Waxing physically and philosically...

After literally years of deliberation, and as a result of some delicate and some less delicate prodding, this blog is my effort to organize - to bring together - my thoughts about my work as a conductor and as a personal trainer, to rant and rave as necessary, to celebrate the little things and the larger moments of brilliance, and to share some conductive magic and life lessons gained through 'waxing physically and philosophically'.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Eight million things I love about Em

One of the most wonderful ways to mark time in this profession and on this planet surely must be the pleasure of seeing kids that you conduct evolve and grow into wonderful young people.  Last week I had the pleasure of indulging in this experience for an entire week, when ES decided to hop on a plane from Sydney to Auckland for a visit and a good old fashioned CE kick in the butt.

You can know she is working on her second university degree, you can see her driving around the neighbourhood in her own car, you can go to her 21st birthday.  But suddenly there she is, in another time and another place, confidently introducing herself to a class full of adults, talking about her disability like it is the weather or the cricket, self motivated and focused during the program like all of the other, well, adults.  Suddenly there she is sorting herself out, getting up and dressed on her own and going to bed later than me, ordering cocktails or coffees or whatever she wants, checking to make sure I'm okay after a hectic day, and holding her own in conversations about educational psychology and disability reform and politics. There she is at the airport patiently explaining to the desk staff that she is a person requiring assistance and that no she did not require me to accompany her to the departure lounge (!).



It is hard to describe the way I feel about ES.  There is respect and awe; respect for the journey (which I hope one day she will write about) that she has taken to get to this stage in her life and awe that despite it all she has turned out so wonderfully.  There is pride and gratitude; pride as in I'm so proud to know this person and to introduce her as a friend, pride around seeing what she has become and what she has yet to become and gratitude for what I have learned and experienced by getting to be a part of her journey for the last decade.  There is fierce big sister style protectiveness that has pretty much been outgrown and has been replace by friendship. There is the dance that has to be done whenever a relationship grows and changes which can be disconcerting until you remember that this is what people who see each other through life's transitions have to do to move into the next chapters together.

I see her fall on the beach at Takapuna - the first time she has fallen with me in all of our years of walking together - and see her stand up and brush the sand off of her jeans and laugh about getting wet.  Years ago falling would have devastated her but now this young woman has learned how to fall without falling to pieces and knows how to bounce instead of break.  I find myself wanting to write about her transition, realising that it is not my story to write, and hoping that one day she will tell the world how a fragile and emotionally wrought teenager psychologically trapped by her cerebral palsy finds her way into resiliency and rationality and confidence in adulthood.  I listen to how she talks about how she thinks and feels, about the ups and downs of life in the last few months, and can't help but be amazed at how she now rolls with the punches instead of letting them knock her out, how she gives as good as she gets, and how she now understands her own self worth and is willing to fight for it.



She leaves, and the house is quiet, and I settle back into my routines wishing that I'd had a bit more time to talk to her and that work and life weren't so hectic.  She leaves but isn't gone, like those wonderful people that dance in and out of your life over years and decades, and I realize that we have both watched each other grow up - and that kind of scares me, and I start to think about all of those other wonderful 'kids' making their way in the world of adults as wonderful young people.  I am reminded again how lucky I am to be in a profession that allows me to be on or at least bear witness to these journeys, how lucky I am to be in a profession that allows me to get to know and love so many wonderful people, how lucky I am to be a conductor.

ES, 'I hope you don't mind, that I wrote down in words, how wonderful life is, with you in the world!'



Sunday, November 17, 2013

Conducting myself as a manager..

There are some conductors that have found a way to carve out happy niches for themselves and to happily work within the contexts of their organisations or own businesses - but happily employed or self employed conductors seem to be a minority.  Most often, when you talk to conductors working all around the world, there is an undercurrent of frustration; frustration about not having choice in or control over the programs they conduct and frustration about restrictions and rules and policies for their organisation or governing and funding bodies that get in the way of what they see as best conductive practice.  For years I have been advocating for conductors to step up and take lead roles in organisations providing Conductive Education, and for organisations to look to conductors to build, shape, and manage programs.

I can certainly confess that I was a frustrated grumbler in previous places that I worked - and though I am not sorry that I fought for what I thought was right for my participants and for CE, I am sorry that I was not mature enough, or clever enough to to find ways to thrive within organisations that were trying to support me and CE. When I look proudly back at what has been achieved by my baby, the program at Dimes Canada, I realise how impatient I was, wanting everything to be perfect and perfectly my way right away, and that I was not able to see how hard the organisation was working to bring about change or to appreciate how much behind me - and CE - they were and still are.   I now realise that I got too frustrated with the teething pains of a new program and too caught up in what I saw as the good fight to engage well with management or to step up and take the reigns even with ample opportunity.

Now, years later in another time and another place, after years of successful private practice, I find myself sitting in a very different position as a managing conductor in an organisation brimming with potential but working through transition. A exciting position within an organisation that has chosen to give a conductor the opportunity to build and shape programs; a tenuous position working with frustrated conductors dissatisfied with previous management; an unfamiliar position within an organisation and a program that I haven't personally built from scratch.      

I am emotionally unattached to the history and politics of the organisation but respectful and empathetic to the frustrations of the conductors I am working with and their relationship with what has been, and their resulting demotivation. I do not feel threatened or needing to fight with senior management or board members; I accept they do not necessarily think like conductors but appreciate that they are supportive of seeing our program continue to succeed and grow, and accept that part of my job is to liaise between them and the conductive team. It is an oddly mellow headspace to be honest, an odd combination of bustling passion and excitement and calm clear-headedness that I haven't experienced in any other CE job that I've had.

I have had the opportunity to reflect on how I conduct myself as a managing conductor.  As I've said time and time again, and as Andrew told me years ago, being a conductor is not about 'what you do' but about 'how you do everything that you do'.  In this job there are times when I'm working as a conductor, and times when I am working as a manager, but I know that when I am wearing my manager hat I still think and feel like a conductor.

I have a general manager that I love working with who I have been blessed to have as a mentor - DB is a compassionate and dedicated manager with vast experience in management, governance, and leadership in non profit, disability, and education organisations.   He has given me structure and space to grow and learn, and challenges me to find a way to take this role on my way, conductively, and is patient as I try to find my equilibrium as a conductive manager.  I dare say that he is in fact a 'conductive' manager.

I have stopped trying to see conducting and managing as different - in the classroom I conduct my participants, and I the office I conduct myself and my team -- and I assure you conducting conductors is by far the harder of the two.

As in the classroom, I find myself digging my heels in about believing in my team, about expecting the best from my team even when they are under-performing, about believing it is always worth trying to find a way forward even when my team do not see it.  I still strongly feel responsible for being part of the solution, and believe that it is possible to find a solution even if I'm not the one to find it.  When things haven't gone well I wonder what I haven't done well, what as a manager I should have done better; when things are going well I feel really proud of my team and enjoy their success and the levity it creates in our office.

Even after challenging days or minutes with my team I find myself falling back on an attitude of rugged positivity and tenacious determinism - the very same attitude I have always had with my participants.  Even after a challenging day I still come back in the next day ready to try again, and hoping that this might be the day when we find the break through that moves us forward.

I want to be able to find ways to motivate and inspire my team, to give them opportunities to grow and thrive, to figure out how to bring out the best in them, and to learn how to respect them for where they are at.  I feel badly when I am not able to create that conductive environment for them, or when they choose not to run with opportunities I think that I have opened.  I try to understand my disappointment in myself as a manager who isn't always able to provide an ideal environment or to lift my team in the context of my expectation that as conductors they should be able to create this environment for each other, for our program assistants, and for themselves.  I try to balance this by being transparent in my efforts to bring a conductive approach to my management style, hoping that they too will be conductive with themselves and each other outside of the classroom, and wondering if that is an unreasonable thing to hope for.

It has taken me a while to have the confidence to start to voice this.  I know that there are going to be days and moments that are better than others and I'm a lot more okay about that than I was a few months ago when I started this job, with bright eyes, bushy tail, and rose tinted glasses.  Reflecting conductively helps me remember that as long as I am doing my best in any moment, it is the best that I can do, and thus helps me reflect more kindly on my own successes and challenges. I am so proud to be a part of a profession that has taught me to do everything that I do conductively, and so excited to bring my conductive approach and mindset with me as I step up and into my new role here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Dodging raindrops and finding my feet...

I know I've gone quiet lately.  The past several months have been tumultuous -- I've effectively shut down a business and a chapter of my life, moved country and started a new challenging job, and I guess it is hard to find your voice when you are busy trying to find your feet.  And no, this is not the first time I've jumped from one life chapter to the next, but for many reasons it has been the hardest.  I realise now that part of why this transition has been so challenging is that I underestimated how tenacious the personal and conductive roots that connect me to Sydney have become.

It was heart wrenching closing down Transformations.  It is always hard to say goodbye, and even though I know that friends and clients who over the last decade have become mentors and friends will stay in touch as many from other chapter have done, the nature and consistency of relationships must change.  We always talk about how two way conductive relationships are, and it was very hard to step away from people who have supported me and everything I've done personally and professionally over the last decade.

To add insult to injury, I spent the better part of the last three months in Sydney desperately looking for appropriate people in the rehabilitation and fitness industry to hand my regular clients over to.  I brought carefully considered hand selected trusted colleagues and professionals I respected to meet my clients, hoping they would carry on my work, and many of them balked.  I found myself having those conversations, the ones where people tell you that they could never do what I do, with trusted friends and colleagues and I felt like they were rejecting a part of me when they said they didn't think they could take on one of my clients for an hour a week.  I was reminded of a challenging discussion that Andrew Sutton, back in my student days in Birmingham, lead us as first year students through about understanding that in a profession like the one we had chosen, we were choosing to have disability in our lives, but that we had to have compassion and awareness that it was not something our clients and their families actively chose.  I guess I forgot that the world that is so normal to me, filled with people I value and hold so dear, is such a strange and scary world to so many other people, and I took it really personally that even as a favour to me, let alone the gift of regular client into someone's business, respected professionals would not choose to be involved in my world.

In Conductive Education we have always heard about families who have travelled halfway around the world and disrupted their lives and families so that they would access Conductive Education for their child.  We also need to talk about the wildness of being a part of a profession where the only opportunities for employment in your field often necessitates disrupting your life and family and moving to another corner of the world.  I love, and am grateful for the opportunities and adventures that  a career in Conductive Education has afforded me - but this time I didn't just follow my whim and do what suited me in the moment.  I uprooted a wonderful husband, a person whose happiness and well-being I feel inherently responsible for, a person willing to leave a life that he loved to support me on a journey that I wanted to take, and have watched him struggle to settle in and find his feet and his happiness.  I romanticised the adventure we were going to have together, and actually assumed it would be easier to jump chapters with him instead of on my own and didn't prepare either of us for the roller-coaster ride and bumps along the way.

I also romanticised the job I was coming into, an established adult CE centre, working with two conductors I liked and respected, in a place that I have always wanted the opportunity to explore.  I didn't allow myself to think about things like the subtle but very relevant distinctions between Kiwi and Aussie culture, let alone the culture shock of jumping into established groups that have been running very well without me for years thank you very much, or about having clients who have had years of conductive experience that hasn't included me.  Some of the adults here have been around CE longer than I have - in my professional experience, every group I've run, every client I've had since my student days and other than during my hiatus in Norway, has been a person I've introduced to CE and a group that I have set up and run (with mentorship and guidance) my way.  I have had to learn, adjust, adapt - as have my new clients and colleagues and it has not been an easy ride.

I've also come into an organisation going through change - in fact I am part of that change and the associated discomfort, and worse yet I'm causing some of that discomfort.  I now understand that part of my roll is actually going to be conducting this organisation through change and I am going to have to work hard to learn how to do that.  In other jobs and in other organisations where there has been change, I've had to learn to roll with the punches and have had to learn to fight back where necessary.  I've learned that if change is a wave crashing over you it is hard, so you have to either learn to ride the wave or to choose to get out of the water, but now I'm part of the wave instead of the surfer and to be honest it is really hard to learn how to be a more gentle wave -- it has never been my style and it will have to be my style if I'm going to be any good at my job here.  And that, in itself, is overwhelming, and I hope I am mature and ready enough to change myself.

So three months in to this new chapter I'm still settling in.  But I notice myself composing blog posts in my head, on the train as I head home from work, on my notepad and emailed to myself as reminders of things I want to think about and write about.  I'm trying to keep my head up, to be excited instead of overwhelmed, to count gratitudes instead of raindrops, and to find my feet -- and hopefully my voice too.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Reflections on life and death and love and happiness

Every once in a while you meet someone and for whatever random reason you seem to already know each other - your souls seem to recognize each other - and you are able to connect and form an instant, deep friendship that exists in a realm beyond the superficiality of most casual acquaintances.   I felt this when I met MC a few months ago during my ocean swim training- I think that he probably has that effect on many people. He went out of his way to take care of everyone when we were swimming in the ocean and we all knew that he was caring for his beloved partner in her final months of a long and awful battle with colon cancer.   Though I've only known MC for a few months, I had an overwhelming urge to be at his beloved's funeral earlier this week.

Many in my swim squad had the same instinct - and we were all so glad we could be there for MC.  We had no way of knowing how his beloved's ex-husband and his family would dominate the funeral, no way of knowing that our urge to be there to support MC would add so much balance for him, it was just an instinct that being there for him was important.

Funerals by nature inspire deep reflection and I found myself thinking about Frank Bailly.  My grandmother was very proud to say that she had only ever said 'I love you' to two men - my grandfather, and Frank Bailly.   My grandparents had a fantastic, happy marriage.  My grandmother was absolutely beautiful, incredibly intelligent and articulate, and fascinated by people and the stories they would tell you if you dared to ask; she was an editor of a magazine and was well known.   My grandfather was the most wonderful of men, with this child like love of life that was beyond contagious, and to this day I feel his spirit in the fun moments of life.  My grandfather hailed from a family of legendary longevity, so everyone was shocked when he died young and suddenly of pancreatic cancer. No one was more shocked than my beautiful grandmother who spiraled into an angry and very dark depression...until Frank entered - or shall I say re-entered the scene. 


Frank and my grandmother had wanted to date in highschool but were not allowed to court due to a difference in religious backgrounds, and he went on to have an wonderful happy marriage and was a well known big band tenor saxophonist.  His wife died around the same time my grandfather did, and as widows my grandmother and Frank enjoyed a few years of a loving courtship.  They hit the town, dinners and concerts and theatre and music halls.  When my grandmother started to get sick Frank stayed by her, and even at the end he lit up the nursing home with regular visits and kept her company during her more lucid moments.

I was thinking about Frank at the funeral earlier this week, hoping that at my grandmother's funeral he had people around him supporting him, and that my family was suitably grateful, respectful, and honouring of the love and happiness he had given my grandmother in her last years of life.

My friend MC was trying to reach an enormous fundraising target of $10 000 through sponsored long distance runs and open water swims before his beloved passed, as a living tribute to her and a way to honour her.  He and his beloved were not cynical about cancer research -- they believed that she had an extra four years of life because of medical treatments and that these four years gave her precious time with her daughters and a chance to meet her granddaughter who was born on her birthday a few months ago.  

This drive, this determination he showed under circumstances where he might have wallowed in helplessness reminded me of DB, a client and good friend of mine with cerebral palsy.  I was remembering DB from a few years ago when he was trying to cope with his mom's pending death, also of cancer.  

I had know DB for several years at this point, and in all of the years I worked with him previously he had been happy to do things to help him maintain his ability to get into and out of his wheelchair but was happy not to be pursuing any sort of free standing or balancing due to hip and back pain.  Suddenly one day, standing up from his wheelchair unassisted and being able to stand and balance independently became a very important priority to DB and we started working feverishly and determinedly towards this, eventually achieving it.  I asked him why after all of these years this was suddenly so important to him, what had changed?  

His answer was mind blowing and humbling.  DB remembered how happy it made his mom when he learned to stand after years of hard work with an incredibly uncooperative body.  He knew she was dying, and was respectful of her choice to have no further treatment after a long and difficult battle.  He felt that if he could stand at church he could make her happy.  It was his way to offer a living tribute, to honour her, to do something positive for her in her final days.  

I have told this story previously in public presentation under the context of understanding the  motivation behind a goal, the why behind the what, looking at the bigger life needs and individual reasons that something might be important to somebody.  And I recognized DB's why in the fundraising my friend MC was doing -- the need to do something positive, to honour, to pay tribute when helplessness was not a satisfactory response.

I was thinking about DB and about MC was inspired and moved by their ability to turn sad situations into something positive, to lift people when they needed it most, and to serve the people they love instead of being trapped in their own grief and helplessness.  I hope that if there is ever a need for me to be that person, I can find the strength to get past my own issues and find focus on doing something that will honour and lift, or bring happiness to someone who needs it.

MC is still fundraising for Cure Cancer Australia - to donate and help him continue to honour his beloved, please follow this link:


MC - this your beloved's favourite song was so beautifully performed at your beloved's funeral; I hope you don't mind me sharing it here.  My thoughts are with you friend.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

When conducting is Trying...

I have been working with Miss M for almost two years now; she is a young adult who had a terrible fall while overseas a few years ago, and she has been left with a rather nasty brain injury.  Miss M is one of the most personally and professionally challenging people I have had the privilege to conduct, and even in a month where we have had some ridiculously incredible functional breakthroughs I find myself unsure of where I am with her and having internal conflict after virtually every session.

Miss M has an incredible full-time carer, L, who Miss M and I are extremely lucky with.  L is fantastic with Miss M - she has a very close and loving relationship with her that I am able to work through, yet is able to be objective, firm, and work with 'tough love' where Miss M's parents can't.  L problem-solves with me and and reinforces the work done in CE sessions -- and when things don't go well, we help pull each other through the muck.

There is no getting around it; acquired brain injury is complicated -- especially when physical disability is accompanied by impairment to behaviour, personality, memory and other cognitive functions.  When I first started working with Miss M, I saw so much potential for regaining functional mobility but was not sure if I was going to be able to work around her behavioural and cognitive impairment.  I was not sure to what extent the behaviour was a result of the brain injury or was something that she had learned to use manipulate and control her circumstances and the people around her since the brain injury.  The behaviour drastically impacted the presentation of the disability, so much that the physical impairment and the physical disability were incredibly mismatched.  She yodelled and shouted jibberish as her main source of communication; otherwise she just parroted what was said.  She cried and shrieked with 'pain' when anyone even mentioned touching or moving her hands, feet, or legs, so no therapy or splinting happened, and as a result her hands and feet are amazingly contracted and deformed.  She had a very violent and aggressive streak that had required no provocation.  She was not interested in actively participating in CE or therapy; not motivated, and refused to take part.

And yet she knew every word to every song, including recent pop music from after her brain injury, and we could sing together.  Once I got over my own hang ups about what is appropriate when working with adults I found that through children's song and play I could interact with her and sometimes get her to do things with me; I frantically went through my notes from my student years in nursery and school groups looking for appropriate songs, added in 'camp songs' and pop songs and other movement games and suddenly there was a relationship.  And with that relationship came my expectations around behaviour - not just with Miss M, but with her amazing family and wonderful carer as well - and with expectations and goals around behaviour came change - both good and bad -- think of a full strength adult hitting the 'terrible twos'.

We are working teach Miss M that being violent and aggressive is not acceptable -- she is strong, has good motor control, and is unpredictable and dangerous.  At first this behaviour seemed random - no provocation required.  A previous therapist had in fact capitalized on it early on -- rough play and play fighting was the only activity she would take part in and that was how he helped her find her body and movement after the accident.  Now, by holding her down, restricting her movement, repeatedly telling her that she was hurting me (and yes I have had my share of bruises and scratches and bites and hair pulling and pinching courtesy of Miss M) I've started to see that she can stop being agressive if there is consistency around this.  But more, I saw that she could learn - when I intercepted her aggression she would burst into apology and tears.  I also confirmed that she could be manipulative - while she was apologetic and teary I would drop my guard and she would attack again.  I also started to see that the violent behaviour was not random - frustration, confusion, pain, being frightened, being over something, needing some physical space were all triggers.  Miss M has a very short fuse; and when she loses control she can't yet reel it in.

Now we are working to teach her that saying sorry and crying isn't enough, she has to choose not to repeat the behaviour -- and we are making progress.  However, in some ways these improvements have made the behaviour harder to manage.  We have seen intention and purpose in her rage -- this is incredibly hard to work with because we know that it is not just random brain injury lability, but directed violent anger -- very different.  There are good days, days when we work well and have no fighting.  I know that once Miss M loses her temper she is out of control, but because I feel that Miss M understands what she is doing and that she knows she is not behaving nicely, I feel my own anger rise when dealing with hers.  It is very hard to physically restrain somebody who is attacking you when you are also managing your own anger and trying to be professional and appropriate.  If she is on the floor or in her wheelchair I can move away; if we are in the pool or balanced on the edge of a plinth, my duty of care doesn't allow me to step away and I have to restrain her to protect myself while keeping her safe and managing my own temper.  And I'll be honest -- I sit in the car and cry after these days.

When I say we have seen ridiculously incredible functional breakthroughs I am not exaggerating; in the last few months we have seen exponential improvements in spontaneous communication and vocabulary; we see memory and refection where previously there was none; we see the beginning of an ability to understand that there was an accident, that there has been a brain injury, that we are trying to help her get better.  Miss M has gone from from swimming only with floaties and someone right beside her to independent swimming on her front and back.  She has learned to roll onto her stomach (or more precisely to tolerate being there) and from rolling onto her stomach in a matter of a week has learned to get up onto her knees and to crawl, and from there to pull herself up into high kneeling and onto a plinth or the lounge.  The other day she was in high kneeling and tried to put her foot on the floor as if to stand (if only her feet and ankles weren't so terribly contracted!!!).  Her body is remembering what she used to be able to do and latent abilities are presenting gob-smackingly rapidly and spontaneously -- it is like watching normal deelopment in fast foward.  And when these things happen we celebrate  - Miss M's parents, L, and I all shocked and amazed, ecstatic to the point of tears, and Miss M caught up in the excitement of the moment.

And then I show up the next day, expecting to reinforce and repeat what we have achieved and Miss M will be in a mood, refusing to participate, crying, being aggressive.  When this was what I arrived expecting it was hard, but I was prepared, and it was what was expected.  But now I don't know what to expect, and I excitedly arrive, still on yesterday's high; we review videos so Miss M remembers and we get excited watching them. Then we try to do something and I get behaviour and refusal to try.  And I am heartbroken and disappointed even though I know that this is the nature of this brain injury and that this is a part of the process for Miss M.  And even though I know that any confusion, disappointment, frustration I feel is minute in comparison to the complex emotions that Miss M feels and has no real way of expressing.  My disappointment and frustration sometimes clouds my thinking, it feels personal -- we have a relationship that has allowed her to develop and exceed everyone's expectations; I'm putting everything I have into these sessions, and she can't be bothered to try.  And only hours later while debriefing with L, am I able to appreciate and understand and deconstruct what is happening, and to remember how far we have come, and to find energy to keep trying.

You've got to try...

Or perhaps this is more inspiring...  Try, just a little bit harder

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sink or Swim... How does one conduct one's self in the ocean?


I have been meaning to resume blogging for a while, but needless to say these intentions were thwarted by an all-consuming personal challenge I undertook over the past few months. I have been training for an open ocean swim in support of Cure Cancer Australia. What I thought was going to be a fitness and fundraising challenge ended up also being a battle with myself and with my deep-seated anxiety over a fear of the ocean that I didn't know I was housing.

I have learned some important lessons about myself and about the way that I conduct and teach - along the way, and will use my foray back into the CE blogosphere to reflect on these lessons.

I started struggling early on.  Despite being a strong swimmer I started having panic attacks in the ocean, and on occasion having to be rescued and brought back to the beach on a surfboard.  And then I started to panic on the way to ocean swimming training, or when just being near the beach and thinking about swimming in the ocean.  Anyone who has struggled with panic and anxiety can tell you that the anxiety about the anxiety is the worst part of anxiety because that is what stops you from doing things, and makes the anxiety spiral beyond a particular situation or circumstance. 

I started to feel disappointed in myself and beating myself up over this anxiety which was quickly consuming me and spilling over into everything else; I started feeling like it was too much, like I was in over my head (literally and figuratively), and I started thinking of pulling out.  I was disappointed in myself, as worried about failing as I was about drowning, plus worried that I was letting my team and my family and friends who were supporting me down.

I shared my anxiety with CW and MD wise women who I am lucky enough to conduct and to have as friends.  Both encouraged me by telling me to conduct myself.  And in my anxious state I thought that if I failed I was going to be letting them, and all of my other participants, and all of Conductive Education down too -- if I couldnt conduct myself, how could I imagine I could conduct others?  Very unhelpful headspace; not at all in the positive and be kind to yourself approach I would like to think I encourage my participants to use when they are trying to work through something difficult.

However, within the brilliant advice conduct yourself was the answer it enabled me to change my thinking and headspace.  I had to step back and remind myself what was important in CE as I tried to figure out how to conduct myself.  Conductive Education is not a judgement on success or failure but about trying, and then trying again, and then trying something different, and continuously seeing new solutions when one doesnt work. It is about rewarding effort so that our fragile egos are not defeated by failure.  It is about not giving up because something is not working or going to plan, being willing to have another go. 

I had to remind myself to value and celebrate small achievements and steps along the way to the bigger goal.  I had to remind myself to focus on what was going well and on building on that instead of dwelling on what was not working.  I had coaches and mentors believing, I could do it even when I didn't believe I could - how powerful to accept their vision instead of letting my own disbelief hold me back!  I didnt always believe I was going to be able to do it but knowing that someone else believed in me made me think that it was going to be possible. 

I was training with a group but so caught up in my own anxiety that I thought I was the only one struggling I had to look beyond myself and connect to the journey and struggles of the others I was training with, to learn from them, to let them teach, inspire, and help me, and to accept their encouragement; to let them lift me.  I also had to remember that I was doing this for them someone actually told me that the reason they came back after they had a rough ocean training session was that they saw me keep coming back and trying, knowing how frightened I was.  Who would think that watching me struggle with my anxiety could inspire someone else? I stayed with it because of the support of this group and our shared goal, because people kept supporting me when I was struggling - even more so in fact.  The shared goal was bigger than the physical challenge we were all there with personal reasons for wanting to fundraise for cancer research and this made for a powerfully connected group, a group of individuals prepared to put their own personal glory aside for the benefit of a teammate and friend.  I nearly missed out on being a part of this group because I couldnt see beyond myself, and I think back to some of the amazing groups I have conducted over the years and remember times when my participants have surpassed expectations because they were lifted and inspired by the group they were working with.

I stayed with it because of the amazing support and encouragement from people around me beyond my training squad - family, friends, clients, and especially my husband Alexander and his constant, quiet, non judgemental support and ability to stand by me on this self imposed personal hell.  During the worst of the anxiety I was feeling more anxious with every new donation or encouraging message because I was worried Id be letting everyone down.  I had to step back to realize that people were supporting me unconditionally, supporting that I was even trying, and applauding how hard I was trying.  I had to stop feeling like I was failing so I could remember to be grateful for the people around me supporting me.   And remember to be grateful that I was able to take part in something like this, and be grateful for the health and wellness of the people around me, and be grateful that I live in such a beautiful place and that I had the opportunity to be doing something like this somewhere so wonderful for a cause I am passionate about.

There were other conductive lessons the personal experience of using breath, rhythm, and movement; counting while moving counting strokes, counting breaths, guessing how many strokes to the next buoy, singing to myself while swimming I pulled out many of my favourite tricks of the trade during training. 

I had a real dose of lessons in setting the wrong goal; lessons in having to change the goal along the way; lessons in breaking a large goal into bite sized bits, lessons on working on different segments of the goal, sometimes out of sequence, and letting go of the big goal in order to be able to do what I needed to do to work towards it seeing the trees not just the forest.  I also had a real dose of what happens when you train the wrong thing --  I was trying to physically out-train anxiety instead of trying to learn how to manage the anxiety.  When I shifted the focus of my training and focussed on the right thing I was able to move forward. 

There were also experiences that really made me relate to what I see with my participants during CE sessions.  For example, sometimes the more you think about something the harder it gets; sometimes fear of failing actually can interfere with trying.  When I was stressed or anxious I had trouble taking in instructions and remembering things and the more information I was being given when I was feeling like that the more frazzled and overloaded I became and I thought about times when I have overloaded my participants.

I had to learn how to admit I was struggling; I had to ask for help; I had to accept help that was being offered and trust in the people who were helping me.  I had to find a way to be the best that I could be in even the hardest and most frightening moments and to know that I was doing my best and accept that effort, even if it wasnt as good as someone elses effort in other words to judge myself on my best effort in a particular moment, to be orthofunctional.  Such big battles I had with myself over things that I regularly expect of the people I conduct!

I could go on.  But if youve read this far you deserve a happy ending already and I hope that this will suffice.  I made friends.  I completed the training program and a 3km swim in an ocean rock pool.  I was part of an immediate team that fundraised nearly $40 000 and our team was a part of a much larger team that has now raised over $500 000 for Cure Cancer Australia.  On the day of the open ocean race mother nature flexed muscles bigger than mine and the swim conditions were too dangerous for many of us though many in my team did complete the event on the day I did not, but I still felt good about my achievement and effort.  I battled myself on many fronts and won or at least learned when I couldnt win.  And I learned to conduct myself in the ocean, the real one and the unpredictable and ever changing ocean of life.



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

NICE Conductors need not Apply

This morning Conductive World Market on Facebook let me know about an amazing job opportunity with Move & Walk, a holistic Conductive Education centre in Sweden that I have been following for years. They have programs for babies through to older adults, have found creative and holistic ways to work with the Swedish health care system and with other professionals, have done research and always present well at conferences.  Move and Walk Sweden


Though I'm not presently looking to move across the world for a job, the free spirit in me can't help but be interested... An awesome job opportunity with people I'd love to work with in a place I've never been - very tempting indeed!

In terms of my experience and skill set I am an ideal candidate for this job and have no doubt that I could be an asset to their team; as an added bonus I have have basic Norwegian language skills which would make their requirement of learning Swedish more easily attainable. However, the job posting specifically stipulates that they are looking for "a Petö graduate conductor".

I'm not precious; I'm not offended to the core of my being or anything, and in fact think it is more their loss - there are a lot of excellent and innovative 'non-Petö' conductors out there and I am extremely proud to be a NICE conductor. But this Petö conductor vs non-Petö conductor thing has been a thing since I graduated and it still makes me quite angry. It may not have been meant to be an excluding job post; perhaps I should give the person who posted the job the benefit of the doubt and assume she meant condutors trained in the Petö method vs specifically at the Petö Institute - but as I said, this has been a thing for a long time now. I think that we need to come together as a profession, and learn to judge each other by what we offer as professionals instead of what school we went to. And, I think us non-Petö conductors and our colleagues and the families we have supported over the decade and a half since conductors have been trained outside of the Petö Institute should probably stop being 'NICE' about this.

--The Five Man Electrical Band