Find my new writing

Inviting you to be more at ease with who you are. “Interesting, thought provoking and witty.” Untangling the knots that come with being human.

Since January 2023 I’ve been sharing my new writing via Substack. Mostly personal sharing that aims to give us all permission for us to be a little kinder to ourselves. Check it out: Just As You Are

The Others Within Us

The Others Within Us: Internal Family Systems, Porous Mind, and Spirit Possession by Robert Falconer

Robert Falconer’s book is an important addition to the IFS cannon. It’s an exploration of something that exists outside of traditional psychotherapy, and yet many practitioners will recognise what Falconer is saying from their own client work.

I notice that I’m hesitant to describe the phenomenon that Falconer is writing about. I’ve seen it show up in clients and in my own personal life and I’m confident working with it, and yet part of me worries about sticking my neck out and naming it’s existence that in the way that Falconer has done.

In Internal Family Systems we understand that a person is made of lots of different parts: young vulnerable parts, self-protective parts, forward thinking parts and self-soothing parts. The work of the therapy is getting to know these parts – and ultimately helping them unburden any pain and unhelpful beliefs that they are carrying.

For some people the idea of having parts seems like a leap, but once we start exploring our inner world, identify and connect with parts the model makes perfect sense and the work can become very intuitive.

Sometimes, when exploring our inner worlds we encounter parts that are not our own. These can either be harmful parts, or helpful parts.

Harmful parts might show up like energy vampires, or like violent inner-critics. Helpful parts (which the model calls guides) can offer wisdom and compassion from a source that’s beyond us. They can show up as angels, bodhisattvas or figures of light.

Falconer is clear that he’s not trying to work out what is real or not in any objective sense. He is interested in what works, which is to say what promotes healing in his clients.

In the book Falconer explores these ‘others within’ based on his many years of clinical experience, and drawing on accounts from across the world. He talks to exorcists and shamans, and draws out the similarities and differences between their work and his work as an IFS therapist.

The driving question of the book is how we can get these harmful parts out of a client’s system. The answer, demonstrated over and over again in the client work that Falconer shares with us, is to meet them with confidence, clarity and compassion.

Falconer suggests a script for working with these parts. I have used this process with clients, and I have experienced being led through it as a client and it works. The script is helpful, but in my experience if there is enough confidence, clarity and compassion we don’t need anything else.

There’s a lot of pages in this book, wihch may put readers off, but I’d encourage all IFS therapists to take a look at it. It covers such important ground.

On a related note, I also recommend Tom Holmes Parts Work: A Path of the Heart which is a great book about working with guides.

Haiku Therapy

In the year before the pandemic, the year of my Wild Therapy training, I wrote lots of haiku. I wrote for myself and I took part in a haiku writing group online. Each week in the group there was a theme and each week I wrote a few haiku with that theme in mind, and a few others without. Sometimes my haiku were selected as one of the good ones, and sometimes they weren’t.

low winter sunshine
leaves caught in their own shadow
the green alkanet

For various reasons I slipped away from this writing practice over the last couple of years, and now I find myself returning to it.

mid-January
I had forgotten how clear
the blue sky can be

At the beginning of this year I re-read Natalie Goldberg’s book Three Simple Lines. It’s about her visits to Japan, and her experience of reading and writing haiku, and of Zen, and as I was reading it I began to pay special attention to the natural world. I was looking for haiku again.

mist and mist and mist
catkins and mist and mist and
mist and mist and mist

Setting the intention to write sets the intention to slow down and pay attention. When I pay attention something in the world my own cares and concerns give me some space. The busy mind quietens down a little (or a lot, sometimes) and I’m simply with whatever I’m paying attention to… and counting syllables.

This break is good for my well-being. Grounding myself in the physical world is good for my well-being. And of course, I am not completely absent from the haiku, I am always looking through my own eyes, and some of my own feeling is in the poem. Because I am writing a poem, the presence of whatever I’m feeling or thinking is balanced with some spaciousness, and that’s good for my well-being too.

waiting for insects
a rotting cider apple
its wide open heart

Now I’m reading Clark Stand’s guide to writing haiku, Seeds from a Birch Tree, and I’m keeping my eyes and ears open and a notebook handy.

If you want to introduce some moments of mindfulness in to your week, why not give it a go yourself?

the floor takes my weight
and that of the small spider
just as easily

Recent writing

For Extinction Rebellion Buddhists:

For Bright Earth Buddhist Temple:

Mindfulness Dawdle

A peacock butterfly on a purple buddleia flower
Peacock butterfly in the temple garden

I’m looking forward to co-leading a mindfulness walk in the Malvern Hills this weekend. Satya and I scouted out the route earlier this week. We’re beginning in a park, a place where order and the complexity and chaos of the natural world come together: tarmacked paths in straight lines, mown lawns and the wonderful abundance of life in the wild edges. We’ll follow a path through woodland at the edge of the park, with glimpses of the main road below and the big church in the centre of town, and then zig-zag up through the wilder hillside.

In the temple garden we take very slow steps in our mindful walking practice. On Saturday we’ll dawdle. Slower than a regular walking pace, but not so slowly that we have to concentrate on the mechanics of walking – our attention will be given to the world around us.

What are the benefits of this kind of amble through the natural world?

For many of us our history of wounding and trauma has taken place inside and the outside world has been a place of refuge from family dynamics and harm. Stepping back into the natural world is coming into a place of safety.

Some of us have a more complex relationship with the wild. We may have been told it was other people’s space, or full of strange and frightening creatures. Stepping into the natural world from this place creates an opportunity for healing and facing our fears.

Whatever our history with the outdoors, we are animals as much as people. Our bodies and minds evolved to be bodies and minds in the complex systems of the woods and open spaces of the natural world. If we can find a way of settling into these spaces we can experience a deep sense of coming home.

The Japanese movement called forest bathing draws on this truth – that simply being in the woods is healing.

The life of the forest can also speak to our questions and dilemmas. Sometimes it is the gift of spaciousness that allows our whirring thoughts to settle, and into the peace an answer we had been searching for arrives. Sometimes a particular encounter creates a new insight in us. A butterfly fluttering away reminds us of the possibility of lightness or of easily leaving or rivulets of water joining a stream teaches us that we are all part of something bigger, or the strength of an oak tree gives us the confidence to find that strength ourselves.

There are still a couple of places available if you want to join us on Saturday (2pm-4pm) drop us an email at: hello@brightearth.org.

Lock-down can be tough, and lock-down can be an opportunity

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

How are you doing in these unusual times? My dreams have been particularly vivid since lock-down started: old memories finding their way to the surface and inviting attention and letting go. With less face-to-face contact the ups and downs of my moods has been easier to notice. Some days I’m relaxed, and some days my temper is shorter than usual.

Most people I speak to have noticed a background anxiety running through their days: thoughts about getting social distancing right; worrying about themselves or family members; worrying about health and worrying about finances.

If you’re locked-down with another person existing tensions can become more obvious as there’s less of the old life to give you a break from each other.

All of these difficulties can also be opportunities. Everything that disturbs us is also a signpost to deeper work.

If you notice an argument brewing, if you’re slowly becoming aware of defending a point of view unusually strongly, or taking a stand over some minor thing, then here is something to pay attention to.

In the moment of heat, there is an opportunity to notice the energy that’s arising — the particular mix of thoughts, feelings and impulses to act —and to invite some separation between you and that energy.

“Hey there reactive energy, I see you, I don’t know why you’re here right now, but I trust you think you have a good reason. Maybe you can take a step back and experiment with letting me handle this conversation without you.”

Some feelings are easier to work with in this way than others. Some will seem happy to trust you, and some will retain their strong grip. Whatever happens, this kind of noticing — paying attention without judgement, and inviting space —is good for the whole system.

If we make a note of these moments, we can also take them as the starting points for deeper work.

Why would you want to do deeper work when life is already more complicated than usual? Because working with a therapist to follow the trail these moments offer, and offering healing and letting go where it’s appropriate, you’re much less likely to get triggered in the same way in the present day again.

This has a benefit not just in lockdown, where conditions are more difficult, but the whole of the rest of your life. My experience is that each time we do this kind of work, we become generally steadier and more able to relax than before.

I know that I have my own ‘ought’s and ‘should’s that would take an invitation like this and create another burden out of it. At the beginning of our lock-down I remember seeing tweets about Shakespeare writing King Lear whilst in quarantine and how that felt like a pressure for me to do more.

So please take this as the gentle invitation that it is, rather than something extra to accomplish, and drop me a line if you are interested in a therapy session.

Online Therapy

Photo by samer daboul from Pexels

I have always seen clients both face to face and online. During the UK’s lockdown my practice went entirely online and now I’m back to working both ways again.

Online work is different, of course. There’s no greeting at the door and walking down the hallway into a room that we both physically occupy. Some clients like a handshake, and there’s no handshake online.

Some parts of us might prefer working online, some parts of us might prefer to be in the room with another person. For example: some parts of us may find it easier to share online where there is more physical distance between us; some parts may find face to face more intimate, but some parts might experience video calls as more intimate; and some parts may find sharing a real space reassuring, some parts might prefer to be in your own home.

The connection between us is different, and it is just as real and valuable. The work that my online clients do is just as transformative as those that I have worked with face to face.

My job is to support your connection to all of the different parts of yourself, to encourage you to meet yourself with kindness and curiosity. I do that by bringing those qualities in myself to our meeting, and I can do that just as well through Google Meet as I can face to face.

Book a session.

Rainforest Mind: Gifts, transactions and why it’s hard to stay grateful

Rainforest Mind with Kaspa Thompson
Rainforest Mind: Gifts, transactions and why it's hard to stay grateful
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Image from Pexels. Public Domain.

Why are gifts so important? Is everything a gift? What’s the difference between a gift economy and a transaction economy? Why is it hard to stay grateful?

Today’s episode was partly inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass. I also mention this talk by Ven. Shenyn: The Life of a Wondering Monk

You can view all the episodes of Rainforest Mind here.

Rainforest Mind: Shhh, listen. Being, doing and love.

Rainforest Mind with Kaspa Thompson
Rainforest Mind: Shhh, listen. Being, doing and love.
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A street in Bristol

I’m standing with my eyes closed in the middle of a busy street and listening. Why? And what can I learn from that experience? I talk about the false opposites of being and doing, and why I prefer lovable to perfect.

I mention the Bang And Olafson podcast Sound of the Cities, and an early epsiode of this podcast on Wildness.

See all episodes here. Or subscribe on iTunes, Sticher, or wherever you get your podcasts.