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.
Tuesday, 15 November 2016 07:54
You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying.
What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.
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
Forever is composed of nows.
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
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
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
Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.
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
Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.
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.
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.
Wednesday, 31 August 2016 18:50
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 glass. It's just like glitter, isn't it?
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
One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.
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
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
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
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?