Archives For Misc

If you would like to write a book then this is a great afternoon workshop for you.

Many people would like to write a book but few create the space to make it happen.

Do you have a story to share? Have you had interesting experiences in your life so far? Is there a family story you would like to record? Do you have a message that you would like to put into the world?

During our interactive session we will explore the steps you need to take to get your book into the hands of admiring readers.

Join others on a similar journey and be encouraged in the process.

We begin where you are and help you plan the route ahead.

Book here for June workshop.

It’s Saturday 14 June and my husband is looking after our son. I am meeting up with a longstanding friend and very much looking forward to it. It’s one of the highlights of the summer where we do something arty, eat some nice food and share about our lives. We are professional women who are wives and mothers too. We were born in the same year and married one day apart.

This year we’re attending the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition. Last year we saw The Amen Corner at The National Theatre, South Bank with Marianne Jean-Baptiste and a few years ago it was the Anish Kapoor exhibition. With her art and my therapy training we enjoy interpreting what is presented: the creative skills, the subject choice, what we imagine the artist is trying to say and how it makes us feel. It’s great to keep adding layers and affect each other’s perspective and be moved by our experience. We catch up too on being mums, about keeping boundaries, modeling how to be and our developing children.

We share our challenges and receive a fresh viewpoint from the other. Eventually after 2 hours in the exhibition and a 2- hour lunch we make our way down Piccadilly towards the tube. As promising writers – I have authored two books and she is completing a book on healing – we stop at Waterstones to browse.

Soon after leaving the shop a familiar looking tall black man walks past rather quickly. He is wearing glasses, a hat, headphones, shorts, trainers-type footwear and a Pharrell-style cardigan. Could this really be Samuel L Jackson of the Hollywood movies? I check it out with her but she does not know. Encouraged by her I speed up to find out. Just then another black man and I notice that we are both trying to follow the tall man. He confirms excitedly to me that it is Samuel. My friend is falling behind and encouraging me to continue whilst Samuel is going further away. I hesitate as am not sure if I should continue to follow him and for what purpose. I am not an agent, I don’t have a script and he probably won’t want to be interviewed for my local magazine. What will I say? “I’ve seen a few of your films.” These thoughts rush by.

We arrive at Piccadilly tube and my friend and I hug goodbye whilst Samuel dives into Lillywhites. This is not how our meet-ups usually end but there is a distracting moving target. Despite all the deep conversation I turn out to be as fickle as the next person. She leaves for her long train journey back to her family. I consider doing the same but find myself in the shop trying to make eye contact with Mr. Jackson.

He seems to look both through and around me with a determined focused expression on his face. I feel that if I get any closer he’ll have me in some martial arts brace and see it as self-defence. I am disappointed with the outcome and a little bit “how dare you ignore me”. I know I am a good person but I am not sure why I am trying to get his attention. What’s the point of a little star-dust, if that is what I seek?

Of course I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me. There are lots of people on the street watching the street dancers and performers. Why is he the only person I want to meet? If I were him I might easily do the same thing – dress ordinarily and try to walkabout like a regular person. The alternative is to have an entourage, be on show and feel unable to walk about freely.

He owes me nothing. If I pay to see his movie then I have the pleasure of seeing the movie. That’s the end of the contract. And yet still I stand outside the shop trying to decide whether to wait for a while or return home to my family and be with the people who are part of my real life.

Ten minutes later he comes out and I try to get a picture with my phone. In a flash I could see the back of his head as he walks away from me. I decide that this is the end of any encounter. It’s time to forget this and return to being present to my environment: a lovely Saturday in the summer filled with friendship, art, good food, books and now street performers and people from all over the world. I enjoy a leisurely walk to Trafalgar Square arriving near the end of a free Christian concert then getting on a train to begin the journey home. A
pleasant and eventful Saturday in London.

7.Fences, Lenny Henry and Ashley Zhangazha (c)Nobby Clark[6]

August Wilson’s play Fences is being performed to rave reviews in London’s West End.  It stars Lenny Henry, whose stage debut was a brilliant turn as Shakespeare’s Othello. Nowadays it is easy to separate Henry the comic from Henry the actor.  In a recent appearance on BBC radio 4 Lenny Henry responded to the question by stating that “comedy is my job, acting is my career”.

This leading role sees him playing Troy, a talented ex-baseball player turned garbage man.  He is a fifty-something husband and father trying to be the best he can be but weighed down by his past experiences.  The play is set in 1957 with Troy having lived most of his life in a segregated country. In 1949 Jackie Robinson became the first baseball player to cross the major-league colour line but by then Troy could have been seen as too old to play major league.

Troy is caught between the two very different generations of his father and his son.  He embodies the struggles, pain, losses and successes of his life. Henry’s stage presence means you can’t keep your eyes of him.  Troy is stubborn and very good at covering his emotional turbulence. There is an underlying weariness we get glimpses of as the play continues and we find out more of his past.  But he is also hardworking and decent and wants the comfortable life that society promises. He tries to break through discrimination at work in his desire to become the first black man to drive the garbage trucks.

1.Fences, Lenny Henry and Tanya Moodie (c)Nobby Clark[3]

Troy is the heart of the play.  His relationships with his American football obsessed son Cory, his garbage man buddy Jim and his devoted wife Rose, all serve to give an insight into the man. Cory is at the receiving end of much pent up hurt and anger. Another son, Lyons and Troy’s brother Gabriel, help to create this engaging community of people.

If I were to critique the play it would be about the limited and narrow role the female character had.  There was more action than introspection on her part until the very end when we find out a bit more about her internal workings.  Having said that, her big gesture isn’t sufficiently explained.  I could make some sense of her responses but my male companion was quite surprised at the twists at the end.

Director Paulette Randall has directed plays throughout the UK, as well as for the BBC and Channel 4. She was an Associate Director of the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

August Wilson (1945-2005) was the son of a German man and African American woman.  He has written ten plays, one for each decade of the 20th century. From his early twenties he began writing plays that show the African American experience in all its fullness and humanity. He picked up a Best Play Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1987 when James Earl Jones played Troy on Broadway.  Lenny Henry had big boots to fill and they seem to fit him well.

 

Welcome to my final extract from An A-Z for your life, discovering and revealing who you are today.  You can read the chapters for X,Y, Z in the book at your own pace.

Witness

Witness

Sometimes it is not simply who we are and how we are but what other people make of us.  Here I want to talk about being a witness to others, and being seen by others.  The term is used in religious and legal circles but I am using it in a therapeutic way.

It’s about really seeing another as we witness their life.  It is also about being seen by others as they witness our life.  What is it like to be seen in our happiness or sadness, joy or frustration?  Similarly, what is it like to really see others close to us go through the range of experiences and emotions that make up their life?

Before I became a counsellor I cannot say I was particularly conscious of this.  I now know how powerful it is to witness others in their pain, for example, and to be seen with my feelings.  We like to know that we are not alone and that people see that we are alive.

It’s healthy to be heard and seen when we are struggling, and perhaps celebrated with when things are going well.  Our peers may be in different situations and that’s where understanding, love and kindness come in.  But the challenge is to witness to others when life is difficult for them.  This is delicate and important.  If you are having a difficult time it is made even worse if others see your difficulty and ignore it.  This ignoring of your pain is like another blow, saying that your pain does not matter.

Maybe we could recognise the daily struggles of those close to us, and how bravely they deal with their challenges.  A compliment from us would let them know that we see their courage and vulnerability and admire them for it.  By witnessing to them we are saying “yes it is real, you are not dreaming”.

How do you feel when others witness you, in your joy or pain? Share your thoughts below.

You can order ‘An A-Z for your life’: simply click on the book cover on the right or go direct to http://www.ana-zforyourlife.com and order your signed copy today!

 

 

Values

Welcome to my penultimate post from An A-Z for your life, discovering and revealing who you are today. There will be one more on ‘W’ and you’ll have to read the book for X,Y and Z.

Your values are the things in life that you hold dear: behavioural standards you hold for yourself and for others.

If honesty is a value then you don’t need to tolerate liars in your relationships.  Your most authentic response would be to let them know that you cannot be in a relationship with them because you have found out that they do not speak truthfully and you are unable to trust them.  Without trust the relationship becomes superficial and your time is too precious for that.  Maya Angelou observes that ‘Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage’.

Values are linked to right and wrong and moral codes of behaviour.  Sometimes we can figure out what we think and feel in conversation with others.  This relies on having quality relationships built on openness and trust, as discussed earlier. Where can you start?

Start by exploring yourself and maybe your unmet needs, those which you would love to have in your life but have not been able to attract.  It could be safety, trust, love and home.  This could then lead you to explore the values you hold dear.  My values are key to how I try to live my life.  It is about helping people to live the best and fullest life they can whether that is through careers advice, therapy, teaching or writing.  It is about healing our relationships and healing ourselves.  I am saddened by waste whether that is a wasted life, skills, resources or opportunities.  My values link to my belief that we are all created with unique gifts that we can offer to the world.  This book is my attempt to contribute.

What are your values and do these help you to make choices in your day-to-day life?  How do you respond when these are challenged?

I have come across so many clients who set unrealistic standards for themselves.  Are they your own values or ones that you have co-opted from other people?  It is important to find your own values to steer your life.

Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

If you would like to order ‘An A-Z for your life’ so you can work through it at your own pace then simply click on the book cover on the right or go direct to http://www.ana-zforyourlife.com and order your signed copy today!

If you are interested in my counselling services then check out www.envisioncounselling.co.uk and email me: shirley@envisioncounselling.co.uk

 

Understanding

As we are deepening relationships, learning and growing we will continue to change. As we change we affect our environment and life becomes less predictable and more spontaneous.

When we meet new people we cannot know where they are in their personal journey and the changes that might be going on in their lives.  We can’t yet know what they might need from us, or what we might receive from them.

It strikes me that we need a great deal of understanding of ourselves, and each other.  Some of us are good at showing understanding to others and tend to value individuality and difference.  Other people like everyone to be the same, preferably similar to them.  But we are all on different paths in our journey of life so why do we judge others by our own journey?  Understanding enables us to be more honest to the variety of choices and possibilities there are without needing to feel that our way is worst or best –  just different.  Appreciate your uniqueness and that of others.

Sometimes we give a lot of attention to visible differences such as race, gender, religion and disability, but hidden differences can have as big an impact on our daily experiences.  Think of someone who hears voices or has certain food allergies and how they would experience the world differently to how they would be viewed from the outside.  With understanding we can find empathy for others and empathy for ourselves.  Studies show that when we are harsh on others we tend to be harsh on ourselves too.

Do you try to be understanding of the people you encounter in your daily life? Would you say you have too much understanding, too little or just enough?

Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

If you would like to order ‘An A-Z for your life’ so you can work through it at your own pace then simply click on the book cover on the right or go direct to http://www.ana-zforyourlife.com and order your signed copy today!

If you are interested in my counselling services then check out www.envisioncounselling.co.uk and email me: shirley@envisioncounselling.co.uk

 

Thinking

Rene Descartes said ‘I think therefore I am.’  As you can see from what we have looked at so far, to be really engaged in your life you need to engage your mind in thinking about what you do, who you do it with and how what you are doing lives up to your beliefs.

None of us like the idea of sleepwalking though our life. Thinking is important. It encourages learning and using our individual skills to resolve our own problems rather than trying to be like everyone else.

There have been great thinkers in our world over many centuries.  There are great philosophers, politicians, scientists and mathematicians.  There are those who explain how the human mind works, how groups behave and how to design clever things such as spacecrafts, robots and submarines.  Neuroscience is discovering more about our brains, how they work and the potential for change.

We need to trust ourselves to believe we can solve our issues.  So many people have been told they are no good that they no longer trust themselves, which means that they are always looking outside themselves for their answers.  In my work as a counsellor I try to help people in growing their self-esteem and confidence so that they can trust themselves.  It takes time, mostly undoing all the negative comments they have received in their life to date, but it is possible.

Could you be making more of your capacity to think?  Are you continuing to develop by learning new things? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

If you would like to order ‘An A-Z for your life’ so you can work through it at your own pace then simply click on the book cover on the right or go direct to http://www.ana-zforyourlife.com and order your signed copy today!


 Quiet spaces

It is important to have time to reflect on our life, the journey we are on and where we are heading.  It is about stopping and enjoying the moment.

Many people are embracing the idea of going slow, which is an antidote to all the rushing around and multitasking that many of us try to do.  Since starting a mindfulness course I am finding it more difficult to multitask and that feels like a good thing.

I do not believe that human beings are designed to go as fast as we are trying to.  We are presented with hundreds of choices every day from emails, posters, supermarkets, outfits and travel options to name but a few.  I am like every one else – trying to absorb everything so that I can make the best choice.  Sometimes it simply is not worth the effort and takes up valuable down time.

Another way of slowing down is to engage in the practice of meditation (or prayer).  Many great thinkers and spiritual people find this a rewarding experience.  Although we think of meditation in the context of Buddhism I believe Christians and other faiths also have a place for meditation in their belief systems.  It is also possible to meditate and not belong to any faith group.  There are lots of resources and centres that can tell you more about the practice and benefits of meditation.  ‘Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.’ Joseph CampbellI do know that it helps us to slow down and find peace within ourselves and we can then carry this into the world through our daily encounters.  I do not meditate as regularly as I would like but I am doing more of it and I do know that whenever I do I am never disappointed.

So we need to give ourselves time for being rather than only doing.  I think many of us can get caught up in the need to tell others what we did on the weekend, a bank holiday, for our birthday or an anniversary.  What will our friends say if we told them we spent the weekend listening to music, writing poetry or meditating?  Are we always busy so we don’t appear boring?    If we don’t give ourselves time to reflect how do we know why we are doing what we are doing?  I think that quiet times help us on our quest to a fulfilling life that connects to our values.

Throughout this I am also encouraging us to ask questions of ourselves, and those in our life.  It is not good to accept what others tell us we should be doing.  Socrates says that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. This whole book is dedicated to asking questions of ourselves and then honestly seeking out the answers.  This seeking is what makes our life uniquely ours and offers vitality, authenticity and genuine freedom.

What do you think?

 

 

Passion 

We also benefit from discovering our passion.  Many of the other things we have looked at so far could also impact on your passion such as your attitude, your beliefs, your sense of identity and your early environment.

Finding your passion can be achieved through careers guidance, counselling and some spiritual or other types of retreats.  It is not so important how you get there but that you do take time to discover what your passion might be.  Tony Robbins sees passion as ‘the genesis of genius’.

Volunteering is a wonderful way to explore your ideas and find out what you connect to at a deep level.  It may be that it starts off as a hobby before it grows into something you will be paid for.

That does not mean you must spend the rest of your life focusing on your passion to the exclusion of everything else. For most of us routine monotonous tasks still have to be done even if we have found our passion.  If you are wealthy enough you can hire people to cut your grass and do your laundry but sometimes those simple tasks help to slow us down and calm our minds giving us some reflective space. I’ve found that to be the case with my cooking as I become so engaged that other thoughts fall away.

If you are passionate about something you will happily do it for free.  People often say that about the arts in particular.  There are lots of people who create and perform just for the fun of it.  I regularly go the Edinburgh Fringe festival and I see so many students thoroughly enjoying presenting their productions even though they do not make much money from it.  We are so caught up with celebrity nowadays that it is difficult for some people to figure out if they are drawn to a path from within or simply because it is in the media and looks like fun.

There are also teachers, health workers, writers and advisers from many backgrounds who have a passion for their work and continue in the face of incredible hurdles.  It presents a wonderful reason for getting out of bed every day.  Are you passionate about anything at the moment?  Have you ever been passionate about anything? Would you like to be passionate about something in the future?

You can speak to a confidante, adviser, counsellor, therapist, to help you find your way. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

openness copy

As with nature, you may already be open to all that is happening around you.  Some of us are very open and take in much of what is happening in our immediate environment and the world at large.

Our world can be very busy and it is not possible to remain open to everything all the time so some choices need to be made.

Nowadays we challenge ourselves to  know and retain more and more information but such volume is probably not very healthy.

If we wish to protect ourselves from things that make us feel vulnerable and powerless then we should give ourselves permission to do so.  This could be about crimes, wars, the rise of racist political parties, the state of the global economy etc.  This does not mean living in a fantasy but still having some idea of what is happening in reality and if we can be a positive influence.

For example, I am open to fair trade and environmental concerns because I believe that my actions matter and contribute to the collective decisions made.  Others may feel that situations are futile and choose to shut down and bury their heads in the sand.  The belief affects the behaviour, which then has an impact on the environment.

Some of us believe we are very fragile so we live in an overly protected and closed space that may begin to lose its life energy.  If we block off everything around us then our life will be quite limited and dull.  We might also appear unreal and disconnected.  Some level of openness and engagement is healthy.

Others of us need to know everything that is going on in the world and we pack so much in that we give ourselves no space to discover what is going on within.  We are open to so much that nothing really has a chance to connect to our inner world.

When we are truly open to new experiences then new things can come into our lives.  For me I have found that very refreshing.  It may be as simple as befriending someone who is not like anyone you are normally friends with.  Sometimes it is about leaving gaps in our plans so that we can take up the suggestion of another.  Openness implies some flexibility and spontaneity in how we live our lives.

Openness allows for new people and ideas to be included in our world.  For instance, we can be open to new insights into how the brain works and how to keep healthy which won’t have been around when we were being raised (by parents and at school).  If we are not open to personal growth or adult education then we fix ourselves to a very staid and dull existence with no learning.

Like everything mentioned in these chapters, it is also about balance.  Being open does not mean attaching yourself to every change that comes along.  To me it means having some constant centre whilst being able to appraise new ideas and experiences as they come along, accepting some and rejecting others.  That’s true freedom.  The two extremes of accept everything or accept nothing can become automatic and unhelpful.

How do you experience this in your life?