Not speaking and speaking are both human ways of being in the world, and there are kinds and grades of each. There is the dumb silence of slumber or apathy; the sober silence that goes with a solemn animal face; the fertile silence of awareness, pasturing the soul, whence emerge new thoughts; the alive silence of alert perception, ready to say, “This… this…”; the musical silence that accompanies absorbed activity; the silence of listening to another speak, catching the drift and helping him be clear; the noisy silence of resentment and self-recrimination, loud and subvocal speech but sullen to say it; baffled silence; the silence of peaceful accord with other persons or communion with the cosmos. ~ Paul Goodman: novelist, poet, playwright, and psychiatrist

Be still. A daily practice of silence bears gifts — a heightened sensitivity to beauty, deep inner peace, and a profound feeling of connectedness to all living things. ~ Cheryl Richardson

Let silence take you to the core of life. ~ Rumi

I suggest that just once in a while, you make a conscious decision to keep yourself to yourself. ~ Danielle LaPorte

Natalie Goldberg once wrote that while she was in the middle of writing a novel, she carried the characters around with her, wondering what they’d say or think or do in all sorts of situations she’d find herself in.

Writing for my blog affects me like that. After days and weeks of posting, I start experiencing the world through the filter of what would make a post you might enjoy; what might be an uplifting photo, a moving song, an inspiring poem. Then slowly, imperceptably, I start to feel like it’s a channel I can’t switch off. I’ll be driving along and instead of enjoying the moment, there’s a flash of frustration as I wish I had a notebook or a phone or a camera. I start to feel like I’m carrying a community around in my heart, in my head. Communing even when I’m not at my laptop, logged in.

Sometimes, channeling, distilling and filtering the world stops me from simply being.

That’s one of the reasons I take frequent and often abrupt breaks from my blog, even though I love it; I need to reconnect with the real world around me and rediscover the silence that feeds my creativity like an underground pool.

Sometimes, it’s just exhaustion after a tough time being a sandwich generation mum and daughter.

But this time? During our wonderful, rejuvenating family holiday in Greece, we were heartbroken to learn that the referendum result meant the UK would be leaving the European Union, something most Scots would rather not do.

The day after we got home, a beloved friend told me she’d been diagnosed with cancer. So many phonecalls like those in the last few years.

Shock and grief always make my husband and I recalibrate, determined to create, to enjoy loved ones, details and moments. Last summer we threw ourselves into creating a new patio and building a cheap but pretty summer shed, a new perspective in the garden to enjoy the birds, the plants and views of nearby hills.

One of the blackbirds from a family who was born on our bathroom window ledge had become so tame, he’d tap on the kitchen window for food, or sit beside us and clear the scraps from our plates. My dad, 92 now, was absolutely mesmerised and started to sit in the garden casually eating strawberries, just in case…

The blackbird kept my son and me company while we dug out turf; his wee friend, a scrawny robin, stopped us working as he ate worms next to our spades.

We were inspired; my son, home from university, worked alongside me in disbelieving silence, stopping every five minutes just to enjoy the birds’ antics.

Every evening and weekend, I coped with my friend’s news by working on this new garden. I looked forward to showing you the before and after photos. My husband dug up old bushes and laid slabs, and working wordlessly side by side, we pruned, we painted fences and the grand finale was removing Leylandii trees that had become overgrown and hideous.

I clung to the daily presence of those birds like a talisman.

A few days after I took these photos to share with you, the robin and the blackbird disappeared. Distraught, I realised that by tidying up the garden, we’d destroyed their safe, messy, overgrown, cat and sparrowhawk deterring habitat.

I logged off, put away my gardening gloves and chose silence.

November brought the wintery news of Trump’s election, stunning millions of people into head shaking disbelief. My husband and I both got ill.

I lost faith, lost friends and Christmas came and went. I thought of you and almost shared some old year new year thoughts by candlelight and mulled wine but couldn’t summon the strength.

Last week there was a whisper of fresh warmth in the air and the days seemed longer.

The snow from yesterday’s storm is melting, and in every room, bright jugs of shop bought rainbow tulips have got me wondering whether the bulbs I scattered and planted last year will bloom.

And here I am again, spring cleaning my online home and listening for blackbirds.

Coaching Moments: Journey to Mastery

I was going to keep this post for later, in case my blog ever goes back to fulfilling its claim to be ‘Soulfood and Support for Coaches, Writers and Homemakers.‘ However, given that I’m prone to abrupt bouts of cyberhibernation – deciduous blogging, I call it on a good day… blogging suicide and shameful abandonment on a bad day – I decided there’s no point in fighting it any more. It is what it is; I post when I post. My posts definitely seem to blossom in spring alongside my ubiquitous tulips.

If you’re not a life coach, an IAC coach who’s thinking of attempting certification, or any kind of coach, then I apologise if this post is of no interest to you. Escape now! (Or simply scroll down and read the last four paragraphs.) You may have just saved yourself a lengthy wade through words. What can I say… I’m a word-loving blether and I’m glad to be home!

Last year, I attempted to reprise my coaching column, Coaching Moments, because my coaching association’s newsletter and blog were edited by a talented young woman who liked my work and ‘got’ me. At first, writing and sending her pieces that were intended to support fellow coaches reminded me of the pure delight I used to have when the column was first created; sadly, the blog and social media format of the association’s current publication fried my brain and I only wrote three pieces. Two were published and this one was abandoned when the editor resigned.

So, this is for all my coaching friends who are ‘kent faces’, and for you, the silent coaching friend I’ve yet to meet. If you subscribed after downloading one or both of my coaching ebooks, I’d enjoy hearing from you.

Coaching Moments: Journey to Mastery

Mastery isn’t a word we often hear anymore, but it’s as critical as ever to achieving extraordinary results. As intimidating as it might initially seem, when you can see mastery as a path you go down instead of a destination you arrive at, it starts to feel accessible and attainable. Most assume mastery is an end result, but at its core, mastery is a way of thinking, a way of acting, and a journey you experience. ~ Gary Keller

Are you thinking of going for IAC certification? Perhaps the Master Masteries Coach designation? I have one question for you if you are… Which specific, deeply cherished dream of yours would come true if you were IAC certified? I ask because my own certification journey didn’t just make mine come true; it changed my life and in many ways, saved it.

I discovered coaching when I read dozens of self-help books and kept journals to lift myself out of low grade chronic depression – so-called walking depression. The seeds of several books germinated in those journals and as gently as waking from a dream, I realised I wanted to support folk through coaching and writing. As an ex-academic, though, I knew I wouldn’t be happy without the self-esteem boost I’d get from certification. I needed to feel safe in the knowledge that a team of highly experienced coaches had validated my coaching mastery and deemed it safe for me to share my intuition, skills and knowledge.

I studied online. I found mentors and coaching buddies who’ve become cherished friends. My dream was never to set up a traditional coaching business, but in striving for coaching mastery, by following the flow of what I loved, I ended up with three strands in my patchwork coaching life. Niches found me.

When things got hard – and I failed my practical exam first time round – it was the support of other coaches and that dream of seeing IAC-CC after my name on the back cover of a book that kept me going. The book didn’t get published, but I became a masterful coach and intuitive peer-critiquer as a by-product; more importantly, I became a kinder, happier, wiser person because of my certification journey.

All mastery requires clarity of purpose, deep self-awareness, dogged determination, hard slog and the support of others, but coaching mastery has a magic all of its own; it elicits and consolidates our greatness, but will never let us move onwards or upwards without championing us; it shores up our achievements by connecting them to our dreams, our Big Picture, the legacy we hope to leave behind.

Coaching mastery means that we have the tools to drag ourselves back when we find ourselves drowning in our dramas; it encourages us to make friends with those uncomfortable, provocative questions that open us up like flowers in the sun; it requires of us that we love what is, that we cherish our humanity and the learning in our Now.

Mastery also requires that we breathe. It flourishes and blooms when we sit still and simply enjoy being, which is the heart of all curiosity, presence and active listening.

The best way to become a Master Masteries Coach? Study the IAC Masteries as if they’re a spiritual instruction manual for your life; imagine they have nothing to do with coaching. Live and breathe them and grow to love them like poems learned by heart which become part of you.

Get brave and bold and explore new territories. Untangle the strands of what makes you feel stuck. Calm the clashing values that strain and pull against each other like dogs on choke chains.

Make your journey towards mastery part of your every waking moment. Be grateful for the rocks that make the stream sing and listen deeply to the silences between the notes that make the music. Be as curious as a child and lay your day’s discoveries out on the table so you can poke around in them and wrap the cherished ones up in a handkerchief. Celebrate your humanity, your daily triumphs and the lessons that help you rise when your heart stumbles.

Don’t rush headlong into the next challenge without asking yourself how you want to feel and how you can get yourself some of that feeling right here, right now, in everything you do.

And my dream? This is it. I’m writing here, right now, for you. And it feels like home.

If You Believe

If you like your Christmas films to have as much magic and warmth as those made for kids, then, this Christmas, check out If You Believe, starring Ally Walker, Tom Amandes and Hayden Panettiere. It’s got the lot! Christmas, snow, a writer, an editor, a New York apartment, a family house in Queens, a clapboard in New England and some great acting… what’s not to like!

Don’t watch it with Santa age kids, though; this one is for grown ups, but in a nice way.