Lost and Found

Have you ever found yourself feeling lost? Lost in the familiar, the normal, the known?

Or do we only get lost on an unfamiliar route, when we’re in a new situation or when we are out of our depth?

We may look around us and know we are lucky, a nice job, lovely friends, partner and family. Yet sometimes we can still feel lost, overwhelmed with it all, do you ever recognise that feeling? 

Or maybe we are just dealing with the challenges of life, that we all face be that: stress, loss, change, illness. And perhaps we have lost ourself a little in we middle of it all, trying to make sense of it all?

As a coach, my training, expertise and experience enables me to help people make sense of what’s going on. To help them feel less lost. To find their own insights. However to gain this wisdom, I had to experience and understand vulnerability, to get lost myself and so I share my story.

In my mid-thirties I became the first in my circle to get divorced. A catholic, country girl it was a hard pill to swallow. Now years later I realise it wasn’t such a disaster, althought at the time it felt pretty horrendous! My life changed beyond all recognition, and importantly without my permission!

Adrift in the sea of life.

I felt heart-broken, rejected, set adrift and lost. Yes lost, and on reflection it was a bit like being in a car-crash inside. All my friends were having children, buying bigger homes, and nesting. And then my dad timely left my mum for a new partner.

I was forced to re-think my life, to sink or swim. And I swam, literally each day in the local pool in my lunch break and cryed! I took the holiday planned with my ex to Peru, Machu Picchu, but ‘solo style’ crying in the heart of breathtaking beauty the Andean Mountains. I remember observing impoverished young Peruvian children and thinking “Lou you are an adult you will be ok, they are children”. 

Often from our suffering, emerges great wisdom. For this I turn to Viktor Emil Frankl, Austrian psychologist as well as a Holocaust survivor, associated wih the powerful quote:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space Is our power to choose our response” In our response lies our growth and freedom.” Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

From the space of the Andean Mountains, I had made a life changing decision, without realising. Back in the Uk later in the year, I left the safety of my steady job as Marketing Development Manager to volunteer in South American, in a small town called Cochabamba, Bolivia.  I bravely stood up for myself, and negotiated a three-months Sabbatical with my boss. I ventured out of my comfort zone, and then disappeared off map from all I knew, for a while to lick my wounds. 

I took myself out of my stretch zone and to the edge of my panic zone at times, smiling to myself about being ‘brave but stupid”. It was the hardest but best thing I every did. It helped me survive and more, I restored the old the person I thought I had lost. I built new resources and resilience to take me through the very tough few years which were to follow and the effort to rebuild my life in the UK. 

In South America, working with abused, abandoned and lost children, I found myself. I realised my life was not that bad. I travelled, backpacker style in a jeep to the heart of the breathtaking Bolivian salt lakes Salar de Uyuni, with a kind, funny medical student, and bright, young fellow companions. We giggled a lot, staying in $1 a night hostels and submerged in natural landscapes that even Sir David Attenborough would marvel at. 

Staring at the stars of the South Hemisphere, I was falling in love with life again.  So powerfully captured in a verse from my favourite poem “The Dance” Oriah Mountain Dreamer:

“Take me to the places on the earth that teach you how to dance, the places where you can risk letting the world break your heart. And I will take you to the places where the earth beneath my feet and the stars overhead make my heart whole again and again“.

In these three most memorable months of my life, I started to trust again, and unfurl and flourish amidst kindness; to others and from others. I was accepted and started to accept myself. I was nourished by my host Bolivian family’s love. I taught arts and craft to vulnerable children, as well as found adventure with my travel companions. It was here I would also to gain first hand practical experience of the psychology of compassion that in years to come would support my pathway to a deeper love of coaching others and a MSc Studies in Mindfulness.

In the unfamiliar and naturally beautiful terrain of the southern hemisphere, I started to wake up again. The language barriers, materialistic poverty and my non-judging companions took me to a different place. In Bolivia I was named Luisa, the girl from England. I realise now she had fallen to sleep and got lost.  Yes I was still suffering great emotional pain, it was real, but I was starting to live again. To have moments of goodness and be in what mindfulness and compassion expert and clinical psychologist Professor Paul Gilbert, calls the ‘flow of life’, I was discovering my truth of the matter.

I write this article again in Bolivia. Drawn back to a continent that makes my heart sing. A place to reconnect with my Bolivian family and make sense of the loss of one of my oldest friends to terminal cancer by helping others. My friend could not join this trip, but I hope maybe it helped her, in her last days to know and to support her spirit.

Yes I listened to “the call”, when Bolivia kept coming into my consciousness for six months before. So I planned and I made time for a working vacation, in the shadow of the magnificent Andes. I decided to work with a local project http://boliviadigna.org . I choose to raise money for, and volunteer in the children’s hospitals including cancer care (in memory of my friend) and in projects where children are most vulnerable. 

So, I have listened to my heart and returned to the continent where I first learned to dance and where I started to feel whole again. I am grateful.

To find out more about how coaching can help to find yourself again. Drop me a line- Lou@elementas.co.uk

Living To Your Potential

In my role as a coach, I often challenge and support people to move out of their comfort zones. Encouraging them to move into their stretch zone, with support. It is in this zone where we can start to live to see our potential and where we flourish.

Often what holds people back is the shadow of low self-confidence and their fears of the unknown. Self-doubt then creeps in to keep us stuck and uncertain, we often tire of the ‘trying’ to change. As well, we have those deliciously addictive past experiences, events and perhaps unknowns. The more unconscious deep barriers, habits and patterns that stop us from doing what we think we would love to do. Or even more sadly, simply keeping us stuck living a stressful life, with heaps of fear and anxiety.

For a second, stop and take a deep breath. Can you imagine a more relaxed life with more joy! How good does that sound?

It is key that I have empathy and appreciate just what it means to feel out of our comfort zones. And so I regularly challenge myself to explore my comfort zones. Yes I do have very solid comfort zones! This year I have chosen to live and work in Bolivia again for just over a month. I travelled to Buenos Aires on route to Bolivia, and got to spend a short break in the beautiful “Home” hotel in Argentina. To inspire my motivation and passion for colour, design and interiors.

I always get a little bit nervous before travelling and this time it was no different. In fact, after months of fundraising for the project and working out how best to pack all the additional resources I was taking to the support the project, really proved a challenge. As well as letting clients know I was planning to work from a different part the world!

So how did I succeed, well I started early, as things generally can and do go wrong, I put a plan in place. I was patient and let go, “took my foot of the gas” so as to speak when all was not working to plan. I trusted but kept up the effort of doing what I could do, priortising, saving up, creating an ideas mind map, speaking to people, asking for help, showing vulnerability at times, focusing on supporting others. I clearly understood my motivations and inspirations and built them into my plan. I kept to my daily meditation and compassion practices, allowed space when I got anxious and stressy. I also did what I increasingly realise is key (and scientific research backs up), I turned to loving kindness; the antidote when I am being too tough on myself, and expecting too much of others. This is definitely work in progress!

As I promise to hold your hand on your journey of change, I need to know what it is like to be on the other-side. This experiential knowing helps me keep a sense of perspective and it enables me to be objective, authentic and compassionate to you and your journey.

The confidence we get from making personal changes is amazing. Yes it is hard, and it does not always happen overnight. I often have to remind clients I am not a magician and habits may have taken a lifetime to form. Sometimes it is a life-long journey to undo habits and patterns, it takes courage. I believe doing the work of letting go, allows us to achieve our potential and flourish as individuals and as human beings. We are all connected. Eloquently articulated below by Albert Einstein.

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

(Image Buenos Aries capturing nature’s beauty and spaciousness for the sharp, clear blues skies)

The changes we make impact others in our lives. Please do not underestimate the power of your light in your own changes, albeit seemly small, to potentially to make a huge difference to yourself and others.

(Image Buenos Aries my love of architecture to shop space, colour, steps and light)

Time to Think?

Do you ever give yourself enough time to stop and think? To reset your inner compass?

Life gets busy with work, family, friends and hobbies. Before we know it another year has gone. We may feel we are never going to do what we have dreamed about, that new project, new hobby or idea.

Coaching can help us focus. It can give use chance to articulate and make plans, sounding out our ideas. Coaching offers space to think about our intentions (what) and our motivations (why). Coaching conversations can help us become more mindful, more present and more aware of what is really important in the here and now.

And as they say in Tibet, ‘If you take care of the minutes, the years will take care of themselves.’

Project Bolivia 2019

I am returning to Cochabamba, Bolivia South America, late Summer to volunteer with www.boliviadigna.org.

I will be volunteering on a project designed to protect and defend children (2-18) at risk in impoverished neighbourhoods, who are often victims of violence of any kind. The project helps promote human rights education, responsible leadership and Christian values. I will also visit terminally ill children in the cancer hospital who are often left alone. I hope to teach arts and crafts, face-paint, play with Tai Chi and mindfulness relaxation and bring a little joy into the lives of young ones.

How Can You Help?

There are 2 ways you can help out.

  1. Sponsor a £10 teddy for a terminally ill child….

Just an update everyone, Jellycat https://www.jellycat.com providing one of each book free and some more merchandise!  

Lovely note from their PR department ” we are more than happy to send out donations, however we do not expect any sort of recognition for this as we are more than happy to simply support a worthy cause.”

I think we are up to 20 Teddies sponsored now! Yeah !

Once I know what Jellycat can offer and Francesco (Bolivia Digna) can estimated how many children are in the wards, we can get moving. 

You can choose your Teddy or book and make a note to the child,

If you want to sponsor at Teddy, follow the Facebook page link below or email me Lou@elementas.co.uk or call me 07715814833. Thank you!

See Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/events/1311130165720317/

2. Project Bolivia – Sponsored Swim – 100 lengths Target £800

My good friend Jo has agreed to join me in the UK for a sponsored swim, to raise funds for the children We hope to do this by end of July. All sponsorship is appreciated, by the length or total please.

Last time your help purchased face paints, games and toys, you bought the children essential clothes, re-kitted out their orphanage with cooker, fridge and furniture to create a living area and created fun with pizza and the cinema.  

If you want to help by sponsoring our swim or a Teddy get in touch Lou@elementas.co.uk. Thank You!

Please note all my trip expenses are self-funded.

PS did you know Bolivia was landlocked?

In a valley in the Andes mountain range, Cochabamba is known as the “city of eternal spring.” At around 2,558 m (8,392 ft) altitude, the sunny dry highland weather rarely gets too hot or cold…. Time to get fit and ready for the altitude…

Achieving Heartfelt Success

What does success mean for you?

On a recent trip to Holy Island off Arran, I had reason to contemplate this question personally.

We are living in a world that increasingly values our success and status by materialistic standards. Our ability or inability to achieve materialistic worth can impact our self-confidence and self esteem. Jobs can be hard to find, or hold on to in uncertain times. This can cause our brain’s Driver and Threat systems to be continually on alert to ensure we prosper and survive at work and play. Not allowing us time to Rest and Restore.

I wonder what would happen if we did something different? If we were able to confidently shift our thinking and were able to redefine what success and achievement truly meant in our hearts.

Imagine being able to unearth new ways to find greater focus, wellness and motivation to achieve our inner potential.

On holy Island I was fortunate enough to join fellow colleagues and challenge myself to climb a rather big hill. We were celebrating passing a testing first year of our MSc Studies in Mindfulness. It gave us time to relax, to connect with each other and get fully into our bodies, after two days of teacher training tests. We had all grown up in so many ways, helping each other, learning and demonstrating that together we flourish.

Peace Centre‘s Garden Holy Island

Nature can be our companion to insights; well articulated by these ancient and wise words.

If this resonates and your are interested in a mindfulness coaching approach, please get in touch and arrange your free 1/2 hr session. Lou@elementas.co.uk

Mindfulness Coaching is suitable for business executives and owner managers looking to think differently. It is suitable for those wishing to make career transitions and rethink their lives.

What’s Your Next Career Move?

Early into a New Year, with hope high on the horizon, employers and potential job candidates alike are planning their next move.

So just how do you both ensure it is your best move?

Maybe you are looking to recruit someone new to grow? Finding the right person can make a difference to success or failure. Keeping a project or service running effectively while the new person dovetails into their role, means months of extra cost. In some cases, if the candidate is not suited, the employer has the cost of helping them smoothly exit the organisation.

So just how do you ensure you recruit the right people and find the right job? It can be tricky. Would you agree?

“The most important asset your organisation has is its people. The biggest asset they have is their health and wellbeing. It, therefore, makes good sense to look after it.”  Dame Carol Black (source Investors in People)

From designing the right job specification to finding the right people to fill their future roles there is a lot involved to enable success, whether you are a recruiter or candidate.

When recruiting, organisations need to be clear in what they want from an individual and role. We live in a world that is often referred to as a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) organisations are continuously changing and evolving.

Susan Skjei Director of the Authentic Leadership Center at Naropa University suggests that the challenging nature of change and complex business environments are creating an appetite for mindfulness.

“We may think of change as an organizational process, it actually happens one person at a time.”

Finding the right job takes hard work and commitment, but often people are unaware and do not think about their real authentic needs.

“Lou is good at asking the right questions to get you to think around the issue rather than in one dimension.  This opens up new possibilities and a breakthrough in terms of how you can deal with issues.  Lou has helped me to change my approach to interviews and now have a new and fulfilling job. Sue (Senior Business Growth Specialist)

This is where career coaching is key. It allows you to think deeply about your abilities, your values and what you want from a job and organisation – including how it fits with your lifestyle, total wellness and approach to life.

The benefits of mindfulness coaching include:

  • It helps you to be kinder, stronger and more resilient to any disappointments you may experience along the way to finding your ideal role.
  • Your own personal confidential, safe and objective sounding board.
  • Time for you, time to think, to explore your dreams, aspirations and real needs, and help you find clarity and focus for your next career move.
  • Help to make the move from a role where you are dissatisfied or unfulfilled.
  • Chance to change your outlook, supported by mindfulness coaching to help strengthen or rebuild your communication and work relationships.

Where appropriate people can get over personal issues, reframe their attitude, and re-engage with their current organisation to explore opportunities closer to home.

If you are looking for a new job, mindfulness coaching works. The more you are in touch with your personal needs and priorities, the greater your chance of finding your route to success.

This year, let mindfulness-based coaching enable you to become more fully aware of what is really important in your life!

Want to know more? Get in touch lou@elementas.co.uk

Lou

Natural Beauty

I am often stunned by the natural beauty that surrounds us.

Walking by the beach recently I was arrested by the sight of the Cobalt Blue sky, the Viridian Green sea, the glimmer of Orange on the horizon as the sun was setting. Wrapped up warm and snug to brave the chilling wind, soothed by the hush of the waves lapping the seashore.

Sometimes, overwhelmed or lost in the distraction of our thoughts and emotions, we loose sight of what is in front of us. Travelling to the future or past it is easy to miss the gift of presence. In presence our senses are soothed, as our nervous system relaxes and we are bathed with nature’s magic.

Try it see what happens!

Link mindfulness

Tibet

2018 was a memorable year. I was celebrating a special birthday, and I had planned to visit Canada, but one of my closest friends had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Canada felt wrong. I needed to visit somewhere to lift my spirit, to hold her in love and in hope of wellness. Tibet seemed to speak to me. My partner rose to the challenge of Tibetan travel. I trusted my instinct and in May 2018, following my heart, we departed to Tibet.  Travel restrictions were plentiful and we risked not being able to get to access to Tibet. We opted to enter via Lijiang, in the northwest part of China’s Yunnan province. We flew to Lhasa at 3 700m, to explore the ghostly Potala Palace and the mesmerising Jokhang Temple, known as the most sacred temple in Tibet, a magnet for Tibetans and fellow travelers. 

Then we set about driving hundreds of miles, with numerous Chinese checkpoints. Sharing music, laughter, kindness and often receiving insightful Tibetan teachings, on route from our local Tibetan guide, Jigme and driver Phuntsok.

We climbed deep into the beauty and wilderness of the Hymalayas, navigating some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever experienced in my life. Journeying by sacred lakes, untouched landscapes and crisp mountain passes to reach Everest’s majesty. 

As we drew closer, I was faced with my altitude fear in the first aid oxygen sentinels lined up at the hotel entrances, on the route. Our serene and wise Tibetan guide Jigmay encouraged me to shield my eyes. He smiled, helping calm my fears, “do not look at the oxygen tanks, you will be ok Lou Mam”.  Trust, you are safe. He was right.  

When I reached the stunningly dizzy heights of Everest Base Camp at a lofty altitude of 5500 metres, again I was a little fearful, but a kind little voice inside kept telling me I would be fine and I was. Jigmay and Martyn quietly and gently encouraged me to climb, at attitude, to experience ancient caves and magnificent sights. I felt truly blessed. 

At Everest, I experienced presence.  For me, it came in the form of feeling true peace. I felt peace in the energy of the limitless azure skies, as I rested beside freshly, flowing, glaciated, aqua waters and the simple, uncomplicated natural landscape.  Still getting over the loss of my mum, I felt her peaceful presence in the shadow of Everest. Einstein’s quote came to mind.

“Energy is neither lost or created it is passed from one form to another.”

Our synchronistic journey introduced us to numerous special sights, meetings of local people, ceremonies and blessings by Tibetan monks in frightfully exciting ancient Indiana Jones locations. I felt present at a pivotal point in Tibetan history amidst the major changes to their country, landscape and culture. I learned about the humility, respect, and compassion shown from Tibetans to all even, those that challenge their culture. This presence gave me insight into the mystery of wellness. I smiled to witness the local Tibetan and Chinese Guard sharing music on their phones in Everest’s Tearoom. Two young men with common humanity and shared interest. 

Tibetan people, the lost temples, the clear blue skies, and breathtaking mountains amazed me. No doubt, waking to a Yak by my window, then watching the golden sun go down on Everest were some of the highlights of my trip.

Winter Wellness

As we move thought the season of Winter, what do you need to do to support your wellness?

Traditionally winter has been a time of coming in, of keeping warm, of rest and of renewal.

The Midwinter Solstice (Hibernal Solstice) 21 December reminds us of our connection to season cycles. It marks and grounds our relationship with our earth, linking with the light and energy of the sun. In the dark, as in life, we know and appreciate the light.

Ancient peoples whose survival depended on a precise knowledge of seasonal cycles marked this first day of winter with elaborate ceremonies and celebrations. Spiritually, these celebrations symbolize the opportunity for renewal, a casting off of old habits and negative feelings and an embracing of hope amid darkness as the days once again begin to grow longer.” CNN Travel.

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Today, most of us live in a world that is always taking us out. Even within the winter months we have little time to come in and life often does not slow down naturally.

Maybe when you have chance take a moment to come inside. To rest your body on the earth and rest your mind in the safety of your body, for a short while.

Connect both body and mind, and recall your natural cycle of life. Remember to call upon your inner wisdom; often rediscovered in these moments of stillness and of calm.

And in those moments of reflection, dare to plan, to dream, to nourish yourself and hold sacred your hopes of Spring’s horizon and another New Year.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience” Ralph Waldo Emerson

So as we all move through the darkest months, enjoy the journey back into the light.

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Into new beginnings.

Merry Christmas and here is to a wonderful New Year for you all.

All the Best,

Lou

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