Walking beside you

In the last 5 years, I have worked with 4 incredible professionals who have each given me support, challenge, encouragement and most importantly, a safe and held space to land. I know that I would not be where I am today without these amazing people and I want to take this opportunity to share the way they have supported me on this journey of life, specifically how they have helped me to walk a path that continues to twist and turn away from the well-worn track. I think in our individualistic society, it’s so easy to believe that our successes (& our failures) are ours alone, but that has never been my experience. I feel so much that we exist in this web of interconnection, and I have been so lucky to be connected with these incredible people.

The first person I want to tell you about changed my entire experience of what it feels like to be alive, to be human, to be Sam. My meditation teacher and now dear friend and collaborator, Navid. I met Navid at the end of December 2019. Little did I know that the whole world was about to change. All I knew was that my whole world had just changed. What Navid teaches is a simple, yet profound form of meditation that has many names. These include Self-inquiry, non-duality, and direct experience. In 6 years of regular yoga and meditation classes, workshops, and retreats, I had never come across this style before. Navid’s teaching felt like a light switch turning on in my existence. What I had experienced in glimpses and read about in all the spiritual books, suddenly became crystal clear in my daily life. It was one of the greatest joys and privileges of my life to co-create a 5-day retreat with Navid, and my partner Kris, at Navid’s beautiful retreat centre in the forest of northern Uppland in Sweden, this summer. To witness and be part of those lightbulbs going on for our students felt more profound and impactful than anything else I’ve ever done in my life. I am so immensely grateful to have Navid in my life and already looking forward to our 2024 Summer Retreat together.

Around a year after meeting Navid, the universe brought another important person into my life, in a way I was not expecting. I met Jonathan through our roles on the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership Board. From the first time I met him, I knew he had something that I needed in my life. I actually didn’t know what that was at the time! I found out he was a coach and asked if he would coach me. Jonathan asked for time to reflect on the request to see if it felt right. Could we manage the dual role of being colleagues on the Board and a coach/coachee relationship? He thought we could, and I agreed. The initial focus of our coaching was to see if I could smooth out the increasing tension I felt between my existing role as a CEO and the new life and work that I felt was already trying to come through. I wanted to see if I could fit my new life into the structure and boundaries of my old one. Could I have both? The security of a senior, salaried position with the freedom and flow of doing the work I feel I am here to do. When I finally accepted the incompatibility of these, it was Jonathan who helped me to plan and execute this decision and to create the space for this new life to finally emerge and breathe. His unusual ability to know when I needed to be challenged and when affirmed, when I needed structure and when I needed flow, when to hold on and when to let go, has been an invaluable support in my journey. I know I would not have the life I have today without him.

The first thing I did in April 2022, after finishing my role as a CEO, was to travel down to London to begin my training as a Yoga Therapist. As part of the course, I was assigned a supervisor who would be by my side throughout the 2 years of training; challenging, supporting, asking probing questions and holding space for exploration. I feel like I won the supervisor lottery! From the first session with Vicky, I knew that I was going to have a safe place to go during the ups and downs of an academically rigorous and purposefully challenging training programme. Vicky has an ability to ask the question I least want to answer, to gently shine light into the places I have purposefully kept dark. Yet she also sees strengths that I have overlooked and progress when I think I’m not going anywhere. She encourages me to show up with curiosity and a sense of lightness, even as I build my knowledge and connect with an innate sense of wisdom. I am loving my journey to become a Yoga Therapist and feel so grateful to have Vicky by my side on the journey.

The final person I want to tell you about is my Yoga Therapist, Chloe. I connected with Chloe in June 2022. The first months of my Yoga Therapy training shone a light into some of the dark places I hadn’t wanted to look at and I knew if I was going to get the most value from the course, I needed to have some support to go deeper into those places and begin the process of healing. I don’t think I could have chosen a better companion for that work! Chloe is an incredible yoga teacher and yoga therapist. She held the space for me to delve deeply into parts of myself that had been pushed down, suppressed, and neglected. In the first few sessions, I cried more than I think I’ve cried in my life. In the later sessions, I found a wellspring of joy and love and abundance that have continued to sustain me long after our therapy sessions finished. Chloe supported me to integrate the different (& sometimes hostile) parts of myself that had previously made my mind feel like a battle ground. She helped me to ground more fully in the place that Navid guided me to all those years before and to allow the energy of that place to be a soothing balm for all the parts of me that felt wounded by life. As my first example of a Yoga Therapist, Chloe also made me so excited about becoming part of this relatively new and unknown profession.

So, as we come to the end of this exploration, you may be thinking, why is she sharing all this? As is so often the case, there are many reasons. Sometimes when we’re experiencing challenges, we can feel like everyone else is just floating through life and not going through the struggles that we are. Each of the four people above have been beside me during really tough times. All have born witness to many tears, to debilitating self-doubt and to questioning if I am strong enough to make it through. I know I am not unique in these experiences. I think these experiences are part of what it is to be human. It is also humbling to know that I didn’t get through any of it alone and deeply reassuring to know that I didn’t have to. I don’t think there is anything more powerful than opening up to the people who deeply resonate for you and allowing them to help you and support you. Even (& especially), if we are a person who plays this role for others, it is so important to find the people who can do this for us.

And my last reflection is about the importance of energetic exchange. The money I have paid these people and the time I have created for their support is some of the most joyous and willing money and time I have ever spent. I mostly pay these invoices within a day of receiving them because of the gratitude I feel and want to show. We can often feel a sense of guilt for “spending money/time on ourselves” and it can bring up feelings of unworthiness or doubt. But in my experience, the money and time I have invested in my own growth, healing, learning and support has made me more effective, more loving, and more skilled as a teacher and healer. I encourage you to seek out the teachers, coaches, supervisors, and healers that resonate the most for you and to recognise that when you work with these people, an energetic exchange is taking place where you are gaining far more than you give.