She For She

There is something magical about a group of women, together, doing something side by side. Like singing in a female choir, playing netball, and running a 10k. 
On the 27th January I woke up and had to run. I ran because I was angry, and I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I expected my arthritic knees to stop me, but on 9th July I ran my first ever 10k. Two laps rounds a 5k track, which meant midway high fives from my cheerers whilst I breathlessly told them I was dying. 80+ women of all shapes and sizes ran together. In teams, on their own, holding hands. They were amazing.

The ones I admired the most were…

– the 63 year old water giver-outer-er who I stood with near to the home stretch. She raced last years event and subsequently had a heart attack, preventing her from wanting to risk the race this year. 

– my boyfriend’s 11year-old daughter who stood near the finish line and insisted on cheering everyone on by name (our name’s were printed with our race numbers). Even after we had stood there 30mins after I’d finish the race she made sure that every single Claire and Karen got a cheer. Apparently they were the most common names so if she couldn’t read the names quickly enough she just shouted those.

– the lady who I ended up pacing with for a chunk of the race, without speaking, who then encouraged me to continue with her when I stopped for a little walk (gasping for air in the baking heat and finally deciding that my superpower would teleportation). Who then shared her running story with me.

– the lady who I ended up walking next to at the start of the last km who put an end to my little rest with “come on, let’s shuffle” 

– my sister Kim, who also ran her first 10k and helped me with pre-race psychological training: unleashing my chimp.

If you’ve come across the Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters you’ll know about your own internal Chimp. The part of your brain that overrides your behaviours when significant emotions are triggered, resulting in a reaction, rather than a response. The bit we wish we could turned off when it’s unruley or irrational. I realised I’d been struggling a lot with my Chimp recently after speaking to Kim.

Kim’s Chimp is called Cheryl (from Neighbours, loud, obnoxious, big hair, bright blouse). Apparently, she just asked what her name was one day and that was the response. They have regular dialogue when Cheryl is misbehaving. Kim listens to Cheryl. Self-accepting. Patient. Kind. 

My Chimp is called Frannie. She is a highly strung princess with the potential to be awful. She is angry at you, at the world, at everything. And so we decided that seeing as she was so keen to be around I’d let her take my race. When I got tired, I’d fuel up Frannie and run the sh*t out of her. She’d been a horse kicking at the stable door and I decided I’d let her run.

Only, it turns out that you can’t run angry. That the more I thought about and provoked Frannie the more I loved her, and the more I smiled until I was running along with a huge smile on my face not caring how daft/red/goofy I looked. 

None-else cared either. I even managed to day-dream about holidays. 

– Frannie. My beautiful chimp. 

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Are You Done?

Emotional Intelligence isn’t the hot topic anymore. It’s no longer the new shiny thing that everyone wants a piece of. It’s not dominating my Twitter feed or featuring in the title of every other article on Linked In.

Have you stopped talking about it?

When you learnt about EQ did you do a self-assessment and recognise your strengths were good enough and leave it there? Did you realise that you have some? That Emotional Intelligence is not a fixed personality trait and we all have the capacity to harness our emotions and develop our EQ, and then feel assured that you’ll be ok. Did you realise that ‘oh I do that anyway, I just didn’t know that was the term for it’. You’re an emotionally intelligent leader – boom. I wonder if you learnt about your competencies in EQ, owned them, then took them for granted. 

Are you done?

I don’t want to talk about EQ either, I want to talk about Emotional Labour. I want to talk about the cognitive work. I want to hear about the practice and the stuff you do that builds, grows and sustains EQ. The stuff you do that rebuilds your capacity for empathy, your tolerance for others, your compassion, when it gets depleted. The restorative work.

When Maslow (once a humanist…) theorised about self-actualisation do you think he intended to inspire us to climb the pyramid and rest there at the top enjoying that state. Or was the intended learning to aspire and to fulfil our needs to motivate us to reach a state where self-actualising is possible. Then reach for it again. And again. And to recognise that these needs are always going to be there, and are always going to require our attention first.

Is the path to enlightenment about getting to the end of the path to reach that esoteric state and status. Of being at one with ourselves and the world. And everything thriving for that. Or is it the path.

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the EQ Summit where Ruby Wax shared her story with wit and straightforwardness that evoked intrigue to know more. She spoke fast with edge and offered a rollercoaster of depth and humour. My post-event-drinking-buddy of choice would have been Ruby. Her interest in her own mental health and general fascination with people and how they tick motivated her to study Psychology at college (US). Then later after spending much time and money procuring help from psychiatric professionals she sough more understaning and more answers leading her to a Neuroscience Professor at Oxford (UK) of whom she asked straight questions in search of straight answers. Desperate to learn what was happening in the intricacies of her own synapses that caused the spirals of overwhelming thinking that she felt unable to master. The answer wasn’t simple, or straightforward: ‘if you want to understand that you need to take a Masters at Oxford’. And so she did. Today she stands and talks about Mindfulness. The everyday practice of Mindfulness. The conversation today is not her academia, the neuroscience relations that play out in our brain cells, nor her competencies and skills – its how, and what, and practice. The practice of developing and maintaining EQ for a better quality of life for self and others around you. And Mindfulness is one of those practices. And she stole my heart because she unreservedly demonstrated the importance between the two: academia and practice. How one is nothing without the other. Each strengthening the mind to enhance engagement and benefit from the other. Beautiful.

Practising Yoga is called yoga practice because its… practise. The end is not the headstand. Running is not about the finish line. Its about the internal conversation when you think you can’t go anymore. The more I learn about EQ the more I realise it’s all the good stuff we do thats enables mastery and self-leadership – especially when thats hard. I’m not done.

This is wild writing…

Last week I attend the first Facilitation Shindig in the series being hosted by Julie Drybrough (@fuschiablue). We, a small group of dedicated Facilitators seeking to be better, to grow, to learn about who we are in that space,  gathered together in MadLab, Edge Street, Manchester.

We focused on Reflective Practice, something I blogged about previously – how we use, what we do, what it means, the value, the challenges. And then we tried out Wild Writing. Julie introduce the concept via the philosophy of Natalie Goldberg and explained the rules:

  1. Don’t stop or edit
  2. Keep your hand moving
  3. Don’t worry about spelling of grammar
  4. Give it gusto – go for the jugular
  5. Lose control

Here goes…

Writing has kept me going. Has let me empty my head of all the stuff – yes stuff. I can’t think of a better word because it’s been so stuffy and blocked up in there to the point where I can’t seem to empty it or get any peace and this from a girl who’s yoga-ed regularly for the last 13 years. It got full up. Stuffed full of things that don’t need to be in there and so I wrote and wrote and wrote the craziness down onto pages and pages and pages. Not for you or anyone else to read but for the space for mind-dump for the freedom from the thoughts that haunted and circled like vultures feasting on a moments peace. Pause and they swoop with elegance and precision that encourages you to honour and consider their all consuming seductive nature – you actually have no choice. (Oh but you do! You do have a choice! You always have a choice!) And I want to write so badly. Something coherent. Something with structure. Something with content that is of some value to you, or to me. But all I have is this. And wild writing so fast and without a pause so that I can come back. I am back, and will be more back, and I will write again. I will always write.

 

You People ❤️

Sometimes, if you’re really unlucky surreal things happen. But they’re actually real because they’re actually happening. To you, not somebody else.

But what has surprised me the most over the past few months is the overwhelming amount of love from you. At a time when I didn’t actually realise you were there. That all that love was available without costing me anything. I never knew that at my darkest, when I couldn’t access my self-compassion or strength, you would be there to access it for me, reminding me it was still there, waiting.

Your love has blown me away whilst quite literally holding me down and keeping me up. Each day, and each week, more conversations, cups of tea, and you continue to amaze me with your patience and kindness whilst I had nothing to give. When you know that’s not my style. 

Thank you. For those hugs that last longer than 5 seconds, for your arms around me, for getting drunk with me, for hanging with me after, for talking, for just sitting, for laughing, for cooking for me, for the walks, for the laughter, for getting me ‘dressed up and out’, for  watching rubbish films and shit TV, for a flask of tea, for reflexology, for listening, for not judging, for trusting, for believing in me, for knowing me, for looking at me like you always have and not differently, for aromatherapy, for a poetry book. 

I will be forever grateful and appreciative of you. And I somehow hope the path we tread and how we chose to be with and for others boomerangs right back. 

Reflective Practice

It feels like I’ve been ‘going on about’ reflective practice a lot, and with that I’m noticing my frustration that people (you know, them) who still don’t get it. I noticed this frustration when I was talking to someone I had only just met at a recent CPD day. After our introductions I’d already decided the person I was talking to was ‘of interest’ (as our host and facilitator encouraged us to identify) and would have lots of value to add to my learning during the time we had together. We got chatting in our triads and off I go on my ‘but how can you not be doing reflective practice’ bit fuelled by positive intent and perhaps a passion for reflective practice. I spotted my potential overly emotional plea/preach and though ‘quick…bring in something insightful, quote someone good’. I proceeded to mention Schon and a personal interaction with David Megginson where he differentiated between reflectivity and reflexivity. Something I found useful and valuable and have remembered since. Then I thought, ‘are you actually being a dick now Jo? How about you have a go at that thing you always tell yourself to do… oh yeah, listen’.

We concluded that blogging can be a useful and helpful medium for reflecting on action. So here I am reflecting on action, about reflecting in action, whilst promoting reflective practice.

Last week I attended the inaugural Facilitation Shindig in Manchester, organised and generously facilitated by Julie Drybrough of FuchsiaBlue. Prior to the day I was already excited as I anticipated quite an open space approach to learning with other people who are interested in challenging and developing their own facilitation skills. Along with that was apprehension about whether I would have anything of value to offer, and (after a chunk of time out) whether I could still facilitate. The lead up included a welcome/info video from Julie who encouraged us to join a Google Plus group and say hello. All of which helped to break the ice and do some pre-meeting meeting.

So what happens when a group of people get together, with the purposed of growing our facilitation skills? Like the best group learning environments we collectively accepted the invitation to be both subjective and objective; to try new, to play with ideas, to let go of some old ones. Julie invited us to explore Bridges Transition Model, and bring it to life by stepping into the model, large scale across the floor. We were facilitators, being facilitated and practicing facilitating with each other. But with the considerate and thoughtfulness to avoid feeling ‘done to’. We stepped willingly into stretch without panic:


With a lot of space, and a little structure, and wholly self-directional intent, learning happened and insights were gleaned and shared. Those that are not necessarily bloggable but prompt reflection and impact the next conversation, the next bit of planning, the next piece of facilitation practice. Thank you for the challenge.

 

Her 

She walks onto the train with purpose, and assertively asks the people blocking the walk-way to excuse her past after patiently waiting. Zero contempt in her tone, and she eases past and finds a seat alone. She gets comfy and opens her book, relaxes into her seat. Adjusts her hat. Reads. She looks… what is that? healthy! 

She holds all of her space with absolute grace. She is calm, confident and self-knowing. She doesn’t need a conversation with me. 

I miss you! 

Fluffy

When you describe me as fluffy…what does that mean?
Do you mean it derogatorily or was it intended as a compliment?

Do you mean I don’t get the hard stuff? Or I can’t do difficult stuff? I’m not assertive? I’m not strong or tough? Or scientific in the way I work?

Do you mean that I’m too nice when people need to be ‘told how it is’, ‘spoken to’ or given the hardline?

Do you mean emotional? Because I work with emotion, not against. Because I have a human brain not a mechanical one, with an amygdala and a wonderful neo-cortex waiting to be used to its full potential, and an endocrine system that will always keep me on my toes. Because I encourage people to feel something and notice it?

Do you mean that I think empathy is the most important thing in the world, and that I ask too many questions to try and understand more, and better? Like asking how someone is and persuing that line of inquiry with acceptance.

Do you mean fearless? Fearlessness in moments of complexity and discomfort, and choosing to go towards instead of retreat because you know however uncomfortable the physiological response gets, and however much my mind plays negative thoughts on a loop, the vulnerability will be worth what happens afterwards.

Do you mean compassionate? Compassionate towards people and in moments when it’s hard to be because you deeply disagree with the behaviours of that person and feel that turmoil in your stomach but you know compassion is the better choice.

Do you mean determined? Determined to create and design impactful learning opportunities that get people reflecting, and thinking, and feeling….and uncomfortable …way out of their comfort zone and into their stretch zone. Instead of the same theories again, and allowing adults to default to a student position which they arrive eager to do, just to please me(?) and to play the role they think they should, or rebel from it.

Yet in my fluffy state I’m too soft and weak for all this …I give up.