Posts tagged: possibility

Philosophy, Booklists and The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Under the Rainbow at the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival

Blue sky, white clouds and a rainbow over a beach scene

My day at the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival began with John Gray on ‘The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Enquiry into Human Freedom.

book cover The Soul of the MarionetteThere were a lot of questions:

  • Can knowledge set us free?
  • Will we ever understand ourselves well enough to design a better version?
  • Do we really want to be free?

There weren’t a lot of answers but I did come away with a list of authors who might help with my research: Philip K. Dick, Theodore Powys, Gertrude Bell, Michel de Montaigne might help me see life a little more clearly which might mean less disturbed by the beliefs of the world around me.

I’m all for a closer examination of beliefs, their nature, their shifting sandiness and our unwitting of living as if they were true and this was a thoroughly enjoyable stroll in that direction.



On, then, to A Celebration of the Life and Work of Judith KerrA little girl opens to the door to a huge, lovable, cartoon tiger

What a life and what wonderful work Judith Kerr continues to create. 92 years old and as entertaining, gently profound
and moving as ever, Judith Kerr is an absolute delight.

I read ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ to children at school, to my own children, and now to my grandchildren and it has an irrepressible charm. Who knew that the illustrations include two versions of the father? I must go back and have another look.

And then, of course, there was ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ and now we have ‘Mister Cleghorn’s Seal’ based on her father’s real experience of saving the life a seal pup and taking it home to his flat to live on the balcony.

I hope I can be so irrepressible, good humoured and lively when I’m 92.


“Can you remember a time before you could read?

Hilary Mantel’s Life in Books conversation picked up a thread touched upon by Judith Kerr who questioned the content of the Janet and John books she encountered in school.  Whether it was Janet and John, “John has two caps.”; Nip and Fluff “Nip is a dog. I see a dog.”; or Peter and Jane, it seems wonderful that we ever saw the point in learning to read unless, like Hilary Mantel, you managed to discover a world of books actually worth reading.

Amid this fascinating conversation books and authors tumbled like a glorious domino rally with one book prompting another until my notebook was almost full.  ‘Kidnapped’ clearly deserves revisiting as I had completely failed to notice the perfection in its form. Oliver Sacks, Beryl Bainbridge, and Ivy Compton-Burnett are all favourites of my own who were highly commended while I admit my ignorance re Molly Keane, Sybille Bedford and Alison Lurie.

I’ve added them all to my ‘must read’ list, and I still haven’t finished reading “John Aubrey – My Own Life” by Ruth Scurr so I’m ill-prepared for tomorrow!


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!


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.


Experimenting with a glimpse of a story

double happiness


Double Happiness

it rained today
not transcendentally
just wet.
Do you ever see the rain I wonder?
I bet
you won’t expect to hear me say
it’s twins coincidentally.


national poetry writing month 2013

This is my 18th poem for National Poetry Month

Here, from the NaPOWriMo website, is the challenge for today…
“And now our (as always, optional) prompt! Today’s prompt comes to us from Cathy Evans, who challenges us to write a poem that begins and ends with the same word. You could try for something in media res,”
This, I discovered on Wikipedia, means ‘into the middle of things’ so I stepped right in to the middle of a story as an experiment.

I am playing with the notion of something other than a linear narrative here. What happens when the chronological, linear order we are accustomed to isn’t available?

What difference does it make?

Following my statement two days ago, that we are all meaning makers, I am curious to know what you might make of what may be an unnerving glimpse into a story and whether this unfamiliar standpoint might offer a revealing perspective on elements of your own story.

What does it mean to you?

We Dream of Flying

Everyone in this House

Everyone in this house has dreamed of flying
as fires cool and clocks tick unhurried.

We have all lain
in the warm arms of love.

We have sung and listened to song
whispered and received secret joys
anticipated with a thrill
lost and found
reached out

We have all lain
in the warm arms of love.

As fire cools and clocks tick
I dream of flying.


There are some classic NLP questions that never cease to amaze me with the power of their simplicity and the simplicity of their power.

The conversations tend to go along these lines:

            What do you want?
             I don’t know.
             And if you did know, what would you want?

            How would it be if..?
            I don’t know.
            And if you did know, how would that be?

           What’s holding you back?
           I’m just stuck.
           What would it take for you to be unstuck?


Coaching Myself with NLP and Poetry
This morning I woke up thinking, I don’t know whether I have a poem in me today. So I asked myself some questions:


If I did have a poem in me today, what would it be about?
It would be about dreaming, or flying.

 How would it be if I wrote a poem about dreaming or flying?
 It would be like dreaming and it would be like flying.

So, what would it take for me to be unstuck?
If I wrote the line ‘I dreamed of flying’ that would get me started.


In fact when I started typing, I found myself writing ‘Everyone in this house has dreamed of flying’ and the lines simply came, one after the other, exactly as you see them on the page now.

Of course this poem probably isn’t finished. There is always the possibility of drafting and redrafting but sometimes a simple poem can be powerful and this might be one of those.  it is too soon to know, but what I do know is that those NLP questions were a great help in getting me writing again.


This is poem 13 for National Poetry Writing Month.


Be my Outsider Witness

It’s day 9 of National Poetry Writing Month and, for the first time, I’ve hit a confidence wobble. I decided that the best thing to do was own up to my doubts and write about them. This gives me the opportunity to look again at my words and view process and content from a more objective standpoint.

I wonder what you might notice in what follows.  I’m inviting you to be my ‘outsider witness’.  You will spot things in the poem that are invisible to me.  By reflecting on what you see and hear in my words, I will gain a new perspective on my own experience and that could lead me off into all sorts of possibilities that I would otherwise have missed.


The Arrow’s Lost its Point

My song would be uncommon
but my refrain remains unsung
shut away in dusty books
wanting love.

Once it trotted at a rhythm
verses seemed to rhyme
but those which seemed remarkable
now go unnoticed.

My words are tired.
Lacking power to move
they darken on the page.
The arrow’s lost its point.

Once the pain of it was pleasure
there’s the rub
that sting can lose its venom.

While poison in the system throbs and courses for a while
the swell subsides
the itch will fade
that which had seemed irksome goes unnoticed.
Yet we are poisoned


One of the most challenging questions I can ask you is ‘What don’t you want to talk about?’

Acknowledging a deeply held  and persistent fear can be the beginning of escaping its hold.


Consider it for a moment.  What don’t you want to talk about?

Now consider two possibilities;

a) never talk about it but carry it with you, unspoken, for the rest of your life


b) explore it from many different angles until you know it so well that its hold on you begins to change.

The Phantom of Rainbow Street

(original story by Didier Daeninckx)

The man on the Rue de l’Arc-en-ciel

hasn’t looked up for years.

In a room full of darkness and fetid smell

as terrible as his own fears

he has locked  himself in a feverish cell

where the desperate cries of the long since dead

incessantly pull down his head.






I’ve been so busy writing an App and self -help book that it has been a while since I wrote any poetry and I miss it.  So, inspired and encouraged by Sally Douglas in her blog ‘Fractal Stanzas‘ I decided to join the NaPoWriMo challenge and here’s today’s poem.



This dried out piece of wood

wants to be a creature or a poem

or a story in a book.

Washed up, bleached and sea-weedy it

carries memory

of water, wind, and waves, a sudden

falling apart and


of possibility.




Best Day of my Life

A ray of sunlight through snowy treesI enjoyed a beautiful walk in the snow early this morning.

One of the best things about the walk was the sound of children’s laughter.  One child in particular caught my attention.  She was probably four or five years old and was looking up the hill where older children and adults were sledging and throwing snowballs.  She turned to her mother, who was recording the scene on her ‘phone, and said “best day of my life”.

This got me thinking.  I had already experienced several ‘happy flashbacks’ as I heard and felt the snow crunching under my feet, tasted the icy freshness, and watched families playing together.   I remembered walking in the snow with my mum and the smell of her coat as it became damp with snowflakes, shoveling snow from the path with my dad,  and watching our chalked hopscotch disappear as the pavement turned white.

There’s no doubt in my mind that happy memories are good for us; they strengthen positive aspects of our life story, and one happy memory can give us access to more.  When our storytelling self moves in a positive direction,we are more likely to make further positive discoveries which will in turn nurture this life-enhancing trend.

Often my clients find it difficult to get started on the pathway to happy memories. Exclamations such as:  “I can only remember being criticised”; “No-one ever praised me”; I was always in the wrong” arise more easily than recalling words of encouragement, praise or love.

And then I thought of her mum’s ‘phone, and the video that this 5 year old will be able to play and replay, revisiting an experience of joy, love and excitement; “The best day of my life” at the click of a mouse or a touch on a smart phone.  This generation is already the most photographed and recorded of all time.

I wonder whether repeated viewing of milestones and memories will give these young people much easier access to positive narratives that can nurture their future and make experiences of joy, encouragement and love a more prominent part of their view of the future.

It’s a possibility.

The Dramatic Art of Narrative NLP


Dramatic Change is possible

The dramatic art of changing stories


In this short video Ben’s story Paul Zak tells the story of a father and his little boy who is dying of cancer and uses the storytellers’ dramatic arc to explain the neurochemistry of empathy.

The dramatic arc rises to a climax and falls to the denouement

the dramatic, or narrative, arc


While he uses the theory of mind to explain our empathy with others, I recognise its implications for understanding our own emotions and influencing, our own behaviour.

When you tell me your story, you offer an exposition of the problem as you currently perceive it.  Our conversation proceeds and tension increases (rising action) as we explore the problem story and begin to entertain the prospect of new, previously unguessed at, possibilities.

The climax is reached when new perspectives lead to a breakthrough so that the power of the old story is reduced (falling action) and you can begin to let go of old thought patterns and habits.

The denouement of the old, problem, story emerges as you identify new ways of being that herald a new direction for your life story.


The Narrative NLP arc rises through possibility from the problem story to a breakthrough and through letting go reaches a

The Narrative NLP arc



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