fullsizeoutput_11d0That moment when we realise something is not as it seemed for every living second of our lives before then. And in that shift comes a completely different way to view reality.

Up to that moment, everything made sense because of this founding principle by which we lived. Then, when the light shines through, we realise that we have had a completely false view of reality. Things are not as they seemed.

Yes, that moment. The beginning of the rest of our lives. That is the moment when we move from regret, to right attitude, and then on to  resolution. Finally we shift to a remedy and see things with right view.

(November Challenge 18/31)

Note to Self #2

butterflyIt has been a while since I wrote a note to self on the blog.

Earlier this afternoon, I was drawn to look at the manuscript of the novel which I have written. By “drawn to look” I mean that I found myself reading through it as a beautiful distraction for what I should have been doing. You could call it procrastination if you were feeling cruel, but I am not feeling cruel so I call it divergent creativity.

The novel is called “the butterfly principle” and it took years and years to write. I think I began it around 1996 (yes, 20 years ago) and I wrote perhaps half of it over a short period when I was full of ideas and inspiration. Then I froze with it, stuck for where to go next. Waiting for inspiration to come as to where to take the characters next. And the characters have been around in my life in various guises for some time now. The main character, Alice, began life in the novel and then took on a greater shape in my doctoral thesis where she was one of the archetypal characters which I used for experimentation. After that, she also became the lead character in a sequence of poems called “the alice conversations” which I wrote in 2004. She also appears in other more recent poems. Other characters have drifted in and out of things that I have written too.

Then in 2009 I picked the manuscript up again and finished it off. It was done!

Here I am at the end of 2016 wondering where to go with it now. I read the ending to see where it went to. I love it. And I am far enough  away from the writing of it now to see it as though it is not mine.

Note to self – what do I do with it now. It has been sitting on a computer hard drive (oh, and on google drive too of course) for 7 years. Is it time to share it in some form? If you are reading this blog post and have any courageous ideas for me please leave a comment or send me an email. I just need a little push!

(November Challenge 17/31)

An Altruistic Heart

img_2637We get out of life what we put into it, (so we are told). From experience, I know that I am happiest when I am focused on others rather than on my own needs.

We spend childhood and early adulthood searching for happiness. We look for it in things, in possessions, in others, in experiences – just looking for something to fill the gnawing hole within our being. Something missing. A sense that we are on a quest, and that happiness lies at the end of the path.

Then, we look inwards, taken there by a shock. We are taken into our Selves by grief, bereavement, loss of some sort. And in that emptiness we begin the deeper search.  Looking into the self, to understand what we are here for.

Around us, there are a few “lucky” beings who exude happiness. They seem to have found “the answer”. We ask them for the clues, the steps to the garden to find the hidden secret.

And of course, they can’t tell us. We have to find it for ourselves. All they can describe is the direction, the path to follow.

And the path begins with an altruistic heart. The journey begins within and then heads outwards to others. Out there we find the qualities of patience, loving kindness, compassion. We look for the good in everyone that we encounter, and when we find it we laugh. It was there all the time, but our sight was clouded by negativity and obscurations.

Seeing the beauty within everyone brings the hope that we need. And there is the place of happiness.

(November Challenge 16/31)

Working Out Loud #352

fullsizeoutput_11ccSome more working out loud. A marvellous concept that I read about in-depth in the book “Working Out Loud” by John Stepper.

This creative journey. An opening out of ideas – and the lack of focus that emerges. Thus, all of these projects underway, open loops:

  • Working on at least 6 non-fiction pieces
  • Working on 2 new poetry collections
  • The second novel, about half written and left for at least 4 years.
  • Developing ideas for a collection of ambient pieces of music
  • Early ideas for the second album of spoken word and music
  • Various blog themes including “People who inspire me” and “Intuition over Logic”
  • A 365 day photo exercise with the team in work

So many creative projects – in a way  I love the diversity of it all. But in the middle of it all, sometimes time devoted to just one project until it is finished is important to build confidence and resilience.

Without a mix of focus and opening out of ideas, nothing gets done. And amongst all of this I am reminded by a voice from my past that not everything has to be finished. Some projects are there to be abandoned, tidied up and closed down, or turned into something else.

In that list above there are at least 14 live projects, and that isn’t everything I am working on at the moment. Working out Loud. Sharing as I go.

Without an audience, without communicating there is no point.

“#352”? What do I mean? Well, I guess a lot of my blog posts are in the guise of working out loud. That is what blogging means to me. So, this is probably at least the 352nd post where I am working out loud.

(November Challenge 15/31)

Where did the organisational soul go?

A Manifesto for Connectedness.

We have in some ways moved vast distances since the early work on scientific management of FW Taylor at the beginning of the 20th Century, and yet in so many ways the workplace is still obsessed with scientific artifice, something that has been nurtured by the information revolution. In Taylor’s day he was laying the ground for the segmentation of tasks so that the assembly line could become dominant. His work led to the car factories developed by Henry Ford. Today, that assembly line is increasingly either run by robots or by people barely earning the minimum wage.

For those of us in offices, we sit at desks communicating with each other by e-mail, and somewhere in all of this, the souls of individuals are lost. The communication at soul-level within organisations falls on deaf ears.

We are as close to Carl Jung’s observations now as we were when he referred to the “general neurosis of our age” as a “loss of soul”. Jung spoke of the maladies of the age being instances of a lack of spirituality. He was deeply suspicious of organisations as in his view they damage the individual. His comments seem to take on greater import as we find ourselves increasingly caught up in virtual worlds, distracting ourselves from overwhelming loneliness and isolation. The longer journeys to work, the fragmented nature of modern organisations, the loss of the extended family as a support mechanism, all contribute to this alienation. We see something of the ‘loss of soul’ in organisations as we walk through the entrance hall of buildings which betray the ‘mood’ which the people who work there absorb and reflect back.

We need to place greater emphasis on the need for connection. Our own search for meaning is worthless unless we realise the fundamental connectedness of us all. Organisations – which are the means by which to bring people together to achieve that which cannot be achieved in isolation – need to address the work of actualising. They need to support the quest for purpose, the sense making that we are engaged with throughout our lives.

Information technology can be a barrier to this, but it can also be an incredible conduit through which we can build communities, find connection and shared purpose. These can be and should be exciting times that we are living in. We need to take a longer view…

(November Challenge 14/31)

Who inspires me 8: Brené Brown

brene-cc-880x1320I wrote about our approach to Rehearsal Days here a while back. In one of our early days together I showed the TED Talk by Brené Brown called “The Power of Vulnerability” (27 million views and still counting). I knew it was a powerful talk and I knew that it was deeply inspiring. I also thought that it was probably a risk to show it to the team as it is so raw with emotion and the team were having a tricky time with some issues when I shared it.

What I didn’t expect was the impact the film had! It was profound. One of the things that I really wanted to achieve with Rehearsal Days was an open space for the core team to work together and feel that there is a trusted space where we can share together, create together and build our own “island of sanity” in an otherwise mad world.

This video achieved that. It brought us straight into some of the really key things about working together. We had the opportunity to consider shame, guilt and vulnerability. Core emotions that are usually under the surface in the workplace and go unnoticed.

For that reason alone, Brené Brown wins a “people who inspire me” award. But the journey goes back further. After seeing the TED Talk the first time a few years ago I bought her first book “The Gifts of Imperfection” and loved the way it talked to the core of our emotions. As Brené likes to emphasise, she is a researcher working in social work research. She knew that the terrain she was heading into was open to criticism. The social sciences have spent so long developing their credibility as “sciences” and then along comes a researcher who wants to talk about soft emotions like shame. And she wants to raise these issues because they were what emerged as she interviewed more and more people. I also read “Daring Greatly” and was again deeply inspired by what she was saying.

These books aren’t just lazy self-help books. She takes the research base really seriously. And then she has the courage to develop her argument out into the space that is so difficult to express and yet so vital to address. In her second TED Talk “Listening to Shame“, Brené Brown half-jokes about the outcome of telling people in her first talk that she had a nervous breakdown whilst going through the research and reaching her conclusions. She then tells us how the explosion of attention for the first talk sent her into a panic about what she had done.

It is so refreshing to hear her talking in such a self-effacing way about her own raw emotions, being so honest and open about the human condition. She really is a wonderful role model of what she is talking about.

Her work has been truly inspiring to me and I look forward to continuing to be inspired by the path that she takes. Thank you Brené.

(November Challenge 13/31)

kingfisher’s turn

ItBeginsLikeThisA poem from the collection “It Begins Like This” (2014)




I remember that tree, struck by lightning before I climbed it.
The absolute shock of the bark, bitten by electricity
And the beat of wing as it caught the night air along the river bank,
Nocturnal bird seeking partner as the seasons fall.

But those memories don’t take away the emptiness of the truth,
That death will take us all, will shape us into insignificance
And remind us that we are just one
Micro-dot in the millions of years of existence.

(November Challenge 12/31)

Living Libraries

picton-libraryWe are all living libraries. We carry within us memories, ideas, beliefs and stories. Imagine a world beyond the bookshelves where we function like tribes and tribal leaders – carrying the traditions and ideas of the human race in our conversations and interactions. And stories are built upon and curated by each of us, adding our own perspective on it.

Imagine a world where those interactions exist in real time, conversations between us. And also exist in virtual memories, blog posts, tweets, posts on Facebook. All of these could be seen as different ways to build these living libraries.

Librarians and Knowledge Workers will be shouting to me about the need for taxonomy, for structure so that things can be found. But in a world of advanced search maybe we really don’t need sophisticated cataloguing systems. We would just search these living libraries with the terms that we want to know about.

Would that work? Should we be worried that perhaps 99% of information that is on the internet is part of the long long tail that no-one ever reads because it is beyond the first few pages of search results on Google? Is this why community and connection are so important to ensure democracy of information, to ensure that the living knowledge that we are building is of value to someone out there – even if it is only a very small community?

Living Libraries into the future become an augmented and virtual reality mix between online and in memory sources of knowledge that we develop simple approaches to searching so that we can be part of a gorgeously curious world. Imagine that!

(November Challenge 11/31)

Learning to Look: photography

img_2582A couple of months ago I took part in a Street Wisdom session in Manchester. We spent the afternoon with David Pearl, the creator of the concept. It was a fabulous afternoon where I met new people who I have continued to have coffee conversations with, and also learnt to look at the city around me in a new way. I took a couple of photos that afternoon with my phone, but generally resisted the temptation as I didn’t want to be distracted by the camera.

img_2474More recently, the team I work with in the NHS in England did a workshop with a professional photographer (Ginny Koppenhol) to improve our photo taking skills, especially with the smart phones in our pockets. Unfortunately I missed the workshop because I was double-booked that day. The team learnt a lot of new skills, particularly emphasising the importance of telling a story with our photos. They also learnt how to use apps such as Snapseed to apply filters, text and effects. I acquired these skills secondhand the next day!

img_2424One member of the team (thanks Jo!) suggested that we do a 365 day challenge to post a photo every day to a Google Plus page which we have set up. We are just under a month into the challenge and so far it has been really inspiring. Each day, looking for photos, the world around me turns into stories to tell or things that I want to highlight. It’s a great way to sharpen the senses. And it is also a brilliant way to pull together a catalogue of stories about a year in our lives.

img_2583I began my career way back in the early 1980s as a Community Artist teaching skills in photography and creative writing when cameras were a closed box with film in them and I had to learn how to develop film to get a result. Often what we produced was a poor version of what I had seen at the time. Having a smart phone in my pocket and a few skills in manipulating images means that I can create the most amazing documentary of what I see. But more important than this, I also have the challenge to look for stories, to see things that would otherwise pass me by.

Together with the exercises in Street Wisdom I feel that I have had my senses sharpened, my imagination enhanced and been given a daily piece of fun to enhance my day.

(November Challenge 10/31)

McCabe’s Guitar Shop, Santa Monica

img_1729It just looked like a normal music shop selling an eclectic mix of musical instruments. It was across the road from the hotel on Pico Boulevard where we were staying for two nights on our road trip through California, Nevada and Arizona back in August of this year.

We hardly noticed it. Except for the second night of our stay as we came out of Santa Monica and walked past the shop at 8.30 pm. It was open and that seemed odd. June suggested that we should go in and take a look.

img_1727As we stepped inside through the heavy wooden doors with guitar fretboards as handles, it struck us that this wasn’t an ordinary music shop. There were loads of people buzzing around inside. A member of staff – a tall guy – welcomed us into the store and asked us if we knew where we were and also where we were from. It turns out that this is the guy who organises the concert programme for the shop. He is really excited to show us around and tell us about the shop. At the back of the shop is a concert hall with instruments hanging all over the walls. There’s a gig that evening which is why itimg_1726 is still open and so busy. We are invited to have a look around and listen to some of the concert. We wait to hear one song by Dave Alvin and a beautiful song it is too. Our host then takes us upstairs to show us the corridor with framed photos of those who have appeared here. I see so many familiar faces and am awe-struck that this unassuming looking place has hosted all of these artists.

It’s a long list – the shop has been going since 1958. Here is a complete list. It’s an incredible list for its depth and breadth. Some huge names and such a diverse mix of musical genres.

The infectious excitement of the staff working in the shop leaves us feeling giddy. We head back to the hotel room and I sit in bed wading through the performers list on my iPad emitting a “wow” every few seconds. What an incredible place!

The following morning there is just enough time for us to call in again so that I can buy a T-shirt with the McCabe’s logo on it. What an incredible find!

(November Challenge 9/31)

"Empowering Life Changes through Coaching and Creativity"