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The Wisdom Of The Winter Willow Tree

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

There is a Weeping Willow tree across the road from where I live that grows with wild abandon. It is nestled in front of an old electricity hut and positioned in-between two rows of terraced houses tightly knitted together almost in an urban attempt to give this tree the space it needs.

Perhaps it’s the solitary nature of the tree that seems to not be directly connected to the land of any of the houses on either side that gives it it’s right to spread out into the surrounding air space spilling over abundantly onto the pavement and walkway.

Walking past the tree requires either stepping into the road and strongly increasing your chances of being hit by one of the many cars that race daily up and down this road or delicately pushing your way through the dangling rope like catkins of the willow branches hanging like curtains that need to be pushed apart so you can take your next step. It won’t be long before the tree’s hanging branches will hit the road and the bodies of the cars obscuring windscreens before I suspect something will be done about cutting it back, I hope not too drastically.

I first met the tree in springtime of this year. At the time the tree was resplendent in its blossoming of flowing wavy branches and long dangling catkins. In the summer it played magic with the sunlight sometimes becoming almost invisible until one of her swinging branches hit you in the face as you walked past.

The Weeping Willow Tree in the Springtime

Wiloow_Version_2

Then last week as I headed out for my early morning walk around the neighbourhood I looked up the street in the trees direction and realised almost overnight she had gone almost bald. The lime blushed green of the trees long dangling catkins had been thinned out and threadbare, washed out from the lack of green chlorophyll that makes leaves green.

The same Weeping Willow Tree Christmas 2016.

Winter Willow Tree

The trees appearance took me by surprise. I am sure the week before the tree was fully clothed. It appeared as if the disrobing had happened overnight as can the events in our own lives that sometimes derail and leave you feeling bare like the Willow looked.

It was a reminder that each of the seasons carries its own medicine. That the winter of the Willow tree even though it may appear at first glance to have deprived the tree of its full glory was also a time of rest and renewal a chance for the tree to take out to prepare for new growth that will arrive in the springtime.

This is true for life events and personal experiences that leave us devastated. We forget that this season of our lives can also be an opportunity to start over again, to in time when we have healed to plant new seeds and of the importance of making time to rest and renew our energies especially when going through difficult or turbulent times. It can be easy to forget that nature knows the science of the seasons much better than we do and that the cycle of the seasons is a mirror for the cycle of our own lives and the things we experience. In time if we trust enough and when we do the inner work rather than conceptualise what needs to be done we will grow new hopes and possibilities as we head towards the season of spring in our own cycle of renewal.

I do not write these words from a distance. I am as close to the Willow tree geographically as I am emotionally and psychologically. I too am rendered bare in many areas of my life right now as I rebuild the process of starting over. The space feels tender and vulnerable sure signs that there is a need to rest so cells can be renewed and spirits and energies replenished. “Our cells sometimes need to fall like leaves from the trees before they can regenerate and be renewed,” writes Madison Taylor in one of her weekly blog posts on the Daily Om website.

As I watch the Willow tree I am reminded of its resilience, of how in its stillness it will gather strength and take the lessons from this quiet period of its life into the next cycle confident that what will come will be a new period of fertility and growth.

I take comfort and courage from the Willow’s nakedness as I tenderly nurse my own dreams back into a new lease of life. To the naked eye the tree may appear dormant when in fact everything underground is moving even though it is not yet visible from the outside.  New leaves are preparing to sprout and bud. By time the spring arrives the tree will burst into bloom in a space of time that seems sudden but which in fact took time.

Change can be like that. Often the change takes place within invisible externally before you see and experience the full effect of the change process on the outside.

Trees are both teachers to us about the delicacy and fragility of life and all that it brings. A tree becomes a tree from the possibility of one seed from a thousand taking root. Knowing this makes me think that each tree is literally a miracle and could we not say the same for us humans?

My reverence for the nature and spirit of trees has resulted in a newly published Writing With Fabulous Trees Writing Map created in collaboration with the genius Shaun Levin of Writing Maps http://www.jackeeholder.com/tree/writing-with-fabulous-trees-writing-map-for-parks-gardens-and-green-spaces/

20161209_150147 (1)It’s an illustrated collection of 12 Tree inspired writing prompts that explores the wisdom and lessons we can learn from trees as well as how tree wisdoms can provide insight and reflection on our own lives. In a handy pocket sized map that folds out the prompts also encourages a more intimate connection with the trees in your local neighbourhood, parks and green spaces through engagement with the writing prompts.

Get writing with the trees and see what trees teach you about life and living.

Click here to order a copy of the new Writing With Fabulous Trees Writing Map

http://www.writingmaps.com/collections/all-the-maps/products/tree-map

Writing With Fabulous Trees Banner

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Writing With Fabulous Trees: Writing Map For Parks, Gardens and Green Spaces

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

We rely on trees for the paper we write on and for the oxygen in the air we breathe. We need trees probably more than we sometimes care to admit. Deepening your connections with trees can be calming and oddly reassuring. JH Writing With Fabulous Trees BannerTrees have long inspired many poems, novels and short stories of writers in many ways. These creative writing prompts are devised to create a longer conversation about trees from your past and to stimulate you to indulge in a more reflective inquiry into how engaging and writing about trees can help you develop greater intimacy with yourself and your characters in sometimes surprising and unexpected ways. This writing map tucked into a pocket or a rucksack is the perfect companion on long walks in nature or whilst you are strolling through the city.  You might be inspired to take a photo of a tree on your travels, slow down and experiment with drawing a tree to writing stories or personal narratives stimulated by the roots of your own family tree? The prompts and quotes generate learning and insight about yourself and where you come from as well as the opportunity to learn more about the host of benefits trees have to offer. Writing With Fabulous Trees will encourage you to be more observant about the trees in your neighbouring or surrounding parks and green spaces and even the trees in your street or in your own private garden will take on new and different meaning. Order Now £7.99 plus p&p

 

 

Text and writing prompts by Jackee Holder in collaboration with Shaun Levin and with illustrations by Flazia Felipe.  The A3 map (297x420mm) folds into A6 (105x148mm, postcard size), and is printed in England. NOTE: Some content may not be appropriate for writers under 16

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Walking By Nature

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

“City life cuts you off from the seasons, but walking restores your awareness.“ – Joan Bakewell

Pitshanger Plants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This weekend I am staying in Ealing on a city writing retreat hosted by the wonderful Clare Berry www.clarebarry.com It’s a perfect opportunity to unwind and spend chunks of time writing away from the distractions of life back at home.

I have fond memories of Ealing from childhood. In the sixties my Dad would drive my Mum, baby brother and me from South London in his bottle green Morris Minor car to the home of my godmother Aunty Eunice in Ealing.

At the time through my child’s eye their home was huge and even the pavements on the road they lived on were double the size of the slither of a road we lived on in Camberwell in London which may well have been one of the smallest streets in the whole of city. And to top off my idyllic memories the sun was always shining when we visited.

Now I am a half a century and more older the streets seem smaller in the Ealing suburb as do the houses but the energy of the place feels the same.

Sitting in the front reception room it is a while before I notice how quiet the area is compared to where I’ve lived for the last ten years. The moment reminds me that when we make time to get still the nature and vibration of a place speaks to us in many ways.

One way I get to know and really connect with the spirit of a place is by walking. Today as I head over the hill from the home I am staying in I am greeted with a wonderful view of the river Brent in the far distance. The river is a slim shimmering slit of silver from the naked eye but somehow its presence calms me knowing that water is nearby.

River_Brent

My host has drawn me a map. The wildness of a map hand drawn on paper rather than relying on Google maps heightens my sense of adventure. The night before I ask my host to point me in the direction of the nearby parks. Green spaces, what I call the lungs of a place always give me the heartbeat of the place and act as a natural compass to explore the area.

Map

The roads I wander down are abundantly tree lined with assortments of red and orange geraniums in almost every other house or window box.

I walk for over ninety minutes and find myself winding down roads adorned with lovely cottages and front gardens showcasing huge plants like the cactus in the photograph below.

Giant Cactus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking accentuates the power of observation. It’s an ideal activity to sharpen and improve your writing skills because it allows you to really see in a way we don’t see and experience when travelling by car or transport.

Walking also contributes to the quality of your thinking. Both running and walking are incubators for the emergence of some of the best ever ideas and solutions for issues and dilemmas across my personal and professional life. What’s great is that it requires very little effort on my part.

The minutes flow by and I am lost on my meanderings. A good, long walk is always a great way for me to preparing to write. Well into my walk I catch sight of a notice board at the bottom of one of the long front gardens I am passing by. The kind you get in front of village churches.

Brentham_Notice_Board

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On reading I discover that I am in the heart of the Brentham conservation area. This is the reason why the gardens and plant life along these streets are so rich and vivid.

Brentham-wide-view

Here’s what it says on the website about the Brentham garden suburb:

Like a country village in the city, Brentham Garden Suburb is a little-known architectural gem in the midst of west London. The charming and distinctive estate of more than 600 homes and green spaces in north Ealing dates back to the early twentieth-century, when the Garden City movement was growing – as a reaction against the overcrowding and squalor of many homes in the city.

Brentham’s influence on domestic architecture and town planning is out of all proportion to its size.  As you walk around, you find the tree-lined streets are curved and the houses arranged in irregular groups, creating a surprising view around every corner.Brentham also made history in another way.  It was the first Garden Suburb built on ‘Co-partnership’ principles, so that residents could buy shares in their homes. www.brentham.com

My new discovery explains the reason behind the lawned alleyways I notice in-between many of the houses. My host informs me later that part of the original setting up of the co-operative included allocation of communal allotments and each house being gifted an apple tree.

I unexpectedly and almost immediately learn a lot about the area from a woman walking her dog who spots me taking a photo of the notice board and comes over to talk to me.

My walk without a mobile device except to take photos is energising. By the time I have arrived back at my host’s home I am lighter but also brimming over with words and I cannot wait to sit down and write this post.

I am curious. How well do you know the neighbourhood you live in by foot? I am about to leave the leafy area of East Dulwich in London where I have lived for ten years. The area I am moving to does not compare in many levels. However over the last few weeks I have been going for early morning walks around the neighbourhood I am moving to and discovering some surprise hidden gems about the area that is to become my new home. Walking each day is deepening an intimacy with my new neighbourhood and highlighting often in unexpected ways its hidden strengths and interesting nooks and crannies.

Research continues to add to the growing list of physical and psychological benefits gained from walking including adding seven years to your life, improving the quality of your sleep, acting as a natural anti-depressant and more recent research findings are highlighting the connections between how walking in nature contributes to lower levels of depression.

The self-reflective questions below can help connect you with the many benefits and gains of walking that could be yours.

  • How might you make more time to explore on foot the area you live or work in?
  • Get creative and curate a photo essay on your phone of the scenes that capture your interest from occasional walks. As the saying goes a picture paints a thousand words.
  • To fully embody your walk connect with how you are feeling in your body as you walk? What are the physical signs telling you about your personal health and well-being?
  • Carry out a before and after check in when walking to compare how you feel mentally and physically. Does your mind feel as busy? Or are you left feeling more spacious and clear.

Contemplate realistically where in your schedule can you plan in more time to walk without an agenda?

Hold in mind the question whatever your profession: What are the benefits and the gains from walking becoming more of a regular activity in your life?

 

 

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Matryoshka

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Matryoshka

I love it when a piece of writing catches my attention.

I am a fan and appreciative of long writing. I do not uphold this whole idea of bite size. Bite size has it’s place in the fast corridors of modern living but I prefer savouring and reading writing I am interested and passionate about. I am excited by sinking into a moving blog post, listening from start to finish to a podcast that is engaging and interesting. In amongst the onslaught of daily emails I do sit and regularly read and contemplate essays, writings and podcasts of all kinds. I am a curator of hundreds of quotes meticulously recorded on coloured index cards gathered from those moments of long listening or reading. 

So when I came across Joan’s personal essay ‘Trees I Have Loved’ (thanks to originally listening to a great podcast interview with Joan Leof and Nathan Ohren over at Journal Talk) which led me to her marvellous book Matryoshka: Uncovering Your Many Selves Through Writing.

I knew I was in the presence of another kindred spirit. I have a Matryoshka doll which I often share with people on workshops and talks when demonstrating how important it is to uncover our masks and connect to the source of our true selves. So I was intrigued by the title of the book and the symbology and metaphor of the Matryoshka doll.

White_Beetle_Blossom_Tree

I ended up connecting with Joan online and shared with Joan the tree book I have been carrying around for a good few years that I have literally more or less written in my head but have not fully yet committed to the page. Joan’s essay on trees prompted me to get this project birthed. Joan has generously agreed for me to share her tree essay on the blog. You can read the essay Trees I Have Loved by following this link

Then, if this wets your appetite for more then head on over to her website to purchase a downloadable pdf copy of the book or Amazon where you can savour the collection of her personal essays on life.

Reading Matryoshka was one of those perfect reading moments when you are riveted to the spot and each essay you read strikes a chord for different reasons.

The essays are life affirming, challenging, stretching and inspiring and all very real and true to life. I noticed my whole body paying full attention as I read, nodding and shaking as I noted all the places where Joan’s stories deeply connected in some way with my own and still fully engaged when the experiences were different. I felt awakened as I journeyed with Joan through each of the essays. Each essay had me running to the page to write and capture my own story in words.

The reflective questions at the end of each chapter are thought provoking and stimulating and just working with one felt like it opened so much up.  Joan’s writing felt hearty and whole, enveloped in having walked through both the dark and the light and coming out illuminated at the other end.  Each essay felt like a flow of writing that had been mined from the heart and the soul.

See what you think. In the meantime enjoy Joan’s words and if you want more head to the links above and purchase a copy of Matryoshka (which has a beautiful front cover of a Russian Matryoshka doll) and enjoy the depth and wisdom of her essays as much as I did.

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Photo Essay

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Orange_Car_2

On my early morning walk today I came across a few visual sights I just had to capture on my iphone. In the first one I was struck by the vibrant sunshine orange of the vintage car and couldn’t stop thinking about who owned such a succulent car.

Colourful_Hedge

I was so busy taking the photo that it was only when I walked back up the same street that I discovered that perhaps the owner of the car or someone who they lived with had also adorned the hedge of their home. I was very intrigued by what the adornment was for. In my mind it looked like some kind of Hindu celebration. Again the visual imagery got my creative juices flowing. Who, why, what did it all mean?

Abandoned_Teddy_Bear

Then as I was heading toward the final ten minutes of my walk I looked down to find this beautiful, huggy teddy bear someone had left outside their home, I’m assuming for someone to take and give it a good home. It was gorgeous and in very good condition. I wondered about the child who it no longer had a home with. Or was I wrong to assume it was a child and maybe had a home with an adult? Again, if I were a fiction writer and maybe I am, I would have been writing about the family who orphaned the giant teddy bear and why. Also penning a short story about the new home it would soon, I was sure, be welcomed into.

Sometimes a photo essay becomes your journal entry like mine did today. My captured photos told the stories of the start to my day. How about capturing photo’s of your day and see what intrigues you?

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How To Have An Enjoyable Year

Monday, January 4th, 2016

woman-standing-top-mountain-businesswoman-looking-beautiful-view-58382936

Today Michael Neil over at Supercoach.com  shared a great tip for how to Love The Year Ahead in his weekly newsletter. It really resonated with me as his tips do every week. I love reading his Monday morning message on my way into work and they always leave me with stimulating food for thought or find me scrambling for my pen.

Here’s the link to his first newsletter of 2016 which is so on point. You can read the article in full here

Below, I’ve shared the great tips he outlines for doing more of what you do best in order to have not just a best year but an enjoyable year. Read the article to find out what led him to this place when he was asked a provoking question by UK coach Robert Holden – click here

The message in the article centres around the four core questions below:

  • “A”s were things he wanted to do regardless of whether or not they paid well or worked out the way I hoped
  • “B”s were things he enjoyed doing and would happily say “yes” to if they feel into his lap, but had no desire to try and “make” happen.
  • “C”s were things he was only doing for the money
  • “D”s were things he just flat out needed to stop doing

By the time he had finished along with his business manager he worked out:

The things he could streamline and eliminate in his business that he no longer needed to do from the “D” list.

Highlighted the things he loved doing in answer to the “A’s” and built in the structures in his business to ensure more of these things happened.

Started saying no to the “C’s”.

Made room for the more of the “B’s”  that came along that appealed to him.

These are great coaching tips for getting focused on where you’re best placed to focus your energy and on what activities and areas of work for the year ahead that will ensure ultimate enjoyment.

It’s not a bad idea if you’re a coach to work through the questions yourself. Your work will have more currency when you share tools that you’ve tried out yourself.

Have fun.

Do sign up for his newsletter here

and also for the brilliant UK coach Robert Holden who you’ll find over here

Robert introduced Michael to the questions when they were working together.

They’re both great coaches and human beings and I think if you don’t know their work already you’ll enjoy.

 

 

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Why Writing A Journal In 2016 Makes Sense

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

black-woman-writing-journal

I’ve been writing a journal for over thirty years. The content of my journal is varied. Anything from how I am feeling, notes and draft content for work projects and articles to quotes and notes of interest gathered spontaneously throughout my day. I see my journal as a working book, sometimes a work in progress. It is a living book I am always returning to look things up, retrieve a quote or expanding on ideas started on her pages.

My journal travels with me everywhere. You will often find it squashed into my handbag, sometimes claiming most of the space. But knowing I have it in my possession is oddly a comforting feeling, one that ironically always conjures up a feeling of safety and connection.

My journal entries are precious to me. More precious than most of the other contents in my handbag. A message brought home recently when I bounced off a train from Derby and in between walking from the mainline train station to the underground managed to leave my handbag and all its content in the middle of Kings Cross train station. Now that’s a story for another day but suffice to say in the hour or so before I was re-connected with the entire contents of my handbag (I know, you’re thinking how lucky is that!) what I worried most about more than anything else in my bag which included my purse, all my cards and both sets of keys for the car and home was my journal. I would have paid a handsome reward just to get my journal back.

To be honest without it I felt shipwrecked. My journal hosts many precious ideas, quotes and notes that may appear insignificant on their own but when pieced together with other projects and content are not. It is through the practice of regular journaling that I enable myself to become more self-aware, more mindful, often thoughtful and reflective and I hope as a result often a better person and human being.

Don’t get me wrong. Keeping a journal doesn’t suddenly make you into a saint. I am far from perfect and my journal knows this but it is amazing how non-judgemental and forgiving my journal is 24/7, something I deeply respect and hold dear to our relationship. I have noticed that with my journal by my side I am more willing to own up to mistakes and wrong doings and thereby be better placed to made healthier choices and decisions about what to do about them.

Journaling offers perspectives on life that are real. Very often coming to my journal brings distance to emotionally charged feelings. It helps me in uncanny ways to see other sides of the coin when I slow down and examine situations and events with a more discerning eye. Journaling allows me to become more thoughtful and mindful when I write. Keeping and sustaining a journal has helped me to open doors in my imagination to my dreams and aspirations which may have remained closed had I not chosen to commit to a practice of regular journaling and reflecting on the page.

I love the creativity that explodes when I write and engage with my journal. It gives me a different experience to the sometimes, demanding pressures of work and modern life that seem to suck out life force through the demands of day to day activities.

I love the things I tuck into my journals, the random yellow index cards with a quote captured from something I was reading or a train ticket that reminds me of a poignant moment on a journey which could easily have been forgotten. Many times I am surprised by what I find when I return there.

I am not sure how far I would have made it in my life if I had not written regularly in my journal. It has been a healthy dose of self-therapy and on many occasions self-coaching against a backdrop of low self-esteem, self-doubt and low levels of depression. Journaling was a self prescribed writing prescription that brings with the practice a range of physical, psychological and emotional benefits. Then there are the times when the journal is like one of those friends that doesn’t know how to do anything else than tell you the truth no matter how hard they try to hold back.

I believe I am a better person because of my journal. It allows me to be more of myself, more often and that has to be a good thing. By this I mean when I take refuge in my journal I am more akin to express myself wholly and sincerely and not dumb down who I am which we can sometimes do when we are with other people. It has saved me countless arguments because the journal seized the intensity and sometimes ridiculousness of my feelings and processed them before I projected my unprocessed feelings onto my nearest and dearest, colleagues or total strangers. It has also been the balm when I have felt overwhelmed and distressed and not sure about what to do the next. My journal has always helped me to find a way through.

That’s why it works for me to write my journal first thing in the day. I write around 6am and flex my journal muscles by writing in-between the gaps of my day on public transport, at the wheel of my stationary car or in waiting rooms. Wherever I find myself doing it sets me up for the days. Journaling nourishes and strengthens the roots of who I am. Journaling creates healthy conditions that allows me to step forward to go face the world with greater confidence and stability that has originated from within.

Writing a journal has led to a rich inner life that has served as a safe harbour I can return when the storms of life rage. Keeping a journal makes you an author of your own life. When you let go and trust you will often find that the writing has information for us rather than the other way round.

There are things in my journal that are intensely private and will stay private and there are private things in my dairy that are common to all human beings that warm our hearts when they are shared. Keeping a journal is not a lonely act. On the contrary it connects us to the tribe called the human race by giving us a voice, a safe place to tell your stories, shed your tears and build your dreams. This is what connects one human soul to another. Journaling connects you to a global community of other journal writers all around the world.

I wonder what will motivate or inspire you to keep a journal in 2016? Can you think of the ways in which a journal will help you become a better person, be a better person or live a better life? Are there ways in which keeping a journal can support you to upgrade your work life, or help you become a better observer and listener?

Not sure where to start with your New-Year journal entries. Are you in need of more inspiration for your journal pages? Then treat yourself to my free downloadable Juicy Journal prompts, which I hope will inspire you to hit the pages of your journals in 2016 http://ow.ly/WuJxw

The kit includes fifty-five custom designed journal prompts with inspirational quotes. There’s no email sign up and you have permission to share them around.

Lets share the love in 2016.

In service of your wonderful writing self.

Happy New Year!

Love Jackee

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Why Trees Make Good Company For Introverts

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

img_pod_boy-hugs-tree-trunk-Guinness-World-Record-Kathmandu

Over the years I’ve masked my preference of introversion and learnt to masquerade as an extrovert in my career and in social settings. People who know me well know I prefer staying in and curling up with a good book than being the life and soul of the party. But to see me in social and work settings it would be hard to see through this. The paradox is that even though I get a buzz being with people I also can easily get over stimulated.

Don’t get me wrong I can be the life and soul of the party and I know how to have a good time but none of this would be happening if it wasn’t for the world of introversion I submerge myself in on a regular basis.

For years I’ve been enjoying solo dinners and trips to the cinema on my own. I’m an expert on taking days off and hiking around London where I was born and live and hanging out in many of the wonderful green spaces that fill up the London landscape. But one of the things I love most about being an introvert is hanging out with some of my favorite trees dotted around the London area.

I’ve held this love of trees from childhood. This love of trees was re-awakened in the 1990’s when I read a book, Tree Wisdom by Jacqueline Memory Patterson. This book reminded me of how much the introvert in me has subconsciously sought out the company of trees at different times in my life.

One particularly synchronistic event in my late thirties left an impact on me. I sat having lunch with a friend one summer afternoon under the shade of a small tree. As we were getting ready to leave I noticed a plaque next to the tree we had sat under that informed the reader that the tree whose company we were in was an ‘Elder’ tree. For no logical reason I could connect with at the time I scribbled down notes about the tree on a piece of paper which then sat on my desk for months.

Around the same time I became really interested in reading and researching more about the legends and myths associated with many of the trees we live with. This grew into a bit of a passion. Months later on a visit to my local library I came across a book of surnames. When I leafed through the book to search for the meaning of my surname ‘Holder’ I discovered that the name ‘Holder’ was the name given to people who lived near or close by to Elder trees.

Walking into the presence of some trees can be like walking into the hush silence and reverence of a church or a cathedral. I love the openness and non-judgmental nature of trees, which is an essential quality for nurturing introversion.

One year during a difficult time I would spend time every day under the watchful eye of a huge evergreen oak. This tree became my daily refuge and sanctuary each morning after my run. In its company I felt I could be myself without pretence. I could talk and the tree would listen and in the silence I could hear the whispering of my own voice echoing back at me.

I loved visiting and spending time with Sanctuary as I eventually named this tree, especially in the early mornings before the park became busy with dog owners and commuters on their way to work. And even though I no longer live in the area close to Sanctuary I still make time to visualize and connect with my memories of my time with her or when I can as a special and often necessary treat I jump in the car and go and visit her.

Over the years I’ve adopted many trees across South London with whom I spend quiet time with. When I feel really spent I head to the wilds of the ancient and splendid tree specimens in Richmond Park. Being in the company of these old trees instantly calms me down and recharges my batteries. Whether I’m simply tracing my fingertips across the ridges of the trees bark or feeling the arch of my back resting against a solid trunk, I find myself connected back to source.

When I’m in need of inspiration I head to Kew Gardens. Kew more tame than Richmond has it’s own magic. Late this summer I wandered under the huge canopy of a sprawling Cedar tree and sat under her enormous branches for a good hour or more in a sort of trance like state daydreaming. I didn’t write, didn’t text or read, just sat quietly enjoying the peacefulness and absorbing the energy and vibration of the moment. I left a different woman.

When I can’t physically be in contact with trees I turn to images of trees on my desktop or I stick images of trees in my journals and notebooks. Then when I need an introversion hit I flip to a page or tree image on my desktop and carry out a form of visual meditation. My friends and family know just how much trees mean to me and feed my introversion by sending me photo’s, images and articles about trees they encounter on their travels.

I even have a spiritual tree on the Caribbean island of Barbados where my Mum now lives that nurtures my introversion. The story of my discovery of this tree is too long to tell here. But she’s a huge, robust, majestic, African Baobab tree. This ancient monument of a tree is reported to be over a thousand years old. Legend has it that this tree seeded from seeds carried across the Atlantic by African slaves.

During our yearly family vacations to Barbados the busy social nature of our holiday soon has the introvert in me gasping for a visit to the Baobab. When I find myself becoming weary of all the eating out, the beaches and meeting up with friends and in need of some time alone I set off on a solo visit to the Baobab.

I am in awe of this tree’s history. Of how much she has witnessed, the stories and secrets she holds. Her mystic rubs off on me and stimulates my own creative juices, imagination and wonder. I can spend hours just walking around her huge girth and taking selfies to my hearts content. I get lost in time when I am with my Baobab.

To me being an introvert helps me be an extrovert in the world particularly with certain aspects of my work as a coach and a trainer and as someone who is a public speaker. Committing to time alone is not only good for my spirit and soul but makes me a better and nicer person to be with. Time alone feeds my work on so many levels.

Introversion is the current that provides flow and form to my writing and creative expression. I appreciate the company of trees and the mirror they provide of just being themselves. Trees help me appreciate why it’s so important to protect the introverted side of my personality.

The metaphor of solitary trees is not lost to the world of introversion. I think the German novelist Herman Hesse says it best in his book, Wandering, where he writes about his love of trees, “And even more I revere them when they stand alone.” And the final words go to Winston Churchill who is credited with the following quote, “Solitary trees if they grow at all grow stronger.”

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Happy 16th Anniversary Soul Purpose

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Soul_Purpose_Book_Cover

Sixteen years ago today (11.11.1999) my first book Soul Purpose was published. Soul Purpose was my baby and it’s hard to believe that sixteen years have sped by and she’s now all grown up. I set out intending to write an empowerment book for woman and ended up writing a book for myself. Every writer knows that the book you write will eventually change form in the process of the writing. This is exactly what happened to me. The more I got into the writing the more personal the book became. In the end I ended up disclosing things about myself, and my life that I hadn’t planned on sharing.

This morning despite a packed day ahead of me I made the effort and got up an hour earlier so I could spend quality time to celebrate the sixteenth anniversary of Soul Purpose. I held Soul Purpose in my hand and was reminded of how wonderful the cover of blue butterflies was and how much I still like that cover today. My photo on the back took me back to the photo shoot on a blustery autumn day in a seaside town and the orange tie-dye coat I wore for the shoot.

Next I sat quietly with Soul Purpose on my lap in my office with my eyes closed and connected with what an achievement it was to write and publish Soul Purpose and how ahead of its time the book was. This was a stretch for me because often that little voice of the inner critic in my head can pipe up and taunt me to stop embarrassing myself about a book that in the inner critic’s eyes failed. Don’t I realize that the book went out of print?

But today I put that voice to one side and instead I appreciated and thanked the former publishing house, Piatkus Book now part of Little Brown publishers for taking a chance on me, an unknown, first time author from South London. Back then we didn’t have twitter or the level of social media that exists today. The idea of building an authors platform was in its infancy. The marketing machine behind the book was non-existent. So whilst I sold hundreds of books through my workshops and seminars the book didn’t get the same airplay in bookshops and online.

So sitting with all of this I decided to celebrate by opening the book to a random page as a way into the text. I opened Soul Purpose to this extract and read the following,

Power Circles

“When I run workshops and seminars on empowerment I often use an exercise called the ’power circle’. Each woman shares a time in her life where she acted powerfully. The examples bring home the truth of how amazing we are: stories of women saving other women’s lives, transforming their lives against great odds, standing up for themselves, taking huge risks, acting on their intuition, the list is endless. These are not necessarily company directors, these are Earth Angels, spiritual beings, ordinary women like you and me. So often, it is acting on the sixth sense of intuition, which lies at the heart of these women’s stories.”

When we empower our lives we grow like trees. Our power is the root of the tree. The leaves represent our courage, the abundance that awaits us, our limitless creativity, intuitiveness and resourcefulness. We are natural born leaders. When we are in touch with our power we move through the world with greater ease, confidence and sense of our own worth.

When we come together as powerful women our energy vibrates and touches other women around us. By holding hands in sacred circles we share our power collectively. When we strip away our masks we can be ourselves and move beyond our self- imposed limitation.

(Holder, J. 1999)

The irony of this extract was I’m recently back from the Emerging women conference in San Francisco where at the start of the conference we all sat in a similar kind of Power circles and connected with eight other women in our groups through story telling and sharing. Sixteen years later it is clear that the same rituals are still vital and important to our spiritual and emotional well-being.

Leafing through Soul Purpose this morning I was struck at how timeless the wisdom is that I connect with in the book. Wisdom that has stood the test of time and still stands true for me sixteen years later. The themes of the book include many aspects and elements of life that are still important and valuable to women’s lives today, perhaps even more so. Themes like authentic leadership, nurturing and investing in your creative life, honouring your relationship with your body, valuing your personal connections with nature and the moon, deepening into stillness, creating and nurturing sacred space in the hectic space of your life and the value of going back to your roots.

Soul Purpose is a book about slowing down. Of deepening our roots and connection with our inner lives. It’s about noticing and connecting with the smaller details and beauty of life. It’s a book about healing and forgiveness.

Despite going out of print Soul Purpose has stayed alive through readers who over the years have continued to send me email messages and out of the blue reminders of how important Soul Purpose has been to them on their own personal spiritual and creative journeys. Every other reader who gets in contact lets me know that Soul Purpose is a book they keep by their bed. My readers tell me this is a book they get intimate with. This has been a very humbling and touching experience to know that despite the book no longer being available for sale it’s words have continued to make a deep impact.

I am currently in the process of bringing Soul Purpose back into print. I’ve drafted a new introduction and foreword and we’ve had a new cover designed. I know that the content of the book as the tag line of the title (self-affirming meditations, rituals and creative exercises to revive your spirit) suggests is what is needed in the current climate of speed. Its restorative message is medicine for the modern soul.

As today is a new moon in Scorpio energetically it feels like the right time to deepen the roots, further prepare the soil and plant the seeds for the re-appearance of Soul Purpose on the bookshelves in 2016.

  • What project or idea from the past might you dust off and breathe new life into today?
  • What past achievement might you acknowledge and remember today?
  • What new idea will you put in writing as a way of laying down roots on today’s new moon in Scorpio?

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Emerging Women Live 2015

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Liz_Gilbert

I’ve recently returned from a stellar line up of women all speaking on the personal themes of women and leadership at this years Emerging Women Live Conference in San Francisco. The keynotes included notable luminaries and thought leaders of the moment Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jane Goodall and completed with an inspiring and heart filled closing speech by Dr Tererai Trent one of the most internationally recognized voices for quality education and women’s empowerment.

Brene

But the content of the conference was made even better through the line up of women who spoke under the category of Emerging Shorts. Speakers like the impressive Guru Jagat a senior teacher of Kundalini yoga, Promise Phelon CEO of TapInfluence and Sahar Paz author of ‘Find Your Voice.’

These pioneering women leaders working on the ground shared compelling stories of their lives and the ways in which they are empowering women’s lives. The line up of presenters all weekend was refreshingly culturally diverse. Saturday’s line up included an excellent panel discussion, Uncovering Blind Spots: How Unconscious Bias Limits Connection, Creativity and Profits. The panel line up included Rosalyn Taylor O’Neale a diversity and inclusion consultant and educator, Regina Lawless a VP, Talent management consultant and career coach and Pamela Mattson an international leadership development consultant.

Founder and CEO Chantal Pierrat, who was previously VP of Sales and Marketing at Sounds True, founded emerging Women in 2012. To meet Chantal is like walking up to a model on the runway except this woman oozes a current of confidence that flows from the inside out in an undeniable way. The fact that she’s a former dancer and the founder of Soul Sweat was not wasted when after her elegant and fun hosting for two days she led the entire conference in a soul sweat dance work out before the conference party got underway that left me crawling for my bed. Girlfriend can work it.

Liz_Chantal

The message that sung out loud and clear from the conference is that women are taking leadership under their own wings and doing it for themselves. Many of the presenters on the programme are movers and shakers who are creating global and local movements for women and girls across the world. These are women who are no longer accepting ‘No’ when pitching for funding and instead have set about creating crowd funding and financial revenue streams for women start up’s in a big way. As one of the speakers Angels founder, Natalia Oberti-Noguera #leadinglookslike reminded us in her talk, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, bring your own chair.”

There was not one presenter for the entire conference who didn’t hold her own authentically on the stage. It was beauty and grace to watch them all flower as they spoke from the heart. This was Ted.com for women in business but with more spirit and soul. There was a free live stream that is now available on demand from Sounds True here http://live.soundstrue.com/emergingwomen15/

The presenter that really struck a deep chord with me was psychotherapist Esther Perel. Her work on the ‘erotic and ‘desire’ is literally breaking women open for the better. Half of the conference poured into her workshop on the Saturday afternoon.

I experienced a big shift in her workshop as another piece of the jigsaw in my healing process fitted together. As a former victim of early childhood sexual abuse the experience shut down my healthy relationship with the ‘erotic and desire.’ Of course it did. Listening to Esther’s talk made sense. Shutting down on the ‘erotic and desire’ also shut down many of my pathways to my own aliveness.

Many people who know me may not realise that I am incredibly shy and incredibly sensitive. But because I also was resilient to this earlier trauma I also need to remind myself of my own courage and braveness I accessed at the time.

Now having hit my fifties things are shifting big time. I’m at that point in my life when to be honest who cares what other people think, Esther’s workshop and talk put everything in perspective. By the time het talk was nearly over and I headed in the direction of the bookshop at the back of the auditorium all of her books had gone! Want to learn more then get hold of her book, Mating in Captivity, Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic or watch one of her Ted talks herehttps://www.ted.com/speakers/esther_perel

Each presenter on the stage shared valuable content, a line, a story or a quote that struck home. Here are a few of the memorable one’s I captured in my notebook:

Former US physician Neha Sangwan encouraged us all to, “Take the 18 inch journey from your head to your heart.”

Elizabeth Gilbert described, “Perfectionism is fear in high heels and a mink coat acting funny.”

Elizabeth Gilbert again on celebrating the good stuff, “It’s okay to celebrate when wonderful things happen, because they don’t happen enough.”

On the subject of creativity Brené Brown said, “Unused Creativity is not benign.”

Silicon Valley thought leader Promise Phelon, “Grit can only exist in the absence of shame.”

Dr Jane Goodall, “When nature flourishes, we flourish,” and “My mother encouraged me to explore my dreams and in doing so allowed my dreams a chance to grow.”

Communication’s expert Wokie Nwabueze story of having to retrieve boxes from a dumpster after her husband thought he was helping out by clearing their garage when she was away one weekend was gripping. His thoughtful gesture resulted in removing several boxes containing many of her personal items from childhood including a hoard of her personal journals. The boxes had been dumped in the garage when they moved into the house and had remained untouched for several years. You could feel the electricity in the room as women sat on the edge of their chairs listening intently as she retold the story.

A thought leader on courage whose also a communication and conflict resolution expert this gem (one of many) from her talk stood out for me, “It’s easy to miss the moment we betray ourselves. We look good on the outside, we make choices inspired by others, and we put ourselves in boxes. People start to label our boxes … we forget that we are suffocating under the praise.”

Chantal Pierrat, Founder of Emerging Women shared a Sikh saying at the start of the conference,“Our truth is as strong as sixteen suns.”

You can learn more about Emerging Women and sign up to their content rich podcast conversations each month with women global thought leaders who are just like you and me:http://www.emergingwomen.com/about/

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