Thursday, 28 July 2011

re: first thoughts from Poland

I can't believe it is already Wednesday - the day we launch our programme and welcome over 40 participants!  It has been a whirlwind few days since Sunday and I feel I have already gone into my discomfort zone which means that I am learning stacks.  Let me share some of my journey with you.

The lead up was frenetic which is why I missed the email from my good friend Eileen offering to pick me up from Warsaw airport.  I did email her but only six hours before I was arriving so needless to say there was no welcome committee.  I was incredibly fortunate however because Tania, my girls' au pair, travelled with me and speaks quite a bit of Polish so we managed to navigate our way to the appartments.

One of the first things I realised was how important physical environment is to me especially when I am not at home.  It is something that I coach people on a lot and now I recognise its significance for myself.  Let me share a couple of examples of what I mean.  The first thing I noticed about the appartment was its newness and the size.  It is just big enough to fit my husband, the two girls and the au pair but it will be a squeeze when Mum gets here.  Now I reframe that first reaction and say it will be cosy.  The initial concern however was over the lack of cooking utensils for a three month stay with my family.  Luckily my husband has brought over some of the smaller items and with help from the fabulous Ops Team for Genesis Park, more stuff is beginning to appear.  We are in the process of getting oven-proof dishes so that I can cook for the girls.  It has taken a lot of effort from various people to get this sorted; and that's largely because they are service appartments used to people doing short-term stays and so eating out a lot.  We will be here for three months - an altogether different proposition.

What I have also realised is the importance of adaptability and flexibility.  At lunchtime on Tuesday, I found out about the local culture in terms of dress.  If wearing a skirt or a dress it is essential that women also wear tights - not something I tend to do in summer. Additionally whilst it is okay to have open toes, all shoes have to have backs which means I can only wear one pair of shoes on formal occasions because I mainly packed a selection of sandals.  An excuse to go shopping this weekend!

As you can see I have already learnt a huge amount and it is only day four.  It just shows how valuable it is to place oneself in new cultural settings and how important it is to appreciate difference and maintain a sense of humour.  So I am curious to find out if you have had similar experiences in new environments and how you coped with them?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Silent Sunday: experimenting with calmness and stillness

Today was a first for me.  For months we had been planning to go away for the w/e camping with some of my hubby's University friends.  They all have children so it would have been great fun for the young as well as an opportunity for the adults to catch up on a year's worth of news.  About two weeks ago, the Universe, God if you will, decided to remind me that I was not in control of my life.  I had a huge shock and had to make the toughest decision of my life to date.  It was something I would not wish on anyone.  Anyway the upshot of it all was that I ended up having a surgical procedure last week and was advised to take it easy for a week or two.

I knew my hubby would want to see his friends; that the girls love camping; and my body needed to recuperate.  I realised that I had to convince my hubby to do the trip with the girls and leave me behind.  In fact he was all for it and needed little convincing which felt like a result. 

Yesterday our au pair was at home and whilst I rested, walked as a way to clear my mind, picked fruit at the old allotment, cooked a very healthy dinner of spicy greens with chick peas.  However it was not a silent time.  Today from about 9.30 to 16.30 I had the whole house to myself.

It felt very odd and I decided it was time to take a leaf out of Brene Brown's book on imperfection and experiment with calmness and stillness.  Initially I felt as if there were a million things I needed to do and I went into human doing mode for a good hour or so, whilst tweeting and facebooking for inspiration.  The lovely Rachael suggested the fab idea of lying on the grass watching the sky, something I enjoyed in the middle of the day when the sun was out, and yes I did apply factor 30 suncream on my face and neck!  I used my neck pillow and practised my Alexandrian technique which felt really good to my back.

What got me into a place of stillness and calm was a 10 minute guided meditation using conscious embodiment techniques.  It was magical and the key was focusing on the breath and that led to so much more.  Later I topped it up with a practice which works with one's energetic field, also about 10 minutes which is as much as I can manage in one go.

I may not have had any life changing insights however I did realise I need to slow down in the run up to Poland.  I made the decision to take about 65% of the next two weeks off which is a big step for me and focus on my family and getting fitter.  The house is also the tidiest it has been in months which I find hugely pleasing!

I can definitely recommend the benefits of creating space and time for yourself as a way to revitalise and grow especially if you are a working parent!  I had complete silence for around 7 hours and benefitted hugely from it.  What small step(s) can you take to build more calm and stillness into your life?