Who am I?
‘I am afraid to tell you who I am because you may not like who I am – and it’s all that I have. But we reach maturity as people by communicating with other people. There is no other way. What is in me grows smaller if I do not tell you its secret.’
Through all our coaching and programmes we always begin with this question: Who are you? It is often a shock to students to consider this fundamental question and find that there is a great deal to discover and uncover in order to answer it fully. We all have ‘a-story’ a story which we often believe to be true and which defines us. What is important is the realisation that we are not our story or the roles we play anymore than we are our body or our thoughts.
The coaching, group work and experience with the horses allows participants to explore in depth this question; ‘Who am I?’ We help you to explore the self-concept you have created, how this helps you to function in the world, where it limits you and the impact of this constructed identity on your authentic self.
We explore the shadow side of this identity, the fragmented parts of self, those parts of ourselves we have disowned because we have learnt that they may be unacceptable to ourselves or others. By gaining awareness and stepping into the role of observer of self, you are able to separate your true self from your story. This is a powerful experience created in a safe environment with the aid of many mirrors – you will see yourself reflected back to you through other group members and the horses. The latter are able to give you a truly clean mirror in which to experience yourself as others do.
You may want to explore this question first in your own mind, take a piece of paper and simply begin to write your response to the fundamental question; ‘Who am I?’ As much as possible begin to write and keep going without editing your thoughts, without pausing to re-read what you have written, without judgement or criticism. Whenever the mind stalls simply return to the question and write down whatever enters your head. At some point you may wish to ask ‘And who am I that’s more than that?’.
We are all so much more than we think we are. Our thinking is limited in a way our true self and potential are not. By fully exploring this question you can begin to see the story you have bought and sold to yourself, it’s falsehoods and its limitations. This new awareness then leads to choice, to personal responsibility for who you are and who you wish to become.
You can journey this question with us through 1:1 coaching, group programmes and even whilst you qualify for a professional qualification. Remember it is in relation to others that we truly discover who we are.
In our Fast-track Warrior Programme held in our Northern Centre (7 – 11 August 2017) we will be exploring this question, so if you would like to find out please get in touch for more information firstname.lastname@example.org (Fast-track Warrior)
Sarah Readings x
The Warrior Programme – Developing Leaders with Animals
Being with the animals allows us to have a completely new experience; they rely on their senses, non-verbal communication, and energy exchange to interact with us. This enables us to access emotions which may have been suppressed and denied. They can help us connect to our authentic selves and find the courage to share that person with the world.
1. Present-Moment Awareness
Perhaps the most valuable lesson the animals have for us is the ability to be present. We teach our clients about being in the present moment because it is good to share time with a human who is fully present and attentive, the dogs and horses can bring you into that state of mind simply by being around them. As you work with them you experience the benefits of connecting with the moment and with yourself- beyond your busy mind.
2. Acceptance and Contentment
An exceptional trait of the animals is their natural state of contentment or Santosha (a Sanskrit word meaning totally fulfilled) They aren’t wondering if people will treat them differently based on their status in the herd, they aren’t fearful of others judgement regarding their appearance, and they are perfectly accepting of all that they are. The animals embody the truth that, “I am what I am.”
Our minds are continually categorizing things as good or bad; evaluating every situation based on our history and experience. Although animals have the ability to discern what they prefer, their approach is a much simpler one—does it bring me fear or does it bring me love? Ultimately, these are the two emotions that all other emotions are rooted in. When you see life through this simple lens, you’re able to stay centered on what matters, and let go of the rest. More love. Less fear. Watch the animals demonstrate how to live with less judgement and therefore more joy.
Life is unpredictable and full of change and the more flexible you are, the more easily you bend to allow life to work with you, not against you. The animals too experience many ups and downs along the way and yet again, as long as they feel safe, nourished, and near you, they can find peace. Because the animals are so accepting of life on life’s terms, they have learned to weather the storms.
5. Unconditional Love
This is the one that will get you hooked, and all you may want to do is reflect it right back to them. The animals welcome you into their hearts and lives with an innocence and reverence that many of us, if we were to be entirely honest, rarely receive from most of our human relationships. They hold you in high regard and as long as the bond and trust stays strong between you, their love does not falter.
It is of no consequence to them what you have achieved, your job title, your political opinions or what you say. The horses’s and dogs are totally satisfied and comfortable by your side.
Build a strong relationship with your companion animal, and in turn you’ll receive all their devotion and loyalty. They easily become your #1 fan; your cheerleader no matter how you’re playing the game. It feels so good to have someone accept you for who you are, love you anyway, and support you until the end. Very often, the animals know you better than anyone else in the world, and they’ve seen you at your best and worst. They forgive and forget when you’ve gone off track with them, with yourself, or with the world around you. A unique relationship to be in.
7. Intuition Over Intellect
The animals are driven by an intuitive connection that guides much of their decision-making in a natural, instinctual manner. Whether they’re deciding what their body needs, if the stranger in the field is approachable, or how to act around that new member of the herd, their inner-wisdom leads the way. Although we aren’t able to know exactly what they’re thinking, we do know a wide array of information is received and interpreted through their senses. They combine this sensory input with their overall energetic “read,” which allows them to stay more established in the heart and body than in the mind and intellect. This quality is yet another aspect of their operating system to be admired and emulated.
So if this resonates with you and you would like to experience personal and professional development alongside the animals then get in touch or see our full list of programmes created for personal, professional and the eduction sector.
Training leaders is widely debated minefield of information. So how about if we could simplify it to this…
”If the horse won’t follow you how do you expect your people to follow you?”
An interesting question indeed. One that I’m sure will cause further debate! However there are advantages to being able to simplify leadership training to this level.
If we as both Leaders and Training and Development Coaches, researched and practiced all the various material available to us on the subject of Leadership; The various styles, the characteristics of a great leader, the benefits (or not) of the different approaches, the personality types, the psychoanalysis of what works and what doesn’t – and so it goes on; ultimately we will still all finish up having our own independent opinions and experiences as to what works best.
In my personal experience, there is arguably merit in many differing approaches in Leadership and actually is that what it is really about.
When we train our leaders at Learning to Listen on our Warrior Programme we strip back all of the detail that can ultimately be subjective and also of course is going to depend on environment, position, different company structures and widely differing cultures. With clients from every walk of life ranging from Blue Chip orgainsations to Head-teachers and Senior Leadership Teams in schools, life very quickly becomes a level playing field on our programs.
The focus in our leadership training methods is about knowing ones-self on a far deeper level than ever before. This is the only way we can truly present our congruent selves to the outside world. My view is, if you do nothing else to develop your leadership skills, then as a minimum get to know who you truly are. Consider these questions; What are your values and beliefs? How has your history created your reality of now? How do you perceive others and also how you are perceived?
It all sounds simple enough doesn’t it? But then introduce a horse into the relationship to help you really peel back the layers and work through these questions and you will open up a whole new world of awareness.
Suddenly leadership training becomes far more dynamic, pioneering, effective, integrated and (I can promise you) life changing both personally and also for the team/orgainsation that you lead.
When that horse follows you across a field with no tools – (i.e. she is at liberty to decide to be with you or not), then in an irreplaceable moment she chooses to stay by your side… trust me there isn’t another feeling like it. Ultimately you really will have learnt the value of who you are as leader.
If you would like more information about our Leadership Programmes for Corporate Businesses, Smaller Businesses and in the Education sector, please get in touch email@example.com
Mental Health, Mindfulness and a Marathon
Every year I like to set myself challenges which will grow me mentally, emotionally, physically, creatively and spiritually. This year my physical challenge is to run 26.2 miles in one go. What I didn’t consider when I set this intention, was that this particular endeavour would be so much more than just physical.
In October the letter came through; ‘Congratulations, your entry for the Virgin Money London Marathon to be held on Sunday 23 April 2017 has been accepted.’ Ooo I thought, that’s exciting….and a little bit scary.’ I had high hopes for raising a lot of money for Autism Angels and a firm belief that with the right training plan it was all about putting one foot in front of the other….repeatedly!
What has followed over autumn and winter has been a journey of emotional highs and lows and a developing intimacy with my inner voice. Running alone (with the exception of my faithful hound) mile after mile, free from the distraction of any music or audio, I have spent many hours with myself. Many hours observing my mind, my ego, my emotions and my body. Being present with my unique self; myself in relation to the world and the incredible power of nature.
This all began in late October on the cliff tops of the Cornish coast. Making a trip with my family to scatter my Mums ashes I started my training. It is hard to put into words the emotions I felt on that trip; the indescribable elation of running free on the wild coastline, overawed by the beauty of nature and the spirit of the sea. This was a truly spiritual experience, so close to the reality of death and loss and feeling so incredibly alive.
I was often caught off guard by the rush of emotion which can be released when we make space for it. It was not unusual to run with tears streaming down my cheeks or a huge grin plastered across my face- it was time and space to feel, to breathe, to be present and connected to something much greater than my physical body.
It seems that spending so much time in repetitive physical effort has allowed me to go beyond my body, to witness my mind and to experience my spirit. As the runs became longer and it was necessary to be out for hours at a time I could observe the circular nature of my thoughts, the obsession with counting the miles, the continuous negotiation about how to keep going when my legs hurt or my shoes rubbed or my energy simply deserted me.
However; once I became aware of the pettiness of my mind to engage in this overthinking, another part of me was awakened, a calm and centered observer who would offer insights and creative ideas. An intuition which spoke with wisdom and noticed what was. And so this physical challenge became a mental, emotional, creative and spiritual experience too.
When the runs have been tough I think of the children I want to help and how hard life has been for them, when I want to stop and rest I bring to mind that they may be unable to stop their suffering. When I am reluctant to go out and it just seems too hard I draw inspiration from their courage.
So, with only two weeks to go until I face the big one, what have I learnt? I have been reminded that I am capable of whatever my mind believes I am capable of. I have repeatedly experienced the amazing power of nature to connect me with my heart and soul. I know that it is possible to rise above the busyness of my mind and the concerns of my ego. I have learnt to make space for my emotions and be mindful of the present moment. And after 19 miles of running, with my legs burning and my mind screaming that I can’t possible go any further; I know that I can always take one more step because there is nothing more resilient than the human spirit.
The Power of Nature for Restoration
We all know about the environmental benefits nature provides. But how often do we take advantage of the mental, physical, and spiritual benefits available from being outside to support our mental well-being?
In a recent article, Michael Hyatt quotes research suggesting that we spend far less time enjoying nature than we did 20 years ago and yet every day new evidence confirms the benefits of being close to nature, and what we’re missing by staying inside.
“We are influenced by our environment in ways that we are not aware of,” researcher Netta Weinstein says. In fact, experiencing nature can improve our minds, rejuvenate our bodies, and restore our spirits.
Taking time to pause and engage with nature, even for a few minutes, can bring significant positive effects for our mental stamina and cognitive performance. Research demonstrates that there is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time immersed in a natural setting. In addition nature also improves our mood, reduces stress levels and increases our immunity.
All of this suggests that we are meant to spend time enjoying the natural environment, slowing down and re-connecting with the rythyms of the earth; noticing ourselves as part of the universe. Michael Hyatt reminds us that; ‘Nature is God’s reset button for our minds, bodies, and spirits. If you’re spending all day indoors, you’re missing the restorative power of nature.’
This is why at Learning to Listen we conduct all our coaching, training and development in a natural environment. On our programmes you will reconnect with nature as you learn about yourself in the stunning North Yorkshire countryside. Programmes run throughout the year with ILM Coaching Programmes beginning again in April.