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The Power of Women’s Circles

The Power of Women's Circles

Women’s Circles are as ancient as time. There is documentary evidence of women coming together as long as 300,000 years ago. This is not a new phenomenon. It is something that has had a resurgence over recent years though particularly in the western world. 

 

Why are these gatherings becoming more popular?

Well, my guess would be that the more detatched we become as a society, the more we crave true, meaningful interaction and connection. Women’s circles are a gentle, but also powerful, safe space for us to share and learn. 

What was once created out of necessity, is once again finding its place in the world. 

Historical context

Historically many gatherings were based around the “Red Tent”, a time when women would come together, usually during menstruation, to heal and educate each other about fertility cycles and how the cycle of the moon. There is strong evidence that this method of women gathering at this time is physically beneficial as well as mentally. During menstruation our bodies are using more energy than during other times of the month and our physical reserves are used for releasing the unfertilized egg, so getting together with other women, resting and sharing time together benefits women physically. This is a concept which has also become incredibly popular again in recent years. Women gather around the time of the new moon, a time when most women have been found to menstruate, to set intentions and discuss themes of the month (often around astrologically significant events and changes). Obviously there is a strong social element to these meetings, but the traditional wisdom sharing and space holding is still the core.

Of course there have been times in our history when women wouldn’t have dared to get together in this way. A time when this kind of wisdom sharing, earned these gatherings names such as covens and it’s members were burned or drowned as witches. These wise and wonderful women were persecuted for no other reason than that the patriarchy of the time felt threatened by their understanding of natural healing and couldn’t understand their intentions in creating these spaces. 

Thankfully times have changed and women are able to gather and share this wisdom now without fear of persecution. 

I am delighted that women’s circles are once again on the rise. Women need time with other women, just as men need time with men. When we feel lost or down we instinctively reach out to the women in our life; whether it is our Mum, sister or female friends, we know that they will comfort us and help us make sense of what is going on. I wrote about the importance of female friends a little while ago, by all means have a read.

Women

The evolution of my women’s circle

You may have noticed that my website has had something of a make over in recent weeks, including a move away from the Super Woman analogy. The Super Woman Life is now simply called “Kate’s Circle”. The instant this change was suggested to me by my good friend, Callie, I knew it felt right.

I had already decided that the group should be a circle. There are so many powerfully symbolic reasons for using the word circle (perhaps I will write about that another day), and it encapsulated what our group is. It is a powerful, intimate group of women of all ages, coming together to love and support each other and share their wisdom. 

There is a gentle coaching element to the live sessions, and I guide the members through monthly themes and encourage them to dig deep, but the energy of the group, is very definitely that of a women’s circle, and I am very proud of that.

Women’s circles are incredibly powerful. When women come together they share deep and meaningful parts of themselves which they wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing in mixed company. This is something we have done since the dawn of time. The only difference is that historically we would have been sitting in our cave, around the fire cooking the meat that the men had hunted and brought home, and now we meet on Zoom or in person.

women

Amazing women

I have been very fortunate to have some of the most incredibly supportive and wise women in my life. From birth I had, not only my Mum and Grandma’s but also Great Grandma and many significant Aunts. Throughout my life I have had friends, teachers, mother figures, colleagues and of course my daughter, who have had an enormous impact on my ideas and my concept of self. I know that without their input I would be a shadow my the woman I am now.

 I love that I am able to share some of that love and knowledge with other women and in turn, learn from them and the significant teachers in their lives.

I truly believe that life is one long learning journey. If we are not learning and growing then we are shrinking and becoming stagnant. I take every opportunity I can to learn, whether it is formal courses, or a significant chat with a stranger in a queue at the shop. There are learning opportunities around us all the time and just as children learn most effectively when they are playing, women learn most when they are chatting and drinking tea (or any other beverage of your choice!). If there is cake or biscuits involved then the learning is heightened even further.

My women’s circles 

To demonstrate my point, every year Callie and I get together for a five day business retreat. We have done this for almost ten years now (with the exception of the last year when it hasn’t been possible).

It started as a way to get together and for me to have some intensive work time away from my children when they were little, but it has grown into one of the most powerful weeks of every year. We get more inspiration and more planning done for our businesses in that week than at any other point of the year. 

It never feels like work. We do some of the longest work days we do all year. New notebooks are always required. We chat constantly, visit beautiful cafe’s and eat amazing cake and we write and write and just enjoy each other’s company (and yes, this is an actual photo of one of our retreat trips to a cafe!).

cake

Since we started having these retreats our businesses have grown immeasurably and we love every minute of our working life. But it isn’t just about business growth. During those years we have gone from two women who met on Twitter by chance, to best friends. I was bridesmaid at her wedding in Italy a couple of years ago and I can’t imagine my life without her. She is just one of many women for whom that is true.

Every summer I am blessed to have a week with my family on holiday. My parents, my stepson and partner, his my sister and her family, my brother in law’s parents and sometimes his siblings all come together in a huge house in the country and we just enjoy spending time together. My favourite times on that holiday are often the evenings when the men are watching football or a film and the women find a quiet room and just sit and enjoy time together. My brother in law’s mum, is a wonderful lady and she will often suggest a topic for discussion, or pose a question and everyone immerses themselves in the experience and digs deep. There is much laughter, often tears but relationships are deepened and cemented and it is a truly magical experience. 

Some people spend time discussing who they would invite to their dream dinner party, I would have a women’s circle. It isn’t that there aren’t men I would like to meet, there are many, but my soul feels complete when I spend quality time with other women.

Do you feel nourished by time with other women?

If so you will love Kate’s Circle. Numbers are kept small to ensure that the intimate feel of the group is maintained but we do have space for a couple more women at the moment, so please do take a look and if it appeals to you we would love to welcome you into our fold. 

 

 

Quit making excuses!

Excuses

Do you make excuses for not making changes in your life?

In reality I don’t know anyone who doesn’t make excuses sometimes.

I know I do. 

My monkey mind gives me all the reasons I need to turn around and walk away from certian changes I need to make. 

This week though something shifted and I have made some huge changes, that, I have to be honest, were long overdue.

The thing is, I’m usually pretty motivated. If I set my mind on achieving something, I invariably do, but a few things seemed to come together to defeat me this time and I know I am not alone.

 

What has been the issue?

Well, this time last year I was feeling great. I had been going to the gym, eating well, rehearsing every week for the show I was due to be in and I was feeling strong and happy. 

Then lockdown hit.

I made a rookie error and decided that one way I could try to help my children feel less scared and have happy memories of lockdown was to allow a few treats in our diet that we wouldn’t normally have.

It worked. Every lunchtime we would get together, watch an episode of Dr Who (our lockdown 1.0 treat) and have some crisps or chocolate, maybe popcorn and a film in the evening. Everyone was happy.

It was a great idea, if lockdown had lasted for the 3-5 weeks we originally aniticipated. The problem is we have scarcely been out of lockdown since then and the treats, though in fewer quantities have continued to flow. We have all been missing our friends and family and food has been our comfort. 

This increase in treats, emotional eating and of course working exclusively from home so not going out as much (I walk around a lot when I am delivering training) has meant that I have put on a few pounds. Not a massive amount, but more than I am happy with. More importantly though I am also feeling sluggish, not sleeping as well and my joints are hurting even more than usual. 

This week I shifted my mindset.

change

More truthfully, my mindset shifted for me. 

I don’t know about you, but I have been feeling a change in the air. The world feels more positive, people seem to be looking forward to life opening back up and things feeling more normal. There is less fear in the news, the statistics are looking positive and everyone is starting to feel more buoyant.

I have also finally got to a point where I absolutely had to make a change. I can cope with feeling tired and sluggish for a while but I’ve had enough now. But what have I done?

Well, I have dramatically changed out diets. Treats are only for the weekends now. We have upped our vegetable intake even more and I have been trying to get moving more.

As someone who has never enjoyed exercise this is HUGE. Going right back to primary school, I was never allowed to participate in team sports because I was the only asthmatic in the school and the teachers were worried it would make me ill. as a result, by the time I got to High School I already associated sport with not only danger but also being left out and excluded.  As you can imagine, this isn’t a great foundation for building a love of exercise.

Imperfect change

Throughout my life I have made myself exercise. I went to step aerobics and yoga when I was a student. I even joined a gym and went religiously for 12 months before I got married. I walk and dance and have a sporadic relationship with yoga.

I have owned just about every type of gym equipment; exercise bike, rowing machine, air walker… always second hand and usually with a squeak or glitch that put me off using it. I have bought a kettlebell, I bought a dumbbell and then yesterday I took the plunge and bought a cross trainer. 

I love walking and I love going out for a walk, especially if I can walk with someone else and have a good chat. I can walk for miles. Some days though I don’t have time to squeeze in a walk outside, or it is really windy (which makes my breathing difficult), this way, I will be able to walk or even run, short distances between clients or pieces of work. 

I know that this is going to make a difference for me. 

Making changes is about small, consistent steps and being realistic. That’s what I’m aiming for. I find it easier to do 20 minutes a day than I do an hour three times a week.

The biggest step is already taken. 

Making the decision to change is always the biggest and hardest step.

Deciding to do something and for the right reasons is so important to achieving your goals. For example, my change isn’t about weight loss. That will hopefully be a welcome consequence of the change, but my focus is very clearly on strength and lung health. 

The condition I have (acromegaly) causing joint issues, osteoporosis and also heart conditions and I am asthmatic, so being able to make my body as strong as possible is so important, especially as I glide through perimenopause.

Whatever changes we want to make though we can choose to listen to the excuse monkey, or we can prove it wrong. For the most part I am an “I’ll prove you wrong!” person, but unfortunately I am also very persuasive and think things through thoroughly… and so does my mind monkey!

In the same way that I can talk myself into doing things, equally my mind monkey can find really good arguments for not doing things. I have spent years battling: I can’t do this, it’s dangerous for me, I will damage my joints, I don’t have time… but I have made a conscious decision to change those thoughts and I can’t wait to prove myself wrong!

Just to prove that I’m not making it up. My new cross trainer arrived while I was writing this blog. We built it and took this photo just to prove it. (excuse the state of my office, we are doing some home improvements and lots of things have been dumped in there so it is all looking a little messy!). I have already had a quick go on it but, I will be getting up tomorrow, putting on my gym wear and doing my first proper session and I genuinely can’t wait. 

 

What are you making excuses about?

Kate's cross trainer

We all have things that we tell ourselves that aren’t true. 

When you realise you are making excuses, ask yourself these questions: 

Is this true? 

How do I know it’s true? 

What would happen if I tried?

What’s the worst thing that can happen?

I’m not saying that you can do absolutely anything, we all have our limits. For example, I might be able to “run” a marathon one day on my cross trainer, but I know I couldn’t run one on a road because my joints would be too damaged. That isn’t an excuse, it is a fact. I’m not making my life better by damaging my body, this is about positive changes not being stubborn.

For you it might not be about fitness, it might be about getting the garden tidy, clearing out the spare room, leaving the job you hate… whatever it is you are making excuses about, I encourage you to stop and ask yourself the questions above and see what changes you can make. You might be surprised at the results.

 

Reflections – A look back on the last 12 months

Reflections on COVID 19

Reflections. This time last year we were all merrily going about our business without a hint of how life was about to change. As we approach our first anniversary of being impacted by COVID 19 I felt it was a good time to stop and reflect on how our lives have been changed and hopefully find some positives in a year of deep learning for everyone on the planet. 

There have rarely been events in history which have impacted the whole world. It could be argued that the world wars impacted the whole planet but there were many people who would have been unaffected even by those. During the last 12 months everyone in the world has been impacted in some way by the new virus, COVID 19. We have had travel restrictions, national lockdowns and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Have all the changes we have experienced been negative though?

I’m not one to let things get me down. I always look for the rainbow and the silver lining and the last twelve months has been no different. I’m not saying I haven’t struggled, I have, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t, but I have also been really grateful for the many wonderful lessons this time has taught me.

The impact of the pandemic has been wide reaching; health, work, school, financial concerns, job losses, mental wellness, bereavement, missing our loved ones so much it physically hurts… the list goes on.

Have I been personally affected by all of these and more? 

Yes.

Have I cried because I miss my parents and worried about the fact my husband’s work dried up last March and there is no sign of it returning? 

Yes.

But the last year has brought so many blessings that those things have been made more bearable.

I have loved spending more time with my children. It hasn’t been easy juggling home learning and work, but it has been so lovely having them home all the time. Having lunch together every day. Watching whole series’ together while snuggling on the sofa under a blanket. (If you’re wondering we did the whole of Dr Who during Lockdown and we’re about to finish the Marvel films as our Lockdown 3 treat.)

We have also walked more as a family

I am walking more than twice as far as I was before the pandemic hit. I walk to the shop to get a pink of milk, where I would have driven and convinced myself I didn’t have time to walk. We walk and talk and it has really helped us process everything we have been going through.

walking

We have done many jobs around the house that we didn’t have time to do before. We have sorted through the contents of the loft and organised everything. We have made a start on really organising our photos and all our precious memories, rearranged rooms so that they function more effectively for our growing family. We have done work in the garden and got back into growing our own veggies, which we hadn’t done for a couple of years.  

I have loved having a reason to send people gifts in the post. I have always loved sending little messages and gifts in the post, but the last twelve months has given me more reasons to share a smile and I have loved receiving thoughtful gifts from loved ones too. A cream tea from a friend, drawings from my niece and nephew or a bunch of flowers from my parents have given me a reason to smile for days.  

Time out

We have allowed ourselves to stop and breathe

Life is so busy usually. 

Between work, family, after school activities, socialising… sometimes it felt like we didn’t have a minute to stop and think about what we wanted to be doing. 

Personally, I have taken time to really think about what makes me happy. How I want my business to grow. What I want to focus on and who I want to serve. 

I have spent time talking to my children about their plans and dreams.

I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have done some online courses (I know such a cliche, but I love learning!).

I have adapted aspects of my business so that I am able to continue working online and there are many aspects of that which have worked brilliantly and I would love to maintain once all this is over. 

I have made sure that I have made the most of all the amazing tools at my disposal and kept in touch with loved ones via video call or messages. I know that I will keep doing that even when I am able to see them face to face more. Weekly chats with my parents and my sister on video chat have been a life saver. My brain actually convinces my heart that I have seen them after our call. Since they live too far away to see every week, we will definitely keep our weekly chats going.

I have also made a list of all the things I never want to take for granted ever again:

  • Visiting my parents and sister
  • Hugs (with anyone and everyone)
  • Playing with my neice and nephew
  • Popping to my inlaws for a cuppa and a chat
  • Cuppa with a friend
  • Having friends round for a catch up
  • Wandering round a shop browsing
  • Theatre treats
  • Gigs and concerts
  • Days out as a family
  • Trips to the cinema
  • Eating out
  • Weekends away
  • Trying on clothes/shoes in a shop
  • Being able to walk along a pavement without moving to the side for someone coming the other way
  • Going to a shop without getting glared at because of my face covering exemption
  • … the list goes on and on.

The sad thing is that human nature dictates that we will all be so grateful for all these simple pleasures for a short while, but within a few months that will become normal again and we will forget to be thankful for hugs again.

I have tried so hard in the past to not lose this gratitude for the blessings in my life.

I have been fortunate to live in some stunningly beautiful places in my life and the first few weeks I have walked round appreciating every building and cobble, then within months it is just life. 

When I first had my tumour removed and I was pain free I vowed that I would appreciate every day and be grateful every single day that I am alive and in less pain. I managed it for a few years, but after 13 years the novelty has worn off. 

Am I still grateful I am alive and painfree? 

Of course, but I don’t remember to feel that way every morning. 

It is just human nature that once we become accustomed to something we forget to appreciate it.

York

I would like to invite you to take the time to create your own list of things you have really loved during the last 12 months. There will be many things I am sure. 

Then create a list of things you want to try to appreciate for as long as possible, things you have missed or want to make the most of when life returns to normal.

Find out why it is important to appreciate the little things:

Mike Robbins – The Power of Appreciation

Rose Chachko – Appreciating the little things in life

 

Home Learning – A real parenting challenge

Home learning

 

If you are a parent you don’t need me to tell you how stressful home learning has been during the pandemic. Many parents here in the UK have been educating their children at home for almost six months out of the last twelve, it doesn’t get any easier.

During the first lockdown there was an air of excitement and schools were encouraged to do whatever was needed to get our children through this time of crisis. Parents were baking, gardening, colouring and watching nature programmes and that, perhaps combined with some worksheets, was deemed to be enough to get our children through this temporary emergency state. As the time frame has changed and we are now looking at at least twelve months of disruption to learning though, the pressure put on schools by the government has changed dramatically. 

They are now being expected to teach a full timetable, mostly on live video calls, and the government even encouraged parents to report schools to OFSTED if they weren’t happy. What an appalling way to treat a profession who have worked, alongside our other keyworkers, throughout this pandemic, working much longer hours and putting themselves and their own families at risk.

Before I go any further I want to assure you that, however you are feeling about home learning, your child’s teachers are doing their best. Often teacher key worker’s children in the classroom, while supporting the children working at home and worrying about their own children. They would much rather be teaching your children in school, it is easier for them and it is the part of the job they love the most.

Now we have established that noone is particularly happy about the situation we find ourselves in I want to reassure you. 

You are doing an amazing job.

You might feel like you are drowning some days, you might have lost your temper or had a good cry. Maybe you had a really big gin and tonic at 6pm yesterday, or ate a whole packet of biscuits. You are human. You didn’t plan your life expecting to have your children at home during the school term. It isn’t that you don’t love them. You may even be enjoying having them at home all the time. 

You aren’t a teacher – and even if you are, teaching your own children is a very different thing to teaching other people’s children. I would choose teaching a class full of other people’s children over teaching two of my own any day!

How can we make home learning manageable?

There are many things we can do to make this time easier for everyone. It is important to remember that everyone’s situation is different, and not all these points will work for you, or even apply to you. Hopefully though everyone will take something helpful away from this.

home learning child

1. Take a deep breath

Breathing exercises calm the body and help your brain to function more effectively. When we feel stressed or cornered our breathing becomes shallow and our ability to problem solve and process information logically is reduced dramatically. Take three or four deep breaths before you start and everything will feel easier and more logical.

2. Don’t try to make home learning school

Unless your child asks you to make your time learning together like it would be at school, don’t even try. Honestly, unless you have worked in schools recently, you probably don’t really know what schools are like and how children learn in school these days anyway. Make a space on a table or desk where you will do written work but if your child wants a snack during a lesson, and youthink that will help them concentrate, then there’s no harm in them having one. If your child is getting restless and fidgetty, let them go run round the garden for a few minutes. Create your own routine and your own rules.

3. Talk to the teachers

Teachers want to know how you are getting on. If your child is really struggling, you don’t have the equipment you need, or you are worried that you don’t know how to explain something properly, just talk to them. They may not be able to respond immediately, but teachers are working so hard to make this easier for everyone. They don’t want you to struggle alone. 

4. Prioritise

Depending on the age of your child you can probably prioritise certain aspects of their work. For younger children this will probably be reading, writing and maths work. Older children may be allowed to not attend all the online sessions if they need time to catch up with their written work. It may be better for them to attend the online sessions and not worry about all the written work. Ask the teachers and let them know that your child is struggling.

5. Use relaxation techniques

Managing our emotions has never been more important. Whether it is breathing techniques, meditation, yoga… use whatever you feel works best for your family to help everyone stay calm and happy.

walking

6. Get plenty of exercise

Exercise is so important for helping us regulate our stress levels, as well as keeping us physically well. With everything happening inside our homes at the moment and children spending so much time sitting in front of screens, just going for a walk every day will have a huge impact on their mood, as well as their physical and mental health.

Whether it is a family walk, bike ride or a play in the park, make sure your children are getting outside every day.

7. Make sure you are all getting enough sleep 

With no school run to be up for it is easy to fall into the trap of allowing your children to stay up later than usual and then let them roll out of bed five minutes before their first lesson. Children need to be awake and alert if they are going to learn, but equally importantly, it is while we are asleep that we process most of the stress chemicals our body releases during the day. Without sufficent sleep we wake feeling stressed and short tempered. 

8. You can’t pour from an empty cup

If you are one of the many parents juggling full time work at home and home learning make sure you don’t end up exhausting yourself. If you are working into the night catching up on your work so that you can be there to  help your children through the day you will burn yourself out and then you can’t help anyone. Your work is putting food on the table and a roof over your child’s head, that makes it your priority. Find something educational on the TV (BBC Bitesize has some amazing programmes on demand) and let them sit and watch that while you get some work done. Perhaps you could read a book together while you have a break or do a worksheet while you eat your lunch. As long as you are doing something, you are winning. 

 

Everything will be ok 

This isn’t a tip as much as a message.

Whatever you do or don’t manage to do during this time of home learning, please know that everything will be ok. Our children will be learning so many life skills at the moment. They have already learned to be so adaptable. They are learning to cope with changes to their routine, learning to process their emotions, perhaps to bake or cook, to be more patient with each other. They are learning that life is unpredictable but that everything will be ok in the end. It really will.  

When our children do return to school, and they will, every child in the class will have had a very different experience of home learning. The teachers are acutely aware of this and will be prepared to fill in any gaps and support the children as they carry on their learning journey, whatever point they are starting from. 

 The most important thing we can do for our children right now is make sure they are happy, that they feel safe and loved and they are ready to return to school. For our children to be happy and calm we need to somehow manage to remain calm and happy too.  

If you need help with your child’s wellbeing or you are a teacher looking for wellbeing resources please do visit my Calmer Classroom website. 

 

Starting 2021 The Right Way

2021

2021 is almost here!

“2021 has to be better than 2020, doesn’t it?’ this is something I have heard so much recently. For many people, this new year will be an opportunity for new hope of a better year to come. There is a feeling of “out with the old and in with the new” and we certainly need some new after this year. 

I think it is fair to say that noone could have foreseen the events of 2020 and most people who had made plans for this year will, at the very least, have had to adjust and amend them.

Is it even worth thinking ahead to 2021 then or should we just free fall into the next twelve months without a second thought?

I think you know what my answer is going to be!

If you know me, you know that I am a planner. 

I love to plan!

I plan everything. I love nothing more than grabbing a handful of pens and a pile of dotted paper and getting all my ideas out on paper. 

How can we possibly plan for 2021 when we have no idea what it will look like?

Well, I encourage you to plan for things you have some control over; fitness goals, home improvements, hobbies you would like to revisit or take up, changes to the garden, recipes you want to try… It might sound like playing it small, but these are the things that can change your life immeasurably.

I have spoken to so many people who have re-discovered or even discovered, things about themselves this year, that they had forgotten because they never have time to stop and really take stock. 

Re-evaluate and reflect

Most of us will be having a much more subdued festive period than usual. We won’t be having big nights out and parties, we will have time with our immediate family, if we are lucky, and time for reflection and really working out what matters to us.

Journaling

There are do many ways that we can take time to process the year we have just experienced. Journaling is a great tool for this. Just take a piece of paper and either a pen or pencil and write. Maybe set a timer for 10 or even 20 minutes and write. Don’t filter anything. Just keep writing until everything has spilled out onto the page. 

Planning

So often things come out that you hadn’t even realised you were feeling or thinking. it really is a powerful tool.

Meditate

Setting the intention that you will have a greater understanding of the experiences you have had in 2020 when you meditate can be a wonderful exercise. You may see people, places or memories, you may receive messages in the form of images or words to help you make sense of things or you may just feel more relaxed, which is never a bad thing.

vision board

Create a vision board

A great way to collect all the ambitions and dreams you have for the coming year it to create a vision board. Cut images and phrases out of magazines and arrange them on a board on piece of card or foam. Or create a Pinterest board and then create a digital collage. However you create it make sure you put it someone you will see it every day. (I have mine set as my screen saver). Keeping focused on what you want your life to look like is so important.

Have an attitude of gratitude

Starting your new year with a gratitude practise is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Whether it is starting a gratitude journal where you write 3/5/10/20 things you are grateful for every evening, or waking up every morning and listing three things you are thankful for before you start your day, gratitude is a powerful tool. When you focus on the positives, your brain learns to focus on all the good things in your life and everything feels more positive. 

 

2021: A great big adventure…

None of us ever know how a year will go. We can make plans and dream of things we would like to happen, but there is always a possibility that circumstances will change. Once you accept this then 2021 is no different to any other year, so plan, dream and manifest your best year ever and believe it will happen… 

Hot chocolate

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