The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Are we nearly there yet?"

I recently replied to someone's post on a forum and part of my communication included this comment:

Every experience we have carries much more meaning for us than we can ever imagine.

And the more I thought about it, the more I became reminded of those well worn phrases used by children in the backs of cars going on holiday, "Are we there yet?" or "How long till we get there?"
For me the most exciting childhood holiday was going to the seaside, and on the journey keeping a lookout for that glimpse of blue that said 'nearly there'. The seaside meant so many exciting things to come - and even falling into a ditch full of nettles near Scarborough, or stepping on a jellyfish on Morecambe beach, couldn't dampen the anticipated pleasure of the s e a side!

At some point along this growth of life experience I began to understand the part that the journey played in going from home to seaside, seaside to home, A to B, somewhere to anywhere. The journey became an opportunity to do things not possible at A or B - and so I built up the idea (then the belief) that journeys were not tunnels between two lit up places at either end. But they were meaningful entities in their own right - with their own set of experiences, enjoyments, opportunities, pleasures and learnings. Yes, like A and B, they carried their own particular jellyfish or ditches of nettles, and that was understood as being part of the order or things - part of the way life is.

The learnings gained from "the journey" experiences continue to this day, as I discovered just recently when I had chosen to get from A(shburton) to a nearby village by taxi, only to discover that no taxi was available! The weather was ok, it was dusk and I had little luggage, so I set out to walk the 4 miles. On the flat it would have been a doddle, but the hills are steep in this locale and after about 3 miles the nettles were getting more stings and the jellyfish larger. Then a lovely lady in an old Metro gave me a lift the rest of the way, assuring me "You've walked the hard part - the rest is all downhill," which was nice.
As I lay soaking in a wonderful warm bath in my room at the village Inn, I contemplated what had been useful about the last hour and a half...useful on so many levels...

Life doesn't always provide us with a taxi, and even if it did there would be less to see, hear, feel and understand if the journey was accelerated in that way. And ignoring the significance of the journey for us means we lose the opportunity to learn more (or even anything) about ourselves.
And this goes to the very deepest message in the phrase "Every experience we have carries much more meaning for us than we can ever imagine".

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"I've come here with an Open Mind...."

I was attending an event last week run by Coaching Connect, Devon

It was my second time, and it was great to see people I'd met previously, people I've only met online, and also make some new friends and contacts.

Quite early in proceedings someone asked me "What have you come for - what are you looking to get from today?"
Given the event billing as being 'an opportunity to develop your business and to network with other coaches and share good practice', it would have been understandable had I followed one of those guidelines for my answer. However, I also have a philosophy of learning something new from every day and so it was more appropriate for me to answer "I've come with an Open Mind", except that I also added, "...that way I'll get everything that presents itself to me and probably a lot more besides!"

In the fleeting moment as my words echoed back I noticed (a) the subtle changes in what I'd said compared to the last time I'd been asked that question and (b) the reactions of the person who asked me. And in truth I now have to say that - had I not had an Open Mind at that moment then I would not have noticed either of those things, and the usefulness of them to me.

The openness of our Minds isn't just about being open to all the incoming sensual information, because essentially that's going on unconsciously all the time anyway. Its more about our internal dialogue, our beliefs, our 'agendas', all of which are filtering the internal experience. When we filter stuff out of the internal experience then there's no chance of insights, 'a-has' and lightbulb moments - those unconsciously driven 'bolts from the blue' that pepper the conscious, the intellect, with meanings and linkages to our previously unanswered questions.

So, to get back to the coaches' forum and my Open Minded approach...

What did I come for? What am I looking to get?
* To interact with interesting and like-minded people on an unspecified range of topics
* To experience a day of discoveries and learnings
* To create, build and foster friendships on a variety of levels
* For fulfilled enjoyment through all of the above

And, on reflection, did I get all this?

Definitely, and in abundance! I certainly got everything that presented itself to me! Plus - as I expected - I got a whole lot more besides. Has it developed my business? Certainly - my business isn't something I do, it is what I am. And as such I have developed what I am.

Could I have done all this, got all this, if I'd gone with an Agenda? Highly unlikely. I'd have missed the sounds of popping lightbulb moments, I'd have missed all the nuggets and gems proferred by the presentations, workshops and conversations. However, I would have got the sounds of my own voice, the judgements of my own narrow band of beliefs, and the reassurance and comfort of agreeing with my own internal dialogue.

Our Minds can only get broader by removing the constraints and bringing flexibility to the boundaries. And the only constraints are self-allowed and self-imposed internal ones.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dementia Diary #2

"Life is only worth something if you live it every day."

Whenever we have family visitors staying or friends visiting my Dad generally responds to the question 'How are you today?' with the cheery reply "I'm still here!" These are the words of a very in-the-moment man who, at 91, can still raise for us all some of the most amusing and meaningful comments.
This particular Sunday however, he came out with a secondary observation which had us all speechless and rooted to the spot for a moment or two - "Life is only worth something if you live it every day," he remarked.

This affirmation from the high and lofty pinnacle of strong beliefs and a huge chunk of experience almost flies in the face of his advancing dementia condition and somewhat displaced memory chronology since 1946. It also gives us a clue as to how he got through the extremes and deprivations as a WW2 prisoner of war for 5 years in Poland having been shipped there after failing to make it to the rescue at Dunkirk. It also shows us how he (like many of his generation) just 'got on' with life once the war was over and said very little about his experiences.

Frustrating as his dementia must be on occasions, his "Life & Worth" philosophy seems to very helpful in overcoming those frustrations and frees him up to live in every moment.
He gets huge pleasure from being totally absorbed in either his stamp collection or playing a variety of songs and tunes on the harmonium. This instrument - incidentally - gives him physical exercise for both feet and hands; as well as eliciting music and words from memory that are anchored to other experiences and happenings at the time.
He is never bored, merely moving from one activity to the next as the interest takes him. Occasionally he moves tangentially onto some unrelated activity, and here again he gives it total attention until it is concluded or resolved. He then gravitates back to the 'waking centre' by either checking the time, making some tea, seeing who's at home, and perhaps looking outside at the weather, the street activity or the garden.

The random re-connectedness with some of his memories is equally fascinating and surprising for me. Interestingly, during these moments of reconnect I find that by guiding him to pursuing certain "live" threads, he will remember detail vividly - and I also know that this random illumination will be lost once the moment of each thread has passed.

The biggest boon for me, thankfully, is that by projecting into his reality I'm able to be his additional guide, rather like an extended memory or external hard drive! Plus (and its a big plus) I'm not beset by any carried over emotion of my own or indeed any of his (in the moment) emotions such as frustration or anger. Many have described to me the usefulness of this "one foot in his world" and "one foot in my own world" view of reality - and I'm able to be almost robotic with my foot in "his world".
How intense and time consuming do I make this? Not overtly so - I also want him to interact with "my world" or "the world" at times, plus I'm happy he can spend plenty of time in his own world at his own ease. The key, I feel, is what I have already described as his "waking centre" - a kind of ground zero set in time and space where he knows there is a reset button which will enable him to set off once more.

Routine and familiarities are important there too as I found out when he awoke from a nap and started looking for something underfoot - something that was clearly part of a dreamscape rather than a waking 'realscape'. I floundered for some minutes until deciding to take him back to his "waking centre" - and once there his continuous loop of looking for the 'thing underfoot' melted away in the gift of the next new moment of life!

Every day is full of new learnings - and is certainly worth it every inch of the way.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Presenting Perfectly by trusting the Unconscious

I had an occasion, this evening, to do a "relax" session for a small group of six clients. This is something of an irregular engagement, and I was actually helping out another therapist who was unable to make the session.

I've done them before, and follow a fairly routine pattern of grounding through breathing control, followed by PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation), leading onto some guided visualizations. The whole collective process is couched in very gentle, hypnotic language - and can best be described as "the meal the chef might cook for himself if he wanted to chill out".

In guiding people through this process, I say what I see, hear, feel and notice in a very loose and unscripted way - knowing (basically) what I want do, where I want to go to, and what I'd like to do when I get there. Its what I used to love about playing jazz guitar - you had the tab, but you never really knew exactly which road each performance would go down.

In this particular session I'd reached the second "subject" of guided visualization. The metaphorical landscape for this was:
You're walking on a beach, noticing all the sensations available to walkers on a beach. Eventually you notice a canoe near the water's edge and walk over and examine it. It just there, without paddles; and whilst it might appear to have been abandoned, it is there for a purpose. You've come to the beach with certain issues, problems, obstacles, burdens in your life - all carried in variety of packages, parcels, rucksacks, boxes, name it. And now seems a good time to unload all your baggage into the canoe.
And so it goes on!

The interesting thing at this point, as I was guiding these good folk to lay down their burdens not down by the riverside but in the canoe, I became aware of a fleeting thought: "What am I going to do with the canoe?" I knew where I wanted it to go...drifting out to sea and over the horizon. However, having disengaged these people from their cargo, I didn't really want them to re-engage (or get their feet wet) by pushing the canoe off the sand into the water.

And, magically, the fleeting thought was picked up by my unconscious and a very simplistic answer was returned: "They can walk back up the beach from the water's edge, sit down and relax and watch the incoming tide float the canoe and, through the power of breeze and current, carry it out to sea and over the horizon".
This also presented many avenues of opportunity to draw analogies between something as naturally powerful as the tides cleansing and renewing and regenerating the beach, and people's lives.

Only later did I notice that by trusting my unconscious and not reacting to the "fleeting thought" but rather just passing it on - that I actually came up with an even better and more meaningful solution not only for my part as guide in this journey, but also for the group and each individual's opportunities for unconscious learnings from this process.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Acknowledge the Knowledge - and spend it!!

Part of my acknowledgement of living is that I learn something new every day. This can be something experienced or something cognitively deduced or something insightful. Whichever way it is sourced, I always try to be true to acknowledging the wonder - and to thank the provider.
I believe it is part of what enables me to keep an open mind on everything and helps me maintain an understanding, a respect and a humility for my fellow humans.

Working a lot with children brings all these beliefs and values right up to the surface, in close proximity, and - by the very nature of coaching and teaching - means that I spend a lot of time dispensing knowledge or routes to knowledge.
This is a relationship, however, and an equilibrium has to be maintained for this relationship to work best. All communication is a two way thing even though the balance of speak/hear, give/receive, talk/listen, show/copy, teach/learn etc ebbs and flows through the interactions of the relationship. There are times when I'm the learner/receiver and the child is the teacher/giver - its inevitable - it happens. And its at these times when I'm enthused, and I acknowledge the knowledge.

I love the look on a child's face when I thank them for helping ME learn something new today. They can't quite believe what they hear - because they are always used to knowledge, understandings, teachings, to be going in only one direction.

Knowledge is the currency of wisdom - and in the same way that money is worthless unless it is used - knowledge is worthless until it is used. Money and knowledge are purely means of exchange. Learning is an illusion until we use, or spend, the knowledge. To be clever, or artful, is of no use until the person converts their knowledge, uses their skills, for a purpose.

The day an education system tutors children in how to spend their knowledge will be the day it starts to evolve.
For now - all of us need to acknowledge the knowledge, and spend it!