Looking at what it isn’t








though your sorrows not…

“and rejoicing in
language universal
you gave to me
the sour taste of grief
though it is not mine”
I call to the mountain

shouting disillusioned
“you have left me more
in fear than ever found another,
though it is not mine”
at that flawed and fading
massif built in hurt

“one earth-bound life from
many lifetimes, you might
take from me” loudly
calls my (though it claims it as its
own) echo
and “it is not mine”

though your sorrows not



Looking at what it isn’t

spiral 2

Sometimes the best way to understand something is to explore what it isn’t.

When you want to know what you want, most people find it easier to say ‘What I don’t want is…’

When I ask you what something is like, you are quite likely to answer, ‘Well it isn’t like…’

If I invite you to envisage the future of your choice, you might reply, ‘All I can see is how it is now!’

This list of what you don’t want, what it isn’t like, or all you can see now, is the perfect place to start because it is literally where you are now. How could you possibly start anywhere else?

Once you have described where you are now in terms of what you see, hear and feel, maybe even how it tastes and smells, you can begin to ask the next question.

If not this… then what?


 national poetry writing month 2013

 spiral 1Today’s prompt for the last National Poetry Writing day poem is an old favourite; 

Find a shortish poem that you like, and rewrite each line, replacing each word (or as many words as you can) with words that mean the opposite.

It is a favourite for me because it works equally well with both poetry and coaching. 

By looking at every word and finding its opposite, you discover far more about the meaning encompassed in a word. Your every word can tell you something about yourself when you learn how to listen effectively. And it’s not just the words themselves; in the way you phrase your language, in your pauses, your emphasis, your laughter or tears, there is meaning.

Like the layers of an onion, you can keep peeling away your language and discovering more about yourself.  This is where the Linguistic appears in Neuro-Linguistic Programming [NLP] and it is also where we find the stories so important in Narrative Practice.

And, of course, in poetry, take a short poem and rewrite it replacing each word with a word that means the opposite and, like those old magic painting books, something that was once invisible will reveal itself.


Found inTranslation

Dream French

 chateau with maze


I slept in a chateau

and dreamed d’escadrilles

I awoke et je pourrais voler

believe me now I understand

les oiseaux pourraient chanter

parce qu’ils ont la clé du ciel



Found in Translation

Today’s prompt for National Poetry Writing Month was to include at least five words  in another language. 

My initial response was to think, ‘this time they have come up with something that isn’t going to work for me’.

However, if there is one thing I’ve learned from NLP it’s the question ‘And if you could do it, what would you do?’

And, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from Narrative coaching it’s that ‘It’s who I am being that makes the difference’.

So, I answered both questions by being someone who does something even when I don’t know what to do. 

It was a delightful experience: moving from one language to another; playing with translations; discovering unexpected rhymes; and finding that sometimes a mistake can lead to something unexpected.

Sometimes what we are doing in life coaching is a form of translation – moving between ways of being, and, in that translation, discovering that we can be someone we would wish to be; someone who is simultaneously ourselves and someone we did not know we could be.



national poetry writing month 2013 


This is my penultimate poem for National Poetry Writing Month. It has been a bit of a marathon but I have learned a lot about myself and my writing and I’ve had some fun along the way.  

I’ve also had a lot of interest and support, for which I am grateful.  it makes a lot of difference to know that someone is listening and has heard what I have said. Of course this is true of coaching too.  What makes the difference in any situation will almost always come down to a conversation. Conversations can take many forms and sometimes it helps to have someone listen.

Thank you for listening 🙂 


The Power of Emotion

Black and Red

colour disappears in the furnace
colour disappears in the night

green was lost where you went
white diminished
blue extinguished
yellow paled into insignificance
I glimpsed orange for a moment but red consumed it
grey might have triumphed but was out-trumped by black

colour disappears in the furnace
colour disappears in the night

black and red is the frame I keep you in
all other colour leached
all shades enshadowed
all tones entombed

colour disappears in the furnace
colour disappears in the night

you black and red blood sucking insect
so insignificant I should be able to step you into oblivion
so weak I could kick you out of my mind
so thin I could snap you in two
you knew what you should do
you chose to black and red
so black
so red

colour disappeared
colour disappeared


Emotional Wellbeing; the mind-body connection

Emotion is a powerful driver. Think of a time when you felt anger, love, or fear and you may notice that your body still responds even though you may be thinking of something that happened a long time ago.

Once you begin to understand your mind-body connection, you can recognise an emotional response like the churning in the pit of your stomach, blushing, or tension in your neck and shoulders, as an important indication that there is something you need to attend to.

You can deny, and try to ignore an emotion, but that will not stop it affecting you. Try using the emotion instead.

Fascinating insights can appear when you investigate your emotional responses. Try asking yourself questions such as “What colour is my anger?” and you may find yourself writing a poem like the one above.

Other possible questions include;
            Where, in my body, am I feeling this emotion?
            What shape is it?
            Where did it come from?

Answer these questions as if you are writing poetry.  You may be surprised by what you discover.



   and a surprise discovery about myself

There are just two NaPOWriMo days left after today. The challenge for day 28 was to choose a colour and allow the colour to be a guide for the writing.

I like to be a bit contrary so I picked two colours and instantly triggered a memory of something that once made me very angry indeed.  I thought I had let go of all the anger over this incident long ago so was surprised by the intensity of my feelings as I started writing.

Writing is a good way of expressing emotions that might otherwise be eating away at you.  You don’t need to publish your writing on the internet, or show anyone else at all. It is well documented that just the act of writing things down makes a significant difference to your health and wellbeing.


Somewhere in the Psyche

Australian Aboriginal Rock Paintings which seem to include stylised animals, birds and human hands







Little Things Add Up

What fortune guides the traveller

in empty eggshell boat

sea songs and shanties

notes creating harmony

remains of a greater work

the song of the apprentice

small cherub wearing pickelhaube

sits among red flowers

little things not to be forgotten

raindrops adding up

ideas pushing boundaries

somewhere in the psyche

translating geology


drip drip drip


Little Things Add Up

When we are trying to make sense of something that has happened in our lives we collect evidence from things we remember. We take these memories, which we take to be ‘real’ or ‘true’, and put them together to create a story or narrative that makes some kind of sense.

 We then think, feel and behave in a way that is influenced by the narrative we have created.

But what if those story elements proved to be unreliable, or even untrue?

You can read the poem above and use the images, thoughts and feelings it suggests, to create meaning.

But what if you were someone else? Imagine yourself as someone else; someone you admire, whose opinion you trust.  Recall as much as you can about their life story.  Now reconsider the poem as if you were that person. some, if not all, of the lines will suggest something different to this person.

How has the meaning changed?

And yet the words are the same.

When you tell someone else your story, you begin to hear it differently and this can set you free to think, feel and behave differently. In this way narrative coaching gives you permission to be the person you want to be.


National Poetry Writing Month button


It’s the the 27th day of NaPoWriMo!

Today’s challenge involved plugging the first three words of a well known proverb or phrase into a search engine and skimming through a few pages of results, collecting (rather like a poetic magpie) words and phrases.  Those words and phrases would then provide inspirations and some of the source material for a new poem.

It was a fun exercise although there were several false starts before I settled on my chosen proverb. I’m curious as to whether the original phrase is suggested by the resulting poem. Possibly not.

Interestingly, I think I can see its influence all the way through. But then, I would wouldn’t I?



Lighten up



Proper Plops

Mummy’s on the internet
Daddy’s on the loo
I don’t know where to go
because I need a poo.

Sometimes when I need a wee
walking down the street
I don’t know how to say
I’ve got wet feet.

Granny says I’m sensible
Grandad says I’m dotty
but when I want to poo or wee
I don’t want a potty
I want a blue step
to climb up to the loo
then I can do proper plops
just like you.


Sense of humour

Sometime it can all get a bit intense.

Stress, anxiety, or just plain trying too hard, can creep up on us, as if in a blind spot. In NLP we talk about ‘state’ (we might call it ‘state of mind’) and can devise ‘break state’ strategies to help you break out of a particular mood.  This can be helpful in coaching because it;
     1 – enables you to step out of one way of feeling into something more positive
     2 – gives you an opportunity to stand back and look objectively at what was happening
     3 – allows you to experience the possibility of instant transformation
     4 – teaches your unconscious mind that change is achieveable

sponge star toy

Star jumps are a quick and easy way of breaking state.  Stand up now and do 3 star jumps – notice the difference! Play, laughter and foolishness are good for you. Letting go of a negative state of mind, even just for a few minutes,  can be the beginning of a transformation.
Give it a go.
Notice the difference.


national poetry writing month 2013


Today is day 26 of the challenge to write a poem every day for a month, and, yes I was beginning to feel it was getting a bit intense.  I had begun to take myself a bit too seriously so when I woke up early this morning, I decided to let go of my ‘proper poetry’ state of mind and the silly phrase ‘proper plops’ appeared at the top of the page!


Negative Capability

slanting horizon








bluster and tide
harry and chafe

rock pool and tide
scour and comb

strandline and tide
rope shell and line

river and tide
starless and black

rock fall and tide
roll and return

recall and tide
mind and remind


Negative Capability and Coaching

John Keats used the term negative capability to describe the artist’s receptiveness to the world and its natural marvel, and to reject those who tried to formulate theories or categorical knowledge. In a letter to his brothers he explained it as being, ” when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” Keats was talking about the artist’s ability to be simply receptive without prejudgment in order to be open to that which we don’t yet know.

For me this is a perfect description of the role of a narrative life coach and of the NLP Practitioner.  When we accept that our view of life is, necessarily, limited, and that there are possibilities of which we are unaware we open the doors of our perception to new, unguessed at futures.  This is a process of letting go.

Coaching can help us let go of whatever has been holding us back. Without realising it, we tend to become attached to limitations which we have created for ourselves.  

Often we develop these tendencies in order to protect ourselves from something and than practise them over and over again until they become ‘second nature’.  In other words they continue to drive us long after we are aware of them and long after they are actually helpful.  In fact they often become very well hidden barriers to our success.

Coaching can help you reach that state of mind; that negative capability, where it is possible to see that the seemingly impossible can be within reach.


national poetry writing month 2013



It’s day 25 on National Poetry Writing Month and today’s prompt suggested writing a ballad.  I have enjoyed writing ballads in the past and was happy to give it a go today but each attempt left me feeling frustrated.

It was as if the ballad form was getting in the way of the poem that was waiting to be written.  i had no idea what i wanted to write about and so I called upon my own state of negative capability, trusting the process of writing ‘without any irritable reaching after fact and reason’.  The poem above was what wanted to be written!


Finding themes, habits and tendencies

apples bucket



it’s up to you to fill in the gaps

it rained today
the mist cloud luminescent

in the tractor rut in the lane
abscondees have flown the burrows

at night the moon becomes a friend
and singularity

waiting for birdsong and light
I thought of breaking through

everyone in this house has dreamed of flying
but hasn’t looked up for years

unripened apples predict
but know they fall together

like light in mist
the arrow’s lost its point

pebble piles on pebbles piled on pebbles
I should thunderbolt you now

the red morning sun
discovered death and left

falling apart
before I leave
I miss you



For day 24 of National Poetry Writing Month, I followed a prompt from The Poetry School suggesting a found poem. Found poetry, according to a Pulitzer Remix is the literary version of a collage, where authors excerpt words and phrases from existing texts and rework them into new pieces


Personal themes, habits and tendencies

In NLP we speak of meta-programs.  These could be described as a set of unconscious and deeply held convictions which influence how re receive information through our senses and thus drive our thought patterns, actions and reactions causing us to behave in ways which we rarely question.  Although they are unconscious, they can be revealed, particularly in our use of language.

The challenge to create a ‘found poem’ seemed to present a golden opportunity to put the spotlight on my own linguistic tendencies. As you know, I have written 23 poems this month so I decided to re-read them and take, from each, the line which suggested itself and use the resulting 23 lines to create a new poem.

This kind of self-reflexive narrative is doubly interesting because it offers opportunities for both objective and subjective consideration.  I could ask:

What does this poem tell you about me; my tendencies and themes?
What can I learn about myself from the themes that have emerged?
What does your response to the poem tell you about yourself?

It is not only with poetry that we can step back and gain new perspectives on what drives us to think, feel and behave as we do.  The life story you tell me in a coaching session offers a perfect opportunity for identifying your own habits and tendencies. With new insights into what has been driving you in the past, you are much better equipped to make different choices for your future.


On Reflection

face to face with myself 


I saw that look in the mirror
resembling me but being you
I looked again and saw my mother.
I saw that look in the mirror
did I dream I glimpsed another?
I thought of breaking through.
I saw that look in the mirror
resembling me but being you



national poetry writing month 2013

National Poetry Writing Day – day 23

Today’s challenge – writing a  triolet.
A triolet is an eight-line poem. All the lines are in iambic tetramenter (for a total of eight syllables per line), and the first, fourth, and seventh lines are identical, as are the second and final lines.
This means that the poem begins and ends with the same couplet. Beyond this, there is a tight rhyme scheme (helped along by the repetition of lines) — ABaAabAB.

Narrative NLP
I think this poem is about that moment of transformational confusion in which you think you know what you are looking at but you see something you don’t expect and suddenly everything looks different.

What do you think?


Through the Eyes, Ears, Nose and Fingertips of a Child – How Poetry can Set You Free

children jumping




Girls and boys come out today

see and smell 
touch and hear and feel
a couple of trees
a neglected hedge
a skyful of reeling birds
the after-rain air
the drip of a drop from a bud
the calls of an owl in love
the squelching or crunching or crack underfoot
the tickles, the pongs, the screeches and songs
the lumpy jumpy crawly things
the water the sap the blood

in the mud
in the grass
in the rain
in the tractor rut in the lane
in the park under a slide
on a pavement lit in the dark
by a blue puddle of moonlight

While foxes bark and Jack Frost bites
owls hoot at the moon
hedgehogs swim and spiders spin
frogs leap and croak and spawn
so when you wake
be sure to take
a look in the pond on the lawn

The world can be sticky or stony or mossed
it is damp by turns with dry
wind can be cool or warm and wet
time can stand still or fly
when you watch and wait for clouds to change
or for rainbows after the rain
listen for cuckoo
look for a hare
listen for lark
look for the dark
or wait for the rain again

Walk in the light bright world for a while
feel the touch of the sun
find leaves and stones and waterfall
now that something new has begun


national poetry writing month 2013National Poetry Writing Month 2013
Day 22 is Earth Day

The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970 and is now celebrated internationally.
The challenge – write a poem in keeping with Earth Day.


Poetry and Life Coaching with Narrative NLP

One of the most inspiring ways of looking at life is to experience it as a child again, at a time before the first inklings of negativity have made a mark.  It may sound difficult to believe, but we can get back there.

Of course know that we are adults we can look back and see times in our childhood when something, and it is often love, seems to be missing. 

How would it be if, whatever you believe was missing in your childhood, you could go back now and give it to the younger you? What difference would it make to the child? And what difference would that make to you growing up with this new experience no longer missing, but present in your life as you matured? Imagine the difference it could make to how you feel right now.

The good news is that our brains don’t really know the difference between imagination and reality and imagination is always more powerful. So imagine yourself having had the childhood you would wish for yourself and notice the difference.

Writing this poem was a wonderful experience of splashing in puddles, pushing sticks into frogspawn and feeling the sun on my back.  It was exactly like being there again now.  I know there is still work to be done on it, and the best bit is that each time I revisit the poem, I will be revisiting my childhood.


Tell Your Own Fortune

 national poetry writing month 2013
Day 21 of National Poetry Writing Month

The challenge: re-write Frank O’Hara’s Lines for the Fortune Cookies.


Fortune Cookie Lines Recreated

You were always perfect, today, more perfect than yesterday, tomorrow…

You will have a future you have not even dreamed of

Everyone you ever meet will be a familiar stranger

Whatever you write will be right but may be left until the left has righted itself

Please contact the person whose contact you have been avoiding

You will never know RLS and KB and many more besides

Relax a little

Your first efforts will necessarily lead to your greatest achievement

Wherever you go will be the place to be

Your dreams have a lyrical quality which only you can translate

It is up to you to fill in the gaps

Who do you think you are? It turns out that’s who you will be.

You think your life is on a downward spiral but life is upside down

Something will happen

That’s not a pain in the neck, it’s stargazing

I realise you know all this but did you know you knew?

Whenever you wear white I know all’s right in your world

The next person you don’t speak to might have an intriguing proposal

A lot of people in the room wish they were you.

Have you been to those classes yet?

At times a glance at your watch may be misconstrued

What would you do if you didn’t have to do anything?

If you were a prisoner here, how would you escape?

Eat, drink, and self-authenticate

Put yesterday behind you

Whatever has been stopping you has stopped.


What has all this got to do with Narrative NLP and Life Coaching?

digital thought womanIf you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always had.  

In order to transform your experience, you need to do something that will feel strange.  The moment of confusion that the unfamiliar triggers is the moment when something new is beginning to seem possible.

Take any of the lines of the poem and treat it as if it were true.  When ‘A lot of people wish they were you‘ is true, what does that say about you? Now what happens when you see yourself living that as true? Does it feel unfamiliar?  Good, you are experiencing a new perspective.

Try another one; ‘Please contact the person whose contact you have been avoiding‘. That has to be unfamiliar; and what difference does it make?

Now think of something that has been holding you back and consider ‘Whatever has been stopping you has stopped‘. That’s the point of Narrative NLP.  It helps you reach the point at which you know that whatever has been holding you back has stopped so you can let it go.


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