Monday, 30 September 2019

Learning to be kind to yourself

We are often told to “Be kind to yourself” or “Love yourself”, but this can feel harder to do than to say. A client asked me recently “What does it MEAN to be kind to yourself? I try, but either I don’t know what to say, or I don’t believe what I say”.

This simple exercise had a transformative effect for her, so you might want to see what changes for you as you do it:

Think of someone who has been kind, supportive or loving to you in the past. Step into their shoes, and imagine you are them. How does it feel to see yourself through their eyes? What do they feel or know about you? What would they say to you, and how would they sound as they said it? How much do they know that you deserve this support? As your supporter, feel what it feels like to feel this compassion, love, acceptance and kindness towards you.

Then step back into yourself and hear what they have just said. Let it in, both what they said and HOW they said it (the non verbal communication which makes all the difference). How does that feel different from usual?

Another way of experiencing kindness and support is to imagine how you would talk to a friend or family member, and talk to yourself in the same way. So you can try this too.

What would it be like if we all treated ourselves like kind and supportive people treat us – or, as we treat other people? I would love to hear what you learned about kindness from this exercise.

"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." Dalai Lama

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Enjoying the whole walk

I love climbing hills and mountains. I love the fresh air, and the views which change every time I pause for breath and look around. I also love the feeling of moving and stretching my body, and even that great feeling when I take my boots off afterwards! I do it for fun. The view from the top can be wonderful, but it’s a small part of the experience and it’s the whole thing I enjoy.

But it is equally possible to treat climbing a mountain as hard work, by focusing on the effort required, or forgetting about the experience of climbing and fixing solely on the goal of getting to the top. Why would we do it like that?

It is so easy to approach life like a series of goals to be achieved. A list to be ticked off. If we have things that we want to change in our lives we can end up approaching our self-help tools like that too. Like a summit to be reached rather than a walk to be enjoyed.

The trouble with fixing on the summit is that we are only there for 5 minutes. Sometimes we don’t even enjoy that because we are focused on getting to the end of the walk – usually a road, pretty uninteresting!

It is always our choice where we look for joy, and if we look for it in the whole experience we will find a lot more of it than if we focus solely on the end result. I clearly remember the impression it made on me when someone reminded me that the end result of life is actually death!

What would it be like to approach the changes that we want to make in our lives like a fun walk, and to really enjoy the whole experience; the ups and the downs, and the views along the way?

“Don’t do anything that isn’t play.” Marshall B Rosenberg, Non Violent Communication

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Friday, 26 April 2019

What happens when you doubt yourself

A client sent me this cartoon, which reminded me how much self doubt can get in our way:

Friday, 22 March 2019

Sheep tracks and neuroplasticity

In NLP and the Lightning Process we talk a lot about how our brains and bodies works. It’s interesting that the inner processes that get us into trouble, are often also exactly what we need to get us back on track, living our lives well. One of these is the brain’s ability to change in response to how we use it. This is technically known as “neuroplasticity”.

My clients know that I often tell this story about sheep tracks as a way of describing neuroplasticity. Maybe it’s because I so enjoyed my chances to work with sheep on farms in my early 20s! Then one of my Lightning Process clients who is a farmer, Maria Greaves, sent me this photo which reminded her of my story. So I promised I would write a blog about it. Thanks Maria, I have finally written it!

Sheep tracks

If you are feeding sheep in a field every day, you might find that the path and the feeding place become muddy and churned up. So you decide to put up a fence to stop the sheep from going onto the muddy area, and feed them somewhere drier and more suitable instead. To begin with, the sheep won’t know where to go to find their food, but sheep are pretty clever when it comes to food and they will work it out pretty quickly! But there won’t be a track yet going to that new place, so to begin with they will be pushing their way through grass and heather. However, when you consistently give them food in this new place, it won’t take many days before there is a clear sheep track that goes there.

And the old muddy track? When it is no longer used it is surprising how quickly the grass will grow and the track will naturally disappear. Just as the mud of Glastonbury Festival returns to grassy fields again every year!


Our brains work in just the same way. Our nerve cells connect with each other to form neural pathways, and when we use a pathway it gets stronger, easier to go down, and more automatic. But when we stop going down those pathways they fade away. Your body doesn’t like anything to be wasted, so the materials are reused to build new pathways. (You can see new neural pathways growing in brain scans.) So you can retrain your brain as quickly and easily as those sheep tracks change, by “feeding your sheep” where you want them to go.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Our blueprint for health and happiness

I saw my osteopath recently, and we talked about the osteopathic idea that there is a blueprint for life in our bodies; that we are all born with the ability to be healthy and happy. This includes the ability to restore the balance when it goes out of kilter. Things get in the way of that knowledge, but underneath our body know how exactly how to do it. We just need to learn how to remind our body of what it already knows! This is an idea that also underlies the Lightning Process (because Phil Parker first trained as an osteopath).

I have started to play with this idea of a blueprint in my imagination, knowing the power of our thoughts to influence our bodies. I imagine myself getting very small and travelling into my body, carrying this “blueprint for life” (like a map or plan for health and happiness). In my imagination I go to each cell in my body and give it the blueprint, then watch as it remembers what its role is in the big plan, and transforms.

Here I get very creative! Sometimes I imagine that for each cell it is as if the sun has come out and it is relaxing into the warmth, glowing with calm energy. I see the cell communicating well with other cells in the body, all working together to create health and happiness. Sometimes I choose specific cells: for example, I might want to bring calm to any cells involved in the fight or flight response, if there is no real emergency going on; or pour energy into cells that need that. It is all about coming back into balance, which our body has a natural ability to do.

Sometimes I see the genes on the chromosomes in each cell switching on or off so that they can respond in a healthy way (the science of epigenetics has proved that this happens). Anything that needs repairing gets repaired. A housekeeping team goes through and decides what needs clearing out (toxins, dead cells, cells with mistakes that don’t fit the blueprint, viruses…..) and takes them off to be composted and transformed into something useful. My imaginary story changes every time.
My compost bin!

If you decide to have a go yourself, have fun with it! Remember there is a lot of evidence that our body responds to every thought we think. If we think about lunch our stomach rumbles. And our brain lights up in the same way on a scan whether we are looking at an apple, or imagining an apple. So your body will be responding to these imaginary thoughts too. We do housework in our homes and repair things that have gone wrong, why not do the same for our bodies? And it’s a good way to take a break, or something to do while you are drifting off to sleep …..

If you are curious and want more information about using the power of your thoughts, I recommend David Hamilton’s work, especially his book “How your mind can heal your body”.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Being good enough

Do you recognise this set of events?

1.       You write a long list of things to do in your day,
2.       Postpone things you enjoy or really want to do for yourself, because you haven’t finished your list,
3.       Beat yourself up at the end of the day for not getting it all done,
4.       And feel overwhelmed.

This is a sign of perfectionism. A common misunderstanding about perfectionism is that it is about doing things really well; which sounds like quite a good thing to aim for, doesn’t it? However, it is actually about setting yourself an impossible target, and then beating yourself up when you don’t achieve it. It tends to have one of two results: you end up pushing and exhausting yourself trying to achieve the impossible, or you don’t even begin to do something, because it all looks too overwhelming.

Perfectionist patterns vary from person to person: for example trying to be the perfect parent, trying to meet everyone else’s needs and requests (now THAT’S an impossible task to set yourself!), wanting everything you write to be perfect.

Society encourages this pattern. What is expected of you at work can be completely unrealistic. Schools reward getting things right, and working hard. Social media gives the impression that you need to have the “perfect” life or body. Interestingly, I reckon that about 70-80% of clients that come to see me run this pattern somewhere in their lives, which shows how common it is.

But what gets lost in all of this? You! The things you love doing, space and time for yourself, living your life fully, and enjoying the present moment. So to make room for these vitally important things, you need to get really good at:
·         Knowing what is really important in your life and prioritising that.
·         Being kind to yourself.
·         Making mistakes and that being OK (after all, do we really like it if our friends are perfect?!).
·         And being good enough.

I know about this because I used to have plenty of perfectionist patterns. I have made huge changes with these since I did the Lightning Process, but from time to time I still notice and change unrealistic expectations that I have of myself, other people, and the world. The other week I was enjoying a walk on my own and having a chat with myself (as I like to do from time to time!) and I started playing round with putting “good enough” after anything that crossed my mind. For example;
                “My life is good enough”
                “The world is good enough”
                “My family and friends are good enough”
                “My body is good enough”
                And, of course, most importantly, “I am good enough!”

I felt quite different about all sorts of things as I did this. And it must have had a powerful effect, because that night I woke up with a poem in my head (not something that has ever happened to me before!):

             Nowhere to go,
Nothing to do,
I’m good enough
And the world is too.