Life Part I: Doing. Life Part II: Being
A Curious Life In A Week
This title is also a statement. Possibly the boldest statement I’ve made (to myself) yet. It’s a sort of metaphorical stake in the ground, for the next phase of my life; Life Part II. It came to me in the midst of a sort of crisis, a crisis of way too much doing and not enough being. And if you knew me, you’d know perfectly that in practice, I’ve got no idea how to carry it out, or indeed what it fully means. But I’m trying to work it out, starting today.
My Life Part II has begun relatively well. I am sitting overlooking the sea at my aunt’s house at Selsey Bill, with a small dog on my lap that I’ve agreed to look after for the week. The timing could not have been better. Her name is Heddy Le Mar, after the actress, and unbeknown to her, she’s helping me out in the art of ‘being’. She should know. I’m watching her and she is a true master at it, the ultimate teacher. She’s just jumped up onto my knee, with her chin resting on my laptop making it rather difficult for me to type. As I sift through my backlog of emails surrounded by notebooks, she’s no doubt trying to tell me that I’ve still got a long way to go yet. Every minute I’m not present with her and my surroundings, she lets me know, with a nudge of the nose or a jump on the lap.
I came here to my aunt’s house specifically to try and switch off and ‘be’. Over the past year people keep telling me I need to get out of my head and into my body, that I’m doing way too much thinking, too much doing.
I probably need to take stock of the last four years of my life, if I’m honest, but that’s too much for anyone to do in a few days. So for now, we’ll use last week’s experiences as a microcosm of the last year and a half. Yet in true Londoner style, I am already struggling with the idea that whilst everyone else is undoubtedly out working and earning for their retirement pot, or running around after their kids, I’m lording it up by the seaside.
I’m not sure about you but I feel really guilty when I’m not doing something. Whether that’s working (earning money), or doing chores, or exercising. The only time I can justify it is when I’m with other people. Only then, can I relax.
You see, last week, the week of my 46th birthday, was particularly poignant, in many ways. Firstly, for being so jam-packed! Those that know me would say that isn’t at all unusual, but this was particularly epic, it was on a grand, grand scale even fir me, and is why I’m writing about it. And secondly, for making me realise that this all has to stop.
Ultimately, I’ve had the realisation that all this learning and doing isn’t really working for me anymore. It’s when a week begins with a hugely powerful past life experience that blows your mind (as well as everyone else’s in the room that day) and ends with an energy treatment (a little like Reiki, just more full on) where the therapist tells you that she’s had to ‘clear your future because you are making it so chaotic’, that you know something has to give. Particularly when the therapist says she’s never had to do that to anyone before.
You see, I’ve always been someone who likes to ‘do’. My Twitter bio reads ‘don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today’ and that’s firmly been my motto throughout life. When I see an avenue I’ve not yet explored, or read about an adventure I’ve not yet had, or heard about a new way of thinking, something inside me shouts ‘try it’ at every new opportunity.
Once I’d taken off from my parent’s home in Cornwall, at 18, there was no looking back. And by the time I was 23, I’d lived in the Catskill Mountains in Upstate New York, teaching rich Jewish kids a game of tennis or two, spent a few years at University in Dorset, had 2 years living in Italy with a Count & Countess, au pairing for their 2 boys on the shores of Lake Garda, and ended up in London living with 2 girls I’d met in Verona. Give it another 3 years and I’d done 8 different jobs, gone travelling around the world for 10 months to 10 countries with my best friend and done a ski season managing 10 chalets, 20 chalet girls and 1000 skiers a week. And if it weren’t for a torn ligament, I’d also have squeezed in a summer season teaching tennis on a Greek island, too.
I’m actually a firm believer in the idea that we live many, many lives. Yet still, I’m driven to try and do as much as I can in this one, leaving no room for leftovers into the next reincarnation, assuming I’m right on that score. Whether it’s FOMO or a constant drive to learn, or just a burning curiosity, I could not say. It’s probably a mixture of all of those. Even in my last role, I spent 15 years searching out the most exciting experiences in the world and offering them up to brands as marketing content.
You get the picture.
And so, fast-forward to last week, when it all sort of came to a head. It’s the culmination of well over a year of stepping out of a full time role as an employed Managing Director, to becoming a self-employed entrepreneur. An entrepreneur who hasn’t taken the time and space out of ‘doing’ to fully ‘be’ in order to crystalize her vision. One who hasn’t taken the time out to narrow down all her passions into what continues to elude her; her true purpose in life. Why am I here, what is the point of me?
This is how my week went:
Day 1 Sunday: The School for Wizards in Henley. This was not how most Sunday mornings go. It was when I finally experienced a true connection with myself through a deep form of meditation. It offered up some profound messages from deep within me and left me deeply moved. In the afternoon, we stepped it up a gear and I went on to have a hugely powerful past life regression in front of others in the group, which I feel may unravel some major blocks in my life. You can read more on this here.
Day 2 Monday: I was invited by my good friend Rohan Narse to an extraordinary experiment by a commercial think-tank in central London, where a group of us, including one of George Osborne’s economic advisors, a prominent QC and a storyteller, were invited to find a way to solve complex questions such as ‘Is Wealth Inequality Essential?’. The stories and discussions that emerged left me (a) feeling intellectually inadequate but ok with that and (b) confused — how have we managed to make modern life so utterly paradoxical? I had a rest in the afternoon as the combination of Day 1 and Day 2 had left me exhausted, both body and mind.
Day 3 Tuesday: my 46th birthday. This began with a half-day workshop up at Islington Ecology Centre on a newly emerging practice called Holacracy. A complete system for self-organisation within organisations, it’s borne out of the growing belief that traditional hierarchy is reaching its limits. It restructures by removing power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clearly defined roles. I found it fascinating, although after the last few days, sitting in 2 long meetings trying to figure out all the new rules was a tough call. Still, I want to know more about this new way of working and intend to write more about this as I learn. Where will these principles fit into my jigsaw puzzle life of never-ending new concepts and ideas? I wasn’t sure, but without much time to think, I was whisked from London to Winchester for a hair cut and dinner with my sister, to celebrate my birthday. Wonderful, although one glass of wine and a gin & tonic later, on top of the events from Days 1 and 2 and 3, left me feeling nothing short of dazed.
Day 4 Wednesday: No let up here either as I dusted off my ski gear from the attic for a 24hr adventure in the French Alps. A few weeks earlier, I’d arranged a Skype call with a wonderful, kind, creative, entrepreneurial man who I’d met once in a workshop a few years ago, called Jack Hubbard. I’m also part of an accelerator programme called 50th Generation and for ages I’d wanted to engage with Jack, who was involved as a mentor. When Jack and I eventually spoke about where my life and business was heading he suggested hopping on a flight to Geneva where he’d pick me up and we’d spend the day skiing and ideating. I can’t say exactly why, but I felt he could help me with some answers, so I booked the flight immediately. I loved his sense of freedom and if a man who moves his wife and young family to the Alps to follow their dream doesn’t inspire you, what does? Jack picked me up at the airport and after an hour’s drive dropped me off at 9pm in a small Alpine village, suggesting I take a look around and get some dinner. I realised that I had absolutely no idea where I was. But by Day 4 of my Curious Week, it didn’t seem to matter all that much.
Day 5 Thursday: when I’d told my friend about this intended trip, she threw her arms around me and told me that’s why she loved me. I look bemused until she explained that very few people would hop on a flight to the Alps to spend one day skiing with someone they hardly knew. She had a point, yet I was pleased that at least my intuition had guided me to Jack. It turned out that he was just what I needed and the exploratory and very foggy ski from France to Switzerland, to pick up his passport and jacket which he’d inadvertently left there last week, was jam-packed full of signs and metaphors that led straight us back to the blocks we could see were holding me back. We came up with some magical solutions to some of those problems. Bizarrely, it turned out I’d already created these solutions myself a year ago on a website I’d thrown up in 3 hours and thought very little about since. Sometimes you need a good man, some foggy mountains and a Savoyard Tartiflette to make you realise that perhaps you should trust yourself after all.
Day 6 Friday: after a late night back from Geneva, I awoke bleary-eyed to take delivery of Heddy Le Mar. Quickly giving her a show-around of her new surroundings, I then left Heddy in the hands of my next-door-neighbour’s teenage daughter, and hoped for the best. Heading back into London, this morning’s mission was to pick up a video camera I was borrowing from a friend, in order to start filming for the launch of my own version of Nic Askew’s Soul Biographies. There was time for a quick lesson before rushing over to the other side of town to meet Linda Duberley, the ex-Sky news presenter turned coach and mentor for young women. Linda was late (trying to fit too much into the morning, like me) so one soothing cup of mint tea before joining a ‘holistic tea party’ at the Metropolitan Hotel. By then, things were really beginning to catch up with me, but with guests including the amazingly talented astrologer, Shelley Von Strunkel, I just didn’t have time to admit to myself that I was fading fast. The enriching conversation on holistic lifestyle, purpose and creativity from the inspiring ladies in the group would ordinarily have both lifted me and grounded me, but by now, Day 6 of my Curious Week, I was feeling more than a little defunct of energy and was operating on limited reserves. Time out was needed, particularly as I then realised that I hadn’t yet reserved a room in a pub where 10 of my friends were gathering the next day as a belated birthday celebration. And most of them were travelling some way to get there….
Day 7 Saturday: with a bit of pleading (and perhaps by now, He above may have come to my aide) I got the room booked and even better, Heddy Le Mar was allowed in too. Today went well, all things considered. Good friends always help you see the funny side to life and I relished their company, stories and love.
Day 8 Sunday: the last day of my Curious Week ended on a high note, if you can call it that. High vibration may be more apt. I was booked in to see an amazing Hungarian lady called Bea, who had a practice in Marbella but had been invited to London to share her amazing talent with a few of the ladies from the Holistic Tea Party. Bea was quite an astonishing human being and again, my experience, called the Rainbow New Energy treatment, is a little difficult to describe in words. If I told you that it clears blockages of your life force energy, those created on our path between now and pre-birth, I’m thinking you probably dismiss it, or think I was one of the hippy crowd that talks nonsense. But believe me, it was profound. Using gentle massage with hands and feathers, Bea guided me through 2 sessions. The first entailed me thinking through all my fears and blocks whilst she seemed to be ‘pulling’ them, with her hands, out of my body. The second entailed me dreaming as high as I could about all the things I’d like in my life — the sky was the limit. What Bea did at that point, I could not say, but I felt incredibly high after the session and for once in my life, I actually felt truly in my body instead of in my head, where I spend most of my time.
This mad, exciting, creative, poignant and possibly life-changing week has left me reflective. We are bombarded with tons and tons of information, experiences and stuff and what happens is that we fill our lives with it. We do this in the hope that it will provide us with answers to fill something. Some people call it the void. We drink, we eat, we watch TV, we buy stuff and more stuff, we move from one thing to the next without so much as a pause for breath to smell the roses or hear the birds. Why do we do this? I think it’s to shut ourselves out for fear of what we might hear inside, our true inner voice, the one I may just have found during my Curious Week. One day, maybe next month, maybe in 20 years time, I will look back and think how foolish I was to spend so much time doing and not being.
Yet in a way, this fascinating week has led me right to where I need to be, and right where I am now. Those who have already taken this journey tell me that whilst it makes no sense to me now, and whilst it feels like a million pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that may never come together, I will look back and see that it all makes perfect sense. Life Part II: Being is going to be exciting, that’s for sure. It represents the emergence of a new part of me, one I don’t yet recognise, but one I’m going to embrace her with (relaxed) fortitude. And whilst I still have more answers than questions about my Life Part II, such as ‘how does one start or continue a business whilst simply being?’ or ‘how do you get anything done by simply being’ or ‘do successful people work from this being state’ (the list goes on), I know that what this is really about is trusting that life will guide me to where I need to be and where I need to go.
It’s a hugely uncomfortable space for me to be in, I can’t lie. But most importantly of all, it’s going to be about trusting myself. And if this week is anything to go by, I think I may just be on the right track…