mindset

How I increased my personal resilience without looking

So one weekend last September I volunteered in the Devonshire countryside far, far away from everyday life in order to disconnect. I needed to make big changes in my mindset, attitude and life and had made the very conscious decision that it was time for something completely different.

A part of me suspected that in order to sufficiently disconnect with my world that the further away I got, the better and with the whole world at my feet I did wonder whether 48 hours on a farm in the West Country, a mere 80 miles away, would do the trick.

Wifi and phone signals were non existent, anxiety ensued at the prospect of no connection for 2 days -  what if? what if? what if? but it was what I had wanted and so I waited for the disconnect to begin.

Two days spent in manual labour either helping to prepare food for my cohorts or digging and planting the garden as others had done before me so that present and future visitors could eat. It seemed that Autumn could wait as we basked in brilliant sunshine and clear skies, surrounded by more shades of green than I knew existed, it was England at its very best.

The one thing about travel that I hadn’t considered is that you take your brain with you. As I marvelled at the views, weeded a 20 metre stretch of leeks, surprised a family of mice, washed up after 50 lunches, became mesmerised by the night sky, slept in a yurt, kept the stove lit and even negotiated compost toilets, so my brain did what it always does. It whirred and whizzed and ruminated and churned and at times even tortured me but never once did it let me disconnect.

As the train pulled out of Exeter station on the Sunday evening, a physical fatigue, sense of wellbeing and deep satisfaction of a job well done swept though me but my brain continued on it’s hell ride, covering old ground, relentless, refusing to stop.

And on the Monday I surprised myself, that day, in the middle of the brain chatter I contacted the council to put myself on the allotment waiting list. I didn’t know where the idea had come from, I wouldn’t know what to do with an allotment if I got one but today I’m going to have to find out because today, after a 6 month wait, I got an allotment.

And as I stood this afternoon inspecting plot 6B, my brain still whirring, I felt something. It appears that my search for disconnection had been misguided, I’d found something far more powerful, I felt a hum. A hum of excitement, of potential, of muddy boots, of childhood mud pies, of shoots bursting through soil, of birdsong, a hum of inner joy. All the time I had been longing to disconnect when the one thing that I had stumbled upon was a reconnect. A reconnection to what powers my hum, the hum where I happily lose track of time, get lost in my world, the hum that fuels and sustains me, that allows me to be resilient in this crazy world where wifi has become a basic human need.

So I ask you what’s your hum? How do you connect to your sustainable fuel and ensure your resilience? What does it take for you to be you on a good day, everyday?

How asking the right questions always gets you to the right answers.

‘If you want to live a shallow and unchallenged life then walk back through those doors but I’m getting on the plane’

So I’d signed up to a workshop in Central America, although between you and me when I was first invited to attend, I hadn’t realised it was on the other side of the Atlantic having momentarily imagined that Costa Rica was one of the Canary Islands….

If I’m honest, I didn’t know that it was a workshop either, I thought that we were going on holiday with a bunch of like minded people that my colleague had met whilst working in the States.

I say colleague but she had actually been my coach for two years although we had recently mutually ended our professional relationship. My life had changed and improved immensely during that period, a combination of the questions she had asked me together with my determination to find answers however painful. I trusted her.

Our communication over the preparation of the trip was sketchy owing to busy lives, time zones and unanswered mail and no doubt, denial on my part.

On meeting up with the rest of the participants at the airport in San Jose, I finally learned the detail of what I had agreed to. An intensive experience, 7 days camping in the heart of the rainforest with a group of American strangers to learn and accept the difference and value of masculine and feminine behaviours with a facilitator who organised arranged marriages.

And so it was that I found myself standing on the runway trying to accept the bare truth of what boarding that 6 seater plane actually meant. Voicing my fears to my ex-coach and expecting a mini coaching session in order to reassure myself, she replied with those uncompromising words that have remained with me for over 10 years. I can still picture the doors but I got on the plane.

For a woman who believes that, ‘If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it’, it really, really didn’t feel right.In fact thinking about it, my adrenals would have been working flat out generating my fight or flight response so I would have been incapable of feeling anything other than fear in that moment. But fear isn’t only about fight or flight, fear can be about standing on a stage and speaking anyway, risking rejection but asking anyway, witnessing an injustice and acting, that day it was about feeling the terror but some part of me knowing that I had to get on the plane

My fears were proved right, it was intense. There were some truly hideous moments and there was no escape but as the week passed so the learnings and gifts unfolded.To live in a rainforest even for just a week is a deeply magical experience, the lessons I learned have stayed with me and shaped my life in truly wonderful ways and yes, I escaped an arranged marriage and yes, after 7 days I was very happy to get back on that plane to get out of there.

So my coach was right to invite me along and I was right to trust her, the questions that she had asked me, oh so gently over the previous two years meant that I found my own answers. I learned to trust myself to always know what’s best for me in a way that no other person will ever be able to, I learned to trust my gut feeling, I learned how to find my True North. The more you trust, the easier it becomes, it’s how I got onto that plane when my brain was screaming, ‘Run’.

So today I’m never far away from someone who’s going to ask me good questions then remain silent and although I have never repeated the extreme rainforest experience I do know I have never since lived a shallow or unchallenged life.