Thursday, 30 December 2010

How to ensure a fresh start for the New Year

If you know me well then you will know that I do not put much store into goal setting as an annual activity at the end of the calendar year.  However I am very into rituals as part of life and was very taken with one idea which is to visualise what you would say to your closest friends if they were round for dinner on 31 December about your achievements and setbacks over the previous twelve months.  It is a great way to focus the mind.  Below is another exercise that have used myself and also shared with clients.  I invite you to consider it as preparation for the New Year which could be 1 January, or Chinese New Year or in line with the seasons so here in the UK the official start of Spring is 21 March.  Take whatever date works best for you.

The day before the new start perhaps tomorrow for some, set aside some time alone [alternatively perform the act with someone who you can share stuff with easily] and tune into what you want to see in the next year.  Follow these steps:

  1. Create a space for yourself.  The ritual element gives the act more meaning and energy.  So light that candle, say a prayer, take deep breaths, burn incense, add in some appropriate music [I can recommend anything by Deva Premal].
  2. Say goodbye to 2010 properly.  Take out a sheet of paper, and begin writing all that you are ready to let go of from the last 12 months and even prior to it, all of those things that you recognize have served their purpose and are no longer needed in your life.  By "properly", what I mean is that there is a way of letting go.  So, rather than saying "I'm so done with that" with an edge of regret or disdain, shift your energy to being grateful for the presence of this thing in your life, and the acceptance that it was there for a reason and there was a gift in it.  This can be harder than it seems but is so worth it if you can see what it has given you.
  3. Letting go.  In a safe way, burn the piece of paper, and as you do so give thanks to God, the Universe or whomever it is you appeal to with such things.
  4. Celebrate!  When you are finished, it is so important to celebrate.  Not only does it lock in the experience, but it is an acknowledgment of this loving, important thing you just did for yourself.  Celebrating can happen in many different ways: maybe pouring a glass of fizz; or eating some dark chocolate; perhaps taking a luxurious bubble bath; or eating a slap up meal with a loved one. 
  5. Invite in the new.  On the first day of your New Year, or as close to it as you can get, take some time to tune into and get clear on all that you would like to invite into your life for the next 12 months.  Again, create your space and take out a sheet of paper writing out your intentions: what you would like to see show up, both externally i.e material things and internally.  This can be done as a list, a letter to yourself, a drawing, whatever works for you.  When you are finished, seal it in an envelope and keep it somewhere safe that you woll remember to take out and read in 12 months (it helps to mark a reminder on your calendar).
  6. Act as if it has happened and walk your talk.  Don't simply sit back and wait for these things to show up.  In the days, weeks and months that follow, consciously choose to think, speak and act in accordance with the intentions you set.  Dare I say it, set some goals and milestones, hire a coach to inspire you and help keep you on track, enlist a good friend to help hold you accountable.  All of these things help sustain the energetic path you have created.
The photographer is Sarah Wynne and you can find her work here.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Post Christmas reflection

I love this photo of different coloured Christmas baubles because it sums up so much of what Christmas is about for me.  Lots of colour, bringing family and friends together, variety and fun.

This Christmas was different to others because my aunt died on Christmas eve.  It was not unexpected and yet the timing was awkward.  When my uncle phoned to tell us, my eldest was having a mini melt down because she and I had different views on what dress she was going to wear to the Crib service (she is 4 going on 14) and I was concerned that we were going to be late as it is the most popular service of the year and it was past the time we had agreed to leave.  My father had to go outside in the freezing cold so that he could hear his brother and conversed with him for a while.  Suddenly what time we got to the service seemed trivial.  A day later than usual the absent friends and family toast was more poignant than in previous years as we stopped to remember my aunt and think about those she had left behind.

For me Christmas is all about seeing family and friends to share food and drink and be together.  What I enjoyed about this holiday period was the time A and I spent thinking about what meals we were going to cook and what wines we would serve, including some rituals too.  This is how I show my love to those closest to me.  We baked a salmon for Christmas eve something that goes back to my childhood.  My Grandmother's birthday was 23 December so we always had salmon on Christmas eve when we got together because it was her favourite food.  Other highlights this year included a game terrine which we had on boxing day evening with a barley and pomegranate salad and crostini of roasted peppers and melted garlic goats cheese.  For the major gathering of the clans, I made and served a venison and cranberry casserole followed by trifle or pears in red wine (courtesy of my Mum) and Christmas cake.  What was special about the preparation of that meal was that my Mum and I prepared vegetables for the casserole together and it enabled us to bond through sharing a task.

We had the most fun on boxing day morning when we all went out to a field to go sledging. Old and young alike took turns on the sledges, often in mixed pairs.  A and I both ended up falling off more than once - and I found myself in front of the sledge at one point! The grannies won the prize for going the furthest on one of the sledges. It was fantastic because everyone let go of their inhibitions, relaxed and had good, clean fun. 

Note to self next year I am going to make sure we do something equally silly and relaxing a day earlier. Summing up ours is quite a traditional Christmas, it works and will not change much from year to year.  In fact the few Christmases in my life that I have been apart from those closest to me or abroad have felt very strange. 

Reflecting on Christmas, how traditional was yours?  What went well, what could have gone better?  What will you do differently next year?  How much did you really enjoy it? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Details of the photographer for the photo can be found here.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

'Tis the season to be jolly

Just had to post this because it is very clever and gave me a good laugh. Quite a tonic after the day we have had.....
Enjoy. If that's not enough, do take a look at the following picture of our Christmas tree, drunk on water. A national lampoon moment if ever there was one!

Monday, 6 December 2010

How to enjoy the magic of Christmas

So I am conscious that many of my readers are parents as well as professionals which means as well as having a family you are either juggling the demands of others or your own business. So when the festive season comes along, frankly it can all seem to much. As an example, at the beginning of last week I remember reading someone's facebook status which said that they had bought all their Christmas presents and written all their Christmas cards. My thought at the time was and it's not even December yet! This was followed by a cold sweat and my gremlins took over for a moment and started saying I was so far behind I would never catch up...(you can imagine the rest). Why I am sharing all this with you is because after that something amazing happened which helps to explain the power of conscious embodiment. I took a breath and relaxed!

It was a bit more than that! I centred myself and from that space of calm, I was able to say that although I did not know how I was going to get everything done, I trusted myself enough to know that it would get done. It was amazing how much I did get done in one day - Saturday, a day when my OH was off "playing soldiers" and so I was a single parent. The girls and I spent a lovely part of the morning at the Melting Pot in Hitchin because my friend Dawn who runs it, had an open day. They were happy playing with a train set whilst I caught up with a number of people and bought 4 main presents and a couple of little ones. We then went on to the Town Hall where there was a Christmas Bazaar taking place,organised by White Rose Management. My intention was to go and support Sarah and I ended up buying another two presents, some delicious and highly original cupcakes for the home team and placing an order for cardigans for the girls.

What was lovely was how easy it all was. I now have my two international parcels made up to send out tomorrow. The Christmas letter is also written and I am a step closer to finalising another present. Suddenly it all seems much more manageable and I have actually started to enjoy the run up to Christmas - this week both girls have their nativity plays and I can't wait. One of the bonuses of having small children is that their infection is contagious. We have written letters to Father Christmas and they love opening their advent calendars each day and asking how many days it is until Christmas.

In short if you found yourself nodding with the sentiments expressed at the beginning of this post then here's something you can try:

1. Find a space where you can be quiet.
2. Stand with your weight evenly balanced between the front and back of your feet.
3. Take a breath in and then a much longer exhale out that you imagine spiralling into the floor.
4. Check that your shoulders and jaw are relaxed and you have dropped into your gut.
5. Visualise the space that you inhabit beyond your body is evenly distributed front and back; left and right; and above and below.

Now you are centred and from this space say to yourself I don't know how I am going to get everything ready for Christmas (or put in something else that is causing you a certain level of anxiety) but I believe that I can do it. Stay in that space for as long as you can - 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 5 minutes. Then as the days unfold from that point on, watch what happens. It can be truly magically.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

What is the relationship between mentoring and authenticity?

One of the things about mentoring is that you get back as much if not more than you put in. I have been mentoring an amazing woman who also has a passion for diversity. Earlier in the year, when we were both doing some training for the NBP, we got talking and that is how it all began. As it happens she is also a coach and an experienced one at that, which means that because we both take an informal approach to our sessions, I generally receive a free coaching session too. A wonderful extra I never expected when we entered the process, nor is it part of the official process.
The irony is that my mentee is mid-way through the recruitment process for an organisation that I have known for over half my working life. We had a session by phone today which had the primary purpose of preparing her for her interview next week. That was accomplished and so much more was as well.
It all started with an innocuous question about how I was. I started to relate something that I have been processing for a while that has been very painful. Before I knew it I was being coached. It was fascinating because through the conversation I was able to meet one of my saboteurs or as Wendy Palmer refers to them "grinches" (a much more colourful description). Rebel girl is someone I know well who wants to protect and will come out all guns blazing with the attitude of I don't give a f**k whenever she feels I have been attacked. Today I realised that to move on I need to be able to acknowledge her and the part she plays for me. I tend to wrestle with her or repress her which means that she pins me down by stealth - an amusing sight for those on the outside which can be mortifying for me.
What I was able to do by having the coaching conversation was first to get a longer term perspective on the matter; second to dialogue with myself and in so doing be more of my whole self and refind my centre. If you are into conscious embodiment, you will recognise the next phrase which is what I came up with: I am committed to the process, I don't know what the outcome will be but I trust whatever it is. Holding the space of unknowing rather than trying to control it, seek external approval or back a way due to a lack of safety is something I am really starting to get.
The beauty of experiencing such moments of wholeness is that I can share them with my clients and thereby give them practical tools to get more out of their lives as well as enable my own authentic self to grow. It's a great win-win. It is also a good example of what can be gained in a mentoring relationship.