I am also developing new coaching and course material based on my recent writings on Mindful Conversations. As a new course for organisations and businesses, it is designed as an eight-week follow-on course for people who have already completed an eight-week mindfulness course. My aim is to deepen people's understanding and practice of mindfulness, and particularly to apply this to more effective and fulfilling interactions with people at work and at home.
PDF download coming soon...
On a personal level, my lovely dad is 80 years old, and we are celebrating with a singing party! We also look on in wonder at his huge creativity as he continues to share his passion for teaching homoeopathy, which he first offered as a GP in the NHS back in the 1970s, and taught for many years at the Royal Homoeopathic Hospital. His website Enjoy Learning Homeopathy continues to grow and thrive.
This May, I had the privilege of attending the launch of a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on mindfulness. Here I was, invited into the Houses of Parliament simply because I meditate! For many of us long-term meditators, this was an unexpected turn. When we started out (for me, in 1983) we were 'weird' or 'way out', we then graduated to being 'cool', and what are we now? Trend-setters! Even a force for change in the establishment!
I was surprised to learn that over 80 MPs and peers have learned mindfulness on courses at Westminster. Having calm and resourceful politicians can only be a good thing, of course. So how soon will we hear the benefits in their communication? [Read more]
Over the summer, I took a writing sabbatical to prepare materials on mindful communication. So another highlight was finding myself at home, writing away and looking after my friend Simon's dog. Naturally, he also found his way into my August bulletin, inspiring me with all things I can learn about communication from a canine friend:
Every day we have countless opportunities to connect. Don't wait for the big moments, practise on small things ...
Just now, I am practising with my friend Simon's dog! Khyo is an unexpected visitor (that's short for Khyvruan, 'Misty', in Gaelic), as I'm looking after him while Simon is away.
Connection brings natural partnership. Nobody 'wins' or 'loses' because you tune in to all the underlying needs - yours and other people's (or in this case, other animals').
Out for my first jog this morning with Khyo, there came a point when I decided to turn back. But Khyo had other ideas!
Sensing in to my own needs, I knew I was fine to continue a little further with him. I could resonate with his joy as he explored this sunny, sniff-per-second riverbank.
Two minutes later, though, I knew I'd had enough. With complete ease, he turned around with me and came home. Our warm connection created ease and harmony - and the outcome at each point flowed from that.
Spring highlights 2014
This spring, we are happy to extend our work in medical education to registrars. We have worked with well over 1000 junior doctors to date, as well as consultants from several NHS Trusts in London. So I'm pleased to introduce registrars to our needs-based approach.
We are developing the course for registrars to include an understanding of (as I put it) "inadvertent bullying". And we will also cover the topical question, "how to say sorry and mean it" – which has been featured recently in the national news as an important skill for doctors: see for example in The Independent and in The Telegraph.
As ever, our communication bulletins continue to receive appreciative responses. You can check out our most recent tips here.
Somewhat in contrast, I am also running some one-day workshops in the wonderfully exhilarating practice of Laughter Yoga. I find this immensely beneficial, relaxing and fun – and curiously inspiring, as it alters my whole outlook on life!
We wish you all a happy Spring!
Winter highlights 2013
Noteworthy highlights? Well, very pleased that the new British Focusing Association's newsletter has been fully launched this autumn. As editor, I have a wonderful preview of all the interesting and juicy articles it contains. Check it out (and subscribe) here.
It always surprises me how my work takes me to varied and unexpected places. Last month, a tightrope; this month, the stage – as mistress of ceremonies for a unique composers' competition at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre.
This November, I've invited a colleague to contribute to my monthly tip for the first time. As Peter Kuklis' recent workshops sessions on ‘scary honesty’ have proved so popular, he has taken the theme: 'Is it wise to say how you feel?'
With a busy few months ahead, its hard to imagine that I'll next be sharing my next news with you in the depths of an English winter.
My inordinate satisfaction at walking a whole 4.5 steps on a slack line – a tightrope to the uninitiated – has carried me through September, pretty much walking on air. Thanks to Peter Kinsey, NVC trainer and unofficial slack line consultant, for his kind tuition!
And the image here of walking towards the autumn with great purpose also fits. I finally returned to the first draft of my book, last seen by me in January – and I'm enjoying some more writing time, hoping to get this draft finished by Christmas.
I'm also looking forward to my annual trips to Sheffield – it must be almost ten years since I started delivering the medical education courses on Needs-based Communication to young doctors
Enjoy the Autumn!
Well, apart from the unexpected pleasure of watching three Shakespeare plays in the college gardens here in Cambridge, the usual summer lull in training and coaching work has meant time for other projects. I'm still working to produce a slim volume in the style of my monthly tips.
The highlight, and probably the craziest event of my working year, is the Rainbow Mill Community Camp with Nonviolent Communication 2013. [NVC Events in the UK | NVC UK].
Founded by the mill owner and NVC trainer, Des McNeill-Moss, this year's camp was fully-booked months in advance.
It attracted over eighty people ranging from aged 2 to 70+, as well as many NVC trainers who gave their time and energy for the sheer pleasure of joining in the fun.
Peter, Simon and I brought Focusing and Laughter Yoga into the mix, while others introduced improvisation, group games, music, and even tightrope walking – making it an eclectic whirl of activities, all grounded on NVC principles of empathy and respect for the needs of all.
The most outstanding event this month has been running a retreat and extraordinarily beautiful retreat centre in Scotland: Dhanakosa. We were leading a retreat with the theme, 'Who's Living your Life?' A deep and thought-provoking week – as well as huge fun.
It also made me wonder about communication: 'Who's speaking?' Who chooses to say what, and when? Who's in charge? I use this topic for August's communication tip
Of course, we had the best summer weather in Scotland for ten years, so apart from offering Focusing and Laughter Yoga, alongside the topic of Voice Dialogue, we were swimming in the loch every day – sometimes more than once! If you have never been, I recommend it (on retreat, I mean – but also in a Scottish loch!).
The stunning photographs here are by photographer Amoghavira, recently shortlisted (for a more recent photo) for a prestigious photographic award – good luck Amoghavira!
Alongside work as usual, my highlight of the month was the annual International Focusing conference, held this year in Switzerland. The range of experience, and the depth and breadth of workshops I found stunning (the views also, when the clouds cleared…). My afternoon workshop on the theme of Focusing and inner joy was also very well received. Drawing on my own years of teaching and practising Focusing, we explored how spontaneous playfulness and laughter supports us to develop presence.
I drew, of course, from the wisdom of Laughter Yoga. I continue to be inspired by this practice, as a profound, yet fun, way to tap into hidden reserves of inner joy. I also see it as a gentle way to ease dark or sad places inside us. And as a path to interconnectedness and deeper understanding of ourselves. A place where we can lose ourselves (our Selves, even!) in laughter. I continue now with monthly drop-in classes locally at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre.
As Rumi puts it:
"You are joy.
We are all the different
kinds of laughing."
Rumi, Masnavi i Man'avi,
13th century Sufi mystic
In the last evening's entertainment, I offered to teach all two hundred and twenty Focusing delegates how to speak fluent gibberish, in ten minutes. Given the brave struggles for many people with the English-speaking medium, everybody seemed wholeheartedly in favour of a different – much easier! – medium for international communication.
April –May 2013
This sees us preparing for a big new venture with a client in Mexico, delivering staff training in the area of building trust and connections. I've also been hugely enjoying a new stress reduction approach I've discovered recently: Laughter Yoga. It's as mad as it sounds – and an extraordinary way to tap into the body's natural reserves of health, confidence and happiness. Just Google it for more – it's been around since the 1990s, and is growing fast. I've been attending facilitators' and leaders' courses, and am already enjoying ways to incorporate laughter yoga and Brain Gym into my sessions. I'm running my first group, 'The Laughing Buddhas', at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre in April/May.
Enjoy the spring!
February – March 2013
Here, we are enjoying several new projects, including contributions to various conferences during the year. This month, Peter is speaking at a conference on mediation, in Slovakia, introducing Nonviolent Communication as an approach for mediation in the workplace and home life (http://www.unipo.sk/public/files/GTF/2012/KAE/plaga__t-ANG1.pdf).
A brief note from us all here to wish you a happy festive season – and a fruitful and enjoyable new year!
December is usually quiet a month for trainings (all those Christmas parties!) but good for coaching (a last chance to find inner peace before the new year?). So whether you are off to a celebration, or striding out in new directions, I hope you enjoy the winter months ahead.
My main direction is still writing. I am beginning to wonder whether my book is turning into a trilogy – it is certainly getting longer by the day. I'm finding it very rewarding to write, and I am looking forward to sharing it with you next year. I've had some interest already from the publisher. If you haven't already signed up for my monthly tips, please take a look and see if they would interest you. The bigger my network, the happier my publishers will be!
September always feels like a fresh start, a new working year. So I’m pleased to begin it with a good chunk of my book underway, and some new monthly tips up my sleeve (thanks, dear readers, for your questions!).
We also have some interesting new projects with new clients this autumn:
We are starting up a new round of Conflict Resolution courses (Active Listening, Empathic Communication and Challenging Conversations) for a corporate client.
And we’re pleased to be working once again with young doctors, exploring the trickier aspects of communication they face as health professionals (see: Conflicts & Complaints in Healthcare).
Professor Beard (pictured left), the medical expert who pioneered this course now takes up a new post as Professor of Surgical Education at The Royal College of Surgeons of England. We wish him all the best in his new role!
May – August 2012
I'm taking a semi-sabbatical for the Summer. It's the fulfilment of a dream – I've found some open space in which to write a book on communication and emotional intelligence, based on my approaches: Nonviolent Communication, Focusing and Mindfulness.
It's just a 'semi' sabbatical, as my diary still holds a good number of workshops and courses. In May, there's the highlight of a day's workshop on Focusing with the warm and welcoming folk at London Insight Meditation, where I teach. In June, we continue rolling out our very popular Conflict Resolution courses – in particular, Active Listening, Empathic Communication and Challenging Conversations.
In July, we head off to the magical realms of Sardinia to run our annual Focusing retreat. In August, I'll be back to writing full time.
It's a treat of a Summer ahead. I hope you enjoy yours as much as I imagine enjoying mine.
We're starting the month with a glorious burst of spring. And big changes are also afoot here – especially with our Consultants. Peter Kuklis is heading back to Slovakia, to his home town of Bratislava. And we welcome Ciaran Saunders as an associate expert in Mindfulness meditation.
While continuing with executive coaching sessions, I’m also planning in space for creative work — writing about communication, Focusing and Mindfulness. I didn’t let on when I wrote in January about ‘How to Keep your New Year’s Resolution’, but this is indeed my very own New Year's resolution... better late than never!
This March, we're continuing our rolling programme for one of our main clients, with the Conflict Resolution series.
We also ran the second module of our Focusing Skills Course, which was greatly enjoyed by all. We're completing the course on our Sardinian Focusing retreat this July:
A highlight at the end of the month was our attendance at a conference as members of AMED (Association for Management Education and Development) with IAF (International Association of Facilitators). Great to meet with colleagues so passionate and articulate about the art of Facilitation.
I had hoped to find writing time this month – but coaching and teaching has come in, and it's so nice to say 'Yes!'
It’s nice to start early in the year by running one of our most popular series of courses: Conflict Resolution. The first course in this three-fold theories is Active Listening — again, one of our favourites, because of the alert, listening atmosphere than often builds up over the course of the day.
We are also very busy this month with some delicate facilitation and mediation work. We value our consultancy interventions very highly; not only for the difference they can make to a difficult situation, but because of the potential for learning which they bring for everybody involved. In this case, it has been heart-warming to see the changes that people are prepared to make, and the support from the organisation itself.
The month was then surprisingly full with preparations for a jointly led Focusing weekend, the first in a series which comprises the BFTA Focusing Skills Course.
I have also started explorations into new approach for meditation which I believe will build a new dimension into my teaching of Mindfulness. It has the intriguing title: Unlearning Meditation, and is the work of an American meditation teacher, Jason Siff (see here).
I was delighted to see my usual clients again after the New Year for their coaching sessions. And we were very pleased to offer a cut-price day workshop for a local housing cooperative which was much appreciated.
This month’s significant date was decided many years ago ... we leave you all to enjoy the season’s festivities, and will see you in the new year!
Each year, we deliver our course for medics, Dealing with Conflicts and Complaints in Healthcare ( Dealing with Conflicts and Complaints). Formerly a two-day course, it’s now sadly a single day, but still a good chunk of time to introduce the doctors to the radical differences our approaches can make.
November is always a busy month for trainings. We also offered our three-fold course to an international business based in the UK on Conflict Resolution, which includes three separate courses on:
This month’s communication bulletin is on the theme of negotiation. (If you want to receive our monthly letter, sign up here: Communication Tips). So it’s great to have our new YouTube video finished, along similar lines: Communication in Sales:
The highlight of October’s events for us was the UK’s first-ever Focusing School (www.focusingschool.co.uk), inspired by the annual International Focusing School held each year in America. I’ve been involved in the set-up and organisation of the school over the past year, and come the event, I found myself playing a key role as Master of Ceremonies, along with Jerry Conway (www.jerryconway.co.uk/). Jerry and I also collaborated on one of our afternoon workshops on Sleep Focusing, which proved a lively event — with more than one person nodding off as we practised the technique! Another of my workshops was on the theme of communication from a Focusing angle, especially as it combines with Nonviolent Communication™ (we’ve a brief web page on this theme: Focusing with Nonviolent Communication™ (NVC)). Peter Kuklis led a morning Atunement and a his workshop on Focusing and Meditation proved very popular.
Apart from that, our golden October, with its glorious sunshine, also turned us green, as we had our first experiences of the car club, Zipcar. This gave us the thrills of driving brand new cars without paying for them, and the satisfaction of reducing congestion by car sharing. We also found ourselves on our bikes a lot more (I’ve yet to discover how to arrive at a client’s looking elegant as well as environmentally friendly!).
Our big news this month is that we’re going green. Well, we’re taking another step in that direction, and becoming a little greener. After all, there’s always more to learn, and many new ways to support the environment. One of them that’s attracted our attention is Streetcar (Zipcar)
So we’re selling the car, lovely though it is. And we’ll be discovering how we can contribute in this way to our crowded city and country by joining Streetcar. One Streetcar vehicle can apparently replace the road use of 26 car owners.
As ever, September feels like the start of a new year (all those years in acadamia, I guess). We enjoyed seeing current coaching clients after the summer, and giving a warm welcome to our news ones. Peter offered a day of pro bono training for a small but extraordinary international children’s charity (www.international-childcare-trust.org).
Peter also attended a training for UK trainers run by visiting Nonviolent Communication trainer, Miki Kasthan (www.baynvc.org).
The month ends with a holiday-cum-writing-retreat in Sardinia. I’m hoping to move forward on some long-cherished writing projects, as well as with some new ideas.
Creatively, this month saw the end of some major web-based changes with our wonderful team, Dridhamati and Anna Halfpenny. If you take a browse through the site, you may spot some major changes. And we’re rearing to go with more video projects. We’ve loved working with Laurie (see our August news) — and hope more is to come.
Responding to the riots
Ironically, we were away delivering trainings in Listening and Empathic Communication when the riots broke out. Peter and I watched the tempests break out, on the hotel TV. We saw the presenter, tense and fearful, as he interviewed a mob on the night-time streets of Manchester (me, wishing I could help him engage with the rioters better — though taking my hat off to him for his courage). And we saw the trauma, loss and devastation for those personally and professionally hit. At the same time, we were preparing our materials on the ups and downs of human interaction: how we connect empathically with other people, and what goes on when disconnection takes root — a dichotomy which points to the heart of violence, from the minor hiccups of everyday interraction, to fullscale war. I was moved to write a special edition email/blog contribution, adding my own small voice to the crescendo of responses around me. I wanted to bring it close to home; what we can each of us do, individually, to build human connection and peace. You can find it on our August blog: What can the riots teach me about my communication?
Well, August saw our first venture into the grand world of film-making at Life at Work (that’s Life at Work, L—, Lollywood — get it?). And having begun, the creativity is rolling. First, we met inspired film-maker, Laurie Girling. Currently a gifted amateur, Laurie is building his portfolio in preparation for launching his professional services.
We have been extraordinarily lucky to have had his enthusiasm and expertise taking us through our first steps. We have a whole series of future videos already planed for the autumn, but here’s the result of work our first collaboration: an introduction to the company by me in my garden, just outside my study.
Film and Artwork: Video on Listening
You may have noticed how we’ve chosen artwork images to illustrate our site. So we were very happy when Laurie introduced us to local artist, Mick Abbot, and showed us some of videos of Mick at work. I jumped at the chance to produce some illustrated educational videos, and then astonished and moved at Mick’s response; an immediate, generous and heart-felt response to our values. Just as Laurie had done, Mick instantly grasped the spirit and essence of what we’re offering and teaching. So Mick and Laurie set to work at lightning speed, and created our first educational video on Listening:
Early August 2011
We’re working this month with a team who want more skill in resolving conflicts. Usually teams benefit in various ways from our training. Team-members learn new ways of communicating smoothly and efficiently within their own team; and they practice approaches for dealing with ‘difficult’ people outside it, such as other colleagues, clients and customers: read more >>
A Mindfulness Month!
Attending a teacher’s Mindfulness retreat in North Wales is our way of investing in our own skills. Exploring Mindfulness in more depth, we spend our time updating, learning, networking and sharing approaches with other teachers. An essential way to keep ourselves well-primed and inspired — essential for offering the best to our clients. You can read about how we integrate Mindfulness with our other approaches in the Mindfulness section of our website: read more >>
We’re also building on our work with movement as way to greater awareness and embodiment. So August also sees us heading off to another retreat on Authentic Movement, which is an approach very close to our own training in Wholebody Focusing read more >>
Workshops in Nonviolent Communication and Focusing
The rest of the month sees us surprisingly busy delivering communication and Focusing workshops at an international Buddhist convention.
Back from the Advanced Focusing Retreat in Sardinia
We’re back from our annual retreat in Sardinia — although we live the Good Life there so fully that we usually dub it less a retreat than a rare treat!
We’re feeling refreshed and recharged...
The group has been exploring and deepening emotional intelligence with the insights of Focusing.
Now back, the practices continue to permeate through us, bringing positive change, wider perspectives and greater awareness.
As one participant writes:
...thank you all for a wonderful couple of weeks in Sardinia. I feel I came back to London with precious memories that I will treasure for a long time to come. Memories of beauty and friendship, meaningfulness and fun, refinement and pleasure, sunshine and laughter.
So it’s back to reality for us — or was that real, and this is all a dream?
We were lucky to have several artists with us on the retreat too, drawing and painting in their spare time.
What else this July?
We have some new coaching clients — a Chief Executive from an international, London-based charity, and an NHS Lead in mental health from a local region. We continue to run taster courses locally in Nonviolent Communication and Focusing. We’re also heading off on a Mindfulness course to network and learn from other Mindfulness practitioners. While July is typically supposed to be a quiet month, it’s looking full of riches and interesting new projects. Let’s hope for some more sunshine too, as we enter full summer.
Well, this is it... we’re finally launching our monthly Communication Tips at the start of June! The tips give us a chance to respond to your questions, and to offer support and discussion on issues which are alive and buzzing for our readers. To see what it’s all about, visit our blog.
After a year or so of preparing the new site with all its downloads and online resources, here we are — that’s really me on the content — Elizabeth (Locana), plus long, hard work from our support, technical and design team (thanks Dridhamati/Pierrick, Peter, Viryakumara, Lisa, Eddie and Anna).
So apart from finding out what happens when we send the links to our whole Life at Work community (that’s all our various clients and, well, anyone who’s expressed an interest... our suppliers, friends, distant cousins, long-lost godmothers, you get the picture) — we’ll be following the discussion on the blog, taking feedback on the web, and adding posts about the launch on facebook.
Once we’ve come back down to earth from the sheer joy of completion, it’ll be life at work, as usual.
Advanced Focusing Retreat in Sardinia
It’s our annual visit to exquisite La Maddalena, where Roger hosts, cooks and serves us five-star cuisine, while we delve deeply into the extraordinary riches of Focusing practice.
Last year, we ended up re-defining our ‘retreat’, simply as a ‘treat’. Apart from our retreat and course times (morning, late afternoon and evening), everything was interspersed with play. We sank into a rhythm of long, lazy mealtimes, made daily trips down the winding footpaths to the private beach, lounged in Roger’s secret gardens, jogged, dozed, chatted — just soaked ourselves in sunshine, peace and health. Some artistic folk took out chalks, charcoals and paints to capture what sprang up in nature, or before their inner eyes. Others read, wrote, practised yoga or danced as the mood took them. For ten days, the flowering mediterranean wove its spells, with the scent of crushed herbs underfoot, the gentle osmosis of sea-breezes, and a breath-taking seascape complete with islets, white horses, far-off sailboats and the distant blue mountains of Corsica across the watery main.
Back in the UK, the end of the month sees us busy, helping build teams in a NHS Mental Health Trust. We’ll be combining different elements of our team skills to help them take stock:
These teams have asked to focus on what they’ve achieved so far, to learn how to express that in a genuine way and so to build on good practice and consolidate strengths — before discussing how and where they go next in order to best support their patients and deliver their service within current constraints.
This month, we’re delighted to launch our gleaming new website — along with a whole raft of new courses and interactive opportunities:
We give detailed information about how we work, that is, our different approaches. Each approach by itself offers a rich means for learning more about human interaction. Together they create a powerful process for human change. Some of our consultants are rare (possibly unique) in specialising in all three approaches:
Our new interactive blog allows us to respond to people’s real and pertinent questions as they put their learning into practice — and for you to add your own questions and thoughts.
Too often following our consultancy, a course or sessons of coaching, people head off into busy lives, and the insights and positive changes are gradually dimmed through the usual hectic and habitual pressures. We want the blog to help keep those insights and changes alive.
Why free online learning resources?
All our courses delegates are given a tailor-made handbook full of exercises and details of our models. But we’d like everyone to have access to them. Our online learning resources offer a selection of our materials. This is us at our most creative edge as these materials are continually changing, evolving and growing. We hope you enjoy absorbing and learning the processes of human interaction they all describe in different ways.
Bi-monthly Communication Tips by email
A number of new courses and coaching topics
We’ll say more about these next month. See you then!