unsticking stuck

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There are many ways of moving forward, but only one way of standing still.

Franklin D Roosevelt

We notice stuck. When we experience it, stuck draws our attention. We can’t see past it. We feel it pinning us down. Stuck consumes us.

When we’re stuck we become blind to possibilities. Ways to move forward. Advancement. Growth. Movement. All seem out of reach when stuck grasps us.

Yet there are always more ways of moving forwards.

gone for good

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Trolley points. You know, places where you return a trolley and get your money back. You find them in car parks, on train stations, in airports. You’ve made use of the trolley as part of your journey. It served a purpose and now you’re done with it. So you can return it to a tidy spot and be reimbursed. It’s gone for good.

On life’s journey we collect stuff too, but there’s not usually somewhere handy to leave it when you’re done. You end up storing it in your head. Sometimes it comes back out and trips you up, or slows you down. Sometimes you try and lock it away in a ‘cupboard’ in a corner of your brain. You know you don’t need it, or want it again. It has served its purpose on your journey. But it won’t stay there; it keeps on returning. Like a runaway trolley hitting your shins.

Trolley point anyone?

 

tortoise beats hare at top trumps

Hare-and-tortoise-on-runn-008

At a recent coaching session, my client turned up late.  Having arrived, they immediately downloaded a lot of story.  This, that, this, that.  Fifteen minutes. I was overwhelmed by the speed and complexity of thought.  Momentarily disabled by a wave of recounted experience, judgement and self questioning by my client.

My client has a map drawn on a piece of paper.  We created it several sessions ago. It maps out their pattern of stuckness. The behaviours, thoughts, feelings, values which interconnect to create how they are.

I asked them to bring it out so that we might look at it again. We notice the pattern repeating in their story that began the session.

I then notice that there is a pattern in our coaching. We have been here before. We meet in the same room. My client, although not usually late, begins with a high octane cognitive download of what has been happening, their difficulties, their thinking and judgements of self. By the end of the session, they are calmer. They are more balanced and more present in what is true for them. Less in their busy head. Then they go out into the world and return a few weeks later so that this pattern can repeat, alongside their mapped pattern of being.

We have talked previously about mindfulness.  My client has a book. They have attended some sessions with a qualified practitioner. My client accepts they are useful, but has found it hard to find the time in their busy world. Irony of ironies.

I tell my client we need to break the coaching pattern.  So I offer the opportunity for them to practice their mindfulness now, without me. They look taken aback. I leave the room.

I return some minutes later.  Already they are calmer.  I invite them to walk with me.  My client sets off out of the building at pace. I walk with them but slightly slower, drawing them back a little. I explain we are going to be mindful walking for just 30 seconds, then talk. Then mindful for thirty seconds, then talk.

We practice paying attention to the physical movement of limbs as we walk. Then we talk about the experience and its relationship to their pattern. Then we walk noticing how sound and light are around us. Then we talk about the experience and its relationship to their pattern. Then we walk noticing the sound of footsteps and explore correlation to heartbeat. My client puts their hand on their chest and calibrates. Then we talk about the experience and its relationship to their pattern.  Walking the talk.

Throughout, my client walks more and more slowly. Bit by bit. Finally we pause and notice this.

Returning to the room to end the session, my client is completely different. Their experience as they reflect on the map, still on the table, is more deep, more profound, more embodied. They remain slow.

They have quietened their thinking. They have more awareness. They can see what needs to be done. They know they can achieve mindfulness in many ways in just a few moments. They discover motivation. And… they aren’t bombarding my senses with cognitive verbiage.

A top trumps victory on all fronts.  Tortoise beats hare.

 

auto pilot takes me the wrong way

be here now

I’ve moved desk over the weekend.  We have had an office re-organisation and one result is I now have a different desk position in the office.

Today I have been confused. I have entered through the wrong door, headed for the wrong part of the office, gone the wrong way for the toilet. Several times. I have been, and seemingly continue to be, befuddled.

I haven’t lost my ability to think. I still know where doors and facilities are. I can still see. Yet I keep going wrong. Ending up in the wrong place. Going the wrong way.

It serves to demonstrate how much we do on auto pilot. Without thinking; without conscious thought at least. We just set off. Our heads filled with other non geographic, navigational stuff. Thinking instead about what we will do when we arrive, or about something we mustn’t forget.

I’m sure I’ll re-calibrate. Might take a day or two. Eventually though, a new autopilot route will have been programmed. I will be free again to wander without thought, arriving at my destination with no need to engage brain or use up some of my thinking bandwidth.

Life can be like that.  Something we take for granted changes and we are momentarily discombobulated. That which needed no thought, now requires some – for us to even function. These changes aren’t always physical; about our surroundings. They can be emotional too. A new emotion emerges. An unfamiliar one. Just like a new desk position, we need to adjust. Take note. Become familiar.

That way we stay flying.

Turn off autopilot and live with presence.
Live with attention.
Live with intention.

the mischievous monster in your head

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Roald Dahl’ first children’s book was The Gremlins.

The term gremlin refers to an imaginary mischievous sprite lurking in the electrics. World War II pilots coined the phrase when their engines, mechanics or electronics developed unexpected faults. In Dahl’s book, written in the 1940s, the gremlins’ motivation for sabotaging aircraft is revenge for the destruction of their forest home, which was razed to make way for an aircraft factory.

As human beings, neurons in our brains fire electrical impulses. This is how we think.

Often however, we have glitches in our own electrics; our thinking engines. For many of us, annoying little programmes have infiltrated our thinking process. This unwanted code, this inner voice, runs despite our wishes. The inner voice becomes a habit. It becomes something we routinely tell ourselves, in our heads. This self talk sabotages us. Derails us. Causes us to detour or to crash land. Often these little subroutines of code take the form of “I can’t…”, “I shouldn’t…”, “If only…”, “I’m not good enough to….”. They are self judgements and limiting beliefs.

The familiar friends of these little inner voices, the ones who speak up most regularly, become our gremlins. Mischievous little sprites lurking in our thinking.

In Roald Dahl’s book, the gremlins are persuaded to change their habits and are retrained to repair aircraft rather than sabotage them.

Maybe we need a gremlin retraining school?

 

 

the pain of living and the drug of dreams

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T. S. Eliot wrote in his Animula poem of ‘the pain of living and the drug of dreams.’

Dreams can be like that, can’t they? Addictive.

And like a drug, somehow drawing us away from reality. Taking us to another world.

We speak of them quite lightly. We talk about such things as ‘our dream holiday’, ‘my dream job’. We speak about ‘a dream house’ or ‘a dream car’.

Dreaming about material things seems easy. Dreaming about things we might do, almost as easy.

Dreaming about who we want to be, often harder. So we avoid it. For the most part.

We  just plough on with life. With living. Same routines. Same thoughts. Same feelings. Same pain.

But dreams bring about change. Dreams inspire. Dreams provide hope. Dreams enable. Dreams motivate. Dreams create reality.

What I dream matters and for that moment the world exists that way

Benjamin Zander

mourning the loss of an unused love

mourning the loss

As a child I loved Woolworths.

I confess to wandering around and around the pick and mix island scouring the wooden parquet floor for fallen booty, which I would quickly and joyfully snaffle up as I threaded my small frame between adult legs. I loved equally the thrill of legitimately choosing a bag of your own sweets. The power, choice, influence and sheer excitement was palpable. I had a number of toys from Woolworths, including a favourite teddy bear, called Button Nose; I recall he cost sixpence (old money).

Once I became a teenager and adult I never shopped there. Their stores became more modern, but somehow drab, soulless sheds with a random array of merchandise, hard to locate and often cheap and tacky. Woolworths closed subsequently.

The news today that BHS is closing reminded me of the loss of Woolworths.

It reminds me too of mourning the loss of a capability, a passion, a dream.

In a coaching session today, my client said several times ‘in my youth I used to do that…’, ‘when I was younger I would have…’.  I noticed how they were reflecting on a loss of a way of being. A freedom and spirit once enjoyed had been lost to the drudgery of work and earning an income. Mourning the loss of an unused love, perhaps?

Where was the excitement of a pick and mix visit?
Where is the love of a childhood teddy bear?

 

the other side of the argument

the other side

I’m finding the debate on the EU referendum a little tiresome.

The claims from each side, seem to get wilder and more outrageous. They become more fearsome too. Threat, despair, doom and gloom seems the order of the day.

In part it is the nature of ‘sides’. ‘Sides’ are the root of debate. The foundations of politics. An all or nothing mentality. I win, you lose. I’m right, you’re wrong.

It seems once you join a side, you have to defend the collective position of that ‘side’ against all the other ‘side’ might say.  Our party politics is riddled with this.  Somehow the concept of ‘side’ seems to rob these people of individual thought, ironically at the root of democracy, the very thing they seek to uphold.  Everything the ‘other side’ says is wrong. And everything I say has to support my side’s view, whether I truly believe it or not – even World War 3!  Everything.

“Really? Everything?”, is my response.

The power of ‘side’ is evident in this referendum debate.  Politicians on the same party ‘side’, are now on different ‘sides’. Colleagues once, now vitriolic opponents.

It seems to me to drive an extreme position which, for me, becomes less and less believable. Less real. I stop trusting them all. I stop wanting to listen to them all.

Surely in anything so significant and complex, there is grey? Some risks and some potential gains? Some good, some bad?  Why can these people not just provide a balanced perspective?

But ‘side’ is everywhere.

It permeates our gender, our ethnicity, our social status, our religious persuasions, our organisations, our families, our sport…

‘Side’ fuels blame, it creates blind spots, it reduces options, choices, potential. ‘Side’ underpins judgement. ‘Side’ erodes compassion, care, humanity. ‘Side’ creates gaps, divides. ‘Side’ is the bedfellow of anger and frustration. ‘Side’ is dangerous.