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

Welcome to the February 2024 Newsletter

So although we're past Imbolc, the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, possibly a time for us to consider coming out of hibernation, I'm still taking poet John O'Donohue at his word when he encourages us to 'lie low to the wall and wait until the bitter weather passes'.  I've most definitely been in energy-saving mode all through January, doing only what I've had to do.  And it's been lovely.

A client is changing its mind about a very big piece of work that we had planned and that's creating a lot of space. I also had a chest infection that laid me low for over a week and so gently-does-it is still what I'm going by. It means I've gone to the beach for walks, back to bed with books, to the cinema in the afternoon (Priscilla, All Of Us Strangers ...) and it's been unusual and feeling spot-on for the season. 

It does though, as I know I'll have said here before, bring up some interesting questions about how it feels to 
not be very productive, not reply 'busy' when people ask how I am and to risk being less visible to colleagues and clients.  It makes me think about the distinctions between resting, being dormant, role modelling wise choices, slacking, hibernating, having a good balance  laziness means. And more. About who I am without my work.  How I'll feel if I still feel this way after another 2 months. And what will happen to this lovely feeling of playing truant and being 'naughty'!!

This month's Newsletter is a bit shorter than usual (probably no bad thing ...) and scrolling down, you'll find:

- a way I keep my mind open
- words from the poets to keep you good company in tough times
- some workshops coming up, mine and others
- an offer of a short reading group
 - a wonderful poem and some great reads. 

I'll see you in again in March and please do take great care of yourself until then.

With love
Helena x

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Poetry to get us through

A highlight of January was running the most wonderful workshop with poet Tom Hirons, reading and discussing poems that keep us going when times are hard.  I found it devilishly difficult to limit my choices to only a few poems, but LOVED reading widely and making the choice.  I discovered and rediscovered some gems in the process.  

We chose poems that emphasised what we felt mattered in these tricky times we're living through, and went with the themes of:

- truth telling and clear speaking
- valuing the everyday and the mundane, and even elevating it to sacred
- remembering that you are not alone and how you might need to find others to support you and be with you
- staying connected to the widest picture, including the more-than-human world
 - the human complexity of living in a time of war

Our poems were from Adrian Mitchell, Pat Schneider, William Stafford, Joy Harjo, Ilya Kaminsky and Jodie Hollander, and they went down well.  I'm sharing them them here as I reckon they might find homes in your hearts too.  Let me know if you have a favourite poem for tough times and I'll start curating them to share later in the year. 

(And next week, I'm recording a podcast with Tom, on love. I'm very excited. It should be ready for March)

Acts of Love for Tough Times

A reminder about the next Acts of Love workshop running on 27 Feb and you can find booking details here.  As ever, it's free.  And this time we'll be looking at how forgiveness, activism and seeing the bigger picture are forms of love.

Do come along - it would be so good to have you there.  Participants who came in December said:

  • 'Thank you so much for opening-up and facilitating such a lovely space for conversation and connection. I loved the questions and quiet moments for writing and reflection together with the conversations'. 
  • 'There is so much to process. It was a truly enriching and encouraging experience'. 
  • 'I left with lots of insights and feeling much more joyful about the world so thank you to you and all the other participants'.
  • 'Enormous gratitude for you creating and holding such a magical space for us all this morning. I left feeling resourced and nourished and joyful'.
(Thank you Lani - I hope you don't mind that I have stolen with great delight, this beautiful image of your compost bin ...)
Opening my mind

I don't know about you, but I tend to have a little (big) echo chamber of news and input and opinions.  Part of me likes it that way, of course.  Not too challenging to my assumptions.  And so in an attempt to balance that out a bit ever since 7 October, I've been listening to the podcast Unholy.  Subtitled 'Two Jews On The News', it's a weekly conversation between Yonit Levi, a high profile journalist and broadcaster from Israel, and Jonathan Freedland, a British Jewish journalist, mostly of The Guardian. Two fiercely brilliant minds, opinionated and also balanced, talking from their hearts and their heads. 

I think it's excellent, not least because I learn a lot and am forced to both think and feel, and often in ways I'm not sure I like. It's different from my usual news sources. The strong, often emotionally charged pro-Israeli contributions from Levi sometimes make me uncomfortable.  And that's a good thing.  And then I'm calmed as Freedland brings a wider, more global perspective on the events of the week, including that of diasporan Jews.  They have some excellent guests, including in this episode where they speak to Rachel Goldberg-Polin, mother of one of the hostages and this one with Scott Galloway where they go wider and look at the information war that's also going on.  

Hospicing Modernity

OK, so this is a book that I've had for ages and have finally read.  It is also a book that I had to put down in between chapters.  Because it's a book whose ideas challenged me deeply, and needed incubating. I think it might be a book with the potential to be life-changing.

And exactly because it was a read that made me chew a lot, rather than gulp down, it means that I'm certain not to have fully digested its messages.  There's no way that I'm even close to metabolizing the provocations in here. And I'm not likely ever to do that on my own.

So if you too have read this book, maybe feel a little similar and would like to meet up online for a couple of hours to pool what we made of it, pull out some threads of meaning from it, talk through what it said to us  .... please drop me an email and I'll set up a few hours for us for us to meet together online.  Scroll down for my email address. 

“Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift".

Robin Wall Kimmerer
Two great workshops

Two workshops to tell you about, that I think you might like. 

A 3 hour workshop, using systemic and family constellations and incorporating Yoga Nidra, on harnessing the power of endings in our professional life. We generally don't attend to enough ending at work, and so this should be good.  It's run by Grainne McAnallen and Andrea Langlois, both of whom I can wholly recommend to work with. It's online, 21 Feb at 1730 UK time and you can find out more and book here

And two shadow work weekends, the first with the great team of Liz Remande and Nick Klyne.  This one is in person, running 8-10 March at Emerson College in Sussex.  A chance to learn more about shadow work and also to do a piece of your own process work, if you want.  And if you can't make those dates or location, then 15-17 March with Kate and Waqar Siraj (also a crack team) in London might work for you.  Details to book at via the main shadow work website - click on Group Workshops for details. 

‘The most radical thing any of us can do at this time is to be fully present to what is happening in the world.’

Mary Oliver

Danse Russe

If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,—
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,—

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

William Carlos Williams

Good reads
So the difficult and deeply puzzling but somewhat genius read for Book Group was Cormac McCarthy's The Passenger.  I scored it high (we rate our books out of 5 in Book Group) but said I wouldn't pass it on to anyone I cared about, it was that odd.   My first Anne Enright was also a book I had to concentrate on but loved.  The Wren, The Wren is her latest which made it a rare hardback read for me. And so as it's my choice for Book group in Feb, I've gone for another of hers, The Gathering.  I'll let you know what we all made of it. And then A Thousand Moons from Sebastian Barry, the excellent the follow-up to Days Without End. And the quirky, lovely Grief Is The Thing With Feathers

And for work, it turns out that reading Simplifying Coaching is actually ...er, simplifying my coaching.  Thank you, Claire Pedrick. 
And at work
You know by now it's been a really quiet month for me but what it has created time and space for is:
  • drafting an outline for a leadership programme with a friend and colleague.  we may not win the work but we've been wanting to find a way to work together for ages and we're delighted we got to make a start on that
  • the launch event for a new Leading from Love leadership programme for a global charity
  • several coaching supervision chemistry meetings, that seem to be resulting (wonderfully) in actual coaching supervision clients
  • time for calls with colleagues -  those 'just calling for a chat' chats that in the business of a full on work month I don't always get time to do. 
Do get in touch and let me know how you're finding these Newsletters, or if you'd like to see more info on anything I could include.   I love hearing from you.  You know where I am on LinkedIn, or connect via Email. Or call me of course, whichever suits.

Helena x

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