The Big Breath

4b5e746ac1369668f22c8a6f199bda32--relaxation-quotes-relaxing-quotesI don’t think I’ve ever before understood so little of a book and yet been intrigued enough to carry on reading it nonetheless. I bought The Cosmic Hologram a couple of months ago after being captivated by a presentation given by the author, cosmologist Jude Currivan. Her story of our Universe ranges dizzyingly from cosmology to quantum mechanics, starting from the big bang.

Only, according to the latest cosmological evidence, it wasn’t big. And it wasn’t a bang. The evidence she cites suggests that our Universe is finite and that its original super-rapid expansion was exquisitely ordered and fine-tuned, more like a big breath than a big bang – which echoes nicely the ancient Vedic sages of India who envisaged the beginning of the Universe as an out-breath of the cosmic creator Brahma.

I like the image of the big breath. There’s a short poem by E E Cummings written during the 2nd World War whose image presages the scientific evidence too:

god decided to invent 
everything he took one 
breath bigger than a circustent 
and everything began

(Here’s the whole poem – the second verse pulls no punches.)

Everything starts with breath

If you’re curious about communication, expression, presence, connection or energy – any of these things – you can’t fail to be interested in breath. It’s the starting point of all our attempts to communicate with each other and indeed do almost anything. No work on voice projection and tone, body language or “getting your message across” bears any fruit without going back to fundamentals of breath – and not so much the physical act itself as the original impulse behind it.

Whenever you speak, before any sound comes from your mouth, your thought/emotion initiates a breath – not any old breath, but a breath whose energy and character exquisitely matches what you have to communicate and which is designed to create the particular sounds that express what you have to say.

You can hear this particularly clearly in the transparent communication of young children. However, as sound is so revealing of truth, most adults learn to interfere with the breath-to-sound connection, so that the resulting sound expresses habitual control and obfuscation (however much they paste expressiveness on top). But even then the breath tells the truth – in this case the truth of obfuscation.

If you want to communicate – genuinely communicate – everything leads back to how much you allow breathing to play its part.

Breath as a powerful support

Breath is your friend – it’s kept you alive till now! It’s especially your friend when you feel troubled or fearful. For instance:

  • An extended steady in-breath through the nose in its measured character invites steady expression, and thus gives you courage to speak or act.
  • A feeling of excitement energising your in-breath gives your expression a power that a fearful breath lacks, and brings to your sound a sense of commitment and positivity.
  • A huge in-breath – a breath “bigger than a circus-tent” – carries you over hurdles, such as making a statement that feels hard to say. If we took a breath that big, couldn’t you and I do anything?
  • The out-breath too – when you sigh, your whole respiratory system is able to release and reset. If you were tense, you release. If you were stubbornly holding on to something, you let go. If you weren’t able to think before, suddenly on the next breath you can.

Breathing carries you through anything – fear, anxiety, pain. When things are bad, breathe! When you are tense, breathe! When you feel awkward, breathe! When a conversation falters, breathe! When you want to feel – joy, love, peace – breathe! And things become easier. A breath gets you into motion again, and in motion life moves on to a better place. And if you want to breathe, breath out.

Breath and intuition

Speaking-skills coaches who talk about breath at all often concentrate on the muscles required for the in-breath. But, as I was newly reminded at a yoga class recently, if you direct your attention to a full outbreath, the consequent in-breath takes on the nature of a release or surrender. It’s a powerful surrender however – a gathering up of energy – and on that in-breath any accompanying yoga movement that in the normal way might be effortful becomes light and easy.

That surrender is much more than a physical release. Breath is physical and mental – emotional and spiritual too. That relaxed in-breath after an intentional out-breath opens the unconscious mind with a wonderful sense of liberation to new clarity and lateral thinking inaccessible to the logic of the conscious mind. It’s the moment when “don’t know” gives birth to sound intuition.

Just a single breath? Well, yes. I’ve found, when I inexpertly practise meditation, that if I remind myself that, rather than a clock-aware 20 minutes, one single breath – this breath – is enough, then that breath has the quality and depth to illuminate (whether or not I then continue for more minutes.)

Breathe, breathe, breathe

So today – in the interest of business success, leadership, creativity, focus and better relationships, not to mention health, wealth and personal wellbeing and whatever else matters to you – pay attention to your breath. Try any of the following:

  • Take a moment to to breathe right out and, with full awareness of the experience, allow the in-breath to be a complete letting go.
  • Sigh out at any odd moment of pleasure and catch the often missed joy of the in-breath that follows.
  • Breathe-sigh out especially at any moment of difficulty – be it exasperation, worry, envy or boredom – and then witness the release on the in-breath, watching for any minute seed of insight that might pop into your mind. You’ll have to be awake to catch it though – it could be light as gossamer.

Then notice how life flows more, how your mind works better, how relationships are easier – how the quantum-smallness of a single breath is connected with the cosmic-vastness of larger purpose in your own life as well as in the broader scope of the Universe.

Just before posting this today I cycled into town along a country track by a stream. Suddenly, a heron flew up from almost under my wheels and I gasped with the thrill of it. What a large elegant bird close up! We talk about moments that take your breath away, and this was one of those, but in fact (and I’d never quite noticed this before), it was a sudden sharp intake of air – a beautiful release.

Sometimes it’s the same moments that take your breath away that breathe purpose and love back into your life. Steve Maraboli

Go well,


What Else?

Lots about breath in my books

Dip in for help with communication, presenting and voice … life even …

The Art of Conversation
What an important topic! Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others – pure consciousness even! Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 25 different strategies to perform with confidence. But it’s not just about presenting and performing – you’ll find its ideas useful for eliminating anxiety throughout your life.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.


Whether you already feel successful or are struggling with challenges, coaching can help you make the most of your potential. Email me or call on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you. Coaching can take place face-to-face or via Skype or phone.

Voice and Communication Coaching

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.Do you realise what an amazing potential resource you have in your voice? How you come across depends on your voice and how you use your body AND your breath. Self consciousness is the grand saboteur. You’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Download any of my E-courses

(I never share your email with anyone):

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation



I’m Giving Up on Authenticity

Who are you?To spend a life time seeking for one’s authentic self, and then get second thoughts on the whole thing. How come?

I’m giving up on authenticity.

I know, I know – dear authenticity, you have been an aspiration of mine for quite some time. I’ve even sung your praises in print for goodness sake. It’s been a long time … right back to childhood even when my mother younger than I am now used to encourage me before an event, “Just be yourself, dear.”

I didn’t have the faintest idea how to fulfil her wish then, and I’ve been seeking how to ever since. It’s perhaps the quest of our times – find yourself, know who you really are. I’ve done the work like others have – the psychometrics, the MBTI, if you want the proof – and yes, I do know quite a lot about myself. I’m artistic – I know because I create things and people say they like them. I’m shy – because my whole family was shy. I’m quick – and that sometimes makes me ignore the odd detail. I’m kind, kind of, mostly…

But I’m not sure any more that focussing on what I already think I know about myself is helpful. When I say, “I’m that sort of person”, or more often, “I’m not that sort of person” I use it mostly as an excuse or a defence. As in, “I’m not the kind of person to sell myself” or “I’m not the kind of person to demand my rights,” for instance.

A great little book was recommended to me this month. The Path, by Michael Puett and Christine Gros-Loh offers a new way of thinking about ancient Chinese wisdom. The first philosopher discussed, Confucius, was a believer in tiny acts – or rituals – where you practise “as if” – i.e. you act differently to your customary way, and thus gradually habituate yourself to new ways of being and acting in the world. One section headed “The Malleable Self”, sounded like the opposite of “The Authentic Self”, and its ideas resonated with me. It suggested that by sticking to your self-definition of your true self, acting with your usual patterns and self-labels, you might actually harden them, and thus limit yourself.

I’ve always liked the story in Tim Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis about the tennis player with an inadequate volley stroke. Every time the player was at the net he reacted defensively and feebly. His coach asked him to demonstrate how he would like to be able to play at the net, without worrying whether he actually hit the ball or not. After an unsteady start, the player began to show some aggression in his play, and eventually hit a series of fine attacking shots one after the other. Speaking with Tim afterwards, the player said he wished he were able to play like that, but he wasn’t really that sort of person. i.e. The person who had played like that wished he could play like that! He couldn’t in his own map of reality because it wouldn’t have been true to who he was. Think about it.

Neuroscience agrees with the idea of a malleable self. We now know that genes can be switched on and off, and that it’s perfectly possible to create new neural pathways through the brain. We aren’t as fixed as we might like to think.

The idea of a malleable self turns our usual thinking on its head. Instead of a converging quest inwards to find the holy grail of the real genuine me, it suggests I might instead expand into the huge adventure of embracing every possibility of what I could be. What might I not do? Who might I not be!

Most of us are already different with different people (okay, I heard that protest, you may not be.) Have you ever found yourself talking to someone from one part of your life when someone from a completely different part of your life suddenly joins you, and you realise that your usual way of interacting with one is not the way you usually are with the other, and you find yourself nonplussed for a moment?

The ability to choose different ways to respond to people and circumstances is surely relevant to the job of the coach. (or leader, teacher, parent and human being). Our ability to enter the reality of the other person is a major element in connecting and building trust, and it requires us to be flexible – malleable. A coach needs a variety of qualities to be able to relate to and help different people at different times. At one moment the fierce volley shot is just right for a particular coachee; at another the high gentle lob is more successful. But we are only as different as we have the capacity to be, and like in tennis practice helps.

Two questions:

  1. Doesn’t being different things to different people mean you lose your identity.

Not at all. Doing what the occasion requires with flexibility strengthens you and gives you more influence. People feel even more strongly the core of you, which isn’t your behaviours, but the light of consciousness at your centre.

  1. How exactly do you create the possibility of acting differently?

By realising that you can learn to be any way you want to be. Every time you catch the thought, “People like me can’t do that” you can put forward a different thought, “If I want to and believe it’s the thing to do, I can do it.”

In the depth of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus

The other thing you can do is to find counter examples. E.g. maybe you’re too impatient to find out what’s wrong with your computer; but you have huge patience in working out a complex pattern in sewing. So patience and you are already well acquainted. You may not speak up when something is wrong at work, but when your child suffered an injustice you did speak up, so you have done it and know how to.

So three cheers for the great ocean of possibility today.

Okay authenticity, I know there’s a different side to you too – the ability to be real, not fake, trustworthy not perfidious, and genuine and honest, not disingenuous. I just thought there for a moment you were trying to box me in – when I’m ready to fly.

But, Peter, how do we get to Never Land?

(says Wendy in Disney’s Peter Pan)

Fly, of course!
It’s easy! All you have to do is to is to is to
Huh That’s funny!
What’s the matter?
Don’t you know?
Oh sure, it’s, it’s just that I never thought about it before
Say, that’s it! You think of a wonderful thought!
Any happy little thought?

You just imagine you can do it.
Go well everyone,

What else?

Dip into my Books for help with communication, presenting and voice … life even …

The Art of Conversation
What an important topic! Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others – pure consciousness even! Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 25 different strategies to perform with confidence. But it’s not just about presenting and performing – you’ll find its ideas useful for eliminating anxiety throughout your life.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.


If summer-time is a bit quieter at work for you, use the opportunity to get a coach for a month or two. Whether you already feel successful or are struggling with challenges, coaching can help you make the most of your potential.  Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you. Coaching can take place face-to-face or via Skype or phone.

Voice and Communication Coaching

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. How you come across depends on your voice and how you use your body. Self consciousness is the grand saboteur. You’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Speak Easy: The essential guide to speaking in public

This book by my New Zealand friend, Maggie Eyre, gives you great tips on public speaking. Contact her if you’re down under and need help with public speaking – she has coached the best, including most notably former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Download any of my E-courses

(I never share your email with anyone):

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation


What Does Success Look Like This Year?

Success and Keeping OnI bought Alan Bennett’s latest book last month. I’m thinking of using the title, Keeping On Keeping On, as my New Year’s Resolution, as in, “This year, I think I’ll ‘keep on keeping on’.”

It’s the time of the New Year Honours, and whatever the spread of gongs, we notice the famous in the lists. They were successful, and that’s the message: if you work really hard, you can be successful too and win your gong. Make your resolutions: be bold and ambitious; demonstrate toughness and resilience; meet the right people; go get that prize.

Most of us want to be special, and this ambition suggests that most of us deep down fear that currently we’re a bit ordinary. Funny that – I now prefer to put that the other way around – realising that we’re all amazing and special, and our better task might be to get rid of our ego and find the ordinary in ourselves.

Upside down that might seem, but it’s been an upside down world this last year. Events have frequently demonstrated the worst in our leaders, and the aftermath fills us with fear for the coming year. If the kind of leadership demonstrated last year is special – if egotistical power-loving behaviour is “special”, who wants it?

What about a different goal for an important year – the ambition to be kind, for example? Now that would really be something.

I see much that is kind in Alan Bennett. Not just that he moved “the lady in the van” parked in the road outside his house into his garden and didn’t even consider it an act of charity; not just that he donated his archive to the Bodleian Library as a gesture of thanks to the British welfare state that had given him educational opportunities that his parents would otherwise never have afforded. Not his northern ‘of the people’ accent. More that in his autobiographical books and indeed all his writing his humanity and kindness shine out on every page.

Maybe for many, your New Year resolutions this year are to achieve particular goals and targets. But for others, this may not be your year for reaching goals, but for keeping on keeping on. Maybe you have parents becoming frailer, children needing you more, friends who are unwell or distressed, maybe your own mind and body demand your attention? These don’t have to be impediments to your goals – maybe they contain the pearl of great price for you this year.

Or maybe, as you make your resolutions, you reflect that you have made these same resolutions before, even many times – you’ve travelled and travelled, yet you’re back in the same old place again.

There’s a thought-provoking poem by Denise Levertov, called For Those Whom the Gods Love Less. (Hear her reading it here.) The title comes from a Greek saying that those whom the gods love die young. So those who live longer … Anyway, the poem begins:

When you discover
your new work travels the ground you had traversed
decades ago, you wonder, panicked,
‘Have I outlived my vocation? Said already
all that was mine to say?’

Don’t panic, she reassures. You might feel that it’s the same every year, but even in repetition the light falls differently and “radiant epiphanies recur”. She urges, “You can, you must proceed.”

TS Eliot, whose complete poems Jeremy Irons (there’s a voice!) has been reading all this week on Radio 4, declares, “the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.”

So, maybe for you it’s your year to step aside from the Hero’s Journey for a moment; to draw back a little from the yoga stretch or your target in the gym, to go easy on your BHAG (big hairy ambitious goal), and find an “ordinary” resolution – maybe merely the resolution to be kind? (Or to be loving or peaceful or generous or grateful?) Now wouldn’t that be extraordinary? Special even.

Who of our politicians, business leaders, the great and the good, or celebrities famous for being famous is kind? Who would we choose for a New Year’s Honour if the criterion were to have been kind? Why isn’t there a Nobel Prize for kindness? The wonderful travel writer and human being Jan Morris in conversation with John Walsh from The Independent said,

Kindness is the ultimate path, the one thing that can stand up against all the shit, the ghastliness. It’s the ultimate human quality. I’ve often thought of starting a political party of Kindness, which would estimate the proportion of kindness there is in any policy. It would be the criterion for a whole system of government.

I really like that! So here’s the challenge: let’s look at the powerful this year and tweet any demonstrations of their kindness we notice. In fact, why just the powerful? Let’s all build a year of kindness. What kindnesses did you meet this Christmas and New Year? Today? It’s a way of perceiving that we all need urgently in these times, and I don’t think we’ve appreciated its full power yet.

PS – Kindness offers a bonus too. In a talk I attended last autumn, David Hamilton (author and former developer of drugs for cardiovascular disease and cancer for the pharmaceutical industry) explained  that research at Oregon State University has proved that kindness – whether we act kindly or unbelievably merely witness a kind act – activates our parasympathetic nervous system and causes our body to produce oxytocin that calms the heart, slows ageing and makes us happier. Oh, and it’s contagious. So kindness is good for us too!

Happy New Year!




Learning Public Speaking from TED

TED Talks are probably by now too famous to need explaining, and if you Google TED you’ll now find scores of websites offering you help in delivering the perfect TED Talk. I find this short talk, TED’s Secret to Great Public Speaking by Chris Anderson, the current curator of TED Talks, one of the most useful.


A few simple conversations with a coach can be life changing and worth the investment many times over. It’s not just about help with a to-do list, though it could be that too. It’s about getting to know yourself better – your skills, values and qualities – and discovering how to be the person you want to be. Then your way becomes clearer and smoother and you achieve more with less effort..  Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

Performance Anxiety

Suffer from performance nerves? Read my book, Butterflies and Sweaty Palms. It’s full of excellent strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence, and dealing with scary gremlins. We’re all scared at times and need a helping hand. Here’s the proper link to my E-course, 10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety. A couple of coaching sessions, face-to-face or Skype, can also make all the difference.

Speaking with Authority

Download my e-course, How to Speak with More Authority. Or read my book, Voice of Influence.  Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level. My ‘Dummies’ book, Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies is also full of useful tips and strategies.

Engaging in conversation with ease

Read The Art of Conversationand find out how to make connection with people on a deeper, more satisfying level. Start with my free E-course, 10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation, for some first ideas.


I’ve just added another favourite poem to my website collection. Slow Dance by David Weatherhead is a poem for busy people. Maybe that’s you?

Take a Deep Breath



Voice of Influence Workshop

Wed – Thu, 3-4 March 2016, London. See below

I read statistics recently that suggest that I’ve taken 550 million breaths in my life so far. You’d think I might be pretty good at it by now! But breathing is one of those activities that is regulated by the unconscious part of our brain; we just do it, and don’t tend to get better at it – unless we begin to pay it conscious attention.

We are our breath. When we are at ease, our breathing is full and effective. When we are delighted, we fill our lungs with fresh energised air. When we are moved, our breath is affected by our emotion. When we are amazed, we breathe in suddenly and fast – it quite takes our breath away. When we are tense or depressed, our breath becomes shallow and inadequate. One thing I know from working with people on voice and speaking – many of us hold parts of our body so that we are unable to breathe deeply and well, and this affects not only our voice, but our whole physical and mental well-being.

So here at the end of the year is a tribute to breath, offered with my hope is that it will serve you well through the season of stress and goodwill.

So let’s look at the benefits of breathing deeply every day:

1. Breathing releases tension

Your body constricts when you are tense, angry, scared or stressed; your breath becomes shallow and you don’t get the amount of oxygen your body needs. Deep breathing releases this constriction. Watching your breath in meditation is a great way to release tension.

There is a way of breathing that’s a shame and a suffocation and there’s another way of expiring, a love breath, that lets you open infinitely. Rumi

2. Breathing releases toxins from your body

If you breathe shallowly you don’t get rid of toxins properly and you put a strain on your body that can in time lead to illness. Your body is designed to release 70% of its toxins through breathing. Deep breathing removes carbon-dioxide and increases oxygen in the blood and thus increases blood quality.

3. Breathing brings health and tone to your body

As you use your diaphragm in deep breathing, you massage your stomach, liver, pancreas and heart and improve their circulation. As you breathe deeply the lungs become healthy and powerful, a good insurance against respiratory problems. Good breathing tones your abdominal muscles – try singing an oratorio with heart and soul, you’ll feel you’ve had a good workout! It strengthens your immune system as oxygen travels through your bloodstream by attaching to haemoglobin in your red blood cells, and this in turn enriches your body to metabolise nutrients and vitamins. The digestive organs receive more oxygen and operate more efficiently. Proper breathing makes the heart stronger.

4. Breathing brings clarity to the mind

When you breathe slowly and deeply, increased oxygen reaches your brain and you think more clearly. Even when nervous, a deep purposeful breath will bring to your mind what to say, or bring to mind the thought you need at the time. It gives you courage to speak, or do what you need to do. Start to notice how you naturally take a deep breath before doing something energetic or highly focused, and how the breath is the trigger to action. When you are stuck, take a good breath; the act of breathing creates something new, and you are no longer in that stuck place.

5. Breathing fosters creativity

Your in-breath is your inspiration (“in” + Latin “spirare” – to breathe) As you breathe in, feelings and ideas come to you and your creativity is stimulated. There’s nothing like a good 1 or 2 hour walk for instance, where you do nothing but move your body, breathe fully and look around you, for prompting new thinking and ideas.

Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” Thich Nhat Hanh

6. Breathing brings emotional relief

When you breathe deeply, you clear uneasy feelings out of your body, and increase pleasure-inducing neurochemicals in your brain, thus lifting your mood. We say that we breathe but that’s not quite true: life breathes us. Observe someone’s breath and you can tell what is happening to them; every emotion or physical trauma alters their breathing. A large component of pain is tension and fear. Breathing deeply into your pain helps to ease it. Millions of women going through childbirth know this to be true. To induce calm, breathe in slowly and feel the quietness enter your body, then breathe out to rid yourself of tension and anxiety.

Breath is extraordinarily powerful because it is part of the ‘automatic’ response system, yet it is also part of the ‘voluntary’ response system in that we can deliberately and intentionally manipulate our breathing to produce different vital states. Deb Shapiro

7. Breathing creates harmony with another person

If you want to get on the same wavelength as someone, become aware of their breathing, and match it for a while. You’ll soon find that you are feeling in tune with them, and understanding better what is going on for them mentally and emotionally.

8. Breathing awakens your life force

Every sound we make, every action we take, depends on an intake of air for its energy. The poet e e Cummings paints a wonderful picture of an energetic god creating the world in a single breath:

 when god decided to invent
 everything he took one
 breath bigger than a circus-tent
 and everything began

In referring to energy, the Japanese talk of Ki, the Chinese of Qi, the Hawaiians of Ti or Ki. Indians refer to prana. When our Ki is strong we feel confident and ready to enjoy life and take on challenges. When it is low, we feel weak and are more likely to get sick. Descriptions of Ki/Chi/Qi energy nearly always associate it with the breath. We receive Ki from the air we breath, from food, sunshine, and from sleep. It’s also possible to increase our Ki by using breathing exercises and meditation.

9. Breathing is the basis of your authenticity

When you respond to someone honestly and spontaneously, your in-breath is transformed without hiatus into sound or action. If you want to strike something – hit a nail with a hammer for instance – your in-breath as you raise your arm creates all the power you need to make the strike, without your thinking about it. In speech, to express pleasure we naturally take in a free full breath, which opens the body, energises us and produces a warm vibrant sound. To refute something, our in-breath is firm and rapid and produces a strong resolute reply. The difference in sound is all in the intention that creates your in-breath – which then produces sounds that match the intention.

If, on the other hand, our response is calculated we interrupt the natural progression from in-breath to sound, and pause for a second at the top of the breath for our conscious mind to control what we say. In this case, the sound we make fails to express our inner energy, and comes out either flatter and duller, or falsely manipulated to ‘express’ something.

It’s nothing to do with putting on a particular voice. I often used to talk urgently and stridently to my children – “Don’t do that! Come away from there! – with ever-diminishing effect. Then sometimes a resolve took hold inside me, and I would think/feel to myself with a kind of internal knowing, “This is enough. I truly am not going to allow this any more. This is really enough.” My in-breath then was full of intention, and what came out of my mouth then was something much quieter, much firmer and slower, and from deep in my body. And when that happened, the children instantly took heed. (And I was surprised by their response every time because I hadn’t been thinking about putting on a particular voice!)

10. Breathing is the way to stillness

Nothing in life is ever completely still. Stillness has movement within it; the world is always breathing. Our still point is always moving, even in meditation there is a dance deep inside us, moving with the breath. Stay with this beautiful thought as you breathe in and out.

“I said to my soul, be still, and wait…So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”   T.S. Eliot

For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth. ~Sanskrit Proverb

Some suggestions for breathing deeply

Try this, slow breathing

Breathe in through your nose, feeling calm enter you, expanding your belly easily, then fill your chest, counting slowly to 5 (3 to 4 seconds). Hold for a count of 3, feeling all your cells fill with golden healing light and energy. Breathe slowly out through the nose counting slowly to 5. Feel all your cells expel waste and negativity. Continue this slow breathing cycle for a few minutes, keeping the breathing deep, slow and rhythmic.

Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor. Thich Nhat Hanh

Try this, the cat breath

Lie down in a comfortable place on the floor or stretch out on a sofa. Imagine seeing a lazy cat stretched out on the floor, basking in the rays of the sun. Watch the way the cat’s belly gently rises and falls. Notice how the cat’s breathing fills its entire body. Imagine now that you are that cat, feeling the pleasant heat on your body and luxuriating in letting your breath fill your entire body and spread to the tips of your limbs. Feel what it is like to be that cat. Abandon yourself to the sensation. Remember too that even as a cat is still and relaxed, it is never slumped and exhausted, but always relaxed and alert, ready to spring to action should the need arise!

Try this, the energising breath

Take three rapid in-breaths through your nose, without an out-breath in between, then breathe out strongly with the long releasing sound haaaa. Repeat several times. If you like, accompany it with movement: lift your arms in front to waist height on the first in-breath, sweep them out to the side on the second in-breath, and sweep them up above your head on the third in-breath. Then release the air all at once with a strong haaaa, bending the knees, leaning forward and down and letting the arms sweep down in front and past your hips in a single movement. Repeat a few times: in, in, in, haaaa; in, in, in, haaaa.

The secret of breath

The secret of breath is to remember. Feeling resentful? Take a big breath; breathe strongly out and rid yourself of the corrosive feeling. Feeling angry? Breathe in strength and calm. Feeling tense? Take a slow releasing breath. Feeling stressed? Breathe in stillness and calHow long does it take? As long as a single breath. We all have time for it. Though several breaths are even better!

This must be the simplest thing I have ever written about. Maybe I’m getting old enough to write about simple things – that would be good!

Have a great break over Christmas. I wish you love and laughter, and some blessed calm.

Go well,


Of interest

Voice of Influence Workshop – 3-4 March 2016, London

Take this opportunity once and for all to become a more confident and powerful speaker. These two days out of your life are a great investment to last you a lifetime – the skills you learn you’ll use again and again. Find your voice; turn nerves into useful energy; learn how to engage and influence your listeners. I take only a small group so your personal needs are met, and you’ll find the experience safe, friendly and energising.

The course is half-full as of today, so book here online as soon as you can to secure your place, or send the booking form if you wish us to invoice your company.


My Books and Breathing!

You’ll find a good chapter on breathing in Voice of Influence: How to Get People to Love to Listen to You.

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies has plenty of useful material on breathing well for public speaking.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence talks about breath in the context of confidence. Breathing well is an important element of overcoming nerves.

That leaves my Art of Conversation. Yes, breathing is mentioned in this book too!



If you have issues with confidence, communication, speaking and presenting, or relationships (for instance when moving into more senior roles.),I might well be the right coach for you.  I have worked with people from many walks of life, from directors and senior managers to the self employed and those changing direction. The work starts from where you currently are.

What might you get from coaching? You will think more clearly, move into action more easily, and gain solid inner confidence to serve you well in all situations. You’ll feel calmer, more in control and more able to meet whatever difficulties you may have to face in the future. You’ll feel lighter and energised.

You might want a coach for a good stretch of time; you might be looking for 3 or 4 sessions or even a single session – whatever your objective you’ll find it well worth your while. Contact me here or at 01306 886114 to talk it through.

True North

In the zone

I did really well! No, really, I was brilliant. I was speaking to a group and everything was flowing; they were listening and super-attentive and clearly enjoying what I had to say – you could almost hear the proverbial pin drop. They talk about ‘being in the zone’, don’t they? Well, there was I!

Afterwards I thought about how I’d achieved it. I analysed my performance, and considered each element of it – How had I been reasoning and thinking, what had I been doing with my voice, my body, my hands, my balance, what had I been aware of, how had I been feeling?

Not good! The next time I tried to replicate my success through thinking of the separate elements, I got self-conscious and confused and completely lost it.

I read a calendar quote this week: The less I think about doing something the faster I am able to get it done.

Is it true?

How to beat your opponent every time

Tim Gallwey in his brilliant first book, The Inner Game of Tennis, describes the perfect way to put an opponent off his stroke: you congratulate him on how well he’s playing and make him think about what exactly he’s doing.  He then begins to tell you as he performs about how he’s swinging the racquet and hitting the ball in front of him, and keeping his wrist firm and following through – all the separate elements … and before you know it he has lost his timing and flow and begins to fall apart.

The poet Rumi, writing about 800 years ago, said something very similar about doing and thinking:

The throbbing vein
Will take you further
Than any thinking.

…Do not theorize
about essence. All speculations
are just more layers of covering
Human beings love coverings.

‘Do not theorise about.’

But I can hear someone saying to themselves, “Okay that’s great, but so what? If I can’t examine my behaviour to learn from it, how do I learn?”

A great way to achieve success

I’m beginning to think that we’re a bit too keen on analytical method. It’s fine and useful in many activities, but in some cases it isn’t as effective as a more holistic approach, especially when we’re talking about human behaviour.

Rumi talks about a form of intelligence that is less static and analytical than reason:

        It’s fluid,
And it does not move from outside to inside
Through the conduits of plumbing-learning.
The second knowing is a fountainhead
From within you, moving out.

You’ll recognise such intelligence when for instance you suddenly go ‘aha!’ and capture something in its entirety, without building up the pieces bit by bit, and what you capture is more rich and subtle than the sum of the individual elements.

A great and pleasurable way to learn is through awareness in the moment without analysis. You aim to stay in the here and now, to do while staying present and aware, rather than reason about doing. This was Tim Gallwey’s tennis method which morphed into big-C Coaching. You just notice with subtle pleasure and gentle awareness the feeling of energy and movement when things are going well. That’s your true north.

And the quick way?

There’s a neat shortcut: enjoyment. If you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you’re probably on track. Rumi’s ‘plumbing-learning’ can involve slog and effort; enjoyment doesn’t – and you learn faster and better. Enjoyment is never about what you do – rather it’s doing, enjoying, being, living: the zing of being in the moment. The more you acknowledge and enjoy what you are doing, the more you grow into and embody the skills involved.

Business case

The enjoyment factor is applicable to work too. If your people or team aren’t enjoying their work, beware – you are already losing ¾ of the full intelligence they have to offer. Enjoyment doesn’t mean relaxing – it can be a great workout, mentally, emotionally and physically – but it’s engaging and energising. We motivate people best through attraction towards enjoyment and fulfilment, not by whipping them. Then you get 100% – maybe even 110.

That’s flow, in my book.



The People’s Book Prize Shortlist – please help!

I’m excited! My book, Butterflies and Sweaty Palms has been short-listed for The People’s Book Prize Non-Fiction which is voted for by the public, and I’ve been invited to attend a grand dinner in the City when the overall winner will be announced.

Please will you vote for me? (if you like my book of course!). Voting for finalists is between 21 and 29 May at You can register on the website now and vote later. (NB registration is purely to ensure voting’s fair and doesn’t sign you up for unwanted emails). The website only allows you to vote for the final winner between May 21-29, so I might remind you again closer to the date!

Autumn Course Dates now available

Thinking about learning and enjoyment, here are some written comments all from the 11 participants on last Thursday and Friday’s Voice of Influence workshop. I include them here to encourage you if you are daunted or don’t really enjoy public speaking – it could be you next time!

The workshop was amazing. I think it was definitely the most useful two days of learning that I have ever attended in my career to date. I finally got over what seemed to be an insurmountable hurdle. Everyone who has ever worried about speaking in public should do this course! I will be recommending it to my colleagues, my boss and HR.

I’m so excited to report that on Monday … I leapt to my feet in front of 40 odd people …without a hint of nerves or self-consciousness!  All down to you, thank you.

An invaluable two days.  I wish I had done it years ago!

Nothing had ever helped me “get my head straight” or given me any techniques to manage my nerves or voice.  In just two days on Voice of Influence, I have overcome my performance anxiety, can manage my voice and am actually looking forward to my next opportunity to present formally! 

Really helped with my confidence. Fantastic course – would recommend it to a friend. FANTASTIC AND WORTHWHILE!!!

Such a breakthrough. Excellent +++ experience. 

I experienced a rise in confidence not just with my voice but my overall presence and the way I perceive myself when around other people. Overall, it was a wonderful experience.

I wanted to be at ease, bring humour and be more myself: I think I sort of did that. Great experience!

Totally engaging and credible. An experience I’m very pleased to have had – not a minute was wasted. I almost felt comfortable standing in front of people for the first time

One step closer to being in me more. You absolutely practice what you preach. I appreciate your honesty and directness too. I hope that many more people will get to benefit from what you have to give. Very positive and enjoyable.

Well … to achieve a stand-up speech in front of 12 people in 2 days! Considering the shut down I experience weekly. Can’t believe it! Challenging but supported completely every step. … Life changing experience.


One after that 12-13 Dec. Book for either workshop online here or email me to reserve a place. Is now the right time for you?


Many people who attend the Voice of Influence can’t wait to do more of this kind of learning. The NLP Diploma builds confidence and self-belief and gives you strong practical leadership and coaching skills, plus loads of valuable insights into yourself and other people. It makes a deep-down difference that impacts on everything you do. Attend these workshops and I promise you’ll never look back.

There are three 2-day modules, which you can take separately if you prefer. Book on-line (links below) or email me at Big reduction for booking all three.

Communication & Relationships 17-18 Oct

Leadership & Influence 7-8 Nov

Coaching & Change 28-29 Nov

I can sometimes offer a discount for people who genuinely cannot afford the fee.


Free Learning: E-courses on NLP, Confidence, Voice and more at

Books: Find my 3 books on voice and confidence at Judy Apps on Amazon

Free daily tips and inspiration: follow me on FaceBook and Twitter

Coaching: 1-to-1 coaching, face-to-face or by telephone/Skype. If you’re stuck or uncertain, in transition, or just want to be the best you can be, coaching works. Contact me at or on +44 1306 886114 to have a chat about it.

That’s it!  Go well, enjoy the sunshine!





In Between

ISTANBUL. In between the Suleiman Mosque and the Bosphorus we meandered down a street selling nothing but buckles in every single shop; then we paused for a huge glass of orange juice, freshly squeezed by the vendor for 50p. Later, in between the Blue Mosque and our hotel, we drank tea with a sweet generous Spanish lady selling baklava, and gradually pieced together her brave story of building a new life outside Spain where there is no work for the young.

Now back home, such ‘in-between’ encounters stick with me, even more than the magnificent architecture and history of that great east-west ancient city.

In between times …

In 1970, multi-award winning actor Terrence Stamp – giant international film star throughout the 1960s with Peter Ustinov, Federico Fellini, Laurence Olivier … friend of Princess Margaret, romantic lover of Julie Christie … of Brigitte Bardot – suddenly found himself out of work.

He went to an ashram in India, where he stayed for nine years. I’m so curious about those nine years.

One day a surprise telegram arrived offering him the villain’s part in Superman. He returned to London in his orange robes, with long hair and beard, and was met at the airport by a slightly bemused Marlon Brando.  His career took off again as if there had been no gap.

We don’t hear much about the ‘in between’ periods of famous people … Winston Churchill out of favour in the late 20s, building brick walls in the gardens of Chartwell, is a rare example. Yet they are common. The trouble is that at the time you don’t know it’s ‘in-between’ – you just know that nothing significant is happening, and that there’s no way to tell whether that condition will ever come to an end or just continue for ever.

It can feel like being stuck. But often when not much is happening on the outside and you feel lost, something inside is secretly maturing like a newly planted seed.

One autumn a few years ago, training work was a bit thin on the ground, and in that lacuna (in between feeling anxious and useless and suchlike) I began to ponder ideas on voice and communication. Later, I began to write the thoughts down.  That became my first book. Now I’m three published books up and counting, and loving that new direction.

I can’t understand the corporate world’s obsession with career gaps – ah, the terrible gap you seek to avoid at all costs if you’re writing a CV. Why? So I was lost? Thank goodness for that. That’s when I learned all the things you don’t learn when you’re not lost. That’s where I discovered myself. That’s when I learned to be me. That’s when I found my true north.

A good friend who has cancer says that the in-between moments are it – sun shining on specks of dust, a random kindness, a shiver of true connection with a stranger, a sudden germ of a new idea … daily miracles.

I agree with her – they underpin all the rest – they are it.

Mary Oliver describes such moments in Summer Day (ß have a look and listen to the whole poem). “I do know,” she says in the final lines,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

NLP Diploma – 1st module 28 Feb – 1 March

I didn’t set out to create the link, but in fact, the NLP Diploma is a great ‘in-between’ vehicle for moving out of stuckness. Your time on the course gives you more clarity and confidence about yourself and your direction, and in your connections with others – fundamental underpinning skills for success in every field.

Communication and Relationships – the first module – is on 28 Feb – 1 March.  Contact me very soon if you’re interested! You can book on-line – or email me.

Fear, performance terror, dislike of presenting, desire for charisma & confidence …?

My next Voice of Influence workshop is on 25-26 April – I work with small numbers, so book your place now! Find your voice, become a fluent and confident speaker  – however daunted you may be currently.


The courses are in London. You can book online, or download a booking form to send to me.  There are occasional places at generous discounts for those who wouldn’t be able to access the training otherwise.

Other stuff

  • Free E-courses  on Overcoming Performance Anxiety, Speaking with Authority, NLP and more

If you have friends who might be interested, please feel free to forward this newsletter to them.

Go well!

NEW – on FaceBook – Daily tips and motivation for speaking, confidence and communication

Have you seen my colourful new FaceBook page? – the smartest hints and tips on voice, public speaking, overcoming butterflies and nerves and becoming a powerful communicator.

Have a quick glance


I like it, and hope you find it genuinely useful. Please press ‘LIKE’ if you do!

Tone Deaf?

Tone DearOnce, when I was teaching solo singing in a school for a while, I was sent a new pupil with a quiet warning: ‘Maddie desperately wants to sing, but we know she’s tone deaf – just see what you can do.’

So I met Maddie. We started our lessons and I did indeed find that she was unable to pitch notes that I played her on the piano. She would attempt to sing something and sound really bad. I’d suggest something to help her; she would attempt that and it was just as bad. On one second attempt, just to encourage her, I said, ‘Yes, that’s the idea.’

And then it happened – she caught my eye for a fraction of a second, and in that lightning glance far too short for words her eyes said, ‘You’re lying.’

She was right, I was.

But the glance, discomforting as it was, was also the message. I suddenly realised that if Maddie knew that the second attempt was no better than the first, she could hear that it wasn’t. So, what did we mean by ‘tone deaf’?

That did it. We set out again and several things were different.

  • Without anything ever being said we both knew that she’d seen through my deception, and from that point there was a complete honesty between us.
  • I now believed that she wasn’t tone deaf – that there was a way for her to learn to sing if we could find it together. So I believed in her possibility.
  • I realised I was in uncharted waters, so I was willing to try something new.
  • And what I did was take the lead from her.

She sang me a note, and we discovered it on the piano, and then little by little we explored together the territory around her note. The exploration eventually blossomed into a song with limited range, ‘Day by Day’. After that there was no holding her back, and at the end of the year she sang a solo in a school concert for which she was warmly applauded.

I wonder where you are now Maddie, I hope you are still enjoying singing. I was the learner that day.

I learned from you that truth is paramount.

I learned from you the importance of believing in someone.

I learned from you to go into the unknown.

And I learned that I’m not in charge of your learning; you are.

Coaching came into vogue several years later, but there are the fundamentals, picked up in a glance into someone’s eyes.

So I find myself writing this with two curiosities:

I wonder what you might notice today if you don’t know the answer before you begin.

I wonder too how an uncomfortable moment for you might be the very key to unlocking something that was stuck before.

I once asked the NLP pioneer Robert Dilts who his mentors had been in getting to where he is now. He looked a bit puzzled for a moment. Then he replied that though there had been some obvious teachers in his early years – like Gregory Bateson for instance – his main observation was that he learned most from students and people he met every day.

Just so.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence

My new book, comes out at last at the end of February – ways for you to beat fear of speaking even if you have always suffered intolerably from performance nerves. 25 ways to choose from – one especially targeted at you! Order it now on Amazon.

NLP Conference last week

It was a brilliant conference, the best yet, with several speakers I had never heard before and will now follow avidly. Book for next year if you can!

Voice of Influence Workshop

The 1-2 December one is full. The next is not till 17-18 May … unless someone twists my arm! Find your speaking voice – and your confidence.

NLP Diploma

The first module, Communication and Relationships is on 1-2 March. Book up now. I know this kind of training works for people because they tell me so … straight after the training and also months and years afterwards. It’s where they discover their inner confidence, and find the means to make important changes in life and career. I can’t really describe it – you just have to find out.

I’m away for a good chunk of the next month and a half, so contact me initially by email if you want to speak to me.

Be well,

The old words are best …

‘I train and coach people in leadership …’  Cupcake
(just practising a spiel for the next
networking event …)

We all specialise in leadership these days – us corporate coaches and trainers. Management has slipped down the list, but leadership has more models of excellence than cup cakes have decorative designs (not that they aren’t slipping down the list too …).

Ever on the case, I asked a young friend who especially admired his boss, ‘What’s so good about his leadership?’

‘He’s kind.’

Kind?! What sort of a word is that? I glossed over it.

‘Yes right, but what about his vision, his ability to be ahead of the curve, his authority, strength of purpose, decision making …?’

‘Yes, I s’pose …’ said the young person indifferently, ‘But some of the others have that too. He’s different because … well, he’s kind.

I asked him to tell me more, and he explained that okay this leader saw the big picture, knew where he was taking the company, was indeed tough at times and had made hard decisions, but he didn’t do it from a distance.

He tried to make it clearer. ‘You know how warfare works now?’ he said. ‘The attacker, way up in a fighter plane, sees the target in the cross-hairs of his sight and presses a button. Then far away some buildings fall and people die. Well, he’s the opposite of that; he gets up close and messy, and we all believe that he cares. He knows exactly how people feel because he talks to us, so although he’s tough sometimes I think that it hurts him when he makes a decision that’s painful for people.’

After we’d spoken, I reflected on his word, ‘kind’ and decided I liked its humanity. We are after all ‘humankind’ and ‘kind’ has its origins in ‘kin’ – family. Maybe if leaders got up close enough to be able to see their people breathing – see all their stakeholders breathing … After all, if results aren’t ultimately about people on the planet, what are they about?

I took a break from writing on Thursday and walked in a country park. Climbing up the hill to the summit I thought, ah yes, big picture – I don’t forget I’m climbing up to the top of the hill, but I also notice, look, a miraculous wild orchid – flowering impossibly in autumn just on my path – and I watch where I put my feet.

Maybe it’s time us English speakers took a fresh look at the words we use? I’m getting fond of our oldest words, those short ones like the one my young friend chose. Forget the lengthy words that belong to cross-hair vision – strategy, implementation, quantitative easing (‘shurely that used to be called something else?’ Ed.) or my favourite from an unfortunate political friendship this week, ‘income that is not dependent on any transactional behaviour’; I’m now raising a cheer for our ancient monosyllables like truth, like, fair, guts, peace and yes, kind.

What’s on the next few weeks

Voice of Influence Workshop

Learn how to speak with confidence and presence in any situation – 1-2 December.

The group is always small – 1 place left. More courses in 2012. The last workshop at the beginning of this month attracted this written feedback from the participants:

* Memorable experience! Enjoyable experience…
*Everything helped me (and others I am sure) to feel more confident and leave feeling we had gained something important. A great course! …
*I feel I have acquired a lot of tools to improve my public speaking and in addition am a lot more confident in myself…
*How happy your clients appear when they leave at the end of a course. They are invariably smiling …
*Every exercise had a purpose … It was useful for each to have their own feedback during tasks from the trainer. The course was set and planned in a way which made me very comfortable and interested in taking in more during each day.
*I am pleased to develop a more ‘can do’ attitude and not be afraid to get things wrong…
*Challenging but beneficial and rewarding… would recommend it highly. Was very nervous initially, but by the end felt more empowered. …
*I am very pleased about my growth in confidence… A refreshing break from the presentation skills course I have come to expect! … Great experience!

Coaching the Human Spirit

Brahma Kumaris, Spirit of Coaching residential weekend for coaches – Fri-Sun, 28-30 October near Oxford

This was a beautiful and inspiring event last year. It’s waiting list only for this year, but book early for next!

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms:

– 25 sure-fire ways to speak and present with confidence

My latest book, illustrated by Rosie Apps, comes out in January, a month later than I said in my last newsletter, but worth waiting for. You can still pre-book it for a Christmas present! It’s direct and practical – based on the best of what people discover in my courses and coaching – invaluable to keep beside you if you have to speak in public. Available to order on Amazon.

NLP Conference

I’m speaking at the Education Conference and the Main Conference on 18-20 November. This is a great event to find out more about NLP and hear an interesting variety of speakers from over the world. Hope to see you there! More details at

Go well!

What or why?


Stephen Fry

beautiful voice...?

A beautiful voice…

A friend told me the other day that he thought Stephen Fry had a beautiful voice. I pressed him to tell me more about it. “It just has a fantastic rich tone,” he replied, “It’s a great voice.”

On one level I agree. But his remark takes me back many years to a moment in a shabby room in Rome entirely dominated by a grand piano. I am with my maestro for my daily singing lesson and he is speaking forcefully: “What’s this with beauty?” he rants. “A voice doesn’t have to be beautiful; it has to express something! Why do you sing?! You have to know why you sing!”

This has been a bit of a theme this week. I gave a presentation on Hypnotic Voices at the NLP Conference a couple of days ago and as so often the subject of what and why came up. Many trainee hypnotherapists are taught what to do to produce a deep voice in order to connect better with the deep unconscious of the client. But the voice – even a deep one – is powerless on its own to connect – it’s the intention behind itthe why – that counts. We need to ask about the effect of our voice on the client – it’s about purpose and connection.

There’s a notable difference between the warm resonant statement of someone whose intention is to produce a warm resonant voice and the warm resonant statement of someone who feels warmth towards the listener and resonates in tune with them. The sound of the former – the person creating the ‘voice’ – has a slight stiffness as he or she manipulates the physical space inside for the ‘warm’ sound, whereas the sound of the latter is more flexible, has more overtones – and is infinitely more interesting to listen to.

It’s great if we can tell the difference. Beware the empty sound bite! 

How to speak with influence

The impact of a voice cannot be separated from its meaning. Now, the way to a voice that expresses meaning is different from the way to a beautiful-sounding voice – very diff