Some of you will have heard me talk about my enforced sabbatical at Samye Ling Buddhist monastery in the Spring of 2016. Ceremoniously 'dumped' there by my eldest daughter, I was left there for a week and told to 'sort my bloody self out'.
After a whole life of cramming so much in to each day that people constantly said to me "I don't know how you do it" and working and mixing with people who replied 'Busy' when asked how they were; a week of no internet, no responsibilities, no work and no family to sort should have been a relief. But the reality was far from a relief, in fact it was scary as hell.
I had a whole week of doing nothing - and in that nothingness I started to understand about wholeness.
In the 20 months since, I haven't shaved all my hair off and donned Burgandy robes, or given up work and moved into a treehouse, but...... I have consciously and deliberately changed the way I work and the things I prioritise.
People who have known me for years remark that I look younger, happier, calmer, which is lovely, but what is truly important to me, is that the anxious knot that lived at the top of my stomach as far back as I can remember, has dissolved almost to nothing and I believe that soon, it will be gone all together. I can recognise immediately, the things that feed the knot and I know how to instantly diffuse them.
Many of the busy people I coach and mentor, men and women, are so used to living with this knot of anxiety, that they don't even realise it's not normal. They like the 'buzz' of constantly being 'on', being up against a deadline, fitting 30 hours into a 24 hour day, looking at the TV, mobile, internet all at the same time; but it's an addiction and the cortisol flowing through your body when you live like this, damages every cell and leads to chronic illness.
I had to stop and be on my own for a week to realise that life does not become fuller the more you pack in, it becomes fuller when you pause and realise that wealth is not about the money you earn but what you would have left if all the money was gone.
On 22.4,18, at the behest of many of my clients, I am hosting the first Role 5 day retreat for overworked and overwhelmed women. It's called STOP, because so many women have said to me during 2017, I just want to get off this treadmill and stop for a while.
The retreat is at Carsaig House on the Isle of Mull (see the picture) and there's nothing there but sea, hills, space and time. It's a guided retreat for 14 women, encompassing Leadership Embodiment level one, which is a beautiful combination of Aikido and Mindfulness, plus Heartmath resilience coaching, drama based workshops around purpose and communication and optional coastal or hill-walking. The house is luxurious and the cottages are cozy.
So, if any of you busy women want the best Christmas present you could ever dream of, ask Santa for a week of discovery and be prepared to discover someone you might have lost.
For full details and to book click the link below
That's the question we asked 30 girls today at Blackpool and the Fylde College at the end of our Oysters and Pearls event and do you know what they said?
"I will believe in myself."
"I will try to be confident."
"I will take every opportunity given to me."
"I will change my mindset to positive."
Thanks to my fabulous team and to 30 fabulous Lancashire women who shared their time and their wisdom, we had a day filled with inspiration, fun and learning.
The girls not only learned about the ins and outs of many careers, but also about listening, being focussed, being present, being daring and being their own 'loving boot'.
The messages from our speakers. Alison Malcolm and Katy Mason were about stepping outside your comfort zone, choosing great supporters and finding your purpose, which sometimes takes many years.
Heather Hardy CEO of Lancashire Charity Horseheard, offered 12 free places for the girls to work with horses on a Self Awareness and Life skills course, an incredible opportunity for any teenager wanting to develop their confidence and resilience and all the places were snapped up within 5 minutes.
Actress Amy Strange inspired everyone with her own journey into acting and exercises involving lemons, balloons containing dreams and a human orchestra. It really was a day with a difference that truly made a difference.
Thank you to the college for a lovely lunch and to North and West Lancashire Chamber of Commerce for helping us promote the day.
And it doesn't end there....... all of our wonderful ladies have offered to mentor a student going forwards, which will truly change lives.
So WOW and a massive thanks to everyone who helped me to promote the event, we will be delivering more of them in the Spring at colleges across Lancashire so watch this space!
Our next Oysters and Pearls in on the 12th March at Nelson and Colne college full details below
There's a lot of history at Colne Town Hall and yesterday Role, with the help of Katy Mason of Another Way, made a little more.
Colne Town Hall stands at the top of Albert Road and like many other Victorian buildings in Colne, is symbolic of the strength and pride found in many Northern Mill towns.
Built in 1894 by Alfred Waterhouse, who also gave us the magnificent Manchester Town Hall, the building has seen its chambers filled with and led by many men over the years. In silent testament to this, their portraits adorn the walls of the staircase and also the Council Chambers.
As part of the Pendle Business week, Role was asked to deliver a day of support and inspiration for women in business and the venue was Colne Town Hall. As I set up for the day, in the Council Chambers, I couldn't help but wonder what all those serious looking men, in their council robes, would have made of Role and the work we do every day to advance women into leadership roles in business and management and to mentor future generations of women.
The start of our Women on the Up day is a presentation which charts the progress of women in the economy. Its a timeline of women's advancements over the past 150 years and indeed includes reference to the many female northern mill workers who supported the women's suffrage movement. I also talk about my own career, starting in the 1970s building a business in Greenfield Mill, Colne and ultimately leading me to the Chambers of Westminster, presenting to the Women and Equalities committee and representing the British Chambers of Commerce as their Ambassador for Women's Enterprise.
As our 16 delegates arrived, there were many comments from them about embarking on this day of vision and self belief in a room where there were no portraits at all of women! However, our message was so powerful and our delegates so eager to succeed in their businesses and careers, that the room was soon filled to the brim with enthusiasm, as they shared their aspirations and goals.
We had a truly motivational day, under the watchful guise of our serious male friends and we all agreed that the portraits, which have been privy to many great plans and decisions made about Colne and its people over the years, had been truly privileged to witness the vision and commitment of our 16 delegates, as they set down their plans to grow their businesses and careers and in doing so, advance women in the economy even further, in 2018.
On my walk today
Old cottages with colour spilling over walls
Blackberries ripening –
Sodden fields where doe-eyed cows
study me as they chew.
On a thousand year old track
under a million year old hill.
On tarmac, pebble, mud and grass
and cross puddles on stones
and streams on wooden bridges.
Sunlight glinting on green and speckled leaves
and try to catch one as it falls.
a tractor idling
My hot coffee
and later, a cold ice-cream.
My feet are damp, my heart is warm and dry,
I am in awe of these ordinary things
just footsteps from my door
which are in truth, incredible.
If you listen to Simon Mayo on Radio 2, you will recognise the 3 word challenge. You have to sum up your day in 3 words.
I can sum up my weekend as ‘Not as expected.’
I’d set off to Samye Ling monastery for two days of writing and walking, followed by a 2 day Leadership programme (or so I thought) entitled Resilient Leadership.
As a licenced Heartmath practitioner and experienced business mentor, I regularly fuse together Heartmath practices (which enable busy and often stressed people to top up their inner battery i.e resilience) with Leadership methods; so this course sounded perfect.
After a wonderful bracing Thursday, walking in the breezy sunshine and a day writing my book on Friday as the rain fell on the peaceful gardens of the monastery, I was ready and refreshed and eager to learn.
On Friday evening we met our course leader, Amanda Ridings and our 14 co-learners and we all became intrigued. Our course was not what we had been expecting. We were going to switch off our minds totally and use our bodies’ energies to understand presence and empowerment and we weren’t going to talk at all as we learned the techniques.
Now those of you who know me, are probably wondering why I didn’t check out there and then and head home down the M6 – I can talk for England! But over the past 18 months, I have learned much about the value of silence and stillness, so I knew the weekend would be good for me.
Our mind has developed over our lifetime and responds to situations and information by rote. It has learned responses and reactions and resorts to habits, which are deeply embedded in our consciousness. Amanda referred to our mind as our ‘personality’. Our ‘self’ on the other hand is the essence of who we are.
The practices and techniques, which were beautifully and gently delivered by Amanda, are based on the principles of Aikido and Mindfulness and bring awareness of the body’s reaction to stress and pressure. They enable individuals to connect with ‘self’ and move towards goals or purpose. The founder of the course, Wendy Palmer has taught many leaders throughout the world, using her techniques, which she developed in the 1960’s.
By Saturday evening we were exhausted and Sunday morning we all looked dazed. To ‘switch off’ your mind and listen to your body and keep centred and keep relaxed and breathe correctly is tiring stuff. But even scratching the surface of this practice was amazing.
When you are faced with something which is not what you thought it would be and you feel anxious or wary, give it a go. It might just be so much better than you originally thought it was going to be.
I was so pleased that the weekend was not just another Leadership course. Instead, it was another fascinating step on my journey to liberate the real Wendy. The one who writes poetry, the one who walks on the hilltops, as well as the one who uses her skills to help businesses grow and the people in them to flourish.
When you think about it, great leaders are the ones who, not only connect with their followers, but truly connect with their own self and purpose, so the course was 100% about Leadership.
If you’d like to find out more about Amanda Ridings and her amazing courses follow this link https://www.originate.co.uk/about-originate/
If you’d like to talk to me about your business, your busy life or indeed who you really are, you know where I am.
If you enjoy my blogs, you can read more of my work in my book available here www.amazon.co.uk/Words-Walks-Wisdom-Wendy-Bowers/dp/1671172353