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

Welcome to the April 2023 Newsletter

Quite a month, all round.  

I got the gift of a piece of work that leached all the joy out of me.  It also nudged me a little too close to burn-out, it has to be said.  I hope not too close that it's done me damage.  But too close for my liking, given my 2 years with Chronic Fatigue about 12 or so years ago. But a gift because it was clear it was only here to show me exactly what I need to be saying no to, a lot more often. Very helpful.  

And what was vital in helping me work this out was a 2 hour supervision session, plus a weekend away with a wonderful friend, both of which gave me the space to hear myself think out loud.  Thank you Emma, thank you Simon and thank you Sue.  

And it was also a month where I saw a wonderful exhibition of folk traditions in Compton Verney; pulled two sticky, gooeey lambs from their mother in my first ever lambing; had six wonderful days away walking in the Brecon Beacons with Dom (forgetting that 6 miles there bears no relation to 6 miles on the South Downs!) and spent 2 days online learning more about Systemic Constellations with Jan Jacob Stam.  Acts of Love for Tough Times was a wonderful session to run - new date below - although tech problems meant some weren't able to join (so sorry - and new date below!)

I'm watching my tulips, day by day, as they're about to emerge.  Any day now.  And by the time I'm here with you again, they'll have been and gone. Time just moving us all on.

I'll see you in May and until then, a reminder from John O'Donoghue that we 'are here to search for the light in our hearts, and when we find it we are meant to give it away generously'.  I'll do my best!

Helena x

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Living in the time of Dying

You know, right, that I am one of the people who believe we're heading not just towards climate collapse, but societal collapse. 

It's not a popular thing to talk about. Not that many people want to think of that happening. Let alone talk about it.  But as someone said the other day: everything comes to an end.  Everything.  And so it would be very strange indeed if this civilisation didn't end too. 

I'm in good company.  Jem Bendell, Margaret Wheatley, Joanna Macy, Dougald Hine.  I'm with them. And also Mark Shaw.  Whose 
documentary Living in the Time of Dying is worth looking at.  

We can't do anything about this.  But we can choose how we want to live within it. 

Powerful Questions

David Shaked sent me a link to the latest episode of his Powerful Questions podcast.  He was exploring 'what do you love?' as his theme and it's a wonderful episode. 

But more than that, it turns out the previous 18 episodes also focus on a single question and so you might also fancy diving a bit deeper into 'what is the smallest step?', 'what else?' and 'what do you want?'.  I've just finished listening to 'what's available to you?' and have come away with an expanded sense of choice, possibility, abundance and gratitude.  And some fresh ideas for dinner as well as a new activity for working with clients.  Thank you, David. 

Quiet Walks

If you ever find yourself within a decent travelling distance from mid-Wales, do check out the wonderful walks from Quiet Walks.   Lisa Denison leads walks that are generally off the beaten track, and for small groups, including some walk/swim combos as as well as full-moon walks.

And she's wonderful company, which is also a treat.  I met Lisa years and years ago, when I was doing some work in her old organisation.  And the joys of social media - we got reconnected about a year ago and met up for a lovely long walk when I was down her way on holiday earlier this month.  


These days, I increasingly get out of sorts if I can't move my body every day.  If I can't get a couple of swims, 2-3 yoga classes and a daily hour of walking in each week.   If my week is too busy to fit those in without strain, then it's not the sort of week I want.  

Each one gives me things I need.  But it's the walking that's at the core of it all. As well as long walks on the Downs, I have a regular circuit 'through the town and back through the park' that's my default. Takes me about 40 minutes. I do it in all weathers, in light and dark. And in those 40 minutes I might draft a punchy email, remember I need to send a card to a friend, scope out the design of a new workshop, allow myself to feel awkwardness and embarrassment about a way I spoke to someone the day before, recall a poem that had made me laugh the previous week ... 

There's not much that a walk can't sort out for me.  And so it was good to see this article pop back into my FB feed this week to remind me that 'walking organizes the world around us'.  Feels true for me anyway. 

Seeing systemically
At the end of a 2 day online conference, when 250 people are standing up and dancing on Zoom to Jerusalema, you know it's been good couple of days, right?

I'm no fan of spending a weekend online,.  But when it's a 2 day teaching with Jan Jacob Stam on systemic constellations - and when it's his final teaching before retiring - then I wasn't going to miss that. 

Even though they're out of context here, the following were gems for me:
  • Systems are not self resolving.  Someone has to do something that has not been done before
  • Knowledge is an expression of life energy and wants to be passed on
  • Systems seek wholeness and so someone will be sucked into a role/function in order to make the system whole
  • New things often need to start with us finding our strong No
  • All patterns of behaviour, no matter the impact, are there to provide stability and continuity and are working hard to protect some thing that's valuable.

Matt Fairbrass was there with me and next month, we'll have a new podcast for you, with him and me pulling out the best bits - or at least the parts that really landed for us and our work - and so keep an eye out for that.  Matt and I have already started talking in public about the value of systemic constellations in change and OD in this podcast (Episode 15) and also this one where Matt talks with Suzanne Evans - and there's more coming.  

You can also sign up for our June workshop, where we'll be working with a group of OD practitioners interested in bringing new lenses  - including systemic, embodied and intuitive lenses - to their complex problems. No doubt the wisdom of Jan Jacob Stam will find its way into the day!   The workshop is running 23 June, in London, and the Early Bird price of £199 will hold until the end of April. 
Events and Worshops
Matt and I have a new date for our workshop for OD people and coaches - anyone involved in complex problems in organisations -  where you could helpfully step back and look at it through a range of different lenses,  including embodied and systemic.  Early Bird Price until end of April. It's on 23 June and full details are here

The next Love Lab is 6 July in London.  Full details are here.  'How do we treat each other when we're all scared?' is what someone asked the other day and I realised it was one of things that motivates me to help us forge stronger connections with each other.  This event helps us do just that. It's powerful and wonderful and I think you'd like it. 

Following a wonderfully rich session this month, I'm now running these regularly.  The next one is on  Friday 26 May and will give us the chance to talk about what seems to matter most in the word at the moment - and how we might respond. .  Oh, and there'll be poetry!  You can book your place here


I like the lady horses best
how they make it all look easy,
like running 40 miles per hour
is as fun as taking a nap, or grass.
I like their lady horse swagger,
after winning. Ears up, girls, ears up!
But mainly, let’s be honest, I like
that they’re ladies. As if this big
dangerous animal is also a part of me,
that somewhere inside the delicate
skin of my body, there pumps
an 8-pound female horse heart,
giant with power, heavy with blood.
Don’t you want to believe it?
Don’t you want to lift my shirt and see
the huge beating genius machine
that thinks, no, it knows,
it’s going to come in first.

Ada Limon

Great reads
The Godmother from Hannelore Cayre and Cleopatra and Frankenstein from Coco Mellors were both books I wanted to rush back to.  Old God's Time  from Sebastian Barry got me wondering why all the rave reviews when I started reading it.  But wow, I really understood why by the time I'd finished it.  And Trespasses from Louise Kennedy was also excellent. 

Poetry-wise, I've been reading a lot of Ada Limon, including The Carrying

And for work, I finally got going on The Transformational Coach from the wonderful Clare Norman.  Loved this book and its look at how some of the assumptions we carry about coaching can safely be jettisoned.   It's helping me hone up a few things in my practice, for sure. 
And at work
In amongst the intensity of piles of project admin, there were some really impactful session this month including:
  • Half a day exploring love in leadership for senior women in the health care system.  The programme sets out to bring a critical, feminist look at leadership and so this was a great opportunity to explore not only how love is such a problematic thing to introduce into the workplace, but also how care, compassion and love is so gendered at work.
  • A lot of diagnostic/discovery interviews with two clients as part of building new leadership programmes.  I always love these conversations and how much you can learn about what goes on under the bonnet from just a few different perspectives. 
  • A piece of Constellations work with a client, working first with a coaching approach, using floor markers and objects to help her see the map of the territory she wanted to explore, and what she needed to resource herself well to to do that work.  
So I'll see you in May.  And in the meantime, 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.

Helena x

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