To lead or to follow?

As you dance through life are you aware of whether you tend to lead or follow? What’s the distinction for you? How do you know you are leading or following? How does it feel?

Yesterday I danced 5 Rhythms. It was a baking hot afternoon; the sweat was pouring and the beats were smoking.

And in the middle of it all I found myself dancing with another. We smiled. We felt the joy in our dance. I was dancing. She was dancing. We were dancing with each other. Mirroring. Leading and following.

We didn’t realise until later that we were sharing the lead. Sometimes her; sometimes me. It was fluid. There were no edges to it. We didn’t have to make a decision. It just happened. And it felt like fun. Playful and light.

And then we had to choose to lead or to follow, one or the other.

First I led.

It felt pressurised. I felt responsible. I needed to build her trust to follow, to feel safe. I felt bad when she resisted. Though I did shield her from two collisions, taking the full force of them myself!

But when she allowed herself to move according to my lead it felt great – as long as she was smiling. If it felt like I was forcing her I felt clumsy and sorry.

Next it was my turn to follow.

This felt easier for me. I was very comfortable in my trust. She had a great way of steering me away from danger – grabbing my index fingers and pulling! I felt safe.

However later she told me that sometimes I would want to go my own way, that I seemed determined to go in a particular direction. And like a good leader she allowed me my freedom.

How we dance is how we live, how we conduct ourselves. Yesterday I learned that whether leading or following the art is in allowing; and remembering that we are both.

 

 

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Filed under Leadership, Reflection

Putting the HAP in Happy

Yesterday I found myself writing about how to create our own luck. Is it about being in the right place at the right time? Or is there something more deliberate going on?

These days the world is full of people who consider themselves to be ‘conscious creators’ and ‘deliberate manifesters’. We all want what we want. We all want to know how to get it.

Chatting to a friend about what it takes to manifest things we’d mentioned the importance of not being in denial, of not resisting and of being consistent. And as I pondered, the words Honesty, Allowing and Practice came to my mind.

Nerdy word-smith that I am I immediately made them into an acronym: H.A.P, and then a word all of its own: ‘hap’.

Following a quick bit of in-depth research (!) I discovered that the Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘hap’, an archaic word from Norse, as a random piece of good fortune.

Certainly from my observations it appears that the luckiest people are also the hap-piest. That is, they are genuinely full of hap. As opposed to being hap-less.

But how do we make it less random? What if the degree to which we can be honest, allow and practice whatever brings us satisfaction really is the vehicle by which to bring us endless luck and good fortune?

When we are honest with ourselves about what we want, when we are clear and not confused or torn, then the truth and power of our desire crystallises. Until that moment, until we can honestly declare what we’re about, we stay small and ineffectual on our quest.

Writing a journal is a good place to stretch our honesty wings. It’s a place where we can state our desires even if we haven’t yet managed to articulate them to another pair of ears. Where our desires do not have the specificity of words, images are just as good, as these tend to evoke the feelings we are reaching for. And the more we can honestly feel the closer we get to the truth of what we want.

It’s tricky to allow ourselves to acknowledge something we’re in denial about. If someone is bugging us it’s easier for us to push against their behaviour than consider that we might also be resisting that same thing in ourselves. So an angry person might make us stuff our own anger deeper down, rather than allowing it to come to the surface and burn off.

Again journaling helps us to allow our emotions to come to the forefront. We can rant on the page and then allow the feeling to move through our bodies. We can allow our fantasies, our secrets, our fears or our irritations out, and then we can see how they inform our desires.

As for practice it makes sense that if we want to get closer to our goal then we need to  consistently do what will take us there. So often a regular practice like daily exercise can feel like a chore; but recently I’ve learned to think of it more as an act of self-love. A slight change in perception has helped me find the exercise I truly enjoy, so I needn’t bother with anything I think I should do just because other people are doing it!

Of course the practice of journal writing is a good example, taking a few minutes to be with ourselves and allow our creativity to flow.

Putting the HAP into happy may or may not be the key to creating our own luck. But it definitely is the key to more deliberate hap-piness.

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It’s a jungle out there

“Il faut cultiver votre propre jardin” roughly translated “You must tend to your own garden” is a maxim I learned from Voltaire during my French degree – and one which has prodded me from the other side of my mental fence throughout my life.

I take it to mean Mind your own business, Look after your own, Find and maintain your own places of rest, retreat and beauty, or Take personal responsibility for your own growth.

But as spring creeps uncharacteristically upon us, rather than doing its usual bursting into life thing, my mind is taking a more literal meaning.

Because it really is time to clear and weed and tend and nurture the garden outside my door.

The therapeutic effects of gardening are well known. The joy that comes from a bright border or a sumptuous setting of healthy plants is hard to beat.

So why have I resisted creating this in my own garden for so long?

If my real garden were a metaphor for my life it would convey a pretty chaotic and neglected picture: weeds, unkempt off-shoots, plants popping up where they weren’t intended, including a tree that literally walked, snook under the fence, from next door.

Sometimes I imagine the neighbours sniffing at the evidence of my non-existent garden routine. I can hear them muttering about how my garden besmirches the fineness of the surrounding suburban gardens, shimmering in smugness.

It’s tempting to beat myself up.

Yet in my kinder moments I persuade myself that manicured control can be less bountiful than untended wildness. I imagine that my garden has become a gentle harbour in the storm of gardening competitiveness; where happy primroses erupt in the lawn, where hedgehogs and bumble bees hibernate under discarded pots and where trees trek for shelter. Despite its messy outward appearance, there is great opportunity here for unexpected life, joy, and sustenance.

I suppose part of tending to your own garden includes a sense that you have to tend it in your own way and your own time. And allowing this means the whole undertaking can become more joyful. Now rather than closing the door on the jungle outside I’m finding ways to join the crazy party!

How’s your garden a metaphor for your experience?

 

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Travelling Home

I have just returned from a whistle-stop tour of China with my daughter, as guests of an old University friend of mine, who’s been living over there for a few years.

What an interesting trip. Chinese weather, driving, road systems, plumbing and crowds provided daily fascination. And as for the language, history, art, ceramics and friendliness of the Chinese people  – we were blown away.

I chose to dedicate a brand new journal in honour of my newly-discovered wanderlust,  realising that this was something that was strong in me as a young adult, but which subsided through family life.

This is not the place for me to record my impressions of China. Rather, here is where I want to throw out a couple of questions to accompany you on your next trip.

Firstly: what kind of traveller are you? What’s your pace? How do you like to plan your trip? What impressions do you make of people and place? How curious are you? How does travelling make you reflect?

Secondly: what is it to come Home? How do you see Home on your return? How different does it feel from before you went? What do you appreciate most? What do you wish to change?

Yup I know that was more than two questions. They were more like lots of questions on two themes, Travelling and Home.

So enjoy Travelling Home as you reflect. Bon Voyage.

 

 

 

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Make a distinction

The only resolution I made for 2018 was to distinguish between the work I do for love – my own writing, and the work I do for money  – word-smithing for businesses.

Distinctions bring clarity. And clarity enables us to be creative, productive and to attract opportunities effortlessly.

One of my most favourite books is A Room with A View by E M Forster in which he champions love and truth over social niceties. Without the honest appraisal of what we truly love we will forever be “in a muddle” – and therefore less effective in our efforts.

Giving more focus to the things we love rather than the things we do out of obligation imbues us with clarity and power.

So it’s worth being honest with ourselves and making the distinction.

As a result my writing spark is back with a vengeance. I’m having fun writing my blog and new business enquiries are arriving at my door. Before I was muddled in my thinking about writing – so my focus and energy were confused and dissipated. I was perhaps falling for the assumption that having more things to focus on would rob me of time.

Rather having sharper focus on more distinct things feels like I have generated more time, and infinitely more ideas. Inspiration and words are flowing; and my skills are in demand.

The Journal Writer’s Handbook contains an exercise called Lists of Distinction, encouraging you to distinguish between your talents, gifts, skills and interests. Sharpening your focus on each throws up more clarity, more possibility and more choice about the things that lead you to a greater sense of creativity, fulfillment and joy.

Don’t be muddled. Be distinctive. Make your own distinctions.

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Filed under Creative process, Journal Writing, The Journal Writer's Handbook, Uncategorized

Time for self-authoring

My son has been helping me format The Journal Writer’s Handbook for publication on Amazon. Flicking through some of the exercises included in the book he remarked particularly on the ones called “Playing with Metaphor”; “Taking Responsibility”; “Hidden Voices”, and “Absolute Truths”.

These are themes and explorations he has been enjoying through the work of Dr Jordan Peterson, the guy who is taking the young male adult world by storm with his relentless intellectual honesty and dedication to individual self-improvement, through self-authoring, the study of mythological archetypes, and his tirade against the identity politics of post-modern neo-Marxism (Guardian readers look away now).

His recent interview by Cathy Newman on Channel 4 news may be the only thing you’ve seen by him. If so you’re missing a treasure trove of mind-boggling polymathic research and psychological commentary by Dr Peterson on youtube and his own website.

Personally I celebrate Jordan Peterson’s ability to engage such an impenetrable audience as 20 year old men. Even more I applaud his recommendations to use reflective writing as a great tool for self-improvement, and for setting oneself up with integrity and discipline.

When I first wrote The Journal Writer’s Handbook five years ago I had no idea who Professor Peterson was. Now I’m delighted to listen to him. More so because it’s my son that introduced me.

 

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Too much, not enough or just right?

I had a sleepless night. Felt like I had both nothing and everything on my mind. Weird.

There’s a song by REM (appropriately named band given last night’s wakefulness) featuring the line “Oh no I’ve said too much – I haven’t said enough”. I find it’s a lyric that describes a frequent feeling of mine.

The REM song is called ‘Losing my Religion’. Its lyricist Michael Stipe claims it’s about romantic expression. To me it reflects a particular type of existential angst. A struggle between love and fear. Am I too much? Or am I not enough? Or who the hell am I anyway?

As I drove home from the school run this morning Petroc Trelawney on Radio 3 declared that today is 10 613 days since the Berlin Wall was broken; a barrier that stood for 10 613 days; built from fear, torn down from love.

It’s a statistic that made me reflect suddenly on what has happened in my life since then. A degree, a marriage, children, the dot com boom, three different addresses, bereavement, career change, a book published, lots of new friends made, as well as lots of love, quite a few fears and many, many, many hot dinners – some of which have been quite frightening in themselves. I’ve probably torn down a few walls of my own too.

I don’t really think I can judge whether this has been enough or too much. Probably best to say it’s been just right. That love has triumphed often over fear. And there’s always more to look forward to.

If you are minded take ten minutes to run the mental movie of your life over the past 10613 days. What has occurred in your life? What has been just right about it? And what more is to come?

 

 

 

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