Helena Clayton Newsletter - View this email in your browser
Leadership Developer • Coach & Facilitator • Writer

Welcome to the Feb 2022 Newsletter

Hi everyone, and I hope 2022 is treating you well so far?

We're already past Imbolc, this year 2 Feb, the day in the Celtic tradition that marks the mid point of winter and this print of snowdrops (painted by the wonderful artist Beth Whittaker) is one I always have on my desk at this time of year.  I first came across Imbolc when I spent some time in Findhorn, yonks ago, and that was a time that really opened my eyes to so many new things.  We had snowdrops around us then, so they always connect me back to that time. 

Although I can't really say that I'm ready for Spring yet. I took a 3 week break over Christmas and New Year.  It was a powerful circuit breaker, especially those 4 solo days with no wifi or phone signal half way up a hill in the Black Mountains.  Something shifted in me.  Since starting work again, I'm taking things much more slowly.  I show up for work with as much of me as I can.  And once my day is done, I go straight back to bed with the electric blanket on and books and Netflix.  And I'm eating huge amounts - soups with cream, cinnamon buns with butter ... it's the closest I've ever felt to what my body naturally wants to do in deep midwinter.  And I'm going with it!  But I'm taking plenty of exercise and eating my greens and so despite the calories and the many hours in bed, I think I'll be ok!

I hope February is as short or as long s you want it to be ... and I'll be back here at the start of March.

Helena x

I'd love to hear from you, by the way.  You can email me using this link.  I read everything, and always reply.  And if you received this email from a friend, and would like to subscribe, please go here.

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A conversation with Catherine Newell

Ever since I started my podcast, I've been hoping I get to talk to Catherine Newell.  This month I did and am so thrilled with our conversation.  

I first met Catherine when I was doing some training in Shadow Work facilitation (she's a Shadow Work coach and facilitator).  But then I connected with her on Facebook and have been reading her Catherine Newell and Autism page where she writes about the acute challenges and also exquisite joys of parenting a severely autistic son.   Through this glimpse into her life with Axel, I've come to a deeper understanding of what it means to put love into action.  Wait till you get to the part when she talks about people coming up to her in the supermarket - you'll see what I mean. 

Please take a listen.  I think you'll love what she says and who she is. I have a feeling you'll soon see why I wanted you to meet her here.

 If you like it, please do share with other podcast listeners you might know - and let them know they can subscribe to my fledgling podcast on Apple or Spotify.  As can you, of course :-)

And if you want to explore coaching with Catherine, you'll find her contact details on the Shadow Work website

The Love Lab ... come and play ...
A fabulous new (and FREE) event is in the diary, based on the feedback from previous workshops about what people loved and wanted more of.  Come along and explore with other lively (and lovely) minds:
  • how can we create more love between us, including with people we don't know ...
  • what blocks love in our organisations and how might we create conditions for more love to flow.
3 wonderful hours at the end of March.  Your heads will get plenty of research and food-for-thought.  And your hearts and souls will also get some loving attention :-)

Register your interest here, plus all the details you need...

Just a quickie here to say that I've changed my plans for the full Leading from Love programme this Spring.  A number of things meant I couldn't get the dates to work out, sadly.  But I'll get onto it for later in the year. 
Exploring Purpose (and non retirement)
Full disclosure. I've never really been one for talking about Purpose, and certainly not mine.  Mostly because I don't know what to say about it. I feel coy and shy about trying to talk about it.  Does it bear up to being spoken in public?  Do I even have one?  I worry that it might sound either grandiose and pompous, or really piddling.  And I think, in my line of work, I'm kinda expected to know my purpose and be living from it.  

I can't say that I'm ever going to get there.  But I do know that I'm getting increasingly interested in questions like:
  • What good can I do?
  • What's needed - and how might I make a small contribution to that?
  • As well as earning, what can my 'giveaway' be?
  • Who am I in service to?
  • What way of being does the least harm?
  • What matters most to me?
Because what's getting much clearer to me is that as I age and hopefully also mature, that my role needs to be in service of something bigger than just me-and-mine.  

So if any of that lands with you here are a couple of things you might like:
  • The Purpose Xchange, an exciting new organisation run by a cracking team of people exploring how we want to show up as we age and mature, including exploring the idea of what 'purposeful non-retirement' means. In the couple of sessions I've been too, I've had some deeply generative and really inspiring conversations with people way younger and also much older than me. 
  • A blog from me that says something about what our focus might (should?) be turn to as we age and mature. 
Systemic Constellations
For a year or two, I've noticed how much either a) I'm drawn to learn more about things that have love at their core or b) I find that everything I look at seems to have love at its core when I let myself see it.  And both these things might be the case for Systemic Constellations.

Someone (thanks, Charlie) recently described it as an 'incredibly powerful methodology for identifying how to create positive movement within complex systems' and 'a way of moving beyond the purely cognitive to reveal some of the hidden dynamics of systems using the wisdom of our bodies to tell us what's needed'.

When I think of what my 2018 research about Love showed, and what I've been learning about love ever since, the links seem clear.  Whether we're talking about our inner parts, or the parts of a system like a team or an organisation:
  • any system is always striving towards wholeness and balance and wants to 'bring into union that which has been separate'
  • when everything is included and nothing is left out or excluded - the difficult stuff especially - then the whole system can relax
  • when time and maturity is honoured and respected then the system can relax
  • that every part of every system wants to feel they belong - and not feel 'wrong'
  • when a system is relaxed then it can access a state of flow and love and move towards its potential.
If you take a look at this blog you'll see where I make links with love and the wider system. . 

I've just completed the second module of Practitioner training with Ed Rowland and The Whole Partnership and really getting a lot from it. On this module, I got some great insights into a tricky client system dynamic.  And generally I notice I'm taking in much more of the bigger picture with my clients and helping them do the same.  And also being more 'accepting of what is'.  Both of which feel more loving. 

You can read the original Love and Leadership research report by clicking here 
Coming back to life

I mentioned I was starting a poetry class, didn't I?  So it began a few weeks ago with the tutor, whose main published work was a book of poetry for children called The Newt in the Suit, doing an exercise with us matching animals and clothes.  We all had to come up with as many 'goats in coats' and 'ants in pants' or even 'jaguar in a bra'... as possible.  I wasn't entirely sure this was the right place for me, I have to say.  But we laughed a lot and things also got better, fast. 

I also bought myself a couple of 'how to write poetry books' and it turns out they're both for children and young people. but just reading the poems they include as teaching aids has really got me more connected to language again. And even in two weeks in, I'm noticing that my attention to the natural word has changed as I pay closer attention to it, in order to describe it.  My imagination is flexing as I try and locate metaphors for something concrete. I'm loving what's happening. It feels like a long-forgotten part of me is coming back to life. 

My mum loved poetry.  And I always had little time for it, preferring prose.  And so it's also reconnecting me with my mum, in some way, and I'm liking that too. 

The course I'm doing is this one and there are plenty more like it.  

Some great reads - and a listen
My long break over Christmas gave me a huge amount of space to read.  Bliss.  But I'm still in hibernation mode and am going back to bed with a book whenever I can.  And yes, sometimes in between meetings. 

So here's what I can share with you this month - all wonderful.

David Whyte's latest book of poetry, Still Possible, is tender and beautiful.  And from my fiction pile: the imaginative Cloud Cuckoo Land, the extraordinary and completely original Choette, The Lincoln Highway which was engrossing and human, the Booker Prize winning The Promise and (for Book Group) the grim and gripping A Burning

Usually I tell you about a book when I've finished that book.  But you're going to have a wait a LONG time for me to get to the end of Iain McGilgrist's The Matter With Things so I'll flag it up to you now.  A mixture of philosophy and neuroscience, it's based on how the brain works (taking us on from The Master and His Emissary on that topic) and into the newer territory of how the way we pay attention shapes the world around us, and how that shapes both our individual and collective reality.  At this stage of reading I'd say that it's about how the world is so much more (SO MUCH MORE) than the 'shallow materialism of our age' tends to privilege.  It's wonderful but I'm having to take it in very small bites.  So I might update you from time to time... But if you want the essence of it this Rebel Wisdom podcast with him will do the trick. 
And at work, the power of stories
'We all tell stories.  We all recount odd incidents that have happened to us.  In so far as we talk at all, we are generally telling something of a story'.  So said Ted Hughes. 

My work is full of stories right now. 

A recent coaching client said to me: 'when I hear myself tell the story of myself to you each time we meet, it confirms who I am back to myself'.  I loved this expression of how a coaching space can be so free-form (just  'telling the story of what's been happening with me') and so absolutely vital to helping us work out who we are in these pretty messy times. 

And I regularly ask people to tell each other the story of their lives when we start a new programme. I generally use a Lifelines activity so they explore what's shaped them to become the person and leader they were today.  It was powerful for them, as it so often is.  You can find a short version of the activity in Lencioni's 5 Dysfunctions or drop me line and I'll happily walk through how I run this and share my notes with you.  

And then with another client, we're running a series of Storytelling workshops to help senior leaders tell the story of the new organisational purpose - a powerful new energy for the company which needs a deeply human energy to really convey its juiciness!  And so the wonderful James Healy is inspiring these folks to communicate with life and images and detail and fun and spirit.  If you're looking for someone to work with on storytelling (and impactful communication more widely) he's fab. 

And as James quotes from Annette Simmons: 'people don’t want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith – faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell

And if you think a conversation about how I might support you, work-wise, might be useful, please do get in touch.  You know where I am on Twitter and LinkedIn or connect via Email.  Or call me of course, whichever suits.

Thank you for reading
Helena x

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