Helena Clayton | Three places I learned about love
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Three places I learned about love

01 Mar 2020, Posted by Helena Clayton in Uncategorized

I’ve just started a series of interviews with senior leaders exploring love in their leadership.  One of the questions I ask is a version of ‘what has shaped you to enable you to talk about love in relation to your leadership’. Or sometimes ‘how did you learn about love in your life?’ The answers to those questions are many and varied and nothing ever less than fascinating.

I’m in the process of writing a piece that explores my own responses to those questions. But in the meantime, here are three things  that have shaped me over the last 15 years. Without these three influences, there’s no way I’d be doing this work exploring love. The debt of gratitude I owe to all three … well, it just can’t be underestimated.

And as you’re reading, maybe think about what you’d say in relation to that question…where did you learn about love in your life?

Findhorn Foundation

I first spent time at the Findhorn Foundation about 15 years ago. I’d been training with The Map of Meaning and, at the time, the model was still in development and had Spirituality as the concept at its heart (that later changed to Meaning). While I loved the model, I felt allergic to the term spirituality and cynical and wary of what it meant. I’d been raised in a strongly atheist family. Like one of my research respondents who said they were ‘fearful of what love demands of me’, I wondered what spirituality would require and, whatever it was, I wasn’t sure I wanted to give it.

But in the spirit of trusting that whatever repelled me was something that I should move towards, because there was bound to be some learning in it for me, I took myself off to the Findhorn Foundation, a spiritual community in Scotland, for their Experience Week, the general introduction to everything they have to offer.

That week, and in return visits, I learned about love that:

• ‘Work is love in action’ and small things done with great love really matter
• About the idea of being ‘in service’ and the strength in humility
• We need to slow down if we want to stand a chance of connecting with ourselves and others
• When we allow ourselves to be really seen, it’s healing
• And that accessing spirituality requires solitude and silence (for me)

The Hoffman Process

My husband first did the Hoffman Process – a 7 day deep-dive immersive look at how we’re shaped by our early upbringing and how we can make choices about what influences we want to keep and which we want to break away from. A year later, around 2009, seeing the difference it had made for him and how that shifted things in our marriage, I took the plunge and did it myself (and loved it so much, went on to do the 18 month Teacher Training programme – but that’s another story).

In my own week-long Process and in the 18 months training that followed, I learned that:

• ‘The only way out is through’ and to access compassion and love I first had to go through the gateway emotions of anger and grief which are also emotions of love
• There’s a reason we act in dysfunctional ways and there’s usually a damn good reason why we show up in the world in the way that we do
• Forgiveness and compassion is available to us even when we think it’s not
• We need to use our whole being – intellect, emotions, body and spirit – if we are to live a full life

Celebration of Being UK

I finished my Hoffman Process Teacher Training a little sore. It had been a tough 18 months with a LOT of feedback. One thing I left with was the sense that the parts of me that were all about planning, organising, achieving, action, getting things done, being self sufficient – and other versions of what often gets described as masculine energies – were probably a lot stronger than the parts of me that were nurturing and compassionate, softer and more caring, vulnerable and needy, loving and tender – the more feminine energies. And I understood why, post-Hoffman.

But how to develop those qualities – where would I even begin? Asking around for recommendations – where could I explore the full range of feminine aspects of myself – I found an extraordinary set of workshops and so began the next stage of my development.

Celebration of Being UK is focused on healing the relationships between men and women, between the masculine and the feminine in the world. And they do that by bringing together men and women in radical, immersive workshops that are deep and powerful. I have been involved with them for the last few years, have done many of the workshops as a participant, and go back at least twice a year to ‘hold space’ at the men’s workshop.

Here I learned – and continue to learn:

• No matter what trauma you carry from the past, that if it’s met with love, then healing takes place. I saw this – and still see it – time and time again.
• That those qualities I was seeking were very close to the surface and fully accessible to me and I wasn’t broken or deficient or lacking
• A deep acceptance of all the parts of me, even those that I don’t like very much
• A solid trust in myself and the unshakeable knowledge that I am enough
• That when I surrender and accept and stop fighting everything not only is everything easier but wonderful things happen
• And that spirituality is about love

These three experiences have been foundational for me. They’ve helped me connect with grief, loss and anger but also joy, acceptance and love and a whole lot more – and I’d be a much smaller person without them. If you’re interested in knowing more about any of them, please do drop me a line and I’d be happy to share more of my experiences with you.

I have a monthly Leadership and Love Newsletter and you can subscribe here. Or you can find me on Twitter using @HelenaClayton.

Helena x

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