silence

Why-Silence-is-So-Good-For-Your-Brain

A friend of mine, recently reminded me…

Silence isn’t empty;
If it were, we wouldn’t hear it so loudly

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going…

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We spend a lot of time going.

Going places.

On a bus the other day, gazing backwards out of the rear of the vehicle as it trundled up Park Lane, I noticed this. All around me were cars, buses, bikes, vans, lorries. All the occupants, driver or passenger, going. Where wasn’t clear, but they were all going. As was I. Glancing to the side there were pedestrians and cyclists on the path. Also going. An inline skater eased between these goers, also going? Peering skywards, an aeroplane could be made out, high in the clouds, going. Going further perhaps, but nonetheless going.

We are not often still.

When we’re not physically going, we’re mentally or emotionally going.

Going from here to there. There to here. Going forward, going backwards. Sometimes going sideways. Going round and around. Sometimes going, in order to go. Going to familiar places and to new places. Going to be with, going to be away from.

Or maybe we’re coming?

What’s the difference?

Are these people around me going or coming? Coming or going?

However they might describe their orientation of travel, of movement, one thing is clear. They are not still. They are not simply being. They are not just in the present. They are going, or coming, from or to. Past or future. Was, will be. Then, when.

Not… now.

 

 

short human platforms

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A number of station platforms on my journey are too short for the train.

Each evening the train manager announces which carriages will fit. Passengers in carriages unable to alight are advised to make their way through to an alternative carriage.

The infrastructure is no longer fit for purpose. Stations and platforms built many years ago, now insufficient for the train lengths demanded by busy commuters. Worse, I suspect the train operators might like to add more carriages, as traffic grows and so infrastructure becomes increasingly inadequate.

Having infrastructure unable to cope with growing needs is a problem elsewhere. You only have to own a phone to know that. Or drive around the M25.

Our world is changing fast. The military use a phrase, now prevalent in business and leadership. VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. It describes the rapidly changing, unpredictable, uncertain world we live in. The inexorable expansion of stimulus, the pace of change, the ‘always on’ information flow, the societal pressures to perform, to excel, to achieve, to compete. All add to the stresses on our own human infrastructure. Sometimes it too comes up short. Unable to accommodate the sheer volume and inordinate complexity of the experiences we have, travelling on our own train of modern life.

Anxiety and mental illness is on the increase. Reported happiness increasing in some quarters but decreasing in others. Loneliness in the young growing. Society across the globe increasingly fractious, disruptive, searching for something absent.

Maybe our human infrastructure is struggling too with the modern demands of our busy world? Maybe our platforms are too short, our carriageways not wide enough, our bandwidth clogged?

Time perhaps to invest in self?

tortoise beats hare at top trumps

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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.

 

the space to be

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The next time you have a thought… let it go

Ron White

We can become slave to our heads.

We ping pong between the past and the future. What has happened and what might happen. What we need to do. What we did or didn’t do. Experiences we have had. Opportunities to come. Lists of things to do. Things we did, or should have done.

Our thoughts begin to run us.

I must do this…
If only I hadn’t…
What if…?
Don’t forget…
What did I say…?
Should I…?
Why…?
When can I…?

Find instead a place where the mind is quiet. The body is present.

The space to be.

what would your big toe say?

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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.