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.
Read more about me here.
Monday, 03 March 2014 17:46
By dawn he had surrendered, gratefully, to the old inertia,
the product of always seeing both sides of every question.
The other day I was singing along to One Direction's 'Story of my Life' and it got me thinking about the story of my own life. We all have one, that thing we tell ourselves over and over again. Here's what I mean.
I decided to bake gluten-free muffins and found a recipe using coconut flour and grapeseed oil. Sounds simple enough, and it was until I started over-thinking things and inadvertently opened a nutritional Pandora's Box. First up, the Blood Type diet tells me to avoid all things coconut, not great for gluten-free baking as coconut flour is used in many recipes. Almond flour is an alternative which sounds delicious, but unfortunately is a goitrogen and not a good choice for thyroid problems. Nor is soya flour which is added to many gluten-free products and is a definite no-no for Hashimoto's.
I haven't even started on grapeseed oil yet! Canola is the new bad boy of cooking oil while grapeseed is being hailed as the healthy high heat alternative. Or so it seemed until I Googled and discovered grapeseed oil is high in Omega 6 and polyunsaturated fatty acid and should be avoided. By this stage my head was spinning and I felt like a ping pong ball. All I wanted is for someone to just tell me what to do.
And that dear readers, is the story of my life. I tell myself that I don't know what's best for me and that I need someone else to tell me how to live my life. Hoo boy! As anyone who has ever Googled something, or asked more than one person for an opinion knows, for every person who tells you one thing, five people will disagree, usually vehemently.
At the end of the day, each and every one of us has to take responsibility for our own lives. It's the old, 'If it's to be, it's up to me!' Ultimately it is our decision how we respond to what happens. When things go wrong we can choose to collapse in a helpless heap or we can choose a course of action and give it our best shot. There are amazing stories of people overcoming incredible obstacles for all sorts of crazy reasons. It starts by uncovering the story we tell ourselves, the one that is holding us back, making us smaller than we truly are. So what's your story?
Monday, 17 February 2014 10:32
Does "anal-retentive" have a hyphen?
You know those chilled, slightly chaotic people who just let things happen? Well, I'm not one of them. I am a planner. I think everything through from every possible angle and am always, always prepared. For example, one day, for some obscure reason, someone needed a fork. For what I can’t recall, but they asked if I by any chance had one. And it just so happened I did have one... IN MY HANDBAG! Enough said.
So having ‘allowing’ as one of my three words for the year is a mammoth challenge and it's not going too well. The problem is in my approach, I want to figure out exactly what I have to do to allow things to be. It's hard to resist the urge to Google relaxation, make a list of required tasks and schedule it into my day. And herein lies the problem, because being and doing are entirely different.
While it's true that changing the habits of a lifetime takes time and effort, that is only part of the story and not the most important part. Over the years, I have done many breathing and relaxation exercises while mentally drumming my fingers or making wild plans in my head. Although I am putting time and effort into something, my body is doing one thing while my mind is doing quite another.
Allowing is more about a change in attitude, it's bridging the the gap between body and mind. It starts with acceptance and cultivating the capacity to be still and present without moving towards or away from our experience. To open up to life in all it’s glorious horror takes trust and courage. Sitting with a feeling without doing something, anything to make it less, or more or something else, is contrary to every instinct we have. We tend to want to hold on to the good and make the bad go away, and this deep seated attachment and aversion is the root of our troubles.
There is a magic to feeling our feelings fully, allowing our experience to be what it is, and it's one worth exploring in your own life. Remember it is about self acceptance, not self-improvement! Start small with daily occurrences, be late if you are, eat when you are hungry not because it's lunch time, rest when you are tired, and laugh out loud when you feel like it. Most importantly, just be your lovely self!
Friday, 31 January 2014 08:40
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else, is the greatest accomplishment.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I started down the road of personal growth, I was fully expecting a Fairy Tale. You know, girl meets her fabulous self, falls in love with her brilliant qualities and lives happily ever after. Seriously, I had no idea! The first inkling things weren't going as planned was when I discovered shame, anger and plain laziness ruling the roost. Instead of loving myself, I was finding it awfully hard to even like myself. Of course the only solution was to grit my teeth and strive harder to get rid of all the bad bits or failing that, to deny, deny, deny they were there at all. Anyhoo, to cut a long story short, that didn’t go so well.
Ultimately, I discovered it is very hard to be yourself when most of the time you are trying to be someone else. When things aren't how we like them, we have a tendency to fly off in our heads and try to magic it away through sheer mental effort. When reality isn't moulding itself to our expectations, it's easy to unwittingly create a self-fulfilling prophecy of frustration and disappointment with ourself and our life. We blame and justify, pretend and deny and it's a difficult dynamic to break. The unhappier we are the more we try to change and the tighter and more tense we get. This tension makes it harder to make that call, lose that weight, and generally motivate ourselves to do what we know we need to do.
Sometimes when we mess up so badly, at that point when we can no longer pretend we are holding it together, we start seeing what we are really made of. Neither frog nor prince, we are simply a person doing their best in a world where things don’t always go as hoped. If you take a deep breath and show up in spite of everything, if you hold your seat as your emotions rage, you start getting to know who you are underneath the surface.
This is the work of coaching, it is it about learning who you are and that you are stronger than you think. Knowing this, achieving goals becomes not only possible, but likely. So when everything is falling apart, when our dreams and hopes collapse, we begin to see that all that is left to save us is the hero inside. Remember that hero is you.
Tuesday, 14 January 2014 13:19
Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.
Recently I’ve experienced an unbroken run of blog posts with typing errors, a letter here, a word there… and let’s not talk about my grammar or eek, punctuation. I am mortified by the whole sorry state of affairs! Why, oh why can I not see my own mistakes? Maybe now is a good time to apologise for my errors and let you know that I am so on to it. Google has some very clever tips for spotting your own mistakes and I’ve also roped my long- suffering husband (his description!) into spell checking for me.
That said, not seeing your own mistakes is actually a very interesting phenomenon. It points to a deeper truth that the way we see the world is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the world we are seeing. Most of us are familiar with visual blind spots when driving (or typing in my case), but we also have psychological blind spots that colour our world and profoundly influence our experience.
Basically there are aspects of our personalities that are obvious to everyone but ourselves. How extraordinary that we can hide parts of our self, from our very own self! But here is where it starts to get seriously freaky, if we aren’t able to see ourselves clearly, it does not bode well for how clearly we are able to see others, now does it?
If you have a strong reaction to someone, either good or bad, there is a good chance you are attributing things you don’t like or can’t accept about yourself on to someone else. It’s a nifty little move that conveniently deflects the problem away from you in the short term, but holds you back in ways you cannot imagine in the long term. The bottom line is that whether you are madly in love with someone or gnashing your teeth in frustration, chances are, if you are having a strong reaction, it has more to do with you than with them.
So my two cents worth, is get to know yourself, all of you, the good, the bad and the ugly. Get curious. When you are having a strong reaction to someone, wonder why? Why am I so affected by this? What is going on in me? The more we learn to love and accept ourselves the more we are able to love and accept others. Try it, it will change your world!
Monday, 30 December 2013 18:59
Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.
This is very ‘uncool’ but I absolutely adore making New Year’s resolutions! There is something about the beginning of a year that fills me with hope, enthusiasm and a dogged determination to do it differently. I get inspired to eat better, lose weight, exercise more and generally upgrade my existence and I’m happy to use any motivation, no matter how short lived, to make it happen.
The speed with which we are bombarded by life makes it hard to stay on track and setting a clear intention is a great help in keeping us going in the direction we want to. It’s easy to be full of good ideas about how fabulous we are going to be in the coming year when we are on holiday, well-rested and feeling the effects of our over indulgence. However, when it comes to implementing these great ideas, many of us fall short.
Years ago I came across a lovely idea of choosing three words to focus on for the year. They serve as a guideline reminding us what is important in the busy chaos of life. If you have plans for 2014, I would love to hear them so please share your resolutions or three words in the comments section below. Many a goal has been achieved through sheer pride or competitiveness and hey, if going public works, why not! Another thing that does wonders is putting a daily reminder on your cell phone. It helps stop the surreptitious slide into bad habits that seems to happen just outside our awareness.
So here it goes, my three words for 2014 are sacredness, allowing and care.
Sacredness is about remembering the preciousness of life. It is taking a moment to notice the trees, the sunlight, the breeze, to enjoy being alive while doing a simple chore like walking the dogs.
Allowing is to stop striving and trying so hard. I want to learn to leave things be and cultivate being at ease with what is happening, whatever that may be.
Care is about taking time, being careful rather than careless with what is important. It is valuing and appreciating things like health and wellness, the environment, connecting with the many dear friends I am slowly losing touch with through simply being too busy.
Make 2014 your best year ever! I hope you have a very Happy New Year and remember to take care.
Thursday, 19 December 2013 18:44
Riches are not from abundance of worldly goods, but from a contented mind.
With Christmas around the corner, it reminded me of a year-end function I attended a few years ago. We were given flattish black stones and beautiful pens and invited to write words on the stones reflecting what we most wanted to attract into our lives in the New Year. Some people chose a variety of stones of different shapes and sizes and wrote four or five words along the lines of love, success, wealth, and happiness. I chose one stone and wrote one word on it, abundance!
In most contexts, abundance is associated with plentifulness and that was what I was aiming at, a sense of having more than enough, an abundance. Of course that leads to the question, what is enough? Often this rather critical point has not been discussed with ourselves. The recent retreat I completed was done at a place without electricity. Before I went, I was concerned whether there would be enough solar light to meet my needs in the evenings.
And this is where the trouble with abundance starts, the moment we start defining enough. Is it enough to see clearly at night? To read? What exactly is sufficient light? Ample light? When is enough, enough? The idea we have of what will be enough is often quite different to the reality of what we need to meet our needs, be it food, clothing money, or in my case, light. The problem is that when our wish for abundance is coming from a sense of lack within us, or a feeling of scarcity, nothing is ever going to be quite enough.
In the hope that it would help, two months before I left for retreat I started 50- Days of Cultivating Contentment on my Soul Sense Coaching's Facebook Page. It was a nightmare, I struggled for ages every evening to find two or three things I was content with that didn’t involve something I had done, eaten or bought!
Over the 50 days I learnt that genuine abundance comes from a contented mind that can appreciate good in the midst of bad. The sun that still shines even when you are reeling from bad news, the smile of a stranger, a cool breeze, a hug when you need it most, the joy of giving, of being there for someone and most importantly, the peace that comes from knowing who you are and that you are enough.
I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has been reading my blog throughout the year for your support. It is greatly appreciated.
May you have a wonderful Christmas and may the New Year be filled with peace, love and happiness.
Sunday, 08 December 2013 17:09
May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
A few years ago I arrived home after almost six weeks away to a non-functional computer and a blog post that seriously missed its deadline. Our elderly dog, who has since died, climbed under my desk, knocked the computer box over in panic during a thunderstorm and damaged my hard drive. It was not pretty!
Then in the same week, Nelson Mandela died. My first thought was that a light had gone out in the world. It got me thinking about how one remarkable human being managed to impact the world by being who he was. In the most incredibly circumstances, Nelson Mandela found a way to love and keeping loving and in return was genuinely loved by so many. It is an extraordinary accomplishment from a truly great human being.
Not all of us are able to change the world in such a vast way but each and every one of us has the capacity to change our life and benefit people close to us. There are many different kinds of love and many ways to love, but the essence of love is beyond that, it is universal. Love sometimes catches us unaware, a moment sneaks up and before we know it we feel connected and expansive and part of something so much greater than just ourselves.
The funny thing is that it is not always easy to love, even when we actually do! Husbands, children, family and friends, while we often adore them, have a way of driving us absolutely nuts with frustration. Life throws challenges at us that drain our spirits and knock us off balance. We get hurt, shut down and gradually our capacity for love withers and fades.
In my heart of hearts I firmly believe that no matter what, the spark inside of us never dies. As long as we have life, we can love. Sometimes we have to dig deep to remember. We have to use every tool in our tool kit to remind ourselves that when everything else is taken away, our capacity to love remains. It is love that takes us beyond ourselves, that guides us to see the world at large and to remember the greater good.
We recently celebrated Mandela Day and in honour of Nelson Mandela's life, I pledge to cultivate the spark of love inside me on a daily basis, to do my utmost to help where help is needed and to live wholeheartedly to the very best of my ability. What are you going to pledge?
Wednesday, 13 November 2013 00:00
When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
What makes you do the things you do? According to ancient lore, humans are driven by two very powerful urges, one that has us moving, or running if necessary, from anything that might cause us pain, and one that has us skipping happily towards pleasure. It comes from way back, something to do with sabre-toothed tigers trying to eat us and other kinds of pleasure to um, well…. er propagate the species and ensure survival and all of that.
That said, something fairly interesting is going on here in the modern world. People are getting up to some seriously odd things and it makes me wonder why? Of course wondering about other people's craziness has an unfortunate way of leading right back to me and what motivation I could possibly have for doing what I just did.
Many of the so-called good things we do come from a not-so-nice place inside of us. When we look a bit deeper, we find we are often driven by avoidance. Our niceness is a front, a trick we play to not feel guilty or look bad, or to avoid failure or feeling shame. We bully ourselves into action and end up in a double bind unable to tell if we have done a good thing or a bad thing.
To add to our confusion, we do bad things but convince ourselves it is coming from a good place. We tell people off for their own good, punish our children to get the best out of them and shout at people we disagree with in the hope it will make them think like us. How can I put this nicely? "Okay, seriously dude, there is a fatal flaw in this programme!'
Motivation is everything. It is not so much what we do but why we do it that matters. To know your motivation, check what kind of a heart you have before you act. A guilty or resentful heart is a clue that what we are about to do is not in the best interests of ourselves or others. A heart brimming with love and kindness means there is a good chance that we will do what is necessary with gentleness and skill.
If you are bullying yourself with guilt, step up boldly, yank its false beard and start doing what not only feels right, but is good for you and others.
Tuesday, 29 October 2013 00:00
Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.
Robert Louis Stevenson
What is going on in the garden of your mind? Is your attention going on weeds or flowers? I am no gardener, dirt and worms are seriously not my thing, but even I know that feeding and cultivating weeds is not the way to get rid of them. So I have to wonder why that is exactly what I do with the negative thoughts and emotions that arise when things aren’t going well in my life.
Most of us would rather clean out cupboards or do a dreaded body detox than tackle some of the less than helpful thoughts racing around our heads and yet that where the solution lies. The other day I caught myself in the act of huffing and puffing at a very incompetent and inconsiderate driver who didn't yield at a yield sign and then had to cheek to look at me funny. I tell you I was outraged!
To back -up a step, I was having an awful week. I had recently heard tragic news of the death of a dear friend and over the next few days, any small thing that went wrong added to the upset I was already feeling. It also explains how I went from calling a fallible, fellow driver names to hating the world in three short steps. Sadly this often happens when we hit a rough patch in life. Without realising it, we feed and water the weeds and end up fanning the flames of our upset into a raging forest fire in our minds.
Facing difficulties is part of life and while in the midst of tragedy or heartache is not the time to start learning to be more positive. We need to start planting the seeds now, in our daily life. Take a look at whether what you are thinking is helping or harming yourself and others. Calming ourselves when we are angry, comforting ourselves when we are sad, being kind when we mess up are all ways of planting seeds of positivity in our minds.
The best bit is that the more beautiful the garden of our mind is, simply being around us brings joy and comfort to those near us. So roll up your sleeves, dig up some dirt and give your thoughts a clean out. By not feeding what isn't helpful, we plant the seeds of a happier world in the garden of our own mind.
Tuesday, 15 October 2013 15:15
Most of us can read the writing on the wall; we just assume it's addressed to someone else.
When I was younger I genuinely believed I was going to be an amazing old lady. Now that I am getting older, I have to wonder what on earth I was thinking. I kind of had the feeling, a bit like popping a load of washing in the machine and it comes out clean, well, I thought I would go through life and come out fabulous. The reality as I'm discovering, is not quite like that. In fact, I have a sinking suspicion it might be heading the other way!
Life coaches spend a lot of time talking about taking responsibility for your life, you know the "If it's to be, it is up to me" sort of thing. Which is all fine and well, and don’t get me wrong, it's excellent advice, it's just that putting it into practice is pretty darn hard. How many of us plan our year, never mind have a five year plan for the future? Generally speaking, it's often more of a hit and miss type scenario. We may have a vague idea of where we want to be, but life keeps happening and so we meander along enjoying the view or not, as the case may be.
The bottom line is that even when we know something is really, really bad for us, it's extremely difficult to not do it. And we all have our own personal weak spot, food, alcohol, shopping, TV games, etc. that has us behaving in ways that would disappoint both our younger and older self.
Taking responsibility for our lives is a very onerous task, it involves stopping the blame and justification we use to explain why it is not our fault our life is a mess. It takes courage and discipline to deal with the flawed and astonishing beings we really are. Somehow as we learn to accept all of who we are, the good and the bad, it becomes slightly easier to accept the future as it is.
Ultimately, to know what our future holds, all we have to do is take a good look at how we are right now. If we feel jaded, overwhelmed, hard done by and resentful, our future is likely to be more of the same. If we feel loved, fulfilled, worthwhile, enthusiastic and connected, the choices we make bring more of that to our lives. The question is, what choices are you making?