Umbrellas and rainbows

April 15th, 2012

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve chosen a rainbow photo for my site now. Yesterday I was out in bright sunshine, then without warning hailstones were falling around me and the sky was grey. I needed my umbrella quickly, to protect me. It set me thinking about the sunshine and rainstorms of life, which can hit any of us suddenly. What sort of umbrella do we have when we need it? In other words, how do we make sense of what has happened? There are many spiritual and philosophical practices and ways of thinking about, and making sense of, the BIG questions such as Why am I here? Why have I survived? Why me? What’s it all about?
In an emergency, caught in a storm, you can borrow someone else’s umbrella. That can give general experience of umbrellas. It is a good idea to progress to choosing one that is just right for you individually, that you use regularly. No point in waiting until the storm hits! Getting to know yourself is part of that preparation.

Supervision as super-vision?

March 11th, 2012

Imagine you are standing on a headland looking out to sea. From that vantage point you can look out over the whole scene, then pick up your binoculars and focus on a particular bather or bird or boat that catches your attention. Standing alongside you is someone experienced who is also looking at the scene. Together you can compare what you see, learning more as you pass the binoculars back and forth between you. Is that bather is difficulties? What can you do about it? What choices do you have? What a beautiful bird skimming over the waves – enjoy the moment together. Where is that ship going?

I think of supervision as an opportunity to step back from individual client details and look over the whole scene alongside someone experienced. Then, reflecting on what I see, to home in on specific situations and explore them in detail in order to learn more about them. I aim to make supervision a refreshing experience that makes a difference to you and your work. Standing on a headland looking out to sea can feel a soft, warm and sunny experience but can also be exhilarating, wind-blown and challenging.

The opportunity to step back for an overall super-vision as well as using those binoculars for a detailed close-up can be helpful for many professions besides counselling.

that first meeting

January 19th, 2012

Have you ever wondered what happens when you contact me for a first appointment?

We have a brief chat on the phone, for me to answer your initial questions and to arrange a mutually convenient time to meet (day or evening). You can choose either half an hour or a full hour; the process will follow the same pattern. I give you my full address and remind you that you can park on the driveway beside the house. You arrive at the agreed time (I don’t have a waiting room) and I greet you at the door and show you into my counselling room, which is a peaceful upstairs room. We sit in armchairs and I invite you to tell me a bit about what’s going on in your life at present and how you think counselling might help. When you have had time to outline your situation, I’ll give you a copy of my working agreement to take with you. It details things like confidentiality, cancellation of appointments, and other arrangements. I will do my best to answer any questions you may have. You may decide you feel comfortable working with me, and choose to sign the form at that point, or you may have arranged to meet other counsellors before deciding; either way is fine.

Assuming you choose to work with me, we then arrange a few dates for further appointments, which will be for a full hour. You pay me for this first session by cash or cheque, either £15 for a half hour or £35 for a full hour. I give you a receipt, and show you out. I have a cloakroom for your use if required.


December 8th, 2011

Crowded and jostled while shopping and travelling? Surrounded by people at parties? Expecting a house full for Christmas? Wondering how to cope? Alone and feeling lonely?

At this time of year there is often a sense of pressure from being with other people much more than usual. People we have not chosen to spend time with; people who have different ideas of how to live; people who make us feel uncomfortable or who are critical. Or we can imagine that the media images of happy family gatherings are all true, and we’re the only ones by ourselves.

Simple ways of restoring your own sense of calm and peace can be to spend a few minutes in natural surroundings – gaze out of the window at the passing clouds; look at a tree, find a bud; announce to all those slumped in front of your TV that you are going out for a walk in 10 minutes, and anyone is welcome to join you. Then leave in 10 minutes, with or without others, and walk to your nearest open space. Count the trees to help you/children with you to focus on those things.

Food for thought: Trees, blades of grass, birds are simply themselves – each unique, each making a difference by being what they are.

Life in a jar – a story

October 8th, 2011

A professor stood before his philosophy class and placed some items in front of him. When the class began he picked up a large empty jar and proceeded to fill it with stones. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of gravel chips and poured them into the jar, shaking the jar lightly; the gravel rolled into the open areas between the stones. He asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up the remaining spaces. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘YES’.
The professor then produced two cups of coffee and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the grains of sand.
The students laughed. ‘Now’, said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘This jar represents your life. The stones are the important things: your family, your health, your friends, the things you feel passionate about. If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.’
‘The gravel chips are the other things that matter, like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first’, he continued, ‘there is no room for the gravel or the stones’.
‘The same goes for life. if you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Take care of the stones first – the things that really matter. The rest is just sand. The sand can polish the stones, but is not essential.’
One of the students asked what the coffee represented. The professor smiled and said ‘I’m glad you asked. The coffee shows that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a coffee with a friend.’

stones AND gravel – room for all

September 9th, 2011

Following my move to Kendal, the boxes have gradually been unpacked, and I have had to find new places to put things.
I discovered that it is vital to get the large things in places first, then fit the smaller things around them.
If gravel, the small things, gets put into a jar first, there is no easy way to make room for larger stones. Put the stones into the jar first, and the gravel can slip in around the gaps. A bit like life – it is easy to fill time with busyness yet not feel any satisfaction or achievement. Take time to put the stones, the large structures, in place first, then the extras can fill the gaps.

There is a story along those lines which might follow next month – it includes coffee!

Mind the gap

July 5th, 2011

Do you find yourself in a gap, waiting for the next event that will allow you to get on with your life? I’m in that situation at present, waiting for the legal side of a home and business move from Devon to Kendal in Cumbria.
I’ve been thinking of how many of us may be in similar waiting states: for exam results; job applications; the months of pregnancy; medical tests; airport lounges; approaching birthday; retirement; starting school or university.
This time of year seems especially a time of waiting, to gather in the present crop before preparing for the next. And how important it is to allow a fallow time, to wait, so that our inner world has time to catch up with our changing outer situation. We need time to say goodbye to the person we have been, and the place we have known, in order to make space for the person we are becoming, and the place that is still strange.
The caterpillar has to go into meltdown in order to become a butterfly. What do we need to do?

(Human) Creature Comforts

May 16th, 2011

Have you seen ‘Wonderland: the trouble with love and sex’ on BBC2? I watched it the other day and recommend it while it is still available on iplayer.
This 50 minute animation uses the voices of people having relationship counselling. Two couples and a single man talk about the problems they experience in making or keeping relationships. The three different counsellors help them to explore patterns from the past or breakdowns in communications, and what could change to improve their relationships.
I found the programme faced serious issues in a light way, easier to remember than heavy stuff. Watch it and see what you think.
Thanks to those who gave their permission to be the voices, and to Relate who provided the counsellors.

Decisions, decisions

May 9th, 2011

What shall I wear today? Who shall I marry? Where shall I go to university? Marmite or marmalade for breakfast?

We make decisions all the time, some minor and others with life-changing consequences. How do we do it?

One way is to trust your gut for the major decisions, but think about the minor ones. The idea behind this is that minor decisions tend to establish themselves as habits, creating ruts that can trap us.
We make major decisions rarely. We have unconscious knowledge of what we want and need at each stage in life. Subtle clues can be recognised unconsciously then emerge to be checked against a practical list. When viewing a house, for example, the warm and welcoming one that ‘feels’ right is less likely to have a troubled history than a similar one where we aren’t consciously aware of a damp smell or rows between previous occupants.

Visualise the best outcome from your decision, which helps you move towards that result.

Allow yourself to make mistakes then learn what to do differently next time. Life can be refreshed and changes can bring new energy.

Clear your mind!

April 4th, 2011

Continuing the theme from last month… You might want to clarify your thoughts on where to live, or whether to risk a career-change.
Form a question in your mind, for example:
What shall I do for a holiday this year?
Visualise various possibilities, using each of your senses in turn to build up as vivid and detailed a scene as you can. You are lying on a sandy beach feeling warm/gritty sand, the smell of the sea/ rotting seaweed, the sound of the waves/gulls…
Then you are in a city centre, surrounded by people and hearing the sounds of many voices and traffic, seeing advertisments for attractions shows and products….
You are on a hillside track, surrounded by open moors and hills, alone or with companions; it is a sunny/wet day and you feel…
Now imagine being told you CANNOT have a holiday in each of your locations. How do you react? Are you relieved or disappointed?

Next month I’ll look at decision making, using a house move as example.