170919 Counselling Level 5, First Full Day

After the induction this time last week and the Introduction Workshop Day Saturday, it was time to begin proper and get down to business. The tone was a bit more serious from the tutors and we were reminded we are undertaking a clinical degree. We began all together in our group room. A student had arrived early and decided to put all the chairs in a huge circle like Saturday. The tutors arrived and were like ‘wut’. How does this feel, Holly asked. Weird, I said. So we put them back into rows (not because of my comment but because that’s how it’s done), and discussed in small groups about what makes a good and a bad group, work and fail. This formed the basis of our group agreement to steer us. Key words:









Honest (with discernment)



After some discussion and elaboration, we had a surprise break not on the timetable. So there are three half-hour breaks during the 13:00 to  20:00 day, where I hung out with others, ate my packed lunch in stages, and finally sat in the evening sun next to the old lawn. Lots of places to socialise and places to be quiet in.

The next session was our counselling skills practice, in a group of nine. Small room, and no more default triad work but in twos and one three. Back to 15 minutes, having built up to 40 minutes on level three. Straight back into it – I listened first. We weren’t to ask questions. Very difficult to abstain and I did ask a couple related directly to how she was feeling. She seemed to appreciate the session and gave good feedback, as did our observer. Reaffirmed three months later that I kind of know what I’m doing. Then I spoke, about experiences at Saturday’s workshop, about the novelty of belonging to groups and truly joining in, about being on the course. Quite useful. Too short. In her summary at the end, she (someone else; we switched the groups around) added some assumptions that didn’t quite fit: eg ‘your new self’.

I realised as the day went on how in depth my level three was compared to that at Chichester and elsewhere. Many more assignments, a personal presentation, longer skills sessions, proper assessment, many more hours in the week and at weekends. So I’m in a favourable position, and happy to recap and to build on it.

Another break and then Humanistic Frameworks with David. I like him. We were at the top of the old building, I discovered by looking out of the windows, in a kind of attic room with a row of neo-tudor windows on either side. The class was a broad overview of what a framework is, why we have them, and the humanistic model(s). At the end of the 90 minutes, we discussed in small groups our response: favourable, makes, sense, good that the client is the expert, full of potential, etc – and a little bit about our assumptions.

The last session was our Personal & Professional Development group, now 12 plus Marc the (Gestalt) tutor. We introduced ourselves – wish I’d said a bit more – then an introductory exercise in the circle where we asked a question and others answered by stepping forward. Simple things like: Are you divorced, do you have a pet, are you the oldest sibling? It gave away something of ourselves and exposed commonality and diversity. Connections. Questions I asked: Have you ever lived in a community, are you vegetarian, have you been surfing – plus a couple of secondary questions allowed to filter down further. Then we had a long discussion. I suppose it was a process group. Very little facilitation. It began with someone talking about being asked where we are from, then to identity, then the notion and feeling of home, to safety, then to not feeling at home, on to religious differences, and to not speaking for others – in that order. Some slight conflict when the two who spoke most got into a bit of a pickle, with one touching on sadness, the other ignoring her, to a natural pause, to the first one jumping in to fill the gap by announcing her faith, saying how religion helps, and describing why we all want to be counsellors. Basically filling the gap with theories. The other lady objected to the religion part, I objected to being included in the ‘we’ as in being told why I want to be a counsellor, along with two others who also didn’t like the ‘we’. It kind of ended like that, with the religious lady insisting she would never assume to speak for us, etc.

We had a checkout – not sure we always will. I said again how much I appreciate being on the course and in the group, and that I was glad to know the structure and that the day is not too tiring. I also affirmed that it was okay to have a response as long as we own it, it’s not bad. An interesting beginning to the group. There will be real clashes and breakdowns. In the car park, the religious lady said to me she felt ganged up on and didn’t feel like continuing. Drama! I said do continue and that it’s okay, but please don’t speak for everyone. Maybe she understood.

So that’s a snippet of what the day was like. We have two semesters of ten weeks. Here’s a photo from the 2nd floor balcony of the new Academic Building:

Chichester Uni Academic Building

170916 Counselling level five introductory workshop day

I don’t think I’ve experienced a day quite like this in terms of experiencing and learning. Perhaps during yoga teacher training, perhaps not.

The first day nerves holding every one back and making them seem uninteresting dissipated today and the depth and nature of people in the group started to emerge. We bonded rapidly and shared.

A very funny day, as in much laughter and very good holding of the group by Gerry the tutor. On arrival we did a couple of small meeting exercises with someone nearby, talking about our grandparents. Next we did some grounding exercises, breathing in for five, out with resistance of the lips for 11, and then a walking exercise being aware of each step. These really helped calm me, and the excitable nervous energy in the room. It was great that this sort of practice was included.

Then we introduced ourselves to the group of 35 by talking about how our names were chosen and maybe what it means. My voice was small but not too small and nothing like the beginning of level three. I wish I’d added some nicknames I’ve had, for humour.

Soon we were moving around the room finding others with the same star sign. It wasn’t so much about star signs but about talking about qualities and tendencies. We then had to represent these one group at a time using postures, with Gerry reflecting on what people saw and relating it back to counselling theory and practice. Us Aquariuses sat in a meditative pose back to back, linked but facing away from each other. We had a guest Leo as she was the only Leo, who prowled around protecting the introspective three of us.

We brought a shared lunch and I resisted the crap easily, just sone quiche and vegetable crisps. I also brought my smoothie along. Like last year there was interest in that.

I took a break outside alone after eating, and also took some photos including the stained glass from the early 1900s:

The afternoon was equally varied. We did a kind of speed counselling sort of thing, where we listened to and told a funny story, a worst date and other mini episodes, rotating around a circle. Later we interacted with an empty chair in mime, that chair representing an issue, in a before and after scenario. My chair represented a group or an audience, the before being absolutely terrified and not being able to look, then the after was with support and I lowered my hands from my face and kneeled and breathed in front of the chair without hiding. We did this already be then shared our experiences with someone nearby. I think this is a gestalt exercise.

Next we danced in a diamond formation of four to the Proclaimers, following the leader’s actions. When Gerry rang his bowl, we changed direction and hence leader. At the end of the song I happened to be leading our group so I jumped around like crazy, arms raised. I can only assume they followed from the smiles and puffing.

We finished at 1545 with a checkout and I was able to say what I wanted to, about feeling that I’m in the right place, excited and ready for the course. I added that it feels in the group that we are weeks in, not two days. I put this latter down to the excellent and varied exercises and to the profundity and humour we shared.

170912 University induction day

Induction day at University of Chichester. Like the last induction day at Winchester, it was a bit of a jumble – admin stuff, learning about the library, casually meeting each other (no get to know each other games), a fairly random q&a session in which many seemed obsessed about the end of the course stage and their careers. The personal development section at the end was the most interesting. The final 90 minutes of each week will be in our smaller groups and it sounds as if it will be unstructured, with maybe not even the classic check in and check out. Rather, the tutor will hold space for us to all share what’s going on with us as group members. Engaging with our thoughts and feelings and expressing that. 

I don’t know if I was expecting too much from the others on the course but I thought there would be a more serious depth but so far it has not been the case. First day nerves getting in the way? People did seem tense. Of course it is early days and I have to remember how it was at the beginning of level three. But I met some sound people I’ll be happy to hang out with, and I like our personal development group of eleven. Six less than last year, with  35 in total. 

Good support from friends on going in, when I was a mixture of excited, happy and a but nervous. But not anxious. I was able to participate throughout and enjoyed most of the day. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in on Saturday with an experiential day. Let’s see what the course brings. Perhaps not the accelerated learning and integration of level three but more of a consolidation.

I aim to sit twice daily throughout, and it is part of the course to undertake counselling, which I will up from fortnightly to weekly during term time.

Feeling strong and stable, as that PM likes to say. Tomorrow I begin a new yoga class which runs the whole term. First regular class in a couple of years, having given up Iyengar when starting college.

170825 Dorset

I’m kind of falling in love with the county, particularly Pubeck. There’s something delightful in the way the hills roll, and of course the coast is stunning. I could definitely live here. 

Spent a good five hours at Kimmeridge in the bright sun. Two swims. So good to be in the water again or else relaxing on the flat stone beach and exploring rock pools. Found a cool group of fossils set in a metallic piece of slate. Another to our surprise in a prised apart lump.

The cliffs are eroding visibly and audibly. Every few minutes some more scree fell and occasionally bigger rocks. I had to warn two people who decided to sit right under the cliffs. Mid beach there had recently been a proper mudslide. The beach filled up as the tide went out.

Otherwise spending time at the now full campsite, reading and listening to Under the Skin, Russel Brand’s more serious podcast, and meditation in the morning’s filtered sun.

170824 To Dorset 

Sleep 95% which reflects a feeling that I’ve caught up, settled down and can rest more deeply. Also I’m in holiday mode, not getting up till gone 8. 

AM 20 minutes 

The horrible feeling of ricocheting around my own head, the pinballing of reaction and avoidance, has ceased and the movement of thought has lost its compulsion, strong drives and somewhat desperate avoidance. A deep pain powering that has dissipated. 

A shorter sit due to resting longer and it being only a half day at work. Headed for Dorset this afternoon.

Made it:

Lovely spot near Swanage, overlooking the bay with views to the IoW


Sleep 82%

Woke around five and listened to the Swedish yoga nidra by Swami Janakananda. Actually not sure if he’s Swedish but he has an ashram there. It’s a good 45 minute recording that includes chakras and always drops me into deep relaxation and undoing of themes just below the surface. 

Snoozed a little after and got up at 0650 to sit.

Again the contrast between the morning and evening sit. Fresh and rested there’s a natural ease in the mornings, an openness and readiness for the new. A new dawn a new day… 

There’s also lingering sleep and daydreams await to take me back into an upright sleep on the cushion. Yet that’s happening all day, little thought-dream loops we take as normal. By sitting so long I am learning their nature, particularly the stickier more obsessive thoughts usually involving  the women in my life. I realised towards the end those thoughts are coming from the heart where small ‘fissures’ could be felt almost physically and I realised how I skirt around these sensations. Staying nearer in curiosity there was a sudden release of thinking and just being with the heart and how it felt. Profound little stories told as sensations lessened, emotions released.

In this close proximity there is healing and renewal, as long as nothing is pushed. Effort strengthens what is already stuck. Instead, allowing the physical sensation to unattach the psychological hooks. This takes place deeply in strange symbolic form.

Worked from home today as the network guys moved to my office. Lunch outside with Michael and some new mature students, everyone here now for the new term with students arriving next week.

Talking with a Dorset friend much of the evening, about changes of lifestyle, a time of reflection for her, my course and where we are at. Proper open talking. 

So only a 20 minute sit tonight. Sometimes my old mantra pops into my head and immediately there’s a deepening as thought quietens. I rarely repeat it these days but I don’t fight it when it comes. Very occasionally I choose to use it a minute or so. 

170822 Retreat in everyday life

Sleep 85%

A bit more than a week in to a sort of retreat. It’s not really a retreat, I’m working and doing everything I want as usual but it is a retreat in the sense I’m sitting consistently for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. It’s taken this long, a week, for a restlessness to settle, for some agonies to dissipate. The restlessness seemed to be powered by discomfort in the body, the discomfort seemed to stem from locked in tension. 

So as I’ve been sat these eight days I was bouncing off very many sensations, pinballing about in a state of agitation. It’s been a great relief for this to ease day by day, sit by sit until finally this morning I am back to a relative cruise through the hour. Now the tensions are clearer, isolated in definite spots like right thigh, tops of shoulder, back of the neck, and attention is steadier as I linger in those areas. Same in the mind, sticky episodes and locked loops can be felt and in awareness allowed to unravel and fall away, lose their structure and nerve-bound integrity. 

With the regular lengthy sitting my choices are clearer and I can go through the day less muddled about what I want and what needs doing and what’s unnecessary. There’s a steadiness and grounding readily available, accessible in a pause rather than yearning for it and waiting for a calmness at the end of the workday. I find myself in brief moments realising I am free and there is nothing to fear. A taste of possibility.

All of which is exactly what I wanted in this downtime between college and university. I have my place on the level five course, just waiting for the level three certificate from Winchester. 

Lunch, appropriately in the retreat centre, which will soon become regular with one or two slots per week, to have more staff mixing with guests.

Editing work today, which really suits me. I can get stuck in and it’s enjoyable. Although today was noisey with the offices being fitted with upgraded ethernet, with fibre connecting with the school and beyond.

Proper yoga this evening, an hour. Mum rang and we chatted half an hour, updating on her visit next month and how Gran and Grandpa are. They’re still not wanting assistance and grandpa is refusing a walking frame despite his hip, and still doing all the cleaning.

This evening’s sit was harder, as usual for the evening with so much to undo itself, even with these mellow retreat-like days. But I’m doing it, showing up no matter how I’m feeling and staying with it. This is what matters.


Sleep 67%

Late to sleep after the evening out and slept until gone 8. A troubled night due to eating late, lots of wheat and the thought that I’ve upset someone. I find that hard, knowing my decisions have an impact on others’ lives. I am finally getting used to having a positive impact but when the impact is upsetting I fear anger and retribution. Also a concern for S who called during supper sounding not themselves.

AM 20 minutes

Same themes, sticking with deep breathing letting out little mournful sounds on long exhales. Suddenly the caring image of my first tutor came to mind and I was touched by her goodness and faith in me. Short session, getting late for work.

After work hanging out with S who is going through a hard time, hardly eating or sleeping for days now. We talked for a long time and I encouraged him to have a green smoothie. He left in better shape.

PM 20 minutes

A good reset at the end of the day. Towards the end noticing the ever shifting nature of the mind and began just to let it happen, no fight. In doing so a stillness developed behind or beyond all of the movement.

They’re doing a lovely job on the dining room floor at the school:

I feel a good rest coming up…


Sleep 84%

Woke at five and after some time in the early silence, I listened to the long yoga nidra by Maalika Shay Devi Dasi. It’s an hour and twenty minutes lying completely still. I remember when I  first listened to it a couple of years ago only hearing bits of it, often lapsing into unconsciousness or sleep. Slowly, slowly it pieced together and now I pretty much hear the whole thing, although trails of thought lead off here and there.

AM 45 minutes 

After a little rest, some listening to De La Soul and a little browsing, I sat. 0730, feeling alert if a little tired around the eyes. I probably need to stop wearing contacts all day. A fizzy  unsettledness dashing here and there like in nidra, a spark of discomfort setting off thought reaction. Is involuntary thought simply reaction to something, aversion? A general feeling pervades of coming back to myself and letting go of the unnecessary whilst embracing the good within. Jaw realeasing as the head was tilted right back for a short while. Maybe meditation is the brain releasing. My body seems to recognise the opportunity to unwind, and with consistency it feels the brain is also.

Pretty much straight out after work to meet with A & J, two ex Brockwood friends. We ate somewhat dry pizza at Pi Woodfired and talked of working with trauma and those with addictions, changes at Brockwood since they left and our new directions. Interestingly we are all returning to studies, all of us in our 40s. One week has gone, so I will hear back from Chichester within two weeks. 

Back late and so I only sat for ten minutes. No matter how late or what’s going on I want to keep up this minimum.


Sleep quality 77%

Sleepy after yesterday’s bodywork and waking in the slump of a sleep cycle.

Bodywork: It was wonderful and excruciating and rare to be touched so deeply. I was encouraged to allow any sounds to be expressed on each exhale. Most often this was deep moans but sometimes it turned into growls, sobs and even swearing. Somewhere at the base of the thumbs, I let out a “Jesus!” And she said, yes that’s why we call this one the Jesus point. I didn’t know what to do with the pain. Good pain. How can we be carrying this with us?

The session was a combination of deep massage and pressure on what I suppose are acupressure points and even working on the bones. After the intense work it got gentler and when she worked in the heart area I felt great love, for her that moment and for everything. I wept a little more then.

She said it may take some time to return to balance as the body was still be working on healing itself, triggered by the contact with those deep points, and this is no doubt why I feel sleepy and a bit too relaxed to get going this morning.

AM 45 minutes

Sitting and scanning the body often feels to me like a massage, but instead of physical touch it’s a inner feeling of sensations, all and any sensation on all parts of the body. I love this holistic aspect of meditating this way.

I felt great during the day, and found myself instinctive taking breaks as needed instead of ploughing on through getting fizzier as the hours pass. Little resets. 

Lunch under the tree with a man from Lincolnshire, a county I know nothing about. He worked London busses in the 70s and spoke of how you could pause around the corner letting the bus in front take most of the passengers and hence work. Also A&H were there with their new baby along with a visiting girl from Barcelona. On walking I found a natural smile had spread across my face for no particular reason. I then enjoyed beating back the brambles in the cricket pitch wood.

Yoga after work, 15 mins on neck and shoulders with an online video. Not sure if I’ve posted this before but it’s great for getting in there:

She’s pretty good, apart from the tuts.

PM 45 minutes 

A brief resistance to stopping chatting at 21:00 but mostly I wanted to return to the cushion. Deep breathing getting more fluid and smooth during the first 20 mins, then inhabiting the body deeply and closely feeling sensation without struggle to focus. 

Workers are sanding the floor at the school in the dining room and sitting room:

Oxdrove Way, Hampshire (West Section)

In January, on a cold, clear day, I walked the western part of the Oxdrove Way. For one reason or another, I only just round to editing it. The eastern section follows soon.

The Oxdrove Way is a 25-mile looped long distance path in mid-Hampshire. I started in Old Alresford and headed west, above the Itchen Valley to Itchen Wood and the M3, then back over downland via Abbotstone. Much of the walk follows old cattle droves or green lanes.

170713 Criticism in meditation 

Sleep 93%. I was asleep before 2200 and the nightly wake up was, surprisingly and unusually, at around midnight. I slept with my eye mask on and so there was no dawn waking. I felt pretty much fully awake to get up at 0630.

AM 1 hour

I may criticise myself for lapsing into fantasy or thought: 

‘I should be present’ 

I may then criticise myself for criticising myself: 

‘I should return to the present easily, naturally’

I may then criticise for being critical at all: 

‘I should be kind to myself’

All are equal in their quality of ‘should’ and none is simple enough. The fact is that there was fantasy or thought. There is nothing wrong. The fantasy itself has its own quality, its suchness. The waking from this and the sharp or subtle criticism has its own quality. And all reach for the future rather than acknowledging themselves as happening.

And then a quick burst of ‘no, one should be gentle on returning to the present’ based on some instruction given in the past or what’s worked before, forgetting that the very critical element is the reality in that moment.

Then the reverie that criticism isn’t necessary, and that too is the reality the actual going on.

To include it all and seeing that none has higher value. This neutralises the entire goings on to a mere ticking of a mechanism, the mind going round and along, perhaps pretending or under the illusion that it’s getting somewhere.

Include it all.

And then from nowhere, or from the very realisation of all this, another state springs forth, a spacious peace, clarity and openness, coupled with sublime bliss and tingles that can’t be conjured. 


Sleep 88%. Awoke at the end of the Sleep Cycle wake up phase, still in deep dreams, having slept again after a 5am iRest Meditation. I need a morning soon where I can sleep on and on, to catch up on something.

AM 1 hour

So it was a dreamy sit, the first half not so much different to being in bed just before. Perhaps I need to splash more water on my face, get awake. But still, it becomes interesting, the sleepy awareness and the fluid daydreamy thinking and fantasies.

The second half I was a bit more awake, aware of myself as a slightly fizzy vibration, subtly reacting to an agitation hidden just below. This agitation fuelling movement within, like the source of all aversion. And then deep pleasures emanating from the lower body and so the attraction towards them. And sometimes a tremendous presence of just being and immediate release of energy purging through the head and body bringing an overwhelming bliss. 

Ended with loving kindness meditation for five minutes: myself, someone loved, someone not liked, someone neutral,  the community, the country, the continent, the world, myself.

A new yoga class this evening. Not sure I’ll go back as it wasn’t anything I can’t do at home. Still, there’s the social side of it and there was an accomplished balance to the class. I’ll weigh this against the location, very near a main road with traffic noise.

Lunch with Dax, one of my favourite singers who is visiting awhile from London . I haven’t seen him in a couple of years and it was good to catch up. After this he’s cycling to north Devon via Glastonbury in just three days. He will do Glastonbury in one!

Early night needed and achievable.


Sleep 93%

AM 1 hour

The course being over and the international committee meetings finished, a sense of space opened up during yesterday, a feeling of wanting to go within, to return to myself, to let scattered fragments find a place and everything settle down. This was the want, the yearning and it was clear that time in quiet was needed. So I sat for an hour instead of the 20 minutes I’d become used to lately. 20 minutes is enough for a quick reset but not for real integration and to touch upon deeper aches, thoughts and themes.

Within the open space of an hour, the drive of compulsive doing, and wanting to do, has to have an answer, has to quieten or understand itself, since it clearly has no place in doing nothing, sitting quietly in a corner. It can take some time to settle and that can be bumpy. It’s certainly a ride worth riding out, maybe like a bucking bronco. And the rider can’t be stern or controlling as every attempt makes it worse, prolonging the agitation. You have to go with it, lightly.

The bitter taste of some recent events sweetened during the hour. The sadness of leaving my college peers was touched upon again, a feeling that even though I cried at the time, it hadn’t fully released given the activities of the weekend and evening avoidance. Why is emotion scary? What is the resistance to feeling fully? Entering the unknown. I like to be in control and yet that’s an exhausting illusion that I ever can be in control where emotion is concerned. My sadness or fear is no worse than anyone else’s and may even be exactly the same.

A very enjoyable lunch with two old friends here for the work party. Relaxed talk as we caught up and shared where we were at with a few things – study, love life, work. Then after eating, messing around with Jenga bricks, stacking them high in vertical stonehenges. Then siesta as the rain fell beyond the window.

I had my final free session with the crystal healer this evening and like lunch it was very relaxed but in a very different way. An inward unwinding and releasing of past events, feelings of great joy and wellbeing coursing through me. I lingered between awake and asleep and got so relaxed I didn’t realise how long I lay. She finally ‘brought me back’ after over an hour (usual sessions are 40 minutes) saying she was quite happy to let me lie there peacefully while she did paperwork for her professional development. I felt blissful.

Later I started on my assignments for Chichester University entry, allowing me to skip level 4 study. I have two weeks. Meanwhile Portsmouth are looking for the accreditation of my degree year I got when thinking of studying modularly in 1994, which negates the need for the assignments.

PM 20 minutes 

Erect spine with no effort, its natural lift allowing the body to sink down and relax, everything in balance. Waves of bliss again on cessation of thought, revisiting the feeling during the healing (which I sense will return on retiring for the night after some online chats and posting this). A clearing of the mind of the day whilst clarity arose about necessary things to do in the coming days and social life.

A quote from an article I read this morning about the ongoing 6th Mass Extinction Event:

“Humanity will eventually pay a very high price for the decimation of the only assemblage of life that we know of in the universe.”

As a friend said, that’s quite a line.

170712 Counselling Skills Personal Presentation

This week has been a slow comedown and processing of everything that went on during my personal presentation at college.

It went really well! Doing it also touched me in deep places, having been afraid of that killed Be of situation for so very long.

Today in a healing session there was the six year old again, whom I’d also mentioned in the presentation, terrified in front of the class and mocked. Bullied a bit a teased by the older boys. Bowyers, Bowyers! Chasing me round the shed. 

The healer was able to clear up this residue, however she works, and finally I feel integrated after the process. I haven’t quite been myself this week despite the talk being one of the most overwhelmingly positive events in my adult life. No, in my whole life.

To express what I wanted to, and do it clearly, be attended to and even enthrall and give hope was so powerful and new to me. I sat and received feedback after (we weren’t to respond to it) and I felt the love even if I still can’t remember what was said. My voice filled the room, no longer meek, my eyes no longer almost losing vision.

After each presentation we wrote messages to the speaker about the presentation and the course. These are always bound to be encouraging but I wasn’t prepared for how caring and loving mine were. It validated that I am okay, that I’m a valued member of the group, that I’m a good influence. I’m usually hovering awkward on the edge of groups, but not this time. Having avoided situations of feedback and trying not to affect and influence people for a long time, this too was overwhelming. 

Maybe I’ll post my talk at some point. 

I started with a simple chair yoga class which I am more comfortable leading. That went down well too.
During the healing we both felt so many dispersed and divided aspects of myself coming together in a mature(r) adult, a real integration. Hello Duncan! This has been a definite theme during the course, a course which has been so good for me on so many levels. Another theme or direction has been this stepping back into society. I no longer feel like an underachiever or dropout.

I’m now ready to be assessed this weeken, quietly confident.

170612 To the hobbit trail and back again

Woke with the birds and dozed until 0530

Yoga nidra, the long one that goes through the different layers of being, from physical to blissful.

A tangible sense of calming down throughout, accelerated by touching upon true feeling.

Interesting how after a night of rest I can wake stressed, scattered. Sleep is not enough to allow change. I get the sense I’m much the same in sleep as awake. So moments of stillness and connection in awareness become all the more necessary.

Half an hour browsing, reading an extract from Creatures of a Day by Irvin Yalom as recommended by Derren Brown. Facebook can be all right.

Sitting. Head shaking rapidly, jaw realeasing, then when everything is still, that buzz of fear in the lower chest. Why have I spent so much time avoiding this, repelled by it? Where might feeling it fully take me? It is a powerful force but it’s not supreme.

After work, walked along the lane under the copper beeches now liquorice. Turned into the ancient woodland and onto my favourite local path, a singletrack that winds through the trees where it gets too muddy, taking those routes even when dry. Out into the head height ferns, chopping the path clear with a whipping stick. They are still unfurling.

Over the style that’s got no plank into the horse meadow, crows cawing overhead. Why? Then I see. A young ‘un in the long grass, unable to fly. It hops away as best it can. I catch up with it to see if there’s something I could free it from. Twine? Plastic? But there’s nothing so I leave it be. I briefly think of the bird man who once lived over the road and who would rescue needy birds. He had a huge snowy owl that the local owls would come to talk to in the night. The crows still circled, warning me off. I continued towards the Meon lane. A friendly spaniel and a smiling but apologetic wealthy lady. People always apologise for their dogs. Then along the bridleway and following the track downhill, where it becomes hobbity, sunken below complex roots and earth banks. 

Suddenly a view. East towards Meon Hut.

I turned back when I got to the yard with the bad vibes and old cars. There was no sign of the young crow back in the meadow and then there were more ferns to slice.


A glorious morning for walking, the sun bright and the wind gently buffeting. After a restful night and packing a smoothie breakfast I set out for a couple of hours hiking. Around West Meon, much of it was on grass and so I walked barefoot, grounding being a current theme. On taking a break overlooking the Meon Valley, I met a woman with a pug, panting and sniffling. It was out for a longer walk to lose weight ahead of the vets in a few days. Previously it had passed out in the excitement of its owner arriving home. She also told me about her three cats which compete to bring her rats, often live. Country living.

Grounding… A crystal healer yesterday told me I was ungrounded and worked to balance this. I don’t know if it’s ‘real’ but I definitely noticed an effect between lying still and lying still with just one stone. With several on and around me I felt safe, balanced, protected. These are free sessions; I wouldn’t go otherwise, or at least it wouldn’t be my first choice of therapy. I went years ago and a protective shield was put around me, again very noticeable. If it’s all in the mind it’s a very powerful way to tap into that. Today I felt very good out for the walk and positive about the presentation ahead. Being back at college also helped along with good advice from a friend.

170605 Awareness

It’s all about awareness 

I suspect it’s a default state

It certainly isn’t something to do

It is when doing is not

The rain fell and my head ached

Finished watching the film Paterson, which I highly recommend. Observational, balanced, subtle. Poetic, touching, with sadness and humour.

Counselling skills level two personal presentation

Here is the presentation I made to at the end of level 2 counselling skills at college. I’m using it as a basis for the level 3 one this month. Note that this story is by no means total and I have abridged some aspects for simplicity and ease of understanding.


Hmm, there’s rather a lot of speaking on this course! And there was me thinking it was about listening! I’m not used to it – I think I’ve talked more about myself in the last few months than ever before!


Today I’ll talk about some of my story, leading to where I was at the start of this course, some changes I’ve noticed, and where I am now.


At primary school I was teased or bullied for a while. I’m not sure why, maybe I was just too shy or different, or something. The teacher made us do our times tables in front of the class. I must have got something wrong, or did something odd, because I was laughed at or mocked and I was ashamed. This incident and others like it, together with my natural shyness, stayed with me throughout school, university – the whole year I managed – and beyond. I would avoid group situations. I would excuse myself out of presentations, if I could.


In the mid 90s, some time after dropping out of university, a non-marriage and my father’s death, I woke up to my life. I was in my mid 20s, really not feeling good, and not knowing what to do with my life. I had a good job but I was living in a fog of hedonism, escapism, drinking heavily and using drugs every day. Something was very wrong.


I started to learn for myself. I began to explore diet and yoga and follow the signals from my body about what is and what isn’t healthy. And this is how I’ve learnt ever since, by listening to what works and what doesn’t. I steadily decreased the self-medication and made many changes. I began to get well.


Towards the end of the 90s I had an urge to get out of the city. An interest in spirituality led me to India. This was a great opportunity to do little else than practice yoga and some meditation. On returning, I lived in Cornwall, a cottage near the coast, where I wrote, learnt to surf, and did a yoga foundation course. After volunteering I was offered a job working for a charity looking after the teachings of a philosopher I liked, and I lived and worked at Brockwood Park in Hampshire, where there is a school and a retreat centre.


In 2008, my life being quite together, I still felt like I was slightly crippled. This limp was my remaining difficulty with being in groups. I thought by learning to teach yoga I could help to heal this, and also learn to share one of my passions with others. After an intense but enjoyable month in America, I qualified as a yoga teacher. The course also included some listening skills, which I enjoyed, felt were valuable, and I guess sowed the seed for coming on this course.


I was 45 on Wednesday. For me it is true in some ways that life begins at 40. Since then there has been a real integration of what I’ve learnt. Year by year I’m feeling more myself, more balanced. Some of this is down to regular meditation which only began properly in my 40s. I’d been interested for a long time, but kept meeting resistances after a few days. I was meeting my own fears and they were too powerful, so I wouldn’t or couldn’t continue. Then I’d start again some time later, meet a wall of emotion, and quit again.


I finally dared to do the course many friends had mentioned since my time in India. Vipassana. It’s ten days of meditation, for ten hours a day, in an environment of silent togetherness. The teaching is that everything changes, nothing is permanent. By scanning the body and noticing sensation, our reactions are met in awareness and equanimity, and they drop away. It is these sensations in our body that disturb us and the reactions direct a lot of our behaviour. Anyway, that’s the theory, and there’s nothing to do on the course but to test it for myself, hour after hour, day after day. Issues and difficulties are faced head on. It’s as if I ran out of things to do about them, and there was nowhere else to run, no more tricks to play. But this time I had energy to proceed. I’ve now done four of these courses, supplementing my daily practice.


In exploring and discussing philosophically and spiritually over the years, I noticed my tendency to skip over difficulties actually going on in my daily life, and I wanted to get a step nearer to them, and allow others to do so. Counselling skills seemed a good way to take this step, and should also help my yoga teaching.


So, where was I at the start of this course? I was feeling pretty good in myself but the feeling of having a limp was back, still feeling very afraid of groups of people, and a disproportionate shyness. I wanted to address this. I instinctively knew the course would help. My hopes were to expand on my ability to listen. I wanted a new context to be able to help others, besides teaching yoga. And I wanted to continue the ongoing learning about myself.


At first I thought just Level 2 would probably be enough for me. Little did I know how insightful, meaningful and… fun the course would be.


The first day coming into the classroom was quite nerve-racking. A circle of chairs. Bright lights. No one chatting. A little intimidating. ‘This is counselling skills, right?’ I whispered to a friendly-looking person next to me.


My fears near the start of the course also included dropping out if it got too tough, or losing interest. But I’ve been surprised at how interesting and meaningful this subject is.


I was a rusty student. I’d studied yoga, but that was a very informal training. Counselling skills is the first proper studying I’ve done for 25 years. I wasn’t anxious about the assignments but I was surprised at how much time each one took. I soon learnt not to wait until the last moment to write, as was my old habit at school. My attitude to study is changing a lot.


As I said, I’ve never spoken so much about myself as on this course. It’s hard but it feels healthy. It made me realise having a counsellor could really help me too.


As the course ends, I have more awareness when with others, I can listen more comfortably and I feel more in control when doing so. Before, it felt like I was being bombarded by speech and I often wanted to withdraw as soon as I could. I now have some subtle but effective skills to turn a conversation around, and allow people to get to what they are feeling instead of remaining on the level of moaning, where nothing much changes. One colleague was very surprised when I reflected a feeling word he’d used. He didn’t quite know what to do next. But it changed the conversation, making it much more real, much more genuine. He thanked me later for listening to him.


Having these listening skills is making it easier for me to actually listen to people, even when I don’t use any of the skills directly. I’m more centred in myself, so I can notice if I’m drifting off or waiting to say something, or reacting, or imagining I already know someone.


I have really appreciated this course. We learnt some really good stuff and I look forward to learning more. There’s something very special about coming together in a circle week by week. To speak about how we’re feeling, to share, and most importantly, to be heard. This experience has been profound for me. I learnt quite quickly that it’s a safe group here, that nothing bad happens when I speak. This isn’t like most groups I’ve known. Groups may even be… all right!


From my heart, I thank you all!