Mar 21

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Ten things I noticed today

Earlier today I delivered my first ever ‘inside out’ talk, to a group of junior doctors.

Yesterday, while preparing, I felt a bit anxious. Once I’d realised it was just my anxious thinking, I noticed I felt like posting about that thinking on a couple of Facebook pages for coaches. I received an overwhelming response of support, love, understanding and brilliance.

(It had such an impression on me that it inspired this poster).

Poster of love

I felt the talk went very well, and what follows is a debrief. I’ve decided to share it as it might be interesting and useful for others (whether coaches, or other interested in the inside out understanding).

1. As I’ve been exploring the inside out understanding, I’ve noticed that teachers have used many metaphors to help people deepen their understanding. What I’ve not seen anyone do (yet… I’m new here) is use any physical metaphors. In a bid to make today’s session rich and multisensory, and provide some hooks for understanding, I purchased a two foot tall self-righting inflatable monkey (mainly because I couldn’t find any giant weebles). If you push it over, and let go, it rebounds straight back up again.

(To me, it’s one way illustrating how our well-being (feeling of calm, clarity, connection with our inner wisdom, and represented by an upright monkey) is our default setting. When our thinking becomes confused (monkey tilted down towards the floor) we don’t need to do anything to get back to upright. It just happens, just like gravity, which handily, the actual monkey relies upon to self-right (it’s filled with water at the bottom).)

The group liked it and developed the metaphor for themselves. They talked about’down monkey’ and ‘up monkey’ thoughts and feelings. They also talked about having down monkey feelings and metaphorically holding on to the floor (holding on to the low feelings/thoughts by analysing them or trying to park them). I’d be interested to hear what people think or have experienced in using gizmos to support developing understanding.

2. There was a drop in energy about 20 mins into the session. People stopped wanting to talk to me. A year ago I would have been concerned and tried to change it, but I just noticed it. I remember when I first encountered this stuff I went very quiet too. Brain freeze.

3. Near the end I pointed out that the session was billed as ‘overwhelm and overload’ but that we’d spent our time talking about overwhelming feelings and not touched on overload. I then pointed out that overload is a ‘material world’ issue rather than an internal one. It’s about tasks vs time vs energy. It’s logistics (and I’m massively grateful to Michael Neill and his Hayhouse podcast on this as the source of this way of explaining). I pointed out that the group are highly intelligent, capable people who do very complicated things with people’s bodies and save lives. What they don’t need is advice on time management (or some ‘special clever process’ which – if they stick to it – will solve all these problems). I said that when we’re experiencing ‘up monkey’ thinking, we have clarity on how to deal with overload. The trouble comes when we try to make decisions about dealing with the overload when we’re in down monkey.

At this point the senior consultant who’d invited me in to speak, practically leapt out of her chair with shiny tears in her eyes and (this sounds like an Enid Blyton book but there’s no other way to describe it) exclaimed “Yes, that’s it! It’s so obvious! Of course I don’t know what to do when I’m having down monkey thoughts. It’s silly to try then”. I think that’s what we call an insight. When it happens again in a session so spectacularly, I will shine a light on it and we can notice where it came from etc.

4. Something that’s worked well with coaching clients and also today is to point to parts of the room to describe the ‘material world’ (I knocked on a desk to one side of the room), ‘thoughts’ (imaginary river across the ceiling above head) and ‘feelings’ (in gut).

5. Near the beginning, I flagged that what we will be talking about is a bit different from other things we’d talked about before (last year, all outside in) and that it wouldn’t necessarily make perfect sense on first consideration. In fact I shared that when I first started exploring it, I thought it was a bit daft and experienced frustration and anger. A couple of people openly said later on ‘I’m really struggling, I don’t think this is my thing’ and I shared that I felt struggle for months. However, because there was something there that seemed compelling I kept coming back to it and bit by bit it’s making sense.

6. I didn’t explicitly flag that we’ve been previously labouring under a deluded understanding of how we experience life. I felt it would generate red herring discussions. I did wonder if I was being a bit of a chicken. I now think actually I did what was right at the time for the group. No animals were harmed in the making of this post.

7. For the last few months I’ve been delivering some (outside in) Train The Trainer sessions for a freelance contract. When working with delegates on how to do ‘great training’, I was very conscious of having to ‘walk the talk’, that is I rigidly followed the ‘rules for doing great training’ that we were tasked with teaching. The thing is I often break these rules where I feel it’s appropriate in my own training sessions. It felt yuck to pretend to stick to them all the time. In this case the need to make an effort to ‘walk the talk’ didn’t even enter my mind until I reflected on everything. On the FB thread yesterday, someone lovely wrote about Syd Banks’ experience of “how he opened his mouth and basically Mind/Inspiration came out, that he didn’t plan what he was going to say and that it was an incredible feeling of the words coming from another place…..” . I didn’t quite have that depth of experience but I didn’t experience the anxiety of not knowing what I was going to say next. I simply waiting for a few beats and then something popped into my head. Magic!

9. Early on in the conversations one of the group started weeping (quietly so no-one but her neighbour and myself noticed) . Again, a while ago I might have seen this as a problem or tried to work out how to address it, or hope that no one else would notice and that she would ‘be ok’. Now it just seemed normal and fine and it would take care of itself and if I needed to do anything, it would become apparent. This is partly just being more experienced as a facilitator. It’s partly understanding that the person was just feeling her thinking.

10. At one point everyone seemed a bit full of cheesecake (while this exploration is wonderful , occasionally we get ‘full’ and need to stop). I used this as an opportunity for another gizmo in the form of KitKat chocolate bards. Playing on the ‘Have A Break’ slogan I referred to not needing to try to fix things or ‘do’ anything, and we can take a break for the hard work of trying to be happy. They took a couple of minutes and then in small groups they wrote on flipcharts what had come up for them so far. We had several conversations in which I had them notice the outside in thinking and explore the inside out understanding in various ways. Some of it landed, some didn’t. However one group wrote that what had come up for them was:

“Resilience; Liberation; Everything will be ok; Empowered; Flexible thinking; Peace.”

Now for me this was pretty mind blowing as it’s taken me months to ‘get’ all that from this understanding. And I realise that’s my thinking and that because this is all innate it sometimes just makes sense (particularly for people who haven’t spent ages analysing and practising outside in life hacks).


If you’re still with me (or if you just scrolled down to the end) I’d be delighted to know what comes up for you on any of this.

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