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!



One by one, or all at once, heroes drop away
Leaving you lost
You’re looking for more
More of the same
Heroes real or imagined
Both are real
Heroes in fiction or friends
Or family
And are just like you
Those of fiction, dreamt up
As history
But one by one, or all at once, heroes drop away
Leaving you free

Bukowski Letter on Censorship


Dear Hans van den Broek:

Thank you for your letter telling me of the removal of one of my books from the Nijmegen library. And that it is accused of discrimination against black people, homosexuals and women. And that it is sadism because of the sadism.

The thing that I fear discriminating against is humor and truth.

If I write badly about blacks, homosexuals and women it is because of these who I met were that. There are many “bads”–bad dogs, bad censorship; there are even “bad” white males. Only when you write about “bad” white males they don’t complain about it. And need I say that there are “good” blacks, “good” homosexuals and “good” women?

In my work, as a writer, I only photograph, in words, what I see. If I write of “sadism” it is because it exists, I didn’t invent it, and if some terrible act occurs in my work it is because such things happen in our lives. I am not on the side of evil, if such a thing as evil abounds. In my writing I do not always agree with what occurs, nor do I linger in the mud for the sheer sake of it. Also, it is curious that the people who rail against my work seem to overlook the sections of it which entail joy and love and hope, and there are such sections. My days, my years, my life has seen up and downs, lights and darknesses. If I wrote only and continually of the “light” and never mentioned the other, then as an artist I would be a liar.

Censorship is the tool of those who have the need to hide actualities from themselves and from others. Their fear is only their inability to face what is real, and I can’t vent any anger against them. I only feel this appalling sadness. Somewhere, in their upbringing, they were shielded against the total facts of our existence. They were only taught to look one way when many ways exist.

I am not dismayed that one of my books has been hunted down and dislodged from the shelves of a local library. In a sense, I am honored that I have written something that has awakened these from their non-ponderous depths. But I am hurt, yes, when somebody else’s book is censored, for that book, usually is a great book and there are few of those, and throughout the ages that type of book has often generated into a classic, and what was once thought shocking and immoral is now required reading at many of our universities.

I am not saying that my book is one of those, but I am saying that in our time, at this moment when any moment may be the last for many of us, it’s damned galling and impossibly sad that we still have among us the small, bitter people, the witch-hunters and the declaimers against reality. Yet, these too belong with us, they are part of the whole, and if I haven’t written about them, I should, maybe have here, and that’s enough.

may we all get better together,

Charles Bukowski

In a new way

A seashore
Keyboards slowly, pipes
A resonant rumble
The sound of the sea with triangle jingles
The sea is replaced by deep bass, in and out, pulsing

Desolate shores, life forming
Crawling from the waters, adventuring upwards
Towards the sun and the light and the warmth
Away from the murky horrors of the sea
It is bound to

The earth is giving birth to the animals, the human people
Energy patterns, beautiful energy patterns
Tingles, jingles and shingle on the shore of the primeval soup
The thick soup is gurgling at me
Ready to spew forth all the misery and beauty it contains
A beat kicks in

Squelchy electric pulses, gentle synths up and down
A beat on a cymbal and perhaps a hand clap
A soundscape that is removed from the soup
It is man’s time, perhaps Eden
No trouble, but a sense of adventure building
The electro squelches are back

The human is wailing gently with the torture of it all
He is living the torture
It hasn’t got him
A voice: consciousness, intelligence, technology spreading in the biology
A xylophone reminds me of China
The singing expressing the soul

Music fading to frogs, water, birds
Matter is energy
Energy + intelligence = matter that allows consciousness
Which allows technology
Which is all the same thing, from the same source

This music is more dramatic
The drum kicks harder
The percussion more regular
Echoing in and out
A distorted drum building up to something
Electronic clashes rush round my mind
Up up up
Drum fills from nowhere

The whole background seems to fade
A woman’s voice I don’t understand
Perhaps an alien
She is beautiful
Wisdom is what you are, knowledge is what you know
And insects right through my head
On an echo of the wind

Entities made of mind
In a new way
In a new way!
Fucking excellent
Words in the realm of the machine
Are not things heard but things seen

Rain like snowflakes
Conceptuality flexes and coils
Alien voices, squelches
A piece of space-coloured gold
To drill holes through

Spinning in space
Watch what we are doing
Do what we are doing
Do it now
This is our destiny
This is what our ancestors struggled to give us

Fading now
No voices, just wind
Two sounds
One deeper
And a distorted loop
An electric helicopter

We tumble back through history
History compacted
Back to a single cell
Evolutionary crossroads
Acceleration and expanding consciousness
Where is the wisdom to control this?
We are in a unique position
Simultaneous senses on five levels

The wind and a synthesiser
We have our own feelings
Despite the world coming to an end
Electro bass short and squat
Bass line winds through the drum
And now the gap is raining

A computer from the future
There is no matter here
No rules exist
I welcome the future
Come to me
And let me be!
It is all going to change
Create community
Not imposed from above
Restrictions are self-imposed, from restrictions inherent in the system
See and understand them

A natural drum
A bird
A choir
Afro beat shuffling
Love is the law
Go into it and take a look
You may be surprised

Fire and breeze
Crackling, snapping wood
Return to the earth
The voices chanting
I am no one’s slave
I am no one’s master
I am sorry, Earth
I know what he means
Apologising on behalf of mankind

A new perspective