty, you cannot often manage the concerns beyond your control.  Instead, managing your reaction to them is where your power lies.

Centring is an effective, quick win tool that brings you to calm and balance whenever you feel the mounting anxiety of uncertainty.  Catch it as early as you can, and you’ll find the results work better.  Try this 7-minute video:

Uncertainty in Practice

Now, let’s try an experiment, if you will?  Think of a situation that brings you stress and anxiety.  Maybe it’s around uncertainty, but it doesn’t have to be.  Pick something that is around a five or less on a scale of 1-10 (where 1 is very calm and 10 is very stressed).  That’s ideal.

Notice where and how your body is doing the stress and anxiety: tight shoulders and neck; shallow breathing; holding your breath; tension in your abdomen?  And perhaps describe the sensation: heavy, dark weight; swirling waves like snakes; icy electric blue shocks; a solid block crushing my shoulders.  These are just examples to give you an idea of what you might notice.  Be as honest and open as you can with yourself.  The more detail, the more awareness you are gaining and insight you might have.

Now do the centring in the video above.  Afterwards, notice how your body is different and perhaps ask yourself the following questions:

What steps would I take from here?

What is in my power to change?

How would I manage my uncertainty from this place?

What is not in my control?

Being different in Uncertainty

What’s fascinating about this exploration is that by centring, you are literally becoming a different person from the one filled with anxiety and concern about uncertainty.  When centred, you are calmer, more relaxed and grounded.  You are releasing hormones and neurotransmitters that bring ease, creativity and resourcefulness.

So, you will probably discover that your answers to these questions might include specific, short-term action steps, practical answers that you can do now, and nothing too far in the future.  Certainly, on the workshop, people were saying things like “Do this one thing that gives me this result or that outcome and then I’ll see where to go next”, or “Start doing my wellness routine that I stopped once lockdown started”.

Choosing to Respond

It makes sense with uncertainty that you cannot plan too far ahead.  When you are centred and grounded your responses mirror that truth.  In anxiety, your answers hang on the need for certainty and security.  And Covid-19 is giving us very little of that right now.

You cannot change the uncertainty that is rampant in our world at the moment.  But you can choose how you respond to that uncertainty.  By managing your stress and anxiety more effectively with a tool like centring, you can make decisions in the face of uncertainty, accessing your inner wisdom so that you are resourced, creative and powerful.

Covid-19 is with us for a long while yet, and so is the uncertainty that is inherent in situations like this.  Things are changing day to day.  Centring can help you work with uncertainty so that you can respond to it creatively and without fear.  Please do not waste your energy wishing or hoping it will be different.  All that does is set up false expectations that things will change.  Which only adds to your anxiety and stress when things do not change the way you want them to.

Over to You

Being calm in uncertainty means you can respond to the unknown effectively.  Stay centred and grounded and the answers will come.  You may not like the answers, but they will come.  What answers are you getting when you centre around uncertainty?  How else are you managing uncertainty effectively?

Learning to dance with uncertainty is a superpower.  Uncertainty is not new with Covid-19.  We have lived with uncertainty for thousands of years.  Dancing with uncertainty can empower you to step into the unknown with confidence and build from what is possible.  Where will you step next?

Pass it on

What did you take from this exploration in uncertainty?  Do you know a friend, family member of work colleague who benefit from that as well?  If so, please forward this blog to them in the knowledge that it will help them in these times of uncertainty.

Seven steps to Presence

You are about to go into a challenging meeting or give a public talk and you can feel the butterflies in your stomach. The saboteur voices are loud in your head telling you that you are not good enough, who are you to be doing this, what if they don’t like me….. and you are listening!!! What confidence you had is draining away, your throat gets tight, your tummy tense, your breathing is quick and shallow, and you are finding it hard to make eye contact with people in the room.  You are about to race into whatever prepared speech you have with nerves, anxiety and fear.  And then you remember that you have a choice about how you show up in this moment…… and you choose to show up with confidence, power and presence.  You take deep, calming belly breaths, centre yourself, take in the room, make eye contact, pause……….. and then begin.

Confidence, presence and power

Perhaps this scenario is familiar to you?  The details may look a little different- it may be a challenging conversation with your partner or children or a potentially unpleasant conversation with a work colleague; perhaps it is an e-mail that has you reacting from fear and frustration and you want to snap back a rapid reply; or maybe it’s an unkind comment that has your saboteur giving you a hard time.  Whatever the scenario and whatever the reason, you can choose to react from fear and anxiety, or you can choose to respond with confidence, presence and power.

In my experience, confidence and power come with presence.  Presence is the foundation or corner stone of your confidence and power.  This is the place where everything works really well, and you do your best work and show up with the best version of yourself without effort and with an easy grace.  But what is presence?  Do you have it?  How do you lose it?  And what can you do to get it back?

The Power of Presence

Children and animals are always present and shining their presence.

If you want to know about presence, there are two easily accessible places you are guaranteed to see presence- animals and young children.  They are always present and shining their presence.  There is an aliveness, curiosity, spontaneity and playfulness to them.  They are alert to what is here and now, be that around them or within them.  Awareness with an ability to dance with whatever comes up in this moment.  The aliveness of seeing animals and children playing in the park.  The curiosity they had as they discover, explore and experiment.  The alertness and spontaneity as they switch in a moment from tears to joy, or from sleepiness to wakefulness.

It is a beautiful place to be.  There is a keen connection with your experience and the world around you.  So that rather than shrinking away and disengaging from the event, you are actively engaging and co-creating with the event itself.  Steering it, guiding it and creating it with everyone else involved.  As adults, we may know this experience when we are in flow.  Common examples of flow might be performance related like in sport or public speaking, intimate moments with loved ones, an awareness and connection with the vastness of nature as well as your insignificance, or when you are at your edge (at the limit of your ability) and all your senses are tuned in.

Accessing Presence

So, how can you access your presence in everyday situations.  How can you avoid falling into the fear and anxiety of your saboteur and instead find your presence and the confidence and power that brings?  As with so many things, it is down to practice.  Yet, you do not need to practice presence- it is a natural state that comes intuitively.  You are born with presence and born to presence.  What we all need to practice is getting there and staying there.  We spend so much time in the past and the future, being present almost totally eludes us.

Past and future are not the present

You know the experience- you’re daydreaming about some past event or thinking about the future.  Or you’re worrying about something you said to someone and the impact that might have on your relationship or career.  Or you’ve done something you regret and think about how you might put things right.  These are not bad things in and of themselves.  But we tend to make a habit and a lifestyle about thinking of the past and the future.  And not being alive to what is present with us here and now.  We miss special moments with loved ones, magic events that may enrich our lives.  And theirs.  We lose connection with the present and so lose our presence, power and confidence.

All you need do is get that connection back.  Fortunately, there are thousand of ways to reconnect to the present and therefore feel your presence.  Here are 7 simple exercises to practice that I use regularly:

Breathing

Breathe to the wall. Before a presentation or meeting or when you are about to speak, practice breathing out to the far wall.   Feel that connection between you and the wall and notice how your awareness expands to fill the space between you and the wall.  You can also do this with a person- you will become more present to them when you do this, enabling you to listen and engage better in the conversation.

Expanded listening

Broaden your awareness to the sounds around you. First, the sounds in the room (the voices, the clock ticking, the air conditioning unit).  Then reach out to the noises in the room next door or the corridor (muffled voices, footsteps, the humming and whirring of machines).  Lastly, listen to the sounds of the world outside (traffic, bird song, dogs barking, construction work).  How does it change your presence to be more alert to the broader sounds around you?

Expanding your visual focus

Rather than laser focused vision which our lifestyles encourage, soften and expand your focus instead. Focus on a point on the wall in front of you. Now expand that focus to the right and left of that point as far as you can go.  Can you get to the corner on both ends?  How about even further round for full 180o vision?  What impact does this have on your presence?  How are you more present to the room after practising this?

Exercise

Raising your heart rate and breathing, releasing those feel-good endorphins and focusing on an intention to run a certain distance, lift a certain weight, perfect a specific move or improve on your time all bring you to greater presence. How much more productive, creative and present are you after a workout of some kind?

Play

Something as adults we tend to do very little of except with our children. Yet, play is an excellent access point for presence.  Try an improv class or have some spontaneous fun with the kids.  You will be more present with the people you share the experience with.  What does it feel like to play?  Frivolous?  A waste of time?  Enjoyable? Alive?  Foolish? Fun? In a way, all these strong reactions are a sign of presence. The more you practice play, the more you will notice the positive impact it has on you and the people around you.

Centring

Spend a minute focusing on your breathing. If you are anxious and overwhelmed, and you want to calm down, focus and lengthen the OUT breath.  Conversely, if you are withdrawn and disconnected, and you want to engage more, focus and lengthen your IN breath.  Try it now and see how it brings you to a more centred and present place.

Walk in Nature or around the streets of your neighbourhood or work environment

This one includes a version of all the others if you allow it. Don’t just walk from A to B, head down, getting it done as fast as possible.  Allow yourself to connect to the experience.  Feel your feet on the floor, the wind on your face.  Look around and take in the sights, sounds and sensations.  Feel your attention expand and welcome the input.  Notice what impact this input has on your presence.  How much more present do you feel to yourself and the world around you during and after your walk?

What is alive within you?

Then once you are present and feel your presence and power return, you are in a stronger position to take action.  Rather than act from your worried place of the past or from fear of the future, act from the power and presence of the present.  Connect to what is already alive within you- your authenticity, uniqueness, talents, qualities, skills, values, heart, soul, spirit.  Bring all of that present to this moment. You will create and give great presentations and performances from this place.  Conversations will be so much more powerful, alive, authentic and productive.  And your relationships will take on a flavour of honesty and openness that will of great benefit both personally and professionally.

Over to You

What impact is presence having on you?  How do you get into presence?  How do you stay present?  When you are present, what difference does it make to the quality of your work and relationships?  What brings you out of presence?  Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments box below or interact on social media (Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn) or by e-mail.

And if you’d like more support in achieving presence for personal and professional growth, I will be running an event in Cambridge around the topic of presence in business (for both people in employment and self-employed).  You can find out further details and book tickets here. If you’d like to know more you can e-mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk.

Pass it on

Found this blog useful?  Why not send the link to friends, family and work colleagues?  Most of us would benefit from stepping into our presence more often and more deeply.  It could make a huge difference to someone you care about.