Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Wisdom Within - Day 45

Day 45 (Sunday 14th January 2018)
45 years - the length of time that Margrethe II of Denmark has been on the throne.
She was crowned on the 14th January 1972. Margrethe is the first queen to have
ascended the Danish throne since 1412 and the first Danish monarch not
named Frederick or Christian since 1513

Today I am driving to Durham.

It gives me huge pleasure to welcome back to the Advent Blogs series my former colleague and on-going friend Katharine Bourke. She is a co-founder and Director of South West Growth Service (@SWGrowthService), a consultancy that supports small businesses, enabling them to develop, adapt and grow. Katharine is a certified mBIT coach (for those who don't know, mBIT stands for multiple brain integration techniques). Outside work, she is keen on walking and exploring the beautiful countryside where she lives. When Katharine and I worked together we were based in London, but she was born and raised in a farm on Dartmoor and she has returned to her roots (but not farming, although she is helping things grow). Since moving West she has founded a successful IT business and spent four years helping to deliver the government's Growth Accelerator and Business Growth Service in Devon and Cornwall, before co-establishing the South West Growth Service.

Katharine has many varied interests and knowledge that she shares. I recommend that you follow her on twitter (her handle is @KatharineBDevon) and she assure me that 2018 is the year when she is going to resume writing - so watch out for her posts, articles and blog...

PS Most of the pictures have been provided by Katharine herself.


Darkness and Dawn: The people who inspire us and our wisdom within

As another year draws to a close, so begin the flurry of ‘best of’ summaries, which always make me reflect on the year that has passed. When Kate asked if I’d like to contribute this year, I thought long and hard and the topic that keeps coming back is a memory of someone really important to me which aligns with thoughts about the wisdom we have within.

With all the distractions of modern day life, it has become all too easy to ignore our inner voice, distracted by the next ‘must watch’ series on Netflix, whatever is trending on Twitter not to mention the constant challenges of keeping our home and work lives in some kind of balance. Everyone I speak with seems to have a tale of how they started searching for something on the internet only to find themselves somewhere completely different before they go back to what it was that they were looking up (and I blame the growth of digital remarketing for some of this!).

I feel I began to understand that we all had inner wisdom thanks to the wonderful relationship I had with my grandmother. She was physically disabled by a car crash near Dawlish in 1971, when I was 4, and as a result she lived with or near us for most of my childhood.  She was a remarkable woman, an avid reader, a lover of classical music, good coffee and great chocolate. Some of my fondest memories were Sunday mornings when she would make good coffee and serve it along with something extraordinary. I may not have drunk coffee in those days, but as a little girl growing up on a Dartmoor farm in the 70s and 80s I loved trying all the tasty things she had discovered! When I started working in London, I spent many hours in an era before the internet, tracking down a chocolate maker she had shared stories about, none other than Charbonnel and Walker, who were then only available from their little shop in the arcade off Bond Street. This was of course long before anything like an internet search engine. All I had to go on was her tales of them being delivered to the Scottish estate where she was working, and a London telephone directory or two. I was thrilled to find them and be able to give her a box similar to those she’d told me about on those mornings, wishing her a happy 90th birthday in lettered chocolates:

She also encouraged me to listen to music and put into words what I heard, what it meant to me and how it made me feel. It was like a game then and I loved giving it a go. Listening to Chi Mai, used as the theme tune for the Life and Times of David Lloyd George in the 1980s, always provokes a happy tear as I remember sitting in her lounge, trying to describe what I was hearing: Try it. Do you hear a river? Or do you hear something else…?

Despite her physical frailty, she continued to live her life as fully as she could with the adaptations that were available to her then (a walking frame to start with and a pretty basic wheelchair as she aged). She listened to her music, and as her sight deteriorated with age, and audio books were only just beginning, I loved spending time reading her favourite books to her onto cassette tapes as I was no longer living at home. I still have the recording I made for her of Richard Bach’s ‘Jonathan Livingstone Seagull’ along with one of Krishnamurti’s ‘At the Feet of the Master’.

In her late teens and twenties my gran spent time with all kinds of discussion groups including Theosophists which culminated in a visit to Ommen in the late 1920s to hear Jiddu Krishnamurti speak. I will always remember the way she described being out walking in the woods when she came across him, walking alone between sessions. Her recall of that moment was powerful. She spoke of the way he made her feel even though they didn’t speak, how he seemed so serene and peaceful, at ease in his body, taking time out in the beautiful woods near Castle Eerde. This photo reminds me of that moment, even though it is one of him in front of a large crowd:

I still remember having conversations with her about world religions and particularly her readings of Krishnamurti and his thinking. She spoke about having an inner voice, a place within us where we have the answers we need if we make the time to listen:

I have found my Liberation and because I have attained that Kingdom of Happiness which dwells within me” Krishnamurti – Ommen Camp Fire Talk 1927

Blessed with the time I spent with my gran after school most days and at weekends, she introduced me to the quietness we have within, to a form of meditation which began for me as that young child sitting quietly, listening to beautiful classical music in silence, then talking about what I had heard and how it made me feel.

Having spent more time meditating in these past few years (see I’ve realised that for me this has been the missing link for so many years. I feel different when I don’t make time for those walks or to meditate each day. I notice that I’m not as productive at work, it is harder to stay focused, and as an Executive Coach, harder to be present for my clients if I don’t make time to be still before a session.

Amidst the many other distractions we now have, I have found that time spent out walking, something that most of us are physically capable of doing, or sitting quietly, noticing our breath, is invaluable. And I know I’m not the only one! There is evidence that we make better decisions when we press the pause button for a moment. Business leaders talk about how they meditate or use mindfulness to aid them in making good decisions. Medicine has also recognised the link between our physical and mental health. Have a look at the number of articles that connect depression with irritable bowel syndrome and indeed how meditation has been found to help many sufferers.

In the last ten years or so neuroscience has also proved that we have centres of intelligence in our cardiac (heart) system and enteric (gut) system. With all the same hallmarks of the brain we all refer to in our heads, our heart and gut also have large numbers of neurons and ganglia, neural cells and the functional attributes that include perceiving and assimilating information. Is it any wonder we often feel a bit sluggish after a big meal?! Or hear how people have followed their heart when achieving a goal? We talk about passion in business these days, something I don’t remember when I started my career nearly 30 years ago.

All too often we ignore the wisdom these other brains offer, hence this attempt to encourage you to make a bit of time to be able to hear them. And to suggest that next time you shed tears unexpectedly, consider whether your heart may be trying to tell you something. Or when you take a really deep breath, perhaps your gut is inviting you to listen...

I will always fondly remember those quiet times with my gran, and am guessing that you may well have someone like her in your life, someone who encourages or enables you to be closer to the calmness that is within you. Someone who inspires you with their ability to face up to life’s challenges. Many have already contributed to Kate’s Advent Blogs this year and in previous years.

I hope this will have encouraged you to reflect on who you are and what makes you the person you are today. Please make time to listen in for that inner wisdom. Start with a few minutes each day and allow it to build. Making time each day to sit and breathe or take a walk can deliver powerful results. And when you discover what works for you, do more of it and enjoy exploring that peaceful place, the calm that leads towards your inner wisdom.

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