The void was vast. A space that stealthily crept in and compressed me with its weight. Heavy and bleak like the winter around me, I felt empty and lost. What should I do? My inner compass spun around furiously with no north to anchor it. My normal reference points had vanished, there was nothing but space.
As my mind raced with ways to fill the void, I heard my heart’s guidance whispering gently to stay with the space. The discomfort ran deep. I did nothing, sitting at home for days wondering what the hell it was all about. No answers came. Fear fancied filling the void; rushing in regardless of the time of day, an unwelcome visitor.
I resisted, desperately wanting to fill the void, surely something, anything, was better than this nothing. Yet life demanded nothing. Continued to create space. Inviting me to step into the void…
I’ve been up my fair share of one-way streets and blind alleys, but what I’ve come to learn is there is another, often wiser part of me I can trust. A part of me that can sometimes be a faint whisper, barely heard over the chatter of my busy mind. A sudden rush of feelings that I put down to nerves. A part of me that I often override, deeming it to be ridiculous, nonsensical, irrelevant or unimportant.
The act of slowing down and reconnecting to what our heart wants and where life is leading us is a transforming experience – if we have the courage to stop, breathe and reflect inward. Yet our minds like to rush to the answers. Preferring certainty over uncertainty, knowing over not knowing, and plans over ambiguity. This rush for the answers can leave us missing the question. We suffocate the space.
Yet the questions are the whisper of your soul. What is the big question that most wants to be answered right now, but has been pushed away by the busyness and distractions of your life? It’s longing for your attention, and as you allow yourself to slow down, and as the noise subsides, the whispers inside can be heard. It’s time now to let them surface.
There’s nothing you can get wrong here: after all, many a great discovery began with a “don’t know”. You can trust yourself. Let the question unravel. Ask yourself, “What would I most like to know right now? What needs my attention at this time?” Sit for a while and feel your breath as it connects you back to your body. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it, since you breathed fully? Let yourself feel the cool air entering your body. Feel it moving through you, letting your tummy expand. Track the breath as it leaves your body, gently exhaling as if you’re blowing out a candle.
Pause isn’t about finding quick answers, but about slowing down enough so you can start asking the right questions.
The answers are usually simple. It’s the questions that are hard to hear.
There is a part of me that remembers the wisdom of the land and yearns to be connected to nature. When I lived in Singapore I became starved of this earthy truth. Several years of weekly country hopping across Asia, where airport lounges became my second soulless home, I eventually became sick, denied it, and got spectacularly sick.
The Japanese symbols for being extremely busy are ‘heart’ and ‘killer’.
In an artificial environment my heart had been deprived of nature. Being beyond busy left me disconnected from my self, and the world around me, I desperately needed to dig my hands deep into the earth.
When I finally surrendered and took one more flight, I returned to a farm in Cornwall that had been a sanctuary for me in the past; back to a land that was as raw as I was. A land where trees stood vulnerable in their nakedness, where plains flooded and rivers swelled from the sky’s tears, a land where powerful stags roamed and swallows took their flight.
As time healed, I chose a slower, more conscious pace of life. It’s not always easy, there’s so much to tantalise and tease me back to busyness, and then I remember, if I fail to Pause, then life will do it for me.
Sometimes, when people I coach are feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed I speak about giving it all back to nature. But what does that really mean, and how do you do it?
For me, it’s about re-connecting to yourself through nature, and letting her absorb the feelings from your body.
Some simple ways to do this are:
Sink into the earth: either lay down on the grass or walk barefoot in the morning dew.
Let the water soothe you: sit by a river without your smartphone or swim in the ocean.
Lose yourself amongst the stars: take a blanket or build a fire and star gaze into the night.
Rest with a tree: plant yourself at the base of a tree and let the trunk support you, feel the depth of the roots beneath you.
Savour a sunset: slow down, stop what you are doing and watch the beauty of the sky changing colour.
Connect to nature and come home to yourself…
If you want to connect more deeply to nature and come home to yourself, join me for the Wild Pause weekend retreat this summer. There are a few places left, for all the details just click here.
The beautiful, paradoxical Taoist phrase: “Wu Wei” roughly translates to “the action of non action”.
I was exploring this with a client recently, when she said to me:
“There’s not enough time for life, there’s so much I want to do, but there just never seems to be enough time”.
I nodded knowingly. I hear this more and more with my clients these days.
So much to do, so little time.
Our lives have become filled to the brim. We track every precious minute, moving at break neck speed never slowing down. It’s relentless and feels exhausting just thinking about it. Never a moment to pause, to savour a sunset, to walk bare feet in the grass or just sit and do nothing.
Born from Wu Wei, the simplest yet most profound piece of advice I have received so far in life has been, “do nothing.”
I was lamenting to a wise teacher about not knowing what to do next in life, and she asked, “Why do you need to do anything?
This stopped me dead in my tracks, as was intended. “Do nothing?” I gasped in horror, “but, but, but” my mind was eagerly filling in the blanks, realizing that the game might be up.
That the constant driving it does – sometimes out of necessity and sometimes just as sport might be usurped by – well, nothing. How demeaning to the ego, to be replaced by… nothing.
My mind twisted and turned, trying as it might to find any proof that this theory could be proved or disproved – none came and so it was I was left with a choice to do something or nothing.
At the time the second option seemed radical to my untrained mind, fool hardy even. However I remain ever curious, and at times of dis-ease, uncertainty, challenge and fear I often made the choice to do nothing.
Over time it got me thinking, what if nothing wasn’t really nothing? What if it were something? Something far greater than our minds can fully comprehend, something untouchable, invisible, yet powerful – a force.
What if when we do nothing it is indeed something; a space created to allow life to work its delicate, intricate, beautiful and often-magical way. What if to do nothing was really the way that nature intended our souls and hearts to flourish rather than our minds insistence on the relentless something – stay busy, keep doing, strive, achieve – sleep repeat, don’t miss a beat…
I’m reminded of a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat, Pray, Love where her nemesis Richard says to her:
“Sit quietly for now and cease your relentless participation. Watch what happens. The birds do not crash dead out of the sky in mid flight after all. The trees do not wither and die; the rivers do not run red with blood. Life continues to go on.”
Maybe the something I was doing wasn’t that important after all.
Do you find your diary is crammed from the moment you start work? Perhaps you’re already checking emails over breakfast while you’re getting the kids off to school or squeezing in calls on your commute to the office. Being constantly switched on like this can wreak havoc with your stress levels and before you know it you’re on a road to burn out.
But Burnout isn’t just for high flying, over achievers. Anyone can experience the mental, physical and emotional symptoms of burnout that develop over time when you’re exposed to constant stress. When you’re super busy and feeling anxious all of the time, you can end up trying to firefight your way through days. Your stress levels keep rising, everything seems urgent, simple tasks feel impossible to achieve and you can quickly think you’re failing at life.
It’s like your system jams, and you can’t find your flow. Like your smartphone you’re not designed to be ‘always on’. You need time to press pause, so you can reboot your system otherwise eventually the system (you!) crashes. But how do you know you’re on the brink of burnout?
Here are 10 warning signs you’re heading for burnout.
You have severe exhaustion and feel tired all the time
Even though you’re exhausted it is hard to go to sleep at night
Simple day to day tasks feel overwhelming and complicated
Your brain feels fuzzy, you become forgetful and find it hard to recall details
You feel excessively emotional, crying or angry for no obvious reason
You are excessively busy and can’t turn off
Your usual zest for life has long disappeared
You’ve lost sight of what matters to you
It feels difficult to even manage your daily self care basics
You have a low tolerance for other people and don’t want to be around others
Along with these warning signs, there are also physical symptoms to watch out for, including:
Changes in appetite or weight
Changes in sleep patterns
Frequent coughs and colds
Anxiety or depression
Headaches and stomach aches
If you experience these symptoms, you should discuss them with your preferred health practitioner. But there are ways to minimise this risk. You may often hear people talk about ‘living in the moment’. No, it’s not all about meditation or hippy-like activities. Simply put, being in the moment is just you taking a few seconds or minutes to recognise what’s happening at that exact time so that you can reduce your anxiety and stress levels.
If you’re unsure of how to be ‘in the moment’, then add your details below to receive your free guide to pause and de-stress.
Are you ready to expand your capacity to work with people?
As a practitioner of people, either a people leader in business, a coach or facilitator, you know the importance of constantly evolving your own personal development. You’ve already dived deep into your personal development, and yet you know there’s more…
You know that there are realms you haven’t yet touched in your work. Places you could go that sometimes feel just beyond your grasp. A way of being with another person that doesn’t require you to try too hard, or to know all of the answers. A ways of being with another that allows them to grow and develop at their own pace in their own time.
We know that as an experienced people practitioner, you already have the skills and tools you need (even if you think you need more!), so at this weekend retreat we offer you a unique learning experience designed to grow your capacity to work with people, rather than giving you more tools and skills.
This is not a regular retreat. If horizontal learning is about tools and skills, then this a vertical learning experience, focussed on expanding your awareness, connection and capacity. We assume you naturally have the skills you need to be alongside another person, such as listening and empathy. We build on what you already naturally have, using different modalities that touch mind, body and spirit.
It is advanced work, for those who want to advance their practice. You’ll know if you’re ready because you will feel a mix of excitement in your belly and a healthy degree of anticipation for the adventure into the unknown.
Here are some of the modalities we use during the weekend retreat:
Harthill’sLeadership Development Frameworkis used to explore coaching from the mind perspective. Giving you clarity on your own personal development journey, and enabling you to understand where others may be in their journey and how you respond to this in your work with others.
Breathwork and drumming are introduced to allow you a space to explore the power of transformation and change beyond the mind and through the body.
Qi Gong and meditation are practiced during the retreat to enable you to connect more fully to energy and the greater forces around you.
If you would like to expand your capacity, join me on 6th– 8th September 2019.
We check our phones an average of 221 times a day, we have apps that help us sleep and remind us to be mindful while we secretly measure our success in ‘likes’. Time is our luxury and yet with technology we are never able to leave the office, even when we aren’t there. The fear of missing out makes us rush from one thing to the next, not really taking any of it in.
If you feel addicted to you smartphone, you might want to consider building in mini tech breaks. Tech breaks can work well at the weekends, you don’t have to do a full digital detox for the entire weekend (but you might want to experiment with that some time!) You can choose how long you want your tech break to be, an hour is often a good starting point.
First of all turn your smartphone (and any other devices!) off and pop it in the drawer. You might feel a bit nervous about this at first, but go with it. Then find a place to sit. Choose somewhere that you like, a place that feels peaceful and calm to you. This is going to become your spot that you can return to again and again. It might be a quiet place in your home, in the garden, a tree at your local park, near some water, a woodland, or prehaps an art gallery or museum – whatever you feel drawn to.
The key is to turn off your smartphone and leave it in a draw at home! Don’t be tempted to have it with you.
Now go to your spot and sit quietly. This is not specifically a meditation but it might feel like it, and if you do meditate you can practice that now. Otherwise, you can either simply sit and breathe, or if you want to you can gently consider a question, letting the question rise up, but holding it lightly at the same time.
If your body feels agitated or itchy sitting still, breathe more deeply. If your mind is busy just let it be, it’s not meant to be still and silent for this experience.
Breathe. Breathe a little more deeply and breathe again.
All is well…
More simple tips to turn off and tune in, can be found in my book Pause published by Aster
Above the constant hum of circling city traffic, the Singapore sky was bright and cloudless. Humidity clung heavily in the air leaving a damp sheen on my skin, and as the day dawned, so did the realisation that I was not superwoman after all. After almost two decades of trying to be all things to all people, my body had finally collapsed.
I had been living in Singapore as a UK expat for a number of years, running a business I loved. On this particular day I wasn’t to know it was sunny outside, because I woke to discover that I was cemented to my mattress, unable to get up or physically move. At 34, I should have been in the prime of my life instead my body was battered and burned out from working hard, and playing even harder. My tank was totally empty, and if I was going to make it to 40, it was clearly time for a rethink.
On the edge of the ledge
As a coach, I’m naturally someone who gives a lot, being caring comes with the territory, however after 15 years of working with people I now know it’s not just the nature of my profession, it is also often a trait of being a woman. The tendency to try to make sure everyone around you is happy, silently shouldering heavy burdens, sacrificing yourself for others, staying when it is time to leave, giving up on dreams and feeling guilty about not hitting the mark, eventually leaves you feeling like a crazy woman standing on the edge of the ledge.
When this happens, it is easy to think that your experience is isolated, after all everybody else seems to be getting on with it don’t they? Layers of protection begin to build up over the suffocating self-doubt and gnawing anxiety. From the outside it appears as self-assuredness, confidence, and strength, however appearances are deceiving, and rather than feeling confident, many woman feel like they are crumbling inside and crave a return to normality and to simply feel happy again.
The blessings of burnout
My own experience of physical and emotional burn out eventually became a blessing, and I discovered some important lessons
Pushing less creates more
How I feel on the inside, affects how I am on the outside
Self-care is not selfish, it is a necessity
The more I take care of my needs, I more I can give to others
It took two years to fully recover; and during that time I completely overhauled my life. I left Singapore, returned to the UK and founded the Pause Retreats, creating a safe place people can turn to when life becomes overwhelming. Later I wrote Pause, a guided retreat in a book for anyone unable to physically attend a retreat.
Building emotional strength
If it feels like you are treading water at the moment, here are some practical ways you can rebuild your emotional strength. You don’t need to tackle them all (in fact I wouldn’t recommend that!), just select one or two that feel useful to you at this time:
Consider what your needs are and take care of them first
If you are overwhelmed, start with the fundamentals, food and rest at first
Create white space, small amounts of time each week with nothing booked in
Connect with nature and turn off your smartphone while you are there
Share how you feel rather than push your feelings away
Reflect on the question that needs your attention right now
Do what is best for you even if it means being different
Find someone you trust who you can talk to and who will listen to you
Practise saying no, even when it is difficult
Create a simple daily ritual that is meaningful to you
Peer Coaching is back again for 2019, but what is Peer Coaching all about?
Peer Coaching is a regular practice-group led by a team of experienced coaches to help you share expertise, learn from others, get ‘unstuck’ in challenging coaching situations and continually hone your skills.
It is different to buddy coaching, where coaches coach one another. Instead, Peer Coachinginvolves following a facilitated process where a Case Holder presents a current or recent coaching case, and the Peer Coaches provide different perspectives through questioning but not advising.
When and where is Peer Group Coaching held?
Peer Coaching is usually held on the 2nd Thursday of each month from 10.00am to 11.00am UK.
Click here if you would like to join Peer Coaching, you only need to register once for the year.
Don’t worry if you can’t attend all of the dates, or if the time doesn’t suit your location, you will receive the call recording if you can’t make it.
Who leads Peer Group Coaching?
These sessions are led by myself and a core team of experienced coaches and facilitators including Sarah Madisson, Liz Stewart, Vix Anderton, Anu Shroff and Siobhan Gannon.
Remember to register here. We look forward to seeing you on the calls!
There is a moment that happens in coaching when everything seems to stand still. A moment in the process when the light in a client’s eyes changes. An awakening, a realisation, a deep knowing. I often feel it with a chill running through my body. I call it the chill of truth. It’s not my truth, but theirs. The truth they needed to find, even though they didn’t know they needed to. There nonetheless.
These moments are often, but not always, preceded by a question. When I coach I never have preprepared questions, instead, I find the questions intuitively emerge inside of me as I listen deeply not just with my ears but my whole body and heart as well. Some questions catch me quite by surprise!
Recently I have been listening more to those questions so I can share them with you.
Here are some I heard:
What do you already know, that you wish you didn’t?
If you knew, how long has it been this way?
What is happening in your body right now?
What don’t you want me to know?
What do you want?
How are you feeling in this moment?
What else is happening?
What more do you know?
In light of this, what happens now?
If that… then?…
It’s this way because?…
What’s missing for you right now?
I don’t recommend you try and learn these questions, instead, practice letting yourself be guided in the moment. Usually, it is the simplest questions, coming from a genuine place of interest that makes the most powerful impact.
Do you ever find yourself dropping something you wanted to do, heading off to do something else more exciting instead; only to find when you get there the allure of the tantalising new offer didn’t meet up to your hopes and expectations?
Or perhaps you find yourself keeping multiple options open, only to realise at the last minute you’ve spread yourself too thinly, or feel so overwhelmed you make no plans at all. Perhaps you simply don’t know what you want to do and follow the crowd everywhere they go for fear of missing out.
FOMO or fear of missing out can strike anyone at any time, but social media often exacerbates it. Those glimpses into other people’s lives online spark a fear inside, a concern that your life should be more glamorous, exciting, adventurous and fun than it actually is, a worry that everyone else is happier, wealthier and more contented than you…
However this isn’t exclusive to the realms of the social stalker. I hear it with my clients as well. Entrepreneurs who attend every course fearful of missing out on the next big idea, killer deal or crucial contact. Parents with kids who are so busy from stacked schedules they’re burning out before they finish school. Highflying corporate clients who think they haven’t gone far enough in their careers to stand out from the crowd, and worry they will be passed over for promotion.
On the surface, FOMO looks like it’s about missing out on something we desire. Wilder parties, an all-important training, a better event with more connected people, the golden bullet that will set you free, or something or someone who will propel us to greater things.
However, from my work in this area, I see the fear is rarely what it seems…
What’s really behind the fear of missing out?
FOMO is really a question of place. Anxiety caused by believing you’re not in the right place. Not being able to trust that where you are at any given time is right for you. When I’m coaching, I regularly see five roots that drive this anxiety:
A belief, often deeply hidden that something is lacking or missing inside of us. A fear that we’re not whole or complete and that we need the missing link – more confidence, more strength, more vulnerability, more authenticity, more power, more kindness the list goes on. We think that by attending the conference, dinner party or concert we’ll fill the gap. Of course, this rarely works for two reasons. One the gap may not actually exist, and two if you want to rebuild internally you have to do it from the inside out, not the outside in.
A lack of trust in who we are, or the world we live in, will quickly scatter us. When we feel scattered we start searching for something stable outside of us to hold onto. An anchor of certainty, in a sea of ambiguity. We look to people around us to provide this, hoping their idea, their vision, or their courage will stabilise us. The challenge with this is that the outside world will also be uncertain and we cannot control the uncontrollable.
A lack of grounding can also leave us feeling unstable. Like a tree with no roots being blown in the wind, we will be at the mercy of outside elements. When we’re not fully anchored in who we are, or what we want to create, FOMO is a diversion that leads us away from the sometimes tricky path of our true calling. The truth is deep down we are always seeking to be on our true path, and any diversion ultimately leaves us feeling lost and dissatisfied.
Without our own vision to guide us, the fire of desire is extinguished. We need the tension that sits in the space between where we are, and where we want to be to propel us forwards. When it’s missing we latch onto other people’s dreams and ambitions or the shiny ‘life saving’ training programmes so often dangled in front of us. The reality is these are only ever quick fixes that leave us having to keep going around the same cycle time and time again.
A fear of our own power can lead us to play small, following other people’s bright ideas, advice, and recommendations rather than stepping into our own brilliance. In this place, we are easily led astray. Sadly each time we move out of our own power we cheat on ourselves and those we are truly meant to serve.
How do you tackle FOMO?
Well it’s interesting, but the simplest way to work on your FOMO is to flip the five points around – here’s how:
OK so it sounds cheesy to say, “believe in yourself” but this practice is actually key to losing the grip of FOMO. It requires us to really live and breathe our true essence. For instance to be confident enough to know that you’re not just the class clown, but you’re actually truly funny or to be OK if you’re not ‘mainstream’ but you’re adding value to the world by being different. To boldly be ourselves in each interaction knowing it enhances not diminishes those around us when we do.
In this context, this is less about trusting other people, and more about trusting yourself and the world around you. To be able to tune into your intuition and let it guide you. To make a move and then watch how life responds – does it give you more of what you love or create a shit storm for you to clean up? Learn to read the subtleties of the signs of your life and trust yourself to follow what works and recalibrate what doesn’t.
Get rooted in who you are and what you stand for. Be clear on your values, your guiding principles. Know what makes you tick, what you want from life as you know it now, how do you want to live, how you want to feel. It’s going to make every decision you make much simpler. Promise.
Have a plan and hold it lightly. Know what you want and feel the discomfort of not being there yet. Be OK with the ambiguity of not knowing, and then take a step. Dance, experiment and see how life responds to your desires. Don’t worry if things don’t seem to work. You’re not doing anything wrong, you’re learning.
When you’re grounded in who you are, your essence, you instantly become more powerful. Not in a hierarchical sense because grounding is a great leveler, but you will emanate a personal power. It’s attractive and alluring because you shine more brightly from this place. People will be drawn to you.
In fact from this space, you are unlikely to experience FOMO, because now you’re living your life just the way you’re meant to for you. And that was the thing you were always most scared of missing out on.