Healing approaches

Transformational coaching: Creating space for new possibilities

Woman Juggling Balls

By Laura McAvoy, transformational coach.

All too many women become engulfed in the complexity of family life as they attempt to juggle roles, responsibilities and demands. They often lose sight of who they are, what their desires are and what is truly important to them.

A first indication that a disconnect may have taken place is that people feel flat, generally dissatisfied or ‘stuck’. For some women, this situation can become very uncomfortable, leading either to a numbing and suppressing of that inner niggle, or feeling emotions, such as anger or shame, rising to the fore.

If an individual ends up staying in this zone for any length of time, it can have an impact on their self-acceptance, confidence and resilience, making it harder to break free from a loop of dissatisfaction and inaction.

But this ‘stuckness’ can actually act as an invitation. For, in reality, it is our inner guidance rising up to tell us that something is going on that can no longer be ignored. Something about where we are focusing our energy, time and attention is no longer serving us.

When viewed in this way, the fact we have noticed how stuck we are could almost be seen as a gift – as long there is no self-judgement in the noticing, that is.

This is where transformational coaching comes in as it offers women a way in to exploring the richness of their own power, wisdom and creativity. The aim is to help them tune into their inner guidance, embody their truth and generate significant shifts in their personal and professional lives.

Butterfly on zen Stones

‘Transformation’ is a powerful word, but the work is all about supporting women’s journeys based on a partnership of equality and respect. Women are not ‘broken’ or in need of ‘fixing’ and so their coach does not offer advice. Instead, by means of questioning, reflecting, challenging and space-holding, each individual is trusted to find her own answers. It may sound very simple but it can also be immensely powerful.

By drawing attention to the story a woman tells and gently unearthing old thinking patterns, she is supported to shift perspective and change her beliefs about what is possible. Significant insights usually come to the fore quite quickly and, as a result, she will start to feel less trapped or stale, and instead feel more empowered to move forward with confidence.

I call this being in a space of ‘almostness’. It is a space of possibility. ‘Stuckness’ may alert us to the fact that something needs to change, but when we are willing to accept and relish the openness of being ‘almost’ but not quite there, we often feel empowered to explore things more fully.

The path to clarity is rarely linear though. In fact, it is much more aligned with the circular form of feminine energy. This means that women coming to this work for the first time often feel as if they are being held and understood.

Women can look at their situation, their needs, and how they are being in their own lives knowing that ‘almostness’ is OK. They can spiral around this space, focusing on different angles and perspectives each time until they begin to gain clarity and insight. That is when they will begin to shift – although very often not in ways they had envisaged at the start.

But each client is always in charge of her own journey. How deep any exploration goes and to what extent new thinking is created, or new actions taken, is always the choice of each individual.

Strength

As for me, I am the founder of ‘Open Out’, an organisation that offers transformational coaching and dialogue, group coaching courses and coaching circles exclusively to women. My speciality is in helping competent and capable women, who have got to the point where they want to reassess their lives and feel that they are being called to change – whether that change be physical, situational, emotional, relationship-based, psychological or spiritual.

The coaching experience is often about helping someone return to wholeness, and for many of us that includes returning to the ‘tribe’ of womanhood. But in reality each individual can own any turning point in her life if she notices, engages with, and allows the personal growth that is inherent in each experience.

As a result, I often integrate mindfulness and meditation practices into my work. Mindfulness principles such as focusing on the present moment, accepting things in a non-judgemental way, letting go and the like are really helpful when we are keen to make a shift in life.

But do be careful not to be in too much of a rush to set goals and get to the end point and instead enjoy where you are for now. As the old adage goes, we all have to arrive somewhere before we can depart.

When a woman chooses healing and wellbeing – as is her right – it is often connected with the health of her family, relationships and wider society. I feel honoured to support that reclamation and am always awestruck to see the impact of each individual’s new choices and ways of being as they ripple out in positive ways.

But for anyone who feels ready to start this journey, make sure you find the right coach for you. Coaches come from a variety of backgrounds and have a number of different specialisms and interests, but to ensure your work together is fruitful, it is vital that your relationship is a positive one and you feel their approach works for you. In other words, take the time to find someone who really resonates with you as it will make all the difference in the world.

LauraMcAvoy

Laura McAvoy provides transformative coaching and dialogue for women. She also offers group coaching courses, coaching circles and 1:1 work, all of which incorporates mindfulness and meditation. She works in Saffron Walden, Essex, and the surrounding area.

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The perfect idyll: Finding some Breathing Space

Sunset
Sunset

By Helen Preston, counsellor.

I love being outside in nature, feeling a breeze on my skin as I start to let go of the day. As I surround myself with the miracles of the natural world, I know that I am part of a perfect cycle of new life, growth and completion. I can breathe deeply and connect to a source of healing much bigger than myself.

I particularly love the forests and the fields with trickling streams. I love British coastlines, the sea and the sand, beaches offering up tiny treasures such as a perfectly-shaped pebble that fits in the palm of your hand feeling cool and smooth.

I love the mountainous landscape of the Scottish Highlands and the rolling Welsh hills of home. It was growing up in Wales and spending my childhood outdoors that gave me such an appreciation of it all. It was my playground, real and ever-changing.

Idyllic retreat

So I count myself very lucky to have found a rural idyll in peaceful Norfolk, a women-only retreat that is aptly named ‘Breathing Space’. The building used to be an old rectory and has a large farmhouse kitchen, which is perfect for gathering in to share food and meet the other guests.

It immediately feels like home as you are invited to treat it as such from the moment you arrive. There is something special about being trusted as if you were an old friend. Some of the other nine visitors I met had been before many times, while others, like me, were experiencing it for the first time.

Although none of us had met before, there was an acceptance that we were stepping out of our everyday lives and could just be ourselves. Some, like me, were staying for one night, while others lingered for a few days.

Breathing Space
Breathing Space

A rare gift

One lady was a nurse, another a spiritual co-ordinator at a hospice. One woman had lost her husband. Several worked in the corporate world. One was self-employed and worked long hours. But we all were there to nurture themselves. Women often specialise in giving too much or think they need to be superwoman. The lady who had lost her husband had returned to work the day after his funeral but had never really grieved….

We all bonded swiftly over coffee and again later over dinner as we shared our stories and laughed together. One lady cried but did not feel she had to apologise or leave. She could just feel her feelings within the group.

It a rare gift to be able to be who you are in your sadness and express it by your tears without judgment or comment. Hugs are good but they are sometimes the last thing someone needs. Hugs can say: ‘There, there, don’t be sad. Wipe away your tears’, but maybe it is the opposite that is required.

Private space

At Breathing Space, you can stay in a former shepherd’s hut in the large garden. Set away from the house, it offers a ‘camping’ experience but in comfort. It was a quirky space and one that you could take yourself off to be completely away from everyone else if you needed it.

But I chose one of the rooms within the house, each of which is individually decorated and equally beautiful and comfortable. I loved the many personal touches: the lovely toiletries, the many and varied pictures that hung on the walls, the salt lamps and crystals, the sayings and little notes. A note on my bathroom mirror said: ‘You are beautiful’.

The kitchen was homely and inviting, housing a large dresser adorned with objects all imbued with special meaning. The lounge had two squishy sofas with blankets to cuddle up in and a log burner for cosiness in the winter.

Breathing Space's kitchen
Breathing Space’s kitchen

Pamper space

Several log cabins in the garden provided space for yoga and other group activities. You can book a range of holistic therapies, which are provided in a cabin overlooking a small lake. It is a perfect setting in which to relax and be pampered.

It was on the decking of this cabin that I chose to sit for my early morning meditation and yoga practice. Sitting there, watching the dragonflies skim the water, I felt completely at peace and at one with nature.

I did not booked a treatment this time but would most definitely do so next time. One lady appeared to float across the grass after experiencing an hour each of reflexology and Indian Head Massage. She still looked blissfully relaxed several hours later at dinner.

Slowing down

Time seemed to slow down the moment I arrived there. Just a few miles from the beach and a wetland reserve, there were no end of places to visit. Walking through the nature reserve, I was joined by a multitude of butterflies, damson flies and dragonflies. The sky was clear blue and the sun was warm. A gentle breeze cooled the air as I walked for hours in this watery wonderland, listening to the sounds of the birds. Every bit of tension slipped quietly away.

In the evening at sunset, I sat on the beach and listened to the lapping of the waves, feeling the warm sand beneath my feet. As the sun gradually slid below the horizon, the sky became infused with hues of red and orange. Still warm, still quiet and peaceful, it was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Because this retreat is special – it is a wonderful place to step out of the stresses and strains of everyday life and simply be. After all, we all need a bit of breathing space sometimes.

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Helen Preston is a counsellor, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) expert and reiki practitioner. Her approach to therapy acknowledges the crucial inter-relationship of mind, body and spirit. Helen is a member of the National Counselling Society and has an Advanced Diploma in psychotherapy and counselling, a Diploma in Hypnotherapy and an EFT Master Practitioner certificate.