Message in a Bottle from 26 Years ago – The Lost Months

I discovered just 2 weeks ago that I’d had an intimate relationship with a beautiful Indian man when I was a 23 year old student during 4 months of my lead in to my schizophrenia that I had forgotten about. Forgotten about? Yes. Honestly. I had entirely repressed the memory of this very close, warm and caring relationship that I’d had with this fellow student of mine.

Me August 1987 just weeks after being released from Hospital.

We lived in the same flat as flat mates – nothing particularly unusual about that. The 60’s had paved the way for mixed living arrangements among students, not that we were remotely aware of that fact at the time. By the 80’s many students, including myself, were in and out of relationships throughout our years at University and there was nothing unusual about that either.

What made this relationship stand out from any other was that it took place when I was revving up for a full blown schizophrenic outburst, and the level of concern and love that this person shared with me, and continues to have for me 26 years after the event.

It was Saturday night 3 weekends ago that I’d met him for the first time in all those years. Part of me wondered how we would fill a whole evening talking about college in our final year when we’d been fairly remote friends. It wasn’t until late in the evening that he dropped the bombshell, knowing only too well from the responses I’d made to him that very night, that I had completely forgotten about our relationship. I would say I’d not only forgotten, but completely encoded the whole experience in a non cognitive way. No matter how hard I tried, I could not consciously remember the events of that relationship. Momentarily, I wondered if there was some reason he had made up the whole story – I even asked him. Of course not. I have been working with energy for years – I could feel the energy that was running around him. I felt suddenly exposed, vulnerable. I knew he had knowledge of me that I hadn’t realised. It made me feel foolish that I had been behaving all night, and indeed, since I first looked him up in January this year, as though we’d been just flat mates.  He was kind, I realised, for not reacting in any undue way to my apparent blankness. He knew from his own experience of a family member with schizophrenia, that it often robs people of their memories. He had felt responsible for my schizophrenia, wondering if there had been something he could have done to halt it or something he shouldn’t have done that caused it.

I can’t tell you how blown away I have been by this revelation and how highly I value this wonderful human being. And slowly the memory is returning. But it is coming back in feelings and pictures, like the impressions you are left with from your earliest childhood memories.  And it is bringing up for me all manner of insights and confirmation of ideas and theories that I’ve studied these last 2 years since coming out about my schizophrenia.  Perhaps now I can sew together a tapestry of experience, theory and spirituality to offer to the world to help others, and not least of all the professionals who treat this so called ‘condition’, to come through this challenge and recover as I did.

My debt of gratitude to this person is deep. I have been so humbled at the sacrifice he made to try and keep me safe when I was on a downward slope and so sad that he might have felt guilty or responsible for the so called schizophrenia I went through. And I feel sad, that despite his deep connection with me over the 4 months we were together, the circumstances of our lives dictated that we should not see or hear from each other for more than 26 years after the event.

Experiences of this magnitude are the stuff of movies. They just don’t happen very often. I’m compelled to meet with him and go over every detail he can possibly remember, to reacquaint myself with him and with the young woman that I was all those years ago. I’m stuck in the movie as it unfolds. I don’t know whether we are at the end of it, in the middle or at the beginning. It’s so tempting to cast a shimmer over the experience and immortalise it as in the romantic legend of yesteryear – the stuff of novels and screen plays that tells a very unusual story that, at this point, I have only my senses to remember by.

However, one thing I do know is that I have reclaimed a part of myself that has been lost to me for 26 years. I feel more complete, more peaceful and more beautiful than ever before. If someone got so close to me when I was at my most vulnerable in life, mask-less and childlike, what else can there be to fear? You see, this is the stuff of transformation. Seeking out my schizophrenic story so that I can share the transformation with the world has been my purpose at this stage in my life. I’m deeply privileged to be the guardian of this story. And so that I can preserve it for others to know I have started writing a book about it. I have already written 11,000 words and it is a compelling exercise. It’s easy to write which means I am highly aligned with it. At last!  Cheer me on? I have a lot to explore and a lot more writing to do. Stay tuned for more updates.

If you want me to talk for your organisation, group or enterprise on transforming adversity, championing the uniqueness of each individual or developing a signature work that pulls from your unique life experiences, email me and let’s have a chat.

 

 

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I have long championed the idea that if we are to be therapists and healers, we need to be healed or on a path to our own healing. The talk I gave at the James Braid Society at the end of November highlighted how we are so much more than the techniques we offer or the theories we have studied.  In fact, I would go further and say it is who we are that even makes any of our technique-ing work. All of those wonderfully painful and cleansing life experiences that we have passed through are the very fuel that will make us amazing healers and therapists.  If we at any stage, believe there is nothing else to heal and we are still working in this intangible field of the mental, emotional and spiritual healing of others, I believe we have lost the light of enquiry and the spark of our mission.

We are Leaders

As leaders of personal well-being, we owe it to ourselves, our families and our clients, to be in the vanguard of personal development. And what a fantastic privilege to be in this position. What an amazing and wonderful thing to be able to do: to work on ourselves, clear out our own stuff, gain insight and wisdom and peace of mind, and to absolutely know that, that alone, will offer our clients the best chance of recovery from their malaises. Watch, no techniques!

As we vibrate at a higher frequency so we will implore our clients, our families, our friends to match us. All we have to do is dedicate and devote ourselves to our own development. This dedication is paradoxically the most self-less process you will ever put yourself through. As you free yourself from the shackles of your family patterns and step fully into your power, your mere presence will give others permission to do the same.  This is mentorship: leadership at its most inspiring.

How do you ensure you are doing that?

You need to seek like minded people, or people who are just ahead of you and you feel instinctively good with. You need to seek out people who will challenge you and inspire you to grow and develop.  You need to adopt a fearless attitude to your own histories and forgive what cannot be changed and step into the here and now with courage and mission.  You need to feel resonance with others with who you are.  Feel, not think.  This seismic shift in consciousness will change the way you ‘do’ life and your clients over night. What you thought was impossible will just fall into your lap. And the reason for that is because you are living YOUR life courageously and not waiting for the route map to ensure that your every step forward is a safe one. 

I know for me I am on another seismic shift in consciousness that I will share with you over the coming weeks.  My mentor is helping me break out of my limitations so that I can better serve not only my colleagues but my clients, my family and of course, me!

If you think I can help you find your mission and purpose, email me and let’s set up a dialogue. Or if you’re feeling particularly brave, leap straight in and join me on my psychodrama day in January.

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How I dissolved breast lump as big as a golf ball

I’ve been with my lovely guy for around 3 and a half years. The reason I mention this is because 3 and a half years ago, I had a small but growing breast lump in my left breast.  It had been there a number of years and seemed to swell and then subside with my cycle but one thing was for sure, it was never not there.  In fact, I remember it clearly, because in the first flush of love with my man I was conscious of it, and even more so since he is a doctor.

He ‘examined’ me – a rather pleasant experience I confess – and said initially what most doctors have said ‘I’m sure it’s hormonal and nothing to worry about’.  Now, it’s not my style to take a ‘diagnosis’ or ‘prognosis’ too seriously.  I’ve experienced first hand, many instances of healing as a result of a profound shift of consciousness, a process of forgiveness, or just plain healthy living and being true to myself.  However, being conscious of the big ‘C’ I was aware that I probably needed to do something about it.

I ignored my growing breast lump

But I didn’t.  I left it and left it and it grew and it ached. Occasionally it would shoot pains into my chest and I ignored it.  Move on one year and my lovely medical man was starting to panic.  When I raised my arms and faced the mirror, you could see a small bulge sticking out to the side of my left breast. Palpating it revealed a lump almost the size of a golf ball.  I became inwardly fearful and silent. We argued – well, it was more debated. He said I must get it looked at: have a breast scan or a biopsy.  I’d done enough research over the years to have suspended any trust in the medical profession’s ability to treat anything other than symptoms and was adamantly reluctant to conform. I managed to delay doing anything, denying that it was any big deal and yet nevertheless, feeling for it every day.

I remember it was September 2  years ago in 2011 that I suddenly got real and realised I had to do something.  We had eventually had a defining argument where he asked what I would do if I had cancer and it had progressed to the lungs – his speciality – which he claims is nearly always terminal.  I said, I would decline any treatment for at least a month while I worked on it my way.  As I heard myself say those words I realised I had to do it or allow myself to be subject to the medical route which for me was undesirable in extremis. Please also bear in mind as you read this that I didn’t know what I had growing in my breast.

I sat with the fear

I braced myself and sat down to chant – a practice that I have conducted most mornings for over half of my life.  I sat with the fear.  I could feel the resistance to having to ask myself THE most difficult questions and then, worse, sitting and listening to the answers.  And the first question that came up of course is ‘What if I die?  Your life flashes in front of you and you think of all the regrets, losses and sadnesses that you’ve allowed in your life.  You think of having to leave your child and her having to find her own way in the world without you.  And you wonder if the work you’ve yet to do or the knowledge you’ve yet to share will be lost with you.

My next thought was that doctors say that breast cancer is very treatable but it still involves surgery and chemotherapy which I wanted to avoid at any cost.  I examined why that was. What arrogance was there in me that I would not let them touch me?  Another reflection followed.  I peeled back the layers on that thought and looked at what made me, in particular, so resistant to modern medical intervention and was I being foolish to think that.

The faith to heal

I combed back through my lifetime of suffering and healing, both spiritual and physical wounds.  I reflected on my schizophrenia and how I recovered from that and what awarenesses were brought into focus because of that experience. One significant realisation was the need to express my frustrations, fears and anxieties more fully so that I didn’t create a spiritual pressure cooker that threatened to be uncontainable in the form of schizophrenia.  I reflected on a transformative time at 29 when I went through a process of profound forgiveness and healed myself of psoriasis.   I reflected on my daughter’s birth experience where I nearly lost my life and the tenacity I had to survive. Despite the fact I had next to no blood left in my veins at one stage of the crisis, I had no intention of not being there for her. And I reflected on another phase aged 39 when I eventually found an unshakeable core which enabled me to drop so much of my past and forgive myself allowing me to come into the here and now and live forwards not backwards. At this stage I healed myself of a very uncomfortable period of IBS.

My conclusion was, I was not being foolish nor arrogant.  I knew I had the power to heal.  I knew I would need some humility if my past experiences were anything to go by.  However, the question was still how. By what inner and outer process was I going to create health in my body?  So I continued researching online and reading about diet. I have always believed that along with correct thinking and authentic feeling, we can do a lot to support our bodies by putting the right foods into it for optimum health.  I had, over the years, done so much research into cancer and diet and alternative treatments that I knew exactly where to start.  I knew raw fruit and vegetables and juicing was as good a place to start as any but I was under no illusions that food alone was going to correct me.  Until I had flushed out my need to develop breast lumps I was going to keep creating that reality regardless of what I ate.  However, I studied the power of food anew.  I looked at the Gerson diet, German New Medicine, Hoxley, Renee Caisse, along with some modern writers and thinkers.

I changed my diet

I drank green tea, ate chickpeas, raw cauliflower and broccoli, got rid of meat and dairy, ate more raw fruit and vegetables and supplemented with powerful antioxidants. It wasn’t difficult to do. I’ve always been a health through food freak knowing that we would all be one helluva lot healthier spiritually and physically as a nation if we just became mindful of what we put into our mouths.  And this is where some of my corruscating cynicism comes around big pharma and the food industry.  I often feel like we have been hypnotised by modern culture to believe in something that is inherently dangerous and counter intuitive.  I see my work as being about waking up from mass hypnosis so that we can live our own real and authentically meaningful lives.

But my authentic life at that stage was still very much in need of re-evaluation.  I was still living my fear of dying.  As I chanted each day, I prayed to just to be present, have insight and understand what it was I needed to know about me.  During this process I realised that my breast lump, being on my left hand side, was on my ‘feminine’ side. Eastern philosophies consider our right hand side to be masculine and our left feminine.  Why was my feminine side being affected?  And then, when I came to think about it, all my injuries and pains happened on my left hand side.  I’d had over the years a bad back on my left, ovarian infection on my left, groin strain, broken arm, and a whole host of stuff going on on my left hand side with very little happening on my right. I wondered if my femininity was suffering and I reflected deeply on how and why that might be a truth.

Outer versus inner strength

I saw myself over most of my life being very strong, and in particular, being exceptionally strong for my daughter.  Running my own business while raising my daughter both loving being a mum and resenting the loss of autonomy and yet knowing I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Inner conflict and frustration and desire to succeed all being mixed into trying to be all things to all people.  Then I reflected on having also struggled with her father over many years through court which lead me into the realisation I had at age 39.  This awakening itself had made me incredibly resourceful and less reliant on a poor me story but somehow the strength had stayed but the forgiveness had become stale.  I hadn’t fully realised that the process of forgiveness needs really to be a constant in our lives so that we are clearing out old wounds and hurts that cause nobody but ourselves harm.

I looked at my work and where I was gaining inspiration or pleasure from and I realised that it had become a burden.  I was struggling inside to achieve my goals and in so doing was creating an awful lot of masculine, directive energy about me.  And this directive energy was spilling over into my personal life. I was running my life like it was a bootcamp.  People would often say to me, ‘gosh Jenny, you’re so busy. How do you find the time to do everything you do?’.  People would, and still do to some extent, say to me they were sorry to bother me because they knew I was very busy.  I remember thinking, what do you mean? Me? Busy? I’m just getting on with my life. I’m not exceptionally busy. Why do people defer to me like that?  It irritated me and actually made me feel guilty I wasn’t doing more to justify their impression of me!

Masculine versus Feminine energy

So now, I was realising that I had a lot of masculine energy around me and that the feminine in me was indeed suffering.  She wasn’t being nurtured or heard or loved in the way that she needed.  She wasn’t allowing herself or others to honour her and she was really suffering. I cried for her because I realised that I had allowed her to be unseen, unheard, and unnoticed.  She had slipped under the masculine radar, believing that being effective in the world was a masculine pursuit that required masculine values fearing that the feminine would never be taken seriously.  And if that were the case, all her work would amount to nothing.  Her drive to be taken seriously was overshadowing her need to be her true feminine self.  These were deeply subconscious fears that my reflection was starting to flush out and it was painful.  I had myself, dismissed and denied the beauty of the feminine energy that, by dint of the fact I am a woman, I was probably naturally endowed with and was instead favouring my masculine side.

Meanwhile, to  the outside world, all others were witnessing was me being out there, seen, heard and noticed.  I’d done a good job at least, of making a lot of noise.  However, inside, I knew I wasn’t allowing this to reflect my deeper self. I wasn’t creating enough energetic opening to allow an exchange to flow between me and the world.  I was holding on to it all, being strong, being all things to all people because the alternative, I perceived, just wasn’t an option.

So I asked myself what would my life be like if I embraced the feminine and worked with her instead of against her? I asked myself what would happen if I ran my business more harmoniously and with less focus on success and more on fulfilment?  And I wondered how I could rebalance my life and bring my home life into a more spiritually central position so that I was also honouring my daughter and partner more.  In allowing these thoughts in, I started exercising my mind to consider alternatives to the underlying discomfort of running my life too aggressively.  I realised that I needed to balance myself and live more in the here and now, be more spontaneous, unpredictable, more open and receptive.  So I had to lose something to allow this to develop.

What did I need to lose? What was it that was holding me captive in these masculine values? It was fear. I was afraid. I was afraid that if I let it all go it would fall apart.  I was afraid that if that happened I would cease to thrive; cease to thrive, cease to live. Cease to live?  That means I would die.  You see, I realise now that our fears: all our fears, lead inexorably to an existential question. And that is, if I’m not doing everything I’ve always done – which I’ve deemed as absolutely necessary for my survival – then I will die.  Once I saw this deep fear of dying, I asked myself one final question.

“What if I weren’t afraid of dying?”

The moment I asked myself that question it was as if the sun came out.  If I weren’t afraid of dying I would do anything I liked. I would be more creative, I would be happier, I would attach less to things I thought I needed because I wouldn’t fear their loss. I would in effect liberate myself from having to suffer. So then I considered, what if I weren’t afraid of this lump in my breast? As I thought that thought I realised it could have no power over me. I could actively choose to not be afraid of it and to embrace my whole life as it happened.  I’d turned the corner. My life came into sharp focus and a bit like a scene in a movie, there was a zoom in shot of focussed insight that coursed through my very core.

I chanted with whole hearted appreciation for the insight I’d gained from having the tenacity to stay with the most difficult questions and hear the answers.  I chanted with hope and renewed connection to the vibration of the sound and its reverberation through my body. I knew that the lump would dissolve and go.

By christmas it was pea sized and reducing every week. And now as I sit at my desk writing this article and groping my left breast intermittently, I can honestly say my breast is completely lump free – the first time in many, many years.

I do not know what the lump was. I never received a diagnosis. But I am eternally grateful to it for having shown me how I can improve my life and my experience on this earth. And I hope in sharing it with you that you can find your own answers to your greatest challenges by having the courage to stay with the questions, hear the answers and then to take action.

Want to work with me? Can I help you confront your performance anxieties and fears in your personal or professional life? Email me and let’s set up a skype chat.

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I’m 50 this year though I can hardly imagine where all the years have gone.  And as I plan my half century celebration and speak to friends going back decades, it seems only yesterday that I was a teenager flailing against the world and seeking something more substantial than what was on offer. As a woman in our modern western society, I have been incredibly fortunate to have been born in our time, to have been able to explore my spirituality and my psyche and to be able to lead and inspire others to realise their true selves too.

What does success mean to the feminine?

However, despite all this I am still only a woman.  To use a cliche I am a woman in a man’s world.  I am a woman surrounded by masculine values to be strong, directive, driven, serious about my career,  clinical, academic, studious, hardworking, aggressive, financially motivated and incentivised, and at the end of the day to have a kind of success that is measured in numbers not in value.  Lynne Twist in her book, ‘The Soul of Money’ talks about powerful executive women who have lost their very connection to their feminine energy because they have adopted the more aggressive and directional values of big business which they describe as a painful sacrifice.  I’ve felt increasingly rebellious about this state of affairs.  I’ve felt really quite indignant that these values, that aren’t mine at all, are ones that would indicate to the world at large that I am ‘successful’.  I even realised at one stage a couple of years ago, that adopting these values was actually causing me harm.  I will dedicate an article to my experience of that time soon where I had a large lump in my left breast and some deep reflection and personal work revealed that I wasn’t honouring the woman in me and was straining myself with too much responsibility and fear about failure so I consciously chose to drop those values.  The lump dissolved. However, if I choose not to go along with these values, I have to review what I’m doing with my life and what creates a sense of success, fulfillment and happiness for me and perhaps for many of us who are in the caring professions.

And this leads me to review what I mean by success.  Because what it means out there, to the outside world, may not be the same thing.  The problem is, the minute I start defining success for me in my life, I stand apart and alone. And I find myself moving ever more into my feminine energy to really get a measure of just who I am as a woman in this incredibly masculine value dominated world.

The Nature of the Feminine

As I enter the third age of woman hood – from child, to child-bearer, to wise woman I find myself relaxing and realising that I have a great inherent gift that is my femininity.  It is connected to the seasons, it ebbs and flows with the moods of nature, and it is inherently both nurturing and destructive.  It is forever in alignment with the planet, its expression a natural untameable fact of life.

The Valuing of the Masculine

And yet in the past I, and so many of us, men and women alike, have continued to hide it in favour of the more dominant achievement based values that have infected the whole world.  We have ourselves degraded and devalued our power and wisdom by believing that the masculine directional, scientific, achievement based culture is what is the most valuable of all.  We flock to these values and compete with the masculine on its own terms further enforcing the polarity between the masculine and the feminine.  We eschew women who cannot demonstrate themselves to be competent and successful in a masculine world. We have become isolated as woman in individual houses, with our individual families, with our individual money and sense of territoriality.  We are divided. And we have allowed ourselves to be ruled.

As I work on the most tragic case I’ve ever come across of a woman and the forced adoption of her children by the state on grounds of a spurious personality disorder diagnosis, I realise that woman is also subject to the masculine values of the state:  that achievement here again is about successful placement of children for adoption and most definitely not, the more creative, sentient and nurturing side of being a woman and a mother.  That no time, space nor money is offered to promote the beauty of the natural bond between mother and child, is tragic and I weep not just for her, but for women worldwide who have lost children through death, adoption or murder – and usually from masculine driven directives.  Whether it be modern medicine or warfare, adoption or kidnapping, it would appear that the uninitiated masculine in these realms fears its own vulnerability, is anxious about its standing, is eager to tame the external in some kind of obsessive drive to tame the wild feminine that makes up the other, less predictable and more moody, half of life. What fear of the feminine energy is evident in the masculine in the world.

The Feminine Guarantees Nothing Except the Joy of Being Alive

And as I reflect on my own life, I realise that success for me is about being fearless and about loving and embracing every moment of my life because the feminine in life guarantees nothing. She is moody, destructive and wild. She is nurturing, creative and warm. She is nature. And nature does not wait in an orderly queue before it is given permission to act.  As I allow nature to express itself through me, I’m learning to love my seasons of boundless creativity, deep sadness, passionate love, at times hurt, loss, and at others, inspired work.  There seems a certain essential flow of life that in the past, I would have ignored as I clamoured to be seen as professional or qualified at work, and strict and orderly at home.  I recognise that I can express both masculine and feminine and do have the masculine as part of my value system and in fact, need it to be able to function in our modern world. But now I accept ever more my moods my ups and downs, my seasons. And in doing so, the one thing I express in my work is my feminine power.

When we resist this calling to wisdom that our bodies take us through, we experience symptoms of ‘menopause’: hot flushes, emotional outburst and so on. And believing that we are ill, we go to doctors to impose further masculine directed treatments to inhibit these ‘abnormal’ signs of being an initiated woman. That we have lost touch with ourselves and seek these treatments seems to evidence to me that we have more faith in those masculine directives out there, than in own self knowledge and feminine power.

I’d love to share with you some more insights that I’ve had about how this applies to us as therapists and how we can embrace the feminine in our practices, that is both men and women to create real connection and resonance with those we are treating. I’ll be talking more about woman and her wisdom in my next teleseminar on the 30th October. Join me for the live call by going to my free teleseminar sign up page. The live call is free.  The audio recording will be available in the Mind membership series which costs just £7.

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At first glance there would seem to be absolutely loads of reasons why therapists fall out of practice and I bet, as a therapist in private practice, you can relate to all of them at one stage or another along the way. Discovering the one reason why you feel doubtful about your practice, may in fact save it.

Being in business as a therapist

Let’s take Joanna, for example. Joanna is an imaginary therapist  who, for the sake of explanation, I’ll endow with every therapist’s fears. She left her busy whirlwind job in the city with one ambition in mind: to really help and make a difference to the people she worked with.  Full of the joys of spring, she set up practice and only then started to realise that getting clients, seeing clients, running a business and being emotionally well herself was such an isolating experience.  I mean, it’s not as if she can say to her clients: ‘you think you’ve got problems!’.  She is there for them and there’s no one there for  her to share the stresses and strains of her clients as well as all the other bits involved in running a business. Joanna often wonders to herself how she can continue to work in this business feeling so isolated and alone.

Do you know what supervision’s meant to be?

She’s got herself a supervisor which is prescribed by her professional body but she’s not quite sure what supervision is meant to be like and whether it’s doing all it could.  And then there’s that altogether more tricky business of continuing to work on herself which she knows, in her heart of hearts, she really paid lip service to during her training.  She came from a formal educational therapy background and came through it all with flying colours.  Now though she’s becoming aware that a lot of the’ stuff’ that clients are telling her is just like her unresolved stuff – and she hasn’t worked hers out yet!  Suddenly she realises that she’s starting to feel a bit of a fraud.  And then she gets a few clients whose situations seem impossible to relate to!  They tell stories of such great sadness or suffering that are so extraordinary that her words, in the sacred theatre of the therapy room, just seem pathetic.

Fears in practice

She takes all these worries and concerns out of her therapy room and continues to worry about them in the evenings.  She goes over her client notes, reads up on some of the techniques, approaches or case studies that might shed some light.  She takes her clients to bed with her. They knock on the inside of her head all night with ghostly invocations: “Ha, so what are you going to do about me?” or “How can YOU help ME?”. She gets up in the morning and decides to just struggle on one way or another.  She trusts it will all fall into place sometime soon.

She realises that the nightly rituals of worry and fear are constituting a performance anxiety that is dictating how her therapy sessions actually run.  She becomes really grateful for the clients who just seem to get it and full of dread for those that don’t seem to be ready.  She toys with the idea that perhaps her clients aren’t ready to work on themselves – and maybe that’s true – but she doesn’t really want to consider the alternative.  That is, that she’s got her own fears to deal with before she can ‘hold the space’ for anyone else.

I know! Let’s do some CPD

She determines to go on a range of courses to extend her practice and at great expense, books herself on to a CPD course, even diversifying a bit to see if that might offer her that je ne sais quoi.  Subsequently she realises it gave her a few techniques but she’s still lacking that elusive security.

It’s at this vulnerable stage in anyone’s therapy practice when we might be considering going back to the day job.  At least we had some company, were not bound to secrecy, didn’t have to take on the responsibility of running our business AS WELL AS nursing the broken hearts and minds of our clients, and could sleep peacefully at night.

Finding a mentor

Now I’ve experienced all of this early in my practice but how grateful was I to be able to stand on the shoulders of some amazing mentors and inspiring therapists. They gave their time freely to ensure that I continued to do my personal work, facing my fears and fuelling my curiosity about the human condition.  These mentors were humanists: people who broke the rules, who worked with their hearts, who had a well developed intellect, who were not dictated by brittle norms and protocols, who could see the human being beneath the ‘stuff’.  And they weren’t all therapists.  My life-long mentor, the Leader of the humanist Buddhist movement I follow, was an incredible inspiration in those early days of practice: encouraging me through his written word to always look for the human being in myself and in my clients.

The importance of your own journey of awakening

This magical mystery tour from the very outset, has made my therapy practice one of self discovery and sharing, one of fellow traveller with my clients to find their answers with them.  At times I’ve not known the way, but my faith in life, in the process and in people’s capacity to find their answers has ensured that we find A way.  As an eclectic, integrative, transpersonal hypno-psychotherapist – well what else do you call it? – sometimes that process is fast and sometimes slow. Either way, knowing yourself deeply enough means you can know others too and intuitively work with them.

The number one reason why therapists fail

The number one reason why people give up their therapy practice, is because they do not have a mentor to coach and inspire them.  There’s no one to help them seek deeply inside themselves for the answers they think are in the text books or courses that they’ve spent thousands of pounds on. Mentors, according to Richard Rohr, are too few in today’s world.  We are a mentor-less society who behave like the proverbial blind leading the blind.  Mentors hold wisdom not knowledge, courage not strategy, and compassion not control. And in our world of the removing of suffering from others, being one step ahead of our clients, tacitly leading the way by raising our own consciousness, getting to know ourselves and our dark places and knowing that we do not have to deny them, nor deny them to our clients: all this in and of itself, transmits healing. It makes your work effortless and natural. It ensures you never burn out. And it ensures a good night’s sleep!

If I match up to those lofty ideals of being a mentor, I know it’s my job to pass that baton on to the next generation of therapists. Join me at one of our meetings near London. Dates and details all on the Open Mind Therapist home page.

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A flash of insight last Thursday

Two to three days ago I stood in my bathroom, bare topped and was intending to look, from the side, at how my hair sat pulled up onto my head. I had a business meeting in London where image was important.  As I turned side on with a mirror in my left hand to reflect against the static mirror on the wall to my right, the first thing I noticed was the loose skin around my chin and jaw – a sign I that I would never see 21 again.

 
But as I stood and absorbed the sight, suddenly I felt I was no longer looking at my body in the mirror. While I could see my naked breasts, a sign of my femininity in this lifetime reflected back at me in the mirror, it felt I could suddenly see beyond the visual. I studied again, perplexed by the body that was standing there. I looked at my head and thought I could sense something masculine about my jaw – perhaps an echo of my father. And then it struck me that this physical form, this body, was just the vehicle that carried my ancient spirit in this lifetime. As I allowed that moment to grow and flourish, I saw that my wounded spirit was burning very brightly – it was almost untouchable. As I saw the spirit that held this body upright, and held the mirror in my hand while I could view its ageing host, I saw the beauty that was beyond the body. I saw the soft, warm, true nature of not just my spirit, but of the timelessness of life’s cycle of birth and death.  I felt a tenderness, a sudden surge of forgiveness, an acceptance of whatever form my spirit had taken on in this incarnation.
I didn’t want the moment to end.  The body’s wounds and its mental and emotional traumas in this lifetime had been great teachers. Lessons that, once unwelcome by my blind consciousness, had nevertheless caused my spirit to sing. They had given me all the fuel I would ever need to wake up and cause others to wake up. My mission, now more clear than ever before: to share of my journey and the insights that have led my subtle spirit to manifest and show how to return to our source – to the joy and wonder we were born with as children, and transform my corner of this crazy world we live in. This is my mission.
The whole event took no more than about a minute or two to hit my consciousness and etch itself into my life. And it wasn’t the first recognition of my spirit. But it was an enduring one. One where I looked with my “eyes” and saw what I saw. I didn’t have to seek or to focus. I just had to allow this psychic opening to be.
I determined to record this insight, this almost indescribable sentient experience, as best I could so I could always remember it.  As I sat in the grassy enclosure in the sunshine at Stainsby Folk Festival last Saturday, these words flowed from my pen, threatening at any moment to not quite capture the essence of the experience, and therefore interrupted only by my frequent need to break away and re-experience that clarity and wonder, so I could describe it as fluidly and as clearly as possible.  I hope it leaves you with a sense of your own spirit and wonder. 
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Walking your talk is the calling that therapists must respond to or they will end up doing mediocre therapy with good intentions. Our fear based, intellectual or technical way of doing therapy cannot reach people on an experiential or spiritual plane.  As a result, operating from our thinking brain, we may keep people in therapy for years while we dance around our own fears and anxieties as therapists. Profound change work is demonstrated and lead by the therapist from the heart.  It is the capacity for the heart to connect that restores equilibrium and wellbeing in ourselves and then our clients.  Sometimes the client cannot accept that connection and sometimes they can.  Wisdom and intuition come from walking your talk as the therapist and developing a fearlessness that is open to the vulnerability of connecting in the moment. Join us in our leadership and mentorship groups.
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I have met over the years dozens of mediocre therapists who, driven by theory, intellect and techniques, appear to need more therapy than their clients. And I have met a few who have really inspired me to pursue my own creativity and resourcefulness. These eclectic, inspired, integrative and intuitive therapists seem to be driven from a deeper knowledge of themselves and the human condition. They seem to create value just by being themselves and seem to resonate in an energy field that bristles with a richness and depth that cannot be easily described or advertised.
These same people, though they are professional therapists and are in it for the long term – and sometimes for many years – I’ve noticed, still haven’t really separated their message from their ego. Let me explain.

The ego, fragile thing that it is, the bit of us that is wounded and vulnerable and defends ourselves mostly inappropriately by false grandeur or fearful retreat, causes us to believe that if we were to tell anybody about our insight and intuition that we might be accused of being arrogant. So as a result, we keep ourselves small, doing our little bit to change the world in our own little way. We may earn a small but sustainable income, and our ego convinces us that we are not worth any more.

Meanwhile, the technicians, academicians and intellectuals, who speak the currency and language of society, ego driven and in their earthbound consciousness, group together and publish their papers, journals and books knowing that they are competing in a game, the rules of which are very well established. How much real human value is created by this head driven, chest beating is another question and yet they will command the respect and financial reward that is due to them. We know that no sooner has one medical classification of mental health surfaced, than of course there’ll be another so called mental health disorder. And in all this there is still one great deception, the real truth of which hasn’t yet reached Jo Public: that is, there is as yet, no evidence that brain chemistry is the cause of mental health issues.

That the medical model of health and wellbeing is still valid, was challenged just recently by the British Psychological Society which stated there was a lot more going on than the medical model could really continue to claim. Dr Lucy Johnstone, clinical psychologist, is quoted as saying: “There is now overwhelming evidence that people break down as a result of a complex mix of social and psychological circumstances – bereavement and loss, poverty and discrimination, trauma and abuse.” I would argue the finer point of spiritual dislocation – all of the above cause us to question who we are and what we are doing here.

Nevertheless, it’s interesting, isn’t it? Any one of those mediocre, let along those highly intuitive, heart-driven and insightful therapists could have told you that one hundred times over. But so driven is our understanding of the scientific causes of poor mental health, with all of its cudos, superficiality, acceptability and rigour, that learned society has almost entirely overlooked this very human and meaningful perspective. And why? Because it doesn’t attract funding? Because it cannot be scientifically evidenced? When did science gain the pseudo religious authority that it has?

I found myself in a meeting in London a month or two ago listening to Sarah Lloyd-Hughes talk about how to be as compelling as a TED speaker. She asked us to spend all of 30 seconds preparing to talk from the heart for 2 mintues about our core message and what we were here to achieve. As I spoke, I realised that I had been sitting on my message for fear of being marginalised or sidelined by respectable society. I had allowed my poor fragile ego to stop the transmission of a truly powerful message the message being not so much a missive as a demonstration of who I am. The capacity to stand tall and own the space I stand in without fear of rejection or judgement. Chastened I hurried home to start my book, revamp my website and share my insights with my inspired supervisee colleagues.

Knowing we do not have to edit ourselves and that our very existence is worth more than we could have ever imagined has been a revelation, a truism and a humbling experience. This is the new paradigm that we so desperately need to replace the current soulless assessment of spiritual distress. I’d love to share more with you in one of my mentorship groups. We meet this Friday 24th in Great Dunmow. You’ll find more details on the home page.

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Crossing over the Precipice leaves no way back

How do you know when someone has crossed over?

Crossing the precipice

I use the concept both in my blog post and in my youtube video about ‘crossing over’ a precipice.  The precipice is a spiritual point of no return.  It’s a concept that is difficult to pin down and perhaps only those who have already crossed over will identify with it fully.  So I’d like to explain what I mean by the term crossing over firstly and then to describe what signs to look for when you are in the company of someone who has “crossed over”.  I use the concept of crossing over a portal or going through a doorway or gateway that once crossed, you can never return from.  It is usually followed by a significant change in outlook or circumstances or both.  Richard Rohr, who I’ve become a great fan of these last few months calls it the death of the constructed or false self. He suggests that the false self is constructed to protect the perceived vulnerability of our core selves.  The fear of the false self is that the little person inside will be annihilated without the false self.  This is what makes our jobs as hypno-psychotherapists at times challenging when we cannot get through the defence of the false self.  It is also the false self that has to identify tribally with social, religious and interest groups to maintain a false identity.  Lacking insight in itself, the group constructs a reality from the outside in, seeking comfort and identity in its mores, ethics or code of conduct. The threat of being too much your true self in an identity group, you can imagine, could risk destabilising the cohesion of that group.

 

Characteristics of the ‘crossed over’

The Buddha’s energy

People who have crossed over have had a profound change of perspective on their pasts.  Instead of nursing and storing past hurts, crossed over people realise the futility of living in the past. They stop looking for answers in their past, that is, trying to re-work or re-frame what happened.  They stop re-running scenes, even positive ones, and free up their energy to look forward.  People who have crossed over sit with great ease and great acceptance with their pasts.  The past no longer presents an all pervasive sense of injustice or loss, but rather transforms into a calmness, perhaps sad at times, but simply an acceptance that life has been what it has been. With real acceptance comes self love.  The acceptance that I am only human after all, and everything I thought I had to be or do to earn my place here was always irrelevant. Crossed over people are grounded.  They look for the positive.  They keep an open mind and a curiosity for life.  They look for solutions, not problems.  Their criticism is constructive.  Their presence is stabilising and accepting.  They are philosophical and know how to laugh at themselves.  They tend to ask questions. They tend not to take what others say about them too much to heart – and this is because they are in communion with everyone else on this planet and sense without words the kinds of self limiting ideas people have. They tend not to worry if someone else has or knows more, because they know their inherent self worth. Their energy is bright and positive. They are free to create the future they want. They tend to have a natural wisdom born of their experiences. These people are modern day buddhas who feel the flow of the times and still remain firm in their inner reality. Crossed over people are few and far between. If you meet one, you will know. Crossed over people pass through a portal and can never return to how they used to be.  They will however stray from the path at times. Yet, now that they have not just seen, but witnessed the promised land, they will always know where they are headed.

 

Characteristics of the ‘un-crossed over’

Disconnection from self

Those on the other hand, who have not yet crossed over are still deeply wed to their past.  Living the injustices of the past, they spend large amounts of energy looking backwards or even, trying not to look backwards. They look for confirmation around them that their past is just how life is and all manner of events are construed and interpreted to confirm that view. They have an attitude of complaint which is often repetitive. They are sometimes resigned and hopeless, almost childlike and vulnerable as the future threatens to be more of the same already experienced from their pasts. There is no acceptance of themselves as whole people, nor of the people who figure in their backward looking experiences. The thought or memory of their parental figures still causes an internal anxiety that remains unexpressed. They can be cynical and closed minded – even if they profess to have a spiritual calling. They look for problems, not solutions.  Their criticism is at worst destructive and at best unproductive. Their presence is a responsibility to others.  They compare themselves with others and feel threatened when others are ahead of them materially or spiritually. They can take themselves too seriously at times and take too much to heart from others’ throw away comments. Their decisions seem at times to lack a sound basis.  They see the world as they are.  People who have not crossed over are everywhere.  Our society in particular, relies upon people who are subject to comparing themselves with others, to trying to shore up the false self, to living an outside in life: our whole media machine is geared up to keeping us in this relationship with ourselves that looks for external validation.

 

So how on earth do you ‘cross over’?

Do you do it? Or is it done to you?  It is an interesting question, how to cross over.  In my experience, it comes from an intense pain. In fact, to quote Khalil Gibran

“Your pain is but the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding”

In order to ‘cross over’ one needs to feel a pain that the false self has been trying to protect you from your whole life.  The fear of feeling the pain can be so great, that we’d rather carry on with what we know than  risk feeling pain.  So surrendering to our pain is not only important but essential if we are to release ourselves from the past and cross over into the present.  There could never be a more relevant truism than the oft quoted phrase: “What you resist persists. What you feel heals”.  There are a range of questions to ask yourselves when faced with the prospect of finally releasing your pain. Questions like, “What would my life be like if I could release this experience?” “What will be the outcome if I don’t?” “What would be the worst thing about holding onto this pain?”.  Questions like these can be really scary questions. And ones that you need to spend some time answering.  The heart and soul of the human condition cannot cope with too many of these questions at once.  The answers to all of them come in layers of conscious and subconscious thoughts and feelings.

I’ve crossed over in various layers of awareness.  Each time, I’ve peeled off another layer of consciousness. For a fair while, maybe months, sometimes a few years, it feels like I am completely whole and grounded. I need very little effort to keep myself in a very open and receptive state of life.  Over time I realise often I need to keep refreshing the experience, and in my case I attempt to do that daily with my spiritual practice. However, at times I stray from the path too. But I know where I’m headed and my compass keeps leading me there.  Where is that place?  Into the heart and soul of people, myself, others.  I’ve been told I have xray vision.  I don’t have x ray vision. I just understand the hurts and wounds that we so zealously guard for fear we are nobody without them. The irony is that we are so much more than we could ever imagine if we just let go of them.

Can you teach this insight as a skill?

You can. But not technically or academically.  This awareness is by definition experiential. It is about getting to know yourself inside and out. It is about revealing your true self and learning to love, without great overtures, the person that you are.  It is nothing short of a spiritual awakening and one I believe we as therapists need to be constantly in pursuit of.

Mental and emotional health – or spiritual health?

I believe, our 2 dimensional society has misunderstood what they are describing when they talk about mental and emotional health.  This assumes there is not much more driving us than mere thoughts and emotions.  No wonder our medical system is creating drug dependency and, in their relying upon clinical cognitive procedures, causing such isolation in those with so-called ‘mental health’ problems.  I believe what they are trying to treat is of a spiritual nature and by definition, medical ‘science’ cannot yet venture there.

True essence

What is spiritual then? I’d like to challenge that the spiritual is about belonging. It is much more than just the release of trapped emotions, or the correction of negative thinking.  The spiritual is about belonging right here, right now, in this body in this life and in these circumstances. It is about understanding our gifts, our hearts, our purpose and our community. It is about being connected to our friends, families and communities meaningfully.  It is about valuing our intrinsic worth and realising how valuable we are to others as well as to ourselves.  It’s about coming home to our true self, the self that was there from our birth into this world. In short, it is about living a truly human existence. And now we might understand why our media driven society, that depends upon the continued hypnosis of what we THINK is valuable, has become so powerful an influence in the culture of our times.  I dare you to step back from it.  To stop engaging with it. And deepen your inner journey to the centre of your self.  You can re-engage once you realise who you really are and perhaps then see the media for what it really is.

And in crossing over into your true selves, you’ll find a treasure you remembered once, from so long ago you’d almost forgotten: from a time when you hadn’t yet learned all the ways to keep yourself trapped into a false self. A time when you played freely and joyfully just for the sheer hell of it. And if you find it, please let me know. I’d love to hear your story. Join me in one of my supervision and mentorship groups, sign up to my newsletter on the about page.  Or just leave a comment below.  Let’s get to know each other.

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The day came yesterday. I was lying in bed actually, deciding whether it was worth getting up early or not when the phone rang. It was the doctors surgery. The medical records I requested from 1987 had arrived and were ready for collection. 1987 was my final year at college in Liverpool and the year I was diagnosed schizophrenic.

I had asked to see them because before I started talking about my past too publicly. I wanted to make sure I had the ‘facts’ that the doctors were working with at the time. I don’t have my full record, just my transfer letters from one hospital to another which were filed with my GP.

Who I used to be

Reading the letters sent me on a journey to another time where other people defined my reality for me, assuming they knew what was going on in my head and my heart. It sent me back to a time where I struggled to define my own reality because nothing had prepared me for being isolated  in my life and alone with my higher education ambitions. Inside my head and heart was my family’s calling to stay small, deny my larger self  and quash my ambitions. And yet a part of me felt so suffocated that despite the existential discomfort, I had to break away from my roots. The breaking away left me with internal contradictions, a tortured heart, and a desperate need to explore my inner world, to gain mastery over it and to find peace and equilibrium. It feels somehow now like I had to plunge into a dark and terrifying world of ‘schizophrenia’: I had to meet my darkest fears, in order to see what I was up against.

Did anyone really know who I was?

Some of the facts of my life are wrong in the letters. The assumptions that have been made about my life and background are superficial snapshots of me with no depth of insight. It’s sobering to realise that such big decisions should be made about my health and welfare and big socially dangerous labels used without knowing who I am.  In the early stages of my loss of contact with concensus reality at least, my reality, my history and circumstances had to be reported by parents and other people who also didn’t know me.  I can see how those opinions of others could come to be internalized by less fortunate individuals who fail to go deep enough to find their true selves.  And therein lies the dissonance: head versus heart, external versus internal realities.

I’d been up to that point on a journey of self discovery all my life. For some curious reason, even when a child I was always sensitive to having others attempt to scramble my reality.  And even as I lay writhing around in a living hell of my own confused fabrication in my early 20’s, my parents apparently believed it was just pressure of exams.  I grew up deeply contemplative, curious and angry when my reality couldn’t be heard.  Although I don’t ‘do’ past life stuff, it’s interesting to muse why I sensed injustice and contradiction so keenly.  I see that thread from the present to the past so clearly now. It’s what drives me today to continue to seek my authenticity and to resonate with others who are seeking theirs.

Seeing the real person inside

I still react strongly to incongruency, to artifice and to insincerity.  To me they are like enormous neon signs plastered across a persons identity. I can detect it from a 100 paces. I don’t care for it. I can’t take it seriously. I want to know YOU not a substitute or understudy. For many that’s scary. Seeing into someone’s life and looking at their real selves can threaten to dismantle the false self they’ve carefully constructed to survive an outside in existence.  And people will fight to maintain their right to their false self.  And of course, they can do what they wish. Yet our capacity to witness our own true selves and to see others clearly is the key to developing real human intimacy and to healing hearts and souls of slights and hurts.  Having xray vision can be both a blessing and a curse.

The gift is my personal journey to the core of my being

I have crossed over a precipice more than once in my life.  Once traversed one can never return.  Each milestone takes you through a new portal, a one way gateway forward and the rules that used to guide you and govern your thoughts crumble behind you. There is no going back.  There is only forward.  And as you step into the new comfort of knowing and trusting yourself instead of the rules, your faith in life expands and incorporates others.  As it expands it senses rather than thinks.  It tends to check our experience against our inner reality instead of outwards appearances or social conformity.  And it brings great fortitude and groundedness on the one hand and great human fragility on the other.

I see this insight now as a gift I have invested in over 30 years and more and one that I want to share with as many people as possible. With clients and supervisees alike, it is my desire only to show you your own heart, so that you can come to trust yourself, and know that whatever else happens out there, your unique human expression is your greatest and most valuable possession.

So I’ve decided to start writing. I have a book in my head that describes how we therapists, as the uninvited mentors of society, need to come home to ourselves if we are to help other people come home to their true selves. And despite all academic or intellectual pursuit, there is one fact we can never deny: We are healers of the human soul and spirit and no amount of intellectualising about that will make it any different. Find mentors who can help you on your inner journey of awakening.

Our experiences in life, however adverse or tragic, are never wasted. All experience, can be used for the awakening of our fellow human beings.
My message today? Seek mentors in life who are seeking their own authenticity. The soul of our world needs it. And if you resonate with me, I’d love you to join me.  Click on the links  to join my mentorship group or my telephone mentorship and supervision service.

 

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