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Cultures of Thinking Conference 2019 (& radio podcast interview)

This week I presented at The 7th Annual Cultures of Thinking Conference facilitating a 90-minute workshop. Each workshop was capped at 30 people and I was thrilled to have a full room of teachers and educators from various schools in my presence. I held an interactive workshop to allow the room of educators to feel what it is like on the receiving end as well as to show how teachable these topics are. We brainstormed together the themes of ‘Success and Failure’ and ‘Tone of Voice’ – two topics from my latest book THE KEY, A SOcial Emotional Toolkit for Teens.

The group was up and moving around the room writing and sharing their thoughts on how they define success, naming something they felt they had succeeded in, how they define failure and naming something they felt they failed at. This produced great discussion. Teenagers are always setting themselves up for failure rather than success. How many times have we heard a teen walk in to (or out of) an exam and say “I’m going to fail?” But what does failure to them actually mean? Below 90%? Below 50%? Who are they comparing themselves to and why? What role do teachers, friends and parents play? How does this affect their self esteem? Their levels of fear or anxiety? What can we as educators do about fear, anxiety, breathing, calming down, self esteem, comparisons, judgements, jealousy? It raises so many questions.

In my opinion we can do something about ALL of these things. We can educate our teens in these topics by giving them real, practical and tangible coping strategies to handle their emotions and feelings. In my latest book THE KEY, A Social Emotional Toolkit for Teens there are tips, tools and strategies for all of these things and together we went through a few.

The second half of the workshop was focused on our tone of voice. Recognising the tone of voice we use when we talk to other people – seeing our role in escalating or calming situations and the impact our tone has. Role playing was both fun (and possibly daunting for those involved) in seeing the different scenarios get played out across the room. Our tone of voice also impacts the way WE feel. Our tone, our body language and our choice of words (positive or negative) together effect the way we feel in our day to day and effect the way we feel about ourselves. Recognising that often these are choices we make and we can choose differently greatly helps our ability to help ourselves. I showed a video from THE KEY course on Tone of Voice – to show the practical application.

Each tricky topic from the book has a video to explain – what is it, how do we feel/sense it, what can we do for ourselves in real life and when do we need outside help.

The feedback from the group was positive and I hope that everyone enjoyed my workshop as much as I enjoyed teaching it.

The next day I was approached by Lisa Entwisle from Wellthy Living Radio Show Podcast for an interview on my work.

Here is the interview:

The 7th Annual Cultures of Thinking Conference.

I will be presenting at the Cultures of Thinking conference on Monday 19th August in Melbourne. At 1.50pm I will run a 90-minute workshop from my latest book THE KEY, A Social Emotional Toolkit for Teens to teachers and educators from all around Australia and the world. I have chosen two main topics from my book and in this workshop I plan to break down the theme of ‘success and failure’ and ‘tone of voice’ (with ourselves and with others). My aim is two-fold, to have the group experience learning, brainstorming, collaborating and sharing their thoughts, fears and ideas on these topics as well as have them realise that the topics are easily teachable to teenagers in their own class settings.

Go to my blog to see how it went.

Workshopping with teens in Romania

I was invited by my Romanian friend and colleague Ema to run a workshop at ‘Homing’ pop-up festival (25th June – 2nd July) in Timisoara, Romania, a city I had never been to in a country I knew nothing about. I had never thought to run a workshop there – I guess out of the naive viewpoint that locals wouldn’t speak English.

I agreed to be a part of this collaborative project on the concept of ‘home’ – leaving home, coming back home – in a country where young people finished school and almost immediately went overseas to further their career and educational opportunities. They learn German and English at school and are almost groomed to leave and start a ‘better life’ causing both a gap in the number of young people in the city and also a lack of connection between the older more traditional Romanians and the younger generation.

I was to run a workshop for ten teenagers and decided to run two evening sessions with adults too, mostly because I was there so why not! But here I want to talk about the teens. Ten 14-17 year olds and one twenty year old from the Heavenly Hell theatre group came and met me in the morning at Casa Artelor in downtown Timisoara for what was to be a three-hour creative writing workshop on the idea of home.

I had organised three to four activities and was a little nervous. By the end of the introduction I was feeling quite comfortable that I was on the presence of a group of confident, intelligent and perfect English speaking young people.

We never got past the first exercise which was about understanding where you think from and trusting yourself (trusting your gut) and believing in that space. We spent the next three-hours brainstorming, throwing around ideas, sharing concepts and thoughts and asking questions. Lots of questions.

The conversation turned to politics, spirituality, religion and trying to understand their place in such an orthodox country where thinking for yourself and voicing any opposition was still considered taboo by the powers that be. For me it was a tricky navigation of guiding young teenagers through trusting their doubts, concerns and their voice whilst recognising the country and culture that I was sitting in.

Once they recognised that sitting with me – an Australian author and counsellor was a safe place to voice their difficulties the questions got deeper and we went an hour over time allowing them to try and get to the bottom of what worried them – How do I found my spiritual path? How do I know if I am on the right path? Is there a wrong path? Where is God? How do we know?

And my favourite question that genuinely stopped me in my tracks when I had to answer this: “My priest tells me that if I don’t pray and come to church every week I will go to hell … but if you murder someone you can repent and still go to heaven. How does that make sense?”

I will never forget these incredible, bright, enthusiastic and inquisitive young human beings who both supported and challenged me in this new environment.

Here are some of the comments the students said afterwards.

“Such a fresh air in this traditional city you are. I didn’t get the answers but more questions to help put me on my path. Good to see that there are people whose stories can have a really nice impact on you. I’d love it if I could stay in this state of mind at least for a few more hours. This workshop was such an interesting one. Nice to meet you Romi.”

17 year-old.

“This meeting was really unexpected (in the most positive way). People like you inspire me to try new things – from religions to cultures and lifestyles and to be a better person. After getting to know a bit about you and your purpose I know that maybe that’s something that make me happy and feel fulfilled. Thank you for teaching us about what instinct and gut feeling is and how to use it. Thank you for coming to Romania and especially Timisoara. I will never forget you.”

17 year-old.

“In a really traditional country it is nice to have free and open discussions about such profound themes. I liked the first exercise but what I liked the most about this workshop is that the conversation flowed freely and it ended up being an interesting session of learning and deeper understanding not only of ourselves but the world. Good job Romi.”

15 year-old.

“… I was surprised to see how easily I could write because I have always said things in a complicated way in which people can not understand.”

17 year-old.

“It was a really good and relaxing atmosphere. I felt like I could talk about anything and it felt really good to see that there are people who share the same thoughts as I do because sometimes I feel like an outsider. At this workshop my mind felt relaxed because it didn’t need to always be prepared to give the ‘right answer’ and I learned how to handle my emotions and embrace spontaneity because sometimes what comes from the heart or the gut can be better than what comes from the brain. I felt that I received a new little family here when I was accepted as I am.”

15 year-old.

“Today I felt like I discovered a lot about myself and that felt really good. The boundaries that I had before just went away and I feel so much more ready to experience the beauty of life. I am not much of a writer but it was a really nice and warm experience.”

14 year-old.

“It was quite interesting to meet a person of likeminded mindset (double usage of mind – you know where this comes from). I read a lot of history and philosophy and the most recurring themes appeared here today. The gut of writing and the aspects of the body discussed were a cool way of looking at writing itself. It is also interesting how the other people interpreted it and even more how the discussion came about to a wider scope.”

20 year-old.

“Today was a very fun experience. We learned a lot, we chatted a lot and most important we had fun. The activities were smartly chosen because they had a purpose: to teach us how to handle life. I wish for myself in the future to participate in more workshops, projects and activities like this because I think it will help me grow up with hope, be smart and in a happy way.”

14 year-old.

 

 

My amazing trip to Samui

Once again I was invited by the amazing Anna Sugarman to host my ‘Writing From The Source’ workshop at her yoga teacher training in Bo Phut.

A small group this time but what a fantastic day of sharing, learning and fun. The girls-only group were certainly up for the challenge and were both brave and honest in their writing and discussion.

A special mention to Michelle who had the courage to face me in the ‘hot seat’ and discover the breath/writing based decision-making process I like to share through the art of gutism.

Of course it was not all work and no play, not with the combination of Anna and myself. She introduced me to delicious fancy cocktails at a gorgeous bar on the beach.

 

‘Stand Up’ Workshop

When the amazing International spoken word artist Fleassy Malay retured to Thailand, we both knew instantly that we needed to somehow collaborate and put something on together.

After some brainstorming we came up with…

‘Speak Up: Be Seen Be Heard’

A four-hour workshop in the beautiful Prana Hall with ten incredible, inspiring and motivated students… and boy what fun we had.

I facilitated the first two hours of creative writing; learning to express yourself through written word, break through fears, be creative, be true and honest with yourself and with lots of sharing in the circle.

The next two-hours facilitated by Fleassy was on how to take this confidence through written expression and use your voice. How to speak out loud, express out loud, be seen, be heard and do this with comfort and confidence.

As a participant in the last part of the workshop, watching and feeling as one by one we stood up in front of the group and learnt how to ‘just be’ with eyes on us was confronting for many. Standing there and speaking with a room full of eyes staring…. watching Fleassy bring out the best in each person one-by-one was great to be a part of. My favourite part was that break through moment as each person realised it for themselves… the cheers, the exhiliration, the laughter and joy was infectious.

What an incredible and fun day we all had. I hope Fleassy and I get to do it again one day whether in Melbourne or back here in Thailand.

Check out Fleassy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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