A simple message of hope for young people

Last week I attended the Resilient Young Minds conference in Devon.  It was a day and a half long event, organised by husband and wife team Liz Scott and Stuart Newberry of Coaching Connect, alongside transformative coach and speaker Elizabeth Lovius.  I’ve not personally met Elizabeth but as I would come to find out from her presence on stage, she is a ball of energy.  On the other hand, I knew Liz and Stu well as  I did my coaching training with them last year.  They’re both wonderfully compassionate and supportive people who are really putting the South West on the map as far as positive mental health is concerned.

Day One
The event was being held at The Clay Factory in Ivybridge and kicked off on Thursday.   I arrived at the venue early, after an almost-two-hour-drive, grabbed a much-needed cup of coffee and a delicious granola bar, made by the The Clay Factory’s talented chef, William Woyka (not to be confused with a fictional eccentric confectioner!).  If you’re ever in the Ivybridge area, be sure to go there for lunch.  Will serves up the most delicious vegan food, and that’s coming from a meat eater!   Coffee and breakfast in hand, I wondered around the room, just taking it all in.

The first thing that struck me was the professional set up. There was a big screen and stage at the front, all the audio set up behind screens to the side and live steaming equipment and crew at the back.  This conference was a big deal!  There would be over 100 people in the room, plus nearly 50 attending on live stream, representing 8 different countries around the world.  And I loved the fact that it was hosted in the South West.  These types of events don’t usually make it out of London and living in Penzance, that’s a bit of a trek!

I clocked some familiar faces, many of whom I’d not actually met in person but had known through being part of the same Facebook groups, for a while. It was really great to finally come together and meet these lovely people in person.  After many embraces and quick ‘hellos’ I bagsied a seat near the front and settled down.  I couldn’t wait for this to get underway; keen to hear others speak about this understanding of the mind (I and many others refer to it as the ‘inside out understanding), which I share in my role as a coach and youth worker.   The essence of it is, that all humans are fundamentally psychologically well.  The only thing that can take us away from peace of mind and a loving feeling is our thinking! That’s it.  And the message of the conference was condensed down even further to simply, ‘No-one is broken.’

A talented young mixed choir from Ivybridge Community College sang a medley of popular tunes as people took to their seats.  Elizabeth opened the conference with energy and bounce, clearly excited at the prospect of sharing this message to a roomful of eager listeners -some new to the understanding, but most not.   Elizabeth was followed by a short intro from Liz and Stu and then we were onto our first speaker, Jacquie Moses.

Liz Scott on stage with husband Stuart Newberry

Jacqui Moses
Jacquie successfully works with young people in main stream schools, who are deemed to have challenging behaviour and in many cases are on the verge of expulsion.  To the first-time listener of this understanding, it can easily be interpreted as ‘airy fairy’ stuff, but what Jacquie and the other speakers showed us, as they shared personal stories, was that it really does have practical and transformational results.  It was clear from her talk, that Jacquie has the ability to connect deeply with young people.

Never seeing their behaviour as who they really are, but looking beyond the bravado and insecurity that each individual displays to a core of love, hope and compassion, Jacquie has made a real difference in many young people’s lives.  She even takes this understanding and shares it with offenders in prison to help them see through their fears and beliefs.  It appears (and I can talk from my own experience of myself and others), that there’s something about knowing who we truly are at our core, that settles us into a place of peace and understanding, regardless of what’s going on externally.  It was a real joy to listen to Jacquie who is so clearly having a positive impact on many young people.  Inspiring stuff!

Robin Lockhart
One of the speakers, Robin Lockhart sadly had to cancel his appearance due to family affairs, but kindly recorded a video for us.  Robin is the Commonwealth Youth Work Ambassador, and works extensively in London, exploring ways of working with youth violence and gangs.  We watched as he relayed stories of his work with young people who had transformed since understanding that their lives operate from the inside out.   I’ve never met Robin, but his presence on screen was one of a, calm, gentle, down to earth chap, just sharing from his heart what he knows to be true.   I hope one day our paths will cross.

Following a short coffee break, we took to our seats again to hear from a group of students who had been working as a group with teacher Kathy Rablah, exploring the inside out understanding for themselves.   Each one told a personal story of change and I can tell you now, there was not a dry eye in the house (or from our live streamers!).  These fabulous students inspired everybody in the room with their stories, offering so much hope to young people everywhere as they continue to spread the inside out understanding amongst their peers and eventually with teachers!

I gathered myself together before the next stage of the conference which was breakout sessions with the different speakers and facilitators.   We were pretty much free to go with whomever we wanted and I’d opted to go into Grayson Hart’s group.   We hadn’t yet heard his talk, but I’ve seen Grayson speak on webinars before and at a previous conference in Exeter earlier in the year, so wanted the opportunity to spend some time with him in a small group setting.

Grayson Hart
The thing that fascinates me most about Grayson, is that he’s a professional rugby player (he plays for London Scottish if you want to check him out!).  That in itself is not fascinating, but the fact that he has this deep understanding of how we operate as human beings and isn’t afraid to share it openly, intrigues me.  I mean, it could be deemed as very ‘woo woo’ amongst his rugby playing peers, but as he explained during his talk later in the afternoon, his teammates often sidle up to him and say, ‘So what’s this all about then?’  This made me smile, as it just confirmed to me that it doesn’t matter how macho or non-spiritual we think people are, or claim to be, deep down we all know that there’s something more to us, than what we can see on the surface.

In our group of about 15 we had around half an hour to listen to Grayson speak about the true source of wellbeing, how he shares it and join in the discussion ourselves, which I did, as I shared my own experiences of working with young people from the inside out understanding.  I wish we could have had longer to explore in our little group, but we were on a well-executed schedule and lunch was up next.

Grayson Hart mesmerising the audience

After a delicious lunch of chilli burger, kale dressed in the tastiest soy and sesame sauce and coleslaw, followed by tangy lemon drizzle cake, we were back in the main conference room waiting for our next speaker, Sam Munslow.

Sam Munslow
Sam and I have been ‘Facebook Friends’ for some time but until today we’d never met.  We both have an interest in sharing this understanding with parents and children, although Sam has now formed a new coaching business ‘Blue Monkey Coaching’ and has found herself also coaching leaders and execs.

Sam is an ex-deputy head teacher who, through her own experience as a parent and educator has seen the dangers of only seeing a label that has been attached to a child.  Her talk was titled ‘Beyond Labels’ and she shared a wonderful personal story of a child who she had coached, who had a whole list of labels attributed to her. But Sam’s message was simple:

  • You’re not broken
  • You don’t need fixing
  • You’re perfect as you are

And the young girl with whom Sam shared this with, saw something in it and as a result had a profound shift internally.  The more stories that I hear of young people having an understanding of their true nature, the more inspired and hopeful I feel that this is all that’s needed to end the suffering of those who struggle with their mental health.

Sam Munslow talking ‘Beyond Labels’

Grayson, again!
Next up was Grayson.    Well what can I say?  He had the audience mesmerised – his unmistakable soft New Zealand accent drawing people into him, almost hypnotically.   Quite often with this understanding people say, ‘it’s not about the words, but the feeling’ and that was certainly true in his case.  I know he relayed the story of his childhood, but couldn’t tell you any specifics… the feeling in the room was palpable and I was away with the fairies.  At one point he had us close our eyes as he transported us off to Never Never Land and everybody looked starry-eyed when he brought us back in the room.  Whilst I never heard his words, I heard his message – wellbeing is not attached to striving or winning.   In fact, trying to achieve those very things is what takes us further away from our wellbeing.  A message that the whole world needs to hear!

Ian Watson
The final guest of the day was international speaker and facilitator, Ian Watson who took to the stage with his teenage daughter Alicia.   The title of their talk was ‘Wellbeing is Constant’ and knowing this, meant that both of them were able to navigate a very difficult time a few years ago, when Alicia was diagnosed with an eating disorder.  This was not only frightening for Alicia but also an incredibly worrying time for Ian.   The health system, whilst well intentioned, did nothing but inflate Alicia’s fears at a time when she needed to be more grounded than ever.   Thank goodness Ian knows his stuff.   His message to his daughter was clear,‘You’re experiencing a challenging time right now, but underneath it all,  I know that you‘re ok.’   Just the message she needed to hear, to help her on the road to recovery.  And this KNOWING is what also got Ian through this extremely difficult time.  It was very touching listening to both of them, and I could see how proud Ian was of Alicia.  An inspiring and hopeful end to what had been an all out inspiring and hopeful first day.   Roll on day two!

Ian and Alicia Watson sharing a personal story of wellbeing in difficult times

Day Two
After a clear run up from Penzance, I arrived in good time and got front row seats this time, with my fellow Coaching Connect buddies who I completed my training with last year.  There were two speakers on today and I was really keen to hear from both of them for different reasons.   The day started with the Ivybridge Community College choir who’d joined us again for day two.  It was a real joy listening to them.  We heard from Elizabeth, Liz and Stu again, reflecting on the previous day, before a wonderfully brave lady called Kathy Rablah (whom I referred to earlier) took to the stage to tell a very personal story of her son Joe.

Kathy Rablah
Joe is now 20, but he was around 13 when he first started struggling with his mental health.  Kathy was a full time teacher at that time.   Joe’s behaviour became more erratic – he was self-harming, getting into serious trouble in and out of school and was being picked up by the police for various incidents.  At 17, he’d moved out of home into social housing where he was held at gun point and robbed by two young people he shared the house with.  His situation was becoming more and more dire and every time the phone rang, Kathy feared the worse and so she took drastic action.   She gave up work and took Joe to Kenya for 3 months.  Kathy had to plead with the police to allow this to happen, as he was considered a danger to himself and others at this time.  Whilst there, they worked on a snake farm and things settled down for Joe as they enjoyed quality time together away from the familiarities of home.   But not long after returning home, things once again took a downward spiral and Kathy did not know where to turn.  Except she did!  She knew exactly what to do – she called Stu who came over to her house and spoke with Joe.  Long story short, it was the start of Joe’s return to his mental health.

Words cannot express the feeling in the room as Kathy told Joe’s story and as I looked around, I don’t think I saw anybody who wasn’t in tears.   Emotions were high and were about to get higher as we watched a video of a poem that Kathy had written about her son.  It was so touching.   You can watch it here, but I warn you, make sure you have tissues to hand.

After recovering from Kathy’s talk and video, we were then introduced to our first speaker, Jamie Smart.

Jamie Smart
If you’ve not heard of Jamie Smart, where have you been?   He’s a best selling author (check out his books Clarity and Results), speaker and executive coach.  I’ve been following him for some time on social media and have read his books, but this was the first opportunity I’d had to see him speak in person.  He gave some background on how he came to this understanding and then spoke about his vision for the future.  Jamie sees so clearly that the answer to the current mental health crisis lies in this simple inside out understanding of how the mind works.  Like many in the coaching field, he likened it to that of understanding germ theory and gravity…these are inarguable facts, that once discovered, changed the world completely.   An understanding of where our experience is coming from (inside of us, not outside of us) is the key to psychological mental health.   He finished with a short passage from a book, which I can’t even remember the name of, but that’s probably because I was distracted by the fact that he was actually shaking as he thumbed to the right page.  WTF?  This international coach actually gets nervous!  He’s a real human, the same as me and you.  What a comfort to know and I’ll remember that next time I have to speak in front of people (thankfully not very often!).

Jamie Smart speaking of how a revolution is needed in mental health

Dr Rani Bora
Onto the final speaker of the event, Dr Rani Bora, who was speaking to the title of the whole conference, ‘No-one is broken.’  The interesting thing about Dr Rani is that she’s a psychiatrist (as well as a Wellness Coach), so comes from a traditional medical background where patients are diagnosed with an illness and her job was to ‘fix’ them.   Unhappy with the limitations and outcomes of some of her patients in this approach to psychiatry, she went on a journey of discovery to find alternative approaches to compliment her medical background and experience in mental health…and that’s when she stumbled across the inside out understanding.

Dr Rani had a profound realisation where she saw in herself first, that she wasn’t broken and couldn’t ever be broken and she immediately started to see that in her patients too.  She saw very clearly, that regardless of background, physical health, life’s circumstances, anything external to us, everybody had access to mental health and that it was innate within us.   What a hopeful message that is for humanity!

Dr Rani Bora sharing how no-one is broken

Final Breakout Session
Now that all of the speakers had done their bit, we had one final breakout session before coffee, cake and home.   I went into Jamie’s group and the idea was to discuss how we can continue this conversation in our own way, in our communities.  The thing that I really got out of the conference was that yes, it’s so important to share the hopeful message of innate mental health with young people, but it’s also just as important to share it with parents too.  Helping parents to see for themselves just how resourceful and resilient they are, means they are better able to support their children in helping them to see the same in themselves…just like Ian and Alicia.

‘What is your next step?,’ asked Jamie. Oh, now I was in the spotlight with 12 or so other people looking at me.  ‘Urmmmm….I could set up a parenting group on Facebook, I guess’  Then a realisation…I actually already had a parenting group on Facebook, so I was already doing the next step.  Doh! (If you’d like to join it you can find it here).

We went around the group and everybody contributed:  students at college and uni wanted to share with peers, others wanted to share with trainee teachers, a teacher in the group wanted to find a way to share with teachers at his school and with parents; everybody had an idea on how this could and should be shared.  It was so amazing to be with so many like-minded people, all wanting to help humanity in our little corner of the world.

We reconvened as a whole and each group shared their aspirations and ‘next steps.’  It was clear that this might be the end of the conference but it certainly wasn’t the end of the story.  On the contrary, it was just the beginning and there were definite ripples of a movement happening in the South West.  If you’d like to be a part of that movement, you can join the Coaching Connect Resilient Young Minds Facebook group here, and keep in the conversation.  If you’re on social media, please use the hashtag #nooneisbroken

In the meantime, if you’re reading this and you are suffering, or know somebody who is, please consider this: beneath your psychology you’re perfectly well, you are not broken and you don’t need fixing.  When you look in that direction, there’s somewhere solid to put your feet.   It might feel strange at first, but I promise you, if you’re prepared to keep looking inwards, towards your true nature, you’ll soon realise that there’s no place like home.

What’s really going on with our kids behaviour

When our kids do stuff that make us feel uncomfortable we generally label that as naughty, bad or unacceptable. But what I’ve come to understand is that all these labels are made up! They’re made up just like every other idea or concept we have. What I think is unacceptable behavior by my kids, might be totally acceptable by another child’s parents. So who’s right? Well the answer is neither! There is no right or wrong when it comes to behaviours, because what we believe about a person’s actions is all in our thinking. The energy of Thought – that which creates our personal thinking, just is! Our thoughts are arbitrary. They’re neutral, and they’re fleeting and they have no meaning, unless we attach meaning to them. Confused? Take a closer look.

Ever walked into a room and stepped on Lego that your child’s left on the floor. We all know how much that hurts! One day you might go totally off your head with anger, shout at your kids and demand they put their stuff away immediately. Given that you’ve told them enough times to put their Lego away when they’ve finished playing with it, you may consider this unacceptable behaviour. Fast forward to another day in the future, you walk into the same Lego scenario and you really don’t care. You might mutter something to yourself, pick up the Lego, put it away and get on with your day. On this day, you don’t consider this behaviour unacceptable at all. In fact, it actually makes you smile as you look over to see your child’s brick creation.

These scenarios are happening all the time in parenting (and in life) – your kids don’t listen to you, they won’t eat their dinner, they’re being ‘mean’ to their siblings.  All day, everyday scenes like this are playing out in our lives and each time they happen, I guarantee you’ll feel and act differently, even if by only a small degree.  So what’s going on and what’s changed? Well it can’t be your kids, the Lego, or the fact that they’ve not tidied up because if that were true, you’d feel exactly the same way each time that event happened, but you don’t, so it HAS to be you, right? So your kids behaviour is just as much about you as it is them, because your state of mind in any given moment dictates how you are in any given moment.

You see, most of the population are living in a misunderstanding that life works from the outside in. We think that our circumstances affect us – that our kids do stuff that cause us to feel angry or frustrated. That they’re deliberately out to get us with their ‘bad’ behaviour. But that’s just not true. What we’re not seeing, so fundamentally, is that life actually works from the inside out and that there is a space between the circumstance and our actions….a space which is filled by our personal thinking, but it happens so fast that most of the time we don’t see it as Thought at all.

Let me explain. Our thinking comes and goes all day, everyday. In and out like the tide. One moment we look around and we see joy, opportunity and beauty but in the blink of an eye that can all change to frustration, limitations and ugliness. In other words, our consciousness is continually expanding and contracting and whatever we see in the world is dependent on our level of awareness in any given moment. Some thoughts we hold onto because they seem real, other thoughts we let go as they appear insignificant, and most we barely notice at all, but none are more significant than others… they’re all made of the same stuff and they are all responsible for how we feel in each moment.

Surely the answer to less frustration and more happiness is better, more positive thinking then? Nope! I don’t know about you, but I’ve not succeeded yet in deliberately changing my thoughts. We’re not in control of what shows up for us and neither is it possible to change the thinking that we get by will. We get what we get and act accordingly. We can’t not. We’re so in our thinking that we don’t even see it as Thought. It’s our reality.

If I’m in a funk, no matter how hard people around me might try to purposely bring me out of it, they won’t. It’s impossible. But the good news is they don’t have to, because the nature of Thought is that it’s always moving and because I know this, I can just get on with my life regardless, knowing that my thinking will shift at some point. Nothing to fix, nothing to change, no effort required.

So back to our kids and their behaviour. When you begin to see that they are ONLY ever acting from their own thinking and never in response to their external circumstances (although it really feels and looks like that), something shifts. When you consider that we’re all made of the same stuff….universal energy…the same energy that operates the systems within our bodies so perfectly, that synchronizes nature and the whole world around us, that opens up a space for us to see something different about our kids. When you see that we are all one being, separated ONLY by our thinking, that we are one and we are all, that there’s no you and me – there’s only us – in it together because we are the same, then to find peace in yourself is to find peace in them, and certain actions don’t make sense anymore.

No, I haven’t gone off with the fairies, I am firmly footed in the real world and I do not let my kids get away with anything – they need guidance to get on in the world and I set boundaries.  But knowing we are the same constant energy that is made of peace, love and wisdom, and that none of us are the unstable, shifting thoughts which pass through our heads, means there is always the potential to reach out to my kids in any situation. No matter how much I am, or they are struggling, there is never no hope. I don’t have to take the ‘I’m the mum and you’re the child’ stance because how life works for me, is how it works for my kids too and knowing this has been the game changer in my parenting. It means I can work with them, rather than dictate to them and it becomes less about what I say and more about how I say it. When I communicate knowing it’s a level playing field, all I can be is understanding and compassionate and I parent from a different place of responsiveness rather than reactivity and I am able to see the innocence in all they do.

But just to be clear here. I’m no Mary Poppins. I don’t always see that life is coming from my thinking 100% of the time, which means I still feel angry, frustrated, upset, anxious and useless…but that’s the very nature of being human and that’s how it will be until the day I die. Same for you, same for ever human. A constant ebb and flow of feelings which really feel like they’re being caused by the outside world, but when we remember where they’re actually coming from, we get over ourselves much quicker and settle back into our natural state of peace and clarity, which is available to us at any time. Boom!

Start noticing your thinking today and see how you go in and out of clear and cluttered thinking all the time.  Look at your children and see that their behaviour is not a choice, but the innocent reaction to their thinking.  Does this change things for you?

Until next time

Jo x

What do school photographs have to do with how the mind works?

It was photo time a few weeks ago at my son’s school. ‘Right,’ I thought. A chance to get a lovely one of Mason and Violet together. So, I got super organised (for me!), rallied the kids together and was out the door and up the school by 8.30am for the ‘siblings’ session. Standing in queue, waiting our turn, it was clear to see that Mason wasn’t going to play ball. ‘I hate having my photo taken’ he said with a frowny face and his head hung low. I knew this was going to be tricky and immediately my thinking revved up a notch! All I wanted was a lovely photo of my two kids, that I could put on the mantelpiece and share with other family members. Was it really too much to ask that he sit still and smile for 2 minutes?  Actually, in his reality, yes!  And on reflection, here’s what I noticed to be true.

1. We’re not in control

It doesn’t matter how much we think we are, we just aren’t. I can’t control what shows up in my own mind, let alone my children’s minds. It’s just not how the system works. Thoughts show up within us from goodness knows where and we make up what they mean! If we think a thought means something personal to us, we believe it and that becomes our absolute reality, until the very moment it butts up against another thought and dissolves into a new reality. Life is a string of thoughts that show up within us, moment to moment. They’re fleeting, they’re temporary, they’re impersonal and they’re vaporous! If we leave them alone, they’ll move through us. I can take my children to have their photos done, but I can’t control whether they sit there and smile and I can try every trick in the book to make it happen, but ultimately, it has to come from within them.

2. We all live in separate realities

We all live in a world of thought, so there isn’t one objective reality….there are 7.8 billion (or however many people there are on earth) separate realities, each brought to life by whatever thinking we have going on in our awareness in the moment. Back to the photoshoot, Violet was sat there loving the camera, doing what the photographer asked, but Mason hated every second and didn’t do anything he was asked to do. Same photoshoot, two very separate realities. When we see that what’s going on for us is the same as what’s going on for everyone else, we can relax a bit. We can let life move through us. We can take things less personally and we can be more compassionate and understanding. Unless we don’t know or forget that our thinking isn’t real – as I did! But the beauty of knowing how we operate means we don’t get caught up in the illusion for long!

3. We are all doing the best we can

All behaviour stems from a thought, which usually leads to a whole lot more thinking. If that thinking looks absolutely real and solid to us, then we just can’t act any better than in alignment with that thinking, so in that respect we’re all just doing the best we can, given the thinking that we have in that moment. Mason was just acting in a way that made sense to him at that time!  A person’s behaviour will only change when their thinking changes, and we’re not in control of that. But, when we see that the nature of thought is that it’s arbitrary and fleeting, we tend not to take it so seriously.

4. Our our minds work like projectors, not cameras!

We think our minds work like a camera – that we’re looking out through the lenses of our eyes, we see some kind of objective reality which comes back to us and we feel something! So in my example, I’m looking out at Mason who is not willing to have his photograph taken and I am getting frustrated. But in actual fact the truth is very different. A more accurate description is that our minds work more like a projector. We project how we feel out into the world, and how we feel is directly aligned with what we think. We don’t experience the world as it is. We experience it as we are! What we get (through our thinking) is what we see! As much as it looked to me that Mason’s behaviour was causing my frustration, that’s just not possible. My feelings were coming from me, and only me. There are infinite ways I could have felt in those moments, but it happened that frustration showed up, caused by a lot of thinking about how he should be behaving and how I’m never going to get that lovely photo of the both of them. Had I not have taken that thinking seriously, it would have left space for fresh thinking to come through, giving me a totally different experience.

So was it a big deal that I didn’t get the photo that I wanted? Actually, not at all because it turns out that I was making that up too. I have plenty of lovely photos of the two of them together, so really, what was all the fuss about? Isn’t it funny how we can get our knickers in a twist over stuff that we’ve made up?


Until next time

Jo x

How I saw through my anxiety…..and how you can too!

For those of you reading this who don’t know me, I’m Jo Smith. Wife and working mum to my two young children, Mason 6 and Violet, almost 4. A few months after Violet was born, I started to become really anxious. All sorts of bad-ass thoughts started entering my head about my ability as a mum and I couldn’t understand why I was thinking them and what they meant! I was affected physically – I lost my appetite and consequently lost a lot of weight in a short space of time (almost 2 stone in as many months) and whilst it’s one way of getting the baby weight off, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Outwardly, I did my best to carry on as normal, but inside my head was in a spin. My husband and some friends knew I was struggling and family members noticed the weight loss but I think I did a pretty good job of hiding exactly what was going on and made out I was ‘losing the baby weight,’ but actually my life was on auto-pilot. I was doing what I had to do to get through the day and as soon as the kids were in bed, I went to bed too as it was the only relief I had from my thinking.

I wasn’t depressed.  I was edgy, overwhelmed and isolated. I just wanted to stay in bed, and yet day after day I continued to care for and look after my kids. I loved them more than anything and I never ever lost touch with that, but it was clouded so much but my thinking….and I hated myself for it. Why couldn’t I just be a ‘normal’ mum to my kids?

I desperately wanted out of my head… to know what was going on and to get back to my life with my beautiful kids. I walked the dog a lot, just to escape the house (I spent a lot of time without adult interaction), but I couldn’t escape the suffering, which I now know I was innocently doing to myself.

The feelings were so intense that there were even times when I actually felt like I was losing my mind – yet at the same time – in amidst this turmoil I was hanging on to ‘normality’ and there were even moments of calm, peacefulness and laughter. I remember thinking how strange it was that I was able to joke about how I was feeling and even laugh at myself, despite what was going on! I didn’t realise it then – but knowing what I know now, these were moments that proved my wellbeing – my natural state as a human and not just brief glimpses of light in my otherwise hazy life.

So in an attempt to find out what was going on with me, I did what everyone does when they think they have a problem…I turned to Google! I wanted to know why I was feeling so mentally crap and how I could get better. I can’t actually remember now what search terms I looked up, but whatever they were, at some point it led me to Dr Amy Johnson, psychologist and life coach. Something struck me about her….the way she described life and how she suffered and overcame an eating disorder with relative ease. I was drawn to find out more! I ordered her book, Being Human and I got stuck into it as soon as it arrived. I think it took me only a couple of days to read at most. I started to get my head around what she was saying, the crux of which was: but for our thinking, we are all innately psychologically well! Every single person on earth: all 7 billion of us- no exceptions – are made of the same stuff: wellbeing, love, confidence, resilience and everything else that is good. The only thing that separates us from each other is our own thinking, which is arbitrary, temporary and impersonal. We don’t know what’s gonna roll into our heads at any given moment. How could we? We don’t think our thoughts, we just notice them when they’re in our headspace. They mean nothing of themselves – they are neutral. The content is irrelevant. Holy Shit! So all that stuff I was thinking about my capabilities as a mum and wondering why I was thinking it, was just fleeting, invisible bursts of energy moving through me….it wasn’t a part of me. WTF? This shit felt sooo real – it had grown roots and it felt like a massive part of me – what a huge relief to discover that I wasn’t crazy after all and that the men in white coats wouldn’t be coming to get me. The truth was simple – I was just a human being experiencing a lot of anxious thinking that I was taking seriously. End of. Woah!

I Googled more and came across another book called The Inside Out Revolution by transformative coach Michael Neill which was written from the same understanding. I read that from cover to cover over a couple of days. I watched videos, listened to audios, ordered more books and over the following few months, as I learnt more about this inside out understanding and how the human mind operates, my thinking started to fall away naturally and I returned to my wellbeing once again. No need for professional support, no need for medication. Some of the old thoughts came back, but I saw them for what they were – just thoughts – and they didn’t stick around. Or rather I noticed them and let them pass by without attaching meaning. I started to see that all my thinking was just made up, temporary, surface level stuff and nothing more. It was meaningless and said nothing about who I really was.

One of the simplest metaphors I’ve heard to describe this understanding is that it’s like the weather. The true nature of every human being is like the sun…always there, always shining, but just as the sun gets covered up by clouds sometimes, so does our true nature with our own thinking, but just because we can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there anymore! In the same way that we don’t have to get involved in moving those clouds out of the way to reveal the sun (because the weather moves naturally all by itself), we don’t have to roll our sleeves up and get to work on fixing our thinking to feel better, because when we leave it alone it moves through us naturally and we’re back in our innate wellbeing. In short, our minds have a self correction system built into the design and when we don’t get involved, they return to their default state of clarity – it’s far simpler than we think!

Our true nature is like the sun, always shining whatever weather passing through.

When I really started to see that I was creating my own reality with my anxious thinking from the inside out, it just didn’t make sense to me to hold onto that habitual thinking anymore, just like it doesn’t make sense to stick your hand back in the fire after you’ve been burned. When I saw insightfully how the human system works and that I was bringing to life whatever thinking was going on for me in each and every moment, I just wasn’t afraid of it anymore.

Another way to look at it, is that it’s a bit like turbulence. When we understand that all that bumping around, no matter how bad it gets, is just the plane bouncing on pockets of air and nothing to do with the plane’s ability to fly, whilst we might still feel a bit uncomfortable, ultimately we know we’re safe and it will soon pass.

Knowing this stuff has been a real game changer for me, not just in seeing through my anxiety, but in all areas of my life – particularly my parenting. I’ll admit, I’ve held back a bit from telling my story because of fear of judgement, but I don’t actually care about that anymore. Judgement is something created within the person judging and says nothing about the person being judged (am I getting too deep now? ). Plus, I bet that for every person who speaks out about anxiety, depression or any mental illness, there’s any number of people who haven’t, who are innocently and needlessly suffering. So that’s why I decided to share my own story. Having seen for myself first hand just how the human operating system REALLY works and what an impact it has had on my life, I’m on a mission to share this with others too!

I’m super keen to reach out to parents who might be going through something similar to what I went through or just to support them with all the challenges that come along with being a parent . There’s no doubt about it, parenting can be tough at the best of time,  but  if there was something that could help you stand firm in your wellbeing which enabled you to deal with the daily ups and downs of raising children with more ease and grace, wouldn’t you want to know about it?

So, I hope this has been useful as an intro to me and how I’ve come to be sharing the truth about how we operate.  Humans fascinate me.  I can easily while away the hours in a coffee shop just watching people go about their daily lives….but I can’t help wondering how many of them are smiling on the outside but suffering on the inside, just like I was.   My guess is, more than we think.

If anything I write about resonates with you or makes you just a little bit curious to find out more, please follow this blog, join my parenting Facebook group, like my Facebook page or if you’re interested at all in personal coaching please drop me a line for a chat. I’d love to hear from you. Oh, and I’m running an awesome parenting retreat next June right here in Cornwall. A weekend of getting back to nature, making connections, wild cooking and outdoor activities. If it sounds like something you’d be interested in, sign up here to receive the full schedule.

Until next time

Jo x

You don’t have to feel motivated to take action!

A golfing friend of mine commented in a Facebook group recently about how he hadn’t felt
motivated to practise over the last week or so.  My response to him was, “You don’t have to feel
inspired or motivated to take action.” Something I’ve started noticing a lot more for myself recently.  He messaged me the next day and asked me if I could expand on that statement, which I did (from how I am seeing it at the moment but who knows, I may see things differently or more deeply in the future), and since he found my response helpful, I thought others might too.  And so begins this blog post….

When you think about it, how motivated do you really feel on a daily basis? Do you jump out of bed everyday with a spring in your step, pull back the curtains and shout ‘Good morning world’? Is your family breakfast routine akin to that of the famous Morecambe and Wise sketch?  What about doing the housework or taking exercise? How often are you fired up to do either of those? And then of course there’s work….I don’t care how much you love your job, there will always be days when you just want to pull the duvet over your head and go back to sleep. But on the flip side, there are also days when the opposite feels true.  When we are inspired by the day ahead, we do look forward to work, and when exercise and housework just don’t bother us.  So what’s the difference?  What’s going on that either motivates us or not? Quite simply- it’s always and only ever how seriously we take our thinking!

When we have thoughts about not doing stuff that we take to be true, we just don’t do that thing.
Looking through that filter, we’ll find every excuse under the sun not to do it. Let’s take exercise as an example, “I’m too tired,” “I didn’t hear my alarm clock,”  “I couldn’t find my other trainer,” “the dog ate my gym shorts!” But with a clear head and without much thinking going on, we’re just propelled into action. We get up out of bed, get our kit on and before we know it we’re pounding the pavements.

 

 

When we’re struggling to do things, we don’t see that it’s our thinking that’s getting in the way, and we look at other people and think, “I wish I were them. They’re always at the gym. They must be really motivated to do that everyday.”  We try and figure out why they find it so effortless whilst we find it so difficult. Perhaps they have strategies. So we put some of our own into place to assist us.  We get our kit ready in advance as a prompt and leave our trainers by the door so there’s less chance of us hitting the snooze button, rolling over and going back to sleep. Sometimes that might work, sometimes it won’t, and that’s because it’s never strategies or techniques that are the cause of our actions….our kit being ready is not the reason we go to the gym on a particular day (although it may really look that way). It’s always our own thinking! That’s the only variable – the one thing that’s constantly changing.

We may also try thinking more positively or use willpower to push through things.  But that’s just not the case either! Thinking things like “I must go to the gym” or “I can do this,” to try and encourage us into action is just adding more thinking to an already busy mind. Again, it might work, it might not but it’s not the cause of our action-taking.  And when we do stuff because we think we should, well that’s resentment right there: more unnecessary thinking to add to the long list we’ve already got going on. Inevitably we feel worse and so into a downward spiral of thought we go!   When we have less on our minds, we naturally propel ourselves into action.

But wait a minute…..this blog post is about not having to feel motivated to do stuff, so let’s take a closer look at what’s going on there! How is it, on those days when we really, really don’t feel
energised to do something, we just do it anyway? When we feel poorly, but still have to look after
the children. When we get home from work after a hard day and the last thing we feel like doing is cooking a meal for the family or when we have to clean our house top to bottom because we have friends coming over. The fact we’re able to get on with these tasks is not because we are in the right state of mind, that’s for sure!

So what is going on? Well here’s how I see. There’s a bit of a misunderstanding around how we feel verses what we do in the world. We think we have to feel a certain way to take action, but as I see it, we really don’t. Yes it’s true that we find tasks and activities effortless when we don’t have much on our minds, but our ability to get things done is not dependant on it. If that was truly the case, we really wouldn’t achieve much in our lives . The universal life force energy that powers us up is always running through us, so we never have to wait until we are in the right state of mind or until we feel ready or inspired to do something; and because of this, our potential to achieve in the world is always the same regardless of how we’re feeling. All that’s happening is that we find it easier to do things with less thinking about it, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t do it just because our head isn’t clear. In other words, a few clouds in the way doesn’t affect the sun’s ability to shine. It’s always there, as is our potential to take action.

Whether it’s taking that cooking class, writing a blog post, washing the car, painting a picture, giving up smoking, or going on a date. The truth is, whatever it is we’ve been waiting to do, we’ll never feel ready. Why? Because ready is made up. It’s just an arbitrary word that we attribute our own meaning to. If we sit down and think about all the things we think we need to be or acquire before we feel ready to do something, we’d never get off the starting blocks.  If we say to ourselves, “Someday, when I’m ready I’ll do that?” then we’re setting ourselves up for a fall because as Mara Gleason says in her book, One Thought Changes Everything, “Someday doesn’t exist.”   All we have is this moment.

But regardless of whether we feel ready or not, it’s important to know that as long as we have
energy flowing through us, we’ll always be ready. Every moment is a blank piece of paper just
waiting for us to create, so however you’re feeling you can still get your crayons out and produce a masterpiece. Think about it. A lot of artists and musicians produce their very best work when
they’re going through tough times and I’m guessing they weren’t feeling particularly motivated at the time , but they were still able to take action. Do you think Sir Richard Branson or Sir Alan Sugar waited until they felt ready or good enough before taking their first steps into entrepreneurship?  My bet is they just showed up in the world, the best they knew how….and the rest is history.

I’d also like to make the point here, that there’s a difference between not doing something because you don’t feel like it, and not doing something because not doing it feels like exactly the right thing to do. You’ll know the latter because it will come with a specific feeling; that instinctual knowing.  We’ve all heard stories of people not getting on that plane/train, only to find out later that something catastrophic happened. Not doing something might be right if that’s what wisdom is telling you. Which brings me back to my golfer friend.  Although he didn’t see it at the time, on reflection he thinks that it  wasn’t that he wasn’t motivated to play golf, but rather his wisdom was letting him know that he should spend a bit more time at home, rather than on the course. It turned out to be exactly the right thing for him.

So whether you’ve been avoiding that pile of dishes on your draining board or you’ve been waiting to take your first steps into setting up your own business, just know that whether you’re in a high or low state of mind, life is always moving through you and as such, the capacity for creation is always available.  You’re always ready to take action, regardless of how you feel and you’ll probably find that you’ll actually enjoy whatever it is you’ve been putting off and that it was never as bad as you imagined (isn’t that always the case?).  You might also be surprised at what unfolds for you. And if  you are…I’d love to hear about it.

Until next time.

Much love

Jo x

 

Are You Operating from Your Head or Your Heart?

Last weekend was the final ‘official’ training day of my coaching course.  I quote ‘official’ because I’ve made such a connection with the ladies on the course that we know it’s not the end of a chapter but rather the beginning of new one and many ideas were brewing on how we might take this understanding out into the world.   But I’ll save that for another blog post.

Anyway, we were all sat together reflecting on the following quote by Jack Pransky, one of the first generation teachers of this inside out understanding that I talk about.

‘All we are is love, peace and wisdom and the power to create the illusion that we are not’

I’ve seen this quote many times but this time it came down on me like a ton of bricks. There are only two ways from which we operate in the world: either from our head or from our heart.  I saw it more simply and deeply in that moment than I ever have before.

I don’t mean that we live our lives solely from one place or the other. For a start that’s just not possible – our lives are a continual string of moments, brought to life by the creative power of thought which is served to us either through our intellect (head) or our wisdom (heart) and we go in and out of both all day, everyday.

All of nature is powered by the same intelligent life force, but unlike the rest of the animal kingdom which survives on instinct, us humans are thinking creatures, born with this amazing gift of thought. Life is a game to be played and to join in and make the most of it; we need to operate from both head and heart.  We need our heads to plan, analyse, achieve, and concentrate on tasks.  We need intellectual knowledge and skills to do our jobs (I don’t know about you, but I’m going for the surgeon who knows a thing or two about anatomy rather than the one who relies on Devine inspiration to guide them), and we need our heads to store information and memories that we can recall in certain situations.

However, a life lived too much from our head means we are in a constant state of ‘doing’ – always striving, always searching, always wanting:  we get burned out, stressed, anxious, impatient, depressed, intolerant etc. which leads to all sorts of unwanted behaviour and consequences.  We don’t see the world favourably and we react rather than respond.  It’s a fragile place to be and when these feelings show up, it’s a great sign that we need to slow down.

But, underneath all of that intellectual thinking is our true nature – the peace, love and wisdom that Jack refers to in his quote.  Always there, ready to serve us when we need it.  It’s constantly working for us even in the everyday moments, like when you need a pee or when you need to eat or drink:  you don’t consciously need to make those decisions.  You just get up and pee or make a sandwich.  If you have to think about whether you’re hungry or not, I guarantee you, you’re not hungry!  Wisdom moves through us all the time in the most subtle of ways, helping us to make ‘no brainer’ decisions that we don’t even realise are decisions!

Of course when we get quiet enough, our wisdom brings us those insightful light bulb and life saving moments too, which is why we’re always told to keep calm in a crisis.  Have you ever seen the blockbuster film Sully? It’s based on the true story of Captain Chesley Sullenberger, who performed an emergency landing of his plane on the Hudson River back in 2009. It’s the perfect example of a man using heart over head in an emergency situation when he had only minutes to make a crucial decision.

Shortly after take off a flock of birds struck the plane, resulting in failure of all engines.  He was ordered by air traffic control to return to La Gardia airport.  He ignored those orders and landed on the Hudson, saving the lives of all the 155 passengers and crew.  A flight simulation later showed that normal procedures for engine loss are designed for cruising altitude and not for situations occurring after take off.   The simulation also didn’t account for the human element of the situation – the time needed to understand and assess the situation. Therefore if Sully had returned to the airport, it’s more than likely that they would never have made it, and we all know how that would have panned out. He didn’t let his head get in the way, he let life flow through him and he did what occurred to him to do in that moment. Thank goodness.

Whilst most of us will never find ourselves in Sully’s situation, it’s still super useful to get an understanding for which mode we’re operating in when situations present themselves.  I’m not saying that Sully consciously thought about how he was operating, ‘Hmmm these thoughts, are they head or heart?’ As far as I can tell that’s not the case!  When emergencies occur, as long as we have a clear head, wisdom will guide us naturally into doing the best thing without our involvement, and quite often after such events, people look back and can’t quite believe their actions! Life moved through them, propelling them into action without conscious thought involved.

But in our everyday lives, we can listen to ourselves and notice our feelings. When your child spills a drink – is yelling the right thing to do at that moment? Are you teaching them anything meaningful if you do that? Maybe step back from your thinking and see what shows up for you!
Same with work colleagues, partners or any human relationships in fact – if your head to head with another person, there’s gonna be friction – a battle of wills. Two people, face on, both of which are locked into their thinking because it looks so solid and real to them.  It’s going to be impossible to find a resolution.

On the other hand, if you are heart to head, at least one of you will be in your wellbeing which means compassion, understanding, listening; and you have a great chance of drawing the other person towards those feelings too. Have you ever noticed that happen before? I see it all the time in my kids. Only last night, my son was having a paddy as he didn’t want a shower – he just wanted to play Minecraft. He threw a wobbler, ‘ you’re the worst parents ever,’ ‘you don’t love me, nobody loves me,’ ‘I’m going to run away!’ You get the picture.   Seriously, it was like something had possessed my sweet, kind and loving little man. But I never rose to it. I never met him head to head. I stayed calm. I talked to him, even though he continued with the insults, but I knew that wasn’t his true nature speaking, just a bunch of revved up thinking coming out in the form of words. We cuddled and I said, ‘How about you have a shower, get in your jimmy jams and you can show me how to play Minecraft?’ His response, ‘OK Mummy!’   You see, when we don’t buy into other people’s stories, and show up in our own wellbeing, that’s the best chance we’ll ever get of helping them fall back into theirs.

It doesn’t get any better than two humans connection from the heart

Of course the real magic happens when two people are just heart to heart. It’s the perfect connection and doesn’t get any better than this. Two people in a good feeling, working collaboratively, in the flow of life.  Solutions and resolutions are effortless.

So next time you find yourself in conflict with another or are feeling stuck in a particular situation, give yourself a moment to reflect on whether you’re in your head or your heart, and if you’re not sure, look for that clear, quiet ‘knowing’ feeling.  You can be sure to trust that!

I hope this was useful. See you next time.

Jo x

What if your understanding of life was just all wrong?

What if everything we understood about how human beings operate was just completely wrong? What if, regardless of external circumstances we had everything we need to feel deeply connected to other humans, be naturally creative, thrive in everything we do and live more of our life in a good feeling. I’m not suggesting it’s all smooth sailing, but when the seas get rough, what if you just knew how to navigate them effortlessly?

You see, a few years ago I came across an understanding of life which points to something much bigger than any other psychology out there! It explains where our experience of life actually comes from, rather than offering strategies or applications to deal with our experiences….and the revelation is that it doesn’t come from anything on the outside! It’s universal (as in ‘of the actual universe’) and it’s the Truth! Now that’s a pretty big statement to make but read on…..

There are seven billion people on this planet and every single one of us are all made of exactly the same stuff – universal energy, Mind, God, whatever label you wanna give it – it’s what we all are. It’s the same stuff that rotates the earth, turns the seasons, gives ebb and flow to the tide and grows acorns into oak trees.  We can trust that these things will happen without our involvement, yet we see these things and a gazillion other miracles happening around us all the time throughout our lives and we don’t really give a second thought to what’s powering it – it’s just what happens!  But when we get all spiritual about human beings, people tend to shy away – ‘oh I don’t believe in all that stuff,’ ‘Spirituality? That’s for new age hippies, man!’or ‘I’m more into reality than spirituality’ some might say!

But have you ever really stopped to think about what it is that beats our heart, breaths our lungs, digests our food or heals our cuts? And even when we die, what does that? Because none of that is being powered by us….it’s being done through us! Just sit with that for a minute. In other words, life happens through us, not to us.

The same life force energy that rotates the earth, powers all human beings!

We all have innate mental health
So now that’s brewed for a sec, if you weren’t before, are you feeling more open to listening? Just as our bodies are perfectly designed to run themselves, so are our minds. But for our own personal thinking, we have innate wellbeing at our core.  Actually to be more accurate, we ARE innate wellbeing.  All of those things I mentioned in the opening paragraph – we are (and more!), and the only thing that can cover that up is our thinking. Wowsers! *Pick jaw off floor*  That’s totally the flip side to how most of us live our lives.  We think we will only be happy when; we get that promotion/that nice big house/the flashy car/a few more zeros on our bank balance/have children/fill in the blank.  But the actual truth is that our outside circumstances bear no reflection at all on our wellbeing.  AT ALL.  Because it’s innate and within us from the day we’re born and will continue to be until the day we die.

Children are the best example of the true nature of humans
Hmmm still don’t think its true? Think about this. Have you ever really considered a child having a tantrum? Let’s go with an example of my five year old son. At the beginning of the year, there was a lot of talk on the news about snow falling in the UK (a big deal for England!) and Mason had it fixed in his head that there would be snow on one particular Friday. Of course, there wasn’t any….not a flake and right there in that moment, he had a meltdown (no pun intended!) and full on flung himself on the bed, head down in the pillow, kicking and screaming.  Fast forward 10 minutes, that thought storm had passed and he was back in his wellbeing.  There was still no snow, so the circumstances hadn’t changed, but his thinking had! This is just one example of what we see in children ALL the time. Children do not hold onto thought like adults do. They live in the moment and they’re a great example of who to look at for evidence of our true nature. They haven’t learned to hold onto it and they don’t try and fix it either. They simply feel it until another thought comes along, then they feel that…and so on and so on. They don’t hold grudges (could you imagine – the amount of times siblings fall out!!!) they don’t fret about things that happened in the past and they don’t worry about what might happen in the future. They don’t have expectations or thoughts of how things should be. They just show up in the world as they are, living right here, right now! How cool is that?

Look to children as proof of humans innate wellbeing

The Nature of Thought
Oh and here’s another thing about thoughts? They’re not ours – they’re completely impersonal, neutral and meaningless! When I first heard this, it was a complete revelation to me, but in a Homer Simpson, ‘Doh’ kind of way! Like it was so obviously staring me in the face, how could I not have seen this before? Thoughts have no inherent meaning other than what we give them.  This is game changing stuff, right?

This means that everything we’ve ever thought to be true about ourselves, our friends, our family, money, the world, anything…is made up! We don’t experience life – stuff out there – directly. It comes to us through the filter of our own thinking and flippin’ heck, it doesn’t half feel so real at times! But just knowing that it isn’t, is a really good thing because it means we don’t ever have to be a victim of circumstance.

There is infinite potential to think something new
It means we have the capacity to think something new in any given moment and see the same circumstance in a completely different light.  Having a crap day…. you’re just looking at life through a crap filter! Maybe one thing happened to you that sent your mood spiralling downward, and for the rest of the day you saw everything through that lens. But think again, how your day might go if you knew exactly where your experience was coming from:

Kids won’t get their shit together : you feel frustrated – that’s making it all about you. Maybe you can look at your child, see the innocence and make it all about them. You could think, ‘oh how sweet. Look at her trying to do her shoelaces up.’

Driver cuts you up on the way to work: feeling angry? ‘How dare he? Why does he think the rules don’t apply to him?’ Look again, ‘ Oh, poor man! He looks confused? Maybe he genuinely didn’t see me?’

Stuck in traffic: More frustration: ‘C’mon! I’m gonna be late!’. How about, ‘ Well it’s holding me up now, but at least this road will be better when it’s finished!’

Boss: Makes a joke about being five mins late: ‘God, he’s so annoying – doesn’t he know what I’ve had to get done even before I get to work’. In a lighter mood you might think, ‘I’m so lucky to have a boss who values what I do, understands my family life and doesn’t get annoyed because I’m a bit late!’

See where this is leading? It’s not about changing our thoughts for more positive ones! That’s just adding more layers to our thinking. It’s recognising that we live in a world of thought, like fish live in a world of water, and we can only ever feel what we are thinking in each and every moment and the capacity for new thought is infinite.  It’s a constant ebb and flow of ups and downs all day every day and whilst we don’t have control over what pops into our heads, we can start to see thoughts for what they really are, just bursts of energy that come and go.

So next time you’re feeling angry/frustrated/sad/anxious, just remember those feelings aren’t telling you anything about yourself or your  situation. They’re letting you know that your thinking’s off centre, and just like a snow globe settles after it’s been shaken, so will your mind. That’s the beauty of the system – it’s self correcting!  We don’t have to get involved.  And once your mind has settled, you’re open to the infinite potential of (Big) Mind and you’ll have a whole lot of clarity on what to do next. It’s perfectly designed.

Until next time folks!

Jo.  X