Instead of following a more normal career path I chose a degree in Chinese medicine (after debating studying African drumming or a course that might have lead to becoming a spy) because of my interest in Taoism and Chinese medical theory. It is amazing how decisions can shape the rest of your life. After getting my degree, which included 5 months in China (amazing clinical experience, even more amazing food!) I practiced acupuncture for several years. I even managed to get the only (paid) job for an acupuncturist on the NHS in the UK, and I did that for nearly a year, working with people who had a variety of pain conditions. It was some of the most satisfying work I have ever done, but then I decided to change everything up and I left the UK to study stretching. This was an interesting development – incorporating bodywork into my practice gave me a whole new dimension for understanding a person and their situation, as the body holds so much history and information. I even ended up creating my own system of resistance stretching called Moving Stretch and writing a book about it.
But all along, I was fascinated with the whole pattern of people’s well-being; were they: pain free, mobile, healthy, happy, satisfied, able to love fully, in touch with their true self, following a dream – were they living fully? This has so much impact on the health and lifestyle of a person, but it is something that most medical professionals simply do not have the time or energy to address, so the medical system is burdened with a lot of people who are mostly lonely, do not feel connected to their purpose, or are sad or traumatised, for example (I saw this a lot when I worked on the NHS). There is a gap where people who are lacking something important within them (access to themselves and connection to their meaning in life, perhaps) but are not actually physically or mentally ill enough for a diagnosis (or they are, but it is not the root of their issues), do not know where to turn for help. A holistic view can often shine a light on their situation and what might be the healthiest way forward, in a way that some professionals are not allowed to advise (although it is always important to consult a doctor or mental health practitioner if needed).
In addition to my compulsion to understand people, there was also the subtle energy I had learned to see and interact with when I was a teenager. I studied different systems of energy work until I eventually found my own way of reading and working with it. I love the speed and volume of information you can access when you tune into people’s energy, and the way it can support people in changing. It is not always initially a popular idea, but generally as a client relaxes and their analytical brain calms down a bit, their spirit moves to the forefront and there is a nice space for me to step in and do some useful work. And then afterwards people feel… different somehow – and this is often the key to change. Wiggle room in our emotions, body or spirit, and a viable alternative to the physical, emotional, energetic or mental pattern we may have become locked into, sometimes for years.
I decided to try to write a book that would give people the essential tools people needed to know in order to do their own self-development work, and it took me about a year but it is finished and in the final stages before publication. I am so happy because I have wanted to write it for 10 years and having a book inside you for 10 years is pretty uncomfortable. It was an interesting process, as if the book wanted to come to maturity in a different way than my first. But luckily as a holistic coach and alternative therapist I have already had a lot of training in allowing myself to be guided and letting my ego take a step back, as something comes through me into the world – it is quite an experience. And it was also a self-development process for me, because I worked through all the exercises in the book and did a lot of searching of myself, as well as of my experience with clients, in order to try and give people the fullest, deepest meaning for each topic.
I am still very much enjoying working with clients one-to-one; they all bring their own unique situation, personality, physical state, talents and aspirations, so each session is new. If I assume I know what to do in advance then it just doesn’t work, so it has taught me to enter beginner’s mind with each person, in each session. I know I am lucky to be able to make a difference and be able to support people who go on to do wonderful things, whether as a father, or a banker, an environmentalist, or artist – wherever their strengths lie – after all we need all kinds of people to keep doing all kinds of things. Although it is hard to tell people my exact job title, this slight inconvenience is off-set by being able to offer pretty holistic sessions, even if they are a bit harder to advertise (“Witch for hire”? “Hippy at large”?). I feel that holistic coach, or even self-development coach is the closest definition of what I do.
When I am not working with clients or running teacher training courses (in Moving Stretch) I am usually learning something, travelling or writing a bit.