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All experience is preceded by mind, Led by mind, Made by mind. Speak or act with a corrupted mind, And suffering follows As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.
All experience is preceded by mind, Led by mind, Made by mind. Speak or act with a peaceful mind, And happiness follows Like a never-departing shadow.
The Dhammapada, translated by Gil Fronsdal
For many of us the arrival of the New Year marks the start of a new life cycle. We take stock of our lives and intend to make changes. Changes prompted by an inner knowing that we are off-course.
How are those changes going? For the vast majority of us, this taking stock is rather superficial. We identify our indulgences (the ones that make us feel guilty) and we make resolutions to stop them. In turn these resolutions are also taken superficially and dropped as soon as we can forget them!
This year my wish is that we start living exactly how we want to live; that we take active steps to stop doing those things that do not work for us, which do not feel good for us or which we do solely to please others. Although this may sound selfish, in effect it is not. A fact of life is that you can only pass onto others that which you possess yourself. -- So if you are miserable and depressed that is what you will be capable of passing on. Alternatively, if you are happy and fulfilled, then these will be the qualities that people will be able to imbibe from you.
Let this year be the year of You. Remember that by giving yourself permission to be who you really are, you are likewise empowering everyone to shine as they are. When your world is working for you, you will likewise empower others to make the world to work for everyone. Take time to look at your life and time to visualise how you would like to live it. What are your dreams? As you get clear about your vision, start the movement towards it. Don't procrastinate. If you find that stuff comes up that stops you moving, start dealing with it, or ask for help if that is what you need. Just don't give in or delay or avoid. This is your year and you deserve it.
Life needs to be fully lived every second of every day; life is all too short and is just too precious to waste.
Stress and overwhelm – Awaken, there is a different way to live your life
Do you make a living or do you make a dying? In response to the growing number of clients that Isee manifesting a very modern condition of stress and overwhelm in their lives, I have cobbled together the following commentary. Forgive me for providing an intellectual narrative, I have written this in the hope that it is causal in getting at least one person to change themselves for the better.
Our culture has got itself into quite a bind… and as a Life Coach I enjoy clearly showing people, one-at-a-time, that there really is a different way to live your life. A way that is better for you, your family and all peoples.
We've turned our personal shortcomings into a disease. Individualism has generated chronic self-indulgence and hugely inflated aspirations to happiness while sapping our will to overcome adversity. Past generations had much worse to deal with, but showed stoicism, forbearance and fortitude. Chimney sweeps and match girls had no time to worry about stress; they were too concerned about where their next meal was coming from. While parents once buried their tiny children in droves and suffered pestilence, war and poverty with a cheerful smile, we are running to the therapist's couch over the smallest setback. It can all be boiled down to "Buck up!"* -- as a Life Coach… I do not think so!
Our modern way of life
Information overwhelm, constant change, unlimited options, great wealth, instant global communication, always-on, profit-centred living is claiming its quarry… Nature always seeks equilibrium – is the awakening of people to the insanity of this reality nature's gentle way of slowly bringing the madness of our culture to a gentle stop? The stress and overwhelm that so many people wallow in on a daily basis is a very modern set of phenomena that urgently requires that the old-fashioned distaste for emotion is abandoned if we are going to grasp the nature of the beast we are dealing with. There's a real danger of an ostrich mentality, insisting to all with depressive tendencies that what they feel is not real, they're just unwitting victims of a gigantic cultural fraud. Rising stress and dissatisfaction seems an inescapable consequence of the kind of rapid, disruptive change driven by market capitalism.
It's not that people have gone soft so much as that they are profoundly disorientated by the ceaseless discontinuity of change. Experience becomes utterly random and meaningless. You were doing really well in your job but you still got fired; you thought your relationship was strong but your partner has fallen out of love with you. Appalling images of suffering in the world are interrupted by advertisements for car insurance: barbarism and banality, cheek by jowl. What lies behind the escalating weight of emotional distress is that awful struggle to make meaning, that instinct that our lives should have a narrative and a purpose and should make some sense.
Whereas previous generations had a very strong grasp of the meaning of their lives, whatever the catastrophes which befell them. Meaning inspires resilience: if you have some explanation for what happens, it gives strength. That's what past generations drew comfort from. It is the sheer meaninglessness of the chaotic instability of our experiences, which exposes us to despair. We have no answer to "why me?" We have no account for the suffering that is the inevitable lot of human beings - death, disease, betrayal, frustration - other than to employ desperate strategies to avoid them.
Inevitably, there are many casualties many of whom turn to a life coach to catalyse their awakening. A life coach bestows help, not disbelief. Coaching that can develop an account of our lives which connects with that of others in the wake of declining religious and political narratives.
Coaching can play a crucial role in the lives of many who manage, as Baudelaire put it in 1845, a kind of heroism of everyday life, in which they make themselves at home in the maelstrom of modern life. It's an achievement all the more remarkable for the fact that it can call on few of the markers such as extended family, community and faith upon which previous generations relied so heavily. Perhaps as a coach I can stand-in for some of those missing roles.
I know that in each of you there is just as much endurance, forbearance and cheerful determination as shown by any previous generation.