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Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story. In London’s whirlwind rush how can you find the time or the strength to be calm and make big decisions that are right for you? Step forward life coach Karen Liebenguth who coaxes out the best you can be… and it all starts with a walk in a park like Highbury Fields. Interview by Nicola Baird
“I always wanted to combine working with people and being in nature. All my life I’ve spent a lot of time outside and I’ve felt the positive impact of nature,” says Karen Liebenguth who grew up in Dusseldorf Germany, but has been in London for the past 13 years. We’re at the Oasis café on Highbury Fields, sitting outside with our coffees, under an umbrella that’s keeping off the light spring rain. Karen, wrapped up cosily in hat and waterproof jacket looks over Higbury Fields contentedly. “I’m passionate about making a difference in people’s lives – helping people to live their life more fully.”
Karen, 46, does this by working as a life coach. She sees all ages, men and women, but reckons many women come to her when they “are in their 40s and 50s. They want to know what to do with the next half of their life, and often don’t want to live like the first half of their life on what seems to be other people’s agenda.”
Tips for well-being
Go outside, even if it is only for 10 minutes. It doesn’t have to be a park or green space, you can always walk around the block.
Have a cup of tea sitting on the sofa or balcony or in your garden and do nothing. Try to create 10 minutes to half an hour every day where you do nothing.
Write down three things you are grateful for. Practicing gratitude helps people focus on positive things that happen. Our human psyche likes to focus on the negative but when you focus on things that haven’t worked you can’t ever remember someone smiling, or holding the door or offering a cup of tea. I like to think about what was the best bit of today – just by thinking about it I smile.
Well-being comes from reducing mind chatter. Stress is often a deep sense that life is too much so when you plan next week, allow some me time. Perhaps don’t watch the telly and don’t use Facebook or Twitter or email. You might find it helpful to say no to joining colleagues in the pub. Instead have one evening a week which belongs to yourself. You could do a yoga class, have a bath, read, paint, draw or pick up the phone and talk to a dear friend for a meaningful chat.
Occasionally take a day for reflection – be completely by yourself. It helps ideas come and helps you think things through. All my best ideas come when I’m on a solitary walk.
Inside or out?
Karen is happy to see clients at her consultation room, or on Skype, but finds that “90 per cent of my clients want sessions in green space”. Favourite places include Green Park and Victoria Park, near her Bethnal Green home, but she’s often on Highbury Fields, because she works part-time as a Life Coach at the Healthy Living Centre above Mother Earth on Highbury Corner. ““Walking next to each other is different to sitting opposite someone in a consulting rooms, it feels very equal.”
Life coaching is growing in popularity, and Karen’s unique approach in taking her clients into London’s green space seems to be working well. “People arrive on auto-pilot and at a fast pace. Then we walk across the land and they slow down. Our mind and body also slows down. The green space gives space for thinking. It allows the mind to flow and not let it get static and stuck.”
“People talk and I listen,” continues Karen. “Sometimes I reflect back what I hear. That’s beneficial for clients because they are reassured that I’m listening. I offer a lot of listening time – it’s unconditional as I have no agenda. For some people it’s all that’s needed, you can walk out of your problem into your own solution.”
Another challenge for many people is undoing parental expectations. “Our parents’ values are often with us for the first 40 years. That’s when people feel strong enough and grown-up enough to look at our own values and finally let go. A lot of people are deeply dissatisfied with their own life, they find it lacks purpose and meaning. A recurrent theme is that each one of us want to make a contribution and find our life’s purpose, something that serves a greater good – and leads to our spiritual or personal development.”
I love Mother Earth, on 282-284 St Paul’s Road, because it’s an organic shop and close to nature.
The Ecology Centre in Gillespie Park, by Arsenal tube, is a wonderful place. Find it at 191 Drayton Park, N5.
I sometimes go to the North London Buddhist Centre on Holloway Road for talks, classes and yoga.
My favourite restaurant on Upper Street is Galipolli. I like the one near the cinema as it has so many vegetarian choices, the staff are very friendly and you can sit there forever without being chucked out.
Just walk and talk
Using the space under the lovely London plane tree avenues and grassy lawn of Highbury Fields, Karen’s calmness and ability to ask the right questions seems to help everything fall into place.
So how does Karen unwind after hearing so many people’s worries?
She smiles in recognition but has the answer… “I go for a 10-12 mile walk at least once a month – and I have done for at least 12 years!”
One of her favourite walks on the south coast can be reached by train. “Just one hour and 20 minutes from Victoria train station is Seaford (change at Lewes) from there you can walk the Seven Sisters and the Cuckmere Valley and across the South Downs. It’s a beautiful walk.”
Then she laughs, leans forward and shares the emotional good sense that she hopes more of us will discover: “It makes me happy when people say ‘I might go outdoors a bit more’. My secret belief is if we all spent more time outdoors the world would look different and we’d all treasure the environment a bit more. It’s as simple as that.”
Email Karen for a free 30 minute taster session outdoors on Highbury Fields (or by phone or Skype). This offer applies to all new clients.
email: email@example.com tel: 07815 591279
Over to you
If you’d like to feature on this blog, or make a suggestion about anyone who grew up, lives or works in Islington please let me know, via firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
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This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.
Thanks for stopping by. Nicola