This is my story … and, now that you’re here why not sit down, relax and have yourself a nice cup of herbal tea and spend some minutes with me as I explain where I came from and why I do the things I do with such passion.
“I need your knicker elastic” Thus my mother and I stood beside the road, bare-bottomed beneath our Sunday-best frocks, while Dad mended the fan-belt on the old Jaguar.
Yet another indication to me as a fearful, shy, sickly, introverted little girl that the female of the species was inferior to the male. My mother was forbidden to work outside the house; my brother was given twice as much pocket money as me, and I never did catch up; and at the dining table, I was allowed to be seen but not heard.
And here I am now, known as the UK’s leading facilitator in helping women re-connect to their strong, powerful feminine leadership which I developed following yet another debilitating long-term illness. I’ve been very much a pioneer in the self-growth industry with my books and radio show and my methodology of teaching and coaching over the last 20 years. Mother, Grandmother, Executive and Business Coach, Trainer, Relationship and Intimacy Specialist, Music and Dance Facilitator, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Author and so much more, my biography reads like an encyclopaedia because I’ve been on the planet for rather a long time!
Raised through the second wave of the feminist movement and bra-burning 60’s, I teetered on the edge of flower-power, though slightly too young for sex, drugs and rock and roll; was immersed in the glorious revolutionary music of the Beatles, the Stones and Elvis, and was even lead-singer in my Church pop group.
As a consequence, I enjoyed freedom my mother never had, particularly in my careers. Yes I did mean to put an “s” on career, because my life’s work is to embrace the next wave of feminism; the one where every ‘career’ and ‘life’ exploration is an energy-balancing experience.
The challenges of highly charged careers, divorce, illness and everyday motherhood, meant I needed to learn to manage my energy, to be everything to everyone, but most of all, to cope. Working like a man - because that’s what you did if you wanted to get to the top - running on adrenaline and cortisol, placed me firmly in the ‘burn-out’ category.
But let me take you back to some of what shaped my life in the hope that you will benefit from some of my learnings and not repeat them yourself. As Steve Jobs said:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.
So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
You have to trust in something –
your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
Isolated for several weeks in my bedroom with a sheet over the door and only books and a doll to play with when I had scarlet fever at the tender age of 8, I immersed myself in stories of resistance fighters during the 2nd world war, of female spies, of myths and legends from all over the world. I made up stories, folded paper into flowers, and used my colouring pencils til they were little more than stubs, while battling with a raging throat, unimaginable fevers and nightmares.
I was 9 when I started my first business - it only lasted a few days but how I loved it. I was in charge and felt proud of myself for a brief period of time. It was hard work pushing that wheelbarrow, half-full of delicious-smelling leaf-mould that I’d enthusiastically dug up with my trowel from under the beech hedges; knocking on doors and almost squealing with delight when the man of the house answered with a big beaming smile, saying: “Through the garden gate, love.”
But oh, the telling-off I got from my parents. “What will the neighbours think?`` So instead I turned to polishing the neighbours' silver to raise a few extra pennies, furiously attacking the tarnish until my hands got so black, I couldn’t scrub them clean.
My childhood was spent in a haze of imaginative play and creativity, in the garden with my puppy and my tortoise with my adored elder brother who in my eyes could never do anything wrong, growing runner beans with my father when he was home from his business travels in the Middle East and South America, creating little books for sick children in hospital, learning how to cook, clean and decorate. I wanted to be a doctor, a writer, a singer, a ballerina like Margot Fonteyn … And then in 1964, ‘Mary Poppins', swiftly followed by ’The Sound of Music’ took cinema screens by storm and that was it - I wanted to be Julie Andrews with a bit of archaeology thrown in. And later, acting and singing all the major choral works in the best concert halls in England (and falling in love with and being loved by a very special orchestral conductor) became my passion and my outlet for self-expression, with a bit of opera thrown in.
While my Primary Head Teacher told my parents that one day I would be an extraordinary teacher in the world, my Grammar School teachers had other ideas. They told me I wasn’t going to amount to much, and I was threatened with expulsion for the heinous crime of knitting in the library. Ha! Little did they know how determined I was to make something of my life!
Too short for ballet-school, I threw myself into Girl Guides, rally-driving and Saturday nights tinkering with cars with my boyfriend. Never one to find schoolwork easy, I studied hard in England and France and ended up as deputy-head of a French department. But finding teaching too narrow, I trained as a selector for a well-known department store and soon was co-designing bras and later, ladies leather fashion shoes. Because of my French, I was sent to shoe factories all over Europe, working my way rapidly up the hierarchy until once more illness struck as my immune system was compromised following a series of vaccines which I had in order to travel to Zambia - a journey which never took place. World politics also intervened as I was working in a Jewish company while my parents were living in Cairo during the Arab-Israeli War. I loved Egypt with a passion and it fed my curiosity for ancient history and archaeology, more often than not being exposed to places which tourists were not privy to, even though I had to be accompanied by body-guards because my fair hair made me a target for the slave traffic. But in England, the beginning of my every day started out searching for bombs in head-office and my job was compromised because of my father’s business, so I left to work as a Marketing Assistant with Merrill Lynch for 9 months, and then into Film Production working with amazing, well-known people and learning about the magic of the silver screen, before marrying and becoming a mother.
I often wonder what drove me so hard - not only to be really good at what I did but also to persevere no matter what. Was it because my father spent the war in bombing raids over Japan? Was it the constant terrifying threat of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War? Was it being held at gun-point in the desert in Sakkara? Was it waking up in hospital to find the woman in the bed next to me had died?
Without doubt, there have been many dramas in my life with the constant dance of life and death and continually pushing myself, but mainly because I just still didn’t feel good enough!
As a mother of 3, living with my husband in an enormous dilapidated Edwardian house that needed decorating from top to bottom, I climbed ladders, mended roofs, papered ceilings, drilled walls, made curtains, upholstered sofas, smocked frocks for my daughter, cooked amazing 5 course dinners to entertain my husband’s numerous clients, bred budgies, dug vegetables from our organic garden, was on endless committees, sang in choirs and dug our 2 acres of land. I spear-headed a children’s charity, participated in the preparation for the Earth Summit of 1992, and thoroughly wore myself out in trying to prove myself worthy. I loved my children to bits, really feeling they were the pinnacle of my life’s achievement, and spent much time teaching them survival skills and creating wonderful dressing-up parties and cooking nourishing organic food and reading and playing with them as much as possible.
While my friends were mainly ladies who lunched and did ‘good deeds’, I decided that I really needed an enterprise of my own. I’d been really offended when an important business colleague of my husband’s disdainfully turned away when I said I was ‘only a Mother.’
Our home had a very large old covered courtyard and a long greenhouse. Ever since I was pregnant with my precious child number 3, everything I touched in the garden grew prodigiously. Every seed turned into a plant, every cutting ‘took’, every fruit tree supplied copious amounts of fruit to bottle and turn into jam. So with another mum, we created ‘Gardens Under Glass,’ a Conservatory Interior Design and Horticulture Company. Now this was before internet, before email, when computers were just glorified typewriters and mobile phones were like bricks.
With my newly discovered green fingers, we designed a business that had never existed before, studied library books on horticulture, devoured information from garden centres and radio shows, grew plants by the dozen in between raising our children and running households. Au pairs assisted with the more mundane parts of childcare, and over the next few years, we had a book deal, clients to visit, plans to draw up by hand, a radio interview just before the Queen’s speech, centre pages in the weekend Telegraph, interviews in glossy magazines and were lauded as the perfect business for start-ups.
Following our 2nd Chelsea Flower Show where we designed exhibits for big clients and won a Silver Medal for one of my clients, my partner decided that she just wanted to be famous, and left me holding the business while she swanned off on frequent holidays, so I bought her out. But overwhelm, exhaustion from lugging around enormous plants and sacks of compost, and stress trying to hold it all together while continual pushing through, led to an immune system breakdown once more.
Interesting that when major stress ceases, my body collapses as it lets go. I ended up with an awful debilitating illness triggered by woodworm chemicals that rendered me intolerant to virtually everything - both in my environment and anything I ate. I couldn’t cope with gas or electricity, chemicals in fabrics, composts and plants, and virtually every food. I crawled up and down the stairs on hands, knees and bottom, each joint reddening, swelling and throbbing with pain as it ravaged every part of my system, my jaws, my fingers, my knees, my toes, my hips - nothing went unscathed as I battled relentless agonising pain, until I heard the dreaded words “You may have to get used to life in a wheelchair.” This striving to be as good as, or even better, than a man, was literally devouring me. To be the sex goddess in the bedroom, the best cook, homemaker, wife, mother, daughter, business woman, gardener, writer, public speaker and everything else in between was too much for my body.
Here I had two choices, to give in to the wheelchair, or choose differently. So I went on a healing journey, studied and became a group leader and teacher for a remarkable Buddhist practice, spent weeks in an allergy hospital, injected myself 3 times a day with homeopathic doses of the 185 substances I was intolerant to, changed the way we lived in the house and our diet, and took a deep dive into the Dark Night of the Soul. Sadly my marriage broke up when my daughter was 18 after years of difficulties, and we went through what was for me a very traumatic divorce, leaving me a single parent to my 2 boys while my daughter went far away to University. It was the trauma of this breakup that later led me to train as a Relationship coach and therapist.
I picked up Gardens Under Glass again, had some well-known film stars, pop stars, Lords, Ladies and Countesses, even a Princess, as clients, and for a few months became housekeeper and gardener to the pop star who had bought our home. Alongside that I trained as a clinical and scientific hypnotherapist and a Life Coach and ran two clinics in different towns as well as being both father and mother to my two sons. Just a touch of over-doing perhaps! And still suffering from Imposter Syndrome and ‘still not good enoughness.’
Through a sheer twist of fate, I was introduced to Tony Robbins and his Life-Mastery programme and was with him on 9/11 in Hawaii which is engraved in my heart and guts. This was devastating as we were with about 500 New Yorkers who normally would have been at their desks when the planes hit. We heard heart-breaking last-recorded messages of their loved ones as they jumped, tales of such courage and despair as we held these grieving souls in our arms. That experience changed my life forever and taught me the fragility of life.
I learned so much from Tony - not only about emotional management but also about masculine and feminine energy, and soon came to understand that I had been living totally off that powerful male hormone, testosterone, along with adrenaline and cortisol. At last, after many ‘power moves’ and trying to become the female version of Tony, I recognised that I had breasts, a vagina, menstrual cycles which affected my energy, and less strength than my male counterparts. And so my first book 'The Essence of Womanhood - re-awakening the authentic feminine’ was born. I wrote it over a long period of time during several flare-ups of my illness, much of it on a rooftop in Greece with my then-beloved partner, determined that I would get this out to the world as a warning and a healing balm to any woman who would listen, to help them avoid the suffering I had been through.
And I re-discovered dance - some choreographed, some with blissful freedom and self-expression. And at last, the real me began to emerge and I trained as a Biodanza facilitator. Coming out from behind the mask of self-sufficiency and coping mechanisms, it was such a relief to show my vulnerability and authenticity.
I loved my dance and movement but it was very much an ‘alternative’ practice. Years of running classes in my living room and training in other dance and movement schools, led me to start gradually adapting it for professional men and women, not only in relationship and communication, but in business, in teamwork, in leadership. Embodying confidence and self-esteem by putting what was talked about consciously and intellectually, into a living embodied experience right here and now, in the present moment. I studied the neuroscience behind it all - worked with energy and how to use the mind and studied to become an Educo system Mind-Master. Embodiment and Self-expression, trusting Life to show me the way, is the most powerful work I have ever encountered along with my mind training - and this I come back to as my North Star, no matter what else I do.
Then just as my business was taking off, my parents got sick. Holding my dying mother in my arms as she bled all over the bathroom floor was yet another wake-up call for me. Miraculously, she pulled through to live for another three years, but my father suddenly went downhill so I nursed him in their home for three short weeks until he chose to go. It was the toughest time in my life - overwhelmingly exhausting, frightening, distressing and yet with the sweetest, most tender moments I have ever experienced. While Mum was in hospital, and I was treading on egg-shells around my bi-polar brother, my father and I healed our previously fragmented relationship.
While caring for my mother through her last challenging years, I developed my work on the Archetypes which I had been toying with since 2001. I discovered their extraordinary power, developed expressions and dances for them, coached and started teaching about them. After my mother’s death, and becoming a grown-up orphan - (a state I found so hard to assimilate and handle) I wrote my 2nd book ‘Dance Your Way to the Top - feminine leadership without burning out’ where I share tools and strategies and an invitation for men and women to work together in a more empowering way.
Like many of us, I’d always envisaged a retreat centre where I could bring stressed and overwhelmed business owners together to teach them how to cope in a better way - implementing new strategies, bodywork, dealing with emotions, understanding how the mind really works. This was a nightly prayer which filled my dreams and endless sheets of paper. Then one day on holiday in France, the phone rang and it was Dr Joanna Martin with a similar idea just for women. She wanted me to be a part of it with the talented Annie Stoker - to help women access their powerful yet softer feminine side and embrace their lives from that place of power. Thus One of many™ was born.
Fortunate enough to have been centre stage many times as OOM™ grew, being present in what I was doing gave me confidence. Stepping up gave me courage rather than waiting for things to happen. Developing radical self-care has enabled me to keep healthy. And realising that I am still an introvert who, from time to time, has to become an extrovert in order to deliver my message, has enabled me to let go and to surrender to more of who I am.
And the rest as they say is history - or her-story! Since then, thousands of women have experienced our conferences and retreats, embracing vitality, finances, relationships and career fulfilment. With the help of an incredible support team and crew, we’ve qualified over 450 coaches in a women’s coaching programme, trained trainers and changes lives.
An unerring belief in the wisdom of the body, of expression of Self and authenticity was, and is, my salvation. When I gave up trying so damn hard and surrendered to who I really am with all my faults and foibles, Life and my spirit opened up and blossomed in a way I didn’t know was possible. I stopped trying to be perfect, recognising I am indeed enough.
I have had the great good fortune to have travelled extensively and had many extraordinary adventures which in themselves would make up a fascinating book: bare-back horse-riding in the desert around the step-pyramid in Giza, orchid-hunting in unchartered jungle in Brazil with an aboriginal indian where we communicated without knowing each other’s language, trekking through parts of Thailand on the back of an elephant staying with mountain tribes, hot-air ballooning in Morocco, swimming with sharks in the Bahamas, sailing around part of the coast of Venezuela, re-discovering family in Australia, exploring ancient history in countless ruins in Greece and so much more.
In my quest for self-reliance, I moved on my own to the Costa Brava a few years ago - brave indeed - for 6 months to the exquisite village of Cadaques, accessible only via one long and winding road or by boat. I spent the coldest winter possible there with raging storms and magical sunsets, and discovered a resilience I didn’t know I had. It was life-changing in so many ways and I am so grateful I took the risk.
Now it’s time for me to create my legacy as I transition into this next extraordinary phase of my life. I’ve uprooted to live on a crystal mountain in southern Spain with one of the most inspiring views I have ever encountered, and my spirit soars as I connect deeply and profoundly with my Self and with what Life wants from me.
I’m now developing ‘The Embodiment Coaching Academy©’ for speakers, coaches, trainers and consultants so they can transform their own lives and that of their clients, and to run small workshops using my methodology. It is fun, powerful, juicy delicious, transformational, healing work. This is an exciting new path for me, daring to put my head above the parapet once again.
And I have got to the stage of life now where I just don’t care any more. I care passionately about what I do, and how it affects the world, but I don’t care about rejection or ridicule. Because my stuff works, and I stand for it and behind it proudly. I am introducing new archetypes to add to the richness of my work, inviting the men in at long last, and teaching how to work with love, sex and intimacy as well. It feels like everything I have ever done has led to this moment in time - my time at the Pyramids and the Nile Delta, at college in France, my careers, my childhood drawings, leadership at Guides, being a carer, the distress of my divorce, the deaths of friends, the passionate loves in my life, even the moments of stuckness - all feels as if it is coming together in one extraordinary recipe - like making the most beautiful cake with all its organic and perfectly sourced ingredients. And now I am about to the put the icing on that cake.
How easy it is to lose our feminine energy, to get caught in the ‘must keep up with the men, must do better, must work twice as hard if you want to succeed.’ But relinquishing that outdated programming and surrendering into my soft yet strong power has been the most beautiful, juicy, delicious, work that woman can conceive.
… and, if all else fails, I make the best scrambled eggs on the planet!
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