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Mind Learners Coaching School

Jan 08, 15 Mind Learners Coaching School

Posted by in Mind Learners

In eight years of training, six of coaching and especially in the four years since I created  Mind Learners, I came to believe that nobody is too small to change the world. Because the world is changing one person at a time. I understood that each person who transforms can in turn touch the lives of countless others and I had the privilege to be witness of such transformations many times. This year I decided to bring together all I have ever learnt about human development and to create a framework where people who feel have a contribution to make, a mission to better the lives of those around them, to receive the confidence and know-how to further their calling. The mission of Mind Learners Transformational Coaching Program is to prepare exceptional coaches, who will become capable of facilitating profound transformation for the organisations they serve or people they work with. I am bringing to this program all that I am as a coach and all the experience I have acquired from my mentors and from the tens of clients who offered me their trust in being a partner on their journey of self-development. I am happy to have a few friends beside me on this project, professionals who believe, just as I do, that a coach is that the one who can offer others the priceless gift of being “undissappointable” We will select individuals who are deeply motivated not to do coaching, but to become compassionate, dedicated,  outstanding coaches. Our participants will be senior managers or professionals who have both the maturity and the determination to take the knowledge they will receive further and become change agents in the world around them. It is our belief that one cannot instill change if one has not undergone change themselves. This is why the program will place great emphasis on self-awareness and our instructors will provide individual coaching to each participant, in addition to  all the feed-forward and mentoring on their coaching skills.  This will ensure...

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“Must”, “It’s Impossible”, “I’ll try” and other Tyrants

Lately I have been working a lot with young people. Students. Members in NGOs or student organisations. Some on their first job. Other interns in different companies. Beautiful, curious, intelligent, ambitious, willing to learn. Every time my workshops are an invitation to introspection. We talk about authenticity, emotions, personal values, mission in life. It’s a difficult exercise even for people more experienced, let alone for 19-20 year olds who are just starting in their life journey. I’m always happy to see how bravely the throw themselves into these inner conversations despite their youth, or maybe because of it. Then I feel their confusion and even fear when the answers they give themselves to the question “Who am I” don’t match what they have been taught to believe is “normal”, “good”, “compulsory”, “possible”.  “There is no job where I can be completely happy, I need to compromise if I want to be successful”. “I will be happy when I get really high up on the corporate ladder and for that I need to work hard on the things I’m good at, not necessarily on what I like”. “Money comes first on my list of values, but that’s only normal at 21; now I have to find the highest paying job possible so I can raise enough money to have my own business by the time I turn 25”. “You can’t do only what you dream in life”. “I can’t see myself doing the job I studied for, but I have to carry on because I’m to scared to try something else”. “My parents told me that life is not easy and I need to fight and make sacrifices if I want to succeed”. “I was told that these are my talents and this is the most appropriate career for me, the one that will make me successful”.  These are all statements I heard over time from young people that I worked with. And not seldom did I leave these workshops with a nagging question: When exactly...

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Coaching, More Than a Fad

I talk about coaching almost daily- in leadership workshops, in one on one sessions, in meetings with students, in NGOs, in corporations, in casual coffee talks. Coaching has long ago crossed the border of my professional life and is filling up my existence in surprising ways. I sometimes get calls from my closest friends telling me: “Alis, I have a problem, I don’t want your advice, I need coaching”. Other times I find myself coaching Viorel, or he coaching me and, contrary to what the “norm” says (to avoid coaching your life partner) we, as a couple, have grown immensely from such earnest and non-judgemental conversations. They helped us become, separately and together, wiser and more self-aware. My relationship with coaching started over six years ago in bitter disappointment. I was keen to better understand what this fuss about coaching was all about, so I enrolled in a course – one of the few available on the Romanian market at that time. I got a lot of materials to read, I attended a few days’ workshop, where I listened trainers talking about techniques, types of questions, models, standards, ethics, process – concepts which I largely found cold and sterile. They talked more about ways to make money from coaching than about what coaching really was or how one could become a great coach. I was already working as a professional corporate trainer, I loved my job, I had no motivation to learn coaching just to make more money. I was keen to learn because I had an intuition that it might help me to reach people’s hearts and make a difference through my work. I left that course with a bitter taste, but also with a feeling that there was more to coaching than I had been shown thus far – I just needed to get that information from somewhere or someone else. Then, one year later, I met Sir John Whitmore. The man is a legend. Many consider him one of the founding fathers of...

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The Heroes You Won’t See in the News

Aug 24, 14 The Heroes You Won’t See in the News

Posted by in Leadership

I have just come back from Tărlungeni, a village near Brașov, which, until a couple of months ago, I had never heard about but which now has a very special place in my heart. For more than 5 weeks it has been hosting the largest camp for leadership in education ever organised in Romania – Teach for Romania’s Leadership Summer Academy – they are part of the international network Teach for All. 21 young teachers; over 50 volunteer trainers who worked with them; more than 600 hours of classroom teaching delivered to over 200 students who volunteered to come to school in the middle of summer holiday; over 12 hours of teaching, learning, mentoring, feedback and reflection every day for each teacher, over 6 weeks. The team from Teach for Romania, who worked day and night to make all of this possible, has a mere 11 members. These 21 teachers (primary and secondary school) are getting ready to go and teach, starting September, in disadvantaged schools all over the country. The NGO Teach for Romania will offer them support (including financial) to allow them to go off on the biggest adventure of their lives – changing the destinies of children whom nobody today is giving any changes. They will teach Rroma children, children whose parents are working abroad and who are being raised by relatives, poor children whose families can barely afford keeping them in school. They will teach in circumstances that are hard to imagine. And they are doing all of this because they believe that the education in Romania can and will change and that change starts in the classroom. I had two workshops with the teachers over the past two days. I laughed, I cried, my heart beat fast and my soul filled with joy and wonder at their unbelievable passion for “their kids”. “I dream of them at night” – one teacher was telling me, her eyes shining. Teach for Romania rigorously selected the best and brightest for this program, both professionally and character-wise. A...

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Life in Fear. Life in Love. Or, the power of Blue.

Some time ago I received a short email with perhaps one of the most profound messages I had read in a while. It came from one of my clients, a manager in a large company, with whose team I had just spent a very special day. It was a day when a group of very professional business people, serious, intelligent, highly performant and competitive took off their corporate masks and allowed themselves to be just human – beautiful, sensitive, vulnerable, imperfect and amazingly authentic. It was a day when I used the psychometric instruments from Human Synergistics to measure the way these people interacted within the team and start a long discussion about the attitudes we can have towards one another – aggressive (red), passive (green) or constructive (blue). We talked about how aggressiveness and passivity, both consequences of fear, are two ways we humans have learnt, at a very young age, to protect ourselves. Constructivism, on the other hand, is rooted in trust and goodwill and is a drive we all had in our first years of life, but which we  forgot once too many layers of negative experiences have polluted the innocence of our childhood. Every time I explain to a group the mechanisms of fear and trust I realise it’s hard to find the perfect words and metaphors which would give meaning to the message, particularly when the audience is hyper-rational. I hear, in the business environment, all sorts of well-intended questions which are very hard to answer without becoming too abstract: “Why would it be better for us to stop competing amongst ourselves – competition drives results, doesn’t it?”; “What’s in it for me if I decide to help another rather than act in my own best interest?”; “How can we still achieve great outcomes in a hyper-competitive world if we have other people’s best interest at heart?”; “Altruism and profit can really go hand in hand?”; “Can I trust others and give up control without taking the risk of being disappointed...

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10 Recipes for Guaranteed Unhappiness

Over the past few years I learnt that there are no accidental encounters and there are no moments, however mundane, which cannot be turned into a lesson or a source of inspiration. Today I had the gift of such a meeting and such a moment. One of my workshop participants, with whom I discovered I had common interests and even common friends, was telling me over lunch about Luminița, the author of the popular blog Purpose Fairy, a fine place where I often go for inspiration. We ended up talking about an article she wrote — “15 things you should give up in order to be happy”, which I hadn’t read (yet), but whose message resonated with me and a thought I have been having lately: How come we keep getting lost on our way to happiness and yet many of us are masters in the “art” of unhappiness?  After this talk and reading that article I realized I have no idea if there is any formula for happiness, but I could easily come up with a list of recipes for unhappiness. It’s becoming clearer and clearer, in my work with people, that fulfillment, inner peace and joy can be achieved in countless ways. I know what makes me happy but I could hardly offer that as a general rule for others. I read so many books — scientific, psychological, spiritual — each taught me something valuable. I help people experiment with happiness every day, I can make suggestions, offer perspectives, but I cannot tell anyone what they should do to be happy. Along the way I learnt so much about happiness, but was left with few, if any, certainties. Today I realised, as a revelation, that on my search for happiness I’ve come across some (I could call them) certainties on unhappiness. I have met and continue to meet so many unhappy people every day that I dare say I have unintentionally become a sort of an expert in the most effective ways one could render oneself completely, profoundly...

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Cause, Effect and the Lesson You Have Yet to Learn

Feb 24, 14 Cause, Effect and the Lesson You Have Yet to Learn

Posted by in Mindfulness, Thoughts/Ideas

One of my greatest revelations this year was the idea that there are two ways of living: At Cause and at Effect.  C => E  is a symple equation which describes a more than complex concept. Life “at Effect” is what most of us are living when we complain or feel sorry for ourselves. At “Effect” we are overwhelmed by circumstances we cannnot control, the causes for our unhappiness is outside of us, others are to blame, we have bad luck, we have problems. At Effect we cannot control anything – others or external circumstances care controlling us. At Effect someone else is always to blame. Us? Never! At Effect we are victims, powerless. The fundamental question that urges us to live at Effect is Why?. In case you haven’t noticed, people rarely ask Why? when things are going well. “Why did you get an A?” is an almost unnatural question. “Why did you get a C?” is the norm. When we ask ourselves or others “why?” what we get are excuses, justifications, stories, explanations. “Why?” is the easiest recipe for victimising someone, for putting him or her on a defensive, to simply throw them at Effect. “At Cause” the attitude is completely different. Here is the place where we finally get rid of the Why? and replace it with What? and How?. “At Cause” we are no longer powerless, on the contrary, we have the certainty that we can do something regardless of the circumstances, that there are no unsurmountable obstacles and that every experience, hard as it may be, is a lesson. Instead of wallowing in self-pity we ask ourselves “what can I learn from this?” or “what can I do with this situation?” or “what opportunities lay hidden here?”. At Cause  we feel fully responsible for our lives. Of course there are circumstances, moments, people, instances we cannot control. Being at Cause give us the certainty that we can always control our attitudes towards whatever is happening in our lives in a given instant. At Effect you see no lessons, just bad luck. Unhappy childhoods, failed relationships, uninspiring jobs. At Cause you can choose to do something...

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About learning and why I love my job

Yesterday evening I spent more than two hours with a group of young people from Romania’s first Alternative University. It’s the second year when I am hosting a 2.0 Course in this amazing community of curious and eager for knowledge people. The theme? “Self-awareness”. If you wonder what a course on self-awareness looks like, the answer is simple- it has little to do with what we learnt in our school years that a course “should” be – a set of  information you need to memorise and then reproduce as good as possible. A 2.0 Course is a journey. There is no compulsory attendance. No grades. There is a series of informal meetings in which, starting from participants’ objectives, I suggest topics for debate. I offer them information which we discuss and analyse together. I recommend books. We talk about neuroscience, psychology, spirituality. We approach “self-discovery” from as many angles as possible, always aware that no perspective, as appealing as it may be, ever represents the absolute truth. From one meeting to another they take on new topics for thought and experimentation. They test the information they received. They challenge it. They prepare more and more questions for our next meeting. My purpose is to challenge them to think, to doubt, to test, to dig inside of themselves. If, in the end, they leave with some answers and even more questions than they had when we first met, then I believe it was a success. Last night, leaning into my good old friend, the flip-chart, I experimented a moment of pure joy. The joy of offering all my energy and receiving theirs in exchange. Unlike many of my “corporate” workshops, where people come skeptical and wait for me to convince them that the experience will hold value for them, young people come to 2.0 Courses because they chose to be there. They are just starting their journey through life, they are convinced that anything is possible and they have very few inner barriers and very little...

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People. Roads. Love.

Jan 19, 14 People. Roads. Love.

Posted by in Mindfulness, Thoughts/Ideas

This year I took a longer time to start writing and not because I am out of subjects to write about, but because the very act of living has become so intense that I have been having trouble finding the words to describe my feelings. Over the past year I travelled longer distances than ever before – both inside and out. And I learnt about the world. About me. I learnt about love. Love of nature, of life. Love of parents, sisters and brothers, friends, lovers. Love of people. Love of me. Somewhere deep down in my heart I always knew that love was part of the very DNA of the beings that we are, that without it we either cease to exist altogether or we transform in shadows, in bodies moving around inexorably caught up in the routine of days going by without meaning. But also deep down a seed started growing a long time ago, longer than I can consciously remember – the seed of fear. Fear that I might lose love. At that point I started believing that love was something I have rather than something I am and that without it I will suffer. I created the belief that I had to fight for love and that I should never become complacent, never relax completely in the certainty that I was loved unconditionally. Over the first 30 years of my existence I strived to earn the love of others and, once gained, I tried hard not to lose it. And with each loss, with each friend who chose a different road, with each lie, injustice, bad luck came pain and with it the certainty that love was indeed fragile and it could be taken from me in an instant. I convinced myself that I can be safe from suffering if I was vigilant. If I “invested”love only in those who were unlikely to let me down, if I offered my love in small doses and if, as my grandmother often...

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The Fear of Happiness

Nov 03, 13 The Fear of Happiness

Posted by in Mindfulness, Thoughts/Ideas

“Happiness is gained by sacrifice!”. “Anything good in life comes with hard work”. “Life is hard”. “Life is a battle”. “The world is a dangerous place, you need to fight to come through”. “Only the best succeed in life”. “When good comes too easily, something is wrong”. “Nothing good comes without struggle”. I could go on and on with a string of limiting beliefs which make people suffer from what a good friend calls “the fear of happiness”.  At first sight it seems absurd – how can one be afraid of something which we all desperately pursue all our lives? How can you run away from the one thing which, declaratively, all people want? Yet I see, every day, people who unconsciously sabotage their own happiness. People who succeed every time in ruining a moment which they strove for and dreamt about sometimes for years – the interview for the perfect job, the date with the dream partner, the relationship with the much-wanted children, the joy of a long-awaited vacation. Every time, when they reach their goals, these people, and there’s many of them, start finding the flaws or worse, just as they are about to get what they dreamt about, they manage  to fail at the last moment so then they can cry in self pity and convince themselves once more that life is hard and they are out of luck. There is somewhere, woven in the education many of us receive, a fear of that magical moment when our dreams will come true. Many people carry, deep inside, the conviction that they don’t deserve to be happy, that happiness is illusory or that after anything good something bad is bound to happen. So they would rather create strings of self-fulfilling prophecies and never reach that “something good” lest suffering should follow. This comes, I believe, from the lack of self love many of us suffer from. We were taught that loving ourselves unconditionally is an act of arrogance, of egotism, that we must always...

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Stories with and about Grandparents

Oct 13, 13 Stories with and about Grandparents

Posted by in Mindfulness

Some time ago I was reading an article by Simona Tache – “My Grandparents’ Love Story”  (in Romanian) and the many comments filled with nostalgic love stories from half a century ago…I then lovingly remembered my grandparents and a thought stuck with me that I needed to write their love-story some day, just as I heard it hundreds of times from my grandmother when I was a child. Granny was an incurable romantic. I’d know she was in a good mood as soon as I entered the door because I heard her humming an old love song from the time when people would spend peaceful summer afternoons eating pies and listening to an orchestra in the Public Garden. For a few days now this song, from back then, has been playing in my mind… Today I went to the cemetery and lit a candle by my grandparents grave. I also did something that, custom says, should not be done – I played this song in the silence of the cemetery. It was my gift for them. So is this story. It is said that if you truly want to understand and befriend your past, the history which brought you to this point in your life, then you should go back to your very first memory. Is it a happy one or not? Who is in it? My oldest memory dates back to when I was about 2 or 3, when I used to pretend I was a circus acrobat and would put on a huge show with all my toys as personal assistants in front of an enthusiastic audience made up of … my grandmother. I perfectly remember the whole “routine” – me hiding behind the wardrobe and granny, as I affectionately called her all throughout her life, would play host and solemnly announced the beginning of a new, fabulous show. At the right time I would enter the “stage” with all my stuffed Teddy Bears, with my favourite doll, Oana, and all the other...

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One Drop in the Ocean

Or Why You’re Never Too Small to Make a Difference Reblog from Medium.com One of my favorite movies is the fascinating and controversial “Cloud Atlas”. Some of my friends loved it, others hated it, others said they could understand nothing from this intricate story of intertwined destinies stretching accross centuries and life-times. Characters from the past whose choices and actions reverberate in the future and the other way around. Love stories echoing across multiple life-times and the amazing power of one individual to change the course of history. To me this movie is perhaps one of the best representations of life itself and the role each of us plays on this grand stage of existence and also a wonderful metaphor describing the wave of change that’s been building up in Romania lately. For the past month I found myself being pulled out of my usual “bubble” and being swept in the current of outrage that’s been rising and rising in my home-country. People have been coming out it the streets every day for a whole month. Last Saturday thousands of people held hands and created a living chain around the Houses of Parliament — an enormous, grotesque building reminiscent of a past era and a place where politicians with dying spirits decide the fate of this country. Sundays are the highlights of each week. Ten thousand, fifteen thousand, twenty thousand and, every week, even more people are expected to protest in the streets of Bucharest and other major cities. The starting point was the Rosia Montana Cyanide mine. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. These many thousands of people are in fact animated by something much wider and much deeper than an ecological cause. The massive energy of this crowd is directed against what they all perceive as an outrageous violation of their fundamental rights— the right to have a government that represents THEIR interests, NOT those of some foreign corporation, the right to free speech, the right to be respected in their...

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Romania Rising

What Happens when Sleeping Beauty Wakes? reblog from medium.com Never in my life did I feel so proud to be part of my generation than I felt today. Today my country marked a new stage in its history. A whole generation of people who, for the past 20 years, have been living each inside their own bubble, minding their own business, studying, building careers and families, has come out on the streets to raise its collective voice for the future of the next generation. This future is now in peril because of a controversial mining project which is threatening to destroy one of the most beautiful parts of the country, turning it into a waste dump filled with cyanide. More than 15 000 people have marched in the streets of Bucharest today, and many thousands more have protested in tens of other cities, both in Romania and abroad. In a country where televisions are starving for the “sensational”, and mundane gossip becomes “breaking news”, televisions are silent. Politicians who normally race to give a statement about the most trivial of subjects are quiet. There is a virtual media black-out on the whole phenomenon, the largest peaceful popular protest since the fall of communism. Never in the past 20 years have so many people come out in the streets, never before has this country seen such a mass of people protesting peacefully, making themselves heard using state of the art tools of democracy in a country which proves to be nowhere near democratic. The amazing thing is that all these people have organised themselves and have managed to spread their message DESPITE the complete silence of central press and major televisions. This is proof that a whole new era has begun. Watching the news that kept pouring on my Facebook timeline this evening I couldn’t help feeling in awe at this incredible network of ad-hoc reporters, at their creativity, at their connection with one-another. Artists who created banners and key-messages, photographers who took amazing pictures of every...

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Why I Feel At Home In Brazil

Aug 22, 13 Why I Feel At Home In Brazil

Posted by in Featured, Thoughts/Ideas

If you ever arrived in a place for the first time and was taken over by an incredible feeling of familiarity, of “home-ness” and felt you simply belonged there, you will understand how I feel like being in Brazil. Ever since I first stepped off the plane on my first trip in February I simply felt I arrived. Every time I had to leave I left a small part of my soul behind, only to find it again when I returned. Now, on my third trip this year, I cannot help smiling when people back home in Romania still ask me: “Aren’t you afraid? Brazil is a dangerous place!”. To all my friends concerned about my safety, here is why I feel so at home in Brazil: I love to smile. I do it most of the time. I smile for no particular reason. Back in Bucharest some people find this odd and often they ask me what am I so happy about. I sometimes feel others consider my joy inappropriate.  I never get this question in Brazil. This is the place where everybody smiles. It’s not unusual to say “Hi” to people on the street, smile and get a smile back. If you’ve met them before they not only smile, but they kiss and hug you every time they see you. In the restaurant where Copo now happily lives out his own love-story with Brazil, the working day opens and closes with hugs. They hug each other at the beginning of the day, as a sign of joy for spending yet another evening putting happiness on people’s plates and they hug each-other at the end of the day for a job well done. When I’m here I’m included in the hugs. Joyce, the sous-chef, affectionately calls me “meu amor”. In the shops people ask me where I’m from, what I am doing here, if I like Brazil. Two days ago I basically ended up sharing my life story in my rudimentary Portuguese to a shop...

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Feeding Your Demons

Once in a while I stumble upon a piece of wisdom that makes me rethink and expand my previous map of the world. Once in a while a book comes along that feels like a piece of the large puzzle of knowledge magically coming into place. It answers countless questions I had had in my mind, some of which I wasn’t even able to articulate before reading it. This summer “Feeding Your Demons” by Lama Tsultrim Allione is that book for me. I found it in a lovely bookstore in Seattle and was drawn by the title. Then I read a bit about its author and knew I had to buy it. Tsultrim Allione is an American teacher, writer, poet, a Buddhist Lama, a former Buddhist nun, mother of three children, grandmother of three grandchildren and above all a truly remarkable woman. She spent years studying in Nepal, seven of which as a nun. Later on she left monastic life, got married and discovered that leading a spiritual practice while living through the challenges and tragedies of “normal” life can be one of the most valuable spiritual lessons a human could receive. She went through two divorces and the tragical loss of one of her children before she found a way to bring the wisdom she had gained as a Buddhist nun into her life as a mother and a wife. This amazing woman created a surprising bridge between Eastern wisdom and the realities of a Westerner’s life. She found that the demons modern men and women are facing every day, going about their jobs and caring for their families, are no less scary than the demons ancient mystics were confronted with while in deep meditation on the top of a mountain. Demons like “fear”, “jealousy”, “addiction”, “anger”, “depression”, “guilt” – are all real, all capable of destroying lives and, surprisingly, can be tackled using some almost forgotten Buddhist practices. What Tsultrim Allione realised was that ancient Buddhist wisdom could be used to help...

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The Story Of The Girl Who Talked To The Clouds

Jul 26, 13 The Story Of The Girl Who Talked To The Clouds

Posted by in Featured, Mindfulness

Today a magical week has come to an ending. Dream Teacher Level I ended with hugs and dreams for the future, and a creative offering from each of the participants. Some sang, some wrote poetry, some drew. I wrote a short story, which I am now sharing with my friends from the workshop and with all of you who are on a path of self-discovery.  Once upon a time there was a little girl who could talk to the clouds. She knew it for certain that the clouds were her friends. She could ask them to bring soothing, fresh rain along on those long hot summer days when the scorching heat of the sun would burn everything in sight. She could also stop the relentless rain falling down on cold autumn nights. All she had to do was talk to the clouds and they would listen. She never told anybody that she could speak the language of the clouds. The blue sky and the shining moon were the only ones who could understand. The girl dreamed a lot too. She flew in her dreams, she travelled freely to this other world, a world of colour, sparkles, imagination and infinite possibility. She was a citizen of two realms: the “Here and Now” and the “Great Beyond”. And she was happy. But then something happened. Something terrible. She grew up. She started believing all these adults around who kept telling her that nothing exists, nothing is real but what can be seen, smelled, touched or measured. The clouds stopped talking to her and she wondered if they ever had in the first place. She stopped dreaming. Years passed. She became serious, down to earth, and advocate of rationality. She was respected and considered successful, but she felt empty inside. She chased that next achievement, always hoping it would fill that void in her heart, but that hungry, insatiable void refused to be filled. Then a miracle happened. She found a book on dreaming. An unknown force...

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Here, Everything is Dreaming

Jul 25, 13 Here, Everything is Dreaming

Posted by in Books, Featured, Thoughts/Ideas

This week has been a dream both literally and figuratively. I’m in the middle of the mountains, in the North-Western part of the United States, attending the Dream Teacher Training with author and teacher Robert Moss. You might wonder what a Dream Teacher is. Many people have asked me this question already. The answer might be longer than the scope of this post, but I’ll try to keep it short. Jung used to say that beyond our individual selves, beyond our individual conscious and unconscious minds, we are all connected through what he called the “collective unconscious”. It’s like a vast ocean of collective memories, symbols, archetypes that all of humanity shares. It’s where, he believed, dreams come from. The more you understand the workings of the collective unconscious, the more you understand yourself. Yet that is easier said than done because the unconscious has its own language, its own rules and its own means of communicating with us and sadly this is a language nobody has taught us in school. I have been fascinated by dreams and dreaming for as long as I can remember and I read whatever I could find about this topic. I’ve never really liked Freud’s approach on dreams, nor the obsession of the psychoanalytic movement to interpret dreams, to pin them down and put them into a box and use them as a diagnosis tool on a person’s state of mind. I’ve never really trusted dream dictionaries of any kind, nor superstitions of the sort: “If you dream of a wedding it’s a bad sign…”. Given my mistrust of dream recipes and diagnoses, discovering Robert Moss a year ago felt like a wonderful gift. His approach on dreams is exactly in line with what I intuited but never could really find support for. He believes we are all masters of our own dreams. Yes dreams are important, yes they are more than random electric discharges of our brain in sleep, but NO, nobody else but the dreamer can...

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Overcoming Learned Helplessness

Today I took part in a Swimathon, alongside four wonderful people, all giving our best in the water to raise money for a charitable cause. We swam next to 7 other teams in an open air Olympic pool. We encouraged each other and we had our friends on the side cheering us on. At the end of it we got our diplomas and medals. I hadn’t expected to feel so elated to hold that shiny piece of medal in my hands. I wondered why. Then it struck me. It was the first time in my life I had attended a sports competition of any kind and no less than two or three years ago I would have told you this day would never come. Why?  Because I suck at sports! At least, until recently, I was fully convinced I did. I have been mostly exempt from sports class all throughout my school years, for all sorts of reasons, but in the end it all boiled down to one thing: I was convinced my body was clumsy, that my jello feet were only  good for carrying my brain around and when it had come to giving His people sports qualities, God had forgotten me altogether. When I was little I was the one nobody wanted to have on their team on the playground because I’d slow them down. And when I did try to keep up the pace in impromptu running competitions I’d always turn out last. My knees were perpetually bruised from tripping and falling. I didn’t even have to run to manage that one. I could’t roll, tumble or do any other gymnastics moves properly, so sports class at school was my nightmare because I’d be one of the few kids with poor grades in sports, messing up my grade point average. For most others that class was a welcome break from more “serious” stuff like math. For me it was an ordeal. The only sport I ever enjoyed, even remotely, was swimming,...

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Choosing Love

I have the privilege to witness amazing transformations in people I work with every day and sometimes, as it happened today, I am reminded of how simple, yet magical, the catalysts for these transformations can be. Today I had coffee with one of my coaching clients, who came along with her three and a half year old daughter. I was in awe at the amazing connection between the two of them as I saw my client’s whole expression transform when she spoke to or merely looked at the little one. As my client is going through a big change in her life, her daughter unwittingly provides perhaps the most valuable support her mother could ever wish for. What does she do exactly? She herself summed it up beautifully when, at one point, her mother asked: “What are you feeling?” “I feel my heart filled with love” the little one replied “For whom?” the mother asked “For you, mommy”.  “I love you too, honey. I love you so much” the mother concluded, tears in her eyes. I had tears in my eyes too and I too felt my heart filled with love. This is a mother who wholeheartedly gives love to her child, and joyously receives love back. But what happens when this exchange is not that healthy? What happens when love isn’t shared or returned? What happens when people – parents, lovers, friends – make terrible mistakes against those whom they love? Or when they simply don’t know how to show love, because nobody has ever taught them? Later in the day I had a talk with someone very close to me about the sadness and pain of losing love, being denied love, being rejected, hurt, humiliated by someone you love. We talked about what options the “victim” has in these situations. What options does a rejected child have when her parents are unable to give her the emotional nourishment she needs? What options does another have when he is abused? What kind of...

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Turning Weakness into Strength and Embracing our Uniqueness

Jun 23, 13 Turning Weakness into Strength and Embracing our Uniqueness

Posted by in Books, Featured, Mindfulness

 I have recently discovered Andrew Solomon, a writer who nearly won the Pullizer prize 10 years ago for an exceptional book, The Noonday Demon, in which he recounts his own battle with depression and takes an in depth look at this modern plague, affecting an incredible number of people world-wide. Now I am reading another book by Solomon that I’d like to share with you – “Far From the Tree” – a book about parents who have exceptional children or children born in unusual circumstances – and the amazing journeys of these people who learn not only to deal with a son or daughter who is nothing like them, but discover deep meaning in loving these children who are so obviously different. Solomon tells the story of families with children who have autism, Down Syndrome, who are geniuses, who are gay, who are dwarfs or have been conceived in rape. The book captures the struggle, the joys, the amazing power of these parents to embrace a reality they had never envisaged before and for me, as a reader, was a precious reminder that often the “curse” of being different can be turned into a blessing, with the right attitude. The book led me to think of all our struggles for fitting in, for being accepted, of the obsession for being liked that so many of us share. It made me realise that we are often forced to embrace our imperfections when we simply cannot hide them anymore. For those children Solomon writes about the choices were obvious – accept that you are imperfect, different, and turn this into a positive or lead a profoundly unhappy life. For most of us, who are born “normal”, the choices are more subtle. The many ways in which we are different from others are not that obvious and the social pressure to comply is higher. We are expected to fit in, to constantly improve whatever is not quite right with us, to follow the prescribed path in life. This...

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