First published on www.cleanlanguage.co.uk 13 August 2004.
A Heart That Knows
When I attended the NLP Conference at Regent's Park in June 1999,
little did I realise that this was the first in a number of steps
that would change my life. I had heard of Clean Language and Symbolic
Modelling, but didn't really understand what it was, so when I heard
James Lawley talking about Double Binds I
was unprepared for the effect his talk would have on me. Here was
someone who seemed to understand what it was like to get all tied up
in knots by one's own thinking, and who offered hope that knotted
thoughts may be able to be unravelled. I volunteered to be the
demonstration subject and was soon sitting on a stool describing my
metaphor landscape to the whole audience. Within three questions
James had helped me to identify 'a heart that knows'.
Five years later, in a workshop in France, 'a heart that knows'
featured in my metaphor landscape again. In the intervening years I'd
been a client of Penny Tompkins and James Lawley, attended and
assisted on many of their trainings and started using Symbolic
Modelling with my own clients. I had indeed unravelled many of my
'knots', and resolved many issues, but there was still (at least) one
major piece of work to be done - and France was the place to do it.
Wendy Sullivan and I had arranged to attend the workshop together - I
would be her facilitator, and she mine. So on July 4th 2004, I was
all set for the first leg of my three day journey.
I said I wanted to emerge from the workshop knowing what direction
I was going in, and having resolved whatever was holding me back from
moving forward - and I knew that this was something to do with
'shame'. And I got all this - and more.
It was as though all the symbols and
metaphors from all the previous pieces of work I had done as a client
were present in some form. And each word I looked up and each picture
I drew was loaded with meaning. For example, the shame seemed to take
the form of a brown matted mass on my right shoulder. My best
descriptions of this were like a 'hamper' and like a 'hedgehog'. Of
course - the hamper was hampering me! I checked out the symbolism of
'hedgehog' and was confronted with the question: "Are you allowing
others' opinions to prevent you from exploring activities that could
otherwise be fun and enjoyable?" And of course, I was. I was so
worried about what I thought other people were thinking, that many
times I could not seem to say what I really wanted.
The sessions flew by, and towards the end of
day two I was in the garden, mapping out my symbols on the ground and
standing in the various spaces. The hamper had become a rucksack and
was less of a burden, but still there, nonetheless. Then I stood on
the space that represented 'heart that knows' and it seemed as if I
did know - all of a sudden - how come things were like they were.
Previous assumptions I'd been making were now obviously flawed; the
direction I needed to go in was clear. The word I used was 'obvious'.
and when I looked this up in the dictionary afterwards, the words
that jumped out at me were 'in front of you'. Yes, indeed the way
forward was in front of me, and I had been taking the 'safe' path
(off to the left), always afraid of what others would think
It seemed like I'd already got my outcome,
and I had another day to go. A bonus day. That evening I drew a
picture to depict the way forward being in front of me and then
realised that there was nothing in the picture. I thought back to the
garden; there had been a tree in front of me. I knew that this was
important, and by now I was so trusting of my 'heart that knows',
that I confidently drew a tree to fill the empty space in front of me
in the picture.
Before going to France, I'd been thinking
about the concept of branding in relation to me and my work and had
been reading a book called 'Managing Brand Me', which poses the
question, "What do you stand for?" When I woke the next morning, I
wrote that question down, then looked at my picture and wrote, "What
does a tree stand for?" It was at that point that I realised the
function of any symbol or metaphor is to 'stand for' something else.
I couldn't wait to get back to the workshop so I could look up in a
symbol book what 'tree' stands for.
According to the book I turned to, the roots
of a tree represent the 'underworld', the trunk stands for the earth
and the upper branches reach out toward the light of heaven. And the
function of the tree is to join all three worlds, to make
communication possible between them. When I read these three words:
'make communication possible' I had a moment of pure recognition.
Yes, that is exactly what I am here for.
The rest of day three was spent exploring
this purpose and the possibilities inherent in it. I faltered at
first, not wanting to admit out loud that I - little me - could have
what seemed such a big purpose for being here. but Wendy continued to
ask me clean questions and to refrain from encouragement, so I had to
speak out - and it wasn't long before I was proclaiming my intentions
to anyone who'd listen! Previously I'd been fearful of others
thinking I was 'too big for my boots'; in what seemed like an
instant, everything had changed. On that day I realised that 'making
communication possible' is my 'calling' - and I'd be 'being too big
for my boots' if I ignored it.
Wow! What an experience! Since coming back
from France, I have felt completely different. No longer frightened
to tell people what I stand for, I am gaining confidence every day.
Lots of things have become clearer to me and things that I have
wanted for ages are starting to happen. I am continuing to explore
'making communication possible' and what needs to happen to turn that
into a reality, and I've realised making communication is what I have
been doing in my work for sometime now. You see, my heart already
"We shall not cease from exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding V
Thank you, Wendy, for your superb facilitation over those three
days. And thank you too, Penny, James, Phil (Swallow) and Jennifer
(de Gandt), for creating an environment where such wonderful things
© Marian Way, 2004
More information about:
Symbolic Modelling Retreats in France: www.cleanlanguage.co.uk
Jennifer de Gandt: