This picture is the view from the highest point of Holy Isle, looking towards the lighthouse on its southern tip. In Celtic spirituality, locations where the separation of heaven and earth seems unclear are called ‘thin’ places. I sense that Holy Isle is such a place – in the world, but not of it. Those who want to work at this boundary between the spiritual and the worldly are beginning to seek me out – I am humbled by this and drawn to exploring this ground.
This page outlines my aspiration to work with those who recognise that their spiritual practice and the demands of the material world can sometimes be at odds. It describes my activities in thin places.
In December 2012 I went to Bhutan on something described as a ‘Spiritual Journey’ – without being clear about what was meant by this! I signed up because the trip was led by Wendy Palmer, whose embodiment work had changed my life and practice. In addition, I’d always wanted to see the Himalaya.
Wendy talks about balancing mastery and mystery – the interplay between being competent and effective and a bigger unfolding process that is outside our awareness. The dance of mastery and mystery feels linked to the essence of thin places – an interface between what is known and what is beyond knowing.
My personal journey into this liminal space has raised profound questions about how I embody the aspirations of my budding spiritual practice in a world that doesn’t always value them. This can mean making nuanced choices in complex territory and this has awakened a desire to support others exploring similar quandaries.
“Each of us must make his own true way, and when we do, that way will express the universal way.” Shunryu Suzuki
You are on a path… and the conventional wisdoms of the everyday world sit uncomfortably with your sense of what really matters. You are committed to building your capacity to uphold the teachings of your chosen path and you undertake regular study and practice. And yet… you are human and are not always able to live up to your high expectations of yourself.
You want to explore this ground and find ways to be true to your own values and concerns whilst continuing to make a purposeful contribution through your work and life. This is uncharted territory and it can feel like you’re walking it alone.
To be of service as a companion, I will draw on all my experience of work, life and engaging with spiritual practices. I will walk with you… yet this is new territory for me and I too am finding my way.
I too am on a path… and it will be different to yours. However, the difficulties that arise may be similar in nature and my training as a coach is to support others to deal with adversity and realise their aspirations in their own way. My role is to listen, probe and clarify with warmth and impartiality. I don’t need to be familiar with your path to help you with things such as map-reading, using a compass, planning a route and making sure you’re properly equipped.
My path began with T’ai Chi Chuan, a martial art which brought home the reality that the body works differently to the mind. Further exploration led me to Samye Ling and Tibetan Buddhism via yoga and chi gung weekends. I was also strongly influenced by aikido practitioners who teach the art of centring. I now focus primarily on the Buddhist path and continuing to practice t’ai chi.
“When you bow deeply to the universe, it bows back.”
This aspect of my work is shaped by...
My commitment to working with the body began when I accepted that my best intentions could be derailed by a rapidly beating heart, sweaty palms and a tightening of my throat. Later, I realised that my physiology took charge whenever I faced anything even mildly challenging.
If we believe (as I do) that we’re responsible for the way we allow events and experiences to impact us, it becomes important to learn how to influence our energetic state. I use Leadership Embodiment practices to support me/us to change my/our relationship to adversity. They are simple – but using them effectively requires many repetitions.
Taming the mind
A tenet of Buddhism is that each moment conditions the next. For good or ill, the choices we make and enact set in motion everything that follows for ourselves, our relationships and wider systems. Taking ownership of our disturbing emotions and thoughts and learning to handle them well creates the potential for more positive interactions. In addition to taming the unwieldy and unpalatable aspects of our mind, we can make efforts to instil more beneficial patterns of thinking.
Together, these aspirations invite us to study how our mind influences the way we see the world and to sow the seeds of fruitful change.
A sense of spirit
What I mean by spirit is the inner character that supports us to see ourselves (and others, and the world) clearly and to take action to remedy our shortcomings as best we can. It also prompts us to speak out when we witness injustice or inappropriate behaviour.
Recognising the inevitable consequences of what we say and do is a powerful incentive to behave with integrity, generosity and courage. And, when I’m able to embody such qualities, I evoke them in others. While you may favour different ideals, the effect is universal – when we truly inhabit our values, we inspire others to embrace them too.
“When you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to the mystery.”
Adapted from Kahlil Gibran
The qualities I aspire to bring to this activity...
Fundamental to my work (and life) is a belief in our shared human-ness. Each of is a work-in-progress, navigating the adversities and absurdities of life. As you explore and evolve, I keep faith with you and appreciate the efforts you make. I seek to understand what’s motivating you and invite you to consider how you might make an even bigger contribution in your life and work.
I hope you will experience this as a sense of warmth and generosity of spirit, whilst we think together about your journey.
I’m told that I bring a clarity of thinking to conversations, supporting and challenging others to reframe a situation and discover more potential within it. As a fellow traveller, I draw on an aptitude for discerning patterns and on the neutrality of not being directly involved in your choices to prompt you to clarify what matters and to discover the practices that will support your evolution.
I hope you will experience this as clearing the ground for fresh insight and renewed commitment to following your path.
In a busy world, I aim to create opportunities to pause and exhale so that you can access greater perspective about your circumstances, contribution and evolution. In holding this space, I encourage you to raise your gaze and broaden your sense of what is possible. In the spaces between the obvious calls on your attention we might find the courage to step into the mystery.
I hope you will experience this as a fertile space in which to breathe, reflect and make good contact with yourself and your spiritual practices.