our biggest group ever at Conscious Cafe Skipton – at the Avalon Centre for Wellbeing

We had a throughly enjoyable evening in Skipton with philosopher Tim Freke in July, when he gave a lively presentation about the concept of spirituality based on his own experience and almost five decades of research. He said that we don’t need to work hard and aspire to a connection with Oneness. That is something that can actually happen quickly and joyfully and it is only a belief system that says it takes a long time with lots of hard work to attain a lofty spiritual plane. His own spontaneous spiritual connection as a child opened him to that idea of soul connection through joy.

He talked about a new form of spirituality being needed to take humanity forward. Something that is empowering and one where we can have a new language that helps us to understand our soul connection to each other. There is no need to enrol people to something like a religion. We all have our own individual journeys and each one is valid. It is all about the love we feel and can share, creating space for each other to be, without judgement, and to come together in acceptance and community.

Tim’s 45 minute introduction to his ideas about a new spirituality that is needed and which is emerging, was broadcast and recorded on Facebook LIVE on the Conscious Cafe Skipton page. Unfortunately, although the recording is good and worth watching, the camera transmitted the broadcast sideways. That is not good for the neck .. watching sideways!  It is worth watching (click here) and I have taken the time to transcribe what Tim talked about. It gave me an opportunity to refresh and go deeper with Tim’s ideas and I got a lot of value and insights from that. I encourage you to watch the broadcast and/or read the transcript below.  After the intro, Tim then led the group in a meditation process in pairs. This was not recorded but there are notes about it at the end of the blog.

The Big Question

Tim Freke opened up our evening, and our minds with the big question. What is it that we wake up to every day? What is this experience of LIFE?

The answer is …..We don’t know. But what we do do, like everyone else through history, is buy into the ideas of the age …. whatever teachings are prevalent at the time guiding us about the experience of being alive. How do we find out if there is much more to existence than simply the birth-to-death journey that we are all on in  this large universe? Our vision of what this experience is now, is completely different to100 years ago. Back then we thought our world was part of THE universe but now we have come to realise that our universe is simply part of a galaxy with 100 billion others. Life is enormous.

Be Open in the Not Knowing

During this evening Tim asked us to be open in the not-knowing and he would provide us with some of his best guesses. He has spent all his life pursuing this big question. Whilst we don’t know, we pretend that we do. Then, for some people ….something happens ….. and the mystery gets us, just for a moment, and we wake up to the “Wow!”   And that’s when we realise that we are alive. This is the awakening, the understanding of the experience that is life. 

Finding the Deep Awake

This waking up moment happened to Tim at aged 12 when he sat on a hilltop puzzling over the question of what life is. He saw this awakening through the innocent eyes of a child wondering why none of the grown-ups ever talked about what life actually is. Something happened to him in that moment and he woke up. Suddenly he was in a different state of consciousness which he calls the Deep Awake. And when that shift takes place for anyone, there is a profound sense of oneness with the thing that we call Love.

He said he could feel the whole universe pulsating. He wondered if anybody else noticed that as well. He later realised that the answer to the really big question about life is actually an experience, it’s a “Wow!”  Then he wondered how could he get back to that, how could he go deeper then how could he take others with him? 

Experiencing the moment of “Wow!” is Natural

For 48 years that has been Tim Freke’s quest. He has studied a lot of spiritual traditions going into each and finding out, peeling away the layers of culture trying to find a place where one day the experience is one of “Wow!” .. the moment where you feel that everything is one and everything is Love. So how can we understand this awakening now, today, so that it is not just about words and archaic practices?  So that it is about actual shifts that we can experience for ourselves? It is something that can happen to anybody at any time. The profound experience of “Wow!” is something completely natural. It does not have to happen in a church or temple. 12 year old Tim was not reading a holy Scripture at the time, he was simply sitting on a hill. His realisation was that this awakening is simply a natural part of being human.

A New Form of Spirituality called for

Tim says what we need today in the 21st century, is a new form of spirituality which can genuinely speak to science. One which is no longer antagonistic but which is a heart based, inspirational spirituality. One that can be intellectually robust and rational, and can actually engage with the incredible scientific knowledge that we have achieved. That is what Tim wants to put together. What story do we tell that will bring it all together?

Evolution is Making our Lives Significant Now

Tim says it’s important to understand why our lives are so significant. If we can understand the grandeur of what it is to be a human being, we can actually bring something significant to life. And more people can experience what he experienced on the hilltop, that feeling of kindness and connection. The latest information from the frontiers of science say that what we are in, or at the end of, is 13.8 billion years of evolution. We are certainly in an evolving consciousness. At the beginning all there was was hydrogen. And ultimately billions of years later here we are, us as human beings. He quoted Brian Swimme saying “take hydrogen and wait long enough …. that’s what we humans are now”

Consciousness is Evolving Faster

Four billion years ago life started on earth and there has been continual emergence since then. We are in a huge creative process. Once there was not even water, when that arrived life started then carbon came into existence, then sentience and then consciousness. That emergence process has not stopped. It is happening now but faster than ever before because it is exponential in its expansion. 

We Experience the Material and the Non-material all the Time

Hydrogen is the basis of matter and through an extraordinary process has led to us as humans and the experience we are currently having, which is psyche. Right now we are experiencing the material nature of the universe as matter and also experiencing it at another level .. it is something else which holds our thoughts, images, ideas. It is a different completely different type of experience to sensation and it is not local to us like our physicality. These experiences are through the psyche, a Greek name, with the Latin version being called Soul. Soul is a non-material elements of reality that we are experiencing all the time.

The Soul is not simply a Byproduct of Matter

Tim explained that the process of evolution has taken the basic matter of hydrogen through biology to the level of Soul which is not made of matter but a whole different dimension of reality. All the action today is taking place in the Soul. The Soul is evolving really fast. Everything that has been through Soul, has been through the imagination. This narrative is different to what the spiritual traditions teach and is controversial to scientists. What Tim is asking science to consider is the possibility that this realm of Soul is not just a byproduct of a piece of matter. Science has such a reductionist approach. When scientists consider our feelings of love they say it’s simply chemicals in the brain.  The whole point of the emergent universe is that it cannot be reduced, which is the problem with science. As a human we may be made of chemicals but we are not just chemicals. In this creative process there is always more, and the more cannot be reduced. 

The  Non-material Realm of Spirituality Needs to be Explored

Spirituality has always been to do with this non-material realm which you can explore through meditation and other spiritual practices like shamanic journeys, creativity and dreams. This is a whole reality which is not to be reduced. Imagination is the most emergent level of reality so you can’t refer to it as that as just imagination. All this is where evolution has come to. So Tim Freke is asking science not to reduce it. This reality of imagination that spirituality has been exploring needs to be treated as its own reality just like the biological sphere, or the physical sphere. What Tim is saying to spirituality is …. you need to let go of the idea of the ‘fall’, because the traditional spiritual idea says that the spiritual imagination realm has existed forever and we have simply fallen from it. We have fallen into the body and life is simply a big mistake.

A New Narrative is Called For

For many, the narrative has been .. “God had a dream, he got lost in the dream and your body is simply a tomb ..”  according to Plato. Fundamentally, all the spiritual traditions are negative with narratives about falling from Grace. What this new story does is say “No, it is not negative. We have not fallen from this”. Rather … we are emerging into this. We are in an incredibly creative cosmic process that got us from hydrogen to having a conversation about hydrogen! 

Meaning Comes From the Soul Level

The evolutionary process has got us from basic matter to this non-material realm. As we look at Tim standing before us, we are conscious that in the world of sensation and biology, we are looking at Tim, but essentially, he says he is just a monkey wearing funny clothes making funny noises. In the realm of soul or psyche, what we are feeling is meaning. There is no meaning in the funny noises. The meaning is in the non-material realm of Soul because meaning is an emergent reality that arrives with Soul. That is where it comes from that is where it arrives to. 

Evolution Has Now Made us Individuals

Tim suggests what got us from the beginning of the universe to this moment now, is not over. It continues and it has led to this incredible evolution of imagination. It has happened  through a process of individuation. So if you go back to the hydrogen beginning, when one hydrogen atom is the same as another….. by the time you get to the evolution of the biological world, things are getting very individual. The human being recognises it is different to a tree. Then we recognise that we are all different from each other. 

The Journey of Individuation Brought us to Ourselves

As the universe has individuated, it has become more and more conscious through that process, as it has objectively become more individual, it has subjectively become more individual. And we have just been through, and are still in, the most enormous period of individualism. It is astonishing what has happened in the last hundred years, it is unprecedented. We have thrown off centuries, millennia of conditioning. Even having the human divided into two different sexes is an utter revolution, when compared to our beginnings. Look at old media footage and see how everyone 80-100 years ago, was more or less the same …  you could tell the difference between people by looking at their hat and work out what class they belonged to. We have now individuated incredibly. We have become ourselves and there has been huge value in that but it has also left us quite isolated and in some ways, split off from each other.

Becoming Conscious of Unity 

The phase of evolution we are now entering is the emergence of what Tim calls “uni-individuals”. There is no word currently for what we are becoming. An individual who is conscious of unity. And this process is now happening very, very fast. 

Life Is Better Than we Think

Among all this wonder we are not seeing the good evolving in the world. We have an extraordinary propensity for thinking that things are much worse than they are. Most people think the world is going down the pan. Actually, things have been getting steadily better on just about every count, decade after decade. Often older people talk about the world as being terrible. Today, there is a generation of English men who have never been to war, which means they are part of only a few in the history of this country. Western Europe is in peace, the first time in the whole of history. 

Positive News is Getting Lost but .. Monumental Change has been Happening

Things are actually better than we think. Because we are programmed to look for danger, that is what we see. We particularly do this as a parent, to protect our children from danger. Now we have 24 hour news and the thing that gets people’s attention most, are problems. We are getting overloaded with negativity. And it is skewing our vision of what the world is really like. Yes there are some things to be concerned about but we also need to step back and go “Wow! … Look at how good this is no!. Look at what our ancestors have achieved for us. Look at what we are able to enjoy now because of what they did, going into their imagination, imagining beautiful things and then making them happen. And now we have a world better than humans have ever enjoyed”. Mortality is lower, poverty is lower, we have made unbelievable improvements there, and most children get an education. Look at what the process of evolution has been doing, by human beings engaging with it and bringing their attention and love to it. We have achieved monumental changes.

A New Human is Becoming

What is behind all that is the rising of a new human being. The uni-vidual from individual with a sense of oneness. A lot of people now genuinely care about other human beings on the other side of the planet, people who they will never meet, who are suffering. Why are they doing this because it’s never happened before in history? In other periods of history, it was common to hate your immediate neighbour, let alone those on the other side of the world. You would simply steal and take the things you needed from your neighbours.  Most human groups survived by being pirates because it was the quickest way to get stuff. Before the Iraq war, millions of people came out onto the streets to protest. This rising action of compassion for strangers is part of a new phenomenon and we need to notice of events like this. 

The environment is something that large numbers of people focus on now.  For most of history, the natural world was something we needed to engage with and was fundamentally dangerous. Look at some countries today and see how nature and animals are treated. We have moved so far in that, we don’t even notice. Now we care. We have cross species compassion. This is worth noticing. Underneath it, much smaller but highly significant, more and more human beings are having awakenings and spiritual experiences like 12 year old Tim. They are realising that there is one of us. We are coming to understand “I am the universe as me, meeting the universe as you”.

We are Increasingly Recognising our Oneness – a Deep Connection 

What else could we be but the universe itself?! More and more people understand this concept now, it is no longer abstract. They know what that is. What comes with that recognition of oneness? It is Love. That’s what we feel when we experience oneness. We feel the separateness from each other when we see another individual and we also recognise the connection. We are becoming more and more connected as souls so we can feel a connection We feel it as kindness and empathy, beyond just the person into the universal. 

When we wake up to this profoundness, so that we feel at one with everyone and everything, when that happens there is this big unconditional, universal love. When we come into that oneness and we are the universe, it is possible to do what the 2000-year-old Christian tradition has advocated and that is … love our enemies. 

Deepening our Understanding Moves us to the Next Level

The cutting edge of the universe is the individuation that created you and me. We are the most individuated aspects of the universe.  What marks out our individuation, is not just our bodies, but this other level of individual individuality which is Soul, the imagination, the place of conversation, ideas, understanding. Our job now is to take it to the next level. Having individuated, now we need to see that we can be soul conscious. Understand ‘I am more than me’.  If we can do that, we can make a shift in the way we are the way we understand what’s happened to us. That will fundamentally shift the way that human culture is. 

A New Understanding to Unite Science and Spirituality 

Tim spends his life talking about ideas. He says a new understanding of the nature of reality is coming and when it comes, it will be as big a shift for the evolution of human culture as the arrival of science was 400 years ago. Just look at what that did to change human culture. It changed everything. It went beyond the dreams of everyone. If we can come up with an understanding that unites science and spirituality, that this is not a random universe in which your life has no meaning, that you’re here for a short time and then gone but rather we are in a profoundly meaningful unfolding of potentiality in which new things have been emerging in ever deeper ways all the time and the leading edge of that right now is you. And the leading edge of the leading edge is your soul recognising that it is actually at one with everything. 

Connection and Compassion is Part of our Soul Awakening

Spiritual awakening is not about going up mountains. Spiritual awakening is not something that happened over 2,000 years ago. Spiritual awakening is something that happens to the soul when it is mature enough to realise that although it is individual, it is an expression of the universe and with that recognition, this connection with everything, is enormous compassion. This is how we are moving to a culture of kindness. To be able to hold all the less emergent levels (which we have to as the rules of physics over our bodies do not go away) …we each have to live with all the less emergent levels within ourselves.

The Future is What we Emerge and Create

We have to live with all aspects of ourselves. Somehow we keep evolving. What we are in right now is an “OMG!” situation.  It’s something enormous. We need to see it and then engage with it. The way we can engage with it best is to use that creativity of soul to transform ourselves and the culture we are in. Is all this evolution inevitable? No. The future is coming but it’s always creative. Inevitability takes away creativity. We get to create the future. There’s huge momentum and there’s a lot of things playing against it as well. How do we respond? That will create the story.

That is why everything matters.

How can we transform the experience we are already having? The sense that we are one as well as two, separate and together as one, is to connect profoundly with each other. The key thing when we look at each other is what we see, how we pay attention. Maybe we don’t notice much or we do really pay attention. That’s a choice. Look at a unique face of another human, full of all their experiences, personality ….. that’s the body. We don’t just connect with a face.  What we are really connecting with we can’t actually see. The soul of the other. Full of memories, hopes, fears, stories. We can’t see those but that is what we are connecting with. 

Right now something you can’t see is connecting with something you can’t see, through you and the other person. It happens all the time, Soul with Soul. Connecting through the looking at each other. It becomes different if we pay attention. If I really pay attention and sink into my universal nature my uni-viduality, I am the universe looking at the universe. There’s just one of us looking at itself. The one is connecting with the one by being two.

A Meditation Exercise – Sitting in pairs acts to amplify your practice, together

Any form of spiritual practice is supported by meditation. Many people struggle with this .. trying to do it the right way and quieting their mind. There are so different ways of connecting with spirit and meditation, in its many forms, is just one of them.  Yes, most people worry that they get mind-drift. It is common so you just keep choosing where you put your awareness. Awareness is simply focussed attention. Keep coming back to that choice.

Instead of solitary practice, meditating with another person is a very powerful way of connecting with spirit using a deep connection with that other person, almost like an amplifier. Tim talked about creating a magical space, an environment that is set up specifically so you can feel safe meditating together for a soul intimacy and deeper connection into the oneness with another person.

Sitting across from another person, in the stillness, with no expression, without judgement .. no data is being exchanged. This moment provides an opportunity for a high level of self acceptance.

At first, the lack of reaction feels blank but there is so much more going on within. Once you settle in, the experience is rich.  The story starts to drop and we see the deepness inside the self. The narrative just fades away.  You begin to realise that you are who you are. It’s as simple as that. The beauty of being with someone else in this process is that you realise the beauty you see within someone else, you have the hope that they see the same in you.

Always thinking ..

Tim says we spend far too much time in cognitive thinking. He says that spirituality today tends to give the mind a bit of a bad wrap. So much teaching is about not thinking and that thinking is negative .. but … thinking is actually imagination .. it is when you are speaking to yourself, generating ideas. Instead of feeling bad about the activity of the mind, honour the mind and help it to find its peaceful place.

Accept that you have an ego, a self, emotions and attachments and that you are simply “a work in progress”.  Accept your individuality and re-affirm with yourself that you do not need to be perfect. It’s OK to be YOU. When you acknowledge that the Thinking Mind has its place, then it is easier to step into the silence. 

Self Love is key

It is amazing that is such an issue for so many. Most people find it easier to love others than they do themselves. And yet Tim spoke of a time when the concept of loving others, as the Commandments now advise, was a strange idea. 2,000 years ago, Christ told people to not only love God, but to also love their neighbours as they would themselves. That was a totally new concept. Now, taking on love for ourselves is an important focus, perhaps also a strange concept for some!

The growth of kindness is powerful

Human cultures have moved on significantly over the last few hundred years and there has been a big shift in the last century.  Our neighbours were to be feared and fought. Then we came to a better understanding and tolerance for them. Today, such is the growth of human compassion that people will go to extraordinary efforts to support and protect people on the other side of the world who they have never met. We are increasingly moved to take actions of their behalf when we see a deep need or injustice. 

This is new for humanity and whilst we are inside this movement it is hard to understand the vast shift that is taking place.  We are learning to give each other love and attention and this loving attention is the most emergent force on the planet right now. The expansion in compassion is so big that we hardly notice it! There has never been a time in history like it. A culture of kindness is a powerful force emerging globally.

Individuals pulling together

We are continually evolving and we each have to go through a process of individuality before we can experience the oneness that is there for us. Individuating gives us a strong sense of who we are. We need to do this as we grow up and create our own space. We test out all the beliefs we have grown up with and find out what we feel is true for us. Through the doubting, questing and learning we become our own person.  Then we feel a deep need to come together with others in soul connection. This longing to be with others is an evolutionary pull. We are coming to understand that we are stronger together and that yearning is helping to create a society of what Tim calls ‘Unividuals’. 

How many need to wake up?

It does not need everybody to “get it” to create the change we want to see. We don’t have to wait for that. Most big changes actually come from small groups of people.  If you think of the power and complexity of one single human being, remember that they were born of one woman and they started out as one single cell.  There is profound power and potential in the small.

Love needs Wisdom

Now we need wisdom to implement the love that is growing. Yes humanity has is developing a greater capacity for loving connection and the desire to embrace, but we also need to be wise. Love sometimes has to say “NO”.  Love may be soft and gentle but it is also big, strong and bold. Go in to the love and learn to use your wisdom. As stupid as you may feel now, Tim says you are always wiser than you were!


It as was a pleasure to welcome Tim Freke to our Conscious Cafe Skipton July community evening – seen here with host Gina Lazenby

The beginning of the event was recorded on a Facebook Live transmission. Sadly the camera threw a wobbler and recorded it sideways .. ! Click here.

You can watch, if your next is flexible, but you can also listen in .. just pretend it is an audio podcast!  It’s on our facebook page. This blog post is essential the transcript! ENJOY.

Skipton Conscious Cafe featured in the local newspaper! Read here

Conscious Cafe Skipton has been popular from the word go since the first meeting in June 2017 attracting people from all across the north who appreciate a safe space to have conversations about things that matter. One local participant said “What is remarkable about Conscious Cafe is that there are so many different perspectives in the room. Everybody is interesting and there’s so much listening! I always leave feeling enlightened and inspired by the new ideas generated.

The monthly events have attracted over 330 attendances and there are now over 100 people who are part of the community. People have travelled from as far as Leeds, York, Cumbria, Huddersfield, Ripon, Barnoldswick, Blackpool and Burnley as well as local Craven villages.  For the last ten months the groups have held meetings in the new Avalon Centre for Wellbeing at Broughton Hall and will continue to meet there.

I started the Conscious Cafe in Skipton encouraged by founder Judy Piatkus in order to help me find a like-minded tribe locally now that I was putting new roots down in the market town. Over the last two years it has become a really vibrant discussion group attracting people willing to reflect and share on issues that are important to all of us, like relationships, making a new start, finding work you love, and creating connection.  It’s very participatory and people say they appreciate the warm, rich and compassionate atmosphere we have created. It seems that people are craving the opportunity for thoughtful dialogue and to have their opinions and feelings shared and heard by others.  

When ex-publisher Judy Piatkus set up the original group in London in 2011 it really took off with folks (like me) travelling far and wide to attend events. Many started asking to create groups in their own areas. There are now ten in the UK who meet regularly, with two overseas groups in Singapore and Geneva. Skipton is the only one so far in the UK’s north. 

The discussion group has attracted a number of leading edge thinkers and authors from outside the area to share their expertise and stimulate new ideas. These have included Runa Magnus from Iceland (author of The Story of Boxes – the Secret to Human Liberation, Peace and Happiness);  Nicholas Haines from Nottingham who shared his research on how to feel good about yourself; and several London-based authors including Dr Phyllis Santamaria (an expert on making a social impact with your job); Carole Railton (author of The Future of Body Language);  and relationship expert Malcolm Stern (Channel 4 TV series Made for Each Other).

The most recent event in June featured Dr David Paul, who is based in Sydney, Australia, the furthest afield a speaker has participated in Conscious Cafe Skipton. Dr Paul is a specialist in complex change and an advisor to political world leaders, and spoke about neuroscience and how we use our brains to cope with an increasingly complex world. He even gave tips on how we can use our brain power to live longer. The evening on June 5th was the group’s 25th event.


Posted by: ginalazenby | May 12, 2019

How to Feel Good about Yourself

Our gathering of Conscious Cafe Skipton at Avalon Wellbeing for our April event, our biggest ever

In April we had a biggest event ever in the two year history of Conscious Cafe Skipton. It could have been the speaker, Nick Haines of the Five Institute joining us from Nottingham that was the big draw .. or it could gave been Nick’s subject of “How to Feel Good About Yourself”. Either way, there were nearly 40 of us there and it was a brilliant evening. I knew it would be full of great information so I recorded it. There are three videos of Nick speaking, in between our conversation and Q&A sessions. I also made a transcript of the evening with three summaries below. Do take the time to study this and I really do think, that at the end of your study period, you will indeed feel much better about yourself.  Download the transcript notes with images here.


The basics of Chinese philosophy and how the 12 year cycles work, and the key dates that will have impact on us most

1st recording on Youtube

This first video tackles the premise that the more you know about yourself, the more likely you are to feel good about yourself. We look at the cycle of twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac and according to Chinese philosophy, how each year affects us … particularly what has happened in the last 12 and what will the next 12 years be like for us, individually and for  the world.


Looking at the Five Energies, what they say about us and what we might be here to do in the world at this time (forewarned is forearmed!)

2nd recording on Youtube

In this Second video, Nick Haines explained the Vitality Test and how it helps you to understand more about how, according to Chinese philosophy, the five energies are balanced or emphasised within you. Each of those five energies presents a KEY PRIMARY QUESTION that will likely endure in your life. Knowing this, and knowing the questions that drive us, is very helpful for relationships and understanding what drives others. When you know your Primary Question it’s easier to understand the gift, and challenges, that it gives you. 

Take the Vitality Test to find out which of the five energies dominates your life and the enduring question that guides you.

How family dialogue makes an impact on us in childhood and why it is virtually impossible to emerge out of it into adulthood with robust self-esteem

Watch the 3rd recording on Youtube

The 3rd video is where Nick Haines hypothesises why it is virtually impossible to come out of childhood with robust self esteem. Neuroscience now indicates that questions have more power over us than statements. Statements with power and force, like scolding ones that are negative in childhood, have greater impact and staying power than ones spoken with gentler, loving tenderness. 

Your unconscious mind is programmed to answer questions. You best serve yourself by asking Conscious Questions. Conscious questions that leverage our imagination and command the unconscious mind to respond can be constructed with a “WHY?’” or a “HOW?”.  These will generate more positive, creative responses and will help us feel good about ourselves. Being kind to ourselves is key, and questions about good self care will make us more sustainable and of course happy.

Download the 11-page transcript notes with images from the presentation powerpoint.

Nick Haines Conscious Cafe Talk Summary

Our Conscious Cafe gathering in Skipton with author & psychotherapist Malcolm Stern

Modern relationships … have you got the skills needed?

Relationships have changed dramatically over the decades .. back in the day most people simply got married. Few of us got any skills training … roles were more clearly defined, divorce was rare and expectations were radically different.  Where did you learn from …did you just model your parents’ behaviour? Were you influenced by the movies we watched and Hollywood’s idea of romance?

Today, authentic communication is what is needed but are we fully prepared for that?  Mutual understanding seems to be a rare gift in a modern relationship. Over 20 years ago, Psychotherapist Malcolm Stern realised the deep need people have for learning how to be together.  Since then he wrote his book Falling In Love/Staying in Love and his experience working with groups and individuals led him to be the co-presenter of Channel 4’s prime time relationship series Made For Each Other in 2003-2004. We invited London-based Malcolm to join us at Conscious Cafe Skipton in March to talk about how we can develop the necessary skills to transform our relationships.

Relationships are where we learn about ourselves …..

Malcolm opened the evening with a sharing about his own personal relationships journey and how he came to specialise in this area. He said that being in a relationship is one of the greatest tools we have in our lives because …… you can’t hide in a relationship. This is where we are most exposed .. there really is nowhere to hide.  You have to be willing to grow .. whatever age you are because life is always about learning .. learning more about who we are and how we are being. If you want to develop yourself then you need to be in a relationship.

It’s all about LOVE ... A relationship is really an opportunity to practice the skills of loving. We only have one task in life that is to learn to love. As much as we need to look after ourselves, we can’t really do this in isolation… few of us ever fly alone in this world.  In quoting from ‘The Prophet’ (Kahlil Gibran) Malcolm said “Relationships will strip us to the bone, they will show us where the shadow is in play”. 

The skills that we need to survive relationships, and for life in general, are kindness, thoughtfulness, listening and companionability.  

Relationships are rarely problem-free …To create learning for our evening, Malcolm offered the opportunity for an attendee to step forward into the centre of our circle and present their relationship problems for insights. Malcolm pointed out that the group dynamic has enormous power in creating a safe space for opening up and sharing our wisdom, and the most powerful thing that can be offered is our presence and our ability for intentional listening. This depth of sharing would educate us all beyond anything that Malcolm alone could offer. If we can find out what the learning is in the relationship challenges we have, or have had, that is a true gift for all.

  • Newsflash: Relationships are complex. We can learn from other people’s stories. Don’t fall in to the trap of creating something that fulfils the expectations of others. Social conditioning can run deep so keep in mind what it is you want in the relationship.
  • So far .. there is no training school for marriage, we simply do our best. In the end children are the witnesses to the relationship. They carry forward what they learn from you then they take their own trajectory, as we did from our parents.
  • You have to be strong for yourself inside a relationship as it does take strength and resilience to decide and then act on what you want for yourself. You cannot be in a sustainable relationship and let it stop you doing what you want or being who you need to be.
  • Expression of how people felt and what they experienced by the end of the evening

  • We can’t let the other in a relationship hold us back. A core feature of being human is the need for us to be able to live our lives in our fullness. Without this we would be poorer. There comes a time when we might need to leave a relationship because of this holding back and when we do, the ending has to be done with compassion. But it must be done. 
  • Never hurt anyone more than you have to. Learn how to say difficult things.
  • Be aware of new boundaries that you might need to draw around yourself. Saying a definite “No” to someone actually helps create a boundary for you. As hard as it is for some people to do this, and not be mealy-mouthed or wishy washy, practice and develop the skill of saying No … I can’t do that … that’s not for me
  • Get to recognise what saying No feels like in your body. Thinking it is not the same as declaring it and owning the sentiment. That will have a feeling that you need to become familiar with. Are you freezing up? Are you remembering to breath? Get out of your head and register your thoughts as feelings in your body. In my experience, most women find this easier, or more familiar, than many men.
  • The bigger the conversation, the more important it is to breath.
  • When a relationship ends, moving on to another relationship to fill the void is never a wise idea. It is important to take time to process .. give ourselves space for learning before we move on. Fires and frying pans come to mind. Bearing in mind this may well be a time of great sadness, it is important to seek the support of people who can help you.
  • Explore your feelings and name them. You get a much clearer idea about yourself, your needs, if you can verbalise and put words to what is going on inside. It helps you to understand yourself more.
  • Get clear, get support … then make your choice.
  • Know when you are ready for a new relationship .. be able to say a strong Yes when asked if you are. From being on your own and healing from your last relationship, you will likely reach a point, a ripening, when you know you have integrated your learnings and are ready to move forward in to the next relationship.
  • Know what you want in a relationship. Forget physical attributes and hobbies .. yes these are important but relationship success is going to come from a set of values and qualities that you want to share with the other. Qualities like kindness, integrity, support and communication. And for each one, know what it looks like for you.  Does support mean strong arms to hold you? It’s really helpful to be specific … precise.
  • For everything that is on your list of Wants, you have to be willing to give these back to the other.
  • A complication of modern relationships, especially later in life, is the presence of children from former relationships and the need to create a blending of a new family.  Not all families have to live together, all the time .. be creative in how you bring everyone together and consider the continuance of having two homes. Work out what you need to have for your personal relationship to work. What else can work in supporting the step children to continue in the homes they know. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to create another nuclear family.
  • From double to single .. to double again? People who have been in long term marriages for most of their lives and then find themselves single in later life, have to look deeply into what they want out of a new relationship .. if at all. Maybe we need to be creative about how we spend our lives and balance our need for intimacy and connection with our desire for personal space.
  • Is society expecting you to look for a relationship once you are single again? Is this what you want … do you really want to live with someone again and be in a relationship? We carry the scars from before, it’s up to us how we resolve these. Friendship and connections are really important to us … we have to look to our needs to see how best to satisfy them, in a way that is good for us.
  • Know what you want. Malcolm quoted Thomas Hubl who said “The essence of love is precision”.  That gave us all something to think about … and you can see the quality of precision needed to ask yourself good questions: What do I need? What does that need look like? Really think about the essential qualities you desire in another so that you do not end up settling for less. The clearer we can be about our own needs, the better chance we have of successfully satisfying them.
  • Stand your ground early in a relationship .. don’t put up with crap. If you partner acts weird you have to ask yourself if this is acceptable for you. You get what you tolerate. Something to think about.
  • Staying inside a relationship requires work to keep it successful. Everything changes all the time and you have to grow with that. It always comes back to your why … you have to ask yourself what do I want to get out of this?
  • The bottom line to a successful relationship is to really think about the essential qualities that are important to you in a partner and not to settle for less.

Are you right for each other? You need to have a resonance between you and there are four areas to look at:-

  1. Physical: just being together feels right, walking, chatting with friends .. and of course a sexual connection that works
  2. Mental: even if you don’t have the same choice of newspapers being able to exchange ideas and a stimulating conversation is important. Being able to bounce a conversation back and forth.
  3. Emotional: can you handle each other at an emotional level? Can you handle their anger .. hold their sadness?
  4. Spiritual: does the energy between you feel sympatico? Do you have a sense that you are more than just two individuals and that there is a connection to the divine? What you are passionate about has to be there in the other person.

Conscious Cafe Skipton will meet again on Wednesday April 17th to discuss how to Feel Good about Yourself with guest speaker Nicholas Haines from Nottingham. More details here.

Posted by: ginalazenby | March 11, 2019

Having a sense of belonging

Having a sense of belonging is part of being human. It’s one of our most important basic needs.  Where is your strongest sense of belonging? To a church … an organisation… a tribe on social media .. extended family? Where is it that you feel most valued and recognised? Sometimes we can feel strongly connected to many people and many groups or ideas … then again, we might move through periods of our lives when we feel disconnected, separated .. perhaps lonely. Are there times when you have drifted away from an idea or a group and lost your sense of belonging? What was it that took you away … and what brought you back?

Feeling a strong sense of belonging to a greater community, a cause or even s circle of friends, not only stops us feeling alone … it brings happiness, motivation and wellbeing. What type of effort and practice does it take to build and sustain this connection?

This was the conversation that Conscious Cafe Skipton had when 18 of our community gathered in Avalon Centre for Wellbeing, near Skipton at the end of February. Here are the insights from the three questions we discussed.

Reflections on times that we have felt separate, different, alone or that we did not belong?

Not Fitting in:

  • Perhaps our sense of not belonging comes from feeling that we no longer fit in to a particular group or even a way of life. Something might have changed in us and we have outgrown a situation. The period of time when we recognise the need to separate or disconnect can be very lonely. Even getting older can make us feel this distancing from a way of being that has felt natural to us before, but now we are shifting.
  • It’s a big decision to acknowledge that we no longer fit somewhere and decide to remove ourselves from where we previously felt we belonged … whether that was in a church, a career or a geographic place. Even though a voice deep down within tells us to leave, it can still be painful. These shifts and changes in our lives can be viewed as exciting, but we can also feel alone, caught between a past we have known and left behind and a future that has yet to emerge or present itself to us. Maybe we lose our sense of belonging until we begin to recognise our new self and seek out other people and places where we feel a better fit.
  • These transit points in our lives can be both powerful and painful .. walking away requires courage and strength but can give us a sense of liberation even if initially we might feel the loss of the familiar reference points that gave us comfort or that we were attached to.  

Negative Thinking:

  • Comparing ourselves to others is a negative way to think. Doing so can cause us to judge ourselves harshly and is a surefire way to make us feel separate. Having a sense of feeling inferior, less than or not equal to can really damage our right to feel that we belong.

Feeling the Difference:

  • People from mixed race heritage can feel different as they grow up between the two different cultures of their parents. Being exposed to two different worlds and not feeling like they fit in to either. People can feel at odds with a family or community’s cultural expectations placed on them that are not in sync with a local culture that they are also growing up in.
  • For a variety of reasons, people have described feeling like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that is in the wrong box. 

Where, when and how is the Strongest sense of Belonging felt?

  • Our discussions led us to express six key ways that help us connect and make us feel that we belong.
  • Family: the close bonds of connection with blood family are strong for most people but for some there can be one key relationship in their family that is their strongest anchor point. A pivotal and close relationship with a parent, sibling or child can provide deep nourishment and a feeling of safety where anything can be shared. Not everyone has this blessing.
  • Place has power: wanting to move to a different town or area .. somewhere that calls to us at a certain time in our lives. Here we can make a fresh start, be inspired by the landscape, enjoy more activities and community perhaps in am ore populated place … or simply feel like we are coming home, whether there is family there or not.
  • People: Longstanding friendships that take us through the years … these provide deep nourishment if we are lucky to have them. New friendships are valuable too particularly if we find friends with whom we can be our authentic selves.  Being with others is important and many express a preference for the one-to-one contact rather than group gatherings where they can have an increased sense of isolation.    As much as people can feel lonely or disconnected when they are in the company of others .. perhaps at a social party with many strangers …. if the gathering is mindful or purposeful, then we can actually feel deeply connected to a large group of strangers.  Odd as it may seem, the reason that people gather, and the degree to which people are willing to open their hearts, seems to be more important than the quantity of people present.
  • Ritual & Ceremony:  we feel the power of this and mourn the loss in our modern life. We recognise how this can unite us. The right kind of facilitation can change a group of strangers into a connected community in a very short time by providing an open forum for sharing. When we have the opportunity to see and understand our shared meaning, a community can be brought together quite easily. Grayson Perry did four programmes on Channel 4 about rituals for Death, Birth, Marriage and Coming of Age. These are still available for viewing online https://www.channel4.com/programmes/grayson-perry-rites-of-passage/on-demand/64824-001
  • Spiritual Power: aside from what is happening in our lives, where we live and who we have the opportunity to meet, or not … we can always develop our own inner world of connection through our spiritual practice of choice.  This can be done in a group, a church or an organisation that values mindfulness and meditation practice. Even then, there is no need to belong to a particular group when a personal practice of meditation and reflection can make us feel connected to a higher power that we can reach anytime. It gives us a transcendent ability for us to feel connected to everyone and everything, and continued practice can help us to sustain these feelings.
  • Purpose: we can feel a deep sense of belonging when we can engage in work that aligns with our values and which feeds our life purpose. Through work, we can find connection with others who share our values, our vision in the world and our role in it. If we are lucky enough to do what we feel we are here to do, that can give a strong sense of fitting in to the world in the right place and at the right time. That is powerful belonging…. particularly when we are able to to set aside our differences and look forward to a greater cause alongside others who feel the same.


What helps us to shift, feel more connection and increase our Sense of Belonging .. how to feel less lost?

  • Acceptance: Accepting yourself and what is, is a big first step to belonging. We can’t ask others to do what we are not able to do for ourselves.
  • Self Awareness: Instead of us focussing on any difference we see in ourselves, turn that around so that we recognise and accept our own uniqueness.
  • Growth: Understand that we are always growing and evolving. Yes, that can sometimes present us with difficulties but that is what makes us grow.
  • Values: aligning with a strong cause can re-enforce our sense of belonging. Attaching our professional and work identity to something important that makes a difference that aligns with our values.
  • A new Third Age: Later in life after retirement where our sense of purpose was totally wrapped up in our work, it is good to discover new ways to express ourselves and create a sense of belonging from other areas of our lives.
  • Open up: Be more curious. Be willing to express our vulnerability. Allow new people and experiences into our lives
  • Join in .. deciding to say ‘Yes’ .. make an effort. Sharing experiences with others
  • Decide: Making a decision to move forward, setting the intention … meeting the universe half way so we can attract in what we need. Step out of your comfort zone – push yourself
  • Deeper connection: Listen deeply to others. Concentrate on what we have in common instead of what might us apart 
  • Widen your circles: Find a group that shares your interests or passions. Be open to connecting with people outside of your normal like-minded circle.
  • Follow the Love: open your heart … you get what you give. Be more loving and feel the love come back to you.


Our Conscious Cafe Circle .. what were people taking away from the evening?


Being Uplifted

Feeling enlightened





Being heard



People thought the discussion was thought-provoking, enjoyed the different ideas expressed and liked having the opportunity to contribute and be heard.

More about Conscious Cafe Skipton events on our Facebook page

Posted by: ginalazenby | March 11, 2019

Do you feel a deep need for connection? 

These were the qualities experienced at our last Conscious Cafe Skipton event where we talk about … belonging.

Loneliness …  this is often something which people can be very reluctant, and even feel ashamed, to admit to and yet, nine million people in the UK, 14% of the population, are estimated to feel lonely at some point. This is not only affecting their quality of life but their health too. Social isolation of any kind is now clearly being linked to life-threatening diseases.

Loneliness is now actually seen as being lethal. According to a report cited at a presentation I streamed from the Wisdom 2.0 Summit in California this month, scientific research has proven this. It is now even considered as dangerous as smoking!  It was also pointed out at this American event that the UK now has a Government Minister for Loneliness (from April 2018). This is part of the legacy of Jo Cox, the Yorkshire MP who was murdered, and who championed a Commission for Loneliness prior to her death. Taking up the Commission recommendation for appointing a dedicated Ministry, the UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May spoke of the sad reality of modern life and the need to address the loneliness of people who have suffered loss, or have no-one with whom to talk or share their thoughts and experiences. 

British MP Tracey Crouch is now the world’s first Minister for Loneliness but it looks likely that other countries will follow the UK example with the news from a study cited in the Harvard Business Review that said loneliness and isolation is a “growing health epidemic …. associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” 

Loneliness was a subject that a group of us shortlisted for discussion for the next season of Conscious Cafe Skipton events when we gathered last summer for a planning meeting.  The idea of the Conscious Cafe community itself was borne out of a need for deeper connection. Founder Judy Piatkus, set up the original London community after selling her publishing company as she missed the more conscious conversations that she had enjoyed at work, particularly with her community of authors. That initiative has been running from 2011 and since then more than a dozen satellite groups have set up around the UK and even as far as Geneva and Singapore. Their growing popularity reflects our need, not only to be in community with others, but to seek meaningful connection.

It was this need for conversations that matter that drove me to start a Conscious Cafe community in Skipton in 2017. I was newly arrived in the Dales market town …. I’d lived in the area part-time since 1996, still with a base in London .. but when I moved here full-time in November 2015, I realised that I barely knew anybody as most of my circle were still back in London. I certainly did not know how to reach what I felt was “my tribe” .. people who were interested in personal growth, conscious living, leading a purposeful and values-driven life that would make a difference in the world. It didn’t mean that these folks weren’t local to me, I just did not know how to reach them.  

Starting Conscious Cafe Skipton has enabled me to find others seeking a deeper connection through conscious conversation, compassionate sharing and powerful listening. We have met monthly since the summer of 2017 and folks as far afield as York, Preston and Huddersfield have found their way to us, particularly when the topic for debate had special resonance.  We all do what we need to do to find others who want what we want, people with whom we can truly be our authentic selves. What is that you do to strengthen your connection with others to relieve any isolation, disconnection or loneliness that you have experienced at any time?

The latest conversation that Conscious Cafe Skipton took on was the issue of loneliness and isolation with an event called “A Sense of Belonging” in late February. To read a report on what we talked about see the next blog post.

Conscious Cafe Skipton has a facebook page, a MeetUp group and posts events on Eventbrite. 

The next event is on March 26th and we have a speaker, Malcolm Stern, talking about the skills needed for modern relationships.

Posted by: ginalazenby | December 10, 2018

Don’t put me in a box! The #NoMoreBoxes Mission

Our December Conscious Cafe Skipton gathering at Avalon centre for Wellbeing at Broughton

We all do it ….. we look at someone, make a quick judgement, what we think is an informed decision based on our experience, ideas and beliefs….. and then we put them in one of our mental boxes.  We feel we already know so much about them. This has always seemed like a really useful way to make sense of the world. 

Except today, communities are increasingly fractured and divided, arguments feel extremely polarised, so perhaps it’s time to reflect on how we put people in boxes and whether that is actually helpful after all.  We don’t want to be put in a box by others … or even by ourselves through our own conditioned thinking. How can we change?


Runa Magnusdottir joined us from her native Iceland

Runa Magnus, an internationally acclaimed author and speaker from Iceland, feels very strongly that now is the time for #NoMoreBoxes. In her new book on the subject, just launched with Nicholas Haines, she says “There is so much prejudice, inequality and frustration in the world.  Our NoMoreBoxes movement helps facilitate open and honest conversations around gender, diversity and equality in such a way that it allows everyone to be part of the solution. Runa has spoken at the United Nations on this and is passionate about non-judgement and showing us how we can shift our thinking to give each other the freedom to be ourselves. 

Runa was our speaker at the December Conscious Cafe Skipton gathering which took place at Avalon Centre for Wellbeing and Transformation at Broughton.

As people shared in the circle what inspired them to come to this evening, it was clear that many people really resonated with the idea that being put in a box is extremely limiting. “I’ve spent my whole life railing against being typical and trying to escape being identified, and defined, in certain boxes”. .. “I spent my entire life resisting being classified in any box, just so I can fulfil the expectations of other people.” Runa’s work in liberating people from in-the-box thinking and classification certainly struck a chord while at the same time, some participants were happy being in the box that identified them and were simply curious and open to learning new ideas…. which is what the Conscious Cafe movement is all about.

What led Runa to this mission of #NoMoreBoxes ?

As an entrepreneur, leader in transformation and international personal branding strategist … just three of the many boxes that describe her …  Runa talked about a major realisation that she had a couple of years ago. So many labels to describe her, Runa always thought of herself as a Creative Doer, a very practical way of pulling together the many strands of her. But she was reaching a personal crossroads and questioning herself … a place many of us might understand and resonate with. At this point she shifted her thinking and referred to herself as a Creative BEING.  This allowed her to be more expansive and ask herself what she wanted to do with her life at this point? What change did she want to see in the world and what role would she play? These are very Big Life Questions. Have you ever asked them of yourself?

This powerful enquiry led her to draw together other leaders in transformation and set up The Changemakers.  Within a short period of time they were invited to speak at the United Nations at the Impact Leaders Global Summit looking at how the world might successfully reach the Sustainable Development Goals, and particularly those on gender equality. 

Runa describes having a ‘Matrix Moment’ when Nick Haines, her Changemaker colleague and subsequent book co-author, spoke at the UN event about the absurdity of putting each other in boxes like “go-getting women” being referred to as ‘bitches/divas’ and being told to slow down while men who might present their caring nature might be told to “man up”. Runa realised that all of her life, as a successful, high-achieving Viking-Warrior-Queen leader and entrepreneur she had resisted being put in a box that wanted to describe her as a different kind of woman. From this lightbulb moment, and during an unexpected 2-hour taxi ride to New York airport during a snowstorm, the #NoMoreBoxes movement was born.

Her intention is to reach 5 million people by the end of 2019, with an awareness of the limitation of boxing people in to stereotypes that we feel comfortable with. Like the Conscious Cafe movement, Runa said that NoMoreBoxes “is about creating safe spaces to observe and dig deep into the self” for our own liberation. Runa has shared since the event that having analysed their social media campaigns they have already reached 5 million people… now!  So now the goal has been stretched to 50 million!

Step One: The first step is to be aware of our reality. So here, Runa asked a question for people to write down and then discuss in groups of three. Our discussion this evening focussed on gender so we were asked: 

Think of 3-5 things that pop into our heads for a ….. man

Then 3-5 things for a woman.

Group feedback highlighted this:

  • It was much more difficult to write about men. We felt reluctant to name the stereotypes as words popped into our heads
  • It was quicker to write nice things about women
  • Most people had the same words/qualities for men. Strong, privileged, powerful, strong father, power over, talk easily, domineering, men start wars/women less willing to do so ….. and the like
  • Where men were generally seen as Strong, women were seen as Soft. Descriptions included loving, caring, gentle, listening, mother, beautiful, collaborative, open, flexible 
  • Growing up with the old paradigm thinking that men are hunter/gatherers and women are nesters is limiting.
  • It is hard for men who are not comfortable with the macho sports persona and neither are they effeminate. Where is the place in between for a man who resists those two boxes at the opposite ends of the masculinity spectrum?
  • Is all of this true?
  • Are all women kind, soft and gentle?
  • Are ALL women desperate to get married and lash out thousands on the wedding day. Is the wedding day only important to women? 
  • Men muck things up in the home, they are no good at house skills so why bother asking or expecting them to do things right.
  • Mothers and Fathers provide very strong role models for what we come to believe men and women should be or do

Step Two: The next step is the powerful second question and to reflect on the consequences of these views, holding them and operating from them .. to the SELF and to SOCIETY.

Feedback from this small group discussion highlighted several limiting beliefs:

  • When we don’t see the whole person we can limit them, and ourselves, and lower the expectations of what another human being can do. If this discussion was about food we would call it ‘food waste’.
  • If you spend your entire life fitting in to boxes of other people’s choosing, then decide to break out and live an authentic life, your freedom can make these people very uncomfortable and confused
  • what are we teaching our children what men and women should be? The colour pink has such a great influence on little girls from a very early age. Even when we might not participate in this as a parent it is now deeply embedded in the culture.
  • We ask ourselves the question: Am I in a box that is nurturing me? It is for us to decide about the boxes we are in. That is the positive aspect of personal branding.
  • Being part of a Brotherhood or Sisterhood can feel safe. Some belongings can give us protection.
  • If we bring our awareness to it, we can see that we are actually in various boxes .. or circles … making us like a Mandala. What if we could see that in each other?
  • Would it matter if it did not restrict our opportunities?  It is a great act of personal responsibility not to judge.  

Finally Runa asked us to consider what change we wanted to see in the world and how we might want to move forward into the future. She reminded us that we can actually write our own manifesto for the future of ourselves, and the world, and decide what role we will take in making that change.

  • Recognise that we are not finished products and that we can constantly reinventing ourselves
  • It helps not to make any assumptions about why someone does something 
  • By being open, tolerant, kind we stop harming others and ourselves

There is a new term that is being used to describe young people who identify as more than one role … a slashie. Based on the concept that simply describing ourselves as just one role .. like lawyer …. we can miss out on presenting ourselves as a full spectrum. A more accurate way would be …. barrister/speaker/ singer/songwriter/mother. That makes it very hard to put someone in just one box!

I heard on the radio recently an interview with American actor Bradley Cooper who  just made his editorial debut with the movie ‘A Star is Born’.  Not only can he sing but he can play guitar and he co-wrote some of the songs. The interviewer then became confused … but which box are you in Bradley? Are you an actor OR a musician? See how threatening it is for other people when we shift out of our box!!

Reviewing our circle after our discussion this evening people felt optimistic, inspired, hopeful, that the sky had no limits and that there was no need to be a prisoner of your own thoughts.

Time to live outside the box!

Gina Lazenby Runa Magnus Out of the box

Gina Lazenby with Runa Magnus loving at the FIRST proof copy of her new book

Link for Runa’s new book “The Story of Boxes, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Secret to Human Liberation, Peace and Happiness” has just been published on kindle and is available as a paperback shortly. 

If you read this, and you attended the Conscious Cafe event, please do leave a comment below…..

Visit the Conscious Cafe Facebook page for a list of forthcoming dates for 2019


Posted by: ginalazenby | December 4, 2018

The Power of Women’s Gatherings

The Power of Women Gathering & Building Community in Professional Circles

A “Women’s Gathering” Workshop given at Lady Val’s Networking Lunch

Last week I was invited to give a workshop about Women’s Gatherings, something I have been hosting for many years all over the world. The post lunch workshop is a traditional offering at the Lady Val Lunch Club for guests who linger after the main event is over. We were already a ‘gathering’ of women so I explained the value of women being together and creating listening circles to share more deeply and build community.

Gina with Lady Val Corbett

For the last 13 years Lady Val Corbett has done a stunning job of connecting professional women and creating community with her regular lunch events. She attracts prominent and interesting women to come share their stories and she constantly encourages women to network and support each other. Names and biographies of all guests are shared in advance so it is easier to seek out some that you might be interested in making specific contact with.  By introducing the Women’s Gathering Circle last week, I gave a demonstration of how we can create opportunities for even deeper sharing and stronger bonds among the community of women. 

How I came to be working with women

  • A new chapter: During the last 25 years most of my work has been in what you might describe as the human potential movement. It all began after a personal crisis caused me to stop running my Public Relations agency and start a completely new chapter in my life by launching the London Personal Development Centre in 1993. That was all part of my own healing. Following that I went on to create a professional feng shui school and training programme, the first in the world, and all my work was about people learning, stretching and finding ways to be of service and live a more purposeful life. 
  • Women committed to growth: Through the years, 90% of my audience was female. Women seemed to be more willing to take on the self enquiry and curiosity to grow and change. 
  • in the 2000s I started to focus my education program solely on women and particularly, the women who stepped forward hungry for change. There seemed to be a wave of women leaving corporations and finding ways to reinvent themselves in new roles.  Since 2008 I have discovered the power that Women’s Gatherings can have in supporting women entrepreneurs to grow in confidence outside of the protection of a corporate structure ….and also blossom outside of its constraints. 
  • A particular passion that developed for me was exploring Feminine Leadership and the different gifts that women can bring.  During the last decade, through Women’s Gatherings and the Retreat programmes I offered, I explored and wrote about the DIFFERENCE that women bring. It is important for society that women do not try to be clones of men, as much as the system tries very hard to make them do that. Our value in bringing balance to the world is to bring our feminine qualities and nature to a highly masculine culture that is out of balance for not recognising and having valued the powerful contribution of the feminine. 
  • System out of balance: This is in no way an anti-men initiative. We all need to work to change a system created by men for men which is now very out of balance. The feminine qualities of compassion, listening, caring and relationship-focus are all human qualities that men are capable of expressing, if only the dominant culture allowed. The shift that is needed requires women to stand in their power and show men that there are other ways of being that will be more productive and more life-enhancing.

How the first Women’s Gathering emerged

  • Back in 2007 I joined an international Entrepreneur network called XL (Extraordinary Lives). The monthly networking events created were very OLD paradigm in that they involved a short period of time for people to stand and network before sitting theatre style, facing a stage with a speaker. Ninety minutes of listening, mostly a one-sided one way communication and then people would go home.  Each month the speaker was male and with the audience being at least 50% women, we simply got frustrated at our lack of representation.
  • A few of us decided we wanted more and that this was not helping us really connect and build community so my business partner and I proposed an alternative …. and we created a space just for professional women.  
  • We created an event that became a Women’s Circle and at that first event we set out our rules … practice .. for a MONTHLY gathering

The Power of the Circle

  • A circle is a format where everyone has a voice, with equal weight.  Our gathering would not be dependent on outside speakers, rather it was about us learning from each other, we recognised we had our own wisdom to share.
  • The Circle format provided a deep listening space for all to be heard. This is a very rare opportunity in society, to be listened and heard without judgement and the need to fix. Simply listening is a gift that provides people space and can be very healing.
  • Sharing food together was very important to us. Its co-creation and everyone’s participation was a way of creating togetherness and community.  Privacy was key  ..  all of this had to happen in a home or a secluded space.
  • The food was cooked by me or my business partner and we always welcomed and encouraged help in the kitchen so that it was a community effort. As I have gone on to create these gatherings around the world, situations have varied and sometimes I have cooked while other occasions the Pot Luck has worked. This is where the meal is truly a joint community effort with everyone bringing a dish.
  • The London gathering started in 2008 continued for many years until my business partner and I both left our London homes but the community bonds developed in those years remain strong. Not only were good connections made for business partnerships and cooperation but also deep bonds that the women can rely on through the years.

The Value of the Women’s Gathering

  • During our years of Women’s Gatherings we witnessed each other’s journeys and transitions. For many there was common ground where a BIG LEAP had been taken from Corporate safety into what can be an entrepreneurial wilderness.  Not only did we provide a supportive infrastructure of skills sharing but also emotional support.
  • We elevated each other. This was space where we could share our highs and lows and be supported. We received recognition for our talents, gifts and strengths. Where we might not be able to articulate them directly ourselves, they were seen and fed back to us. Being truly seen for who we are, can be all we need to move forward with greater confidence.
  • As many women were moving through life transitions and reinventing themselves in new careers and passions, the regular Gatherings provided a lifeline. The community that emerged from the Gatherings helped create a solid foundation for the many women starting a new life.  As holistic beings, if our life is off kilter then we know our business will suffer so all round personal support also helped us in business.
  • The community that grew out of these regular Women’s Gatherings in central London was so successful that the entire global Entrepreneur network was inspired to take the same circle format (in a non-gender way) and role it out globally. They recognised the power of the circle to be a more effective way of building community than attendance at traditional speaker-led network events.

Women Gathering Around the World 

  • For the last decade I have been travelling extensively and I went on to host the Women’s Gatherings format all over the world: New Zealand, Australia (Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne), Bali, Canada (Vancouver, Cortes Island), USA (San Francisco, LA) and my home territory of Yorkshire.
  • Throughout I learned so much about women .. and about myself.  How the world over, we are all the same!  We face the same challenges in balancing our business lives with the demands of home, family and personal growth. We have the same needs and yearnings for recognition and to be of service and of use to the world beyond our homes and family. Finding and following our calling makes us come alive, no matter what challenges emerge in its execution. We all reached a point where we can’t not do what makes our hearts sing.. however difficult!
  • In San Francisco, I still host an annual gathering to which many of the same women come who first participated in 2009.
  • Many of the most recent Women’s Gathering have started to attract THREE generations. The majority age group has been women in their 40s and 50s. Many women in their 70s have increasingly set aside cultural norms and are continuing their entrepreneurial careers in what others might call their ‘retirement’ years, Retiring they are not and they are starting new ventures with great energy and wisdom. This is very inspiring to younger generations and none more so than the 20s 30s age group who are facing potential career burn out much younger and showing up at women’s gathering for support.
  • Women’s Gatherings lift women up and refine their confidence when they have moments of doubt. This is normal. We never stop having moments of doubt so it’s good to know we are not alone and that others have been through, or are going through, what we might be coping with.
  • Being in a community circle of feminine energy helps women to strengthen our voices so that when we move out of a female space into male world working with the men we love, we feel more empowered to speak about how we feel and what is right. 

What about the men?

  • Women’s Gatherings are not anti-male meetings, they are simply without men, female-only spaces. There is a very different energy to the space when even one man is present.  And men need this kind of single-sex community support too. It’s good to see that a men’s movement is starting to happen for them to share feelings. 
  • Masculinity is changing and it is important that men kind find forums where they can safely explore wider and different expressions of masculinity in a compassionate space.

Why do we need Women’s Gatherings now?

  • While we have a system and culture that values and prizes men and masculinity and holds them as better and superior to women and the feminine, we need these gathering spaces to strengthen us women.
  • The more we understand our differences, both cultural and biological, the more we realise that all humans have access to all modalities which are perceived to be either masculine or feminine. Men have a  feminine side to draw on as much as women are able to use their masculine drive and other qualities. 
  • The problems we have in business and society stem from an over-reliance on masculine ways. That is becoming known as ‘toxic masculinity’. This is a very unhelpful expression as it truncates the full range of masculine qualities to good and bad. Anything pushed to the extreme will be out of balance. We need a weaving together of all human emotions and qualities that are seen as feminine and and masculine.
  • A purely female space helps women strengthen our voices so we feel more confident and  supported in male environments.

Our Practice Today at Lady’s Lunch Workshop

  • The women gathered into circle groups of 8, minimum 6.
  • Sitting with no table or other barriers in between 
  • 1st round – answer a question with 2 minutes each – keep your own time in the circle
  • 2nd round – share how was that?
  • Before the circle sharing opens, everyone takes one minute of silent reflection to get present and prepare for their sharing. Reflecting on your skills and talents .. your gifts, your strengths that you draw on for your role or business…..
  • The QUESTION to answer today – being November there is an end of awareness: 
  • share who you are … name .. role… location….  short, simple statement.
  • 1st part of the Question = 
  • What strength within have you drawn upon that has really helped you this last year?
  • 2nd part of the Question = 
  • Where have you stumbled, felt challenged … and perhaps need help and support in 2019?
  • There is Permission here to share your strengths, which is something women mostly shy away from.
  • After the two minute of each person sharing, there is a short second round – what did that feel like?  Who do you want further connection with? where can you offer support?
  • Basically 2 minutes: story about yourself. Identify – Strength (permission given) + express a need.
  • Rules for today
  • It is a safe space … no sharing outside circle of personal details
  • Start off with a minute of quiet.
  • Listen with full attention. Give the gift of deep listening
  • It’s a small circle .. don’t react, reach across & empathise, don’t chip in. Listen only
  • One person acts as focaliser to keep an eye on time, and they also share. .

Join or Host a Women’s Gathering

I offered an invitation to any woman who wants to start their own Women’s Gathering in their community locations. I can guide them in how to do this. 

I also offer participation in an online women’s gathering on Zoom. Contact me.

Read MORE about all the Women’s Gatherings I have hosted around the world.

All the reports collated from Women’s Gatherings

Read MORE about the value of Women’s Gatherings


Dame Stella Rimington was the keynote speaker at this event … read my blog post about how she became Britain’s top woman spy ..

Posted by: ginalazenby | November 26, 2018

Mastering Body Language for Connecting in the Digital Age

Our Conscious Cafe Skipton group at Avalon Wellbeing Centre with speaker Carole Railton seated front row right.

Behaviourist, Carole Railton, is one of the world’s leading experts on body language and how we can adapt in the digital age.  London-based Carole joined us in Skipton in November for a Conscious Cafe briefing and discussion about modern body language. 

Carole shared and demonstrated several tips for us to connect. She also brought up several copies of her book “The Future of Body Language: How to Communicate Effectively in Business Through Multimedia” which sold out. Most of what she discussed can be found in that book so if this is a subject which interests you, you can get hold of your own copy here.

We had a fun evening and I’m going to share 4 key things that we learned that you might also find interesting and helpful.

We learned that we give off so many unconscious signals to others. Our communication with others is on so many more levels than the words we speak.  Speaking is just a small part. We make our minds up about others in just five seconds and Carole pointed out that in the Digital Age, that judgement online goes down to just 3 seconds!  The more we can understand about our own signals and how we read others, then the stronger connection we can make when we speak and reach out to individuals or groups.

As Carole suggests, understanding body language becomes even more important where technology is increasingly used. Rather than letting phones, Facetime and Skype become barriers to connection, especially when we are long distance from others, we can learn how to make subtle changes so we make deeper connection and are better understood. 

1 Being Regal

A great tip for when you are about to speak, either online on Zoom, or for a video or live on a stage. Make yourself regal to adjust your posture to create a powerful foundation for your speaking. 

  • Walk round with a crown on your head… Carole had us all walking round the room with this imaginary crown. This keeps your head straight and still which reinforces the connection between your head and body.  It also slows you down. Slow is good. The more senior you are the less movement you make and the slower you are … think of the Queen.
  • Now imagine a heavy cloak on your shoulders. This will pull your shoulders back and down to open up your lungs and breathing. Breath is everything in speaking.
  • Now imagine that you have a long tail. It’s rather like having a third leg and it helps you keep balanced. The regal stature will give your voice and speaking more authority.

2 Feet on the ground

You need to be stable when you speak. Everything straight and firmly grounded. Twisted feet, crossed legs, one foot off the ground, slouching .. all these things affect what you will say and how you say it. Watch people on TV interviews (the BBC’s Andrew Marr show is a good one for seeing the whole person sitting including their feet and judging who is winning the argument .. and who is on the back foot!).   

Sit or stand with BOTH feet planted firmly on the ground, and straight.  It does take training and practice but helps you remain calm, clear and focussed particularly when under pressure. And make sure you wear appropriate sized shoes that are comfortable.  Personally, I can feel the difference between wearing attractive high heeled shoes and when I speak wearing flatter shoes without those gorgeous heels. So I might rock up to a speaking event with two pairs of shoes and change before I do my talk so I can feel more grounded and stable with my speaking … it all depends on the event and what level of support I think I need but I am aware of the difference.

3 Keep Still

The more senior you are, or are perceived to be, the less movement you make. Less is definitely more in this case.  Top speakers and leaders do not make distracting movements and they keep their body language tight and controlled. They are economic with gestures.  Carole revealed that when she coaches women speakers and executives, she points out to them that women can fall into the trap of making too many movements and thereby diminishing their authority in the eyes of others present. It’s all subconscious!  

Watch out for when you might be searching around on your desk for papers and pen in a video presentation .. get ready beforehand. When going into a meeting, resist the temptation to rifle through your handbag or briefcase for pen/pad or iPad. Try strolling in and making one single powerful streamlined gesture. Be neat and tight with your body language to create a more powerful impression and command authority.

Carole has been asked to review the top TED speakers in the world. The TED videos are an amazing phenomenon and some of the most popular speakers go viral with millions of viewings. TED have pioneered the power of shorter presentations and none of them are longer that 18 minutes … this really encourages people to think more deeply about the points they are passionate about and not take a whole hour to make impact. Read Carole’s review. Each speaker uses some of the body languages techniques that make a powerful speaker … but none of the speakers use them all!

4 Connect to influence rather than persuade

If we want to make a point, get our ideas across, win an argument or simply be understood, then it is best to do so in a way that you connect with the other person. That way you influence them to  come over to your side rather than persuading them. Subtle difference.

You do this by look them in the eyes when you speak and because we receive information into our left side, you speak looking into their left eye.

This will work if you are relaxed, your breathing is relaxed and you make it normal. Again, both feet straight on the ground. You can break contact and look back but don’t take on an interrogation stance. Speaking and looking into someone’s left eye will help connect with them and they will drop in to the same pattern and do the same to you. It can take a bit of practice but it is a great tip for connecting with people. It is all about speeding up understanding and communication. It is not about manipulating because if you are not genuine you will not be able to hold that eye contact in a relaxed way. 

To get a fuller briefing on all these points, I recommend you read Carole’s book



Posted by: ginalazenby | November 11, 2018

Is it time to re-think work?

Re-thinking how and why we work – Conscious Cafe met at the newly opened Avalon Wellbeing centre at Broughton Hall, Skipton. Here we are with Avalon co-founder (centre, 4th from right) Paris Ackrill.

Is it time to re-think work?

This was an interesting though for our October Conscious Cafe which took on the subject of the future of work for our discussion. There had been quite a bit of coverage in the press about the Green Party’s policy recommendation for the country to switch to a shorter working week … as the norm. They were proposing a permanent four day week as the standard expected by the Government. I recall many years ago the New Economics Foundation (NEF) putting forward the idea of a 21 hour work week. I’ve always wondered how that would work. It seemed so radical.  The NEF want us to work to live, not live to work. How can we take on such a radical idea?  Well the NEF don’t have all the specific plans in place but they want people to engage with the idea and talk about it. So that is what we did for our evening in October at the Avalon Centre for Wellbeing. And coincidentally, wellbeing is at the very heart of this conversation.

A four-day week or 21 hours is not simply a reduction of hours or workload, it involves a fundamental strip down of the psyche, a massive shakeup for how we see ourselves and what work means to us. It is not just about working less and having less pay, it is about reevaluating life and how we spend every precious day.

How would we be affected by a shorter working week?

There’s more to think about than financial needs when we are trying to figure out how 21 hours a week could work. That’s a complicated and tangled issue that is too complex to resolve in a short conversation, in fact it looks unresolvable. As soon as we delve into that then we are asking ourselves more questions, ones with highly complex answers. And in this whole working downshift, who will be left behind? Those who are disempowered and not financially strong enough to make the choice. But is it a choice? What happens when we ask ourselves: “Can I afford to work less …..Will my needs being met?”

What the NEF is arguing is that we need to shift away from being consumers and creating a life where we have to work longer and longer in order to afford more modern living expenses. We are falling in to the trap of earning so we can buy more things and experiences that are not necessary to our fundamental well-being. With a deeper connection to our own inner world, more time reflecting on who we are, we might lessen within us the need to strive and compete, and push ourselves to spend. Duane Elgin’s book ‘Voluntary Simplicity’  (published in 1982) is an anti-consumerist handbook and persuasively sets out a way of living that is not just outwardly simple, but inwardly rich. Lynne Twist, author of  ‘The Soul of Money’  speaks powerfully of the role of money in our lives and says we have lost track for what is sufficient… we need to stop and ask ourselves … what is enough? Both authors point to what the NEF is flagging up, that our consumer needs are outstripping the planet’s ability to provide, hence the Green Party want to take this premise on as a core part of their manifesto.

Life Unbalanced

A full working week may provide us with just enough money but for many, the downside of working longer and harder is an unbalanced life. A whole industry has been built on the angst of working people who seek treatment for their anxiety. It’s forecast that work stress will be one of the biggest killers in the next decade.  In our society today, we have a massive tendency to overwork in terms of quantity of hours or intensity of effort. This leads to various kinds of personal health crises and burnout. When people grind to a halt, as so many invariably do, they then have to organise their own recovery and begin to make new choices about how they will construct their life and work with greater emphasis on quality of life, and maybe different work that engages them in new ways… perhaps taking on more enjoyable and fulfilling careers. If society valued the unpaid work that many people have to engage in and prized non-work activities then that might reduce burn out.

Here are some of the insights and nuggets from our Conscious Cafe discussion:

  • employers should not treat people like machines: we are not robots. We have rhythms and cycles. Sometimes we need downtime for our mental or physical wellbeing. With such an emphasis on speed we are encouraged or expected to power through times when we do not feel well or we feel compromised.  If we feel the need to pull back, it would be great if we could feel supported in taking care of ourselves without being penalised. 
  • With the right knowledge we could work smarter rather than harder. If we were taught more about our own bodies and understood our own needs then we could manage ourselves better to the benefit of all.  So much research has been done now about our brains and how they function. Rest and pleasure are powerful ingredients for being creative. Certain environments and atmospheres help with learning, recovery and productivity.
  • Recovery time is important. The gap between intense work and being around computers and electromagnetic fields can be too short to recover for the next bout of work. And so many people are not using the right modalities for recovery .. alcohol and watching TV do not regenerate, they simply anaesthetise us. We need longer gaps between work and access to activities that restore our wellbeing.
  • Compassion is key. This needs to be married with the drive for success and achievement that pervades many workplaces. Yes let’s achieve but at what cost are we arriving at personal and company goals? What cost to the self .. the whole .. to the long term … to the community … the planet? If we build compassion into the fabric of life as a norm it would be a game changer.
  • It starts with compassion for self: if compassion is not seen as an important value but one that needs to emerge in business, then it has to start with us. How can we care about others if we don’t care for ourselves?
  • Spreading the love: in our quest to serve and help others, do we give too much away? Are we giving more to strangers that to our own family and loved ones? Who deserves more of our love, attention, energy, focus and care?
  • If I work longer do I produce more? there are so many examples where people achieve the same or more in less time through focus because they have to accomplish in a shorter period … so they do.  Presenteeism ….just being in the officer at work, does not make you more effective. 
  • What are we teaching girls about work?  there were examples of being taught at a girls’ school to value accomplishment and achievement over home-making and family life. Education that used to prepare girls for less demanding careers and more focus on being married to a breadwinner were deeply criticised. Has the pendulum swung too far? Women who were not taught the value of being a home-maker are having to re-program themselves. Can we teach a more balanced approach to paid and unpaid work. Does the education of boys include teaching about equality in relationships and home life?
  • Care work is not valued. This is one of society’s biggest needs, particularly with an ageing population. Care work is ether very low paid or for many, it is unpaid work done on a volunteer basis by family or community. Those engaged in the care industry are not seen as doing important work and yet their contribution enables the rest of society to function. 
  • Unpaid and domestic work needs to be valued: where domestic work is done in a home by one of the partners, male or female, that supports the household and family life, this work needs to have increased status and be valued. Where this work, often invisible and always unpaid, is not valued, it creates an imbalance in the relationship and can be a source of unhealthy discord. The law values the unpaid contribution in women in the home when it comes to divorce .. society needs to take this recognition out of the court room and into the marketplace.
  • Inequality: we can’t let the progress that allows people to make choices about working less hours or days a week to exclude those already living on the edge financially. Some people work many more than the standard 40 hour work from deep need just to stay afloat. How do we make sure that everyone is included in the quest for a more balanced life?
  • Work is seen as suffering. How have we constructed work as a deficit, as a burden to be endured? That work is effort that takes something from you and has to be endured until you are fortunate enough to retire and do nothing? 
  • Can we love work? What if it were seen as a source of joy and that was the mutual expectation of employees and employers?
  • We only have one life…. this is not a rehearsal. That being the case, how can we arrange our lives so we enjoy every moment?   The realisation that there is more to life than the ‘daily grind’ can come to us when we face mortality in ourselves or others … or we look breakdown in the face. Why wait til we get to that point before we take on the brave choices of creating a different life for ourself? There comes a point for many when quality of life becomes the most urgent priority. Why wait until we are ill before we seek a work life that has more meaning?

New technology,  with the advance of robots and artificial intelligence, will potentially make workloads more efficient and even remove some jobs altogether.  The School of Life have produced an information pack, presented as a card game, with 52 careers listed and an indication of the risk of each one being replaced by a robot. 

One card particularly caught my attention among the careers of Dermatologist, Coroner, Zoologist and Uber Driver, and that was “HomeMaker”. On each card is a rating (1-100) for ease of entry, pay and among other things, the risk of being replaced by a robot. You can read the full list here. I was intrigued to see that even the Homemaker actually had the possibility of replacement by robot which is surprising but I did love what was written about the homemaker role and I feel it sums up where society is with care work. 

Homemaker The Ultimate Multitasker 

What the job involves: probably the most important job in the world but that carries no salary – and, furthermore, requires constant kindness, patience and generosity. If you do the job well, no one thanks you for (possibly) 30 years. If you get it wrong, you will be blamed in therapy almost continuously. The job has deep intrinsic satisfactions, but extremely low status. People who do it often say they do ‘nothing’ when asked for their profession by busy bankers at dinner. 

Who it would suit: someone who wants to change the world and knows that it changes through the wise, disciplined and kind upbringing of children. Someone who will not get medals, while deserving them. The upholders of civilisation. 


Difficultly difficulty of entry 2

Job stability 99 

Meaning/purpose 95 

Salary 0

People skills required 100 

Stress levels 82

Degree of nonsense 1

Risk of being replaced by robot 19





We ended the evening with much food for thought with personal realisations about the rightness of the brave choices yes that we have made, how fortunate we are to have access to resources to make choices, how consuming work can be and the power of taking time off to rebalance ourselves.

Join us for our next Conscious Cafe on November 15th.

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