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Archive for March, 2014

More Photo’s From Kew Gardens

Monday, March 17th, 2014


More images from Kew Gardens

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Restorative Days

Monday, March 17th, 2014










Today was a beautiful sunny day in London town so I decided to treat myself to a restorative day.

I took myself across to West London to the nature sanctuary of Kew Gardens one of London’s most cherished nature spots. Seems I wasn’t alone judging by the long queues to get in.

But once inside I knew I had made the right choice. I decided to join a one hour guided tour of some of Kew’s plant and tree life. This was a good start giving me information about Kew and it’s plant life. Our guide Angela shared lots of interesting and fascinating facts about plant life including:

When it comes to trees and plant life gardeners hate grass why because it gets the food first – Interesting fact I thought.

Arborists leave trees alone instead of trying to treat them trees. Why? Because trees have an inbuilt healing system and when left alone heal by themselves.

What is going on in a tree’s root system is reflected in the health of the tree above ground.

Once the tour ended I wandered through Kew at a slow pace and every few steps captured on camera some of the many delights of the garden on this gorgeous spring day.

See what I mean with some of the images below.










Twin _Trees_Kew











































This was just what I needed. After delivering two workshops yesterday in Birmingham I was in need of some restorative time. Restorative days are days where you schedule in a solo adventure intended to recharge your battery. This is not a night out with the girls or a new romantic partner; this is strictly time with you and you alone.

But even I have to admit this is not always an easy thing to give ourselves but I’m always reminded of how important it is once I do it.

Restorative days are intended to energise and uplift. Just wandering in nature recharged my battery. With lives and schedules that have us constantly on alert it was good to wander without a destination or an agenda. In our over stimulated lives wandering can be a very liberating thing to do.

Of course in my bag I did have books to read (two in fact plus a magazine) but I followed my gut simply guided me to walk, stop to eat, write this blog post at a leisurely pace and then just be. To end my time in the garden I sat on a bench stared into the space, read and allowed the sun’s rays to stroke my cheeks.

Doing less empowers us to do more. Tomorrow I’ll be fired up to dive onto the page first thing with enough energy to get on with the weeks tasks in hand knowing that my reserves have been topped up and I’ve been refueled.

The busier your life is the more restorative days you’ll need to build in. Your restorative activity feeds you creatively, emotionally, physically and sometimes even spiritually. So visits to the salon to get your nails done don’t count.

So when will you book yourself in for a restorative day in March?

Let me know how you get on.

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Restore Mind, Body and Soul With A Writing Retreat

Saturday, March 8th, 2014










Have you promised yourself to make time in 2014 to write that coaching or supervision article, start gathering ideas and themes for that book you always wanted to write or some other writing projects? Making these promises can be easy to make but harder to put into action.

One way to get around this is to book yourself onto a writing retreat. It’s a great way of giving yourself uninterrupted and concentrated time and space to write and create. There’s the added bonus of choosing a retreat with a programme of workshops or master classes led by an experienced writer or facilitator where you’ll gain writing tips and techniques that will support you in creating a body of work and developing a routine around your writing practice.

I’ve found it enormously helpful to my coaching/supervision and writing practice along with my emotional and mental well-being to have retreat time away from my daily work where I am free to immerse myself in writing away from the addictive distractions of daily life.

I find writing retreats to be both creative and spiritually replenishing. Retreats provide me with precious time and space to reconnect with myself both on and off the page.

Often on retreat the very nature of the physical landscape is energising. That in itself can be a creative tonic. I once travelled to Taos in New Mexico to join a silent writers retreat with writer Natalie Goldberg.

The backdrop of sage bush and plains was a landscape I was unfamiliar with and this provoked unexpected material in my writing I hadn’t expected. Ernest Hemingway captured this when he wrote, “Often the opposite of where we find ourselves is what we write.”

Eight pay offs of going on a writing retreat:

  • Dedicated time and space to focus solely on your writing and creative process away from the distractions of daily life.
  • Giving yourself permission to take your writing self on a learning journey. You’ll learn new skills, tips and techniques, learn and participate in a range of writing prompts and writing exercises.
  • You’ll learn from an experienced writer as well as receive rich feedback, ideas and insight from strangers who often see and comment on aspects of your writing you don’t see.
  • You’ll be surrounded by like-minded people who are what you would describe as part of your writing tribe.
  • Writing retreats give you an opportunity to stay in beautiful places, visit new cities, towns, villages and locations.
  • Retreats offer the intimacy and safety of small groups and spaces to deepen into your writing.
  • Retreats offer breathing space, time to unwind, catch your breath and put something back into you.
  • Most retreats ensure that the day-to-day activities like cooking, clearing up are taken care of so you can get on with the business of writing and creating.

At the end of June (27th June to the 4th July 2014) I will be running a one week writers retreat Word by Word, Line by Line, Page by Page Inside Out Writers Retreat in Skiathos in Greece. Click here for full details:

You’ll be joining a community of other kindred spirits as we dive into a week of writing, walking and in the daily atmosphere and surroundings of the sun, sand and Greek sea air. There will be plenty of time in the afternoons to take yourself down to the beach and stay there till dinnertime back at the centre.

Maybe this is just the ticket you need to launch your writing platform whether personally or professionally motivated in 2014.

Sometimes we can use a retreat to simply rest and catch our breath. Before you know it in between the breaths you’ve imagined a story or an article into being. There’s still time to join us, just click the link above for more information and booking details.

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How You Know You’re Working With A Great Coach

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

JH Vulnerability Project









I’ve just started working with a new coach and was reminded of just how refreshing it is to work in partnership to co-create your life and career with the right coach.

I have never met my coach in person. He works for a coaching company I respect. He has done loads of training and continues to do so. But the thing that impresses me most is his humanness and the genuine compassion I feel from him in every conversation we have. All the qualifications in the world can’t cover over a lack of compassion or empathy. At the end of the day I always trust my heart and every time I spoke to this coach my heart said Yes! Funnily enough I did not fist contact him to be my coach but once it headed in that direction I just knew it was right.

We carried out three initial conversations on the phone where we explored what I was looking for from a coach, then we talked about who we are and what we bring including what makes us tick and our styles of working. I brought to a conversation topics that coaches sometimes shy away from and he walked with me in the conversation and made comments that made me think.

On our third conversation once we agreed that we wanted to work together we had a contracting conversation where we talked through any ethical and boundary issues about the coaching and further teased out what my focus would be for the six sessions of us working together. By the end of these conversations I felt I knew a lot more about my coach, felt excited about working with him and about the possibilities I could create from our work together.

Our one-hour sessions together so far have proved to be very productive. I have benefitted hugely from the quality and depth of our conversations. On our first call he did a mindfulness practice before we started. It was a few minutes of mindful arriving. In that moment it felt to me like an oasis had been created and a clear intention set. His modeling reminded me of some of the good stuff I used to bring to my coaching. Reminding me of how valuable these practices are and nudging me to do more of it.

Our sessions so far have helped me get clearer about those places in my work I thought I was clear about. It has been energising and hugely reassuring and supportive knowing I have the space fortnightly to talk through things I maybe struggling with and to know that the person I am talking with is not trying to fix me but holds a space which activates my ability to connect with my own inner knowing and resourcefulness.

The coaching space is both reflective and reflexive giving me precious time and space out of my schedule to take stock. Because of the reflexivity involved I am noticing where the coaching could stretch me. This is not a bad thing. A healthy coaching relationship is one where you can offer the coach feedback and tweak the coaching so you can make sure your needs are getting met in many ways and on different levels. This way the coaching is dynamic rather than passive. I worked out that what I need to integrate into our work together was a lot more accountability in between sessions. Life and stuff does get in the way and agreeing to concrete actions that are followed up by us both no matter how small can be really helpful.

For me it’s more about calling myself to account and getting into that rhythm and routine of working with myself in the way I would with my own coaching clients and supervises who required this kind of approach.

It dawned on me that I like the idea of completing a written form in-between the sessions and to complete a form before our next sessions.  Although this is not ideal for every coaching client is suits my style. Writing and recording my reflections between sessions and before my next session helps me to stay focused and bring things together. This is something I would find very helpful and will be suggesting that this is put in place for my remaining sessions.

I believe you should leave a coaching session feeling better resourced than when you first went in even if difficult and challenging material is explored. So far my coaching has achieved this. In the middle of our last coaching session my coach reflected back something to me that reached deep into my core. Because we were coaching on the telephone he could not see the tear that rolled down my cheek. But because of my own willingness to be authentic I shared with him the impact of what he had observed.

In a few minutes we had gone somewhere deep. We crossed over into territory that often is skirted around in coaching conversations. Even though our backgrounds are different we found a common ground from which we could navigate the content of the conversation. This in my experience is what makes coaching often a magical process. When I say magical what I mean is we don’t always know where our conversations will lead but you can bet they lead somewhere where you need to go.

I am noticing that even more is gained when I reflect back on our conversations and make reflective notes after each session. In the same way there is real benefit in going back over your recordings in a journal or notebook, your reflective notes can be mined in the same way.

I hope you find these tips helpful when working with or searching for a coach.

I’d love to hear the things you value from working with a coach.

Do post your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.

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Process versus Product

Thursday, March 6th, 2014











This morning I happened across one of the Sunday sermons by the School Of Life which by the way I would highly recommend.

The sermon was given by Dan Pearson, garden and landscape designer, writer and broadcaster whom I had heard about in the past but not really ever listened or read up on. I do have a vague memory in the back of my mind of a beautiful gardening book I once came across which I believe he had contributed to.

Sitting and listening I was moved to write down the following extract of his talk where he defines process in much the same way psychologist Mikay Csikszentmihalyi describes as ‘flow’ and his story about the process of planting the young tree and not being around to see it in it’s maturity.  Have a read and contemplate on his words for a few seconds and see what thoughts and connections it triggers for you.

“A process is something in which we can lose ourselves as we would when we were a child. It’s the kind of pleasure we get when we are completely absorbed. ”

“ …….. A friend of mine who is a geneticist, Katherine couldn’t believe how I was able to out a tiny sapling in the ground and be quite happy to imagine that I had to wait, 5, 10, 15 possibly 50 years before that tree ever became something with any gravity. But for me it’s the process that’s the interesting thing.

It’s not about the pleasure of the tree when it’s a hundred years old necessarily. It’s about getting it through those early stages, when it needs to get its roots in contact with the soil getting it to the point where it’s not going to be overwhelmed by the grass and the weeds around it because it has the upper hand.

Getting it to the point where I can stand in the first little pool of shade that it casts when it’s old enough and getting it to the point where it can bear its own fruit so it can then reproduce itself.

The process for me of planting that little tree is something that makes the whole thing worth it.”










Dan really spoke to the reality that he may never see that tree in it’s full grown state and in knowing this he is able to then let go and enjoy the present moment of the process. How often in our current lives are we driven to achieve the end result? How often do we drive ourselves to the finishing line (I know it is a good thing to get things done) but often at the expense of missing out on the wonders of the process?

Yesterday I sat hunched over my computer with the shutters in the room I was working closed as the sun shone brilliantly outside. I told myself I was too busy to open the shutters, too busy to clear the table that walkers by would have a full view of so I missed out on the process of the day.

It was only when I dashed out the house to put petrol in my car that I realized the wonder in the day I had let pass me be as the evening began creeping in.

I see it a lot in the training of new coaches. They want the tool kit, the models, and the killer coaching questions. They don’t always place the value on understanding and being present to the process of their own unfolding, their own learning, their own growth and development.

Don’t get me wrong I find much of what I am talking about here hard from time to time. Yesterday on the phone I was chatting to a coach whom I had met on a coaching course. She asked me how things were with me. I told her about how my days were no longer packed full with training, coaching and marking assignments. I followed this with how I felt I was lagging behind compared to many of my peers and colleagues who seem to be speaking, coaching and training every minute of their day.

She wisely pointed out in a gentle way how ugly comparison is as both a word and as a feeling causing me to pause and take a breath.

The pause and the subsequent breath helped me access a new thought. Why had I neglected to share how much I was writing in these days where I was no longer under pressure to be somewhere or having to facilitate one coaching session after the other? How I really loved creating a new series of programmes and deepening into my body of work where I am experiencing being absorbed and lost in time.

So much that sometimes I forget to eat not because of stress but because I am not hungry. Why? The work feeds me and when I am fed in this way my appetite changes.

Would I dare to say I have valued the time to think and the space to meditate in the middle of my day? Could I talk enthusiastically and wholeheartedly about how much I enjoyed the long stretches I have some days to write and carry out research and of how I am connecting across different schools of thought and linking it to material I am working on now.

Each of us is like that tree that Dan refers to. If we’re not careful we may well miss the richness the process offers us in each moment.

Process is the place of mindfulness and mindfulness is the art of arriving and being in the present and the present is an aware appreciation of what and who you are being in the here and now.

Jon Kabat-Zinn captures this in the following quote, ‘When you are taking a shower, check and see if you are in the shower.  You may already be in a meeting at work.  Maybe the whole meeting is in the shower with you.’ The product is good but without the real lived appreciation and acknowledgement of the process it probably is worth very little at all.

Enjoy your day.

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