What’s my journey?
Discovering I can choose who I am – and who I am determines my present and future
I am half British and half Chinese from Hong Kong. Living and travelling frequently between both countries showed me who we are is often influenced by our environment and culture.
Eating a meal with my English family involved a poised posture, delicate use of fork and knife, no elbows on the table and pre-made or frozen food featured. Eating with my Chinese family, food in the middle of the table was shared, eating with our hands was welcomed, food was bought fresh from the local market.
I fondly remember my Chinese grandmother laying down a thin plastic sheet on her circular dining room table. She placed two large woks on the table full of freshly steamed crabs. We ate the crabs with our hands. The remnants of the crab were left on the table. My grandmother simply collected the plastic sheet and placed it in the bin. I flexed between both of my families and quickly realised we’re not fixed and can have multiple ways of being.
Another key element which opened my mind to multiple possibilities is the book I read at 13 years of age – Use Your Head by Tony Buzan. A definitive classic operations manual for the brain, I discovered how to revolutionise the way I think and learn, wake up my senses and unlock just a fraction of the power of the 99% of my brain I wasn’t using.
From struggling with my dyslexia and the linear approach of teaching and books at school, I went from average grades to top marks. It scares me to think if I had resigned to my frustrations and concluded I was not intelligent. I believe my experience is testimony to how each of us are unique and full of potential. It’s our responsibility to find the resources and community to train and develop our potential.
I suddenly had clarity and permission to engage in a way which worked for me. I had tools to enable my reading and memory. My creativity was unleashed which initiated my career as an artist.
My artistic career was from 13 to 23 years of age. I sold my artworks to collectors and companies from an early age, I exhibited nationally and internationally, I received national recognition and became an academic scholar at Christ Church College, Oxford University for my studies at The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art.
A major body of paintings I did in my final year at Oxford took reference from Western Art and Chinese Art. I explored how my way of being affected what and how I painted. Even one breath had an impact on a stroke I made on the canvas. I purposefully made the size of the series my body span plus a step in each direction so that I had to move to create each painting. Each painting I made was different. This meant how we move determines what we are and produce. So to be truly creative I needed to master my movement, awareness and patterns.
During my final year at Oxford I received a lesson (not a session!) in Reflexology from my house mates. Reflexology has been used in many civilisations for thousands of years, including Egypt, India and China. On each foot there are reflex points which correspond to all of the organs, glands and internal structures of the body. Reflexology is the precise application of massage and pressure to these points in the feet. This application stimulates the body’s own healing process as physiological changes are activated.
My teacher Geraldine at the local Reflexology School happened to be the Ex-President of The Association of Reflexologists, UK. We really clicked and the lesson was inspiring. Through our bodies we are able to influence our own health and wellbeing. As a Reflexologist, I could support people develop a sustained sense of health and wellbeing.
There was huge overlap with my paintings and Reflexology. Geraldine invited me to attend her upcoming Reflexology Practitioner Training Course weekends while I completed my studies at Oxford. I attended three more times and each time was fascinating, complementing the many questions and reflections I had in the studio.
Training our ability to choose how we respond to life – redefining what’s possible
After my studies completed I decided to become a qualified Reflexologist. During the year of training I completed my final artworks and was fortunate to exhibit worldwide, including representing Great Britain in the Beijing Biennale ahead of the Olympic Games in 2008.
Practicing Reflexology shifted my art practice of philosophising on what it is to be human, creative and well into daily practice. I had to apply what I shared with my clients in my own life too, not just conceptualise.
Reflexology sessions are a quiet space where clients could take time to breathe, reflect and engage with themselves, be listened to, and progress on the areas of their life that are important to them. The touch and specific massage on the feet grounded their experience of themselves and brought greater attention to their body. My role was to be with them fully, raise attention to their body, support their progress and share knowledge from accredited sources.
It became apparent early on that many clients thought I could heal them or I would be the solution for them. This reflects our consumerist culture and institutionalised approach to health and wellbeing – visit a doctor, they will give you medicine and you’ll be okay. Though this may work in the short term, in the long term it is not sustainable as it does not address the root cause.
I personally experienced this in my own life too. After completing my Reflexology qualification I moved to Barcelona and opened my practice there. I lived in a different country, spoke another language, and was with different people. For a period of time life was rosy and exciting but soon my daily experience was surprisingly similar to what I knew of myself in the UK. I had taken a dose of novelty but needed to address my root cause if I wanted the truly transformative experience of myself and my life which I was looking for.
Fortunately I came across the Grinberg Method which teaches a range of skills that enable us to train our ability to be well. Sessions initially begin with learning how to breathe, relax, focus and use our body attention and control. These skills enable us to recognize how we automatically respond to situations, how these responses are in our body, and how to stop them – so we can consciously choose how we respond. Sessions combine touch, description tools and instructions to teach us how to regain our ability to progress towards our goal with clarity, recuperate our energy and create an actual change that appears in our life and body.
After personally benefiting from individual sessions I trained as a qualified Grinberg Method Practitioner over a four year period. Throughout my ten year practice, I was honoured to work with hundreds of people from all walks of life on what they were dealing with and what they really cared about. It was remarkable to see what we are truly capable of as human beings, what we have in common, including our challenges too.
I started using a variety of technology platforms and found it enabled the outcomes of my clients more than I expected. The ability to book online, make online payment, track sessions, and add appointments to one’s calendar meant clients had more time to focus on their sessions. The ability to receive information digitally in a timely manner and record, track and review their progress with data meant my clients learning was optimised.
I also began to personally apply and recommend my clients systems which enable an increasing scalable personal level of productivty. Marie Kondo and David Allen’s approaches create an unimaginable impact until you’ve personally applied and experienced them.
Mario Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying encourages tidying by category – not by location – beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, miscellaneous items, and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go. People around the world have been drawn to this philosophy not only due to its effectiveness, but also because it places great importance on being mindful, introspective and forward-looking.
David’s Allen’s book Getting Things Done encourages moving planned tasks and projects out of the mind by recording them externally and then breaking them into actionable work items. This allows attention to be focused on taking action on tasks, instead of recalling them.
Fascinated with the impact of methodologies and technology platforms, I transitioned into working in the healthcare and wellness technology sector. I wanted to understand how to scale our ability to learn, perform and be well using technology and frameworks.
I advised and worked with a number of health and wellness technology companies. It was fascinating to see the role of technology across verticals as well as common challenges. It strikes me how the industry is at the beginning of its journey and the transformation required by all stakeholders for technology to succeed at fulfilling its role.
If users did not have a sufficient level of digital literacy or motivation, engagement with the technology would be low. If doctors and health and wellbeing professionals did not adapt their clinical practice to integrate the technology effectively and continue reviewing their process, adoption would be low. If technology companies did not invest in supporting and training their users once they were on their platform, the curve of engagement and thus utility of the tool would reduce.
While working at healthcare technology company Huma I was invited to work in their People, Culture & Community team as People Operations & Wellbeing Lead. Huma’s vision is a world where every person lives their life to the fullest. They have created a mobile application to gather insights using remote monitoring to help partners understand, treat and prevent poor health. The opportunity to practice implementing wellness initiatives at scale within the organisation, enabled by technology was welcome.
The experience echoed my clinical practice of working with clients. One’s health and wellbeing at its heart requires responsibility, skill sets and being in action. Supporting structures will enable the sustainability of one’s practice. Saying hello to colleagues in the morning or stopping for lunch and eating with colleagues could make a significant difference to one’s own as well as others’ wellbeing within an organisation. An organisation’s role is to enable both at a structural and individual level the factors that can contribute to wellbeing. This includes corporate support for wellbeing, organisational policies such as flexible working, health and safety, mental health support and healthy lifestyle promotion.
An insightful journey of discovery, training and scaling brings me to my next chapter – how to create the conditions of true learning and transformation for people. The heart of not only being well, but developing any skill and fulfilling our potential is our ability to learn. The quicker we move from information, to knowledge, to action, to results, the quicker we progress. The speed of learning is a bottleneck we don’t realise is a factor in what holds us back. It’s a high leverage skill. Yet teachers do not often focus on how to optimise for their students learning. I will share more on this subject soon! For a sneak peek on what I’m building, follow my Twitter thread @CharlotCrowther!
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