The Resplendent Quetzal

“The Resplendent Quetzal” … sounds like the title of a cautionary tale like “The Pobble Who Has No Toes” … But this is about national symbols. They tell you something, don’t they?

Britain has the lion – powerful king of the jungle; England also favours the bulldog – determined and unbudgeable; the United States has the mighty eagle – lord of all it surveys; the French rooster rules the roost; and many other countries signify their strength through animals such as the lion, the eagle and other predators.

The national symbol of the Indian people in Guatemala is a bird, the quetzal. It’s extraordinarily beautiful with iridescent green-gold and blue-violet feathers, and a long long tail. To see the resplendent quetzal in flight with its tail undulating behind is to understand how the bird signifies freedom to the people of Guatemala. In fact, if you try to keep a quetzal in a cage, it dies. It cannot survive in captivity. It has to be free. What a symbol.

Glorious freedom… We’ve just returned from a break in the northern Pennines, where I appreciated the freedom of space and quiet, the lonely fells and flower meadows – places where oyster catchers nest in peace and wild orchids proliferate undisturbed; and where we were free to drive without traffic jams, to walk across fields of sheep from stile to stile without hindrance and discover spectacular waterfalls without entry restrictions or queues.

Well, of course, it wasn’t the crowded south east of England. But it got me thinking about freedom, how we care or don’t care about it, and whether or not we’re losing it. I used to think of freedom – as on my holiday – in terms of escape, running away almost – days off work, riding up into the hills. But now, I often think about that essential freedom to be yourself – to be true to your own spirit – the kind of freedom that allows you to be free inside whatever circumstances you find yourself in.

That kind of freedom seems almost the opposite of escape. And takes courage – sometimes huge courage for the stakes can be high.

Well, courage can be symbolised by the fierce animals like the brave lion, but I like the image of the quetzal, insisting on living in freedom, and symbolising freedom for all.

The quetzal is in danger of extinction. Maybe human beings are also in danger of losing that freedom to be who we truly are – the global pressures to fit the mould and toe the line are beyond question powerful. But if we lose that freedom to be ourselves, we lose our spontaneous energy, joy and flexibility and over the years become rigid caricatures of who we pretend to be. No wonder old politicians so often end up looking like cartoons of themselves!

What to do in those moments when you fear to be yourself? My simplest and best strategy so far is to remember to breathe. Instead of using your legs to run away – which they’d probably like to do! – rather, take a long slow breath in through your nose and breathe the airl out again, to let frozen tension fall away and allow your deeper wisdom to flow.

Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom. How do they learn it? They fall and falling, they’re given wings. Rumi

In letting fear fall away and being able to act and and say our truth, we’re truly free.

NEWS

VOICE OF INFLUENCE Workshop – 14-15 July – act now!

This month I still have space on the workshop on 14-15 July, so email me as soon as possible if you’re interested. The course has much in common with the subject of this newsletter. When you find your freedom to be authentic and speak with your own voice, you liberate the best of you, and become an engaging, even powerful, public speaker. I’ve watched it happen again and again in the two days of this workshop – some amazing transformations. Don’t worry if you feel daunted or scared now – that’s an okay place to start. I offer discounts at times to those who would struggle to pay the full fee.

BYRON KATIE: Who Would You Be Without Your Story?

Byron Katie’s personal change work has the appearance of utmost simplicity, but it can work brilliantly. She’s running a workshop on July 5 in London. Apply here.

Her workshop is one of many talks and workshops run by Alternatives in central London. Have you discovered them? They get some fabulous speakers, and charge very reasonable entrance fees for their talks.

Connect via Facebook and Twitter

I post voice and speaking ideas and tips – and generally good stuff! – most days.

My books – available in print and e-versions

The Art of Conversation      Whether you’re shy and don’t know what to say or feel you blabber on – or want to make deeper more meaningful connections with people, you’ll find lots of helpful material. It’s an easy read too. The book is going to be produced also in audio form through Audible.com, Amazon and iTunes – I’ll let you know when that format is available.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms       If you want to overcome performance nerves, this reader-friendly book offers 25 different strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence – and they work!

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies offers a comprehensive guide to voice and speaking – you can dip in anywhere and discover practical tips for developing a more robust and interesting voice.

Voice of Influence       Gets to the heart of voice – how to connect with other people and how to influence others through your voice. Lots of personal experiences and practical advice to make it a good read.

A poem

Some of the poets of 500 years ago really got the message. Here is Tukaram about speaking your truth:

I could not lie anymore so I started calling my dog “God.”
First he looked confused,
then he started smiling,
then he even danced.

I kept at it:
now he doesn’t even bite.

I am wondering if this might work
on people?

Have a wonderful July.

Go well,

Judy

 

 

 

 

 

Gotta keep up! – Who Says?

Peter just hasn’t caught up with the 21st century. He’s never sent an email in his life. He’s never browsed the internet. He doesn’t possess a mobile phone and has never used one. He doesn’t even have a television.

Peter who?

– Peter Higgs, the extraordinary scientist who won the Nobel Prize for Physics at the end of last year, following the discovery of his predicted Higgs boson using the Large Hadron Collider at Cern.

Just 50 years ago, Higgs returned to Edinburgh University from a camping trip in the Highlands with some new ideas, and wrote a short paper that was published in a European physics journal, Physics Letters. A second paper he wrote that same year predicting a new massive spin-zero boson was rejected by the journal as “of no obvious relevance to physics.” Higgs added a paragraph and sent the same paper to another leading physics journal which published it. This was the basic prediction for what followed.

The particle to match these theories was finally discovered 49 years later in 2012. In those 49 years, Higgs published fewer than 10 academic papers. Every year the university would ask its academics for a list of recent publications, and every year Higgs wrote “zero”. “I’d have been sacked into today’s academic system, I wouldn’t be productive enough,” he asserts.

Yet his discovery of the Higgs boson marks a massively important break through, its full implications yet to become clear. Quantum mechanics – the last great break through – led to the invention of the transistor – key ingredient for all modern electronics, the laser and other medical technologies – MRIs, PET scans etc. Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web at Cern, another major transformation of our lives. Who knows where this latest discovery will lead us? – For sure it’ll be huge.

January is often a time when I resolve to be more up with the times. Perhaps you write similar hopes yourself? “Keep up to date with my FaceBook page. Twitter more regularly. Get more savvy about social media. Read the latest publications. Get into shape. Throw out my old wardrobe …”

In the middle of all this insistent self-bluster, Peter Higgs is a comforting figure. He’s 84, and will leave behind an outstanding legacy. But he certainly didn’t “keep up” – ever. His whole life he followed his own beliefs and did his own thing, often to the detriment of his position in academic life. He hasn’t been blown around by opinion or fashion or fame. He’s far from arrogant and doubts that he deserves the Nobel Prize: “I’m getting the prize for something which took me two or three weeks in 1964,” he commented.

Do you ever have an irrational fear of somehow not keeping up and getting left behind? But I ask myself: Will the world really come to a standstill because I didn’t check my mobile before I went to sleep? Will I really stagnate in obscurity if I don’t post continually on social websites or mix with the ‘right’ people? It’s a media-fuelled fantasy. I’ve a feeling that an awful lot of energy is dissipated in such activities, and this new year I have various good ideas about how I’d like better to use that energy.

I do usually recognize the difference in myself between the urgency of that inner push to get more busy with business and outcomes, and the energy behind a little inner voice that nudges me that a certain move is going to be exciting and worthwhile. The little voice is extremely energizing and always leads to something good if I listen to it; the urgent nagging to greater productivity fragments and exhausts me.

So, Peter Higgs, you’re my mentor – you’ve followed your inner voice in science and in life. I like the idea of a mentor who didn’t even know he’d won the Nobel prize till a woman stopped her car in an Edinburgh street and congratulated him on the news. “What news?” he asked her, looking blank.

Higgs, you’re my kind of human being!

 

MY LATEST BOOK

My new book, The Art of Conversation, comes out in April. You can pre-order it on Amazon here. It’s been a fascinating book to write – conversation is the basis of so much in our lives! I hope you’ll enjoy it. (Cool hard-back cover!)

 

VOICE OF INFLUENCE WORKSHOP

If you want to communicate more confidently, be listened to, speak with more impact, connect better with people and build your confidence generally, this is definitely the course for you. Have a look at the testimonials from former participants here. They are absolutely typical of the feedback the course receives.

The next workshop is on 27-28 February. Get in touch with me (or book online) very soon if you want to attend on those dates as I’ve had quite a lot of enquiries.

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU

– and an event to recommend this week:

Thu 23 Jan, 7–8.45 pm, Global Cooperation House, London NW10 2HH. Meet two engaging and high profile women, Fiona Harrold, world-renowned coach and best-selling author, and Sister Jayanti, European Director of the Brahma Kumaris, international speaker and broadcaster. They will explore together how to energise and shift our way of thinking and being to be our best and create a better future. A free event, but you need to register herewww.bkwsu.org/uk/whatson/whatson

E-COURSES

Just a reminder that you can download my free e-courses on Dealing with Performance Anxiety; Raising your Profile; Speaking with More Authority, and an Introduction to NLP from my website – here.

Hope to meet some more of you this year!

Go well in 2014,

Judy

Festivals and Flying-Foxes

Sydney FestivalA few days ago I was reclining on the grass enjoying a picnic (along with 200,000 others) as enormous flying fox bats wheeled overhead and the sun went down on a summer day in Sydney. It was the first day of the Sydney Festival. As tickets sell out so fast for the festival, the city now puts on a special first day for free, so that the whole city – families, young and old – can enjoy international singers and bands at half a dozen open-air venues, with free bottles of water and buses running late to take people home.

Now I’m home to January frosts, and experiencing those moments every traveller recognises on return home, when things seem less obvious than before. Do I still drink tea in the morning? Do I still prefer the Guardian or was it the Telegraph? The daily gloom and doom seems less necessary. The countless routines of life no longer take place quite as unthinkingly as before.

Then gradually, daily life enfolds you again, and that foggy moment passes. You’re back with the familiar frames and filters … back in the matrix … But you’ve glimpsed something else – that brief moment when things are no longer obvious is the great gift of time away.

On my travels I’ve been reading ‘The Master and the Emissary’ by Iain Gilchrist (a fascinating book if you can cope with print the size of washing instructions on a shirt label). It explores the latest neuro-research into the left and right hemispheres of the brain. In a more complex way than previously thought, the left brain likes precision and categorisation with language to express it. The right brain holds the subtler bigger picture which is less easily pinned down by rules and language, and this hemisphere plays a far more major role than previously thought.

It’s the right hemisphere that enjoys moments when nothing is obvious; for these are moments out of which different kinds of insight can emerge. Think of historic instances of creative genius – the idea that just popped in as the bath overflowed or the apple fell on your head or you dreamed of riding sunbeams …

We can step out of our frame in various ways; one is to fly to the moon in your mind and look at your life from a distance; feeling your relative size when you are in mountains works in a similar way. Another (and a good antidote this to left brain New Year Resolutions that have you slogging to maintain some new routine …) is to do anything different from the norm just for the sake of it – take a different route home, eat a different food, read a different sort of book or paper, vary the order of your daily tasks … Every time we do things differently it gives us new insights – and brings pleasure at the same time.

I wonder what you might do differently – just for fun, just for the wonder of the thing? Gerald Manley Hopkins in the Windhover … (incidentally, did you know that the right hemisphere, though not till now associated with language, lights up for poetry?) … suggests that wonder is found in the plainest things, provided we lose our sense of knowing the obvious. The whole poem expresses it, but here are the last lines:

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

NLP Diploma

You’ll explore filters, frames and different perspectives in this course – and much more besides. This training is such a life changer – I’m constantly delighted with what people go on to achieve in living the lives they want (and only dreamed of before). First module, Communication and Relationships,  is on 1-2 March, 2nd module, Leadership and Influence, is on 29-30 March, and the final module, Coaching and Change, is on 26-27 April.

Voice of Influence Workshop

This popular course on speaking, presenting, and self confidence gives you the opportunity to learn and practise in a small group. Don’t remain unsure of yourself; becoming confident doesn’t mean changing who you are, it just requires you to learn new skills and approaches. It’s also absorbing and fun – as previous participants will tell you; all that is required is for you to register and turn up! Next workshop 9-10 February. The one after: 17-18 May.

All details on the website, www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk – also ask me about special offers if you do not have company funding.

New Books

I have two new books coming out this year. The first is Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence published by Crown House. Out in February – available to pre-order on Amazon.

The second is due out in April – more information very soon!

And if you want the low-down on voice, you can find my book, Voice of Influence on Amazon too. It’s also out in Kindle. Or I can send you a signed copy.

Hope to meet you this year – at one of my courses, or at some other event. Come and say hello!

Warm good wishes,

Judy

“… felt compelled to stop”

The location: Joshua Bell
Washington DC – a metro station

The spot:
the top of the escalator

The time:
7:51 am, Friday morning rush hour

The situation:
A man puts down his cap for money, gets out his violin and starts to play. He performs classical pieces for the next 43 minutes.

In that time, 1,097 people pass by, mostly on their way to work. Just about everyone walks straight past ignoring him. Of the people queuing at the lottery stand across the arcade not one person looks over at him.

The 64th passer-by is the first to turn his head towards the music, just for a second. After 4 minutes someone throws some money in the hat. After 6 minutes someone stops for a couple of minutes to listen, then walks on. After 10 minutes a 3-year old boy stops, but his mother pulls him along while he keeps turning around to look. In fact, every single time a child walks past it tries to stop and watch; and every single time, a parent scoots the kid away.

In 43 minutes, of the 1,097 passers-by in all 6 people stop to listen for a while. The man playing the violin collects $32.17 from his hat at the end.

How do we know this?

Because the event was being monitored by the Washington Post. A famous violinist had agreed with the newspaper to play in the underground as an experiment – would people respond in that setting, or not?

The violinist was Joshua Bell.

He is one of the finest classical musicians in the world. He’s in the news this week having just taken over as music director of the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields orchestra in London. On the occasion in the metro he was playing some of the greatest music ever written on a Stradivarius violin worth over 3 million dollars. He had played in Boston’s stately Symphony Hall three days previously to a packed house with people paying $100 plus per seat. Hundreds had crowded round the stage door afterwards for a glimpse of him. The newspaper in setting up this experiment was prepared for crowd problems, people flocking to the scene, traffic backing up …

The actual results shocked them.

To get feedback they took some people’s telephone numbers during the experiment telling them they were going to call later about the subject of commuting. They then followed up on 40 people the same evening. Most people hadn’t even noticed a violinist on their way to work. Only one person mentioned the violinist spontaneously: “It was a treat, just a brilliant, incredible way to start the day.” he said. One other had recognised him “It was the most astonishing thing I’ve ever seen in Washington,” she says. “Joshua Bell was standing there playing at rush hour, and people were not stopping, and not even looking.” Bell himself, watching a video of the event later found himself mystified less by people being in a hurry than by the fact that most people paid no attention at all as if he were invisible. “After all, I was making a lot of noise!” he said. Interestingly the children noticed – they were all affected by Bell’s violin playing.

One person who didn’t miss the treat was project manager at the Department of Energy, John Mortensen. He heard the music as he headed up the escalator on his way to work. He didn’t have more than a couple of minutes to spare. On the video you see him get off the escalator and look around. He sees the violinist, stops, walks away but then is drawn back. He checks the time on his mobile then settles against a wall to listen for a few minutes. He knows nothing at all about classical music but for the first time in his life he stops to listen to a street musician and gives him money. Asked about it afterwards he said he felt compelled to stop because the music made him feel at peace.

The thought springs to mind – if we miss one of the best musicians in the world playing some of the finest music ever written on one of the most beautiful instruments ever made … then what else might we be missing?

When in my teens I read W H Davies’ poem about having time to stand and stare, I used to think that noticing things was a matter of having enough time or indeed nothing better to do – okay if you’re a wanderer like Davies, you have all the time in the world, but not if you have a busy job.

I don’t think that any more.

I now think it’s not a time issue; it’s about being open to it – which means not just seeing and hearing but feeling too…

  • Like really hearing a blackbird one morning just for a few moments, the same blackbird you’ve heard countless times before, and thinking, wow, that’s truly amazing;
  • Like stopping for ten seconds to realise you are happy at a moment when you are happy
  • Like being with someone and suddenly feeling how great it is to have this person in your life just this moment now.
  • Like feeling the warmth of realising that this decision is the thing to do.

Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.
Albert Einstein

The trouble with busy-ness is not so much that it takes up time; it’s more that it hides something from us. In busy mode I feel so pleased with myself that I can do two things at once – use the internet while I’m travelling by train, text as I walk from the station or speak to someone on my mobile while I’m clearing kitchen surfaces, putting clothes away or even … don’t go there. But in busy mode I’m just that. Busy.

Maybe we don’t need more time; but just need a different way of looking – a way that opens us to the miraculous – and better judgement too.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”  William Blake

When I’m training, a great excitement is being there when a participant has an “ah-ha” moment. Suddenly they notice something that has always been there but not been seen before, and everything shifts. Coaching too is often about noticing things you haven’t noticed before. If someone can help you learn how to do that, go for it. It’ll transform your life and work and take you to some miraculous places.

The W. H. Davies poem? Here it is.

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare

NLP Practitioner, NLP Diploma

I’ve just finished my new book on overcoming performance anxiety. Look out for it in the autumn. And that’s when my workshops start again. You have the opportunity this autumn to do the NLP Diploma and then continue to the full NLP Practitioner finishing in January.

Have a look at the website for dates and read the testimonials … people get a lot out of the short modules – if your experience so far is company training courses, think again – these workshop days are enlightening, confidence building, full of useful tools and good fun. People often say that life and work seem easier afterwards.

SPECIAL VOUCHER CODE for NLP Diploma- £850!
Book each of the 3 modules individually but at the same time. In the Voucher box, insert VOI SPECIAL. That will bring the price of all 3 workshops booked together to £850.

Voice of Influence Workshop

My Voice of Influence Workshops start again at the end of September. Learn how to connect confidently with an audience – and much more.

Sign up for these workshops now.

Special Free Event:
Finding Your Voice – The Power of Authenticity

19 June in London with Judy Apps, 2.00 – 5.30. Details here.

Also at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk – some great articles and free e-courses on NLP, Overcoming Performance Anxiety, Speaking with Authority, Raising Your Profile and more, newsletter archive, my book Voice of Influence and information on coaching by Skype, telephone or face-to-face.

Do get in touch if you have any comments or questions or want to know more.

June already – height of summer!

If you have just one moment today, what will you notice I wonder? …

Go well,

Prime Numbers and Incurable Deviants

Prime NumbersHere we are at the beginning of 2011 – a special year: 2011 is a prime number (divisible only by one and itself) – a ‘one off’ number.

According to the psychologist Steven Gilligan we are all ‘one offs’. He says that we are all “incurable deviants” -using the merry phrase to celebrate our individuality as people. However much we might attempt to fit in to an environment that may not suit us, he suggests that our health and happiness depend on our being able to express our individuality as the “incurable deviants” that we all are.

So one good New Year resolution might be to be more ourselves – in all our individual ‘one off’ness.

But thinking back to the Christmas holiday, I often didn’t feel like a ‘one off’ or one anything. It seemed that there were different parts of me that turned up to different occasions. I don’t know if you share this sensation of being different people with different colleagues, friends and family? A friend tells me that when she and her adult siblings meet with their parents back in the family home at Christmas they slip back into the way they used to relate as children. “It’s so weird,” she says. “Here I am – a middle-aged responsible professional, but back in that context I’m a child again with all the old competitive pressures and resentments.”

You may have noticed these different parts of yourself in other contexts – you are asked to present yourself to the head of your organisation, and suddenly you feel like a schoolboy summoned to the headmaster’s office and your voice becomes uncertain and your shoulders shrink. Or you are at a celebration where all are loudly and rowdily enjoying themselves and you suddenly feel like a stiff spare part with no sense of humour and not a single interesting thought funny or otherwise in your head.

“One man in his time plays many parts”, pronounces Shakespeare’s Jaques in As You Like It. Most of us are this way. I have occasionally met a person who can assert stoutly, “Take me the way you find me. I call a spade a spade. No nonsense about me, I never change;” but that’s usually because they have so perfected that role that they are unwilling to hazard any other. The rest of us find that particular contexts bring out specific parts of our make up – and not always the parts that would be most helpful. In one context we sparkle and feel interesting, in another we feel lumpish and inadequate.

One of the brilliant things I learned from NLP was that we have a choice in the matter. We can actually learn the skills to summon the parts of ourselves that are going to be most useful in a particular context. For instance, we can bottle our sparkling, interesting self to open at the very time we feel most inadequate.

– in the spirit of which, let me make some new year resolutions:

Use the following this year:

When next faced with a household disaster perpetrated by one of my elderly relatives, let go of the sarcastic crone within and access that part that used to laugh spontaneously at my 10 year old’s jokes. (Did I really? That’s amazing!) 

When next faced with a self-important professional using obfuscatory business language, abandon the attempt to look intelligent, and use the 20-year-old part of myself  that sweetly, smilingly failed to understand anything at all when shouted at by an Italian traffic policeman.

The next time something fails to work on my computer, instead of hurting my vocal cords with cries of frustration, tune into the part of myself that enjoys a 1000 piece jigsaw (even if only at Christmas!) and loves nothing more than a really slow challenge.

What follows from the discovery that you can choose which parts of yourself to employ in different contexts is the earth-shaking realisation that you can simply choose how to be

– and the limit is merely the limit of your imagination.

One-offs we certainly are, but we can also choose to be just the way we want to be. So prime year number, prime year of your life, what can you imagine for this year? How bold might you be?!

NLP DIPLOMA
confidence, composure and effectiveness

The ability to choose your response described above is one of the competences offered to you in the NLP Diploma. You will learn fundamental (not simplistic) skills of relationship and influence which will impact positively on all aspects of your life.  You’ll make a step change in your ability to make things happen and to steer your life in the direction of success and fulfilment. If you are looking for one self-development course that will enable you to step up to the next level, raise your profile and radically build your self confidence then this is the one.

Modules and dates – sign up today at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk 

Communication & Relationships          17-18 Feb
Leadership & Influence               17-18 Mar
Coaching & Change                           14-15 Apr
– all at Hammersmith, London

VOICE OF INFLUENCE
– brighten up the room, delight your audience

The two-day Voice of Influence Workshop will give you the tools to give an accomplished formal public speech and beyond that the confidence to speak out spontaneously in any context of your life – whether in a meeting, a negotiation or a ‘difficult’ conversation with colleague or boss. If you look at any successful person in business you will find that they have excellent speaking skills, and you can have them too. It’s not about being someone different either – you will find the way to be powerful and authentic in your own way in this supportive small-group course.

Dates – sign up today at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk.    

4-5 Feb 2011         – Hammersmith, London
30 Mar–1 Apr 2011 – Hammersmith, London

1 TO 1 COACHING 
– fast positive change

Skype, telephone, face-to-face – great for growing in your job and growing into the next one, wonderful for an emergency, brilliant for general self confidence, balance and control. Speak to me about it today – it’s a fast way to learn. Try one session at reasonable cost to experience its benefits at first hand

Lots more information on my website, www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk – or contact me for a chat.

Happy New Year 2011!

Warmly

Judy

Travelling to a different emotional space …

walkaloneA story of walking out

I was feeling unappreciated and misunderstood. “I’m going out!” I announced with an air of finality like a teenager, and I stomped out.

Down the road, cut down the alley, across the main road and down towards the farm on the other side, then up the track that crosses the railway; finally up the steep hill through woods on the other side. I was puffing slightly when I reached the path along the downs at the top. I struck out further north, beyond our normal walking tracks into less-known territory, seeking to get as far away as possible. Soon I was a few miles from home, walking briskly along a woodland path through beech and chestnut. The signs around me of the dying year suited my frame of mind.

It was a beautiful autumn day, and I strode out, enjoying the rhythm of my steps and the energy of the exercise. I walked for a good hour and didn’t see a soul: surprising  how much space there is in the countryside – even in the south east! In the solitude I glimpsed a young deer which emerged from the trees up ahead, crossed the path calmly and disappeared into deep undergrowth. I felt pleased that it hadn’t panicked: silence, space, me and a deer.

By the time I found myself walking towards home rather than away from it, two hours had passed and I was deeply absorbed with an idea in my mind for a new project. By the time I reached home I was all eagerness to write it down.

My earlier mood? I could remember the earlier spat, but was in an entirely different place mentally and quite happy about the way forward. Plus, there was that warm creative glow…

Sometimes, all that is needed is space to free up and think; and the mind frees up as the body frees up. Nancy Kline in her excellent book Time to Think suggests that we all function immeasurably better when we have time to think for ourselves. Independent thinking is a rare commodity in the workplace. You might say that you are thinking all the time, but being engaged on a problem and thinking for yourself are different. Thinking for yourself requires space and attention. You can give that attention to yourself or someone who knows how can hold that listening space for you. Time, space and attention are the sponsors of creativity.

At my courses, when I observe participants happily engaged in an exercise, I realise that an important element of this kind of training is the space it gives to minds freed up by enjoyment to think independently and creatively. The changes that are born in that thinking space are often transformational and extraordinary.

What better time for thinking and creating than these shortening days of late autumn as nature settles down for its quiet season? – Nature has its time off too to prepare for spring. Farmers wanting the best from the land leave fields fallow some years to restore nutrients. People need breaks to restore mental fertility and balance. I wonder what will come into fruition for you in this “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”?

… and what space you will give it to allow it to emerge? 

NLP Conference – London, 12-14 November 2010

The NLP Conference has an especially impressive line-up of speakers and topics this year. It’s always a great opportunity to hear some of the best NLP trainers and developers in one place.

My own session – “Hypnotic Voices” – strays into the area of psychotherapy. Successful  hypnotherapists use the voice with particular skill and provide excellent models of vocal magic. But their techniques will also be of great interest to coaches, teachers, public speakers and all who use language to ‘take people to a different emotional space’.

I talk about techniques – but it’s more than that. The spoken voice has a considerable effect on other people, more than we are aware of consciously. To make vocal connections on a subtle deeper level requires physical, emotional and holistic alignment. This is what makes the learning so fascinating and the ability so fulfilling.

NLP Conference – London 2010

NLP Conference 2010

The NLP Conference looks exciting this year – an especially impressive line-up of speakers and topics. It’s always a great opportunity to hear some of the best NLP trainers and developers in one place.

My own session – “Hypnotic Voices” – looks to psychotherapy for new learning. Successful  hypnotherapists use the voice with particular skill and provide excellent models of vocal magic. But their techniques will also be of great interest to coaches, teachers, public speakers and all who use language to ‘take people to a different emotional space’.

I talk about techniques – but it’s much more than that. To make vocal connections on a deeper level requires physical, emotional and holistic alignment. This is what makes the learning so fascinating and  the ability so fulfilling.

The Hypnotic Voices session is on Saturday afternoon at 4.15. The Conference Brochure says:

Hypnotic Voices

The spoken voice has a considerable effect on other people, more than we are aware of consciously. If you are a hypnotist, therapist or coach you want to use the spoken word to influence your client yet maybe are not sure exactly how to do this with the voice you’ve been given. This session will introduce you to three key techniques for using your voice in trance work and generally for influencing people beneath their conscious awareness. The session is of special interest to those who work in the fields of hypnotherapy, coaching or clean language and is also suitable for everyone who wants to be able to exert more subtle influence with their voice.

To Book log onto:  www.nlpconference.co.uk

 Let me know if you are planning to be at the Conference and I’ll hope to meet you at my workshop.

 See you there!

  Judy

Focusing on the extraordinary

Never underestimate…

bowerbirdHave you come across the bowerbird of Australia? It’s a dull-looking species, fawn-brown in colour. The male bowerbird builds a nest surrounded with a variety of brightly coloured objects he has collected which may include hundreds of shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, berries, and even coins, nails or pieces of glass. But the most remarkable part of the construction is a grand avenue of sticks leading to the nest. The sticks are arranged with precise care so that those closest to the nest are the smallest and those farthest away are the tallest, which gives a false sense of perspective so that when the bowerbird stands at the entrance to his nest he looks enormous and impressive to the female. Researchers have tried interfering to change the order of the stick heights, but when that happens the bowerbird painstakingly over several days restores its original configuration. Does the bird understand perspective?!

Never underestimate nature!

Eileen NearneAnd humans? I read about Eileen Nearne who died at 89 this month. You’d never heard of her? Neither had I.

Eileen Nearne was just an old lady who lived alone in Torquay. The most that neighbours had to say about her was that she used to enjoy talking about her cat.

Yet after her death officials found in her flat an amazing treasure trove of war-time papers and medals, including the MBE and the Croix de Guerre. It turns out that she had an extraordinary history no one knew about.

In 1944, aged 23, as a member of Winston Churchill’s secret Special Operations Executive she was parachuted into occupied France, where she passed on intelligence and arranged arms drops as the only British agent with an operating transmitter in the Paris area. She operated during that crucial period until she was arrested by the Nazis in July 1944. She was tortured, then sent to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp where thousands were executed or died. But she managed to escape and was able with help from a French priest to stay in hiding until rescued by the advancing allies. Her bravery contributed importantly to the war effort. Not ‘just an old lady’ after all!

Never underestimate people!

 Tim Gallwey, often called the ‘father of coaching’ by those in the profession, talks about his profound belief in the inner intelligence and wisdom in each one of us, in human life itself.  He says that a person is much bigger than what you see. As coaches we believe in the existence of potential beyond what presents itself.  We may see withdrawal or the sense of something shut down but we do not believe it. We manage to see through and beyond the acts that people put on either to seem less capable than they are or to make us believe they’re wonderful but which actually cover up their true ‘wonderfulness’. 

I have been surprised more often than I can say by how people can be unexpectedly extraordinary. And it tends to happen when you don’t criticise them internally or consider them small.

 The other side of this is:

Never underestimate yourself!

It is so easy to ignore and deny what is in us. We are capable of being exceptional. The skill lies in discovering how to allow that to happen …

“The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be.” says Oprah Winfrey

Curiosity and playful experimentation are effective approaches. Criticism, self-labelling and a rigid outlook block it. The best place to learn is in interacting with people – which is why workshops where you have the freedom to interact, investigate and explore with others are so productive and energising. They are often the place that gives birth to the extraordinary in people.

Sometimes it just takes someone else to see the exceptional in us before we can see it ourselves. They ‘know’ it is there and that becomes our realisation of a truth. As the pianist Claudio Arrau once explained about his performances, “I don’t know what’s going to happen but I know it’s going to be something wonderful.”

So, what are you underestimating about yourself?

Cicely Berry – Voice Genius

Cicely Berry

the actors' coach

Isn’t Wikipedia wonderful? I check out Cicely Berry this morning and as usual it comes up trumps:

“Cicely Frances Berry CBE (born May 17, 1926) is the voice director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and is world-renowned in her work as a voice and text coach”

it tells me. She is indeed coach to the professionals and particularly adores working with Shakespeare. I love her work because she values authenticity highly and connects people with who they are. Browsing again recently through her book “Voice and the Actor” published in the seventies she has some wise words about communicating your inner self.

Your tensions and limitations as a speaker come from lack of trust in yourself, she says. Perhaps you are over-anxious to communicate or too keen to present an image. Perhaps you are trying to convince your audience of something about yourself. You may even be relying too much on what works for you and become too predictable … even if you have an interesting voice. All these approaches lack true freedom.

As Cicely says elsewhere, “We are drawn to a voice which vibrates and which has resonance.”  Freedom is having no preconceived idea of how to sound, no holding on to the voice you know, no unnecessary tension.

Wow, that’s a real letting go, but how we love to hear that in a speaker – the speaker is liberated and we experience the energy of that liberation. Worth aiming for, I think.

Speak with power and influence

What makes a great voice? It’s about using your body as well as your head; it’s about breath; it’s about strong intention. Find out how you can develop your own voice to speak powerfully without years of training.

 

TigerTo communicate you use your voice … as well as gesture, posture, breathing and your general state. The sounds you make are infinitely subtle and communicate far more than the words you choose. So if you are interested in connecting with other people the voice is a highly important part of that communication.

The human has a big head and a big body with a narrowing in between – the neck! In that in-between area sits our voice box – the vocal cords. What mystery placed the vocal cords just there, mid-way between head and heart – mind and body? And what does it mean to us as communicating beings?

Many people assume that speaking is just a ‘head job’ – an intellectual process. They have the sensation of thinking in the head, taking air in through nose or mouth and speaking through the mouth, articulating the sound with lips, tongue and teeth. They are not aware of any other part of the body playing a part at all.

This is to miss major elements of the process however. First of all, the trigger to speak is an impulse in the body that is not the same as thinking. It’s an energetic call to action. This is the impulse which causes your body to get involved in taking in breath in a particular way and it begins the process of producing particular sounds. You speak because you are enthused, determined, angry, anxious, inspired or interested, because you have a desire to help, to impress, to convince, to charm, to motivate or reassure: that’s the impulse to speak.

Let’s say for example I am having a debate with you and you make a statement that I violently disagree with. In my eagerness to refute your statement I am quick to respond: I take a rapid breath which organises my body in such a way that the sound comes out resonating sharply again the breast plate and in the head.

Maybe, on another occasion I glance at someone beside me whom I love very much and am filled with a beautiful loving feeling which arouses the desire to say something. The slow breath I take, suffused with love, opens cavities around my heart and chest which resonate softly when I say my words of endearment.

It is the breath, affected by the trigger (desire, intention, emotion etc.), which moves the muscles of the body to open particular combinations of resonating cavities which then vibrate to make the particular quality of sound that expresses the intention accurately.

This is the miracle. Through this means you express in sound the intention in your being. People listening to you then catch your energy and intention and are influenced by your speaking. And what becomes possible then?…