Live in tension. Live intentionally.

A few days ago I was involved in a conversation where each person shared a phrase that has come up often in our lives, that carries a lot of our life philosophy in it. You guessed it, mine was “Live in tension. Live intentionally.”

I have come to realise that in some way or another there is always a level of tension in my life. The tension I live in has many different sources, some are easier to manage than others. (I want to just make a proviso here that I am not writing about living with chronic anxiety, PTSD and panic attacks. Please get professional help if that describes you.)

Sometimes this experience of tension can be related to choices I have to make. I have so many ideas but it is impossible to pursue them all. There are a number of people in my life with expectations of me that may conflict with my own priorities. There is only so much I can do with my time and resources.

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Supporting societal integration through Integration Coaching

I recently blogged about my coaching niche as a Personal Integration Coach, and also how beneficial it is to individuals to achieve cohesion of our emotional, psychological, vocational, relational, societal and spiritual dimensions.

The beauty of the word “integration” is that it does not just apply to an individual, but also to teams, organisations, communities and society. “Integration” also includes the process of incorporating different groups or races as equals into society – this still remains a challenge in South Africa, and will only be overcome through concerted and targeted efforts. Over the last five years I have been involved in and have facilitated many conversations and dialogues about inter-racial relationships, and overcoming the barriers cannot be a one-sided effort. The only way to move towards integrated diversity is together.

“Why bother?” is a question I have heard mumbled under people’s breaths. “It feels uncomfortable, and I have tried before and failed.” According to Desmond Tutu, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” I believe we experience greater freedom ourselves if we flourish together. We want our organisations to be successful for the sake of all stakeholders (including ourselves). A more cohesive team will achieve better results. And better integration in the workplace can have an overflowing ripple effect into society. A greater societal cohesion could be part of our new normal – a positive application of lessons learnt from the experiences of the pandemic and lockdown over the last few months.

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Our first Diversity Dialogue online!

A reason to celebrate – on Saturday 22 August we facilitated our first online Diversity Dialogue! We appreciate everyone who brought their time and energy into that space, especially those who felt some trepidation at doing something new technologically! Our topic was “Sensitizing the Church to Gender Based Violence”. We would like to share some highlights…

It was apparent during the dialogue, that there are many churches where the teaching seems to be more about rules and gender roles than about Jesus’ love for sinners. In many churches, women do not feel they are seen for who they are because they feel they have to fit into a small and rigid role and cannot be authentically themselves. There was a sense of mourning and lament for the loss of their potential skills and talents that could have contributed to life together but were not enjoyed by the community.

In both community life and Bible teaching, we need to develop an equal focus on the perpetrator and the victim. Bible teaching should be about the real people described in the Bible, with their faults and sins. The heroes of the faith should not be “sugar-coated”. In our practical lives, we can accept all broken people including those who are aggressive or alcoholics, and deal with their hurt. We can work with men who are in pain, allowing them space to heal before their pain leads to violence.

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Integrating all aspects of YOU

While I was doing my coaching course, we were advised to focus on finding and developing our own niche as coaches. My thought process kept bringing me back to the term “integration” – a concept that has often featured in my life, in a number of ways.

I was first introduced to “integration” when, as an Occupational Therapy student in the nineties, we learnt about how better results are achieved when the two sides of our bodies and brains work together. Much more so, than when we rely on only one side. Integration can be defined as the process of combining two or more things in an effective way so that they form a unified whole that is more than merely the sum of its parts. Disintegration then is the loss of effectiveness, cohesion, strength – a process of fragmenting or falling apart. We experience disintegration when we feel overwhelmed by external and internal stressors and challenges, when our parts are not working together smoothly.

When we experience stressful circumstances, we often struggle with strong emotions like anger, pain, anxiety and fear. It feels like they are taking over our lives, and often we try to avoid dealing with them for as long as possible. However, suppressing them often results in an uncontrolled pressure-cooker effect: the pot boils over or even explodes, often when it is most inconvenient.

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Why journal?

The benefits  of journaling have come up often in the coaching courses I have been doing. It is seen to be such a good practice for us at this uncertain time in our history. So I asked a friend of mine, Kholofelo Zondo, who I consider an expert on the subject, to share some of her thoughts:


Journaling has been proven to be therapeutic and a great source for life management. It creates an environment for a paradigm shift, allowing the mind to open up to new ideas, dreams and possibilities.

Some of the benefits:

  • Living Life Mindfully

Journaling forces you to stop and reflect on seemingly minor events. Being mindful in a journal might make it easier to become more mindful in the moment. During the process of writing about your day and your interactions with others, you may notice a number of different things, e.g.:

–              Negative patterns repeating themselves in your thoughts and deeds.

–              Problems in your personal relationships.

–              Personal needs you haven’t been paying attention to.

–              Alternative ways of responding to stress.

***When people write down their feelings they’re making themselves more aware of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

  • Establishing a Positive Mind-set
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Missing your smile…

When last did you see a smile on someone’s “exposed” face? I have found myself looking forward to whatsapp video calls where I can see peoples’ unmasked faces…and that got me thinking about smiles, facial expressions, how much communication happens non-verbally and what effect masks will have on our communication now and in the future. So I thought I would write something upbeat about finding alternative opportunities for communicating and smiling more with our eyes. A quick look at the internet and my blogpost would be done. That was Monday – I have emerged almost 3 days later with more questions than answers. I did not realise that the science of the smile is so complicated!

Apparently there are between 19 and 50 different smiles meaning different things. The consensus seems to be that 6 of them are positive. The rest happen when we are experiencing pain, discomfort, misery, anger, contempt, embarrassment, confusion, surprise and horror. (Some of the experiments that demonstrated this are horrific!) We also tend to smile when we are lost and when we are lying. There really seems to be a smile for every occasion! So, how do we actually understand what a smile means?

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Eating for greater Happiness

At this stage, we are experiencing challenging emotions around many issues in our lives. For some there may be a very real concern about where the next meal is coming from. Even for those of us who do not need to worry about this, the emotions regularly associated with food are often uncomfortable. Why? Michael Pollan claims that nutritionism has a lot to do with it. According to nutritionism, the point of eating is to maintain and promote bodily health, which means there are good and bad nutrients. The labels have changed over time, depending on what trend we are currently following. As a result, anxiety around whether we are eating correctly accompanies our meals. If we cheat and break the rules, we feel guilty. Many of us suffer from Orthorexia nervosa – an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Pleasure, joy and gratitude for food have become counter-cultural. Eating for pleasure, as a social act or as an expression of identity are not considered much…

Some of the pitfalls of this approach include that the quality of our food is not discerned. When food is analysed into its nutrient parts, some parts are overlooked or not yet understood. Food can be taken out of its context:

  • If I eat a fruit with its peel, my body digests it differently to when I eat it without the peel.
  • In the context of my plate, one type of food interacts with other food on my plate.
  • The specific environment my food develops in makes a difference to the quality of my food, e.g. the food a cow is given influences the quality of the meat.
  • Food eaten needs to be seen in the context of my overall lifestyle.

As a result of nutritionism processed foods may mistakenly be regarded as healthier than natural ones because they have the required amount of a specific nutrient.  In reality, the less refined, the better the quality of our food is, but it is much easier to slap health claims on sugary cereal boxes than on raw foods.

How can we reclaim a more positive attitude to eating?

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Mahutsana mo nakong ya Kganelo-ya-Motsamao (SeTswana translation of Grieving during Lockdown)

Mmaago tsala ya me o tlhokofetse mo tshiping eno. Ka ntlha ya Motsamao o o kganelwang, le bokgalaka jwa magae go katogana, ga a kgone go gomotsiwa le go gomotsa ba gaabo jaaka tlwaelo. Batshedisi ka bontsi ba tlaa amega maswe mo dibekeng tse di mmalwa, Tse di latelang. (Tekanyetso ya Palo ya baswi ke 1500 ka letsatsi mo Aforika Borwa ka nako eno ya Kganelo-ya-Motsamao) Moswelwa a ka gomotsega jang mo nakong ya Kganelo – Motsamao? Re ka kgona jang go gomotsa bangwe ka rona? Re ka kgona jang go ba ama, go ba kgomarela magetleng le go Lela mmogo le bona fa le rona re tlhoka kgomotso gonne re tlhokafaletswe ke ba
balekane? Kgang eno e thata go umakiwa le go rarabololwa. Go nna thata le go feta fa re e akanya. Re pateletshega go buisana le go e sekaseka mmogo. Maikaelelo ke gore re seke ra iphitlhela re ketefalelwa ke go ithuta le go thusa bakaulengwe.
Ditshitshinyo tse di latelang ga di kake tsa dirolola se se diragetseng. Ka mokgwa mongwe, di ka gomotsa ba ba amelweng ke Leroborobo.
Molao ga o re letile go felegetsa setopo kwa dirapeng jaaka tlwaelo. Re ka romela melaetsa ya matshidiso.
Dithapelo tsa ka metlha di ka tsweletswa go fitlha letsatsi la phitlho. (Seno se ka dirwa ka mekgwa e e latelang)
Mokgwa wa ntlha:
 Tsamaiso yotlhe ya poloko e ka rulaganngwa  le ba tsa ditlhaeletsano ‘Apps’  kgotsa ‘social media’
Mokgwa wa bobedi:
Tsamaiso yotlhe ya poloko e ka dirwa go ntle le ba ditlhaeletsano gotlhelele.
Thuso kadiatla:
Ka maswabi, re palelwa ke go tshegetsa ba lapa ka matsogo, go rwala, go phutha le go baakanya dijo. Ka thulaganyo e e rileng, kwa metse-seteropong, go ka rekiwa dijo ka mefuta mme tsa romela kwa lapeng.
Matshidiso ka Madi.
Ba losika mmogo le batshegetsi ba ka romela madi ka tsela tse di latelang:
Mafaratlhatlha a ‘money transfer’ ka mefuta a ka dirisiwa.
Madi a tshegetso a ka romela ka tsela ya tlhaeletsano ka ‘App’
Madi a tshegetso a mogala-wa-letheka:
Madi ano a tlaa thusa lapa go begelwa batshegetsi ba ba gaufi le ba ba kgakala bonolo.
Molao ga o le tle setopo go lala kwa lapeng mme batshegetsi ba ka tswelela ka di fela tsa kgomotso kwa lapeng.
Tsatsi la poloko.
Molao o letla batho ba le 50 fela ka letsatsi la poloko. Tiro ya go khupetsa lebitla e tlaa ketefalelwa batshegetsi ka ntlha ya palo e nnye.
Batshegetsi ba ba kwa ntle ga palo 50, ba ka leba tsamaiso yotlhe ya poloko ka mokgwa wa tlhaeletsano ya ‘App’
Segopotso sa poloko.
kgatiso ya phitlho e ka dirwa ka’video’ gore e tle e nne segopotso le kgomotso go botlhe mo nakong e e tlang. Ba lapa ba ka abelana le batshegetsi kgatiso ‘video’ eno nako nngwe le nngwe mo isagweng.
Segopotso ka ba lapa:
Lenaneo la ba ba ithobaletseng e le ba lapa le ka kwalwa.  Ditshwantsho, dikgannyana tsa metlae, maitsholo a a tshegisang le dipina tse di neng di ratiwa di ka umakiwa. Ditiragalo tsa ‘Facebook’ di ka kwalwa mme tsotlhe tseno di tlaa nna le lefelo le le rileng mo lapeng go leboga le go ikgomotsa ka ba ba ithobaletseng.
Sejalo/malomo a ka jalwa mme a fiwa ba malapa jaaka Mpho, morago fa nako ya Kganelo-ya-Motsamao e khutlhile.
Tsweletso ya kgolagano le ba lapa:
Ka tiriso ya mogala wa letheka, matshidiso a ka romela  mo nakong ya mahutsana go fitlha nako eno e khutla. Ditumediso le keleletso masego, di ka dirwa gagwe le gape mo botshelong.
Ditebogo go batsaa karolo:
Ditebogo di lebisiwa go batsaa karolo ba ba itshokileng go tlatsa ka  tshitshinyo le maano a go tlhama lokwalo leno ‘Love Dignity Legacy’ le le imelang pelo, tlhaloganyo le mogopolo gonne le bua ka mahutsana le matshidiso mo lesong.
Thanks to Tiny Tshetlo for the translation!

Planning for laughter?!

Last time we had a closer look at the role of the neurotransmitters Oxytocin and Serotonin in experiences that lead to happiness. This time we will focus on how dopamine and the endorphins are produced and what we can do to stimulate their production.

 Dopamine produces a sense of excitement about an event that rewards us more than we expected. It can motivate us to take action toward goals, desires, and needs, and gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when we achieve them. Many of the goals we had before lockdown have had to be postponed indefinitely, like celebratory events, or holidays we planned. So to produce more dopamine, we can focus on goals that are possible given our current circumstances. Is there something that challenges you, maybe something you always wanted to do? It could be learning a new skill, finishing something you previously started, tidying up a specific area, writing a journal, recording memories for your grandchildren. Breaking the task into bite-size pieces, maybe making a start of just a few minutes, makes success easier to reach. Crucial to the process is that we celebrate the achievements in some way – giving yourself a “gold star” obviously won’t work, but doing something you really enjoy after meeting your goal may do the trick.

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When last did you hug someone?

Although I am all for understanding our challenging emotions and growing through them, we need some happiness to keep us creative in the way we address our challenges. Happiness is associated with some of the experiences we cannot currently enjoy given current restrictions, like going to a party, a night out with friends or a long awaited holiday. If we break it down to brain chemistry, this is when neurotransmitters like oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine and endorphins are released. It may feel reductionistic, but maybe there is something useful to learn here. I have been reading about these neurotransmitters and practical ways (not medical) that stimulate our “happy chemicals”. It is a vast and complicated subject, and in writing briefly about it, I will no-doubt oversimplify. Perhaps it encourages you to find out more detail…

When we are isolated, our oxytocin levels fall. It is related to our sense of belonging. How can we increase our connection with others while keeping our spatial distance in one-to-one conversations? We have grown so accustomed to interacting with whatsapp messages and they definitely have their value, but hearing a human voice in a phone conversation connects us more. A video call where we can see a face without a mask has an even more positive effect. Could we aIso create more group experiences? Our extended family regularly meets up in group video calls, but there are many other options. Uniting towards a common goal is part of belonging. One of the classic ways we usually do this is in supporting a sports team, or belonging to a club with a common interest, or joining a support group around a common challenge. Many of these are now happening online or – in the case of sports – before cameras without live audiences.

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