Are you a follower or a leader? (August 2015)

 

When we walk our life path we never walk alone, there is always someone following or leading us. You can consider him your travelling companion or your worst nightmare. In that case you make a choice either to stay with him; or to turn a blind eye to him.

Last year I started to study coaching and durging one of my coaching sessions, my client was experiencing severe emotional trauma causing her intense feelings of schock,confusion and anxiety. As a coach I had a choice either to stay and hold the space for her or to walk her away. I couldn’t stand the idea of both of us sitting in a dark tunnel with no clear vision. So, I steered the conversation into a lighter place. At that time I was oblivious to the amount of light we both would accumulate, only if we had stayed longer in the dark tunnel. Having a discussion about other possibilities and choices with my mentor was one of the moments that I bookmarked for the rest of my life. She shot two questions.
First one: What would happen if you stayed in the present moment and held the space for your client, to dive deeply and consciously together with your client’s full consent?
Second: what was triggered in you when she was heading towards the dark tunnel?
To my dismay, I couldn’t answer to the first question because I simply didn’t know, but I was able to provide a full answer to the second question “My wellbeing was at stake, and I was in fact rescuing myself.”

By now, you must be wondering about the mysterious person that could follow or lead us. For this or that particular matter I have one word to utter “Emotions”. The distinction here is neither to categorize positive emotions as our journey companions nor to label negative emotions as our nightmares.

Let me invite you to join me in a short visualizing exeriscape to illustrate my point. Sit comfortably in your chair, take a deep breath and ground yourself, feel the weight of your feet on the ground. Now slowly close your eyes and visualize the person who walks your life path inseparably, and who can never be eluded. The only person I can vision right now is my shadow, which I would suggest is an excellent way to envision emotions.

Now, we could all glance at the same shadow through different lenses. Sometimes our Shadow is too big and tall which could be perceived as an indication for self- expansion and growth, voicing positivity such as; “yes, I can do it”, “I can reach out high”. Others could observe it as a monster holding them back, making them procrastinate and preventing them from taking the leap to change their lives or even worse jailing them in their current comfort cell.

Shadows are not always big and tall. Sometimes they shrink, get smaller and tinier. So how do we perceive them?
From my own lens, I look at them as a way to suppress negative emotions because we don’t want to, or even know how to deal with them?. Another interpretation would that we should turn a blind eye towards our own needs, neglecting our share of wellbeing, sacrificing what is truly meaningful and important to us for the sake of people whom we love and care for.

It is true that when we lack self- awareness, emotions can easily drive and steer our actions. In that sense we don’t act, we only react. We don’t lead, we only follow.
Your emotional state is part of your physical and mental wellbeing. There is no white or black emotions, we are not even close to a choice of keeping some and withdrawing the rest for as long as we wish. In fact, the more you sit with them, trace all the signs they signal, the more you’re able to decode the signs and read the messages crystal clear. For instance, start with monitoring your body; check where you feel it tenses, stiffens. Feel your heart beats and whether or not they are racing up or slowing down. Your heart state should be on the top of your check-in list. Does it feel cold and empty or warm and fully occupied? Pay attention to the screaming and whispering voices in your head, what is the nature of these internal conversations, how does it shape you? And how do others perceive you?. Raising your self- awarness, your self- knowledge is such a precious tool that will assist you to move from a reactive mode to a more active and effective place. In other words, be your own good doctor and investigate the symptoms before you prescribe the antidote.

When you manage to do that, and only then, you will come to a conclusion that darkness is the legitimate father of lightness, fear is your way to practice courage, failure is your first step to success, sadness is your key to happiness, and silence takes you to the core of wisdom.

When we walk our life path we never walk alone, there is always someone following or leading us. In your own life story are you a follower or a leader?

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Temporary Blindness (November 2014)

That’s impossible! I can’t do it. I just can’t.

How many times have you uttered those words and declined or turned down opportunities in your life? How many times have those words stormed into your mind and limited the possibilities in your personal and professional life? If I may dare ask you, what is the meaning of impossible?

Three years ago I left Egypt and moved to the UK with my precious family. My first year was the hardest one, my biggest concern was how we would adapt in a western culture that hold such different beliefs and values? The first few months were my honeymoon: I was over the moon. Then the curve started to drop and I fell into depression and loneliness. At this point, I realized how transitioning from east to west was impacting me negatively: I was missing my friends, colleagues and longed to make new Arabic friendships. My husband was wrapped up in his new job and my children quickly and happily settled in to their new schools. Suddenly, I found myself with a lot of spare time on my hands with no clear idea of where to go or what to do next. For a while I felt a little lost. However, gradually I began to realize that this time I’d been given a blessing, it would be a priceless opprtunity to redraw and design my new life.

My Islamic identity was visible to everyone as I wore the Hijab. The little voices in my head began to make up many stories about how others perceived me. I started to pay attention to those tiny but yet powerful voices, asking myself “What options and choices do I have?” My first little voice was so loud and it begged me to stay safe in my comfort zone, my bubble. However, my second voice whispered and encouraged me to put on my boldness gown and to become involved in my new community.
I decided to walk into the unknown…

When we first enter a dark room, we are blinded by its darkness, but after spending sometime there, our eyes begin to adjust and we can observe what was invisible before.

I took English lessons to break down barriers, made new friends from all over the world, volunteered at my kids’ school, attended history lectures, joined both international and Arabic book clubs as well as creative writing groups. I even went to the edge by inviting my body to practice new sports such as rock climbing and ice skating. Those were all areas that challenged my assumptions, pushed me out of my comfort zone and enabled me to develop an enormous capacity for compassion and empathy which changed my way of being. I learned to look at mistakes as an opportunity for personal development and self-growth and I turned off the little voice of guilt and regret. So, the voice of wisdom could rise and shine on my horizon.
Now, it was time to design my future. My driving passion was to understand intercultural communication so I would be able to support others who were making the same journey. Helping them to adapt and integrate into a new country, a new business environment and a different culture.

Therefore, my first step was studying Ontological coaching. Ontology is the study of being; what it means to be human. I work with my clients on the three main domains; The Linguistic-Self (what is said and what is not said), The Emotional-Self (how our emotions and feelings steer our actions), and The Somatic-Self (how we show up in the world and how others perceive us). Producing an ontogical shift by allowing them to acknowledge the narrowness and limitation of the self and expand that self beyond its boundaries, beyond its own horizon of possibilities.

So, what’s next? My dream list is far too long to fit in to a few lines. All I can say is that I’ve started drawing my route map to meet up with my dreams.

Now, back to our main question, what is the meaning of impossible? Can it be interpreted as a Temporary Blindness?

Seasoning your life (July 2014)

Spring, summer, autumn and winter are the four seasons of the year. Each one has it’s own nature, characterized by particular conditions of weather, flowers, food, clothes and colours. Each season has an impact on our mood to a certain degree. The sad news is that we can’t enjoy them all at the same time. They only show up for a few months.

Infancy/childhood, adolescence, adulthood and aging are the four seasons of life. Each one has its own flavour, characterized by age, new skills, abilities, experiences, emotions and needs. They only show up for a number of years.
We start our life with the infancy and childhood season then as we grow up we move forward exploring new seasons.
I can easily watch the seasons of my life when I open my treasure box, my photo album. It is in cream colour engraved with golden and silver flowers. The profile picture is for my wedding day. A new chapter in my life with new responsibilities that I now share with my partner. Sometimes, I remember special songs that bring certain pictures alive and capture my mood as it was at the time.
This is my first picture holding my mom’s hand learning how to walk. Here, I’m waving good-bye to my parents on my first day to school wearing red shirt and blue skirt, feeling worried and confused just about to cry. Oh, look another photo with my younger brother, he was nine with a broken arm. My mom was serving him lunch, pasta is his favourite plate. And in that one I was a grumpy fifteen year old girl. Unfortunately  or maybe fortunately I can’t remember what was upsetting me. Hmmm! What was that all about? All I can remember now how stubborn I was, determined to make my own decisions without accepting any advice or help. Another moment was captured three years ago. I was attending a workshop with my colleagues to discuss the difficulties we had faced in our last project. Here we were, setting new strategies and declaring new commitments and I’ve a big smile on my face. Finally, here is the last photo of my beloved grandfather. I am holding his arm as we stroll in the garden. He was laughing on my jokes.

So many special moments all kept in one album. Did you miss any season? Have you ever thought of having the four seasons at the same time? Can that be possible?

– Can I act as a young child and start to learn new skills for the first time of my life, without feeling shy or vulnerable, able to ask for help and trust others?
– Can I act as an adolescent, be stubborn, think about my needs and decide the best for my well-being, not allowing others to intervene in my life?
– Can I act as an adult, take on new responsibilities, make promises that change my life and be able to steer in the right direction, acting effectively in my community, be open to listen and respect different perspectives?
-Can I act as an old man, so that when I’m feeling vulnerable I can lean on others, giving them the chance to show me their love and support?
If I have the right to answer I would say “absolutely  yes” I can season my life.
We tend to focus about the notion of being independent and hiding our feelings to feel stronger. But we forget to observe and acknowledge people in our life. What role they would like to play? How big or small they would like to appear in our photo album?
Think about it for a few minutes. We all face challenges and difficulties in our personal and professional life, that bring one of the four seasons to the front page. The only thing we don’t accept is to observe which season we need to call? To get the right outcomes!!!

Dark Chocolate (May 2014)

Do you love dark chocolate? How do you feel when the sweet taste melts in your mouth? When you finish your last piece and start licking your lips.
Do you know what upset me the most? When human beings are seen as coloured objects, when I try to fill in Ethnicity form. I utterly get puzzled and lost, asking myself which box I need to tick? White, black, white African or mix of white and black African. My hands hesitate until my eyes spot the word Others. I tick the box as I’m some kind of alien.
I don’t like to use the words black or white. I believe that Adam is the father of all mankind. All of us descended from the same father. So, who should be blamed? What’s wrong to have a lighter or darker skin?
I also learned from my Islamic background that the best companions of our Prophet Mohammed had dark skin. Their gallantry, pride and greatness obliged me to honour and be grateful for what they did. I admire them so much that I become a sharp- eyed observer who can penetrat the skin layer and reach humans’ core.
Scientifically skin is the thin layer of tissue forming the natural outer covering of the body of a person or animal. It protects everything inside your body. We tend to cover our skin with layers of clothes in different colour and styles; red shirt, blue dress, white coat or yellow scarf, that reflect our mood, identity/ culture or sometimes our religious.
So, let me just pause and aske you. Do we have the right to discriminate between humans because they wear black or white shirt? Do we have the right to discriminate between humans because they have white or black hair?
Does it really matter what colour is the chocolate?

The summit (May 2014)

Fame, success and fortune. How powerful those words are! A far away dream, that kept me working hard day and night to achieve. A mountain peak that I had to climb all the way up to claim them.
At first and before I started my journey. I decided to get rid of my weakness points, to deprive myself from anything that might keep me behind. I reached my pocket and I got out a transparent balloon. I took a deep breath and started to blow it up with happiness, contentment, self- satisfaction and tranquility, then I let it go away into the sky.
Life is too hard. We need to make sacrifices, choices that will affect our whole life. Don’t feel sorry for me, I’ll be fine and soon I’ll be reunited with my balloon. Only when I taste the sweetness of success.
Now, it’s time to pack my things and start climbing. Through my journey I inhaled different kinds of emotions; appreciation, gratitude, admiration and honoring towards those who stood for me, supported me, offered unconditional help and advice. I was wondering how those feelings landed on them?. I also felt afraid and sad. Afraid of failure and sad of… I don’t exactly remember why I was feeling sad, it might be because I was missing my transparent balloon. I do admit now that depriving myself of a certain kind of emotions wasn’t my best action. At that time I believed they weren’t the right fuel. I mean how could I feel happy and satisfied if I hadn’t achieved my goals yet?
Anyway let’s get back to my journey. I forgot to introduce you to my true and faithful travel companion Mr. Ambitious. He was there for me all the way, motivating me, keeping me busy with my future plans.
Finally I made it. Here I’m standing at the top of the mountain acknowledging people’s appreciations, admiration & honouring. What a great feelings to possess. Yes, my dreams came true, from now and on everything should be fine.
Now, it’s time to catch my transparent balloon, to be reunited with my long lost emotions. I thought that would be easy but it wasn’t. I didn’t know how to bring them back to my life? How to feel happy, contentment or satisfied anymore. Those feelings became strangers to me. I’m also missing the kindness of human being, offering help, support and above all when they indulge me with unconditional love.
I’m sick of my life. I want to step outside. I don’t feel home is home any more. I’m struggling with two different personalities. I wish I could merge them into one person. It’s impossible to feel big and small at the same time, to help others and let others … No I can’t do it, there is no way to kneel in front of my fans and allow them to see how week I’m, how fragile I’m and how desperate I feel. That won’t do any good, on the contrary they’ll turn their backs on me and start looking for another legend. Another hero who could wear the mask of perfection for a longer time.
Well, If I can’t change my life, certainly I can put an end to my suffering. Yes, that’s it. Resignation is the right solution. I’ll still be a legend and they will always remember me as a hero.
Very well, I guess it’s time to say good bye to all of you and thanks for listening. I really enjoyed talking to you. I’m closing my eyes now opening my arms and ready to jump. Wait a minute, something is wrong, my feet are sinking in the ground. Is that how we feel in life after death? I’m scared to open my eyes, my heartbeats are getting louder and faster. Ok, here we go I can see a fade shadow on the ground getting bigger and bigger. Trying to climb  up to me. I kneeled to help him and to my surprise I saw a familiar face. Do you remember him? He is my old friend Ambitious.
“What are you doing here?” I managed to utter those words out of my astonishment.
“I’m here to help you, my old friend” he replied with a very calm and deep voice.
“But I don’t need your help anymore. I’m famous, rich and I’ve fans all around the world. I’m a successful person, there is nothing more I wish to do.” I looked around me and I added “There is no higher place to go for, Mission Completed.”
He  still held my hands, he squeezed them more and looked directly into my eyes and said “on the contrarily, you need me more than ever and this is only the beginning. You don’t need to look up for me, you can look down and sense me in a different ways.”
I let go of his hands and kneeled in prostration position, I felt the sand , smelled the earth and listened to the wind whispering to the earth. I stretched my neck to take a look all the way down. I was surprised and shamed. Surprised because I have seen hundreds, thousands, millions of people climbing the mountain doing the same journey I did before, and shamed for not observing them before. They are all different. Everyone is looking to my eyes and bringing up significant emotions. Happiness, hope, fear, depression,excitement ,suspicious and trust. Oh, that’s a long list. My tears were dripped on the ground watering the soil, bringing new seeds to life. I felt life and life felt me.
I heard the deep calm voice from behind. “I’m offering you the key to a new life, a place where no one is alone, a place where you can be there for others and they can be there for you, a place where exposing yourself won’t make you feel smaller or embarrassed and where shame is not the right word to use. No matter how you feel, how you think. It’s not about good or bad, true or false any more. It’s how much you observe, The more you observe the rich you’ll be. The more understanding you’ll become.” He paused for a seconds, grabbed my hands and said, “Those people need you as much as you need them.”
I wiped my tears and took a deep breath. I felt so brave and confident to speak a new language and I said in a loud clear voice, “Together we can live a new life. We can learn from our past, we can change our present and we can create a bright future.”
I took a coin out of my pocket, I smiled looking to its two sides. Now, that I found my other half, I would never let it go till death do us apart.

A bird in a cage (March 2014)

Run as fast as you can, run as far as you want, run as long as you wish. Feel the lightness in your body, how determined and energetic you are.
Is that all? No of course not. This is the best way to set yourself free from any boundaries.
Now stop. Take a deep breath and close your eyes. Do you know where are you? At the forest trying to find your own way amid those old wooden creatures, or at the desert printing your footsteps on the golden sand, holding your water flask to quench your thirst, but still can’t get rid of the salty taste on your lips. Maybe you are at the beach, the waves chasing each other, tickling your foot and up in the sky, the sun is dressed in red ready to dive in the wavy blue sea.
Now open your eyes. It’s a bit darker and smelly.Oh my goodness, Look at yourself, you are restrained in leg -irons and handcuffed. You can’t get up, you can’t walk and definitely you can’t run anymore. This can’t be true to lose your freedom because of your skin colour. To be discriminated for something you have no hand in. You didn’t decide neither the place nor the time of your birth. You didn’t choose your gender or how you look. Who gives them the right to treat you differently, to prejudge you before you speak, to be blind to see your rights and deaf to hear your screams. Is this the end to be a bird in a cage? Week and helpless!
Listen to me. You can’t accept that. You need to fight back. They’re the criminals not you. They are the ones who should be behind the bars not you. You need to win your freedom,unlock the cage and fly.
Fly as fast as you can, fly as far as you want, fly as long as you wish.
The sky is the limit, do you hear me the sky is the limit.

Lying (written on March 2014)

What’s your favorite colour? Yellow, red, white or maybe black.

Have you ever thought of colouring your own words ? Don’t you know that you can paint a picture out of your speech?

No, we’re not talking about lip sticks … still confused. . Ok, hold your paint brush and get ready for work. Take a deep breath and close your eyes.

Now, think about the traffic light. When you say something good or helpful your words will be green, something bad or disappointing your words will be red and if you were hesitating, not sure what to say you’ll definitely dip your paint brush into that yellow colour.

So, what about white and black colours? What kind of words can we use with those?

I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not about being honest or not. It’s all about telling a white or a black lie. Can you believe that, the white colour matching  the word lying. Actually, we tend to label white lies using more sophisticated words like  complimentary, sensitive, sympathetic or persuasive.

I mean I can understand that deceiving and lying are from the same species, but it can be easily twisted to a beautiful word like persuading.

That’s what I found out on my first days as a salesman. It was like watching a tennis game. My colleagues stroked the conversation and aimed it in a clever way that the client couldn’t hit back. My eyes were going back and forth, I didn’t know how could they won every single time? So, I sat in my cubicle and started to ask myself. Why are they doing that? What motive…? Of course, that’s it, the word motivation is the suspect and relationship is the victim. Motivation can construct or destruct relationships on both professional and personal level.

Now, it’s my turn to ask myself, what is my motivation? what do I need to become a successful salesman? What image I wish to reflect?.

I don’t have all the answers right now, but I know what type of relationship I want with my clients, a long term contract based on my satisfaction, confidence and trust with the product I’m going to introduce and the company itself.

I feel much better now. Look at my picture. I’m nearly done. It’s pretty, yes. I’ve used black and white colour. I’m not an angel. I’m a human being. I do make mistakes, learn from mistakes and that can change my life.

It’s almost time to go now. I’d better get ready for my new job interview. I’ll start a new picture when I come back. I hope yours looks nice and colourful. Wish me luck, bye.

The danger of the 21st century.(written on February 2014)

Have you ever missed your childhood? What was it like? Lots of fun, going out with your family,exploring the surrounding and meeting with neighbours. Fighting with your brothers, arguing with your parents. Those little details are the spices you add to your food, that gives each childhood its own taste.
What about the new generation? Do they also have different childhood flavours or is it now tasteless? The digital revolution in the 21st century introduced the first generation of smart phones, i pads and other devices. Living with computers and information technology has become an integral aspects of our lives. It has a great impact on today’s children.
Back the parents tended to spend more time with their kids, having fun together and above all having meaningful conversations. The type of talk and advice that you don’t pay attention to all the time. But it’s always there hiding at the very dark room in your mind. Waiting for your signal. When you feel trapped and need honest advice, it’ll show up like heroes coming for your rescue.
Listening and talking are essential tools for learning, building characters and creating relationships. In other words there used to be a good family quality time.
Now, it seems children in particular are doing well on their own. They can spend the whole day playing on an i-pad, play station, x-box.. etc. they don’t even need your help to set a playing date, they just do it on-line. Playing and chatting with others whether they know or not. Isn’t that scary? Unfortunately some parents get the wrong idea. They think kids benefit more, they encourage them to accesses tablets computer for several hours a day.Children as young as four are becoming so addicted to smartphones and i pads. It’s like having a free babysitter at home. Allow parents to feel less guilty when they made the choice to be absent, investing more time at work or with their friends. In other words no more good family quality time.
Now, it’s time to ask yourself a crucial question, is it too late to start a new chapter of your life? Is it too late to mend your mistakes?
No, it’s never too late to have a second chance and you don’t need a time machine to erase your mistakes. Your willingness to admit them can be a mend-tools to fix and improve your life. That,in no way, means that it’s only your responsibility. It’s a collective work, everyone needs to participate, do his part and finally you all will be able to redesign your life.
Don’t you agree with me?

A ship in a bottle. (Written on January 2014)

A ship in a bottle or a message in a bottle! Would I ever know the answer? Can it be revealed one day? As I walk through the hall, I lay my eyes on this piece of art. I still remember that cold, rainy day as if it was yesterday.
I went out with my friends Rose and Clare. The latter wanted to buy a souvenir for her fiancée. We decided to go to the Antique Market and once we entered the market, I saw this old lady. She was busy organizing her antiques to display them on a wooden table covered with a yellow and red table cloth. At this moment my eyes caught up a glass bottle she was getting out of the bag.I forgot all about my friends and directly went to her. I started to examine the ship in a bottle and I couldn’t resist it. She looked at me and said in a deep warm voice,”It was found hundreds years ago, at the Caribbean Island.” She continued “I always had a strong feeling that there was a mysterious story behind it, but who knows?”She smiled to me and started to wrap it.
I went home that day and sat beside the fireplace. I unwrapped the bottle. For me it wasn’t only a ship in a bottle, but it was more. The wooden ship was carved with tiny inscription from one side. I hurried back with my magnifying glass. It was written,”To my beloved Josephine, I ask for your forgiveness, I would never wish to cause you any more pain. I’ll sail tomorrow and never come back unless I achieved a great success in my expedition, yours R Collins 15 March 1790.”
What expedition was he talking about and what pain he caused her before. Had he ever returned back? Were those couple reunited again?
Oh, too many questions and so few answers.