A friend of mine, recently reminded me…
Silence isn’t empty;
If it were, we wouldn’t hear it so loudly
A friend of mine, recently reminded me…
Silence isn’t empty;
If it were, we wouldn’t hear it so loudly
We fill it, squash it, run away from it.
We ignore it, let it go unnoticed, struggle with its occasional awkwardness.
In a balloon this morning though, it was truly golden.
In today’s busy world, who is there to listen?
It seems all around the world ordinary people don’t feel heard by their politicians. The people they elect to listen and respond to concerns, to basic social needs, seem not to be listening. For large groups, the church might historically have offered an ear, but many no longer look that way.
There seems to be a void.
In extreme cases it seems terrorism and extremism offer a solution but what about the masses? The everyday struggling human being seeking something more mainstream? Who will listen to them?
I wonder what new roles might emerge to fill the gap?
Is there a role for business? A role for health professionals? A role for charity? A role for new forms of social collective? A role for individuals?
Someone needs to listen. Society needs to listen.
We all need to be heard.
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.
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?
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
What if Brussels sprouts were square?
What if turkey meat was blue?
What if parsnips tasted of coconut?
Believable things? Maybe, maybe not. But you can imagine them.
What if next Christmas you were more aware of what you do and why?
What if next Christmas you knew your purpose in life, why you are here?
What if next Christmas you understood more about your unconscious beliefs and motivations; what made some things possible and some things hard for you?
What if knowing these things gave you more choice, more freedom, more joy?
image by t1na (deviantart.com)
A friend of mine once declared that to be a favourite coaching question of theirs. “What would your big toe say?”
I can’t vouch for its effectiveness as a question. Or its appropriateness.
I do like it though.
The notion of paying attention to a physical part of you fascinates me.
On occasion, when I have found it difficult to get to sleep, I focus my attention on my foot. It works. Maybe it is the sheer mundaneness of directing all my conscious attention to my foot that helps me nod off? Boring the conscious mind into submission perhaps? I pay total attention to my foot’s position. The toes, ankle, sole. To its boundaries; where it begins and ends. To any sensations I have in it, such as a slight tickle, or the feel of the sheet.
I guess my ear would do just as well, but I haven’t learned to build such a close relationship with my ear yet. Or my nose, which I suspect has its attention focused on breathing; and I am very grateful to it for that. Whereas my foot and I are on good terms. We have an understanding.
I think this is why I like the question “What would your big toe say?”
Not, you understand, because it’s a part of the foot. Rather, because it’s a part of you. A part of me. A body part playing an unfamiliar role.
Sometimes we over value the brain. We consult it constantly. We pay it too much respect arguably. Sure, it has its uses. A bit like my nose and breathing, I wouldn’t want to be without my brain. But sometimes I wonder what the rest of me thinks? What do other parts of me feel about this?
Sometimes I listen to my gut or to my heart, why not my big toe?
Try it. Next time you want another perspective, or you’re stuck, or you just want a less busy response from yourself, ask…
“What would my big toe say about this?”
And if that doesn’t work… start a conversation with your elbow.
Trees would look strange with spindle-like trunks supporting thick-set heavy branches. New shoots necessarily grow at the tips. Established branches and the trunk, thicken to support this expansion.
My wife and I walked around a housing development site the other day – new houses being built near us. As we walked further in to the development, roads were less complete, houses half finished, before we reached a temporary fence and gate through which we could peek at groundwork for a subsequent phase. New growth building literally on established infrastructure.
Across the country, roads themselves are built at the extremity of existing roads. Sensible really, as a road that is unconnected to the network is pretty useless.
You only have to observe weeds pushing through paving and tarmac to see what power lies at the most delicate tip of the plant. The drive to push through, to break new ground, belying the tender fragility of that new growth.
So too it would seem with our development as human beings. Growth comes at the edge. It builds on what already exists. At first it is new, a little fragile, but gradually with confidence and practice it strengthens and opens up new possibilities for learning and growth.
Sometimes we don’t want to go to the edge. It can be scary. A little uncertain. A little too new. We feel vulnerable.
But if we don’t go to the edge, we won’t grow new shoots, expand our capability, learn more about ourselves and our potential.
Stand at the edge of yourself. Branch out. Literally.
If my car stops working, I take it to a dealer or garage and say please fix this. Generally that works. In part, that’s because the car is one of many identical models. It has a specification. The mechanics are trained and no doubt have detailed on line manuals describing how every part works as well as knowledge of the steps required to breathe life back into those parts that don’t.
We all possess many ‘things’. If they stop functioning to our needs we fix them, or we replace them.
We are so used to this, we somehow seek to apply the same laws of our materialistic consumerist world to our very humanity.
But here’s the thing…
Human beings are inordinately more complicated and each one is stunningly and beautifully unique. No manual. No like for like replacements.
To hope that all of your learning, life experience and behavioural pattern making since birth, can somehow be re-modelled in a few simple steps … a bit like reprogramming the central heating timer … is curious.
And yet we do.
I often get asked in coaching sessions a question a bit like this one … “So how do I change that?”
It’s almost as if we believe we’ve just missed out on a chapter in the ‘How to be a happy human being’ book. Or perhaps misinterpreted some instruction along the living highway which explained how we were supposed to be. Or maybe that we think someone else messed it up for us, so now we have become aware we can just change course, tweak something, switch out one part for a new one. Whatever our thinking about how we came to be like this, we seem to think this ‘expert’ in front of us, this ‘human mechanic’, can somehow put us right.
Changing ourselves is hard work. Rewarding, but always hard work.
And as we set out on that journey, we would do well to remember that we are unique. To value that uniqueness. To seek to enhance and grow what is, not discard it as broken or not good enough.