This is a conversation I have been having with many different people, and not just during coaching sessions.
One particular one was at a recent Book Club Session. The Book Club that I run is a bit different, in that we don't all read the same book, we read whatever it is we want to read, and then share it with the rest of the group. It always leads to some awesome discussions along the way, and often we find that a thread weaves it way subtly through the different books we bring and the conversations that follow. Sometimes there is no thread at all!
This last one, was so definitely a thread... I spoke of a book I had been reading that was written in such a way that was spoke in to what we make things mean about us. The author did really well to get inside the different character's heads and the chatter that can often be going on for us.
Another member brought an autobiography of a man that had transitioned in to a woman, and their journey of self-acceptance, another shared some poetry, and another a light-hearted book that sparked a discussion on what I call bandaids, things we do or use to cover up pain that we are feeling.
I also shared Brene Brown's book Braving the Wilderness, where she talks about belonging and it was at that point that the themes started weaving, that we can often let others off the hook, but be so judgemental of ourselves, and when we are able to be kinder and more accepting of ourselves, we are able to really connect back to who we are, and feel that sense of belonging within ourselves and the world we live in.
Sometimes I feel the most connected out in nature. By a river or a waterfall, watching the waves pound in just a few steps away from where I am standing, feeling the sand between my toes as I walk along the beach. It may be the sunrise or seeing the sun set, being on top of a mountain, or deep in to the green of the bush, with just the birds singing their tune around us.
When I started seeing that I simply belong to me (hence the journey of self-love and acceptance) and belonging to this world as a whole, something seemed to settle and rest easier for me.
Liz our Life Coach
From the UK, I often get asked where do I call home, and I usually flippantly reply wherever I am not. So when in NZ I call UK home, and when in UK I call NZ home, but with that there has always been a thought running, as to where do I actually belong?
In a previous blog, found here, I speak of how sometimes we can find belonging in the most unexpected places, and sometimes we can not feel a sense of belonging in places that are really familiar to us, and where we would expect to feel that sense of connection and being part of something.
I often hear this come up in conversations and coaching sessions, "Liz, I don't know where I belong," "I don't feel I fit in anywhere." I can totally empathise and as I mentioned it has always been a thought running for me, where do I actually belong.
I think there is a difference between fitting in and belonging. For me I see that with fitting in, there is an expectation we put on ourselves to change in order to fit in and be part of something. I see belonging as somewhere we can be and feel a part of simply by being ourselves.
Connection for me is really important, and it is often said that as a society we are more connected than ever, but more disconnected than ever. That battle between devices and technology and genuine connection. With less of the heart to heart connection going on, we can easily become isolated and it feel very hard to feel that sense of belonging to anything, anyone or anywhere.
But I do feel times are changing, I see more groups popping up to get people reconnected again, people are turning towards faith or spirituality to find some of that sense of belonging or connection. Sometimes its just being out and about where other people are, a cafe, a library, a church, to be amongst people, even if we are not necessarily talking with them.
It can be easy to try a group once, and decide its not for us, but I would recommend giving it a go a couple of times at least, unless something really doesn't resonate. Being curious is really key here, hunting out different groups, different activities, different places, seeing what is out there and look at it as an adventure in finding some places where you feel that sense of connection, feeling like you are part of something. More to follow on this next week....
Liz our Life Coach
Talking to a client this week and so many of her words absolutely resonated with my journey, thoughts and values.
We were talking about being brought up in a society/culture where the expected is to get an education, get married, have kids, have a career and somewhere along the line get on the property ladder too, or at least some of the above.
I know for myself, and it seemed for this client too, that as we started on that path, it soon became obvious that it wasn't working for us very well, it didn't feel aligned or flow, or was generally a hard slog or just felt clunky.
I shared some of my story starting at school where it was not the norm at my school to go in to Nursing, that I was asked more than once why I didn't want to become a Doctor, and even after completing my training and working in the profession for a while, I still felt something was missing.
I wasn't interested in promotion, I just wanted to be amongst the patients. Leaving Nursing, I then worked for the Prison Service and then ran a pub, before coming away to New Zealand, hardly a logical or progressive career path. But in hindsight it is very clear that through all of that I was gaining experience of working with people in different settings, hearing different stories, understanding more.
Here I am now, a Certified Life Coach in New Zealand, working with an incredible team at the Taranaki Retreat. There is no way I could have planned for this, even when I got in touch with Suzy to talk about volunteering for three months back in 2018, it never once crossed my mind that it would turn in to what it has now.
My path may not have had a plan, a map or even a compass, but it was the right path for me. For this client, she is very much in the process of owning her path yet is already seeing some of the beautiful sights it holds.
It can be so easy to think we are wrong because we are not following that same, expected path. But it does not mean that at all. It takes courage and strength to mark out our own path, but the rewards can be so very high.
Liz our Life Coach
The prospect of sitting facing a counsellor and ‘opening up’ leaves many of us cold, and such supports are avoided. Worst are younger guys... and kinda middlingly old-timers like myself.
However, get us working on a project along with a bunch of others; chuck a couple of Peer Support Workers into the mix, bring on a qualified builder who knows their stuff, without even realising it, we're opening up to support, sharing our story over coffee/smoko, and picking up not only the physical tools in the workshop, but the support tools that we so need.
Since Clare started offering the programme, there have been moments when I've been reduced to tears (manly ones, of course....!) - both through laughter, delight and simply being humbled at the depth of what I've seen. It's the GOLD. It's true holistic prevention work at its finest.
Those taking part have already got stuck into:
All this has only been possible thanks to the sponsorship of Mitre 10 Mega, New Plymouth. Humbling to see such generosity in action.
Building the skills; creating something; using your hands - it changes stuff. However, power tools are a requirement for that to happen - and are where the real fun starts! Mitre 10 Mega's generosity has included the full sponsorship of the equipment - a comprehensive list including the best in landscaping tools; skillies, drills, drivers, chargers, saws, angle-grinders... PPE...
Today we shout out to the amazing team there, for caring so much - and, on behalf of every single person who will take part in the programme - THANK YOU. I encourage all of us to show our appreciation by making our presence felt in the local Mitre 10 Mega when the DIY urge hits us... The guys are the real-deal legends there.
Why Building Mates?
....because it's all about connections; and it's not just about guys, either. It's about all of us.
Shaun Robinson, Spokesperson for the Mental Health Foundation commented, in response to a sobering report on the scale of loss to suicide within the construction industry: “Suicide prevention is something for all New Zealanders to work on, but the most effective suicide prevention initiatives are tailored to the environments and cultures of people at risk. In the case of the construction industry, pilots of programmes in New Zealand and Australia have found that initiatives targeted at people who work in the construction industry can prevent suicide and improve mental health and wellbeing.”
That's what we're all about.
Know someone who might find the hands-on approach helpful (suitable for teens and upwards) - pick up some skills, and get a listening ear in the workshop environment? Tell them the story.
Keen to support? Here's the wishlist (think Build-Bank - like a foodbank, but gruntier):
Can you help out with any of the above? Drop Clare an email on email@example.com
Kia ora e te whānau
Greetings to you as another week has flown - wet and coldly - by. Does it feel to you that life is speeding back up again? Some shared with us how helpful they found sloooowing down, and a less crowded calendar. Others really struggled with being told to stay at home and felt trapped in the four walls. Still others of us found a kind of safety in that. We had to do a bit less. Now that everything is back open, we are getting back to perhaps where we were before - and not all of us want to go back to that.
Like many other organisations, things became tougher for the Retreat's work through Levels 3 and 4, and much of our work had to be done online or on the phone - it's never the same, eh. But there were learnings too - ways in which we discovered we could decrease traffic to our site - and therefore keep things more peaceful, by moving some team meetings online, and arranging more catch-ups in the community.
Bonus, more time to be alongside our Guests and those we're working with at home!
If this post-lockdown period feels strange and uncertain to you, it could because we are now having to re-assess and make decisions about how we prefer to do somethings, having been forced to try out different ways of doing life. Many of us missed having the treat of a take away, but some found that actually they enjoyed being more adventurous with their cooking instead. Sometimes it is good to look at everyday things in a new light and consider changing it up and sometimes the absence makes us even more sure we want to keep that in our lives. Like hongi, shaking hands and hugging :). What a relief to be able to connect physically again!
To keep our doors open, a gnarly chunk of my time is spent assembling applications to every single possible grant-making body there is! It's a heap of admin, spectacularly tedious, and depressing fruitless most of the time.... I am determined that, one day, we will find the route to some kind of social enterprise or corporate funding solution that will mean the Retreat's programmes are sustainably funded. It's there, somewhere - just needs a stroke of genius.
So many applications boil down to quanatitive analysis (how many of this, that or the other); I find it a diminishing process for the mana of those we support trying to put a measure, or draw a graph that expresses "the value" of our mahi. People's lives are not easily depicted with statistics which make a nice pie chart; we are not numbers, and are much more complex beings than that - and we strongly stand against quick-fix approaches (guess what; they don't work!). Working on the narrative part of a grant application this morning, I was so moved to read this chunk of feedback (below) from an awesome Guest who had just completed one of our programmes.
Feedback is critically important to us; indeed a constant process of listening, learning and improving what we do is built into the Retreat's policies and procedures. We made it so that we had to be intentional about this - knowing that the most vital source of learning for any caring organisation, are the stories - those whose lived experience, tears, laughter and narrative teaches us constantly what was most needed - where, and when, and how. We don't and can't get it right every time, whānau, but we do do a merry dance of celebration where something has worked well.
Working with Liz, the Retreat's Life Coach, has been lifechanging. I've had a safe and neutral space in which I have been able to navigate dark corners, had reliable and practical love and support and built the confidence to dream about what my ideal life would look like moving ahead. I'm so happy (and proud) to say that thanks to Liz's support, reflections and guidance, I'm now living that life - I still have to pinch myself! Liz believed in me and cheered me on when I didn't think I was worthy of all that I have now and I'll never forget my time working with her. She's down to earth, real, warm and one of the very best things I've ever allowed myself to receive. Thank you so much, Liz & the team at Taranaki Retreat. You've all completely transformed my entire life. xxx
I believe that Coaching is one of the best tools in our kete - and, indeed, that we have the very finest practitioner on our Team, offering it. Liz embodies heart-and-wairua the Retreat's 'way' - and that's this... empathy:
Interested in learning more about Coaching? Hit up our blog page here, to read some of Liz's material. If it's something that you, or your loved one might find helpful - just hit reply to this message.
Just before I let you go - I want to thank you again for 'being there' and reading our e-news updates. Your part in all this is that same kinda empathy. It makes such a difference.
Next week... ohhhh there's exciting news to share! An update on an awesome new programme we are offering. For now, here's the logo for the programme - hot off the press thanks to our in-house/in-whānau graphic designer, Storm.
Guys, it's the coolest new Pilot Project - watch this space - I'll tell you more next week.
EO, Taranaki Retreat
session, this person had very gently started to open up again.
A few days later, I saw them again, and thanks to the love and support and activities they had joined in with at the Retreat, there was such a marked difference in their vibe.
They paused, as they came in to the Coach House, and read the message on the white board, slowly taking it in. I acknowledged the changes I felt from them, and they confirmed that they were feeling very different.
We carried on with the session and near the end we were talking about how when we are looking after ourselves, giving ourselves that self-love, care and attention, we top up our tanks and we do start to walk taller, breathe deeper and look outward more.
I pointed out to this courageous lady that the white board had been there the previous time, and that the message had been there the previous time as well. But when we are struggling, down, when we are closed up, or closed off, we literally don't see what there is around us. When we are topped up, we start to notice more, spot opportunities, get in to conversations, have clarity as to what we are after, and it blows me away, every time, what can come in to our life when we are coming from that topped up, green zone, kinda place.
If you are honest with yourself, where do you feel you are at now? Self care isn't just about pretty nails and spas, it really needs to be a non-negotiable in our lives for so many reasons, and this is only one of them.
Liz our Life Coach
Kia ora e te whānau
Its been week of extremes in Taranaki. Ranging from beautiful, unseasonably warm days with our majestic maunga in full view, to torrential, unstoppable rain and flooding. The streams we have on stie are mostly gentle trickles around the site. Yet last week they turned into raging rivers, levels rising alarmingly and flooding the delighted ducks in their area. We can see still the marks in the banks of how high the streams rose, the acculmulation of debris brought in by the extra water and grass flattened around the edges. The water only stayed very high for a few hours and then settled down but the effects can still be seen. Sometimes life is like that for us. Something happens that overwhelms us with its intensity, the intiail event can be relatively short-lived but often the consequences linger and stay with us for a long time afterwards. How do we cope with the crisis and then the after effects?
At our daily reflection-time on that downpour day, we ventured where angels sometimes fear to tread. We talked about our tears. Bloke-tears; pent-up tears; tears we brush aside; the tears that won't seem to surface when needed; where tears have been 'disallowed' or 'against the rules', or 'a sign of weakness' in childhood, or in a particular relationship. Where tears are a 'trigger' from our past. The spectacular rainfall of that day was powerfully symbolic of what was being carried, not just by those present for the refleciton, but much more widely, by our community's grief and loss. I wonder where all that tear-related negativity comes from, in our social or cultural wiring; I see that it was something I trotted out when I was younger, because that was what I had been taught and modelled (the cry-baby stuff). I guess it's something to do with the stiff upper lip or to do with a mistaken view that expressing emotion is somehow embarrassing or awkward - like we would do better to pretend to be androids or something. Yet it's generally ok to laugh - and that’s just another physical expression of a feeling deep within. Crying can activate the body in a healthy way. Studies of the various kinds of tears have found that emotional tears contain higher levels of stress hormones than do reflex tears (the ones that form when you get something in your eye).
We often talk, at the Retreat, of keeping your tanks topped up. That means remembering to do some of that stuff that energises you, whether it is spending time with loved ones, friends, going for a walk, doing gardening, watching a good movie, enjoying a good coffee outdoors - whatever it is. It is important to keep on top of the good stuff, so that we have reserves to deal with life's curved balls. Our Life Coaching encourages this especially and Coach-Liz works with people to help them identify the good stuff as well as offering techniques to deal with the negative (or 'red zone') stuff. A new way of seeing our own situation can make all the difference. Our Outreach Support Workers also offer support, with a compassionate, caring, one-on-one peer-support approach. Haivng someone who is on your team and there to offer a listening ear can make all the difference. We also offer a buddied up, secure, online journaling system, where many write regularly as an outlet. This journaling or blogging is done alongside your buddy who is there to encourage you as well as reflect when, just maybe, you are being too harsh on yourself! Regular journaling can be truly healing - especially when we find it difficult to speak the words. It offers an outlet for thoughts that may be churning or racing; getting them down on 'paper' can be a true relief and a release. Over time, we begin to spot our own patterns and notice tricky defaults before they become a problem once again! It takes that bit of discipline to journal regularly (how many of us have started a new diary... done those first couple of entries, then happened upon the book a few months later....!). Interested in giving it a go? Drop us a reply to this email to learn more.
sulk. He doesn't worry about what might happen, he never has a problem sleeping!
A cellphone provider ran an advertising campaign a few years ago called Be More Dog, which seems to sum it up qiute well. Sometimes our worries stop us enjoying a good moment, refocussing our attention on the good things we have, giving them more attention, can help balance out all that we are going through. The Retreat's ethos is summed up in 'Space to Breathe'. But that's a way of life, rather than a specific place. This newsletter comes with encouragement to make that space, snatch moments of it if necessary in our busy lives; to counter all the busyness.
Thank you for being part of the conversation, and for taking the time to read our newsletter - we always, always value your responses, and simply being 'all in this together' :)
EO, Taranaki Retreat
Liz, our Life Coach often finds that when people start the journey of reconnecting back to themselves and finding the things that really bring them joy, it is people's creative side that has long been surpressed/pushed down/pushed under the bed/stuffed in a cupboard or forgotten about altogether...
Often, Liz finds that this can be poetry, how people used to love to write and let the words flow, how it used to be healing/inspiring or bring hope.
So now Liz is on a mission to get a poetry book published with a collection of people's works, be it poetry or prose, as a fundraiser for the Retreat.
Are you keen to be part of this project? Would you like to see your work in print? Have you been looking for a way to support the Retreat, but not sure how? Maybe this is it!
Keen to know more? Please email Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org
Connection to me is vital, and I see four different areas that connection is important to me. Firstly some will have a connection with a Higher Self or Being, the Universe, or God, and the relationship and connection you have there.
Secondly, it is how we are connected with those around us, we know that different people come in
to our lives at different times and for different reasons, and as above some people love having lots
of people around them, and others are much more focussed on having a trusted inner circle. Quality
over quantity. There is no right or wrong, different people have different needs.
Thirdly, is how well connected are we with ourselves, and that could be anything from how well we
know ourselves to how much we love ourselves, what makes us tick, what makes our heart sing,
what makes us sad, what do we need, what is on our bliss list when it comes to self care, and it is
this one that is the real core for me and the journey I go on with a lot of my clients.
Fourthly, how are we connecting with nature, our environment, the world around us. Are we getting out enough, fresh air, toes in the sand, walking mindfully through the bush, or sitting watching the water? Whatever may be your thing.
When you look at these three, does one of them stand out to you? Why's that? Is it because you feel you have a great circle of support and friends for example, it stands out in a positive way, or maybe one stands out because it isn't happening, and its standing out in a negative way. When we can identify what we are feeling disconnected to, then we can start identifying things that will help.
We can often turn to people as our go to when we are struggling, or maybe a particular person, often a partner. When we can identify that there are other ways to help us feel connected and supported, this can become a healthier way to meet our needs for ourselves and ultimately heal.
What do you feel would help you feel more connected right now?
Liz our Life Coach
iFor some, Lockdown, Level 4 will seem a distant memory. Life has started happening again, and whether that means the old normal for you or a new normal, it certainly didn't take long for our roads to get busy and things to start moving again.
Whatever Lockdown held for you, this could be the time for rethinking the next chapter. These choices may have been out of your control through job loss, change in housing situation or plans in some way. Or maybe it has given you time to review where you are at, and how you want to make some changes in life.
We can so easily get caught in routine, and stick with what we have always known and done, but now could be a time for you to have a think as to what you want the next chapter to look like.
Did you enjoy more family time during Lockdown? How can that be brought in on a more regular basis? Did you get out and walk more, can that be part of a regular routine?
Or maybe Lockdown highlighted what you don't want more of. Maybe it highlighted the number of hours you have been working, or that actually life has been lived at a crazy speed up till now, and is there a way of slowing it down again.
Maybe it has shown you changes that you want to make in your life, or for the environment. Maybe it is now time for you to take a different route on your career path, to retrain and maybe fulfil some of those dreams.
Maybe it is time to be gentle on yourself, to give yourself a break, to just focus on the basics, and ensure they are covered.
Maybe it is time to reach out and ask for help.
We are always here.
Liz our Life Coach
Kotahihanga - Recovery Together: We Got This
Kia ora e te whānau,
We are so thankful to be able to be fully operational for our Residential Guests - it has been a looooong haul operating through our Community Outreach without the Safe Sanctuary of the Retreat to be alongside people in need of that extra Space to Breathe.
We acknowledge the tough challenges of these unprecedented times - and this last week has seen a huge influx of people reaching out for support. We are just so thankful that people are indeed reaching out.
We have heard that 'unprecedented' word so much recently. Yet, on a personal level, so much of what we have to deal with is unprecedented for us. Life is full of changes as we grow up, as our family changes, relationships evolve, jobs, children, housing - the list of situations we have to face, that we have never faced before, is huge. And that is why the Retreat exists; the pearl formed from the grit of suffering. We firmly believe that we all need support at some point in our lives, no matter our background.
There is no shame in asking for help; our whole team have faced their own challenges, and know that life throws us curve balls that sometimes are too big to catch on their own. Sometimes the supporters need to be supported and sometimes the supported can become the supporters. The very existence of the Retreat, which was built through huge gifts of time as well as money by this community shows without a doubt that we are all in this together and to survive we need to look out for each other.
Meanwhile.... We have SUCH exciting news to share with you! Watch this space - we'll be in touch next week with more. For now:
You'll be much in our thoughts over the long weekend. Very very much hoping that there will be some good times in store for you over the break.
Jamie, and all at Taranaki Retreat
PS: Click here to read last week's newsletter, and to flick through further resources in our blog.