Waiting for the Right Moment

I’m curious when people say that they’re waiting for the right moment to have a difficult conversation with someone.

When is the right moment? What are we waiting for? Someone once said that there’s never a right moment. Or maybe the right moment is now.

You know when you have something weighing on you, and you get that burning, nervous, butterfly sensation high up in your chest? Maybe not, your hard conversation ickiness probably manifests itself differently. I get jittery, my heart thumps and flips, my hands shake and my leg goes like a pneumatic hammer. I go hot, cold, freezing, hot. My whole body goes tight as a bow. And in fact I often start like a bullet from a gun, needing to get beyond that first hurdle otherwise I’ll just back out and whatever it is will keep crushing me. Problem is… that my explosion usually overwhelms the person I’m talking to. I launch in and it’s like wham, wham, wham! So, maybe the moment was right, or could have been right, and my way of going about the communication was way off, totally reactive and governed totally by my limbic system and a heavy dose of ego.

I know I struggle with this hugely when I’m emotionally charged. My focus shifts entirely from the relationship and the other person, to an intense inward focus, a sort of cauldron of hurt and anger that feeds on itself and swells to cloud my vision entirely. Then I vent.

So, that’s not how to go about it. Judging the right moment is less about judging the external conditions, and more about judging the internal conditions, our own state of being and state of mind. Are we in the right place to be able to have this conversation? Can we make this productive, constructive and in service of the relationship?

I’m now aware of many of my patterns and default, reactive behavior. It doesn’t mean that I’m in control all the time, but it does mean that I can take a step back – ok, so, maybe sometimes I need to wrench myself back, stepping back Zen-monk-style is not yet in my repertoire, still working on that… With the people closest to me, I find it incredibly hard to maintain perspective and give myself the space to approach difficult situations with the right state of mind (the Italians by the way talk about the stato d’anima, which I love – the state of your soul; always so poetic, the Italians…). The challenge for me is to shift the focus back onto the relationship and seeing the other as who they really are, really see the person. When that shift happens it’s like time slows down. Suddenly the fog lifts and everything goes soft. In that moment I just want to hug the person close, so close and let them know how much I love them and how important they are to me.

From this state of soul it’s easier to talk things through, find alignment and reconnect profoundly. And it moves me deeply each and every time.

When is waiting for the right moment just a good excuse to put off that vital conversation?

How can we create the right moment by who we are being energetically, by how we show up?

What are your patterns when you face challenges in your relationships?

We’re Only Human

It’s a curious phrase, “we’re only human”.  We use it, of course, to refer to human fallibility; the fact that we’re not, and will never be, perfect.  And yet it also diminishes all of those astounding attributes and aspects and idiosyncrasies that make us wonderfully human.  The dynamics of relationships between human beings are infinite in their variations and iterations.  The problem and the amazing fact is that we feel.  And those feelings can sabotage us as much as they can make us soar.  How is it that we can be unutterably happy and connected one day, and then out of nowhere a crappy conversation can leave us devastated and disconnected the next?  And when things start falling apart, it’s so hard to maintain perspective, to not be overwhelmed by the hurt and pain and fear of loss.  We’re blindsided and somehow without being able to prevent it, we slide down into icy waters and we find an ocean between us.

It’s strange isn’t it? How often the closer we are to someone, the greater our fear of losing that person, and the more worried we become in the relationship.  Fear in a relationship often makes us act contrary to what we want.  We tend to disconnect and withdraw, when actually what we want is connection and love.  We become defensive and take it personally, whipping up an impenetrable wall.  When was the last time you openly spoke your mind or your truth in a relationship?  Did you have your heart in your mouth, butterflies swirling, afraid of stepping into conflict and terrified of the potential consequences?  Yes?  Well, then welcome to being “only” human.

How often do we avoid difficult conversations or conflict for fear of the consequences?  A fear that is usually based on the worst possible outcome, by the way.  Being able to step into conflict and to trust the relationship is an incredibly liberating experience, although it takes practice and a change in perspective.   Trust yourself to be able to hold your truth and the other’s truth as equally sacred.

When you want to disconnect and turn your back, instead force yourself to stay, reach out your hand, look into the other’s eyes.  Have you noticed how, when we’re in full indignant, defensive flow, we avoid eye contact?  Stop.  Breathe.  Look the other in the eyes.  Not in the eye, but in the eyes.  Silently.  Breathe.  Stay.  Breathe.  And stay longer.  Stay beyond what seems possible.  Silent.  Just maintain that steady gaze into their eyes.  And Stay, Stay, Stay.

What do you see?  Who do you see?

What is it you really want, from the bottom of your heart?  The chances are they want the same thing.  They’re only human too.  They’re feeling pain too, the conflict is hurting them too.  Step in, lean in and focus on the relationship.  Serve the relationship.  What does it need to move beyond the issue?  What do you need?  What does the other need?  What’s standing in the way of your connection?

It’s so easy to turn your back, to fall into old patterns, to withdraw into defensive indignance.  So much harder and rewarding is staying despite the hurt, facing down the fear, swallowing pride, and stepping forward into the heart-stopping void to close the yawning space between you.  With every little step forward, the gap narrows, the wall dissolves, the relationship becomes stronger, deeper.

Human connection is a precious and wondrous thing, something to be cherished and fought for.  It’s what proves that we’re “only” human.  It causes pain, suffering and hurt.  And it also creates immense joy, happiness and awe.  Profound connection, Love, unconditionally given, is breathtaking in its beauty and resilience, especially when stretched.

To Dance a Tapestry

I recently rediscovered my photography, thanks in no small part to a dear friend who asked me to pick up my camera after many years and do a portrait shoot with her.  At about the same time another friend asked me to take some pictures for her new website.  It’s strange isn’t it, how synchronicity works?  And what has developed out of that initial portrait session is just unbelievable!  It has allowed me to create a synergy between my coaching and my photography, using one as a tool with the other.  Edward Steichen said, “A portrait is not made in the camera, but on either side of it.”  Connection and relationship is the key.  A photographer can only capture the true beauty of the subject when there is authentic connection, I call it capturing the light of the soul.  And it’s clear when it’s happened because the person and those who love him/her are visibly moved when looking through the images we’ve created together.  Wonderful to witness is the sudden awareness that comes over a woman of her own incredible beauty, and her loving what she sees, rather than worrying or criticising herself.

My philosophy in photography has always been to capture what’s real, what’s present and who the subject is. And sometimes to capture and give the subject an inkling of who they are deep down and haven’t yet fully expressed. Robert Bresson said, “make visible what without you would never be seen”. I love that quote. And what I love about it, is that it underlines how unique each of us is. Most people would probably read into the quote the stylistic intention of each individual photographer. Obviously each photographer has their own style and way of working, so each photographer can capture the same subject in completely different ways.

And to obtain great results requires a collaborative creation, a co-creation – each creating from the energy of the other and from the energy of the connection.  The initial shyness and worry of having a lens pointed at you dissolves and the camera seems to disappear.  And in the moment that authentic connection happens, the camera becomes invisible, the magic begins and the resulting pictures can quite simply take your breath away.  I always feel awed and privileged at how people I’ve photographed open up and allow me in to their universe.  It’s possible to capture many different facets of a person’s character in just one hour, each real and authentic, a piece of the whole.

And it’s not just about the results, for me it’s just as much about the process, the photo shoot and the co-creation between photographer and subject. It’s not just the photographer who uses their own style, way of working and character to make visible what otherwise would not have been seen. The process being a co-creation, the subject impacts the photographer too, and the photographer can show a part of themselves that may otherwise not have been shown. It may be that their style is transformed or evolves, it may be that they discover something about themselves or their photography, or gain new awareness on some level.  It’s like an intricate dance, with coloured silken threads that are woven together into a beautiful and unique tapestry, each and every time.

Each of us, in our relationships with those around us, has a unique impact and a unique opportunity to help others discover and see themselves. And in turn each person has a unique impact on us and can help us know ourselves more intimately. The substance of a portrait photograph lies as much in the process as the image, it lies in the rich flow of energy created and the self-discovery that can arise as a result of working intimately with another person.  And that feels extraordinary!  Where there is connection, there is a dynamic, flowing exchange between people that seems to amplify and open what is possible – it’s the birthplace of true creativity, is incredibly productive and, importantly, has a strong foundation in authenticity that provides the resilience and flexibility required to face any challenges as they arise.

Flow and weave, we dance a tapestry together.  Curious to find out what we can create?

The Power of Human Connection, Saturday 15th November, Hong Kong

The Intimacy of Silence

One of my favourite things in the world is to sit by a log fire with a cup of tea, a blanket and a host of lit candles and read. It’s magical and cosy and for me it’s one of the most precious treasures in life, as I can indulge in it so rarely. I’ve been lucky enough to have lived in many different places and countries, and wherever I’ve been (with or without the log fire), I’ve spent days just like this, reading. The cosiest were naturally those days when it was stormy, rainy, cold and grey outside. Living in Denmark most days between October and May were like that. And yet, every time I lifted my eyes from the page and looked out over the lake, I was struck by the beauty of the monochrome wind-lashed landscape. The worse the weather, the cosier and warmer and dearer the sitting room became.

And what makes a reading day like this utterly, exquisitely perfect, is reading in silent company. When two or more people are gathered to read together, it creates a sacred space of profound intimacy. It’s that sacred silence that give libraries their peculiar quality (that along with the semi-mummified bespectacled librarian guarding the electronic gates to the Reign of Bookworms). I remember the singular pleasure of some Sunday mornings at university. Late in the morning a small gathering of friends would quietly congregate in my room (as it was the largest and nearest), each bearing a selection of breakfast goodies (crumpets, jams, croissants) and Sunday papers. With minimal talking in hushed tones we set about breakfasting and reading the papers. The travel and lifestyle sections made the rounds before we settled into the crosswords.

Having people in your life with whom you’re able to spend time in comfortable silence is a rare blessing. When you’re deeply connected, there’s no need to talk to be with each other. Words seem superfluous and just occupying the same space brings a feeling of soulful well-being and togetherness. And yes, it also works virtually, occupying the same virtual space in silence or punctuated silence can have the precise same effect.

When I’m feeling that deep connection, it manifests itself as a physical warmth and light pressure in my chest that infuses my arms and warms my hands. I can feel a very low hum, a low vibration in my solar plexus and my throat. It’s like the notes of late afternoon sunshine moving through me, and I can’t help but smile.

Richard Bach wrote, “the opposite of loneliness is not togetherness, it’s intimacy”, and a beautiful manifestation of intimacy is simply being in prolonged silence with someone important to you.

What does intimacy mean to you?  How can you achieve greater intimacy with those important to you?  What does it give you?  And in that space of intimacy and silence, what can you give others?

The Power of Human Connection

If there’s one thing I’m deeply passionate about it’s relationship and authentic human connection.

I love connecting with people throughout my day – whether it’s just eye contact and a smile, or it’s a deep conversation. My morning starts with connection over breakfast at my local café. Buongiorno and a smile for the barrista as he prepares my cappuccino. Eye contact, a smile and a thank you (or a croissant tipped his way if I’m busy chewing) as he places my cup of frothy goodness in front of me. Last mouthful sipped down, another thank you, buona giornata and a wave and a smile as I leave the bar. It’s a daily ritual, brief (barely 5 minutes from start to finish) and it gets me grounded, present and set up for the day ahead.

Eye contact is one of those things I believe in very strongly. I get about lack of eye contact like my grandmother gets about tattoos. Eye contact is fundamental to creating an instant rapport with someone, especially strangers. I’m one of those people who takes off her sunglasses when I get stopped in the street. See me, let me see you. In Milan there are a lot of people who stop you in the street, or try to stop you anyway, to sell you books, bracelets, charms. These guys can be very persistent and walk with you the length of the street trying to persuade you. A tactic I often see used by tourists and Milanese alike is to simply ignore the seller, and virtually walk through him. Not the slightest acknowledgement of his existence. Except this tactic usually backfires as it seems to ignite something within the seller, which I make up to be a determination to be seen: he walks beside the willfully blind and pesters them until he gets a reaction out of them. I have no idea why people use this tactic of completely ignoring the sellers. It’s not something I understand. I generally don’t want to buy anything (ok, I do have a number of bracelets that I’ve picked up), and often I’m in a rush on my way to a meeting, so don’t want to stop. And, in fact, I don’t stop. I don’t need to. It takes a few seconds, while walking, to make eye contact, smile and say “ciao! Oggi no grazie. Buona giornata!”. There’s even time to shake a hand while the guy walks a few steps with me. I see you. The result is a smile and a wave from him. Connection.

These brief daily connections are easy to practise. What about the ones you need to invest in? Relationships at work and in our private life are considerably more complex and require more than just eye contact and a smile. And when we spend time cultivating the connection, creating the space for being with another person, it has the power to completely transform the dynamic of the relationship. Meaningful and authentic connection with others in our life, work and private, has the ability to make life so much easier, less complicated, and more effective.

A friend and colleague today told me, with a bit of an air of incredulity, “you know, I’ve been spending more time chatting with people, connecting with them, and yet it seems that the more time I spend connecting, the easier all the ‘doing’ becomes”. By concentrating more on “being”, he found he actually had to “do” less, and what he did have to “do” was easier than expected.

In recent months I’ve experienced much deeper connection than I thought possible. I’ve discovered that you can reach a level of connection at which working with a colleague becomes a natural ebb and flow, a dance, a co-mingling of energies that results in something far bigger and with greater impact than either one of us could achieve individually. Truly astonishing is the level of support you can tap into and that you can give to others when you put your primary focus on connecting with the person in front of you.  And quite apart from all the benefits, the best part is how simply great it makes you feel.  To the point that I’ve found myself grinning inanely at the sheer deliciousness of just sharing a space with a colleague, friend or family member.  Now, this may all sound a bit “Californian” to some, and that’s ok, and I can still guarantee you that it works in the “real” world too.

Imagine, what is possible when you cultivate authentic human connection at work?

So, how can you deepen human connection within and beyond your personal sphere?

In a nutshell, for me it boils down to 3 fundamentals:

  • be present
  • be curious
  • be you

Go ahead, try it!

Do you feel disconnected in a super-connected city?
Do you need more authenticity in your life?
Do you want more from relationships in general?

Curious to learn more?  Register for the Power of Human Connection workshop in Hong Kong on Saturday 15th November.  I look forward to connecting with you there!

Love

I was asked, What is Love? From the heart, I answered:

It’s allowing yourself to fall and trusting deeply even when you’re afraid to. It’s taking the leap of faith and refusing to hide. It’s speaking from the heart and soul, learning to give full expression to your truest self. It’s fierce courage fused with naked vulnerability. It’s unconditional, accepting the beautiful humanity and fallibility of the other. It just is.

It holds you in the dance, sees you through the push and pull, the stumbles and the fights. It’s baring your teeth and flashing your claws when you’re feeling hurt or let down, even lashing out with them, and trusting that the other is strong enough to take it. It’s a steady accumulation of bleached scars and yellowing bruises on your heart. It’s seeing every conflict as another opportunity to grow closer in mutual understanding and appreciation. It just is.

It’s looking in the other’s eyes and seeing your world. It’s listening to the other’s breath as they sleep and hearing the life-giving whisper before the birth of the universe. It’s lying on the other’s chest and hearing the echo of your own heartbeat. It’s being encircled in the other’s arms and knowing you’re home. It’s feeling your heart burst with joy and your soul soar in gratitude just simply sitting in silence with the other. It just is.

It’s shimmering heat and low earthquakes. It’s ten thousand little deaths and implorations to heaven. It’s tasting salty tears and kissing deepening crows’ feet. It’s knowing every centimeter of skin intimately and still feeling that same wonder and tug of desire as the first time. It just is.

It’s two whole souls walking hand in hand, leaning into each other, learning from each other, striving and growing together. It’s living your truth and holding the other in living theirs, even when the two seemingly clash and collide. It’s always finding the uncompromising third way. It’s knowing that Yes and No can occupy the same space at the same time, and that that’s perfectly ok. It just is.

 

I See You

I See You.

I first came across that greeting while reading a novel set in colonial southern Africa.  It immediately resonated deeply with me – its simple elegance, and the profound connection it instantly creates between two people.  I see you.  It is the most beautiful acknowledgement of a fellow human being’s existence and value as such on this earth.

Not, ‘hey, how’s it going?’ or ‘whassup’ or ‘how do you do’.  It’s not a request for information, it’s not a mere formality when meeting someone.  These three words acknowledge, focus attention, hold the person receiving the greeting.  I see you.  You exist.  You are precious.  I do not judge you.  If you are ill, sad, happy, on top of the world – it doesn’t matter, I see you, just as you are, and that’s just perfect.

I recently had the great pleasure of working with a coach/Leader from South Africa, and, two decades after first reading it, there was that wondrous greeting again, breathed into life in that joyful, profound manner of South Africans – I See You.  The words hit me squarely in the chest and stomach, sending butterflies swirling and warmth radiating through me.

How often do we walk through our lives not seeing the world around us?  Not making eye contact.  Ignoring the “strangers” around us.  Can you imagine the impact if we greeted each other with “I see you”?  If we took time to really, authentically connect with and “see” each other.  We’re so distracted when we meet with friends and colleagues, so many things compete for our attention.  We meet for dinner and we’re eating and drinking while chatting.  How often do we really make eye contact?  Give the person we’re with our full and undivided attention?  The energy and connection created between people is tangible when you achieve that level of softly focused attention with each other.

As a human being, I see you.  As your coach, I see you.  I hold that truth during our coaching work together, in service of you.  During our sessions I will see you, even when you lose sight of yourself; I will hold your agenda and keep you on track, even when you’re ready to turn and run; I will challenge and stretch you to your full potential; I will ask you powerful questions to help you explore, become aware and find clarity.

I See You.  Curious to see yourself?  To dig deep and live the possibilities in your present and your future?  Ready?  Then come fly with me!