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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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Colour Your Life

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

Coloured_Electrical_Power_Station

I’ve fond memories as a child of lost time spent doodling and colouring in colouring books. Colouring books were a regular feature in my family of origin. They’d find their way into bags and the back seats of cars on our way to church on Sundays and keep us children occupied as the hours of the church service clocked up and our energies waned.   Colouring blunted the boredom of the ranting church minister and I loved the focus and concentration that colouring offered and the resulting colour explosion was always delightful.

At an early age a certain kind of confidence emerged from taking a black and white illustration and becoming the curator and creator of its new colour makeover. Years later when I was mother to a young child colouring books became a staple play activity. As soon as her tiny fingers could hold a crayon and pencil securely my daughter learnt to colour. Aida would spend countless hours on our living room floor colouring away to her hearts content. And it was this same child some twenty something years later who handed me an exquisite colouring book at Christmas last year called, The Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt by Johanna Basford 

Secret_Garden

Turns out that Colouring books are back on the market aimed at adults in a big way. Remembering my own memories about colouring what I loved most was the simplicity surrounding the activity. It’s a relatively cost effective activity. It requires little instruction and no one telling you what colours to use whilst it gives the child or adult permission and freedom to pick and have their way with colours they personally want to work with.

There’s something grounding and calming about colouring inside the lines but also a certain wildness and liberation when we stray outside the lines. A positive colouring experience becomes an even more enjoyable activity once you have the right tools, which are minimum: a good, solid illustration to colour in and your pack of colouring pencils, crayons or felt tips.

JH Wheel_Of_Life_Tree_Badge_FINAL

In 2011 I used this concept of colouring to design a coaching template designed to measure your overall satisfaction with your work and personal life. The Wheel of Life Tree Audit uses colouring to rate your levels of satisfaction across core life and work areas and then set goals to extend and improve satisfaction in key areas. I designed an activity that would engage both the right and left brains, one that would provide a colour snapshot of your life through the lens of colour. You can download the Wheel Of Life template here or the Wheel of Life Tree Playbook & Life Audit here or find a copy in my book Be Your Own Best Life Coach

Research is now bringing to light the many benefits of colouring already known in the alternative medicine world of colour therapy. Colouring reduces stress, the activity conjures up an almost Zen like mindfulness and working with certain colours can be soothing and calming.

Colouring is kinesthetic, a creative activity that moves the body and ignites the intricate and exploratory nature of the creative mind. I like the slow, gradual build up colouring brings to the page or an illustration. I enjoy the repetitive rhythm and the gradual, slow release of energy

Personally I’m drawn to the primal nature of colouring. Before most children experiment and learn to draw, they colour. Colouring predates drawing and writing. I use colouring now as a form of stress release but also as a working meditation. In a recent blog post creativity coach Jamie Ridler wrote about the additional benefits she derives from colouring and being creative, “Don’t be surprised if a sudden moment of clarity arrives while you’re colouring, doodling or beading.”

Being a writer I sit using words all day so an activity like colouring gets me to use my hands in a different kind of way. It breaks up routine patterns and ways of thinking. It gives my mind and thoughts breathing space to go in new and different directions. It’s possible to generate hits of dopamine when colouring in the same way we get that initial surge when we land on Facebook or other forms of social media or reach for that bar of chocolate.

Have fun with colouring. Notice that colours generated onto the page can extend into colours you wear, colours you notice other people wear and becoming more aware and present to the colours alive and visible in your environment and in nature.

Crayons2

Crayons are my favourite colouring instruments and have a smooth, effortless like movement across the page. Pencils are great but require greater pressure and attending to so make sure you have a sharpener to hand. Also be aware that pencil colour can sometimes be faint and watery like and not as bold and robust as the colour tones of crayons.

There are many different ways to have fun with colouring. From colouring books, to collages to taking photo’s of scenes with similar colours and tones. Having a range of great colours to hand helps when colouring. Using one colour can be extremely gratifying and helps to order the mind. And it’s worth remembering that colouring just for the sake of it can be a worthwhile reward and satisfying way of passing time.

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The Wisdom Of Trees

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

Image_6

I love it when my schedule allows me to retreat for the day. Recently such an opportunity occurred and I found myself hanging out in one of my favourite, green spaces in London I love to escape to, Kew Gardens.

After treating to myself to a delicious lunch I wandered into a tree exhibition before deciding I’d had enough of walking the great stretch of land that makes up this huge green space and set myself down without much thought under the canopy of an enormous Cedar tree. I appreciate that Kew cherishes trees the way I and many others do and labels most of it’s tree stock with a small metal plaque with the trees name inscribed on it.

For the last twenty or so years I’ve developed a fascination for the stories, myths and legends about the trees we live and are surrounded by. So maybe it was not coincidence but more of an intuitive urge that drove me to sit and rest for a while under this particular tree. The last few months had been really busy and I was feeling emotionally and physically spent.

The Cedrus Atlantica towering above me was regarded as the world tree and in Greek mythology is home to the god of wisdom. Energetically the tree is associated with grounding and helping one to get rooted the very quality I was in desperate need of. And perhaps in that moment my own body wisdom knew what I needed and energetically what the tree would recharge me with.

The myths and legends and very often the spiritual and energetic associations of many of the trees you walk or drive past everyday may surprise you. Through my interest and research I have learnt so much about the way in which trees are not just botanical specimens that are both of necessity for the survival of the human race, but are some of our oldest living monuments as well as beautifiers of our environments. Just imagine for a moment a street without trees and you have a landscape that feels as if something significant is missing.

I grew up in a suburb of London (West Norwood) that was once covered by the great North Wood, a natural Oak forest that covered most of the area and raised ground starting four miles south of central London. The most common association with the Oak, one of the oldest and longest, living trees after the Yew tree, is the quality of ‘strength’. This is the tree whose trunk my back longs to lean against when I need to be replenished or to connect with my own source of courage.

Sanctuary

References to the Oak tree abound throughout the Bible and the Druids revered the Oak and honoured the sacred Oak grooves that once covered the land. Because of the deep roots of the Oak it is said to support with the well-being and healing of your feet. During one particular turbulent time in my life I sought out the daily company of a huge evergreen Oak tree in my local park. Her presence eased my pain and grief and watched over me as I nursed myself back to strength.

Most people will be familiar with the image of an overhanging Willow tree. The hanging, string like branches of the Willow tree is strongly associated with water and the flow of your emotions. Many Willow trees live on riverbanks and by water and hence it’s connection with tears and it’s ability to ease the pain of deep emotions. The Willow is considered as the poets muse because of the whisper like sound of its over-hanging leaves in the breeze.

Willow branches have a long cultural tradition of being used in funerals. Branches are placed in coffins and young plants, planted on graves. Across cultural traditions in Western Europe the Willow is regarded as a sacred tree. She is aligned with the moon and the tidal cycles. In North Western Europe the Willow was the tree wise women and healers turned to for it’s medicinal ability to ease rheumatism aggravated by damp conditions of the climate. And the Willow tree is considered to be the natural source of modern day aspirin.

I experience being in the company of trees as soothing and calming. I am comforted by the very existence of trees, one of the earth oldest living plant species. I love discovering new stories and legends about the trees we know and live with. If you want to learn more about the energetic characteristics of trees and how to be more closely connected with the trees in your neighbourhood there are plenty of great publications to turn to that make great summer reads.

Tree_Books_Small_File

One of my all time favourite books is Tree Wisdom and A Tree In Your Pocket by Jacqueline Memory Paterson. Other tree books in my collection I’d recommend include:

  • Meetings With Remarkable Trees and Remarkable Trees Of The World by Thomas Packenham
  • Ancient Trees by Edward Parker & Amanda Lewington
  • Bark: An Intimate Look At The World’s Trees by Cedric Pollet
  • Trees: The Balance & Life Of Nature by Pierre Lieutaghi
  • The Great Trees Of London by Time Out Magazine
  • The Secret Life Of Trees by Colin Tudge
  • Using The Wisdom Of Tree Oracle Card deck by Jane Struthers
  • Tree Affirmation Cards by Victoria Sofia Lewis
  • The Wisdom Of Trees by Max Adams

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Colour Your Life

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Melted Crayon Art (2)

I’ve fond memories as a child of lost time spent doodling and colouring in colouring books. Colouring book were a regular feature in my family of origin. They would find their way into bags and the back seats of cars on our way to church on Sundays and keep us children occupied as the hours of the church service clocked up and our energies waned.   Colouring blunted the boredom of the ranting church minister and I loved the focus and concentration that colouring offered and the resulting colour explosion was always delightful.

At an early age a certain kind of confidence emerged from taking a black and white illustration and becoming the curator and creator of its new colour makeover. Years later when I was mother to a young child colouring books became a staple play activity. As soon as her tiny fingers could hold a crayon and pencil securely my daughter learnt to colour. Aida would spend countless hours on our living room floor colouring away to her hearts content. And it was this same child some twenty something years later who handed me an exquisite colouring book at Christmas last year called, The Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt by Johanna Basford

Turns out that Colouring books are back on the market aimed at adults in a big way.

Secret_Garden

Remembering my own memories about colouring what I loved most was the simplicity surrounding the activity. It’s a relatively cost effective activity. It requires little instruction and no one telling you what colours to use whilst it gives the child or adult permission and freedom to pick and have their way with colours they personally want to work with.

There’s something grounding and calming about colouring inside the lines but also a certain wildness and liberation when we stray outside the lines. A positive colouring experience becomes an even more enjoyable activity once you have the right tools, which are minimum: a good, solid illustration to colour in and your pack of colouring pencils, crayons or felt tips.

In 2011 I used this concept of colouring to design a coaching template designed to measure your overall satisfaction with your work and personal life. The Wheel of Life Tree Audit uses colouring to rate your levels of satisfaction across core life and work areas and then set goals to extend and improve satisfaction in key areas. I designed an activity that would engage both the right and left brains, one that would provide a colour snapshot of your life through the lens of colour. You can download the Wheel Of Life template here  or the Wheel of Life Tree Playbook & Life Audit here or find a copy in my book Be Your Own Best Life Coach here

Research is now bringing to light the many benefits of colouring already known in the alternative medicine world of colour therapy. Colouring reduces stress, the activity conjures up an almost Zen like mindfulness and working with certain colours can be soothing and calming.

Colouring is kinesthetic, a creative activity that moves the body and ignites the intricate and exploratory nature of the creative mind. I like the slow, gradual build up colouring brings to the page or an illustration. I enjoy the repetitive rhythm and the gradual, slow release of energy

Personally I’m drawn to the primal nature of colouring. Before most children experiment and learn to draw, they colour. Colouring predates drawing and writing. I use colouring now as a form of stress release but also as a working meditation. In a recent blog post creativity coach Jamie Ridler wrote about the additional benefits she derives from colouring and being creative, “Don’t be surprised if a sudden moment of clarity arrives while you’re colouring, doodling or beading.”

Being a writer I sit using words all day so an activity like colouring gets me to use my hands in a different kind of way. It breaks up routine patterns and ways of thinking. It gives my mind and thoughts breathing space to go in new and different directions. It’s possible to generate hits of dopamine when colouring in the same way we get that initial surge when we land on Facebook or other forms of social media or reach for that bar of chocolate.

Have fun with colouring. Notice that colours generated onto the page can extend into colours you wear, colours you notice other people wear and becoming more aware and present to the colours alive and visible in your environment and in nature.

Crayons are my favourite colouring instruments and have a smooth, effortless like movement across the page. Pencils are great but require greater pressure and attending to so make sure you have a sharpener to hand. Also be aware that pencil colour can sometimes be faint and watery like and not as bold and robust as the colour tones of crayons.

There are many different ways to have fun with colouring. From colouring books, to collages to taking photo’s of scenes with similar colours and tones. Having a range of great colours to hand helps when colouring. Using one colour can be extremely gratifying and helps to order the mind. And it’s worth remembering that colouring just for the sake of it can be a worthwhile reward and satisfying way of passing time.

No Comments

Write Yourself Back To Life – Guest Blog Post

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Foluke Taylor attended our Greece Writer’s retreat in June 2015 and took up the offer to share her experience here on the blog. It’s timely given what’s going on in Greece right now to recall the wonderful experience we had nestled into the mountainside of the great Mount Pelion for a whole week focused on our writing.

Foluke’s transformation during the week was like watching the eruption of Mount Pelion, she gave herself wholeheartedly over to her writing. Read her story in this week’s guest blog post.

Foluke_Salad

Before I arrive at the writer’s retreat on Mount Pelion I think a lot about sun and sea and about how, once the morning workshops are over, I’m going to relax. I know it’s primarily a writing workshop but I refuse to feel guilty that writing isn’t at the top of my list. It’s been a tough year and I’ve survived. I deserve relaxation and that’s what I’m going to have. Once I’ve booked the trip, I develop a mantra to carry me through the weeks of waiting – Sun, sea, sleep. Sun, sea, sleep.

As the date gets nearer a handwritten card arrives from Jackee, the workshop leader. It’s decorated with butterflies. She asks me to let her know what I want from the retreat and to identify my specific writing goals. I send back my mantra (sun, sea, sleep) and because I don’t want her to think that I’m not taking this seriously, I add that I’d also be happy to write something as well. I’m careful not to say exactly what that something might be.

I give myself a pat on the back for managing expectations – for snapping some reins on those butterflies before they can get carried away. I sound cynical but know that in truth I’m just being realistic. Anyone expecting transformation in this situation is simply headed for disappointment. Transformation and disappointment are both on a long list of things that I’m way too tired for.

A few days prior to departure Jackee emails with last minute instructions and to suggest some writing practice in preparation for the retreat. My preparation involves throwing a bathing suit, sunglasses, flip flops and a couple of holiday reads into my suitcase and shaving my legs. I have my laptop with me, as a writer should, but inside I know that this is more about Netflix than anything else. I’ve yet to watch the new season of House of Cards. It’s not until I hit the departure lounge at Gatwick that I decide to pop into WH Smith and buy a notebook and pens.

Twenty four hours later and here I am, on the afternoon of day one, floating in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea, gazing up at the mountain, soaking up the sunshine as planned. Suddenly I’m not tired anymore and I can think and all I can think about is writing. The first morning workshop has left me buzzing with ideas – what I want to write, what I need to write, how excited I am about writing it and when exactly I can get started. I feel like I need to start now.

So, that dip in the water ended up being my first and last, not because it wasn’t divine – it was, totally – but because another road to recovery had opened up before me. A road called writing myself back to life.

Each morning we’d wake up to birdsong, stunning views and a nourishing al fresco breakfast. Afterwards we’d come together in our writing circle and find that Jackee – the writer’s Mary Poppins – had pulled yet more, lovingly prepared materials and thoughtful activities from her bag. Our writerly selves received stimulation, nourishment and support in abundance. Where I’d imagined that I would be reluctant to ‘work’ and craving time on the beach, I found in fact that I relished the spaces to write, reflect and share. More importantly I found that, far from adding to my weariness, the process of writing energised me until I hardly recognised myself.

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I wrote more in those six days than I had in the whole of the previous year and was especially delighted (and surprised) by what I was able to produce in the 24-hour period of the retreat during which we remained in silence.

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I feel very blessed to have been a part of this retreat and I’m thrilled to be able to say that I’ve made significant progress with a writing project that had been stalled for some time. It’s part of this project that I would like to share here (thanks for the invitation Jackee) in a short story/chapter titled ‘The Stain’ you will find over at my blog here https://foluketaylor.wordpress.com/short-stories/the-stain/

The writer’s retreat dates set for 2016 ( June 3rd –June 10th 2016), are already ear marked in my diary. Thank you Jackee for channelling your experience, industry, humour and wisdom into such a wonderful week. I would recommend the retreat to anyone (and everyone), but a particular shout out to people who write or who think about writing or who like me, are sometimes too tired to think or write. I’d just like to add, in case you’re wondering, that the sunshine was also glorious.

Foluke Taylor is an Independent Social worker Counsellor/Psychotherapist BACP Accredited, DipSW and prolific writer who you’ll be hearing more from in the coming months.

Email foluketaylor@me.com

Contact: UK 07450 051 155

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The Value Of Journaling When Facing A Difficult Conversation

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

firewell_Book_Cover

Fire Well: How To Fire Staff So They Thank You For It, is a new book published today by Sue Ingram. I’ve had the pleasure over the years of working with Sue in our respective roles as coaches and coach trainers.

Sue was one of my first coaches here in the UK and since then has gone on to carve out a niche in supporting and inspiring teams with sustainable tools and techniques which help in making those difficult conversations easier.

Sue has written this week’s guest blog post answering a question I posed to her about sharing with us how a journal can help with having those difficult conversations in the first place.

I’m just heading off to Sue’s book launch this evening for the new book Fire Well: How To Fire Staff Well So They Thank You published by ReThink Press which shows how difficult conversations can be easy, straightforward and generous to complete. So I’m looking forward to having an actual print copy in my hand.

In the meantime why not have a read of what Sue has to say about how journaling can make the process of having those difficult conversations easier.

Difficult conversations are tough, be that at work, at home or in our friendships. And the name does help; difficult conversations. It sets the expectation that this conversation is going to be difficult to complete and difficult to gain a positive outcome.

However, I believe they’re not difficult. Sure, they take time to plan and you need to take care in delivery, but actually they’re essential conversations to hold for the health of our relationships, self-esteem and very soul.

They’re also generous conversations to give to others as often people are in the dark about the difficulties they are contributing to and certainly cannot change and improve without someone caring enough to hold the conversation with them. You could change their life for the better in many ways. And journaling is a very valuable tool to help us say what needs to be said.

For a start, if you journal every day you can look back over your entries and notice whether a relationship is in trouble. Is there a pattern of you feeling negative and irritated whenever you meet them? Are you repeating yourself about difficulties you’re experiencing? This is a strong sign that, although no big, isolated incident has occurred, there’s something significantly wrong that needs addressing.

The next is the value of writing out exactly how you feel about the situation and the person. No-one else will read this piece so you can be very open, free and explicit in what your actual feelings are. In fact it is very important that you are. Your writing may include swear words, accusations and some very hard things that you would never directly say to any person. But it is extremely beneficial to express all of these emotions out in the safe space of your journal. From your explosion of writing you will gain three things.

  • One calmness and a distance to be able to assess the situation from the outside looking in, you may learn something new or be able to join dots together.
  • The second is the essential truth that needs to be communicated, just put in better and more polite language.
  • And the third is a one sentence statement that sums up how you truthfully feel regarding the situation. People can dispute facts and interpretations but they can not dispute how you feel. Also if you introduce feelings into a conversation it allows the other party to share how they might be feeling which could start to explain a lot of things.

For the best chance of a positive outcome from such a conversation it is important be calm and objective throughout. And journaling will help you maintain this grounded state, continue to reflect upon your feelings, the message you want to communicate and, lastly, the most important of all, the outcome you are wanting to achieve.

For the best chances of success this should to be a positive win-win outcome for you both, even it if is to end the relationship as amicably as possible. Define this and hold this in your mind throughout the conversation and your chances of achieving such an outcome are greatly increased.

Sue_Ingram

Sue Ingram has spent over 27 years working in HR and related fields. In 2000 she became one of the UK’s first Executive Coaches; she is an Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University where her workshop forms part of their International MBA program.

Her workshop, How to Fire Staff so They Thank You has been delivered to over a 1000 managers in the both the private and public sectors. Her company Converse Well was created in 2010 in order to train and support managers in managing their difficult staff.

Sue Ingram

www.conversewell.com

sue@conversewell.com

+44 (0)7734 944515

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What Could Have Saved Amy?

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

Amy_Winehouse

Earlier this week I attended a premier showing of the new Amy Winehouse film. I had no idea of what to expect and found the film tragic and yet a moving portrayal of Amy’s short life and the bitter sweet fame and success she did not live to enjoy. What we saw on camera was Amy in both her beauty and the ravages of inner turmoil.

The film leaves you with no doubt of Amy’s talent and gift as a singer and songwriter. But the roots of her unresolved childhood wounds leave her damaged and troubled.  The issues around her mental health are eluded to have taken root in childhood with the viewer learning that she was on anti-depressants from a young age.

There is no doubt that emotionally and psychologically Amy did not get the right kind of emotional and psychological support she desperately needed as her career and fame kicked in. In Amy’s case what appears to be the root cause of the pain she carries seems to have been triggered by her father’s departure from the family as a result of an affair. She becomes a rebellious, strong willed young woman who gives her mother a hard time and goes onto to have Daddy issues throughout the rest of her life.

Amy makes poor choices with the men she has relationships with echoing signs of low self-esteem, co-dependency, unresolved issues with her father and her own deep trauma.  Amy is very much the tortured but gifted artist. It is hard not to love and like this fragile, vulnerable and troubled young woman. It’s all there. The emotional fractures she carries are filled with increasing amounts of drugs and alcohol.

What becomes evident throughout the film is that Amy is not dealing with her pain she is holding it off.  Watching the film I remembered something I had read where the US writer Anne Lamott http://www.salon.com/writer/anne_lamott/ gives advice to a writer who was physically abused by his mother as a child. The man is still carrying the wounds of having his hands burnt on the stove as a child by his mother. He asks Lamott how can he forgive his mother who is now a frail old woman. Lammott replies, ‘Use it she tells him.’ ‘She’s old though,’ he says, ‘Her life has not been a happy one.’

Lamott advises him to write about the experience but to change the family, change where they lived, change everything except the truth of the experience that when the little boy was naughty the mother held his hand to the flame. I can’t help but think if only Amy had been able to channel her pain differently?

It’s hard to believe that her father Mitch convinced his daughter in the early days not to go into rehab. She sings about this decision here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUmZp8pR1uc Perhaps had she gone there in the early days of her growing fame we may have witnessed a different ending. I left watching the documentary feeling ambivalence about her father’s intention and how blind we can be to both our own pain and the pain of our loved ones.

I came away with deep respect and reverence for Winehouse’s song lyrics. This to me was the one place Amy attempted to begin the healing process. When signing her first record deal she tells her manager that she doesn’t write songs, she writes poems. It’s obvious that her song lyrics are deeply personal narratives charting her life experiences, the losses and the betrayals and I can’t help think if only someone had said to Amy, “Here, go on, use this journal to write it all out, the wounds, the warts and the wonders belong to the page.”  Based on research that shows how keeping a journal can reduce stress, strengthen your immune system and improve moods and physical health and well-being.

Of course there might be complications for someone as famous as Winehouse keeping those words private and safe from those who surrounded her. Some of those around her may well have seized the opportunity to sell her journals to the press? And her depression may well have been too deep for words to penetrate and make a lasting impression. Who knows but nonetheless less I can’t help feel that keeping a journal would have been a good thing in the trajectory of a young life going rapidly downhill.

Young girls model themselves on artists like Winehouse and perhaps there’s still hope as recent USA market research found that 83 per cent of young women still keep a diary compared with 69 per cent in the 1990’s. The issue of mental health is a growing concern globally and here in the UK the cost of the UK society of mental health problems has been estimated at 98 million a year, greater than that of crime writes Ed Halliwell in the Be Mindful Report commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation.

I like many others ask the question whether taking drugs and alcohol halted Amy’s chances of healing? I think I know the answer. I like what Jane Fonda had to say in her Ted Talk, Life’s Third Act https://www.ted.com/talks/jane_fonda_life_s_third_act

“It’s not having experiences that make us wise, it’s reflecting on the experiences that we’ve had that make us wise. That helps us become whole, brings wisdom and authenticity. It helps us become what we might have been.”

Reading those lines and thinking about the film made me realise Amy really could have done with an older, wiser mentor who had the foresight to see into the bleakness of what she was really going through. Had she gone into rehab and committed to the difficult inner work of healing her demons she would have had a sponsor and counsellors who would have been on her side. There was a huge sense that this was a young girl left to cope emotionally on her own.

But when it comes to what would have helped Amy the answers are more complex and debatable. Perhaps the words of Graham Greene offer further food for thought who said, “Writing is a form of therapy. Sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in human condition.”

After all Amy Winehouse is not the first famous artist to suffer at the ravages of mental health, alcohol and drugs, think Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin who were both the same age as Winehouse when they died. Her death was a tragedy and perhaps despite the complexity of mental health her life could have been saved for many more years to come.

The tag line for my work around journaling and therapeutic writing goes like this, Writing Changes Lives and Lives Are Changed By Writing. I know from personal experience that journaling has helped saved me big time from giving into the clutches of depression on a deeper scale. Whilst it has not saved me outright it has been a personal therapeutic activity I can use on a regular basis to self regulate my emotions and feelings.

If you have things on your mind or are finding life difficult to cope with reach out to many of the mental health organisations that exist in every area, speak to your doctor or a trusted family member or friend. And if your mental health issue is not too debilitating try keeping a journal.

You can download my free Journal Journey guidebook when you sign up on our free resources page on the website http://www.jackeeholder.com/sign-up/ It includes over seventy journal prompts and suggestions for what to write about in your journal. If you know someone experiencing mental health issues please feel free to share the free guide with them.

I’ll leave you with these final words from author and writer Laraine Herring from her book, Writing Begins With The Breath, “The writing outlasts jobs, partners and pets. The writing itself is the continuum of our lives.” http://laraineherring.com/writing-begins-with-the-breath/

Click here to watch Amy singing the haunting song, Love is a losing game https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMO5Ko_77Hk

 

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Borough Market Photo Essay

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Look_Up_Borough_Market

On my way into work this morning I wandered around the largely deserted cobbled streets around Borough Market at London Bridge.

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Dried_Peppers

I enjoyed pausing and clicking away on my iphone capturing colours and images offset through the huge net of my sensory imagination.

I see these early morning wanderings often placed at the start of a crowded day as my own kind of creative meditation. After all there are as many different ways to meditate as there are to tell a story.

Building creative encounters into my day has a number of benefits, all productive and useful.

  • It clears my head.
  • It’s calming and relaxing.
  • Without even realizing it my stress lowers as does anxiety and worry.
  • For around forty minutes I got lost in London city delighting in its architecture and all that it offered and gave myself breathing space.

Slowing down impacts on the quality of your thinking. These last few months have been very stressful, more than I care to admit. Taking time out in my day allows me to really see and take in my surroundings. It stimulates and ignites other creative portals. And again almost as a by-product this clear sight translates into other areas of life and work and allows you to see more clearly in those areas too.

This was the first image that captured my attention as I entered the market hall a blackboard posing this question … Before I die I want to …

This is a question well worth taking to your journal. I’d love to know what your answer to the question would be?

Before_I_Die

What follows is a series of organically snapped images taken as I wandered looking for an early morning quiet spot to write in.

I didn’t find a quiet spot, that seems to be like gold dust here in the city but I did manage to get a bit of quiet headspace before the morning commuters clogged the air space.

Umbrellas

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Door

Feeding myself creatively in this way sets up my day in the best possible way. Things get done because of giving myself this time in this way.

If you would like to experience a spot of what it feels like to be a Slow Creative in the city come and join me and photographer Sarah Hickson http://www.nowliveevents.org/sarah-hickson/ at the Slow Creative workshop part of the Switch On Now Festival at Deptford Lounge a @nowliveevents on Wednesday 8th July 4pm-6pm.

To find out more about the Slow Creative workshop and to book click here (£6 full price/£4 Concessions/Deptford Residents £3): http://www.nowliveevents.org/deptford-lounge-2015/

Tweet #Creativity #SwitchonNOW @Deptford Lounge @nowliveevents

London_Bridge

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