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Adventures in Clean: An Unbeatable Experience


I travelled from Malaysia to the UK forAdventures in Clean for three reasons. First of all, I am constantly looking out for opportunities to deepen my skills and to become a better Clean Language coach. Secondly, when I came to Northern Taste of Clean last year, several friends who had been on the 2015 Adventures told me about the powerful insights and life-changing moments they had had. I wanted that kind of experience, too. And my third reason was that it was an opportunity to work with all five Clean Language experts in one place.

It was a really powerful experience. When I had signed up, almost a year earlier, I had a very clear desired outcome – to find a partner and be in a relationship. But when I turned up I found I no longer had this desire, and I was bewildered. Where had this desire gone to when I had been so certain about it? “Not knowing”, when something had been so clear to me before, was a real struggle for me. And I wondered what I would get out of Adventures if I didn’t know anymore what it was I wanted.

And then, in one session, with Penny Tompkins, I realised I was grieving. But I didn’t know what for… more not knowing. And thenI realised that a part of me – my body – did know, even if my head didn’t know. That was a powerful insight, to recognise that part of me did know. It is now much clearer to me that if I am intellectually struggling with something, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the other parts of me that do know, especially my body.

I had three or four sessions over the four days dealing with this life issue, and outside of those sessions a lot of other things fell into place for me. For many years, whenever anyone asked me about my relationship status, I’d say things like, “Oh, what do I need a man for?” or“I’m happier being single.” But my words didn’t match my desire, and I wondered about that contradiction.

Then while I was being coached by one of the other participants – as a learning experience for her – I discovered that the unconscious metaphor I had been living by was that of an equation: 1 + 1 = 2. Because there was just “1” while I was single, and no “+ 1”, it meant I couldn’t be a “2”. And so I needed to make my “1” really huge, to compensate for that deficiency, so that I could feel like I was a “2” even if I was single.

So I developed a new metaphor for being single or in a relationship – a metaphor of ever-expanding space, where stars can die and new stars can be born. And stars dying and being born do not shrink that space – they allow for the space to continue stretching. Since then I have been less dismissive of people who are in relationships and less defensive about my status because being single no longer has a reductive quality to it. And since the workshop, I have met at least one interesting man, which is much better than not meeting anyone interesting in Malaysia at all.

I found that the space co-created by the five facilitators and the participants had a kind of intelligence of its own. Before I arrived, I was clear I wanted Marian and Caitlin to facilitate me. Penny and James have coached me before and I wanted to experience different facilitators. My first session was facilitated by Marian and Penny, and then it just happened – due to timetabling and other factors - that Penny was coaching me. This was not what I initially wanted, but as it happened, she was the right person to coach me because of her own experiences. I had a plan but the space had a different idea, in a way that was really useful to me.

Another valuable part of the experience was being able to watch the five facilitators work with other people and to have the process paused so we could all ask modelling questions of what they were all doing. I discovered that each of them has a different structure of thinking about a session. My challenge when I’m coaching is that I’m liable to go down a rabbit hole with the client. Marian said she asks very few “moving time”questions; she tends to stay with the metaphors that emerge and encourage them to develop fully. Caitlin has a metaphor of spokes of a bicycle and going in and out. Each has a structure for staying and developing. I haven’t done any coaching since I’ve been back, but I have some client-work coming up, and I am hoping my coaching will have improved as a result.

The whole experience was like climbing a little mountain. (Little, because I don’t like hiking.) I didn’t know whereI was heading and then with the help of the different facilitators I began climbing. I reached different altitudes and at each ledge I could look out and discover new things. Now I know I still have more to climb – and I’m not so afraid of climbing. It was really rewarding, even though I didn’t know where I was going in the beginning. The Clean Language questions were like the pickaxes and ropes – the things mountaineers use to help them to climb, and the five facilitators stayed with me on the mountain, every step of the way.

It was an unbeatable experience. And I am very much hoping to attend Adventures again!

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About Jacqueline Ann Surin

Jacqueline Ann Surin's avatar

Jacqueline Ann Surin is a Level 1 Clean Facilitator, the first Master Level Systemic Modeller in Asia, and is qualified as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with the ICF. She is an associate of Clean Learning and Training Attention in the UK, and a specialist-partner of the Singapore-based BeInClarity. She was previously an award-winning journalist and has a published chapter in Clean Language Interviewing: Principles and applications for researchers and practitioners.

She can be found on LinkedIn.

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