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Tania Potter - Soul Sense Coaching

Tania Potter - Soul Sense Coaching

I'm a Personal Development Life Coach who specialises in L.I.F.E (Living Into your Fullest Expression). Based in Richards Bay, on the East Coast of South Africa, I live with my long-suffering husband, (his description!), two much-loved dogs and care for my elderly father who has Alzheimer's.

Read more about me here.
Monday, 16 January 2017 06:48

Listening with Love?

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force.
The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.
Karl A. Menniger

Oh, the joy of being heard and understood! It’s particularly topical for me living with a father who has Alzhiemer’s. There are so many challenges with dementia and as brain function deteriorates, it becomes increasingly difficult for people with the disease to listen and understand even the simplest sentence.

Conversation becomes a frustrating battleground as the same discussions are repeated over and over, well for one of you, at least. Of course, the person with Alzheimer’s has no recollection of this topic being discussed before.

Two things happened recently that really brought home just how powerful listening can be. The first conversation was with a friend. We met for coffee and while catching up on each others lives, I shared some of the teeth-grinding difficulties Alzhiemer’s presents.

The friend responded by reminding me that getting cross with an Alzhiemer’s patient for forgetting, is like being cross with a blind person for not being able to see. A brilliant analogy, but one that left me feeling even worse about the numerous times I fail to be patient.

The second conversation happened spontaneously. Colt and I were at the vet, We were waiting for eye drops to dye Colt’s eye’s green so the vet could see if the eye infection was ulcerous. It wasn’t, but man a greened-eyed Colt is something to see!

While waiting, we discussed our Christmas holidays and I mentioned my father has Alzheimer’s. It turns out the vet’s mom has vascular dementia. I was talking to someone who gets it, he knows how hard it is. A few minutes of shared experience was like stumbling upon an oasis in the desert. He gave no advice and yet I came away feeling strengthened and inspired to keep going.

This is the power of listening. When we meet someone where they are, without advice and judgement, we give them the gift of understanding and of love. It is this that allows us to 'unfold and expand'. It’s a lesson I hope will change me for the better.

There are so many rules about how to be a good listener but one that stands out for me is connection. Finding a way to connect to what the other person is saying, in a way that touches us, has such a powerful impact. Oh, and get used to being uncomfortable, hearing what is being said without flinching, inwardly or outwardly, takes tremendous courage.

As we start 2017, be the person who holds the space of listening. It’s one of the greatest acts of kindness we can offer others.
Sunday, 08 January 2017 11:00

What a Start!

Remember tonight... for it is the beginning of always.
Dante Alghieri

2017 did not get off to the best start. On the night of the 29th Dec, while in Johannesburg with my sister, my father fell over a glass table. My sister’s birthday the next day, was spent waiting for x-rays and sonars to assess the damage to his shoulder. It’s bad and to cut a long story short, my father is booked for shoulder surgery this week.

Of course, this could only all be arranged once the New Year long weekend was over and the relevant doctors back from leave. So in the meantime, after securely strapping my dad’s arm in a sling, (which, btw,  takes an engineering degree to figure out!) we headed off to  my sister’s surprise birthday lunch with a rowdy bunch of her fabulous friends. It was such fun!

I’m a natural born ‘catastophizer’. Words like disaster, fantastic, terrible and fabulous are as much a part of my vocabulary as ‘and & but’ are. When something like this happens, it’s easy for me to talk about what a disaster our holiday turned into, but that’s not actually a true reflection of our ten days away.

One bad thing absolutely did happen and yes, there were a string of ramifications including having to cut a much-needed holiday short. However, we also had a wonderful Christmas, relaxed with family and friends, shopped, welcomed in the New Year on a gorgeous farm with dear friends and, all in all, had a really good time.

The tendency to focus on what goes wrong is habitual for most of us. We think and talk about bad stuff far more than we do good stuff... unless we’re in love... and for as long as that lasts! The more we focus on what’s wrong, the more bad stuff we see and the worse we feel. It’s an easy trap to fall into. We trick ourselves by thinking that focusing on what went wrong is a solution somehow. It isn’t. It’s a can of worms that turns into a Pandora’s box of negativity.

Applying the same principle to positivity is just as flawed, it’s as much a lie as focusing exclusively on the negative. We are far better served by reminding ourselves of a more balanced approach. Our holiday was neither fabulous nor a disaster but had moments of both within it. People are usually a mixture of awe-inspiring and soul-destroying in one confounding package. Remembering this paradoxical simultaneity is the tricky bit.

There is so much more to the world than it appears, things are often not what they seems and we cannot always trust our own impressions. Bridging the gap between things being either ‘like this’ or ‘like that’, is a world worth investigating.

Which brings me to my plan of action (POA) for the year, to hold life gently in the palm of an open hand and let it unfold. What’s your POA for 2017?
Friday, 23 December 2016 06:42

Merry Christmas

Wishing all my Christian friends and clients a very Merry Christmas and,
to everyone else, enjoy the Festive Season!

Thank you for your support throughout the year, it is much appreciated.
Saturday, 17 December 2016 06:17

Just Like That...

We're all snatching precious moments from the peaceful jaws of time.
Cressida Cowell

Last Sunday, just as we sat down to eat lunch, we heard that dreaded screech of tyres, followed by a series of loud bangs and crunch of metal. It’s a sound you instantly recognize as a car accident. The driver swerved to dodge a dog, lost control and the car rolled before hitting into a lamp post. In nothing short of a small miracle, the driver and the dog were both unhurt. The car, however, was written off.

It was such a reminder of how, just like that, in an instant, our lives can change completely. South Africa has an extremely high death toll on the roads during the festive season and with Christmas around the corner, it made me think of the many people who will be facing Christmas alone, and the families who will have their first Christmas without someone they love.

A few days later I was chatting with a client who found herself in a situation where the anniversary of her sibling’s death coincided with a joyful family celebration with her in-laws. It left her feeling confused and conflicted and our conversation highlighted a fundamental error most of us make.

We make the mistake of thinking we can EITHER feel happy OR sad. It’s the either / or dynamic raising it’s familiar face. The truth is we can feel a huge variety of emotions all at the same time. According to debate, it may not be scientifically at the exact same moment, but for all intents  and purposes, it certainly feels as if we are experiencing a kaleidoscope of emotions simultaneously.

So what do we do if we find ourself in this type of situation? My suggestion? Simply show up. Be there, feeling what you are feeling, no matter what it is you are feeling. There will be sad moments. You may need to lock yourself in the bathroom and howl every now and then,  but that is not all there will be. There will also be moments of happiness, a shared smile, a connection, a memory that touches your heart, even the creation of a new memory that gives you strength and hope.

We all have the capacity to be happy for other people and we can cultivate that spirit of rejoicing in the happiness of others, without having to deny our  own experience. It is not either / or. We can soften and expand ourselves to encompass both sadness and happiness, without pressurizing ourselves to choose one or the other. Don’t underestimate your power to love. We truly are so much stronger than we think and so much greater than we realize.
Wednesday, 30 November 2016 10:06

That's a Fact!

Some rules are nothing but old habits that people are afraid to change.
Therese Anne Fowler

There's an interesting phenomenon that I’ve noticed in coaching. I often find myself coaching two clients with similar issues that are causing them difficulties, but here is the kicker, they are coming at the issue from completely different angles. It usually happens with an age old male / female scenario and, sometimes I’m almost tempted to introduce the clients to each other and see how that conversation pans out!

In reality, I find myself nodding my head at what male clients say, because that is exactly what my husband says. With female clients, I’m nodding because it’s exactly what I would have said... if I hadn’t been talking about those very issues with a male client. Hmmm!

There is one particular session in the coaching programme where this all comes to a head and it’s when we talk about rules. We all have them, you know the... if you loved me you would...  fill in the blank. It’s interesting to stop and look at some of the rules we didn’t even know we had.

A majority of all disagreements can be traced back to different rules. It’s like we are talking a different language, and the tragedy of different rules is that, very often, our best efforts to show love and care are completely ignored or misinterpreted by the person we are showing love and care for.

For example, if a man, who shows care by working hard to provide for his family, has a wife with a rule that if you love me, you would want to spend time with me, it can cause all sorts of trouble.

Imagine how different the world would be, if instead of changing partners, we were able to change the rules that weren’t working for us? So here is your homework for the week. Ask! Ask yourself what your rules for love are and then ask the people you love what their rules are. It’s a simple question, how do you know that you are loved? What has to happen for you to feel loved?

Some people need to hear it, some people need to be shown it and for others it can be far more complex or more simple. Once you know, decide if the rule is something that enhances your ability to feel loved or blocks it and needs to be let go of. Use that knowledge to do more of whatever makes it easier to be happy. How is that for a fabulous new rule!
Tuesday, 15 November 2016 07:54

Too Much!

You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying.
What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.
Timber Hawkeye

The first walk we took after Colt, a Ridgeback-cross-some-huge dog joined the family, was an unmitigated disaster. Weighing in at 52 kilograms and standing over 60 centimetres tall at shoulder height, the sheer power of him is something to be seen.

Not easily intimidated, my father and I set off, Dad in charge of Frikkie and me handling Colt. After the first few steps, it was obvious this was not going to work! At 85, my father couldn’t keep up with Colt’s pace. This sent Frikkie into a jealous frenzy of barking and man, that tiny little Dapple Dachshund has MASSIVE lungs. His loud indignation was deafening.

On top of that, I simply could not hold Colt if he decided otherwise. After five minutes I was physically feeling the strain, oh, and this was without him actually trying to get away! He was merely enthusiastically enjoying being out and about. It was all too much and as we headed for home, I was feeling completely overwhelmed by what I had taken on offering such a huge dog a home.

Overwhelm is a horrible feeling. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as: to defeat someone or something by using force. What's a gal to do? Well, you gotta love it when the clue to the antidote lies within the definition.

Skilful is one of my favourite words. It has connotations of grace and mastery as way of overcoming obstacles, and here is the kicker, without the use of force. In my situation, there is simply no way I can force Colt to behave without his cooperation. That however, does not mean I am utterly helpless.

Our walk on day two was a very different experience, with the help of one small change. A choke chain. I have never liked, nor used, choke chains, but then again, I have never needed one before. This small but skilful means made the world of difference.

So while there are many tips available to help you cope with overwhelm, here are three skilful means that worked for me:
1)  Ask for help. A visit to the vet to chat about options and get some experienced advice went a long way to calming me down and solving the problem.
2) Focus on one thing and tackle that. The very nature of overwhelm is the feeling that it’s all ‘too much’. The solution lies in taking one small step in the right direction.
3) Focus on what you can control. Colt’s size and my strength simply don’t match, but with the addition of a skilful means, hey presto, sorted!

Feeling overwhelmed is not all there is to the story, it’s merely a sign that something else is needed. Use your creativity to problem solve and remember... You got this!
Monday, 31 October 2016 06:22

Moments Between...

Forever is composed of nows.
 Emily Dickinson

2016 has been chaotically busy and quite trying in many ways. My elderly father with  Alzheimer's moved in with us last year and caring for him is a mammoth undertaking filled with numerous, heartbreaking  challenges. There is also my growing coaching practice and the admin work I do for a local Non-Profit Organisation.

When we first relocated to Zululand, long story short, but basically once you get involved in a non-profit organisation, it's extraordinarily difficult to extricate yourself. Six years after leaving, I am still the go to person when anything goes wrong. And boy, did things go wrong when the Office Administrator left and was not replaced for six long weeks. In a nutshell, I was wearing too many hats and juggling too many balls for thing to be entirely comfortable.

The tragedy of Alzheimer's is that it’s a disease that destroys physical brain function. An electrical plug is becoming an unsolvable riddle for my father and a tin opener too confusing to use, provided he could even remember where to find it. Which he can't.

As a chronically impatient, fast moving, fast talking, person who is always in a rush,  Alzheimer's appearing in the mix of my life, is a recipe for disaster. The truth is, I am being called on to change and it’s not easy. Over the last few months, I've been experimenting with ways to have things work more smoothly for all of us.

The most helpful technique I've found has been to make use of transition times. The time between waking and getting up, the time between ending a coaching session and tending to the needs of my family or between leaving the office and arriving home. These little pockets of peace give me a moment to adjust my pace and pause and it’s those moments of pausing that are most valuable.

There is a tendency, when we are pressured and overwhelmed, to move faster and try harder, but this often leaves us even more drained and exhausted. So in those times when stopping or slowing down seems impossible, simply pause instead.

Take a breath in and notice your body. Be aware of the weight of your legs, the pressure on your feet or back. Pay attention to your breath as it enters and leaves, feel the movement of air across your face. Notice the smells around you, the taste in your mouth, the colours visible to you eyes. Listen for a moment to the  sounds around you and rest in the silence behind the sounds. And then pick up and carry on with your balance amazingly restored!
Friday, 14 October 2016 09:15

Crazy Little Thing Called Love!

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
William Shakespeare

A while ago, I reconnected with an old friend on Facebook. We were house-mates in my younger days but lost touch some years ago. This particular friend has the dubious honour of introducing me to one of his friends, who turned out to be my ‘first love’. And, oh how I loved him! He was straight out of a romance novel, tall, dark and handsome in that brooding sort of way that dreams are made of. Well, it was sort of out of a romance novel, except for the not so happy ending! He dumped me. I was heartbroken.

Of course that was many years ago and I now have very fond memories of a lovely time of my life and a man who was and always will be my first love. A few years later I met my husband and have been very fortunate to have experienced the joys of both a first love and a true love.

What I learned over the last 20 odd years is that, while love may be blind initially, it comes with a raw honesty that neither fairy tales, nor romance novels prepare you for. Relationships are in constant flux, we grow and change, experience good patches and bad patches and all sorts of in-between times. But at the heart of love, I discovered a level of kindness and acceptance that has astounded me.

The other night my husband was noisily chomping on an ice lollie. By the third one I grumbled that if he made that slurping sound one more time, I was going to have to hurt him. He looked at me. I looked at him. And that was that. You see, love has a way of understanding, and he understood. Was I having a bad day? Possibly. Hormonal? Probably. Or, maybe he knew he really was being annoying! 

To really truly love and be loved requires acceptance of both ourselves and others. We are flawed and fragmented beings. Our best efforts often fail dismally, our unrealistic expectations break our hearts and hurt other people, and disappointment suffocates our exuberant spirit. But only if we allow it.

If we choose, instead, to be kind, to show compassion to our own failings, we automatically become kinder and more accepting of others. Love doesn’t need perfection to thrive, it needs a willingness to show up and face the honest, awful, glorious truth.

We are a mess, life hurts and some people do really horrible things. Sometimes, we are that someone. To be loved means learning to love ourselves for all of who we are. Only then can we begin to understand what it means to truly love someone else, warts, or in my case, slurping and all!
Thursday, 29 September 2016 20:00

Grateful Hearts!

Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.
Alphonse Karr

The other day a friend and I were chatting about people who have an ungrateful heart, the kind of people who seem to completely lack the capacity for appreciation. Actually, we were having a little grumble! The truth is, when an act of kindness or generosity goes unacknowledged and unappreciated, it hurts.

It reminded me of a parable about a woman known as the crying lady. She had two daughters, one sold sun parasols and one sold rain boots. When it was sunny, the mother cried for the daughter who sold no rain boots that day, and when it was raining, she cried for the daughter who sold no sun parasols. One day a wise man suggested she rejoice for which ever daughter was earning money and from that day on she became known as the laughing lady!

It's a lovely story that hints at the cause of our grateful or ungrateful hearts. It's about how we see the world; our view of our experience. Like the mother in the story, it's incredibly easy to get so caught up in what's wrong, that we completely miss all that is right. The more we focus on the wrong, the more frustrated and depressed we get and the less we notice all the good things that are happening.

Have you ever been in a job you hated until the day you finally gathered up the courage to resign? That month when you work out your notice is a breeze. Your perspective has changed and suddenly everything is different. It's that change of perspective we need to bring to bear as we question the state of our own heart. Do you have a grateful or an ungrateful heart?

I suspect the root of the problem lies in a childhood habit of expectation and entitlement that luckily, only a few people don't outgrow. Most of us have a fairly balanced mix, but there is often one area where we struggle to appreciate what is good. It is here, in this hard place that we need to work at cultivating a heart filled with appreciation. Asking the right questions is the key.

New Insights, uses what are called power questions during the Life Coaching programme. What am I grateful for today? What can I acknowledge in myself today? What can I do today to make a difference? These can be extended to include, who am I grateful to? Who do I appreciate?

These questions get you noticing the myriad of tiny wonderful things that are already happening in your daily life. Do you know anyone who is incapable of feeling gratitude? Are you that someone?
Wednesday, 14 September 2016 14:02

Forget Forgiveness?

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.
Confucius

Forgiveness is a bit like eating kale, you know it's good for you but until you find a good recipe, it's almost impossible to swallow. Yes, yes, yes, we all know the many health benefits of both kale and forgiveness, but it has a bitter taste and bringing it into your life can be mission impossible. Until of course, you find the right recipe, then all the stuff everyone has been going on about for so long, suddenly makes perfect sense.

Which is what happened to me last year when I did a seven day forgiveness diet. I was a guest speaker at an event where the  speaker after me talked about the importance of forgiveness. I was intrigued and decided to give it a try, I mean really, you can't have too much of a good thing, can you? It was a very beautiful proceess in which I did short forgiveness exercises in the morning and evening, every day for a week. If anyone would like to try it, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I'll forward the guidelines to you.

At the end of the week my spirits felt much lighter, however, there was still some residual indignation from one particular unresolved incident that I couldn't seem to let go of. Intellectually I completely understood the benefit of forgiving, but emotionally, I simply wasn't getting it.

In an interview with Daniel Goleman the Dalai Lama used the term “emotional hygiene.” He pointed out that we all understand the need for physical hygiene, so why not the emotional kind, too? We need to be clear which emotions are harmful and which are helpful, then cultivate those that are conducive to peace of mind. Sound simple?

It was an aha moment for me. An instruction to forget about forgiving in order to understand the 'why' of forgiveness. When something goes off in my fridge, I happily toss it. Even if I had plans for the said item. When it's off, it's off, I have no problem changing my plans or adapting a recipe. I don't spend hours, months, even years, bemoaning the unfairness, railing at the 'lettuce' wondering how it could let me down like this!

Sometimes the more we try to force or convince ourselves to forgive, the more entrenched we become in angry, hurt thoughts. We come up with endless reasons why we shouldn't forgive and instead of finding peace, our attempts to forgive, increase our pain and suffering.

Instead, try to practice emotional hygiene. If a thought or emotion is causing you pain, toss it! Keeping it is not for your own good and it is not healthy. Peace of mind really IS that simple.
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