Your Projects

Community feeling

Little by little, we come to understand that the whole world is one community. Our community includes everybody.

We have a natural feeling for others. How can we turn our backs on the pain of the poor, the vulnerable and the disenfranchised?

Because of the economic, political and social interwovenness of the modern world, we are all implicated in the causes of poverty, injustice and discrimination.

The wealth and power of the few rests upon systematic subjection of the many.

Because we live in a partly (or partly functioning) democratic society, in a globalised world, we have a direct line of responsibility to all who suffer – equally when they are near and seen, or distant and out of view.

The question we have to ask is:

What am I going to do
about the suffering and oppression of others?

We have a duty to all feeling, sentient creatures – and therefore to the integrity of the web of life as a whole – and therefore to the environment as a whole.

There will be no lasting peace
while there is appalling injustice and poverty.

There will be no genuine security
if the planet is ravaged by climate change.

—Tony Blair

Incredible though it may seem, a few people are still pretending that there is no crisis of the environment. But the evidence is plain.

The way we live is unsustainable. We are too many, we live too well, and it can’t go on. We face species extinctions, environmental degradation, and climate change. Unless we act now, there will certainly be warfare, as people fight over water, land, food and scarce resources. Other civilisations, which seemed secure, have crumbled into dust.

Tacitus says:

When they make a desert,
they call it peace.

We have been making a desert, and calling it wealth.

How are we going to turn things around? How shall we set about leaving behind a world, which is fit for our children to dwell in?

It is time to ask –

What am I going to do
about the destruction of the global environment?

But perhaps you feel helpless?

Whatever you do will be insignificant,
but it is very important that you do it.
You must be the change
that you want to see in the world.


Act anyway. Join with others. Do what you can.

It is never right, to abandon hope.

Art, justice, environment

We come to think of an idealist as one who seeks to realize
what is not in fact realizable.

But, it is necessary to insist,
to have ideals is not the same as to have impracticable ideals,
however often it may be the case that our ideals are impracticable.

—Susan Stebbing

Dance Boatman Dance by Jila Peacock

I very much like to work with a person – using experiential focusing as a source of direction and creativity – when the project on which they are working belongs to one of three kinds. These are projects, which relate to my own deep interests and concerns:

  1. Creative arts projects
  2. Environmental projects
  3. Social justice projects.

Creative arts projects

I am fascinated by the magic of words, sounds, gestures and images, and have many years experience of engaging with creative and artistic projects.

Only through the power of the artist to engage hearts and minds do we become fully human, able to commit ourselves to life, and to take a full part in the life of the world.

The three practices of being in the body, the act of creation, and situational focusing work together to set free the artistic forms and images which are generating in your mind.

Environmental projects

Only when the last tree has withered,
the last fish is caught,
and the last river has been poisoned,
will we realize we cannot eat money.

—Cree Indian tribal saying

I love wild places, and am deeply troubled by what is happening to the environment. It means a great deal to me when I can support an environmental project.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power.
We have guided missiles and misguided men.

—Martin Luther King

We have to gather our courage now, to face how bad things are – and to act decisively.

We the human race have ruined the earth,
and our own chances,
by greedy exploitation.

It’s almost, but not quite, too late
to take steps – but what steps? – to retrieve the situation.

—David Hughes and Gerry Durrell

Social justice projects

The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide.

The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors
and brutality in the destroyers.

But the way of non-violence leads to redemption
and the creation of the beloved community.

—Martin Luther King

I am haunted by the great issues of social justice, equality, peace and human rights.

I want to do whatever I can to help people who are fighting against violence or injustice, alleviating suffering, or working to dissolve tension and build bridges between those who fear and distrust one another.

The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us.

—Nelson Mandela (speech at Pretoria, 10th May 1994)

It is too easy to look away from the suffering of others, as if it were nothing to us, who can shelter for a little while in some local comfort and security.

Seafarer by Jila Peacock

Your Projects

The act of creation

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.

—Maya Angelou

Many people, caught in the need to make a living, have put a project on the back burner. “I’ll do it one day,” we say, but one day never comes.

The feelings which drive our natural creativity are too powerful to be pushed back like this. You must rouse yourself. Listen! Something is calling you. What would be the worst thing that could happen, if you made a beeline for fulfilment?

There are no rehearsals. This is the performance. Isn’t it time to take a look, and see what your dream looks like?

Project coaching is about creating something in the world, developing one project which matters to you. It is straightforward and imaginative.

My ideas about manifesting a dream have music behind them – they are inspired by the working methods of Beethoven and Mozart. For this reason, they are intensely practical, and centrally preoccupied with time and timing.

You may well find, as you set about making a dream come true, that life begins to sing again. Other areas of your life also look up.

Nothing is so attractive as the person who is alive to life, who is living positively, rather than simply getting by.

Sometimes, however, the creative path demands sacrifices of us. To bring a child of the spirit to birth is never without a certain cost.

The act of creation has four phases. These are non-linear, rather than step-wise:


  • Scenario
  • Specification
  • Timeline
  • Sketches

In addition, there are two warnings, about monsters we all have to meet on the creative path:


  • The danger of dissipation
  • The ubiquity of rancour.


Travel in the Shimmering Space by Janet Pfunder

The scenario is the work, the overall conception, the vision, the idea. It is by living with and inside the scenario that the power of the work is generated.

The scenario may begin with a germ, and grow little by little. It may spring up abruptly before your eyes, like an armed man leaping into your path.

Mozart said:

I do not begin to compose,
until I can feel the whole work before me, like a building.

That is the scenario.

Little by little, the scenario is elaborated further and further until (in the classical vision) every detail of the work is integrated into an overall structure.


The specification comprises all practical constraints.

Creativity thrives on limitations. It is in facing constraint that we are compelled to come up with flashes of genius.

Christopher Wren rebuilt the churches of London on odd irregular limiting sites, which made him manifest unique solutions.

Mahatma Gandhi fought the British Empire by walking to the sea to make salt.

We fulfil our destiny when we are practical, when we take account of the facts: when instead of being driven back, we are inspired to be more original, more dedicated, and more inventive.


There is a timeline of project actions, of course, but that is not what I mean here. I mean the timeline of the finished work.

Perhaps because we have a paper-and-screen education, most of us are curiously insensitive to sequence, to clarity of time structure, and to dramatic effect. You want to manifest a sharp sense of timing, to wake people up with the unexpected turns and lightning responses of comedy.

The power and tragedy of Beethoven is rooted in the comic timing of Haydn.

When Sibelius heard his 5th Symphony, he knew at once that the time-sequence was a failure. He spent the whole of the next year crafting an amazing transitional passage within the first movement – one of the most thrilling passages in any symphony.

Stravinsky said –

Music is the point of intersection between man and time.

That is true, so far as it goes. In music, in a sense, there are only times and sounds. But every project (not just in music) happens at the point of our intersection with time. It comes to life in time, and depends upon timing.


Sketching is about catching any ideas, of any kind, at any time. You will always be working on your scenario, specification and timeline – and these sketches, which fall out of the sky at odd moments, find their places one by one in that emerging whole.

The Red Ribbon

You don’t have to work in consecutive order. Ideas come when they come. Seize the idea as it passes. It seems so vivid now, like a dream. Don’t be caught out. Like life itself, it fades in a moment, and you lose it.

Beethoven, like Leonardo, filled hundreds of notebooks with sketches – bits of rhythm or melody, fragments of harmony, ideas for structure or instrumentation. The famous tune in the 9th Symphony for the Ode to Joy (or is it rather, the ode to freedom?) was sketched 220 times before it reached its final form.

Constant sketching is how you get to be at home with the naturally loose, non-linear nature of the creative mind.

The danger of dissipation

The generative process, which I just outlined, is entirely useless without the executive process, which gets things done (see Getting things done).

Many, many profoundly creative people waste their lives and happiness, failing to build this vital bridge between the generative and the executive processes.

Please, please, please – don’t be one of them!

The ubiquity of rancour

Notoriously, people are unable to see straight, when it comes to their own creative work.

As he was dying, the poet Virgil gave directions for The Aeneid to be destroyed, but happily the emperor Augustus had other ideas.

The composer Tchaikovsky suffered agonies of self-doubt. The song-writer Henri Duparc wrote only a dozen songs before the gremlins stole his voice.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell abandoned a book which he was enjoying writing, which had been going well, after his “friend” Wittgenstein ridiculed it “when we were both hot and out of temper”.

There are a great many stories of this kind.

In George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch, there is a character called Casaubon, whose “key to all mythologies” is a morass of confusions – scrappy, chaotic and valueless. Casaubon is (of course) a portrait of the novelist herself, of that twisted reflection which she saw in the mirror, in black and rancid hours.

Complex forces lead us to savage our creations (and ourselves). Typically, we are far more cruel to ourselves, than we would ever be to another person.

The great teacher Nadia Boulanger said:

Your work is like anybody else’s,
neither good nor bad,
neither modest nor immodest,

just like writing a letter.

So we need not be taken in by the words of gremlins, the sands which shift beneath us, the corrosive night-visions. There are countless manifestations of rancour. Happily, countless ways also to deal with its advent.

Your Projects

Want-tos & have-tos

Everybody has needs.

  • We need bodily health.
  • We need physical safety.
  • We need belonging – to be sustained by the love of our community.
  • We need to assert ourselves, to gain respect, and to have self-respect.

Beyond these come vital spiritual needs, for knowledge, beauty and meaning. If these were left unmet, our lives would be poor and thin.

(These seven levels are taken from Abraham Maslow.)

This section is about looking at your needs and longings, seeing what matters to you, recognising what has to be done, noticing where you are in fact putting your time and energy, and deciding whether to vary that.

Many people’s lives are out of balance – always working and never playing, for example, or always caught up in events and never taking time out, or always spending and never saving.

It is good to feel clearly and strongly the things you want to do; to face up to the things you have to do – and to discard things with which, as it turns out, there is no need at all to burden yourself.

I suggest looking at your life from twelve points of view, one by one. Notice where your priorities have lain. Are you going to rethink them?

Nine of these points of view are close to the ground. You see specific life-areas. The last three are way up high. From up here you see your life as a whole, as a single territory.

Sense of self

  • Body
  • Play
  • Renewal

Sense of purpose

  • Work
  • Money
  • World

Sense of others

  • Friendship
  • Love
  • Tribe – family, allies, community

Looking at your life as a whole

  • An image of the future
  • Reading the blueprint
  • Treating your life as a story.

We can ask questions (a few are suggested below). We can evoke images and visualise the future. We will need situational focusing. We may frame new projects, planning chains of action-steps. There will be much to talk about.

Sense of self


Being, health, vigour

Everything begins with the body.

How can you have a sound mind, unless you have a sound body?
Are you taking care of yourself?

Diet, sleep, exercise. Just by taking care of these three, you could transform your sense of well-being, increasing your life expectancy by many years.

You could review your eating, drinking, smoking and other dependencies, sleep, weight, fitness, tension, moods, energy, health, risk-taking, driving, injuries, medications, hygiene, teeth, smell, appearance, clothes, hair.

It’s a good idea to make sure that your relationship with your doctor is equal and pro-active.

Do you need to clean up your act? If so, how?


Rest, fun, free time – and fulfilment

Do you allow yourself to rest?
Do you take time out?

What habits do you have which give you energy?
What makes you laugh?
What does fun look like?

In what ways are you over-serious about your life?
In what ways are you over-serious about your self?

Under what conditions does the urge to be pompous,
self-important, stiff and critical get the better of you?

What? Never! Well, well, well… think of that.

Do you like to think, to read, to see movies, to hear music, to play sport, to make things, to grow plants, to see the world, to meet people?

Do you thrive on creative achievement? on study and discovery?
On beauty in art or nature? on quiet introspection and the spiritual path?
On lively or intimate human encounter?

What do you like best to do?
What do you love about it?

When are you going to do it?
How are you going to afford it?


Pelleas by Jila Peacock

Integrity, growth, wisdom, silence

What do you do to renew your spirit?

How do you deal with stress?

With emotional issues?

Do you reflect on your life?
Do you review your actions from time to time?
Do you review your relationships?

Is there a rhythm to your life?
Do you make space for ritual?

Are you at peace with yourself?
Do you make space for silence in your life?

Sense of purpose


Purpose, meaning, satisfaction

Work is more fun than fun

—Noel Coward

Have you found your purpose in life?
Do you like your work?
Is it fulfilling?
Is your heart in it?

What are you best at?
Does your work use these abilities?

What is hard for you?
Are there other people who could do these tasks?

How do you present yourself to the world?
Do you put forward a clear image of yourself, visually and aurally?
Do you use language effectively?

Do you know what you do?
Is that sufficiently focused?

Can you say what you do in less than a dozen words?
Can you expand that into a short, convincing story?
Can you substantiate that with evidential points, photographs,
and notes of appreciation from others?

Do you come over as convincing and professional in your meetings, emails, letters, calls, documents, website, advertising, and other kinds of self-presentation?

Have you mastered the art of networking?
Have you learned to give recognition to others?

Have you found out how to seize a passing opportunity?
Have you studied the art of letting one thing lead to another?

Is your self-presentation full of spin?
Or are you straightforward, honest and authentic?

You may want to reflect on the relationships you have with your colleagues;
and on how your work impacts society and the world.


Assets, liabilities, cash flow, financial literacy

Do you like money?
Are you comfortable around money?
Are you (and your kids) financially literate?

Do you keep an income statement and balance sheet?
Do you keep track of your cash flow?
Do you make good use of your money?

Are you honest?

Are you servicing debts?
Are your tax affairs sorted?

What age do you want to retire at?
What provision have you made against sickness? injury? redundancy?

Have you provided for your partner and children,
in case you should die tomorrow?
Are you giving to charitable causes (not for profit organisations)?

Do you need to streamline the financial aspects of your life?

All these questions and many more need to be explored, and actions taken.


Summer by Janet Pfunder

Nature, surroundings, stuff

What are your surroundings like?
Do you like to be in natural or urban surroundings?

Do you like the place where you live?
What would your ideal home (and garden) be like?

Are you tidy or messy?
Is your stuff controlling you?

Is your place clean, attractive and welcoming?
Is the fabric sound?
Do you get the chores done?

When you have a clear image of your ideal surroundings,
you can move towards realising them.

Sense of others


Loyalty, closeness, mutuality

What is friendship?
How important is friendship to you?

What is loyalty?
What is trust?

Who’s your best friend?
Do you make time, to stay close?

What is this friend like?
What is your friendship like?

Do you talk about your dreams?
Do you talk about your life problems?

Are you open with each other?
Are you honest with each other?

What place does touch and physical contact have in your friendship?
Do you hang back from friendship, in case people think you are gay?

What’s the strongest thing about your relationship with your best friend?

Who is the most important person in your life?
What is that like?


Tenderness, intimacy, sexuality

What space is there in your life for tenderness?

For softness? sensuality? warmth? comfort? texture? colour? and line?
For touching? hearing? seeing? taste? and smell?
For affection? trust? mutuality? acceptance? kindness? and openness?
For feeling? for unhurried ease and forgetfulness?
For spacious, appreciative slowness?
For lazy, warm togetherness?
For being sentimental, playful and voluptuous?

Do you like your body? Are you at home with it?
Do you enjoy sexual feelings and reverie?
Do you share sexual fantasies with your partner?

Or perhaps you prefer close friendship to sexual intimacy?

Do you need more balance in relation to sexuality?
Or to be looser, more uninhibited, more expressive?
What’s the scariest thing about sex? The best thing?

How’s your love life? What would be the perfect love life for you?

What would your partner like, that you are not doing (enough)?
What would you like, that your partner isn’t doing (enough)?

What space does intimacy have in your life?
Can you share and hear strong or difficult feelings?

Do you listen to your own feelings and needs?
Do you give appropriate weight to them?

What would be the perfect way to spend time together?
What is the very best thing about your relationship?

Sexuality is mysterious, puzzling, so close to us, and so little understood.
Do things go on here, perhaps, for which sex may only be a mask?

We need not be too much impressed by anything we are taught about these strange magnetic attractions and repulsions; about ecstasy and disgust. In this strange territory, we must explore for ourselves.

What is your own sense of your own sexual nature?
What is happening in you, when love and sex are calling?

This image which shakes you – what is it an image of?
Where is the true reflection, in this hall of mirrors?

What does intimacy mean to you?
What is romance?

What is fidelity?
What is marriage?

What is love?
What are you truly longing for?

It is deeply embarrassing to me, to have only such foolish and clunky questions to put here. I can only hope you will find a way of your own to reach into the depths behind.

More than anything, I hope you will yourself reflect with both tenderness and truth on the great issues of love and fidelity.


Family, allies, community

What is belonging?
How important is it to you to belong?

What is kindness?

Are there ways in which you twist yourself out of shape,
conceal your feelings and needs,
or betray your own values,
so that people won’t mock you, reject or look down on you?

Do you get caught in “shoulds”, from which you ought to free yourself?
Have you found ways to stand up to your family and friends when you need to?

How good are your boundaries?
Could they be clearer?
Or are they even too well-defended?

What do other people find really bugging about you?

Whom do you need to forgive? Is that possible?
Whom do you need to thank?

When are you going to say, “I’m sorry” ?
When are you going to say, “No way!” ?
When are you going to say, “I love you” ?


How do you get on with your family?
Who is your favourite?
Who is tough to be around?

What do you like most about family life?
What is a drag?

How are you with children and young people?
Do you enjoy playing and hanging out?

Do you have children of your own?
If not, would you like to have?

If you do have children, what is that like for you?
Is it rewarding, being a parent?
Or do you find it restricting and frustrating?

How do you deal with issues of authority?
What are your hopes and dreams for your family?

Do you load your children down with your dreams for them?
Do you allow your children to have their own dreams?


Sharing and giving are the ways of God.

—Native American saying

Who are your allies?
Who can you trust?
Who can you lean on?
Whose help do you need? Can you ask for it?
Who needs your help? Can you offer it?
Can you be specific about what help you need or are offering?


From what we get, we can make a living.
What we give, however, makes a life.

– Arthur Ashe

What place does giving have in your life?

What is your community like? Do you like these people?
What do you get out of living in this community?

What taboos thwart the life of your community, making it false and arid?
What taboos sustain the life of your community, so that it can thrive?

Is there any energy for giving in your life?
What are you giving back to your family?
To the community? To the world?

Do you have money to give? Skills to share? or to teach?
Do you have social experience, which others can benefit from?
Do you have time to give?

Do you have wisdom to share?
What is wisdom? And if you had it, would you know?

What is your special gift for giving?

It is always tempting to ask:

“If I stop to help this person, what will happen to me?”

We have to have the courage to reverse the question:

“If I do not stop to help, what will happen to them?”

That’s the question before you now.

Looking at your life as a whole

Visions by Janet Pfunder

An image of the future

Looking at these nine specific life-areas…

Which are dominant?
Which are neglected, stuck or thwarted?

What is your vision of a balanced life, seen as a whole?
What is your vision for your future life, seen as a whole?

Let a pattern of detailed, specific, vivid images emerge…

Each of these images brings with it a mood and feelings.
Sense into the felt quality of each image, and see what comes there.

What can you do now, to bring your life into balance?
What can you do soon?

So let’s not lie to ourselves, OK?

What are you going to do?
Decide on specific upfront next actions.

To refine any action step, ask four questions –

Is it do-able?
Is it will-do-able?
Is it review-able?
Is it celebrate-able?

What is the timescale?
How are you going to follow up?

Reading the blueprint

The blueprint is “How life should be”.

No matter what has happened in your life, no matter how deeply conditioned you are to feel and think and act in certain ways, layers of conditioning are never the bedrock.

Beneath all of that stuff, there is a texture of deep, natural oughts. A few of these we can say, very roughly –

“Every child ought to be loved”
“Nobody should be abandoned or betrayed”
“Everybody ought to be allowed self-expression”
“Nobody should be humiliated”
“Everybody needs to find emotional and imaginative and sexual fulfilment”
“Nobody ought to be raped or abused, starved or brutalised”
“Everybody needs to be treated kindly and fairly”
“Nobody should treated as a means, a mere instrument to be used for another’s ends”
“Everybody needs to be seen, to find understanding from others”
“Nobody should be discarded, thrown to the side, cast away or treated as refuse”
“Everybody needs to live from a sense of human belonging”
“Nobody should live in fear”
“Everybody needs forgiveness”

– and so forth.

At certain moments, when a listener names some natural value, which the blueprint holds implicitly, the person may experience a deep flowing current of relief – a profound inner carrying forward of what should have been lived, but was stopped in its tracks.

A stage of growth which has been obstructed for many years may sometimes “fill itself in” (the phrase is Gene Gendlin’s). This may take only a few minutes, when a person comes into contact with the experiential blueprint; with what should have been.

Of course, if naming a value has no experiential effect, the listener will go straight back (as always) to close listening, and make no fuss. The naming may have stirred up some deep echo, way down in the person; or this value may simply not resonate just now.

Treating your life as a story

In some ways, life is like a story, which we tell ourselves. How would it be, if you were to tell yourself some new stories?

How would you like your life to unfold? Are you living the life which is natural for you? Are you writing your own script – or are you reading from a script, written for you by others during your childhood?

Changes will happen in your life and feelings, when you re-write the script. You will want to be aware of them, to notice, when you are living differently – that is, when some pattern changes.

Here are four methods, useful in a life-review, which are strikingly powerful and elegant (I learned them from Bala Jaison and from the “brief therapy” of Steve de Shazer):

  1. Scaling On a scale from 0-10, how OK is this?
  2. Looking for exceptions Think of a context in your life, where the problem is NOT.
  3. The miracle question When this problem is all solved, what will your life be like? What changes in your life will other people notice?
  4. Observation tasks Notice when something is different.

So on the one hand there is the blueprint; and on the other, the script. The script is “The life plan which others wrote for me”. In effect, it is over-written on the blueprint.

It is more or less impossible to grow up, without learning a script. I wonder which of the following scripts ring bells for you:

“I am a winner”
“I will always struggle, and never achieve”
“I am an athlete”
“I am not OK”
“I am the pretty one”
“I must never put myself first”
“I must never feel grief or sadness”
“I will always be loveable”
“Nobody can be trusted”
“I must be good”
“Life is always a little grey”
“Work comes first”
“Other people have rights before me”
“I hate children”
“It’s safer to be invisible”
“I am (not) competitive”
“I mustn’t be selfish”
“Sex is evil, scary and messy”
“I am a cheat and a liar”
“Life’s a bitch and then you die”
“I have to be reliable and prudent”
“I am over-emotional, and will always suffer”
“You have to look after Number One”
“It’s bound to go wrong”
“I must be brave and reckless”
“Share and share alike”
“I am an angry person”
“I am inferior”
“I am creative and artistic”
“I am an outsider”
“Everything that happens is my responsibility”
“I will always feel tired”
“I am the leader”
“You always lose (or hurt) the one you love”
“I will have a weak heart, and die young”
“I am brainy, but I have no common sense”
“I must stay in control”
“I will always have to try harder than other people”
“I will always be skating on thin ice”
“Money doesn’t grow on trees”
“I am clumsy”
“I will always be rejected”
“I am here to take care of people”
“It is always already too late”
“I must always know what other people are feeling before they know it themselves”
“I will always feel sad”
“I am helpless”
“I will never find love”
“I am weak and unwell”
“I can only live at second hand, through other people’s living”
“I make no commitments”
“What’s the point?”
“I was born for glory and power”
“I must never be angry”
“I will never belong”
“I must always look after Mummy”

I tend to think that script-forming is natural to us, a part of our social nature.

Scripts can be benign – perhaps most people find that some parts of the script match their sense of who they are, supporting them as they face the world.

But there is no doubt that script-writing goes badly wrong. A script may be a blight, or a hard frost, a cold foggy darkness, or a millstone round your neck.

And so the twelfth step in the practice of reviewing our want-tos and have-tos is to study the script you have grown up into; possibly to rewrite parts or all of it, but more probably to let them fall away.

For clearly, dealing with the script will be mostly a matter of unlearning, rather than of pasting on yet more layers.

Unfortunately, the script is like a Rosetta Stone. It may take years to decipher. A clue comes here, a clue there. A friend or a stranger may be able to read a line which is murky to you; or other people may obscure your lines by fulsome praise, when you are being (not your true, but) your scripted self.

For many people, the hardest place to be true is amongst family members. Both gross and subtle coercion is used by families, to shrivel a person back into their script.

Far more than any other practice, close listening tends to free a person from the scripted lines. The person, who feels deeply heard (and deeply seen), begins to discard layers of inauthenticity. Pretences fall away one by one, quietly and naturally.

Being in the body is crucial – for the body cannot lie. Situational focusing is a further powerful way to loosen the script. Story-writing and journal-keeping often help. Movies and stories, music and images tend to stir things up, to free us to be ourselves.

For if I am not going to be myself (if my life is going to be a lie and a fiction), well really, what IS the point?

And so the practice of want-tos and have-tos, which seems perhaps at first a little mechanical, a little superficial, turns out to hold a key to integrity and authenticity.

Little by little, energy which has been bound up in keeping me false and twisted gets to be freed up. I come to live as the person I truly am.

The metascript – drift or drive

When we are very young, the big people in their big world seem to know everything. We feel helpless, but they can do whatever they like. We are the weak. They are the strong.

Young children respond in two ways to this state of affairs. Each way has a slogan:

  1. “I can do it all of myself”. That is, “One day I’ll show you all.” – The strategy is one of turning towards life.
  2. “Can’t, won’t, shan’t.” Or, “I’ll never be able to do all that.” – The strategy is one of turning away from life.

More simply, I call this choice “drift or drive”. One child decides to drift, to be helpless, to flee, to give up on engagement. The other decides to act, to fight, to be independent, to take life by the throat.

I think that in many of us, drift or drive functions at two levels. There is the broad global choice which we made as children – our metascript. But also, we fluctuate from day to day, and context to context.

A strikingly independent person may subside into passivity, when faced with illness and hospitalisation. Traumatic life-events may throw even a confident person into a state of confusion and helplessness – perhaps frozen, or terribly over-sensitive.

Conversely, a hesitant and evasive person may be highly competent and decisive in some one area; or may notice that other people too “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

Given this continual fluctuation between drift and drive, the final step in our systematic life review is to explore it.

You need to be observant – to notice what situations or contexts trigger a drifting or evasive pattern of response, what patterns of feeling or illness happen, which enforce it; and on the other hand, what situations set you up to be active, competent and capable, or even to be rigidly, excessively independent.

You may even decide to change the strategy chosen in early childhood. How about that?

A choice of metascript is not final.

Your Projects

Getting things done

This is about creating order in your life at a basic level, keeping track of the things you have to do, and getting them done.

Countless people are stuck, because their lives are flooded with emails and other demands; because filing is just not happening; because the eyes are bigger than the stomach. More and more things keep pouring into our already saturated lives. Modern life is pretty crazy.

As David Allen points out in his splendid book, ‘Getting Things Done’, we need to build order from the ground up. Don’t start with the big picture. Start right here, where your desk is a mess, your files need updated, and you are letting yourself get committed to things which you can’t possibly do.

This is a cyclical process, with four stages –

  1. Collection
  2. Decision
  3. Action
  4. Learning

This section ends with a note on evasiveness as a spiritual practice.


First of all, you have to gather together ALL your loose ends.

Anything left hanging is a weight on your mind, which is ill-designed for holding onto stray information. Collect together everything you haven’t yet done – which you have to do, or want to do, or feel you ought to do, or might do one day. Everything.

Decision (+ projects)

Second, you have to make an upfront decision about every single item. Don’t postpone. You MUST decide.

Just work through:

  1. Throw out all the rubbish. File the things you want to keep. Do any little two-minute actions as they come along.
  2. Say “No” promptly to whatever is unnecessary, or adds nothing, or is a side-issue, or which (in fact) you will never get done, or which is too much to take on.
  3. Delegate what you can, and set up a waiting for list, so that nothing falls out of your life.
  4. As for the remaining actions, they go into a system of lists, if they are not time-specific; into your diary or calendar, if they must done at a certain time.
  5. For any item, if it requires more than one step, then it is a project. Here the word “project” means “anything you intend to do which requires more than one action”. Any project goes on your project list, and may need its own project file.


Another New Fish by Jila Peacock

Third, you have to DO the actions you just decided on. There are two cases here:

  1. Since you now have everything under control, you can act very freely, trusting your instinct from moment to moment.
  2. But when you are working through a certain kind of actions, it generally pays to be dogged. Work through steadily. Don’t keep picking and choosing. Don’t avoid the next one on the list.

Just do it.

Learning (+ review)

A week has gone by, and chaos is creeping back.

You have to review:

  • Where did I get to?
  • What loose ends are gathering?
  • What am I avoiding?
  • Where is trouble brewing?
  • What did I learn?

Did you do what you decided to do? What happened? What worked? What didn’t work? What can still be streamlined? What will you do differently next time?

Every week, as you restore the system to order, you see what you can learn.

Once in a while, you step back and make a much wider assessment of where you are now, in both these respects:

  • Where does chaos still loom in my life?
  • What have I learned over the past while?

Keep answering the master-question:

  • What am I going to do?

By applying the four-stage process of getting things done consistently, you will transform your life and your consciousness. This is the most direct and powerful context for the cycle of action and learning.

You will feel free and have a clear mind, because you are no longer desperately clinging to lots of unrecorded loose ends – and you will be learning a great deal in the process.

Evasiveness as a spiritual practice

Getting things done is demanding, because we lie to ourselves, and are ruled by habitual evasions. So it becomes a spiritual practice, in which we search out our weakness and destructive self-indulgence, and look at them eye to eye.

The secret of getting this process to work for you is to track down your weak links and fix them. You may not like doing this. You may kick and scream. But you will like the results.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. So when you deal with some seemingly trivial evasion, the good effects may be disproportionate.

Finding-and-fixing can become a passion. It’s well known that people who least need to refine these skills are just the people keenest to make yet more progress.

Your Projects

The cycle of action & learning

The Ascent of Tiger Mountain by Jila Peacock

This section is about learning from what happened, when you did what you just did.

Here we are exploiting the power of the feedback loop. In other words, by being very sensitive to how the world responds to your actions, you are able to tune what you do more and more finely.

When we come to feel differently, we act differently. This may go both ways. In action, we learn – and as we learn, feelings are transformed.

How can you be sure that your actions are your own? How do you know that the judgments on which they are founded have not been fed into you by your parents, your peers, your partner, your staff, advertisers or the media?

The answers to these questions are found by developing a rhythm of action-and-learning, tuning each new action on the basis of what just happened.

Of each small new action step, ask these questions:

  • Is it do-able?
  • Is it will-do-able?
  • Is it review-able?
  • Is it celebrate-able?

That is:

  • Is it practicable?
  • Will you in fact do it?
  • Is it clear and specific? – with no room for doubt, whether it has been done or not?
  • Will you be glad you did it? – no matter how it works out?

And further:

  • What is the timescale?
  • How are you going to follow up?

The Ascent of Tiger Mountain by Jila Peacock

So you do something, and you learn something. The next action is more fine-tuned, and the learning more powerful.

You keep track of your actions; and watch carefully what happens. This is an ongoing process of feedback looping, which works consistently to re-shape your life as a whole.

The rhythm of action-and-learning generates the reality of your freedom.

Your Projects

Your Projects

Seafarer by Jila Peacock

This part of the site is about taking charge of your outer life, about your dealings with the world.

Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told,
“I am with you kid. Let’s go.”

—Maya Angelou

You need to bring order, balance and focus to your life in the world – your work, your projects, your time out and your future. You have to know where you are going, to assert yourself as the person you are.

You need to live out your own gifts.

The five sections are:

  1. The cycle of action and learning
  2. Getting things done
  3. Want-tos and have-tos
  4. The act of creation
  5. Community feeling.

There are two practices here:

1 The cycle of action and learning is the foundation of action (as close listening is of human relationships). It has two applications here:

  • Getting things done is a foreground application, a matter of paying close attention to the details of living from day to day.
  • Want-tos and have-tos is a background application, in which you review your life systematically, conjuring up a fresh vision of who you are and where you are going.

2 The act of creation is about bringing a project to life. This is a natural, non-linear model of the creative process.

Finally, the section about community feeling puts your life and projects into the context of human society and the wider world.