Jamie Colston

Facilitator, Catalyst, Coach, Parent

"Jamie has vision, strong organising capabilities, and the energy to make things happen. He is a tireless advocate of young people and the innovative contribution they can bring when given the opportunity. He is an innovator and a role model, always deepening his own professional practice as a change agent and facilitator, and on a personal level embodying values of openness creativity, and courage."

Tim ‘Mac’ Macartney, Founder, Embercombe

Coming out!

A few days ago, I came out to a few groups on facebook. I have been living with a dream and with a question that has emerged over many years and that I have been afraid of sharing. It is a big step, because for a long time I have questioned myself; who am I to dream this dream? Who am I to think that I have the skills and knowledge to contribute to this field of change? Who am I to think that my voice matters?

What has changed for me to begin this new path is that I know right now that it is the only thing that fully motivates me. The only thing that makes me feel fully alive with an abundance of energy. I have had many excuses around time, being a parent, not being good enough. Finally, I know that if I actively engage with this, then regardless of whether I fail or succeed, I know that I will be living what I know to be my life’s purpose.

So what is it?

How do we create and support the next generation of leaders who will usher in the new human systems that we need to restore balance of life on Earth and facilitate peace?

And breathe.

Big huh.

And who am I to be dreaming and imagining that I can do anything about this?

Well firstly I have been thinking about political leadership since I was 7 years old. I have followed politics and been interested in how we do things since then. At 16, I moved from a secondary school to one of the most culturally diverse colleges in London because I wanted to start up a student union. Over the first 12 months, I explored and made friends with people in the variety of sub cultures that made up that college and decided that what we needed was a way of bringing everyone together. I failed at this. But I succeeded in fucking it up so much that everyone knew who I was!

At 18 I left with poor A Level grades having spent so much time trying to make this idea come to fruition, unfortunately traumatised but stronger as a human being by the result. I worked in a bar, a recruitment agency and finally a start-up where I first learned about what it takes to set up and grow a small business. I also learnt that when people started to take advantage of you and play you off against each other that the best option is to leave that dynamic behind.

By 21 I had a two failed long relationships (for a young person), I had experienced being engaged, almost getting married, losing an unborn child, my parents divorcing, losing my parents a significant amount of money, working in a tech start up environment, earning more that £40,000 a year, renting my own house, living abroad, drinking, smoking and drugs.

By 25, I had been a drug addict, I had started up my own company with my now ex-wife, we had our own office, I had been part of the London club scene, gay scene, run a club night at Heaven, worked with music festivals. I had suffered from depression, almost lost my life, and had prayed to Universe/God to help me and had the experience of being helped.

By 28 I had got myself clean of drugs, I attended two 10 day Vipassana Meditation retreats, was initiated into a circle of Men (The Mankind Project), became a father, experienced our son’s home birth and lotus birth, and we had started a new, grown up business working with arts and cultural organisations.

By 30, I had been exploring parenting and working in equal measure, our business almost got bought out and we decided instead to pass it on to those who worked in it. I had experienced moving house 9 times in 3 years. I worked freelance and then found my passion as an active environmentalist with the Transition movement in Bath. I had learnt how to be a facilitator, fundraiser and community activist. I had helped start and grow a farm and began working with young people co-organising youth conferences on climate change.

By 32 I had fallen in love with someone else, almost lost my family, conceived another child, been present to her being born in water at home with just three of us present. I began my journey into systemic healing work, looking at both the family and organisations. I healed a systemic wound which shifted my sense of myself in relationship.

By 35, I was married and soon after separated. I was a parent to two children who I spent at least an equal amount of time parenting. I had been a carer for someone with a long term disability for over five years. I had helped a group of young people start up a not for profit business, run several youth conferences on climate change and systemic issues young people face. I had trained over 100 youth leaders in facilitation and catalysing skills. I had experience of Art of Hosting, Non Violent Communication, Systemic Therapy, Organisational systems theory, Parenting by Connection, meditation in various forms, forest school training and working with a democratic school. I had the experience of being paid properly for my skills and time. Most importantly I had experienced deep and uncontrollable grief, anger, forgiveness and joy.

Now I am coming up to my 36th birthday and I am ready. I realise that instead of a standard path to a career, I have a road that had been a collection of big experiences that have shaped and moulded who am I, what I stand for and initiated me into the human condition. I know that this moment now is ground zero. The beginning of taking the experiences that I have, the talent for bringing people together around ideas and taking action, reflecting and honouring, learning and growing and turning it in to my life’s work.

With this letter, I remind myself how I got here, who I have become and I am deeply grateful for it all. And importantly, that I have it in me to co-create something amazing.

My invitation to you is, come and join in!


Body to Brain - Taking time to get a whole perspective

Last week Wednesday, at the closing circle, we all checked in with what our favourite part of the day was. In the moment I could not think of one and I didn’t know why, so that is what I communicated to the circle. On the drive towards the spa, my Wednesday afternoon treat, I felt exhausted and down. As I rested my body in the heat, I began slowly to realise that I had not enjoyed the day. For the next few hours I sat with it and watched internally, the words, sentences, stories and reflections on the day which emerged from those bodily sensations.

The day had been full of maintaining and clearly articulating boundaries to the children, over and over again. First in playful ways, then in sterner ways. By the end of the day I reflected that I felt more like a stern teacher rather than a facilitator of play and learning. I realised that the previous day, a parent and fellow catalyst of a Democratic school, had shared with me his ideas, on my request, about how he would have dealt with some of the more provocative pushes around boundaries. Alongside this I also had my own feelings and experiences to manage around boundaries and the need for clarity from the relationship I have with my children.

The day was a perfect example for me of being too rigid and using the brain to think about what was needed, rather than listening to my moment by moment body experience. This however is very difficult to find the right balance between when you have multiple dynamics going on and pressure points which need to be dealt with, whilst also taking care of the group.

By the end of my reflective process, I realised a couple of things. One was that I needed to be clear with the children the next day that I didn’t feel good about the way I handled the previous day and explain how I was feeling and why. The outcome of this was that one of the children felt they had permission to express their dislike of rules, which I interpreted as their confidence in being able to articulate something which may at other times be said less clearly and experienced as a behavioural issue.

The second was that it is really important to have space and time to digest what bodily sensations and our feelings are telling us. We often, as parents or busy adults, go from one experience to another, without really checking in with questions like; Did that experience work for me? Why am I feeling discomfort? What is this experience of relationship exposing in terms of a deeper truth of how I relate to myself and others?

In my own experience it is my expectations of others and consequently myself which cause the greatest amount of grief. If I choose to understand, with children particularly, that I can trust them to keep asking for help by not doing what I need them/expect them to do rather than using words, then I am in a much better place to be present to the moment and support our collective growth. Sometimes we all need help, we just haven’t worked it out yet, let alone be ready to ask for it!