Lessons from a Life Coach: Q&A with Mary Lunnen

Mary Lunnen Dare to Blossom

In recent years, the rise in popularity for getting yourself a Life Coach has left me asking many questions. Do I need one? Should I already have one? Shall I trade in my psychotherapist in for one? See, so many questions! 

If you are anything like me, you probably feel slightly overwhelmed as to what the wellness industry has to offer in terms of personal development. Goal setting became a huge trend last year, but as you and I both know, that’s a lot easier said than done – especially when you only have yourself to cheer you on and meet those goals.

For those of us who feel stuck, need a new approach, a change in life, more purpose, going through a transition or are not getting the results they want, setting a few goals alone isn’t always going to be so easy.

With that said, I often wonder if the magic of having a professional aid by your side, as you navigate your way through the uncertainties of life, could really help? I think so. 

I spoke with Mary Lunnen, owner of ‘Dare to Blossom’ Life Coaching about her life, quite literally, as a life coach to gain a fascinating insight in what she has to offer this ever growing industry.   

Emma: We’d love to know a little bit about your journey to becoming a Life coach. Looking back, what was the pivotal moment for you? 

Mary: Well, there have been a few. The first, and probably the biggest was my diagnosis of cervical cancer in 1994. Of course, that was not a pleasant experience however, it opened me to new ways of thinking and resulted in me deciding to change the way I lived my life. Some years later, I heard about life coaching, around the time of my first experience of being made redundant (this happened to me three times in total) – and I decided to pay for coaching for myself. My employer at that time did not include coaching as part of the support package, but I have never regretted that investment.

Emma: I was delighted to read that you were born in Lyndhurst, New Forest. This is the only place on the planet I manage to find real peace and as a result, I visit it as often as I can. Although you now live in Cornwall and have done for many years, no doubt you experience the tranquillity that those of us who live in busy cities often crave. I believe a lot of my own stress and mental health struggles have come from the lack of natural spaces surrounding me. Concrete jungle living paired with our obsession to stay digitally connected to everyone and everything is undoubtedly increasing mental health-related problems across the country. Do you notice a similarity amongst your clients – as in, the search for true human connection, harmony and inner peace against the backdrop of such stressful environments? 

Mary: Emma, I am so glad that you love the New Forest as much as I do. I visit only rarely but it has a very special place in my heart. Yes – I think we all have that longing for connection, peace and nature, certainly the people I work with do. I regularly post photos on my Facebook page from my walks (mostly here in Cornwall) on the coast and in the countryside, and people always respond. Even when I am in a city, I find it helps me to remember to notice: to look around at what greenery there is, even the tiny blade of grass or plant beside the pavement or the trees alongside the road. And to look up at the sky. Nature is all around us. I do feel sad when I see people rushing through their days, looking down. It used to be just at the ground, now of course it is at mobile phones. I love my online community and friends; technology enables me to talk to people around the world as if we are in a room together. And, it is for me crucial to switch off regularly as well, to connect with nature and with each other.

Emma: Prior to becoming a life coach you owned a craft business, Pydar Crafts, that travelled with you across Cornwall and Devon for almost 15 years. As a designer myself, I see and feel first hand how creativity feeds the soul. Have you managed to implement your creativity into your work as a Life Coach and if so, how do “non-creative” clients respond to the use of creativity or craft in therapeutic settings with you? 

Mary: Great question Emma. Firstly, I must say that technically life coaching is not a therapy, although it can be therapeutic, if that makes sense. There are very clear boundaries with therapies like counselling. I began training as a counsellor before finding out about coaching, and I am very aware of when someone might be better served by consulting someone from that sort of discipline. Simply put: coaching acknowledges where you are now and then looks at where you want to be, and how to get there. So, back to your question, absolutely, I bring creativity into everything I do, I think it would be impossible for me not to – it is part of who I am. In recent years, and especially since my last redundancy in May 2015 when I decided to focus full time on my business, I have found that bringing all the things I love into my work, enhances and deepens how it works for my clients. So, for example – my first book was called  “Dare to Blossom: Coaching and Creativity.”And the Dare to Blossom Rediscovery Cards and the Companion Guide that followed were the results of my own impulse to create. Sadly, I can no longer work on the enamel jewellery I used to create and sell through Pydar Crafts due to arthritis in my hands, but I have returned to another medium I began using at that time – wax painting. I usually have a display at my workshops and events, and the original paintings and greetings cards are available on my website too. Colour has always been such a powerful part of my life that it just has to be part of my coaching approach. It is very rare for any client not to respond to the use of the cards, with the single word and colour. Personally, I believe that everyone is creative, so there is no such thing as a ‘non-creative client’.  For example, if you are a whizz with maths and spreadsheets, you are still creating something of beauty and value.

Emma: What advice would you give to someone who is currently struggling to feel fulfilled, uncertain of their direction in life and worried about the future? 

Mary: Well, of course I would say this – but my advice would be to find someone who you trust to talk to, such as a life coach. Friends and family often do this brilliantly for you. The difference with a professional is that we are trained listeners: we provide a quiet safe space for you to hear yourself think. To be heard, and witnessed. And we act as a sounding board and a mirror for you to witness yourself. I often say to people that you cannot see what is right under your nose without a mirror (it is true, just try it!). The other point to make is that the space offered by a professional is totally confidential, non-judgemental and private. Most coaches offer a preliminary consultation – I certainly do. I work on Zoom video-conferencing so it doesn’t matter if you are down the road or on the other side of the world: we can each sit in comfort, with our feet up and a cuppa, and simply have a chat. Getting to know each other, and feeling you can trust the person you will be working with is vital. It can be scary making that first contact, but even if you choose not to take it further, you will always come away with some fresh insights for yourself. I also have a free resource I send to people, a ‘Wheel of Life’ exercise – you can request that via my website or the Dare to Blossom Life Coaching business page – it is a very simple exercise, which will probably not tell you anything you are not already aware of – but shows you in a visual, graphic way where aspects of your life are out of balance. Then you can choose where to take action.

Emma: Let’s talk about your Rediscovery Cards. I love anything tactile like this and can fully appreciate how helpful they are for personal development and self-reflection. How might someone use the cards you’ve created and where can we buy a pack? (I will link to your online site through your answer) 

Mary: I developed the cards about seven years ago now. Initially just to use in workshops, but people started asking to buy their own packs. I have a big collection of cards: from the original little Angel Cards, through all the beautifully illustrated oracle cards, medicine cards and so on. So, when I first had the idea, I did think ‘who am I to create yet another pack?’ But I knew the answer was that I had been given the idea to do something with and it was my job to bring them into physical reality and send them out into the world. The joy is that they are so simple, so direct. Just one word on a coloured background. Until you try them for yourself you may not imagine how powerful this can be. The beauty of this simplicity is that a big range of different people respond to them: children, teenagers, and people who may not be interested in the more elaborate cards. On my website, there is a page called ‘Rediscovery Stories’, where some people have shared their experiences. There are more examples in the Companion Guide to the book. It was a long time before I was persuaded to write the Guide. The principle behind the Rediscovery Cards is that you are rediscovering your own inner wisdom. Therefore, it is not for me or anyone else to tell you how to interpret a word, or a colour and what it may mean for you. I post a card every day in the ‘Dare to Blossom into Joy’ Facebook Group – and I know that even if I draw the same card two days running, it will bring a different insight each time. So, some people draw one card, others several as a spread. Some people use them in meditation, journaling, or as inspiration for collage and art work. I do all those at different times. They have become an integral part of my one to one coaching sessions: they shift your energy from focusing on a problem. Even when we have maybe worked on a plan and put actions in place to tackle that issue, your mind can be in the ‘problem-solving loop’. So, a random card (though they are never really random) – is a message from your inner wisdom, bringing you home to yourself, and giving you a deeper insight. I also use the cards in workshops, both in person and online, and in the ‘Stepping into Your Power’ mastermind groups. The cards are only available from my website and there is a discount if you buy the Companion Guide at the same time.

Emma: We are excited to see that you are exhibiting at the Holistic & Mystic Show for the first time this year and will be sharing your work through your “Rediscover Your Inner Wisdom” talk. What can visitors expect to take away from your talk? 

Mary: I am excited too, Emma. This all came about in a very synchronistic way when I had to postpone a workshop in London and still wanted to use the tickets I had bought to fly from Cornwall to Gatwick. My friend Susie Bridges suggested that I may like to attend the Show and here I am! As I am travelling with hand luggage my stand will be small – and I am honoured to be invited to give a talk. People who come along will be able to draw a card for themselves and see how the process can work for them. So, they will take away some insights and tools to use for themselves to reconnect with their inner wisdom. In a short talk there won’t be a lot of time, but I will be on my stand the rest of the day. Most people are already on this path of rediscovery, certainly those who are interested in attending this type of event. I know that the way I work fits in with any other practices people may already use: many therapists buy the cards to use at the ends of their treatment sessions for example – even tarot readers – which I find so delightful.

Emma: Finally, I’d like to ask, do you have a life coach? Where do you go to offload or unwind? What is your go-to thing to bring calm into your life? 

Mary: Oh yes, I most definitely do have a life coach! I believe passionately that everyone should have a coach. I work with different people at different times, maybe with a particular focus that I am looking at then, or simply to explore a different way of working. I always choose my ‘support team’ from people I am inspired by. Often it is a big investment, and, it is always worthwhile. My go-to thing, and to offload and unwind, is nature – as you said at the beginning of our conversation Emma, many people long for that connection. As well as that, and this is accessible to anyone, wherever you are, what I do is to return to my breath. To sit still, take three deep breaths: in…. pause… out. In…. pause… out. In…. pause… out. Simply by doing that, you will feel yourself dropping into your centre, into your heart. Even if you are unable to close your eyes, it will bring you to a still, quiet place within.

If you’d like to learn more about Mary and ‘Dare to Blossom’ you can find her website here.

You can meet Mary at our next Holistic & Mystic Event in Dorking and join her ‘Dare to Blossom: Rediscover Your Inner Wisdom‘ talk at 1:15pm on Sun 25th February, tickets for this event are available to purchase here.

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