Mar 06

It’s not failure, it’s only feedback…

lightbulb… or so goes a popular inspirational quotation. And actually, it’s one that I firmly believe in. We tend to look at failure as a disaster, when the easiest thing to do is to treat it as a learning exercise. “Well, that didn’t work – so I’ll try something else next time”. The famous (and, it should be said, apocryphal) tale of Thomas Edison was that after blowing his house up at his 10,000th attempt to create a light bulb, declared that he hadn’t failed once – he’d just discovered 10,000 ways not to do it.

Yet feedback can be astonishingly painful and uncomfortable, whether it’s a comment from a spouse or loved one, or a performance review from your manager at work. So how do we do it better?

Many of you know I dance – and dance the blues. I had the privilege of attending a Mariachi weekend run by the amazing team of CJ and Yliander (www.mariachi.info) a while back, and while initially bringing up images of moustachioed Mexicans with trumpets and acoustic guitars, the reality is somewhat different as an opportunity to dance to the music that I love… rock and blues and anything with a guitar in it (if we discount the rebellious early morning set from Messrs Rodham and Shillito where no guitars were allowed). All of which is a diversion and context for the rest of this piece, so perhaps I should get back to talking about whatever the hell I was talking about. Ah, yes, feedback….

After a weekend of dancing and classes, we formed up for what was billed as a “Portland Dance Lab”. Here the idea was that we danced, and then our partner got the opportunity to give us feedback. And I have to say it was one of the scariest moments of my dancing history, as I am fully aware of many of my dance shortcomings, and so expect that there are many others I am not yet aware of!

buckden lbdWith each new partner we asked the questions “would it be OK if I observe you while we dance?” and “would it be OK if I gave you some feedback when we’ve finished?” And off we whirled into a dance, and afterwards one of us – either the lead or the follow – would offer constructive feedback. There was only one rule: “no feedback on the feedback”.

And of course, because we’re all nice people in the dance world, we got a lot of lovely feedback, and all went away very happy. And I could relax.

Often, though, we do make a mess of giving feedback. It’s one of the things that has been a part of my personal development as a speaker and leader, as well as my time as a manager and employee. Yet I loved the Portland Lab, and here’s why:

First of all, we knew we had permission. Often we get feedback that’s unsolicited, unwanted. Now, most of the time, I welcome feedback from those that I respect and trust, from those that love me. So for them, I have given them permission to tell me what they think, knowing that they love me and want the best for me. I’m not so open (although I will usually listen) when someone I barely know gives me feedback!

(A couple of weeks ago, I was dancing with someone who, when we’d finished, said “that was a fabulous dance….” and I could almost taste the word “but” in the air. She went on to explain some finer point of the dance, which I have tried to incorporate – yet the use of the word “but” completely destroyed her earlier compliment. And in fact, having talked to others, and listened to my own dance teacher – she was actually not entirely correct in her assessment either, by expressing a personal preference as universal truth.

So if we are giving feedback, we do need to know that it’s OK to give feedback to someone – and we need to know that dressing criticism up with a compliment is cheating!)

Secondly, we had to accept it. “No feedback on the feedback” meant exactly that. No arguing with it, no chance to put your own point of view… just listen to it, accept it, learn from it. Of course, we’re free to discard feedback we don’t think is helpful… but at least we have listened. When I was training to be an NLP trainer, we  were put in many, many situations where feedback was given. Our answer was to be the same each time: “Thank you for the feedback”. That meant we were free to listen to it, to learn from it, and to accept it or reject it as we chose… but never to argue with it.

Thumb up.Of course, we also argue with positive feedback, don’t we? “Oh, it was nothing”. “Oh, you mean this old thing?” When someone tells you something you did well, or compliments you.. accept it. In fact, I’ve learned to treasure these moments. I actually have a notebook in which I write this kind of stuff down. In the lower moments in my life (yes, I get those too) then I can go back and look at them – and also, they also contain the seeds of understanding who I am – many of the comments that people have made have been used to shape the direction I have taken in life – helping me to truly know my strengths.

I learned somewhere that one of the best ways of giving feedback is actually not to mention what someone got wrong at all. Talk about what they got right. The amazing thing is that they’ll actually focus on that, and do more of it. Focussing on the negative doesn’t help. If you need to, find a way of reworking the ‘negative’ into something positive – find a place where they got it right, and focus on that.

So.. feedback. Learn to listen to it, accept it, use what works and what helps you – and just let the rest drop. If it doesn’t support you in your growth and in your own personal journey – then just let it drop. Because the real thing that matters is that you remember just how amazing and incredible you truly are.

TimSignature

Jan 23

Timmy Thoughts–bribery and corruption

DSCF6984Every now and again, I might get a little bit ‘off topic’ and stray into politics or economics.. and yet, politics is our spirituality, demonstrated. Finance is our spirituality, demonstrated. Social action is our spirituality, demonstrated. Every part of our life is a demonstration of our inner walk (even if you be atheist or agnostic).

 

 

Anyway, I was out taking an early morning walk round Oundle, my new home (lovely town, lots of old buildings), this morning, and I came across the meeting invitation for the Town Council.  Not really sure why I stopped and read this one, as they are usually as dull as ditchwater.  To start with, something in the way that it was phrased made it read like a summoning – as if there was an implied threat… you are summoned to a meeting of the Oundle Town Council [which you will attend or else (your home and lands will be repossessed/ you will be put in stocks/ you will be rehomed within 100 yards of the church bells which strike every 15 minutes all day and all night) (Sorry, got carried away there – made a bad location choice a few years back and moved too close to the church (and its bells)).

Sorry, where was I? Ah yes. Now, the first item on the agenda was the presentation of any entertaining that had been accepted since the last meeting. Any gifts or entertaining that had been offered (and accepted) or offered (and declined) had to be presented. Hold on. This is the FIRST thing on the agenda? The most important thing?

I read on, gripped now by the significance and priorities of town life. Apparently, any entertaining over £25 has to be declined. Well, I thought.. that should reduce the possibility of bribery in the town council. And then sanity gripped me. Whoa there,  Nellie. Hold on a moment.

What this actually means is that we are now afraid that we have councillors that can be bribed with a £25 meal. Now, honestly, I don’t know ANYONE who is that shallow and desperate. I suspect that anyone on the town council isn’t THAT hungry. And if you’ve got those kind of people on the council – you’ve got the wrong people on the council. So what kind of message are we sending out? Sorry, dude, we’re going to entrust the future of an entire town to you – but actually we think you’re cheap enough to be bought for £25.

When I think back to my days in corporate life, similar things applied, but perhaps not so rigorously enforced. I’d get the occasional gift from a supplier, or they’d take me to dinner (worst experience – being taken to a steakhouse in Texas – as a vegetarian). (Actually, that wasn’t the worst experience.. but perhaps I should draw a veil over those memories).

I have a suspicion that really if someone bought me anything, it made them LESS likely to get the contract… because I would want to demonstrate squeaky clean that I couldn’t be bought. And I think most people are like that. You know, it’s not morally wrong to accept a gift. In fact, gifts are part of life in Asia – turn up at a home without one, and you’ve committed social suicide. It’s not morally wrong to accept a gift – but it is inappropriate to allow that to sway your decision. 

So what message are we sending out? That we can’t trust our civil leaders, our business leaders? Or that we can’t trust the process that will find and punish corruption if it does happen?

I just wonder if we shouldn’t sometimes just trust people to do the right thing?

TimSignature

picture of Oundle School copyright 2012 Tim Hodgson

Oct 14

For God’s sake get some perspective

imageOne of my all time favourite authors is Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (and more) – he was a fabulous thinker and showed more insight into the workings of the Universe than people might think. He was a ‘radical atheist’ and yet a deeply spiritual thread ran through his writing – a faith, it seems to me, in the spirit and power of humanity and of Who We Are.

 

One of my favourite HHGTG stories is that of Zaphod Beeblebrox, when he has been sentenced to death in the “Total Perspective Vortex” – a machine so fiendish that “when you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it a tiny little mark, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says, ‘You are here.’

The shock of this realisation of the victim’s total insignificance is apparently so huge that it annihilates the brain.

 

However, when the door is opened on the vortex after Zaphod has entered, he walks out, snatches the piece of cake that powers the device (a long story) and walks off… when asked what he experienced, whether he saw the Universe, and his relationship to it. “Yes”, comes the reply. “And?” “And I’m Zaphod Beeblebrox”.

 

So why do I tell that story? Why do I love it so much? Because it reminds me just who I am. Because it reminds me of my importance in this Universe. Each one of us is unique, with our own set of gifts, with our own mission on this earth. Each one of us has something special to bring to this planet, a special contribution to make. No-one else can make that contribution. No-one else can be ‘you’. I can stand up and say “Hey, I’m Timothy Hodgson” – and be proud of that.

 

You’re not ‘just one in seven billion’. You are a special, unique, incredible, amazing and totally irreplaceable ‘one in seven billion’. If you don’t give your gift, the world loses out.

 

Maybe it’s time to stand up a little straighter, a little prouder, with a bigger gleam in your eye – look yourself in the mirror and like what you see. Maybe it’s time to stop calling yourself an idiot when you do something ‘wrong’. Maybe it’s time to see the perspective in your life.

 

It’s actually taken me a long time to really learn to like myself – and I probably still have some learning to do there – but I make sure that I give myself positive strokes, that I remind myself how well I am doing – that I allow myself to be all I can possibly be.

 

So what’s the true perspective? Know how important you really are. Know what you’re capable of. As a friend of mine says, if you could see yourself as God sees you, you would smile a lot.

 

So will you do me a favour? Get a true sense of perspective. Step out from the shadows. Let your light shine. Give your gift. Be all you can possibly be – and let’s rock this world together.

 

TimSignature

PS – I’ll soon be launching my new web site with new products and giveaways – so watch this space (because I’m stepping out of the shadows too)

Sep 21

“That’s the story of my life”

Monument Valley Horse Riding (12)

One of my friends recently wrote to me to update me on a love affair that hadn’t quite worked out how she wanted… and at the end of the brief tale she wrote “I guess that’s the story of my life”.

And of course it will be – because that’s what she’s declaring. “I’m never going to get the relationship that I want – because that’s how it always happens for me”. It’s not just relationships that we do this with… we say “I’ll never get the job I want – it always goes to someone younger” or “Nothing good ever happens to me”. And what about “Everything I do goes wrong”?

Story is a huge part of our life – the human race has always told stories to pass on truth from one generation to another.. and we’ve always loved to tell stories of what’s happened to us. So it’s programmed into us that our stories are true.

We really do get what we say – our words are actually incredibly creative.

Now this is true at all sorts of levels. At the psychological level, we are actually programming our expectation of what is going to happen, to the point where we start to look for all the indicators that support our story, and we find ourselves following the plot line – over and over again. It’s safe – we know how the story ends! No nasty surprises, even if it’s a bit dull.

Once we’ve set our mind to think in a certain way, we start to filter our perception of the world according to that program. We notice the things that support that program, and ignore things that don’t.

At an even deeper level, we are our story. It becomes our identity. So if, in our story, we’re the victim, or if we’re always on the wrong end of a heart-wrenching love affair, then we will find ways of preserving that identity. It’s actually the thing that we will fight to defend at all costs. My identity used to be that of a father – and I would defend that identity at huge cost to myself in terms of relationships that foundered under the pressure of my duty to my children, promotions that I passed up to maintain that sense of being a father. Now, that’s actually worked out well – the friendship I have with my children is amazing… but now I am choosing to learn to let go of that identity and step into something new.

And at an even deeper spiritual level, I happen to believe that our words are truly creative. That when we say something, then it becomes true. The words “I am” are the most incredibly creative words in the Universe – it’s no surprise that when God announced his identity to Moses at the burning bush, she used the words “I am that I am”. We share that. We are what we say we are. Life is what we say it is. The world we experience is the world we say we experience. Life proceeds out of our intentions for it.

If we always describe our world in negatives, if we are always putting ourselves down, if we’re always expecting the worst… well, guess what? That’s what we get. But when we start speaking positively, using powerful words that change our situation… surprise, surprise… our situation changes.

When we truly understand our potential to define our world – then our world will change.

Now, actually, my friend knows this – but it’s so easy to fall into the trap of expecting that it’s always going to be how it was.

So what’s the secret? Change the story. We are creative beings. If you don’t like the story that you’re in – change it. Don’t tell yourself “This is just who I am”. That’s another story. You’re not  a character in a soap opera, your reality proscribed by the script. You’re the story teller, the script writer. Tell another story. Tell it how you want it.

Randy Gage tells a story of a friend of his who is a movie scriptwriter. His recommendation is that you sit down and write a story of your life the way you want it. Describe it in every detail – maybe make it a script of your perfect weekend, or your perfect day in business. Maybe make it a script of the day of your wedding, or the moment you receive an award. Fill in all the details. Where are you? What are you wearing? What are the scents in the air? How does it feel? Who’s in the story with you? Make it rich, make it detailed, make it live. Then read it through from time to time, letting it soak in to your being. Improve it as you go. Make it even better. You’ll find that life starts to become like your new story.

It’s over to you . . .

First, start noticing the story you’re telling. Look out for “that’s just my luck”, or “that always happens to me” or “that never happens to me”. (A friend of mine used to say “always refrain from saying ‘always’ and never say ‘never’”).

Then decide that you’re going to drop that story. Really. Just. Drop. It. Now.

Then decide what your new story is. You’re the hero, the heroine. Write it the way you want it. Then go out and live it the way you wrote it.

It’s your life. You decide how it is.

…and remember – you are amazing!

TimSignature

 

original text and images © Timothy Hodgson 2011

Apr 22

The Path of the Wizard

Many of you will know that for a long while I have an interest in magic. It’s often the word I use when I want to refer to miracles, to the spooky, to the supernatural. I’m not talking here of the art of the showman, the David Copperfields of this world. I’m talking about something far more primal, more connected to the true power of the world, to the energy flow that runs at the core of our universe. It seems to me that a real connection to that energy will produce effects so outside of our current expectations of the behaviour of the world as to be indistinguishable from magic.

(An apology to my female readers – for some personal reason, probably connected to literature and media, I don’t like the word ‘witch’, and so I avoid it – but whatever I say applies to both men and women alike (and probably our more open and sensitive fairer sex will find the whole concept easier).

Some of my closest friends have recognised that in some way I am following the path of the wizard – at some level perhaps supernatural, magical (as Dr Hew Len, the Hawai’ian shaman from Zero Limits, remarked when I met him), at some level perhaps very natural in the way I work with people.

I’d warn you, though – the path of the magician is a deeply uncomfortable one. When you find someone with the magician’s stamp on their life (or the visionary, the prophet or the healer) – anyone for whom the gap between the seen and unseen is paper thin – then you will find someone whose life has been taken to the very edge of destruction. That might be through debilitating illness, or through emotional turmoil – their life may have been devastated through circumstances and events – but somewhere, you will find that they have been taken to the very edge of existence: they know that life is tenuous at best.

I’ve been fascinated by the real magicians of the world – people like Jesus Christ, perhaps, or Merlin, but also the archetype that’s alluded to by Gandalf from "The Lord of the Rings" or Ged from "The Earthsea Chronicles". I think these archetypes are so permanent in our myths and in our stories because they speak of a truth that’s part of our genetics… we know this is at some level real. We know at some level that we are all magical beings.

There’s no space to go into it here (perhaps later!) but it’s my belief that our calling is to remember that our basic nature is that of God – as Jesus himself said "those things that I do, you will also do”. Or as Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, "all creation stands on tiptoe just to see the sons of God come into their own". This, I know in my heart, is our heritage, our birthright – it is what we are called to. Perhaps this is where evolution takes us next.

I believe at some level we are all capable of magic. It’s the wizard in each of us, the sorcerer (as Castenada called him – truly connected to the source). We are all capable of extraordinary miracles. It’s a part of our true nature. As Tom Holt observed in the wickedly funny "The Portable Door":

"It was at that moment that Paul realised the simple, basic truth. The world ought to work properly, there was nothing wrong with it, but sometimes it stuck or it wouldn’t start in the mornings. Magic was the confi­dent, well-placed clout on the side of the casing, the clip round the carburettor that got it going. Magic wasn’t changing the world or making it do impossible stuff; magic was persuading it, by force of will and a little controlled violence, to stop fart-arsing about and get on with what it was supposed to be doing. Simple as that."

Magic is normal, natural, part of life. We experience it in so many ways – and as Arthur C Clarke famously observed, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." – it’s just, perhaps, that we don’t understand ‘how it works’ yet.

So my poor scientific brain has had to deal with learning and understanding energy work as demonstrated through the science of the Emotional Freedom Technique (www.emofree.com) or chakra work – or through technologies such as Reiki (I’m a reiki practitioner too) – technologies that in a rudimentary way explore the use of energy fields. I think this is the next huge technology leap for humanity – we’re only just scratching the surface of what this means right now: but I can see the control of these energies (and I don’t know if ‘energy’ is the right word for it) is the key to the fossil fuel crisis, to health and healing, to the environmental puzzle and more.

But back to magic…. We know that the magician has the power to create, producing something from nothing; the power to transform, changing one thing into another – and the power to destroy – to make things disappear. I think, along with many of our more coherent thinkers, that when we chose to live on this planet, we chose to forget who we truly are, what we’re truly capable of…and sometimes, we remember, just for a moment, what incredible power we truly have at our disposal. Sometimes we remember that we actually are made in the image of God.

Or as Neil Gaiman put it in "The Graveyard Book" "You are alive. That means you have infinite potential.. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you change the world, the world will change."

Christmas, it seems, is one of those times when the walls between the ‘real’ world and the ‘magical’ world become thinner – when we start to truly believe that magic can happen. And magic appears at all sorts of levels. From the things that we write off as ‘coincidence’, to the magic of a love affair, or a new born infant – to amazing healings, to remarkable restoration of fortunes. Somewhere, it seems to me, something is happening at a level that we can’t quite understand yet. Somewhere, magic is happening.

I don’t think we know who we are yet – still children, not yet fully grown into our true potential, still not understanding what we are truly capable of, not yet understanding the power that we have at the core of our beings. Perhaps, even now, we are waking up.

The last word, perhaps, goes to Richard Bach, from his wonderful true love story ‘Bridge Across Forever’.

"We think, sometimes, there’s not a dragon left. Not one brave knight, not a single princess gliding through secret forests, enchanting deer and butterflies with her smile. We think sometimes that ours is an age past frontiers, past adventures. Destiny, it’s way over the horizon, glowing shadows galloped past long ago and gone.

What a pleasure to be wrong. Princesses, knights, enchantments and dragons, mystery and adventure … not only are they here-and-now, they’re all that ever lived on earth!

Masters of reality still meet us in dreams to tell us that we’ve never lost the shield we need against dragons, that blue-fire voltage arcs through us now to change our world as we wish. Intuition whispers true: We’re not dust, we’re magic!"

Feb 28

The road less travelled

While I was in Ao Nang, Thailand, I took a day trip out by longtail boat to see Khao Ping Gan, a beautiful island in the Khao Ping Gan (11)bay, made famous in the James Bond movie ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ as Scaramanga’s secret den. We had about 30 minutes to see the island, and so, like a well behaved tourist, I was rushing round trying to see as much as I could, and to capture the movie locations.

I found myself simply following the crowd – wandering from one spot on the beach to another – climbing a little path that led to a new vantage point and a different scene. And something inside me rebelled.

There are times when it feels right to follow the crowd – to do what everyone else is doing, to be part of the ‘gang’, to share in a common experience. It’s like that at Bangkok’s Kao San road. All the backpackers and tourists go there to eat, to catch the street entertainment.. to buy things they don’t need from street vendors, and to watch the world go by. The food is pretty safe, the menus are in English, and it all feels very comfortable. You know where you’re going, you know what to expect.

And yet there’s more fun to be had off the beaten track. There’s a whole crazy city out there. Eating food from a street vendor who speaks no English, ordering by waving and pointing, prices communicated by holding up fingers or pointing out which note you need. Wandering round the little shops that seem to sell just about everything, piled high on dusty shelves. Stumbling on a local wedding, or a group of monks at prayer.

Kepler Trail (7)I’ve always been one of those rebels. I’m the one who has gone off down a different track when out walking – who’s missing, exploring something different. I want to push the boundaries, to see things no-one else has seen, to go places no-one else has gone. Sure, it’s a little bit scarier. But it’s a lot more unpredictable, a lot more fun. And it yields the better stories.

So everyone takes that taxi from the airport. So no-one travels Thailand by train. Sounds like really good reasons for doing it then…

1267_03_06_2005_8_10_59_1217My hero of deep and meaningful rock music, Larry Norman, once wrote ‘I took the road less travelled by, and that’s made the difference every night and every day’ – and he’s right. That’s where the difference is found. For Larry, the ‘road less travelled’ was his walk as a leader of the Jesus Movement in the 60s and early 70s. For me it’s been refusing to conform to someone else’s beliefs, someone else’s rules for how I should live my life.

 

A very precious friend of mine, who stood by me and encouraged me when my marriage was falling apart, once sent me the following quote:

Kepler Trail (38)“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds”. (Edward Abbey, US radical environmentalist (1927 – 1989))

 

 

 

 

..and although it’s years since I’ve seen Clare, that message has always been burned deep into my heart. I’ve sought to take the road that’s less well travelled. And that’s made me who I am. That’s fuelled my sense of adventure. Have I followed the right road all the time. I’m certain i haven’t. There have been detours, diversions, roadblocks, U-turns – I’ve been ambushed and gridlocked, I’ve spun off the road or blown a gasket. And yet it’s all been worth it – every single moment of it – for the view I have, for the sights I’ve seen, for the people I’ve me, for the adventures I’ve had. It’s been worth it for the places I have visited, for the fun I have had – and for the person I have become.

Luang Prabang (20)So what will you choose? Will you choose the safe path, the path that everyone else follows? A safe career, a life full of security and safety… or will you choose the path that beckons to you, the path that calls to your heart, the path that hints at adventure, at risk, a path that promises huge rewards?

Only you know – but I hope that the view beckons to you – that the adventure calls out to you… and you choose to be the person only you can be, and make the difference only you can make.

Feb 22

Do you know where you’re going?

After a day on Noppharat Thara Beach in Thailand, I decided to take a walk back to the hotel to do some work. It had already threatened rain, but just a few drops were falling, so I felt comfortable walking rather than taking a tuk tuk (taxi). I even felt pretty confident that I knew the way to the hotel – although I had been driven that morning by the hotel owner, it seemed pretty straightforward – just follow the road.

Ao Nang (3)

About five minutes into the walk, the heavens opened. Quickly putting the cover on my rucksack to protect Tigger and Snuff, my soft toy travel companions, and to guard my precious journal against damp, I set off up the road. As I walked, though, the road started to seem less and less familiar – and it seemed to be much further away than I thought it was going to be. All the little shops and hotels by the side of the road were strangers to me – and I began to doubt my plan. By this time, I was totally drenched. I’d got no money in my pockets for a taxi, and the locals were too busy getting where they needed to go to stop and pick up a drowning tourist.

“So, do you turn back or do you carry on”, I asked myself. I wasn’t sure how i could have made a mistake – I thought I knew where I was going – and I thought I had started off in the right direction too. As I thought back, I was still pretty certain that I had started out right – so why did everything look so badly wrong?

I’m not sure why I carried on going. It might have been that I couldn’t see an alternative – it might have been sheer bloodymindedness – it might have been despair – or it might even have been faith that I had got it right after all. The rain carried on pouring down in sheets, and the crackle of thunder and lightning echoed off the hills. And as I walked further, still nothing seemed familiar. There was a lake that I had not seen, a hotel that wasn’t in my memory of the street.

And then suddenly I realised that the 7-11 store I could see was the one I was expecting, and the fairground sign was exactly what I was looking to find. I was right after all. A few minutes later, I was in a hot shower.. I’d made it.

So, here’s the thing. How many of us set out on our journeys and give up? We set out in confidence, thinking we know what we’re doing – but after a while we begin to doubt ourselves. Perhaps things are harder than we expect – perhaps a little rain starts to fall. It all looked so easy when we set out – but now we are in unfamiliar territory, and nothing’s as we thought it would be.

And it’s taking so much longer than we thought it would – so we panic and turn round. But just a little more patience – just a little more faith in ourselves and in our judgement would see us safely home – would see us reach our goals.

For me, when I set out to create my own business, I thought it would be easy. I thought I would be in profit by the end of the year. I was severely tempted to give up. It was harder than I thought, and I really felt I had lost my way – I was going in the wrong direction. All I had to go on was my original plan, my intention, my inner knowing – and I had to reach back and trust that.

So what is it for you? It might be a dream that you’ve given up on – the feeling that you must have been wrong in the first place. You might be thinking that it should be happening by now – that you must have got it wrong.

Hang in there. Trust your dream. Trust your desire. Trust your plan. Sure, you might have to adjust it from time to time – but the heart of it will be right. You’re going in the right direction… and you’ll get there. Probably sooner than you think. Keep the faith. Hold on to what you know. And trust yourself – you are wiser than you think.

Feb 02

Under the sea

 

Doing anything new causes us to take a new view on things, helps us to look at the world in new ways – to hear God speaking to us, if you will. Even taking a different route to work can create a change in our perspective that causes us to see things in new ways – I’m certainly the sort of person who likes to vary things (a friend of mine called me a nomad the other day, and, like her, I do wonder about what things will be like when I get back from this trip).

I know that for me God speaks in all sorts of ways – sometimes I can feel a tingle down my spine, and I know to pay attention to what’s been said, or to what’s going on. Other times I feel a fizzing in my brain, almost as if I am connecting to another world, another dimension. Sometimes the voice seems so loud as to be a shout – but mostly it’s a quiet whisper.

Sometimes, for me, that voice comes in the words of a song, or the lines of a movie. Sometimes it’s in the pages of a book, or the voice of someone precious to me. But each time I am left in no doubt that God has spoken.

And it was like that when I was diving off the Great Barrier Reef. Now, I’ve been diving before, just a little – but this was the first real dive adventure for me, and also on one of the best dive sites in the world. I was excited, anticipating something spectacular – and also very conscious that God would use this time to speak some more to me.

Surface School of Fish

Diving is a magical, unique experience. The underwater silence creates a sense of being alone even when surrounded by other divers – the light makes it an other worldly experience, as the warmth of red light is absorbed by the water, leaving tones of spooky blue. Out there in the distance, just beyond visibility, might be anything – and so might there be down in the depths… as a certified diver at present I am only supposed to venture 18 m down, although I have ventured further with my instructor, down as far as 28m, and other divers can only manage 30m or so before the risks become too great.

Reef Wall

It’s a different world, too, with hills made out of coral in a thousand colours and even more shapes.. and wonderful creatures with unearthly shapes free floating above the landscape, or hiding under a rock – or even lying, concealed, in the sand.

Reef Scene

So diving, somehow, takes you out of yourself and into another world. And maybe all of us need that – some experience that takes us out of what’s normal, and forces us to think in new ways – to take a different perspective. The peace under water is astonishing – cut off from sound apart from the sound of your own breathing, the occasional sound of an engine, or the nibbling of parrotfish on the coral. Even surrounded by other divers, the solitude is incredible, lost in your own magical universe.

Turtle Silhouette

And maybe, like it did for me, as you stay open to things changing, your perspective will shift – so that the new world grips you.. that moment when the alien and threatening environment of strange creatures, the inability to breathe without assistance, the sense of being out of your safety zone suddenly shifts and you feel at home in the new world… and for me, the sensation of soaring, of flying over the surface produced a new exhilaration, an excitement of realising a childhood dream. Truly, I was flying – only the medium had changed, and I could even control how high I flew simply through my breathing..

And it was so important, too, to relax. Nothing is gained underwater by fighting the ocean… so breathing becomes slow and relaxed – the more peaceful the breathing, the longer it is possible to stay under water…and so resistance ceases, and we learn to stay in the flow, to go with what’s happening rather than force circumstances. We see what turns up – maybe there’ll be a turtle, maybe not – maybe we’ll find Nemo, maybe not, maybe a ray will flap lazily across the ocean, or maybe not… maybe there will be a special surprise of something unexpected.. who knows. But there’s nothing to be done to change it – what happens will happen, and for us, the thing to do is simply to enjoy the experience – to allow ‘what is’ to be absolutely perfect, to stop resisting and just glide along on the current of the experience. Sure, we have to keep an eye on what’s going on… but most of the time, if we just let what’s happening happening.. then the magic will be there…

Anthias

So, learn to go with the flow of what’s happening around you. Like the aikido masters who can use the energy of their attacker to create the energy to defeat them, we can use the power of the flow of what’s happening to enjoy the experience, to see the hand of creation in it – and to hear the voice of God, the core of the Universe, the heartbeat of Love speaking. And as we become more open to possibilities – then more possibilities are going to present themselves…

So the ocean seemed to be whispering to me… “learn to stay open…. learn to listen to your heart… and to your feelings….let things flow…and you, too, can hear the voice of God”.

Dec 27

The Path of the Wizard

Many of you will know that for a long while I have an interest in magic. It’s often the word I use when I want to refer to miracles, to the spooky, to the supernatural. I’m not talking here of the art of the showman, the David Copperfields of this world. I’m talking about something far more primal, more connected to the true power of the world, to the energy flow that runs at the core of our universe. It seems to me that a real connection to that energy will produce effects so outside of our current expectations of the behaviour of the world as to be indistinguishable from magic.

(An apology to my female readers – for some personal reason, probably connected to literature and media, I don’t like the word ‘witch’, and so I avoid it – but whatever I say applies to both men and women alike (and probably our more open and sensitive fairer sex will find the whole concept easier).

Some of my closest friends have recognised that in some way I am following the path of the wizard – at some level perhaps supernatural, magical (as Dr Hew Len, the Hawai’ian shaman from Zero Limits, remarked when I met him), at some level perhaps very natural in the way I work with people.

I’d warn you, though – the path of the magician is a deeply uncomfortable one. When you find someone with the magician’s stamp on their life (or the visionary, the prophet or the healer) – anyone for whom the gap between the seen and unseen is paper thin – then you will find someone whose life has been taken to the very edge of destruction. That might be through debilitating illness, or through emotional turmoil – their life may have been devastated through circumstances and events – but somewhere, you will find that they have been taken to the very edge of existence: they know that life is tenuous at best.

I’ve been fascinated by the real magicians of the world – people like Jesus Christ, perhaps, or Merlin, but also the archetype that’s alluded to by Gandalf from "The Lord of the Rings" or Ged from "The Earthsea Chronicles". I think these archetypes are so permanent in our myths and in our stories because they speak of a truth that’s part of our genetics… we know this is at some level real. We know at some level that we are all magical beings.

There’s no space to go into it here (perhaps later!) but it’s my belief that our calling is to remember that our basic nature is that of God – as Jesus himself said "those things that I do, you will also do”. Or as Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, "all creation stands on tiptoe just to see the sons of God come into their own". This, I know in my heart, is our heritage, our birthright – it is what we are called to. Perhaps this is where evolution takes us next.

I believe at some level we are all capableof magic. It’s the wizard in each of us, the sorceror (as Castenada called him – truly connected to the source). We are all capable of extraordinary miracles. It’s a part of our true nature. As Tom Holt observed in the wickedly funny "The Portable Door":

"It was at that moment that Paul realised the simple, basic truth. The world ought to work properly, there was nothing wrong with it, but sometimes it stuck or it wouldn’t start in the mornings. Magic was the confi­dent, well-placed clout on the side of the casing, the clip round the carburettor that got it going. Magic wasn’t changing the world or making it do impossible stuff; magic was persuading it, by force of will and a little controlled violence, to stop fart-arsing about and get on with what it was supposed to be doing. Simple as that."

Magic is normal, natural, part of life. We experience it in so many ways – and as Arthur C Clarke famously observed, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." – it’s just, perhaps, that we don’t understand ‘how it works’ yet.

So my poor scientific brain has had to deal with learning and understanding energy work as demonstrated through the science of the Emotional Freedom Technique (www.emofree.com) or chakra work – or through technologies such as Reiki (I’m a reiki practitioner too) – technologies that in a rudimentary way explore the use of energy fields. I think this is the next huge technology leap for humanity – we’re only just scratching the surface of what this means right now: but I can see the control of these energies (and I don’t know if ‘energy’ is the right word for it) is the key to the fossil fuel crisis, to health and healing, to the environmental puzzle and more.

But back to magic…. We know that the magician has the power to create, producing something from nothing; the power to transform, changing one thing into another – and the power to destroy – to make things disappear. I think, along with many of our more coherent thinkers, that when we chose to live on this planet, we chose to forget who we truly are, what we’re truly capable of…and sometimes, we remember, just for a moment, what incredible power we truly have at our disposal. Sometimes we remember that we actually are made in the image of God.

Or as Neil Gaiman put it in "The Graveyard Book" "You are alive. That means you have infinite potential.. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you change the world, the world will change."

Christmas, it seems, is one of those times when the walls between the ‘real’ world and the ‘magical’ world become thinner – when we start to truly believe that magic can happen. And magic appears at all sorts of levels. From the things that we write off as ‘coincidence’, to the magic of a love affair, or a new born infant – to amazing healings, to remarkable restoration of fortunes. Somewhere, it seems to me, something is happening at a level that we can’t quite understand yet. Somewhere, magic is happening.

I don’t think we know who we are yet – still children, not yet fully grown into our true potential, still not understanding what we are truly capable of, not yet understanding the power that we have at the core of our beings. Perhaps, even now, we are waking up.

The last word, perhaps, goes to Richard Bach, from his wonderful true love story ‘Bridge Across Forever’.

"We think, sometimes, there’s not a dragon left. Not one brave knight, not a single princess gliding through secret forests, enchanting deer and butterflies with her smile. We think sometimes that ours is an age past frontiers, past adventures. Destiny, it’s way over the horizon, glowing shadows galloped past long ago and gone.

What a pleasure to be wrong. Princesses, knights, enchantments and dragons, mystery and adventure … not only are they here-and-now, they’re all that ever lived on earth!

Masters of reality still meet us in dreams to tell us that we’ve never lost the shield we need against dragons, that blue-fire voltage arcs through us now to change our world as we wish. Intuition whispers true: We’re not dust, we’re magic!"

Aug 30

Travel themes

It’s been a bit of a journey through the elements, too: fire – wind – water – air – earth – spirit – humanity – animals… which meant it was pretty good to start with the Hawai’ian shamanism event in Hawai’i

So, Hawai’i was all about a connection to fire (lava) and a moment of leaving behind the old, as I walked through the lava tube I felt a sense of letting go.  Being right next to the lava was a very transformative and energizing experience.

Maui was all about water – snorkelling, jumping into rock pools, swimming in the sea, standing under waterfalls – allowing all of this to be a cleansing.  And the turtles – just to swim beside these incredible and, it seemed, wise creatures was a joy and an experience I will never ever forget.

Oregon was a connection back to love at Neale Donald Walsch’s event… just to be with those folk was really great, although I have started to question some of the parts of Neale’s material – which is all just part of me finding my own path rather than someone else’s. I am working through Neale’s mentorship programme at the moment.

San Francisco brought me up against people.. all sorts of people… and became a chance to take stock of what was happening in my life, as things seemed to shift dramatically as I learned and grew through the experience.

The Pacific Trek trip brought me back up against water again, diving into beautiful creeks, receiving more cleansing and letting more of my old ‘being’ slough off… but also a connection to nature through the age of the redwoods, the newness of Lassen Volcanic park, and the determination of life to grow whereever – to grip on to the environment it found itself in.  I also found myself with people again – 23 people living and sleeping on a converted bus.

And as I expected, the Canyons tour brought me back again to the earth – the hugeness of rock and power and solidity.  That seems to be my heart – again, people have commented on the peace and certainty that I bring to them – combining that with the energy of fire.

But also, the world of spirit stepped in – so many angel references from the climb to Angel’s Landing to the walk down Bright Angel trail to Bright Angel Creek… accompanied by a beautiful woman called (you guessed it) Angela.  So, i am now looking for reconnection to angelic guides and seeing how that turns up for me.

I’ve lost a few things on the way – which probably speaks to the bigger picture of getting things and losing them because I don’t take care of where they are, or recognise the connection.

As I sat contemplating the Martin Luther King memorial at Yuerba Buena Park in San Francisco, I realised that my heart went out to allow people to step into true freedom- that i would never be happy until people had been set free from the limits they place on themselves.

As i climbed Angel’s Landing, I heard God whisper to me that all would be in place by the end of the year – that i would not only know and understand my purpose and gift – and that i will have begun a new and deep relationship.  I look forward to seeing how that plays out….

I had an amazing experience on the canyon celing at San Juan river – a real connection and understanding of what I am about, of what my gift and purpose is: my ability to encourage, to give energy and to allow people to step into their power.

And as I rode across Monument Valley on horseback, God gently spoke to me reminding me of my longing to build the Leadership Adventure Centre – reassuring me that if I build it, they will come… and that it will be a place of miracles.  And the only reason it will exist is because God built it, financed it, created it.

To my shame, I have not always been myself – drinking more than I should, shrinking down to fit in, sharing in the gossip more than I should have – but yet I believe that my light has shone out in all of that.. so it’s just a readjustment of how I do that – how I am part of the group and yet raising the energy of the group.  One glorious moment was when I began a motivational speaking spoof – and realised that it’s a real gift to just speak without content or goal and just let it flow.

So, it’s been a fabulous few weeks.  Another few more and i will be home.  I have learned shedloads as I travel… and yet I feel there is more to come.