At the beginning of June, I started a 2 month project to support a number of individuals to create the impossible in their life. The aim of the course was to pick a project that seemed impossible to us, but which we had enough energy around to be prepared to play with, and see where the journey went.
It was an exercise in exploring creation from a place of wellbeing, where we knew whether or not the outcome came to fruition, our wellbeing was intact, and we had nothing to lose.
There’s something powerful about creating from a place where we are not attached to the outcome. Our minds tend to stay clearer and we can stay much more present to the wisdom and voice of our inspiration. We become more free to play with ideas that we might otherwise have discounted had we associated our wellbeing with the outcome.
My ‘impossible’ goal was to raise £100,000 for my neighbour’s charity – the Charlotte Leatherbarrow Foundation – a charity set up in honour of my neighbour’s daughter who was a dancer in the London West End show Billy Elliot. Sadly she was killed when she was run over by a bus on her way to dance practice one day in front of her brother and mother. I have been so moved by my neighbour’s humanness and spirit, since despite their obvious grief and sadness, they managed to connect with a deeper meaning behind the tragedy and setup their foundation to sponsor other talented young performers, but who have no means, to be able to pursue their dream in the performing arts. Despite the tragedy and their grief, they are no making a real difference to other people’s lives.
Did I meet my target? No. In fact I came nowhere near. You see it seems that life had a more seemingly impossible goal set up for me.
Let me explain.
As coaches we often talk about the amazing power of thought to create our experience of life, but the idea of this has always sat slightly uncomfortably with me in one area of my life – my health.
Since 2007, I have suffered from bouts of ill health, with varying symptoms ranging from fatigue and dizziness, inability to exercise (something I used to love), and a symptom that flared up a few years ago – heat and sunlight intolerance.
I have had numerous tests done over the years, and apart from one test when I became originally ill in 2007, which showed I had a serious infection, pretty much all of these tests, without exception, have come back clear for any known illness.
I was left with a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which variously alternated with a diagnosis of Chronic Stress.
My symptoms were real, my doctors would say, but there was no obvious cause. I was told that over time these symptoms would probably go, and were most likely stress related.
I managed to cope for several years with most of these symptoms, and they tended to wax and wane over time, but I wouldn’t say they ever truly and completely disappeared. I might have moments where I felt relatively normal, but these were definitely in the minority. Compared to the bed bound mess I once was though, I managed to function and lived a relatively normal life. However, in recent years in particular, it seemed impossible to me that these symptoms would ever go.
After starting my Apprenticeship with Michael Neill at the beginning of 2014, he asked me in what ways might I try and unconsciously sabotage my work with him. And I knew the answer. I told him I would have a flare up of my symptoms that would prevent me from travelling and participating fully in what I knew, in my heart, was an experience that I really wanted to dive right into.
Sure enough, in the first few months, I had real trouble with my symptoms. I found long haul travelling difficult and my energy levels would flag all the time. I did the best I could though, and managed to complete the first 6 months without interruption, although it wasn’t easy.
However, in June of this year, at the time I started the Creating the Impossible course, it was starting to get hot in the UK. I also knew that in less than a month I was due to go on a family holiday to a hot country. This had me very worried, because I did not want to be limiting the fun for everyone because of the symptom that bugged me the most – heat and sunlight intolerance.
So I talked with Michael, and we spoke of the power of thought. In the absence of any medical tests to show any particular reason for my symptom, he proffered to me that perhaps my thinking was powerful enough to create an experience that would cause me to dash for the shade, feeling nauseous, tired and with severe headaches and also literally sunburnt (without any evidence of being burnt), within moments of being in the sun.
I sat with our conversation for a few days, and still wasn’t convinced. The feeling of illness in the sun was so real for me, that I could not believe it could be thought created. I spoke with my doctor, and asked him about it again. He was convinced that it was stress related, but agreed there were some admittedly very rare disorders that could cause similar symptoms. He ordered blood tests for these – most of which I had never heard of. Lo and behold they came back clear, and I was left in the same predicament.
But actually it was worse. I was now finding as the summer rolled on that the symptom was getting worse.
Convinced my doctor was incorrect in his diagnosis – I went to see another doctor – a specialist of integrative medicine in London. He listened, and cared, very patiently. He ordered some more tests – an adrenal stress test and a screening of my nutritional status.
The tests came back, and were remarkable. They showed very clearly the high degree of stress that I was under, but also how good my nutritional status was. In fact, it became clear that the only reason I hadn’t dropped from the high stress levels was because I was giving my body enough of the nutrients that it needed to manufacture the hormones it needed to cope with it all. My body was struggling, but it was still afloat. Had I not been taking supplements, I would have been in far worse condition.
But this was the beginning of the “a-ha” moment for me.
With a knowledge of the Principles, I was able to see that the stress was not outside of me. The stress was being created within.
This was having two effects. First – it was obvious why I was tired. I was running my metabolism at such a high rate, that it couldn’t cope with the demand. One thing the doctor said to me that really stood out for me was: “Do you know how much energy it takes for you to be this tired”?
Secondly, I had experienced some traumatic incidents related to heat and sunlight some years ago, and so following my experience with this new doctor I began to really notice how much thinking I had around going outside in the heat and sun, before I had even ventured outside.
The effect of this was that as soon as I went outside my mind was already racing. I had understood the link between a racing mind and the effects on my bodies fight or flight response from this new doctor, so realised that it was already primed the moment I went outside. No wonder I felt symptomatic and ill. No wonder I wanted to run for the shade. No wonder the symptom had gotten worse as I focused on it and revved up my mind about it. I had literally been telling my body that the sun was dangerous, and so, rather than being ill, it was actually reacting in a healthy manner, and my fight or flight response was trying to get me out of the way of this perceived danger.
What a revelation!
When I saw this. It changed everything. Gradually these thoughts started to have less hold over me. I started to venture outside, believing, for the first time, that if I felt ill that it was just because I had thinking about it.
6 weeks later, here is the result. This is me (looking very pale and slightly out of shape from spending 5 years hiding from the sun) standing outside on my family summer holiday. It was hot – up to 40c, and just a few weeks prior this would have seemed / been impossible (to my thinking anyway).
But that’s not all. Most of my symptoms have started to fall away. The dizziness, the nausea, and the fatigue – are literally all melting away. I have started to exercise again! My work life has improved dramatically just because I realised how much I held myself back out of being caught up with worrying thoughts that I was going to collapse or get ill if I started to work harder. Opportunities have appeared, because my mind is clearer and I am seeing them clearer. It has been totally transformative.
And all from a simple insight. No tool. No technique. Just an understanding about the nature of the human experience and where it all comes from, and being open to how much this could have an effect on my physical body.
In fact, it has made me even more curious about the nature of wellbeing. The Principles point to the fact that we already have innate psychological wellbeing, but from what I have seen, what if the power of thought was so powerful that it could also be that we have innate physical wellbeing too? I have no evidence or answer to this question, but I am intrigued.
I read a book some years ago called the Healing Code, about a gentleman that was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. His whole premise was that stress was behind all illness, and he too created the impossible and made a full recovery from his incurable condition by understanding the power of stress on his physiology.
What if our personal thinking was so powerful that it really could affect our health in many different ways, and not just in the way I experienced?
Certainly it is something to ponder.
As for my project – well in some ways I did create the impossible. I found my way through something that I had resigned myself to live with for the rest of my life. I honestly never thought it would happen. But it did.
But I didn’t create my impossible challenge for the Foundation. I have some thinking about that. Even though it was supposed to be an ‘impossible’ task, I would have like to have raised more.