Archive for the ‘Introduction’ Category

Breathe in Good Company

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

I was asked last week why I called my company, “Breathe Personal and Organisational Development” – and in particular the reason for using the word ‘Breathe’ in the title.

I think names are very important as they give a first impression, and so I gave it a lot of thought. My aim was to find a word or phrase that encompassed everything that we offered. I eventually recognised that the most appropriate common denominator was breathing.

The on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia describes breathing as follows: “Conscious control of breathing is common in many forms of meditation, specifically forms of yoga for example pranayama unlike anapana which is only awareness of breath. In swimming, cardio fitness, speech or vocal training, one learns to discipline one’s breathing, initially consciously but later sub-consciously, for purposes other than life support. Human speech is also dependent on conscious breath control. Also breathing control is used in Buteyko method”.

I’m not aware of some of the techniques and methods mentioned in the definition, but you will find more detail on them on the internet. I am, however, aware of some of the benefits of effective breathing. These can include it:

  • Being a key to successful personal stress management
  • Reducing the impact of asthma through the effective use of particular techniques
  • Helping a person sleep more easily
  • Reducing a person’s heart rate
  • Being a method of helping control blood pressure
  • Enhancing performance because it helps people focus and relax

I’m not qualified to advise on a number of these, but I do know about the last of the bullet points – and that’s the reason behind the company name.

When we are preparing to deliver a presentation, dealing with a difficult staffing situation, being interviewed for a new job, or any other situation that we feel is going to be potentially challenging or stressful we need to maintain effective breathing.  The rest of our body and our faculties are counting on our breathing. They are ‘looking up’ to it for leadership, inspiration and support.

When it suddenly deserts us, we realise it – and suffer the consequences – very quickly. The loss of its leadership leads us to doubt our abilities, the lack of its inspiration stops us from searching for more positive thoughts and ideas, and the loss of its support can make us believe that everything we ever considered might go wrong in the particular situation will go wrong. An apparently hopeless situation.  And all because we’re not breathing very well.

This can result in anxiety, concern, fear, tension and other negative emotions – and we need positive emotions to enable us to breathe effectively. Hence why when some people see others suffering before or part way through a stressful experience, they say “Take a deep breath”. They are trying to help the person take control again. Whilst the advice is well intentioned, it is best to have learned how to breathe effectively prior to this point.

In brief, we need to breathe in through our nose and out through our mouth. By concentrating on breathing out there is more chance of avoiding shallow breathing and achieving deep breathing – which is the good place we need to.

In some ancient systems breathing was viewed as the foundation stone of health.  I believe that breathing is the foundation stone of effective performance and achieving our goals. Hence the name.


Great Railway Stations of the World

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Outside the UK, I find travelling by rail so much more enjoyable than by air. Yes, it’s slower, but it’s exciting, refreshing, romantic and so many other things. The main pleasure for me is the stations themselves – often towns within cities, sometimes cathedrals of their time and built recently enough to have a place in the modern world yet old enough to remind us of another era.

Take New York’s Grand Central Terminal. For starters, what a name – so much more appealling than Birmingham New Street or Wakefield Westgate!  The largest station in the world, marble everywhere, complete with a barrel-vaulted ceiling containing 2,500 stars, a Whispering Gallery and 22 restaurants.

Times have changed since Lauren Bacall – in her wonderful autobiography, “By Myself and Then Some” – describes how she left New York by train as a young actress to go to Los Angeles (and then meet and marry Dirk Bogarde ….). Three days on the train to get to Los Angeles – “The station was large, but nothing like Grand Central”, she writes. But no station is. It now  serves only the northern suburbs and Connecticut, but it still has a magical feel to it. I’m lucky to have been to it a couple of times, and if I ever go back to New York, Grand Central Terminal (along with the Brooklyn Bridge) are the two places I would always go back to.

Closer to home there are still stations that do offer that opportunity to get on a train and arrive the next day in another capital city. When I stand it a Parisian Station and see all the exciting places I could get to by jumping on one of the trains that are standing there, I get a shiver of excitement. A couple of times I have used European overnight sleeper trains and whilst they can seem like they are verging on Dickensian in their facilities, I don’t care – it is just such an evocative way to travel!

And so unlike the Eurostar experience. Generally efficient, but not a lot of fun. I feel like I am being herded, as at an airport. I can feel my enthusiasms for all things trains oozing out of the palms of my hands as I think about Eurostar, so enough of that.

Even closer to home we have the London Underground. I always enjoy going on the Underground as it reminds me of visits to London as a child, but I’m aware that people living in London may have a different take on it! I visited the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden earlier this month and was really surprised to see how many underground stations had closed over the years. For some reason I only thought that had happened with over ground trains.

And I see blogs being like railway stations. Virtual stations for the 21st century. People come and go – some people are regulars, some people visit occasionally. Some have a real hustle and bustle about them, others are less frequented. Some grow in size and are updated, others fall into disrepair and are closed. Some have a real ‘wow’ factor to them, others … well, others just don’t.

So what’s your favourite railway station and why?


A learning Journey

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Hi, and welcome to our blog!

When I say ‘our’ blog, I mean me (Paul) and you (the reader) as opposed to mine and Peta’s – I don’t think she will be posting too much, but we’ll have to wait and see.

This is all new to me – blogging – so it’s very exciting, mixed with a large dollop of trepidation. Actually, as I look at my metaphorical plate, the dollop of trepidation is significantly larger than the dollop of excitement, but hey-ho, let’s see what happens.

Your feedback will be very welcome, as will any suggestions for improvements. If there are 175,000 new blogs being created every day (as Paul Thewlis suggests), I’ll need to learn all the ropes.

So, you should see developments as the year goes on – I’m using this as a sort of live learning journey or event, and I’ll be interested to see, in a year’s timer (or perhaps sooner), how much I cringe (or otherwise) at these early posts!