One step at a time: Reflecting on experience as I go – and grow.

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I get great comfort and encouragement from the spiral. So often it seems like I am circling around the same things, confronting the same issues. I remind myself though that this time is not in fact the time before, however similar it may appear.

The nautilus grows its shell one chamber at a time, moving every so often into a slightly larger space than the previous one. It gives itself room to grow, increasing the spiral as it adds a new chamber.

Regularly reflecting on what is happening in my life and what I need to do next is a bit like building a new chamber for my self, or allowing the space I live in to gow and expand a little.  As I realise a blockage and remove it, or change a habit to something more beneficial, I grow a little. There’s always a new thing around the corner, or even a similar thing around the corner, but I can take some time to think. What have I tried, why didn’t it stick last time, is there somthing else I haven’t seen which is affecting me?

The regular meetups I run for Evolve Leadteam, in our local community, give me that steady, regular application of thought to my life. I started running this monthly event, which we carry out on Thinking Environment® principles, to share with others the benefits of a space to thin well for oneself. one step at a time, little by little, I stop doing the things which don’t work. Slowly it changes my life.

Our necxt Magic Meetup in Farncombe, Godalming is on 10th July at Hucklberry’s cafe.

Reserve your free place here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/magic-meetup-10th-july-2018-tickets-46840049850

Learning or experiencing?

Makeplace 505 Beginners Tambour Over the last four years I’ve been learning and then training as a Thinking Environment® facilitator. The cornerstone of the Thinking Environment is the principle that people can think well for themselves, given the right conditions. They involve being in the presence of a listener whose attention and encouragement is wholly yours, and who trusts completely that you are creative, altruistic, intelligent and can think for yourself.

That work, and delivering Thinking Environment and training for the NHS, researchers, undergraduates and local people at a regular community event I run with a colleague, has been slowly informing my teaching of embroidery, something else I fnd very rewarding. I’ve been pondering how could I make my classes more about the student discovering and exploring for themselves, and less about me leading from the front.

I started to introduce rounds, and ask people to share what’s going well, what’s their favourite sort of embroidery, what’s a project they’re proud of. Then, after a student volunteered some very useful feedback about what had been most helpful for her in learning the technique, I started to ask, what have you learned this morning that was most useful? what went well about today? what else would you like to see in the course?

Now I’ve started to ask myself, ‘how can I give them the experience of exploring and learning for themselves? How little information do I need to give, and what questions will stimulate their learning?’

On Sunday I was teaching tambour embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework. We had a really fun, collaborative day with a relaxed atmosphere and everyone sharing their learning, questions, and tips from their own considerable textile experience. It felt easy as the teacher; I wasn’t tired or drained, but energised by the day. The participants reflected that they’d enjoyed the warm, friendly environment, and left with smiles and thanks.

So now I’d like to ask you. What are your best experiences of learning? what works for you? Please leave your comments below.

 

Don’t be scared of your own needs

St Anne and the VirginI sat down with a good friend recently and we had a deep think about the difficulties of asking for help, whether it’s ok to lean on people or not, but how hard it is to engage with the world without the right structure or framework. We asked the question: What is support?  Here’s our list, please feel free to add or discuss.

  • Validation. someone saying: your experience is what it is, and worth something.
  • A sense of being understood
  • Empathy; that recognition of your experience leading to a feeling of shared understanding and acceptance of its difficulties.
  • been given the sense that it’s going to be okay, but when it feels like it isn’t, receiving empathy and comfort, feeling held.
  • Being witnessed. Being seen, you are here and your experience counts.
  • Receiving insights
  • Sharing skills, strategies. resources -a planning system, a book, a TED talk, a piece of poetry, some art or music, some listening.
  • Being listened to with trust and confidence I will get time to think through myself, my listener will not jump in with solutions unless I request it.
  • Receiving compassion. ‘to suffer with’ that sense of someone standing with you in your difficulty, not offering you sympathy from their position of greater ease
  • Trust that I can find my way
  • Willingness to openly discuss boundaries, to consider and negotiate them
  • Care to know what my areas of sensitivity and pain are, acknowledging them but letting me own them and manage them.
  • Being reminded by example to practise self-care and develop awareness of what is needed
  • Reciprocity. I want to be able to give these things, as well as receive them.

it isn’t good to feel you only receive these things, it creates a sense of inequality and feeling less than. it may be possible to offer and receive these things mutually, or maybe one will receive and give to different people. Acheiving a sense of balance about it, and knowing also that what can be given and what one needs  to receive will ebb and flow; sometimes one will be greater than the other. For me, a spell of depressions means I might need more but be less able to ask; I want to be able to start giving again as I recover.

Trust that all will be well…

I have been amazed at the difference trust has made to my life, and what itIMG_20170331_145415351 can effect in others around me. For most of my life I have lived – without realising it – from the assumption that the world is an unfriendly place; help, empathy and confidence can’t be relied on.

I didn’t realise that this also meant something about how I viewed myself and my capacity to cope. No confidence – or faith – in the outer world reflected my lack of faith in my inner resources. I hadn’t realised that one could make a choice to believe in the basic goodness of people, their intelligence, resourcefulness, creativity, ability to think things through and come to their own solutions.

When I came across this Positive Philophical Choice of the Thinking Enviroment™, I felt such a relief: someone believed in me, I didn’t have to prove I was worthy of thinking things through for myself. Continue reading

Flying blind: trying to follow advice

Giving advice is one of the ways in which we feel we are being most helpful, when listening to someone’s problems. It feels like a concrete offering, a real thing we are giving, and when we can’t think of a great idea, we think we have failed our friend, and apologise. And yet who takes up unsolicited advice? There’s a great story (which I can’t verify at the moment) of the C19th author Wilkie Collins, stuck for a name for his new novel, complaining about it to his friend Charles Dickens who promptly came up with a list of twenty or so. Collins didn’t take up any of his friend’s suggestions, and eventually came up with his own.

How much worse it can be if you never get a chance to think through things yourself. Imagine a person learning to pilot a plane, their own little individual aircraft of life. They’re sitting at the controls, the engine is running, they’re nervous, looking at the instruments and assimilating lots of information. The trainer comes in behind them and starts to insist: ‘you want to get airborne quickly? I can tell you exactly what you need to do, just follow my instructions’. The tentative pilot panics, thinking ‘I’m not doing well enough, learning fast enough, they must think I’m not going to choose well, I might crash!’ If they follow the instructions it might be in blind fear that they must do something, but like flying the plane with a blindfold on. They will never learn to read the instruments for themselves, know how to get airborne, respond subtly to the weather and conditions. If they do get airborne they won’t know how they did it.

And they may not know where to go from there. The other alternative is to abandon the attempt to take off, paralysed by fear or indecision. This is what can happen if other people try to do your thinking for you, often from the best of intentions and care. What matters is that you get there yourself, learning to read your own instruments of intuition, experience, character and temperament, trusting your own judgement.

Three years ago I stumbled across the Thinking Environment, developed by Nancy Kline and described by her quite simply as a method designed to help people think for themselves. At its core is the positive philosphical choice that humans are intelligent, creative, care for others and can solve most of their problems themselves. You get the chance to think, aloud, to someone who is only listening to ignite your thoughts, not just to reply, and trusts that you will find your way. It was incredibly heartening to me, and has helped me to build my own trust in myself. Without that, I feel like I’m flying blind.