Geraldine Bown is the Managing Director of Domino Perspectives established in 1986; a former President of the European Women’s Management Development Network and founding member and past Vice- President of the European Institute for Managing Diversity.
In the past twenty five years Geraldine has presented and trained all over the world. She has co-authored three books written for women managers, which were translated into ten languages. Her latest book – From Diversity to Unity: Creating the Energy of Connection – was co- authored with an American friend and colleague Mary Casey.
She and Mary are joint designers and facilitators of The Diamond Edge programme specialising in renewal programmes for women leaders. In April 2012 they ran this programme at Screebe House, Connemara for women who came from Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Russia, Serbia and Istanbul. An exploration of the spiritual self is a key part of the programme.
Geraldine may be contacted at +353 (0)86 832 4277, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ann: Geraldine, how do you know when you can trust yourself?
Well, in thinking about this question, I have to ask myself which self am I talking about trusting because I’ve often had a problem with trying to discern between what I call my ego voice, which is motivated by selfish desires if you like, or my higher self or my best self. The self that I want to trust is my best self.
How to find out if that’s the self that I’m trusting? Firstly I have to accept that I have a higher self. That higher self has access to a knowing that my head doesn’t always have. Secondly I must accept that what I want and what I need might be different. My higher self is concerned with what I need or what is needed in this situation which might not be what I want. I have to accept that there might be a difference there.
Thirdly, to keep up with the channels to my higher self and I do that through stillness or through my meditations or having a really clear statement of intent as opposed to a goal about how I want to be. It’s about how I want to show up in all situations and what my purpose is in doing whatever I’m doing – what’s my overriding purpose of being?
Then fourthly to ask directly. I believe that there’s a lot of information available to us, whether you believe it comes from your guides or the angels or your soul or God or the wisdom of the ancestors but we have to ask directly. “I need some help with this. I need some advice with this. I’m looking for your answer.” Then I have to be quiet and listen to what answer will come in.
I’ve used this when I’ve had an invitation to propose to do some work and I’d have to complete a tender document. I would look through it very quickly with my head.In the past I would normally have worked it all out in my head like “Do I have the resources that I need, the stuff I will need, how long will it take? What are the costs? Are the profits going to be enough?” Now, I read through the whole thing and then I just ask “Is this what I should be spending my time on right now? Should I be completing this tender?”
Then I will get an answer, I always get an answer yes or no. Sometimes I argue with the answer. For instance the answer might be “No, don’t do it.” Then I think “Oh, it’s easy and I think I’ll get this work and maybe I should do it.” Then if I go ahead and ignore the answer I got it turns out to be filled with problems when I thought it was going to be easy.
The converse works where the answer has been “Yes, do it”. I remember one occasion when I was going on holiday the next day and I thought, “But it’s going to take all afternoon to do this. I’m going on holiday tomorrow.”The answer was, “Do this. You’re going to get this job.”I did it and I got the job. So the thing is to trust that I do have an inner guidance that knows what’s best for me. The information doesn’t always come from my head.
Here’s something else that’s interesting about trusting myself. Sometimes when I’ve had a choice between 2 alternatives, I have done a coin flick where I’ve said, “Well, heads I’ll do that and tails I’ll do that.”Now, the interesting thing is whatever the coin comes down on, say it’s heads, then I look at what my instant reaction was to that. Is it “Oh yes, good”or is it “Oh, really?”because it’s my reaction that I trust to tell me what to choosenot whether it was heads or tails. That’s a good way of checking that I had the inner guidance. My reaction tells me that actually I already had an inclination. I just wasn’t tuned into it.
Another thing I can do is to listen to my body. Ibelieve that all the parts of us have their own intelligence systems. My body has its own intelligence system. Sometimes I get a feeling like a stone right inside the middle of my chest. If I get that it’s an indication to me that the way that I’m going is not okay. This situation I’m in or something I just said or what I’m considering to do is not the right thing. The first indication I have of that is that I feel something in my body and then I listen to that intelligence and think, “Why have I got that feeling? What is that about? What is it trying to tell me?”
I think some people don’t trust themselves because they’re afraid of what the consequences might be. They think, “Well, if I do that then supposing it doesn’t work out or supposing that happens,”and they can’t face the consequences.
For me a big part of authenticity is accepting the consequences of decisions. I always see authenticity as having three parts to it. One is self-awareness – self-knowledge that you need to be working on all the time. The second is realizing that choices and decisions are the stuff of living. We’re called on to make choices and decisions all the time.
The third thing is being responsible for the consequences of the decisions. If you’re not able to live with those consequences then you should ask yourself whether you are really in the right state to make the decision.
One example I can think of - and this is a personal example -is many years ago when my father was taken to the hospital. He was there for a few days and he seemed to be doing okay. I remember phoning my brother to ask if I should come. He had had a word with the consultant and the doctor who said, “Look. he’s stable. There’s no cause for alarm. The family doesn’t need to come. Everything is fine.”
So at 10pm that night I had to ask myself, “Okay. If you don’t go now to the hospital which is about 2-1/2 hour’s drive away and if your father should die tonight, will you be able to live with the fact that you chose not to go?”
I decided if I did go, I didn’t know how long I would be there. He might be in the hospital for a few days, it might be few weeks. How long would I stay? I decided with the best information from my brother and the doctors and nurses that he was not in any danger. I knew that if I chose not to go, I could live with the consequence that he might die because I’d made the decision based on best information.
Of course I went to bed and then I got a call at 2:00 in the morning. There were no mobile phones in those days.. By the time I got there, he had died. I was able to see him of course and say goodbye. When I saw him I was able to pay my respects to his body because he died about an hour before, but I didn’t have any guilt. I didn’t have any feelings of “Oh, you should have gone. You should have gone,”because I’d asked myself that question.”Are you okay living with the consequences that he might die if you choose not to go?”I’d decided that I was okay with that and I’d made the best decision.
I think looking at it, “Can you live with the consequences?”gives you more faith to be able to trust yourself in whatever decision you are making. Of course part of that too is that I really don’t believe that there any serious mistakes to be made. I believe we all make choices based on the best information that we have at that time.
Now, if for some reason a week later we get new information, that doesn’t mean we made a wrong choice. I think it just means we need to make a different one.
For me it’s always choose and choose again, and choose again and choose again. I think we’re always in the position of making new choices based on the information that we get.
If I’m going to take a risk, make a choice about something, I’m going to trust that that is the best thing to do because if it wasn’t, I would do something else. I trust that this is the best thing for me to do now. If I subsequently find out that there’s something I haven’t realized or haven’t thought of which has now changed that view to me, then it means I now need to make another choice so I’ll make another choice. That helps to be able to trust myself knowing that I’ve always got the freedom to make another choice after this one. It’s not definitive and I can make another choice.
I think therefore what stops some people trusting themselves is that they’re afraid of taking the risk. They’re afraid of something new. They’re afraid of something unfamiliar whereas if we’re always open to the possibilities, if we see change as a good thing not only is it inevitable but it is good, then we’re always open to new possibilities. Taking a risk is kind of exciting. Of course it might be a business decision; you’d have done a lot of analyzing with your head first. You’re not just going to make a decision without due consideration, but having used the skills of your head then I think you can use other skills, other knowing, and then trust that yes, you are being led in this direction.
If it’s not going to work out, you will need to change the course of that and make another one. Therefore then be willing to accept whatever might happen, and be willing to be open to the possibility of something new.
As I’ve said, those are my first thoughts about that.
So Geraldine, you don’tseem to suffer from being afraid of getting it wrong.
Yeah, that’s true. That’s partly to do with accepting the consequences as well because you have to accept the consequences of the decisions that you make. Sometimes the consequences will relate to other people. You have to accept that that may happen. But then if it doesn’t turn out the way that your mind was projecting that it would, then you have to be willing to quickly change direction and make another choice.
I feel the need to reiterate that the concept of getting it wrong is not on your radar at all.
Yes, it’s funny because that concept of “Well, I got it wrong”, I always think what you did must have been the right decision at that time because otherwise, you would have done the other thing. If you’ve chosen to do that at that time, that was the right decision. Now, it maybe 5 minutes later, it maybe 5 years later, you need to make another decision because you’ve got new information. The new information might be about yourself; it might be about someone else.
That’s why increasing my own self-awareness and self knowledge is important because that’s a lifelong activity. The more self aware and the more self knowledge that we have, the more likely it is that we know ourselves very well in terms of knowing what our strengths and weaknesses are, knowing what is right for us and what’s not right for us. We have to keep on doing that work.
It’s not just about flip-flopping and never being able to make a decision as in first you decide one thing and then you decide the other thing. It’s a considered decision that you have to make but you can make another considered decision in the light of new information.
For instance, if I decide to do one thing and as a result of that, a partner chooses to go in a different direction,that is now new information for me. I have to ask, “Okay. Can I live with that? Am I happy that they’ve done that? No, because now they’ve gone down that direction. Now I need to choose another way.”
It’s never about making the other person change their decision. It’s always about me changing my decision and making a new choice in the light of new information.
The only thing I believe we’ve got complete control over is the choices that we make. We don’t have control over the choices other people make.
Yes, there seems to be a very fundamental ability to trust in you that allows you to be ever evolving, ever aware and choosing in a moment. Not everybody has that at their fingertips like you seem to have.
I guess that’s why people don’t trust themselves. But then as I said going back to the first point if they don’t believe that they have a higher self who is guiding them, if they have no belief that there is anything other than just their personality and how they are just being in the world and how they are functioning, then they don’t have anything to draw on. They don’t have any extra resources to draw on. How can they trust themselves? They would have done things in the past and they will be full of regret or they’ll be thinking that was a wrong decision. How can I trust myself to make a decision?
You have to believe that there’s a greater being than you that has a handle on all this. That greater being is part of your own higher self. For me, the more in touch with our higher self, the more likely we are to get information from that source and to be able draw on it, but we have to ask. We don’t get help unless we ask. I always have this vision of millions of beings floating around and hanging about waiting to be asked and we just forget. We carry along with our own little tiny minds and think as long as we analyze it with our heads and include our IQs and include our analytical skills, we’ll be able to do it. All these Beings are saying, “If you just ask, we’ll give you some insight about this,” but we don’t ask.
First we have to believe that that guidance is there. Secondly, we have to open the channels so it’s not too cloudy for them to get through. Then we have to ask, “Hey, I need a bit of help here. I need some clarity on this. I need some new insight. Come down here and help me right now with this.”I have never been failed when I have asked directly.
When was the first time that you actually recognized that you had a higher self?
Well, I had a Catholic upbringing. I always had the sense of God. When I was a little girl of course, I saw Godas being some great being in the sky and I was very lowly and could hardly lift my face to look at God. It was very much a God outside of myself that I believed in, but I also believed that I had a soul. In the Catholic teaching, we were taught that your soul is always striving to reach God and to get back to God. I think as I developed I outgrew that model of all of this power being outside of myself invested in this great being who could be seemingly, to me, quite cruel at times.
I think I then learned to trust more in my own soul, in my own higher self, because of things that I’ve read or workshops that I’ve been on.
The more I heard about this, the more it seemed to make sense and the more comfortable I felt with that information, the more I started to communicate with what I felt was that higher being in myself, the more I came to realize that I was part of this greater being outside of me. I didn’t have to see anything outside of myself as being something that was unrelated to me and I was just a victim of. I saw that no, I was part of it. Therefore I have access to it all the time because I’m already part of it.
I think it was the realization of the philosophy that I found the most comfort with but also made the most sense to me in terms of being able to live the best life I could.
How big an impact did that realization have on you because it’s quite a big realisation, isn’t it? Was there a particular turning point?
Well, when I was young I always had this idea that the Catholic teaching was “offer it up to God, give it up to God and surrender to God.”I never liked that idea because I always felt that, “Maybe God doesn’t know what he’s doing. If give everything up to God, suppose he makes a mistake.”I didn’t trust that at all.
When I was young or in my teens, I had this idea that I had a vocation to be a nun and I used to pray every day, “Please God, if this is a vocation take it away, I don’t want to be a nun. I don’t want to be a nun, please take it away.”I didn’t trust because I thought that if God is sending me a vocation to be a nun then he obviously doesn’t know what he’s doing because I really don’t want to be a nun. I didn’t trust this higher self, this God.
I always felt that if I really trusted in God and said, “Okay, I’ll devote my life to you,”He would be wanting me to do …I don’t know, go off to Africa for 3 years or walk out on everything that I knew like go and live on the streets in poverty. I was like, “Suppose God wants me to do that, oh I can’t do that.”
When I was going through my marriage break up, I can remember a particular moment. I was in my 40s. I wasn’t a young child. I was on a beach in Mexico and I had a frozen margarita, which is the best frozen margarita that I’ve had anywhere. It was sunset and I was on my own on the beach. I was sitting on a rock and the waves were coming in. There was nobody else around. I had been in so much pain in my marriage breakup. It was getting so hard and so difficult that I just thought “I just can’t fight this anymore”. I remember saying it out loud, kind of raising my eyes up because I still have this idea that something is up there. I raised my eyes and said, “Okay. Okay, God, whoever you are you’ve got me. I cannot fight anymore. I’m at the very rock bottom here. Whatever it is that you want me to do, I will do.”
Just before that. I had read a passage in the book “Conversations with God”by Neale Donald Walsch where the person who was supposedly talking to God has said to God, “I’ve done everything you wanted. I’ve done this and I’ve meditated and I’ve prayed and my life is still no good. I have still no money. I still have not got a relationship so much for you answering my prayers.”The answer he got back from God was, “Well, actually you’ve not. You have not really. You’ve dabbled a little bit. You’ve had a little look at this. You’ve had a little look at that and you’ve had a try at that. You’ve been on a course about that but you have never really surrendered to me.”
It was when I read that that I thought “And that’s me.”I never have surrendered either. That’s when I went to the beach and that’s when I surrendered and said, “Whatever you want me to do, I will do. I’m yours because I’m just not fighting. I can’t fight anymore.”I felt this great huge weight lift from me. In that second I knew that my marriage was finished because I’d been agonizing “Are we going to finish this marriage, or are we not?”I’d been very fearful. “Oh my God, if I walk out of this marriage, what does that mean? What would it be like?”and all of that. Yet, the minute I surrendered I knew “Okay, this marriage is definitely over,”but there was no fear with it.
The thing that I had most feared actually happened and yet it was devoid of fear. That was I think, the first time when I totally trusted that I would be safe if I would only surrender, whether it’s to God or my higher or whatever name people want to give it. If I would just surrender to that part of myself instead of thinking I have to do it on my own then I would never be alone again. I would always be protected and I would always be safe.
Actually that confirmation came a few years later when I wasin Brazil. I must have been in my 40s again and I was on a Shamanic trip. We’d gone to see this guy who channeled some saint or another. He was very harsh with people. He was doing it in Spanish and there was an interpreter there. There were about 12 of us English people there. The rest were locals. None of us was saying anything of course.
At the end he pointed to me, made me stand in front of him and said to me, “Are you afraid?”I said, “Yes, I am,”because I was dreading what he was going to say to me. He said, “Do you live on an island?”I said, “Well, I live in England.”Then he said in Spanish, well that’s an island isn’t it.”The interpreter said that and all the room laughed and I’m thinking, “Oh, this is dreadful.”Then he looked at me then he said, “You have nothing to fear.”He said, “You are protected. You are protected by the Druids. You are protected by the guides. You will always be protected and you never, never need to fear anything.”
That had a huge impact on me because I felt that. I felt that protection. That’s what I came back to. Yet still I didn’t surrender until that moment on the beach which was the following year. Since then I’ve always had faith that no matter what happens to me, I will be protected. However bad it seems, it’s going to be fine because I will always be protected and I will always be safe. I’ve never lost that.
Is that the foundation for your self-trust, that ability to surrender no matter what circumstances you’re in and no matter how it looks?
Yeah, and to believe that maybe there are things I don’t understand, that I’m just dancing on one piece of the jigsaw and I just can’t see the whole jigsaw. I might be dancing on one piece that’s just green and nothing else is on it. It’s like, “Well, what is this about? There’s nothing on this piece here.”I can’t look down and see that it’s an amazingly beautiful scene. I am just dancing on one leaf of the tree. I just can’t see the whole thing.
I don’t often ask for the reason in terms of “Why has this happened to me?”because I trust that there is a reason for that. Even a few years ago when I lost all my savings, it made me think there’s a reason why this has happened it’s also to do with my highest good. It’s not to do with me being destroyed. It’s to bring information to me
There’s something here for my highest good, otherwise it would not have happened. It doesn’t matter what happens to me. I have that trust.
Thank you, Geraldine.