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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.
Wednesday, 31 August 2016 18:50

In My Opinion!

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
George Bernard Shaw

Some time ago, I watched an episode of The Good Wife. In one particular court room, the presiding judge required that lawyers qualify their statements with the words, 'in my opinion'. It was hilarious. The lawyers were outraged, they usually speak as if they are presenting facts and it was a very humbling qualifier to have to make.

It got me thinking about how different my life would be if I had to use that qualifier every time I stated a simple 'fact'! I'm a communicator and EVERYONE knows that talking about things is good. Right? I grew up communicating and loads of people will agree that talking through problems is the way to go.

Then two things happened. I met my husband and a while later, I spent a few months in a Buddhist Monastery. I will refrain from giving my opinion as to which was the cause of which, but funnily enough, they have something in common! Neither my husband nor this particular Buddhist Monastery are big on talking. All I will say is this, as dire as Kevin is at communicating, he is way better than a monastery, especially ones that practice silence.

In general, monasteries are quiet, peaceful places, but should any of you ever find yourselves having lunch at a monastery, I can tell you now, it's kind of fun. The food is delicious and it's at mealtimes that you get to catch up with friends and there's lots of chatting and much laughter. Too much meditation does that! 

Anyway, it was all going swimmingly until the Abbot announced, one lunch time, that all future meals were to be held in silence. He said it was time we all learnt to stop talking so much. So much for my theory that communication is everything! Imagine a huge dining hall, filled with two to three hundred people, eating in complete and utter silence. It was radical.

There is so much uproar in the world at the moment, with nations clashing and people hurting each other but it is not happening out there. It's taking place right here in our friendships and our close relationships. We experience something, then we find others who agree with us and we assume we are right. And if we are right, someone else must be wrong and so on until differences of opinion become wars.

So let me rephrase the sentence above. I'm a communicator, and in my opinion, talking about things is good. Quite a difference, isn't there? Somehow it doesn't have quite the same ooomph.

In my opinion, I have found there is some benefit to silence, not all of the time and not with everyone, but certainly more often than we realise. Words are only one way that communication and connection take place. Sometimes sitting in silence, being fully present with yourself and those around you is as intimate as a heartfelt conversation. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
Monday, 15 August 2016 08:57

Broken?

Broken glass. It's just like glitter, isn't it?
Pete Doherty

Last year I bought a new office chair. What a lemon! The trouble started when the back rest snapped off. I returned the two pieces of chair for repairs. Within a month, the actual seat broke off the base of the chair. I kid you not. When a very unhappy me, once again returned the chair in two pieces, I insisted on a brand new chair. There is only so much a gal can take and I was absolutely NOT going to fall off that chair one more time!

Letting go of a broken chair was easy but when it comes to relationships or people, letting go can be a whole different kettle of fish. Sometimes, even when trust is broken, we keep clinging to the hope that things will get better, that we will somehow figure out how to fix it and repair the damage. But what if we can't? What if some relationships truly are more harmful than good for us? How do we let go, or in 2016 terminology, Put it Down?

Let's first identify some differences between giving up a broken chair and giving up a broken relationship! With a chair, there's no guilt, no fear of the consequences and no sense of failure. In my case, the chair was flawed, we were not a good fit. End. Of. Story.

In relationships, especially ones we have committed heart and soul to, things are not that simple. Cheer-leading ourselves into action doesn’t always help. You know the... 'You can do it! Be fearless! You are not a failure, kind of self-talk? It probably won't work and will most likely just annoy you.

If we look deeper, it's obvious a chair simply doesn't have the same value as someone we care about. Our perspective is different, we see the chair clearly, as it is. And this is where the work lies, in changing our perspective to see the situation or relationship more clearly, as a more uninvolved outsider would.

We tend to approach extricating ourself from difficulties by delving into, and trying to heal, the emotional fallout of our choices. In doing that, we forget about our inherent intelligence. We are emotionally intelligent beings with the capacity to think critically and problem solve When we see clearly that the 'glitter' we are holding on to, is in actual fact shards of glass hurting us, it's that much easier to let go and choose a different course of action.

As human beings, we have a whole set of rational, logical, and intellectual skills we can use to bring balance to our emotional upheaval. You are a miracle of life, be that!
Tuesday, 02 August 2016 07:05

Get Lost!

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Being a life coach takes nerves of steel. The other day during a session, a client reminded me about the time I told him to get lost! It was true, I'd said exactly that, but oh my word, hearing back what I'd said was startling. Many people seek out life coaching when, although their lives may be going along swimmingly on the outside, they feel as if they've lost sight of who they really are and what's important to them. Most people arrive with the expectation that coaching will help them fix what's wrong, and they hope quickly and efficiently.

Ja, no, well see... that's not always quite how it pans out! It's very uncomfortable to be in a place when even when you stop and ask yourself what you want, you have no idea of the answer. Most of us want to get as far away from those kinds of uncertain feelings as is human possible.

The need for certainty is deep-seated and lies at the core of our personality. Over the years we decide who we are and who we are not. It's the very mechanism we use to identify ourselves, both within ourselves and to others. We often say, oh, I'm like this or, no way, I'm so not like that. Even those very adventurous souls, who pooh-pooh the idea of needing certainty, are still caught in the same certainty of knowing who they are.

It's only when we begin to recognise how strong our need for certainty is that the intrigue begins. In this murky grey area the mysteries of life begin to catch our attention. Instead of knowing for sure, we begin to question. We question the very fabric of reality as we know it. Basically, we get lost!

In that first session when a client arrives wanting answers and certainty, it can very disconcerting to instead get sent home with the instruction to find out what's good, and what  can be celebrated about being lost. More than one client has told me, they leave sessions, feeling quite sorry for me! They are certain they're not coming back, because I obviously don't know what I'm talking about. Nerves of steel, I tell you!

However, the seed has been planted. When those clients return, gleefully telling me they thought I was completely mad but now they get it, we celebrate together. And then our work starts. Session by session, we begin to deconstruct the idea of who you are to find the truth of who you are.  You learn to show up for what you are experiencing, no matter what it is. No easy task, but it's an incredible journey and one well worth taking.
Thursday, 14 July 2016 07:58

A Healthy Scare!

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
Kurt Vonnegut

I'm fairly fit. Not fantastically fit but I walk daily and exercise four to five times a week and I'm pretty happy with my level of fitness. So when parkrun arrived in Richards Bay, I happily signed up. Parkrun is a five kilometre run or walk, manned by volunteers and offered free of charge to the public every Saturday morning. I had absolutely no intention of running, no siree, none of that gasping, sweaty stuff for me, but a 5km walk? Easy peasy!

Saturday morning arrived and I headed off. The route is lovely, following a path through the natural forest, meandering along the bay before crossing over the bridge to Pelican Island. Towards the home stretch, I started to feel quite tired and by the time I got home, I was feeling light-headed and awful. It took me the two full days to recover. To give you some perspective, an 82 year old woman managed the same walk without trouble!

It was a wake up call that I took to heart. Living with an autoimmune thyroid condition makes managing my health an ongoing challenge. The stresses of the last few months had obviously had a more detrimental impact than I'd realised and it was time to take action and make some changes.

Most of us know best what we need to do. We know what has to happen or has to stop happening to improve whichever area of our lives needs attention. But for some reason, we often keep that knowing pushed vaguely to back ground. A little bit of avoidance comes in and we hope that by ignoring the problem, it will go away. It won't.

In actual fact, we need to tackle our difficulties head on. Here's what worked for me. I sat down and wrote a list of five small actions I could realistically take over the next two weeks to address my health issue. Two weeks later, I once again headed off to the walk the parkrun and I'm pleased to report, it went much, much better.

Making small, sustainable changes is the way to address all our issues, no matter how overwhelming they seem at the time. Start where you are. Get clarity on the actual problem and make sure that whatever makes your list of five is manageable from the situation you are in the midst of. Trust yourself, no one knows better what is best for you!
Tuesday, 28 June 2016 16:38

Fighting Clean

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

After 21 years Kevin and I have discovered a completely new way to fight. It's unique, quite possibly a world first! However, it's fabulous and I highly recommend y'all give it a try.

Picture this. It's bedtime and we are both in the bathroom. Kevin is brushing his teeth when he spots my toothpaste. Nothing as mundane as the lid being left off, this trouble is caused by some gorgeous pink hot lips. Let me back up a step. While browsing around eBay some months ago, Kevin discovered the cutest pink hot lips that you slide over your toothpaste tube to squeeze the toothpaste towards the end. Check them out here: Pink Hot Lips!

They are great or would have been except for one small thing. There is a teeny flaw in the wiring of my brain, sort of a slight reversal of exactly 180°!  Should we ever be completely and utterly lost, (doesn't often happen, Kevin has an excellent sense of direction), he will ask me which way I think we should go, and do the exact opposite. Over the years we have come to trust that I am 100% reliably wrong!

Back to the toothpaste. While bending over the basin, a very indignant Kevin discovered I had put the pink hot lips on the toothpaste back to front. I ask you, who even knew there was a right way round? Well, anyway, he huffed and puffed, but because his tooth brush was still in his mouth, it completely took the sting out of it. Using 'hnnnfft' sounds and gestures he was able to have his say and vent his frustrations fully while I chuckled away at how funny he sounded. If only all arguments could be so easy!

Unfortunately they aren't. Things said in a moment of anger can cause irreparable damage to our spouses, co-workers, children or whoever bears the brunt of our harsh words. So what can we take away from this little exercise involving pink hot lips? It demonstrates the importance of fighting clean, of softening the blow of our words, We need to weigh the value of our need to speak against the impact of our words on others before we have our say. The 'how' we say what we need to say is all important.

I was just thinking, if all else fails, maybe I should run marriage counselling workshop. I can hand out toothbrushes and let everyone get on with it! Ya think?
Tuesday, 14 June 2016 09:47

What Time Is It?

For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What a year it has been so far. At the beginning of June, my father-in-law was rushed into hospital. Sadly, he did not survive the surgery and never woke up from the anaesthetic. At his funeral last week, the Pastor based his sermon on the very beautiful and well known verse from Ecclesiastes, “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. At the end, he asked each of us to think about what time it was for us?

For my mother-in-law, who has lost her husband of fifty-two years, it's a time to grieve, to re-adjust to a world without the man who has been by her side all these long years. As I sat in the chapel, looking out at the magnificent trees in the garden, sunlight streaming through the stained glass window, I thought about the year of endings 2016 has been for me.

Endings come in all shapes and sizes and not all of them are as final as the ending that comes with death. However, one thing most ending have in common, is that they usually herald some sort of change. It's these changes that cause us such difficulty. I got to this part of the blog and screeched to a halt. For about two days, I had absolutely no idea which direction to take it in.

Not having much choice in the matter, I simply, stayed with the feelings of endings and change that were swirling around both my body and mind. It was uncomfortable. I wanted to 'do' something with with them, make them go away, anything to feel better. You know, press that universal undo button and load a new programme?

And yet, as I sat and breathed, the feelings started to settle. I stopped being so scared of the pain facing them might bring. So two days later, I can now answer the question. What time is it? It's a time of acceptance for me. The most difficult part of change is accepting it. Yes, this has happened. Yes, this hurts. For now, that is enough.

When we put a full-stop here, we stand a chance of glimpsing, that whatever powerful emotion we are experiencing, are not all there is to us or to our life We are still here, battered and bruised, as we may be, but here we are. This moment of hardship is not the end of our story.

Is there something you need to face and accept in your own life? What time is it for you?
Monday, 30 May 2016 19:26

Yes, But...

Be yourself is about the worst advice you can give some people.
Tom Masson

While growing up, I often remember hearing my father say, “Don't BUT me!” It would usually come after a long drawn out, “But Daaaaaaad!” from either my sister or me. We were both born with opinions on just about everything...and please note the gentle wording of that statement!

The other day I was listening to an excellent Webinar about getting things done and making the most out of 15 minutes. Towards the end, the hosts raised the very important topic of being kind to yourself. It was one of those, 'Yes, but...' moments for me. They were talking about how we have so much on our plate at the moment that we're going to mess up, it happens, we all do it, it's okay.

There's currently a worldwide trend on cultivating self compassion and being kinder to ourselves, but we need to look carefully at the context within which we do this. Kindness can become a dangerous tool when left unattended in the hands of an insatiable ego! Yes, we need to be kind and gentle with ourselves and others, but we really, really need to do it with some wisdom.

When we drop the ball because we have too much on our plate and are then kind and gentle to ourselves, we are in effect self-medicating. We are easing the symptoms without addressing the underlying 'busyness' problem. When I speak kindly to myself about having so many opinions, I miss the opportunity to face and deal with the effect being opinionated can have on people around me. Sure, I keep comfortable and safe, but is that really how I want to live my life?

We are filled with wants and desires that most of us spend our entire life working incredibly hard to fulfil. We feel exhausted because we ARE exhausted and working harder, smarter,  faster and committing more, is not necessarily the answer. When we give ourselves a break after messing up, we're feeding our addiction to doing more; resting up so we can do better next time.  

If, however, we look at our busyness as an addiction, we have a very different context to view our lives in. We discover that saying no to our desires every now and then is not self-abuse. Learning to endure the suffering of an unfulfilled desire or denying ourselves pleasures that harm us, are healthy choices.

In this topsy turvy world, we need to keep our wits about us. What is your go-to addiction? Are you ready to Put it Down?
Monday, 16 May 2016 07:04

The Loss of A Love...

It's so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.
John Steinbeck

If you follow Soul Sense Coaching on Facebook, you will have heard the sad news. A light went out in our lives when our very precious Jack Russell, Pebbles, died suddenly in May. One minute she was bouncing around, her usual exuberant self, and within an hour she had died from a heart aneurysm. We are heartbroken and still adjusting to a house that feels so empty without her.

Pebbles was a joy. She loved pretty much everybody, from us, to a delivery man whose lap I found her sitting on after I had gone to get a pen! She was an utterly wholeheartedly little being who took advantage of the potential for play in every possible moment. She taught us about both love and now, loss, and we miss her terribly.

Loss and grief come in many forms and from many different causes, not just death. The end of a romantic relationship, the breaking of a trusted friendship, the loss of faith after being let down, or a change in circumstances, a job or illness, are all experiences that cause grief in varying degrees.

During my involvement with Hospice, I learned there is no right or wrong when it comes to grief. Grief just is. It has to be endured. There's no way around grief, the only way past it, is through it. If we put off and avoid or try to numb the pain, it lurks in the shadows but  doesn't go away.  As much as grief hurts and we don't like it, the very process of grieving, of feeling the shattering pain, is how we heal.

Hold a gentle space while you re-align your world. Life is fragile, loss and impermanence are hard to get our heads around. It takes time. Everyone has a unique way of processing and adjusting to loss. In our house, we had a range of reactions, from tears, to illness and keeping busy. Grief is painfully personal, some people need to talk, others can't, some withdraw and shut down while others move faster. No matter how we process grief, we cannot escape the pain it brings.

There's a mindfulness teaching that encourages us to receive everything on the same terms. It's harder to put into practice than it sounds, to feel what you are feeling, without judgement, pretence, preference or comparison; to receive grief on the same terms as you would, for example, receive happiness.

There is some love that is worth having, even if only for a short time and when it's passing is going to hurt. Life is full of joys and sorrows, can we receive them all on the same terms?
Thursday, 28 April 2016 19:43

Outlaws In!

My feeling about in-laws was that they were outlaws.
Malcolm X

Over the last few months I've had conversations with various lovely, independent, dynamic women, who all struggle with mother-in-laws troubles. Interestingly enough, all these women are in stable, happy marriages, yet have mother-in-laws who dislike them for who they are. A quick Google search shows how common this problem is and, as anyone who has lived with the subtle put-downs and snubs of a family member will know, it's hurtful and destructive.

Talking to these women reminded me of a fabulous article I read, by Wayne Elsey, called, This is Why I Appreciate You... You matter! While in high school, the author was told by a teacher that he would never amount to anything. The article is about the lasting impact and hurt that comment caused him. The gist of the story is that words matter and what we say, can and does, impact the people around us. It's a lovely article, you can read it here.

Many of the coping mechanisms we use to deal with criticism and put-downs are directed at minimizing the impact of the hurtful words that have been said. Unfortunately, when we try to talk ourselves out of how we are feeling, we inadvertently tell ourselves that our feelings are unimportant, that we don't matter. This is where we go wrong, our feelings are important, and they do matter. We matter.

In Wayne Elsey's article, another teacher heard what had been said. She sat down with him and said, 'You matter to me and you can do anything you set your mind to.' Powerful words that struck home and changed the course of his life. Chances are, an unkind mother-in-law is not going to magically transform into a benevolent fairy god-mother who adores you, but that doesn't mean there is nothing you can do!

Freedom doesn't come from getting rid of either the difficult family member or our own feelings. It comes from staying who we are, despite what life throws at us. We cannot change other people. We cannot make people who truly dislike us, like us. In fact, it's not our job to.

Our job is take responsibility for our own actions and reactions. We CAN choose how to respond. It's within our power, to speak gently to ourselves when we are hurt. Words do matter, how we speak to ourselves as much as how we speak to others. It's good to remember, you are important and you do matter!
Wednesday, 13 April 2016 18:55

I'll Help You!

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands,
one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
Audrey Hepburn

Long before I studied Life Coaching, I had a brilliant Pilates instructor, Darren. He was so good that he gave me a rather nifty waistline where nature had previously failed... just saying! Amongst his many talents, he was also a superbly fit and supple professional dancer. One day, during class, he instructed us to do a Pilates Rollover. It's the one where you lie on your back and lift your legs up and over your head to touch the floor behind you.

The ensuing conversation went something like this... Me: I can't. Him: Yes, you can. Me: Noooo, I can't. Him: I'll help you! When you are floundering, the power of the words, 'I'll help you,' can be quite magical. We instantly feel less alone which gives us courage; we feel more willing to risk trying.

However, before offering help to others, it's wise to tread carefully. Receiving unsolicited advice has got to be the most universally unwelcome experience in existence! As anyone who has ever been diagnosed with a serious illness will know, the wealth of tips, dietary advice and things you simply must do, that get thrown at you, can be overwhelming. As well meaning as people are, the bombardment of other people's, often irrelevant ideas, is exhausting.

Before launching yourself into the advice giving fray, pause for a moment. Do you really know what you are talking about? It happens continuously on Facebook, we see a post about a missing child or pet and immediately share it with the best of intentions. And yet, a quick click through to the source of the link often shows the missing person found and happily back at home, sometimes months ago. Not always, but that's my point, hasty help is often not all that helpful.

In it's purest form, the essence of help is 'helping where help is needed'. Sometimes a simple question will suffice. How can I help? Is there anything I can do? Humans typically approach helping from the other direction, we assume we know what someone else needs / should do / must try, and inform them as such.

Instead, aspire to be more like the divine Darren. He stood alongside me when I was upside down, he steadied my legs and supported some of their weight until I felt stronger, but mostly, he believed in me. He believed I could do it even when I didn't believe it myself. At the end of the day, when we offer help, it should come from this place, I believe in you, I'll help you believe in yourself.
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