Saturday, 8 June 2013

Worlds Apart ?

Over the last few months we have had an exchange student living with us. She is a lovely young woman from Germany, and it has been a treat to have her in our home. It has also reinforced how interacting with someone from a completely background can be truly enriching.  Her name is Gesa.
Before she arrived I was trying to think of what we could do with her, and where we might take her to give her an experience of Australia.......and to make her stay with us a little unique from the (3) other homes in which she had stayed, in her year in Hervey Bay.
 She had already travelled to much of the eastern states of Australia and time(and money) probably wouldn't have allowed us to take her to the west, so I wondered what we could do in that regard. We decided we would give her a "local" experience....and in so doing rediscovered what delights our own "doorstep" had to offer.
She is a vegetarian, but told us she didn't need any special efforts to be made on her part and was very happy just to eat the "non-meat part of any meal" we cooked. But I decided I would like to open up my vegetarian recipe books more than I had been, and both she and us have had some wonderful cooking (and eating) experiences together.
Early on in her time with us she noticed the fishing rods in the garage and asked if we might take her fishing sometime. We had a wonderful time, firstly pumping some yabbies for bait then picnicing while waiting for the right tide to go fishing. Living nowhere near the ocean she had never pumped yabbies or thrown a fishing line into the water, and that day we were lucky enough to catch (10) very good sized fish! It was as much a delight for us to enjoy this part of our local area again, as it was to show it Gesa and see how much she enjoyed it.
She is an avid nature photographer and this combined beautifully with my bird watching hobby, I have taken her to some very special bird habitat areas and we've spent many hours appreciating them.  She and Trevor spend a lot of time talking about "special effects" photography. One evening we spent several hours at the beach "painting "with torches and created some amazing photo effects.
And of course it has been really interesting to hear about her family life in Germany- similarities and differences to our own. We've discovered that her family are fans of the long breakfast- by this I mean a late start on a Saturday with pancakes and tea on the back deck..........with lots of conversation and sharing of experiences.
Gesa has enjoyed walking with me for a bit of exercise, and learned to do pilates with us, and she plays touch football with a school team.
We now have plans to visit Germany that would have been much further into the future had she not talked about how accessible most of Europe is to english-speaking people. She, and her fellow German peers, learn English from Grade 3.
As well as now having the opportunity to travel to her home, Gesa's stay with us has highlighted our appreciation for the beauty of our own. Kind of a "silver lining" to her visit.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Ssshhh...... Listen

Do you sometimes feel you are the type of person others seem to want to tell their problems to? I was talking to a friend the other day who was telling me how exhausted she was feeling when put in that position.

Out of a sense of friendship it's so tempting to offer what you think are solutions or a course of action to help when a friend asks "What am I going to do?" But I've realised a couple of things happen when you do that......
Firstly, they who ask may feel obligated or even pressured to take your advice; and secondly you can end up feeling the need to "check up" on them,  because you've positioned yourself to become responsible for their happiness. It really changes the nature of any friendship you have with them. It can almost feel awkward in any future meetings you have with each other. And that's certainly what she had noticed.
And I personally believe it's not really possible to know another person well enough to assume what would be "best" for them. Just one small, seemingly insignificant aspect of their personality or lifestyle can make what may be "perfect" advice for yourself, quite useless or damaging for another person.

But in my profession as a Remedial Therapist, clients sometimes talk about their worries or concerns within their lives. As muscles relax, and the nervous system corrects within their bodies this can happen. The confidentiality of the client-therapist relationship often allows people to feel comfortable to voice feelings they may have "bottled up."  But it would be completely inappropriate and unprofessional for me to give them any direction or advice at all, other than that which would support the bodywork treatment they are paying me for. I am not trained to support their emotional health.  I've certainly referred people to Counsellors at times. But yet, in the midst of their treatment, I think I would seem (and feel) harsh to just ignore people at these times, "cut them off," or change the subject.

So I've learnt to just listen while continuing with the treatment, without giving any direction whatsoever. There are loads of books written about how to listen "actively." Active listening is a very simple concept really. But it's not always easy to achieve. It involves listening while another talks, waiting for them to finish speaking, and then reflecting back to them the "feelings" you observe they seem to have, about the matter they are feeling emotional about. It really is just acting like a mirror for them.

An example might be when someone is talking negatively about how they are feeling within a relationship they are in. "You sound really upset about that," or " I'm so sorry to hear about that" allow me to convey that I am listening, that they can talk, and that I validate their right to those feelings. We all appreciate validation. And I don't think that's the same as saying how they feel is right (or wrong), but just that it's valid for them to be feeling whatever they feel.

I've noticed it is often more useful to just listen as a friend or client "vents" without offering advice or direction. But using reflection by saying " You sound....", "Am I right in noticing you're feeling......?", "So what you're saying is...."
Because no one becomes responsible to another for giving or taking advice.
And, in this way, I've "listened" to people come to their own useful solutions that very specifically suit their life and their needs, without my "interference."

International Women's Day Talk

I had the opportunity to speak to a group of Bank employees on this very special day of celebration.
Just thought I'd put a transcript of the talk on the Blog.

International Womens’  Day Talk
Good Morning all, and many thanks, Jodie for inviting me along to speak today.
 It is a privilege to speak on such a special day. I thought to introduce myself, I would tell you a little about myself………so you might notice anything we may have in common. We all have connections.
-          Born in the 1960’s
-          Completed University and Married in the 1980’s and still married to the same lovely fellow
-          Mum of 3 amazing people- all adults now
-          Retrained to complete a Dip. of Massage in the 1990’s
-          I am currently a Remedial massage therapist and over  the last 15 years I have built, managed and worked in our business, HBM- these days with 5 other therapists
-          I do some workplace training in the area of work/life balance- Stress Management workshops, I have facilitated a few women’s retreats over the years
-          A few years ago I wrote and self published a little book of simple concepts to offer people to reduce the stress in their existences- based on ideas I talk with my clients about and wrote it as a response to “What do you do to find peace and reduce stress in your life?
-          “Finding Peace”
-          I blog on our website in an attempt to put some positivity out in the world
-          I’m excited to have Just completed (7) years of part time study to now be qualified as a Practitioner of Ortho-bionomy  ( gentle effective form of Osteopathy) – so I’m excited because I know that is really going to change the nature of my interactions with clients, from a treatment perspective
-          my favourite colour is purple, I am a massive Bon  Jovi  fan, really enjoy gothic horror and fantasy books and movies, and I’m really passionate about living as healthily as I can by eating organically and limiting  toxins in my immediate world – so a bit of a hippy too
-          and,  fortunately because I deal with them one on one each day, I love people- their diversity- I respect the differences in the ways people think and go about their lives. I don’t always understand the choices people make, but I respect them because they are choices made based on their life experience (not mine) and regardless you can always learn something from how another person looks at life.
-          When Jodie phoned and asked me to talk today I asked her “why me?” and she said she thought I was a successful business woman and that she wanted me to talk about my road to that success …. To perhaps offer a little inspiration to Women on IWD.
-           I feel I can say I am successful in my life- not because of any monetary or financial issues, but because I have been able to achieve my goals and dreams, while maintaining a sense of  peace and happiness in my all aspects of my life. That is what I deem as a successful path J
-          So I began to wonder what I could share with you, as to how I’ve achieved that “success” and not ramble on longer than 20 mins?  And in thinking about my life I acknowledge there was a turning point when I learned one great skill that I feel is the “Master Key”
-          … I learned how to “Live in the Moment”
-          Let me explain …
Like many, probably all, women I juggle a bunch of roles- mum, wife, technician, manager, community worker, friend, collegue, student,…….. this can lead to lots of stress…….
About 18 years ago I read an article about a condition named “ Hurried Woman Syndrome”……
This referred to the way women are often doing one task while already planning another or thinking / debriefing about a previous task… leaves one with a sense of ‘hurry” and it’s pretty stressful! The article went on to explain this creates an imbalance between the mind and the body because they are in to different  “tenses”……….out of “sync” with each other, and this causes an ongoing stress response.  Living this way means our bodies are exposed to the stress hormones adrenaline and Cortisol for long periods of time.  This can suppress the immune system!  We get sicker, more often, and remain sick for longer.
At the time I read that article I was an Australian Breastfeeding  phone counsellor, group leader, mother of 3 small children, secretary of the kindy committee and “Hurried Woman Syndrome”  just seemed to describe ME to a tee! And I did seem to travel with a sense of stress quite often!  And yet I thought I was so cleverly multi-tasking!  On reading the article something just shifted in me……it struck a “tight” cord.
So I began to work on thinking less about the past or the future and focusing on the moment right in front of me….right in the present. I had dabbled in meditation in my pre-children years – but never managed to achieve the outcome I thought I “should” have.  So I decided to get some books and revisit it when I could. But mainly I just determined to give my full attention to the task I was living right in the present moment, if my mind drifted to past or future events I just brought it back.
At first I practised for just 15-30 minutes a day- just completing one task this way. Progress was slow but the reward was good- full attention to a task was much less stressful, my mind felt less cluttered, I began to notice how calm I was feeling,  and I’m pretty sure my family liked me, and the attention they received, a lot more! My interactions with everyone felt much nicer. I recall enjoying taking time reading, and playing with my children and noticing every aspect of our surroundings- the pictures in the books, their laughter, how the pages felt in the books, the textures of their skin as they leaned in to the story…. My Husband noticed more listening in conversation; with friends/ colleagues I became more attentive…………everyone enjoys being paid some attention. It began to seem like every aspect of my life was enhanced. And it encouraged me in my progress. And I felt much less “hurried.”
So, I know it sounds too simple,  but when you  focus on one task at a time… complete it, notice it as you are touching, tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing each applicable aspect of it, you do it well and with less stress than juggling thoughts of the next task.
You feel calmer, so enjoy life more, notice things about people that may otherwise be overlooked  (which leads to more respect for others and this is then returned!), and you notice opportunities you might otherwise miss (business and personal).
If you like the ideas of “living in the moment” start slowly, just try practising it for 15 minutes a day at first.
I still get “scattered” sometimes (we are human and our minds wander!) so I just mentally pull my attention in to the moment and space I am in.
And when others try to hurry me, I notice and calmly say “I just need to finish what I’m doing (and I name it) first.”

So, with living in the present moment in mind…. I’d like to leave you with George Bernard Shaw’s famous quote: “Life wasn’t meant to be easy.” (Just like “living in the moment!)
 But that is not the end of it as many think….George went on to add ….” But take courage, it can be delightful”
 I think living in the present moment lets me notice each “delight” along the way.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Yin Yang


A friend reminded me the other day that we are now 14 months beyond the "End of Civilisation" as we know it. She was referring to the end of the Mayan Calender" on December 2012. We are now entering a time, for the next 1300 years, of Feminine energy ruling the planet.... WooHooo!!

I made the joke that maybe we (the females of our species) would  just have enough time to sort out the "mess" that male domination had made of our planet :)

That was just a joke, but I, like many people, do have a strong belief that there are two kinds of energy/ consciousness that "fuel" life on our planet- masculine and feminine. 
The two energies really need to be in balance for planetary harmony....and I'm pretty sure things are currently out of balance in we humans, and they have been for a long while! But maybe as this energy imbalance reaches a certain critical degree, a shift will occur to restore energetic striving towards equilibrium? I hope so :)
 Maybe we just need to look at all the other species on our planet. Left alone, nature maintains a fine energy balance in all of them.
Masculine energy has qualities that are initiating, assertive, protective, and confident. Feminine energy is more subtle, loving, patient, intuitive, nurturing, and creative. The two energies compliment each other perfectly.
Please don't think I'm suggesting men are fuelled only with male energy nor women with feminine, though. I think we are all powered with a unique combination/recipe of both types of energy. This moulds and shapes our actions and responses to each situation and life event. It makes each of us unique. I think it's just the way each of our souls chose to come into this physical existence, and experience it in unique ways.
Over recent generations, it seems to me that feminine energy has been a little (maybe a LOT in some circumstances) "undervalued". .... even considered not useful or "strong"  enough to achieve "success" in our modern world. I think  that's the reason people often ignore their innate feminine energy( their intuition, creativity, nurturing side) and run on their male energy only. In the hopes of success in a "Man's World, maybe."  
That results in a couple of things.....a lot of people existing in a half-energised state; and an excess of masculine energy on the planet........which can create a very explosive environment. Loads of examples of this energy imbalance today in our world, in workplaces, politics and world affairs. For our world to have energetic balance and peace, masculine and feminine energies need to co-exist. With neither being regarded as more useful or superior.......but with both being respected for their complementary strengths.
 So I hope there will be lots more demonstration of feminine energy from both the sexes. I hope more and more we can find the feminine energy and demonstrate patience, nurturing, and creativity. I hope that's what the next 1300 years will bring.  For balance to be restored to the human race, and then the planet. 

And a little thought from: "The Journey of the Feathered Serpent."
There is a saying that, "If women ran the world, they would never send their children to the battlefield." This becomes the definition of "mother energy." Let me suggest a more energetically balanced saying...... "If the world is balanced male and female, then Humans would never send their children to the battlefield."

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Meeting People Where They Are

I think that people need to demonstrate more respect for each other. I hear people say that teenagers have no respect- but sometimes I think the adults around them aren't setting such a great example either! That is who they learn from after all.
There are so many ways to be respectful of others. One way is to actually "listen" to a person when they are talking to you. It sounds like common sense, but I've noticed it's not actually so common :)
 I have a little technique  I use that really helps me listen respectfully.  I call it "Meeting People Where They Are." I've never really described it before- it's more like an activity. But I want to try now, because I think it's a nice way of treating people with respect and I'd like to share it...........
When I am interacting with another person (at work, or socially) and I find myself thinking how different their life is to my own, rather than thinking we have nothing in common, or just talking about myself,  I encourage them to talk about themselves and I really listen.
Some people don't need much encouragement- just for me to give them the "space" to talk (by not talking too much about my own "stuff"). I encourage other people by asking general (non personal) questions about their life, the surroundings/circumstances that brought us together at that moment, or their family, their work, maybe hobbies ..... Then I pay attention to what they are saying- really be in the moment with them. I stay in the moment with them by picturing what they are saying, in my mind, and occassionally asking a "clarifying" question so they know I am "following" what they are saying.  If people don't wish to continue to talk, I respect that and leave them alone- at work I'll then focus on their treatment. In a social setting I will move on and talk to someone else. I think either way I am treating them respectfully by being attentive to their cues. A person just might not want to talk to me (their reason is their own business) and I respect that.  If they do choose to interact, I keep paying attention and then, at some point, ideas or experiences we have in common (even within our differences) will arise and then I might  add a little about my experience with the "things we have in common."..........maybe they mention a place I have also visited, or an experience I have also had.........but finding a little bit of something in common, amongst different ways of living. If they then begin to give me "space" I talk more about my experience, if not I just continue to be in the moment and listen. I just "meet them where they are." If they give me "space" I respond, if they don't I just stay in the moment with them. I have learned so much by what feels like "walking along with people" in this way- rather than what may have initially been a conversation I would avoid, because they live their life very differently to myself, and one might assume we'd have nothing in common.
I'm just thinking right now, it seems like conversation becomes  a "dance" in this way......I give them space and they move into it......they give space and I move into it......
During that dance what I learn from, and about,  people enhances my life, by broadening my outlook.
So, I'm constantly reminded that there are so many diverse ways of living happily. I love people to remind me of that!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

The Four Agreements

There are lots of self help books :)
I was reminded of one the other day, that I had read many years ago.
I think the book, entitled "The Four Agreements" is so special because of it's simplicity. It is based on the principles of Toltec wisdom. They were a race of people, less well known, but of similar linage as the Aztecs.
The Four Agreements refers to the (4) principles of living that can lead to peace of mind and joyful existence. I don't want to make it too complex in explaining them, and the contents of the book, so will keep it simple and just print them here for consideration......

   Agreement 1

Be impeccable with your word - Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. 

   Agreement 2

Don’t take anything personally - Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

   Agreement 3

Don’t make assumptions - Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

   Agreement 4

Always do your best - Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

Says it all! I don't think there is anything else. A book worth owning.