Monday, 5 December 2016

The climate of our mind

"The climate of our mind is hard to change" Polyfaces film as seen on FMTV.

Here on Landscaping Your Life (LYL) we love a good metaphor, and certainly one where we can go to nature and explore what the words mean in that context, before then applying it back to our lives.

That is, we need to discover:

  • Is the climate in nature hard to change? 
  • If we could, would we want to change the climate?
  • How would we change it positively, or negatively?
  • How this applies to the climate of our mind (remembering to do this only once we've fully explored the answers to the above questions). 
When I first heard the statement I initially interpreted it to mean 'the weather of our mind is hard to change'. This would actually result in a very different post. After all, nature doesn't hang on to any weather for that long. Weather is simply a delicate dance to find balance within the environment, with each change in weather providing an opportunity to take the next step towards that equilibrium. We're certainly not good at doing that are we - with many of us holding on to the weather in our minds long past it's sell by date. (The LYL post on trying to control the weather might shed some more light on that.)        

The statement however, wasn't about the weather in our mind, it was about the climate of our mind.

To find out the difference I looked to NASA to help:

"The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere "behaves" over relatively long periods of time.....In most places, weather can change from minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and season-to-season. Climate, however, is the average of weather over time and space. An easy way to remember the difference is that climate is what you expect, like a very hot summer, and weather is what you get, like a hot day with pop-up thunderstorms."

Hmmmm ... I'm thinking the difference between expectations and reality is the topic for another blog.

In summary climate is the underlying history of weather over a period of time for a specific location, and is initially based I'm assuming on the characteristics of a specific location's longitude, latitude, and height above sea level. 

With that understanding, let's consider the 4 questions I outlined at the start:

  • Is the climate in nature hard to change: the location can't change its climate itself - it's done to it as a result of external factors such as "biotic processes, variations in solar radiation received by Earth, plate tectonics, volcanic eruptions, certain human activities and even meteorites."  
  • If we could, would we want to change the climate: there could certainly be reasons to want to change the climate for a location due to unfavourable conditions. The challenge comes in defining 'unfavourable' conditions, and understanding how that impacts other locations. Which means we may decide we can only change the climate for a location so long as it doesn't negatively impact another locations' climates, or perhaps more importantly it doesn't negatively impact the long term sustainability of the planet. Which provides an additional reason to change the climate, when the long term sustainability of the planet is under threat due to the current global climate.  
  • How would we change it positively, or negatively: by making changes to the "biotic processes, solar radiation, plate tectonicsvolcanic eruptions and human activities." The key being to understand what factors we have control over, and to then identify which changes we are able to make that will have a positive outcome, and which will have a negative outcome. 
Which leads us to explore our answer to the final question:  
  • How the above exploration applies to changing the climate of our mind: For me the key is determining the need to change the climate. We certainly have the ability to make changes but taking action requires us to understand the reason for change, and be motivated enough to take the necessary action. We need help, it seems, to understand the impact on our long term sustainability of our current mind set. Once we've done that, the easy part comes in determining what action to take! The same goes when we're trying to change others' climates - we could try to enforce change by changing some of the external factors but we don't have as much control over the outcome as we when we simply persuade the mind of the need for its own evolution.

As ever, the person to whom this exploration will make the most sense is the person who used the words. Unless anyone reading this can fully relate to the words, our assessment of the outcome will at best be an estimation (hmmm ... that links back to the climate being an estimation, and the weather being what we get. So perhaps we would have got more insight from working with 'the weather of our mind'!)

I wonder what I might be missing - I'd love to know your thoughts on how we can learn from climate change in nature, and relate it to climate change in our minds. Do please leave your comments below.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring Change Inside and Out

Not sure why but the exploration above reminds me of a post I wrote entitled "is an integrated landscape possible" Perhaps because at some level, whilst the exploration has been less satisfying than I'd hoped, it feels like there's a kernel of an idea there that's alluding me - and it feels like quite a big idea! Help much appreciated.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016


Whilst attending a coaching CPD session at the weekend we discussed presence, and what presence could bring to a coaching session. I'm in the process of writing a Purchasing coach blog to explore my thoughts / ruminations on the subject so this link to that blog will work once it's finished.

I wondered however what nature can tell us about presence.

Before reading my thoughts why not reflect on what presence in nature means to you? How might nature have a lesson for you in order to bring forth presence into your life - if in fact of course that's a goal you have.

Perhaps reflect on the following images, or ones you have in your office or home before reading the words.

For me nature, as represented by these images, is about:
Stillness and being part of and connecting with something bigger. I'm reminded of looking into the milky way from the dark starry night whilst at Uluru some years ago, and just getting a sense of that connection with all things. Certainly a letting go of my own importance.
Just being, with no judgement nor attachment. Yes we attribute meaning to the heart shape of the reef but the reef has no such judgement of it self. The reef just is, for all to see and engage with. No attachment, no judgement, just being moment to moment.
Nature is constantly in a state of alert to notice when the status quo is unachievable without action. For example when something gets too big, or high, or low, or hot or cold nature moves to counter act that extreme. Yes that may bring forth great upheaval, but at the same time the intent is the balance that is achieved as a result of that upheaval. A balance that would not have been achieved without it.
The northern and southern lights are only observable when certain criteria are met. The light we see, and sometime only the camera sees, are as a result of solar wind particles colliding with the Earth's atmosphere. The beauty only observable as a result of that collision.

Based on these images then presence is stillness, and being in the now, no judgement, no ego, no attachment, alert to the data and information and ready to react, unafraid of upheaval, and knowing that beauty and balance may sometimes only emerge from collision and discomfort. (A great reminder when the presidential election outcome is not as many would wish it to be).

Interesting to consider what aspects of presence I've omitted through my choice of image. I will ponder some more on that, and share what emerges later in the month.

If it's something you'd like to have more of how might you bring more presence into your life?

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Using nature to inspire change inside and out

Monday, 18 April 2016

Fish where the big fish are

As you'll have gathered by now I love exploring the hidden metaphor within the language we're using. The above tweet, and Facebook update, had me wondering what insight exploring the metaphor might provide. That is, what does 'going where the big fish are' mean metaphorically?

To get the most from this post it would be useful to spend a little time thinking about a situation you might be able to apply this situation to - finding more clients, dating, getting your book published, finding a new home. Any situation where you've not yet found what you're looking for. 

What would the benefit be to you of finding the solution? What would achieving that outcome give you? 

Now you've provided yourself with some motivation to read on lets get on with it.

I wasn't at #PSAUK /  #PSALive on Saturday, so I don't know where Matt Crabtree took the saying, nor the context in which the words were said. I'm just using it as a great example of how to notice your language, and to then look for the hidden solutions contained within the words. Recent posts have done this with other words such as 'stick in the mud', 'keep your head above water', 'going around in circles', and 'treading on thin ice'.

As with any metaphoric exploration, it's useful to put real life to the back of your mind. To fully immerse yourself in the metaphor - not wondering how it relates to real life, not yet anyway - and just keep digging, and get a sense of the richness of the metaphor. Richness, because if a picture paints a thousand words, then a metaphor paints a thousand pictures, and a million words can't help but contain the solution.

So where are the big fish? And how might that be in a different place from the smaller fish?

The definition of 'big fish' is contextual of course - big fish in a goldfish bowl are going to be much smaller than big fish in a pond, that are smaller than big fish in a lake, that are smaller than big fish in the ocean. So you do need to choose your water?
Although I already wonder if that's what Matt was talking about with the bigger fish being found in the ocean?

As I predominantly work with large corporate organisations I'm going to explore the big fish in the ocean. We would, I'm sure, get different insights if we explored the big fish in a lake or pond, and if you have time I'd certainly suggest you do that - if only because you'll get different insights. After all, in a pond you have more control over what the fish eat, and who has access to them, and just need to feed them well and they'll get bigger.

Once we've made the decision of what type of water the fish are located in, the question then becomes how are we defining 'big' - is it the longest, or the heaviest, or the most plentiful, or perhaps the biggest fish we can catch easily, or the biggest fish of a certain species or genus of fish?

Interesting that I've already jumped to aiming for the big'est or the long'est and not just any big fish! Something I'm sure we often do in life - ignoring the actual objective, and aiming for the best, and yet making it more unattainable at the same time.

I Googled 'big fish' and found this wiki of the largest fish. It identified the largest fish in each genus of fish covering:

As I looked at the list, and the characteristics of these fish, then it became apparent that we need to consider where in the world we are fishing - it's no use aiming for a particular big fish if it's only found in the seas off the Antarctic, if we have no way of getting there.
When exploring metaphors it's useful to follow the tangents your mind takes you down, because they're often where the nuggets can be found. I remembered a post I'd written some time ago about needing to look beneath the surface because:

"Less than 10 percent of all fish species remain. Half the coral reefs globally have died or are in sharp decline. Since the 1950s 300 dead zones - oxygen-deficient areas that can't sustain life - have appeared along coasts. Contaminated water is increasing disease worldwide, including cholera. Pollutants in seafood is sickening growing numbers of people. The human impact on oceans and subsequently on climate change is effecting the future of the planet." The World is Blue by Sylvia A Earle

In the context of fishing for big fish then we need to understand the sustainability of the water we're fishing in, and the fish we're wanting to find. You'll certainly want to ensure the effort you put in now will have the opportunity for continued fish in the future, not be a one off experience. Unless it's a particularly tasty or huge fish anyway. You may even need to think about how to clean up the water, and reduce the pollutants.

Effort required to fish is important - what boat do you need, what fishing equipment, how long will you need to be at sea, do you have the qualifications, or do you need someone to skipper the boat for you, or do you outsource the fishing, and just benefit from the catch once its landed?

Which raises a question I should have asked earlier - what are we wanting to do with the fish and how many do you need? One fish versus many fish will impact the solution, and certainly the effort you're prepared to put in to find it. Do you want to swim with it, eat it, feed it to others, put it in an aquarium, put it in a pond or spawning nets, or something else entirely? Remembering that a fish won't live for long if it's taken out of water!

If you're wanting to eat the fish - then some fish are poisonous - so how can you ensure you keep away from those?
I'm not suggesting any of this was meant when Matt said what he said. It's often the same when we say we're stuck in a rut or can't see the wood for the trees - we take the words at face value and move on.

I'm simply suggesting if you're using the words to describe a situation you're wanting more insight on, or are stuck about, then exploring the words more fully may open up your mind to finding the solution.

There's no right or wrong - Matt may have had a particular intention with his words, and so may I in this exploration, that won't stop you however from taking it in a different direction all together. The key is that the direction your mind takes you in, is the direction your unconscious believes the answer will lie. Trust that, and go in the tangents your mind provides, and continue to explore the metaphor.

You may realise you don't want to use a net to catch your fish, or a fishing rod
but dive for it yourself. For many that might mean learning to dive first.  
It depends on how many fish you're wanting to catch, what depth they can be found at, and how big they are.

The aim is to have some fun with the exploration - once you think you've had enough - why not go a little absurd (ok - a little 'more' absurd). Perhaps mix up the words you were using. In this instance it might be about:
  • Swim where the big fish are - which takes the exploration in a different direction
  • Dive where the big fish are
  • Sink with the big fish
  • Feed the big fish
  • Fish where the big shoals are
  • Fish for a shoal
  • Fish for a big shoal
Yes doing this may change the meaning Matt intended, but if swimming with the fish makes more sense for you, and enables you to take action towards your goal, isn't that what's important? 

Once you've fully explored the metaphor then it's time to apply the insights from the exploration to real life. Perhaps something came to mind whilst you were reading the above, or you may need to go back and consider how each point relates to real life. Just allow the one or two insights that might make a difference to emerge. Then decide what action you will take and when.

For me insights have appeared that suggest actions such as:

Be clear about

  • What you want
  • How much of it you want
  • Where you want it
  • How long you want it for 
  • Why you want it 
  • How you're going to achieve it 
  • How much effort you're prepared to put in

  • Size isn't everything 
  • It's not always about diminishing or obliterating another to get what you want 
  • Others may have the same objective 
  • Big things were once small things 
  • Be realistic - it's no use starting something that's impossible 
  • The amount of effort dictates the outcome 
  • And so on
That is, what actions came to mind as you explored metaphorically 'fishing for big fish'.

How might these actions help you to achieve your goal? 

I'd love to know how you got, and get on.

Alison Smith
Landscaping your Life
Using nature to inspire change - inside and out

There's more here on why metaphors are so useful when you're stuck, or unsure what direction to take, and are looking for solutions that have thus far eluded you.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Stick in the mud

Are you a stick in the mud? Or perhaps someone in your life is a stick in the mud, and it's frustrating you?

Consider for a moment the benefit to you of releasing the frustration, or not being set back by this behaviour?

The words we're using can often help us understand what's going on in our mind. Whether logical or metaphorical, they explain how we're relating to any given situation. Which means if we're unsure what to do in a situation, the answer might be found in the words we're using - or in this case the metaphor we're using.

For example if you're describing someone, or even yourself, as a 'stick in the mud' then why are you using that description if not because it makes sense at some level.

If it makes sense to describe the situation in this way my hypothesis is, you'll also find the solution there too, for example:
As with all metaphors it's helpful to NOT mix then up with reality - so think of the 'stick in the mud' situation, and then put it to the back of your mind whilst we explore real sticks in real mud!

Bring to mind the metaphorical stick in the mud that you're imagining when you use those words:
  • How long is the stick? 
Please don't be surprised if you do have an answer - your mind is a meaning making machine, and as such if you're using the words will have a picture of some sorts that accompanies the words. 

Let's explore the image a little more: 
  • How wide is the stick? 
  • What's it sticking in? 
  • How gloopy is the mud? 
  • and so on. 
Build up a picture of the stick in the mud - you might want to draw it (and no I'm not pulling your leg - drawing as I discovered when going around in circles can be very helpful), or make a collage, or go and visit some real mud with a real stick as I did, as you will see very soon.

Once you've done that consider the options for that stick. The options might include:
  • Staying where it is
  • Being picked up and moved somewhere else
  • Waiting for the mud to dry out
  • Floating away if it rains
  • What happens if it gets icy? or snows? or the wind blows it?  
  • Stopping it coming away from the tree in the first place  
  • And so on - just keep thinking of ways to move the stick so it's no longer stuck in the mud.
Before considering how these options might relate to real life have a look at the following images of sticks in mud!

It is a short stick in the mud 
Or perhaps a little longer

or even longer

Or very tall (as sticks go)
Or perhaps a little thicker!
Or perhaps there's a whole host of sticks in what has now become a big expanse of water?

Perhaps its about remembering where the stick came from, and finding a way of returning it to its home?

Did any of these images resonate - and in which case how could the stick no longer be stuck in the mud?

Reflect on the original situation - how might these metaphorical solutions and images provide an answer? 

Notice what you notice - in what way does the situation look or feel different? What insight might you have had on what action to take in the current situation?

Other posts that may also relate to the content covered here, even if they're using different sayings, are getting out of your comfort zone, bringing it in out of the cold, and treading on thin ice

I'd love to hear how you got on.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring Change - inside and out

Monday, 11 April 2016

Look through the square window

I sat on the sofa one morning with the cat on my knee, and took this image.
I realised it represented what we often do in life - assume how we're seeing the world is the same world everyone else is seeing.

The problem is someone else might be seeing something different
Or this
Or this

None of us appreciating that our own memories, beliefs and preferences determine the shape of window we're looking through, and the direction of our attention.

Play School had it right when in the 70's they offered us a square, round or arched window to go through. Little realising they were reminding us that we each have a preference of how we perceive the world.

The picture below may be a better representation of all of the above pictures - that is, my original view can be seen along side the others. The issue is, it required me to stick my head out of my window, and set the camera to panoramic view, and then hold the camera steady as I took in the full view.

In life as in nature.

Next time you think you're seeing the full picture - think again, and remember it's only the view out of your window.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Using nature to inspire change inside and out

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Keep your head above water

Landscaping Your Life (LYL) uses nature as a metaphor for our lives. Which means nature is used to help us find solutions to challenges we're facing. It achieves this in a variety of ways, and many of these have been shared in the posts on this blog - going for a walk, collage, observation and so on.

One process in the LYL toolkit looks at the sayings we're using to describe a stuck state, and uses the landscapes hidden within those very sayings to find the solution. For example:
Once a solution has been found the aim, and you'll have to take my word for this, is to be able to go metaphorically with the flow, and head for the ocean.

Often when stuck in a rut, or unable to see the wood for the trees, the aim to go with the flow isn't contradictory with our current predicament. That is, you can be stuck in a rut, and then move into the flow. If you're in a wood it's certainly possible to then move into the river, and to go with its flow.
When we've treading water, however, or have our head just above the water, it's hard to envisage how going with the flow can provide an antidote. That is we're already in the water, but seem to have got stuck in a holding pattern that's keeping us in one place, rather than be able to move with the river or ocean.

Before I'd realised going with the flow was an objective we should all aspire to, a solution could have been found in any direction within a landscape (and for some it still might).

For example, with a client who had their head just above water (with a fear of imminent drowning that meant they had to keep vigorously treading water) they envisaged taking a journey out of the water into solid land. They imagined moving from head above water, to shoulders above water, to knees above water until they were able to walk up the beach, past the sand dunes, and into a very safe location - well away from the water.
At the time that visualisation helped them to shift the situation they were feeling like they are only just head above the water about. They were then able to identify actions they could take that would start to resolve the situation.

I think that's the clue 'start to resolve the situation' - not resolve it.

On reflection I realise that if I now believe the answer lies with going with the flow, then sooner or later the person above will need to get back into the water. It's very likely once they envisage doing that however, that the learned behaviour to tread water will kick in, and they will once again return to the holding pattern of going around, and around in circles.
The challenge then becomes how to kick the habit. How to head into the ocean, and trust that all is well. To realise we don't need to try so hard to keep our head above the water. To know that abandoning ourselves to the flow is enough. 

I feel the need to remind you that we're still talking metaphorically, because that's the clue to finding the solution. We're using a metaphor to describe the situation, and therefore need to use the metaphor to find the solution. We can't mix the metaphor with real life - a half metaphor, half life isn't an effective long term solution. We have to fully immerse ourselves in the metaphor, and only once we've done that can we try to understand what that means in reality. 

I wrote a short story that may provide the solution to some readers who are currently feeling like they've only just got their head above water. It's entitled The Wave

The Wave is a story that prompted me to realise the reason many resist going with the flow - because we're scared where it will taken us. The rapids, the waterfall, the deep ocean are all scary places when we imagine ourselves floating in the water at the behest of a power greater than us.
What happens however if we realise we are the water, we are the flow, and ultimately we are the ocean. Head above water no longer makes sense - it's as if we're trying to be something we're not. If we are the water, then going with the flow is the most natural thing to do. It's the only thing to do. Water goes with the flow - it's what water does - it's the very essence of water. 

When we're treading water, therefore we're fighting the inevitable, and forgetting the truth of the universe, and the laws of nature. 

If we now jump back to reality, and explore what the metaphorical solution means, then for me it's about remembering our true essence - our authentic self and embracing that self 24 hours a day. 

You may find you've had other insights as you've read this post - that's the beauty of metaphor - we all interpret them differently, and yet will each find the solution contained within it.

Next time you're treading water, or feel like you've only just got your head above water, why not give this process a go, and explore the water in order to find the solution.

Do let me know how you get on. 

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Using nature to inspire change inside and out
+44(0)7770 538159

This post helping you to stop going around in circles may also help.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Insight from the beach

As I often do when I'm at home I had breakfast on the beach this morning (yes even in chilly Fife, over the Forth from Edinburgh, Scotland). I thought I'd share the types of insight you might get when using Landscaping Your Life principles on a walk on the beach, and applying them to a real life problem/situation.

To get even more from reading this post you may want to think of a situation you'd like more clarity about. Perhaps one you're stuck about what to do next, or want a different perspective on. Once you've thought about the situation, and the benefit of being able to understand more clearly what to do next, put it to the back of your mind. 

The power of using metaphors to resolve issues, is that we don't need to bring the content of the current situation with us - just consider the metaphor, in this case the beach, and notice what we notice about it. You may even want to just look at the pictures first, and ignore what I've written. That way you're allowing your mind to find its own connection to the beach, and it isn't being swayed by mine. 

This image a reminder perhaps that there's not only ever just one solution - there's often many. Here the sign is saying the Fife coastal path can be found in both directions.

If you're thinking you might have missed the tide remember there's another in less than 12.5 hours. You can see, even in the 30 minutes between these pictures, how much the tide has moved.

Perhaps it's time therefore to stop fighting and go with the flow:
I wrote a post some time ago about the incremental progress of the tide. When the water is calm it's hard to see the changing tide, and yet progress is being made every second of every minute of the day. Something it's useful to remember when we're getting impatient about a situation.

There's a great vlog however, on not procrastinating, especially if the time to take action is now, and you don't need to wait for the tide to change.
Another laughter filled vlog reminds us that if we keep doing the same thing we'll keep getting the same outcome (NB: turn the sound down first)
Or if we have our head in the sand

We're reminded of the wider perspective we can see if we take our head out of the sand.

Or perhaps we need reminding that the sun is always here - even if it is hidden behind a cloud.

If you need to turn a corner in the situation why not do it in nature:

The following image might help provide a possible solution if you're treading water in life

I know if may feel a little like overwhelm. Especially if only one of these solutions seems applicable to your situation? In coaching sessions it's obviously easier for you to observe only the aspects of the landscape that make sense to you. Here I'm using insights many people have had from exploring the beach - in the hope, that there's an image that applies for every one reading.

Perhaps insight might come from thinking about a beach you've visited - your favourite, the one you've visited the most, or one you'd like to visit. 

Consider the following images of other beaches:

As you bring this metaphorical trip to the beach to a close, think about the original situation. Notice what you notice - what insight and/or action has come to mind, and when will you take it? 

I'd love your feedback on what you liked about the process, what you discovered, and any questions you might have. Please leave them below in comments.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Using nature to inspire change inside and out

Friday, 25 March 2016


As I do at the New Year, I like tapping into the transformational energy of Easter or Ostara. The releasing the old, embracing the new, stepping into a new archetype sort of energy.

I often take time on Good Friday to review the beliefs and behaviours I'm wanting to release, and at some point over the weekend to re-imagine where I'm headed.

As I started to prepare for the weekend I wondered what insight nature could give us on this transformational energy? This blog is my answer.

To maximise the benefit from reading this post you may wish to consider a situation you would like to transform. What would the benefit be of this transformation taking place? Can you imagine how life might be afterwards?

Once you've thought of something you'd like to transform, put the situation to the back of your mind, out of sight until you've finished reading, and simply explore the images below. Play a little with the process, allow nature to speak to you through the images I share, and follow the tangents that come to mind. No right or wrong, just a journey of discovery of how nature embraces transformation.

The most obvious metaphor for transformation is the butterfly

Or the transformation of seeds
or the tide (also see this post on incremental change relating to the tide)
Or changing landscape 

Or transformational weather 

Or abrupt changes 

Or temperature changes
Or change from day to night, summer to winter, north to south and so on.

What other transformations in nature come to mind? If you were to imagine the sequence of images for that transformation what would they look like? 

You may also wish to think of sounds in nature - either transformational sounds in their own right, or anything that for you conveys the sound of change? For me that would have to be the sound of the stormy waves as they crash onto the shore - with the peace and quiet the following day. 

You may want to go a little further afield for your transformation:

Just keep thinking of examples of transformation in nature - you may even want to go for a walk in nature, and notice what you notice as you do this. Or even make your own landscaping collage to depict the journey.

I realised as I typed that the energy of the Leap day post may also provide insight to the transformational energy that's needed. So too the short story I wrote entitled The tortoise and the hare.

Just keep exploring transformation in nature for as long as you can. Then do something completely different to break state. Then after a few minutes, or even hours, return to your original situation - what do you notice about the situation? Are you able to understand how transformation may now be possible, and what action you need to take to support that?  

You may also want to pop over to my Purchasing Coach blog where I've taken a more logical look at the language of change and transformation. After all words have power too - I was surprised with the conclusion I came to too - not transformation, nor transfiguration, just simply aiming to be different!

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Using nature to inspire change inside and out