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Simon is a Transformational life coach with a particular interest in coaching around positive mental health and emotional resilience.

Simon has worked in the building trade as a carpenter, and owned his own company project managing the creation of exhibitions stands internationally. His life’s journey has taken many turns as a carpenter, project manager, and curriculum tutor developing adult education provision in the South West. In addition Simon runs spooncarving workshops to enable a connection with nature and our human roots. He is an experienced Mindfulness practitioner and teacher, and a qualified Sound therapist.

Simon uses these skills, knowing how difficult it is for people to talk, to hold space for them as individuals and groups and enable them to share in a meaningful and supported way to move forward

He lives and works with his partner, Emily, and enjoys a country walk with a pub lunch at the end of it.

That’s the short version, if you would like the slightly longer story, please carry on reading below.

My Story

This is an excerpt from a book I co-authored about men’s mental health called I’m Fine, which will tell you a bit more about me and my journey to becoming who I am today.

When I was invited to write for this book it could not have come at a more opportune time. Rather inconvenient, but opportune nevertheless. I will explain more about that later.

My journey has been a long one, not an overnight success but a long meandering one of steady growth, learning, and of opening up. Sometimes going forward but often as not taking a side step or even a back step if I was not ready for the life lesson that was coming.

So, let’s start 13 years ago. Up to this point I had been married for 18 years with two fabulous sons. I was a town councillor, had my own shopfitting business, a 4- bedroom house, I was tight head prop forward for the local town’s rugby club and had a plentiful social life. Then, as happens with many marriages, we got divorced and I moved away.

I was now standing in an empty flat, in a strange town where I did not know a soul. I had been divorced for two years, my then partner had just left me with the words, “You are just too nice”. I went from being a man that seemingly had everything, to a man stood in an empty flat with nothing, From happy to painfully sad had seemed to take a nanosecond. I was worthless, or that is how I felt at the time. My depression came from nowhere, I had never experienced anything like it before and it slowly and insidiously wrapped around me like a python. It tightened round my chest and stopped my normal breath. I felt as though it had been replaced with a little flutter of breath, barely delivering enough oxygen to stay conscious.

The flat I was stood in became my nemesis. It was a mirror of me. Cold, empty, and silent, sovery silent. Night after night of nothingness, truly little sleep, just listening to every negative thought shouting in my ear. Worthless, stupid, fat, idiot, poor, terrible son/brother. Night after night the same thing. I was still working, though not for myself anymore but for a building company renovating an old office block into flats. It was a busy site full of tradesmen, but I had never felt so lonely. No one knew what I was going through, they were not interested. “Cor! bloody hell, you look terrible!” “ Nar, I’m fine” Considering the name of this book it sounds like a cliché but that was the standard conversation. I would frequently find a quiet room, wedge the door shut, curl up in the foetal position and long for sleep to come. Then at the end of the day return home to an empty cold flat.

It was not long before the darkest of dark thoughts would come. Let’s face it I had nothing to offer the world. It would be better not to be here. I considered in detail (as I am rather a practical man) how to exit stage left. “Overdose? Jumping? Nope, this would not do. Can you imagine how it would be for the boys growing up knowing the father committed suicide. Make it look like an accident” I thought, “mess up the flat, make it look like a break in, and run on to a knife. Oh God no! far too painful!”

That Friday, a typically autumnal day, I finished work early, drove home and like many other evenings I did not turn into the cul-de-sac where I lived. I knew the dread I would feel stepping into the flat. I would just drive sometimes for miles before returning. Today was different, I kept driving. I drove all the way to Snowdonia to a lovely place called Betws-y-coed, and I booked into a wonderful B&B.

The next morning, I came downstairs, had breakfast, gathered my things, and filled in the mountain register with my estimated time of return. I started my assent on the Watkins track with no intention that day of returning. My teenage boys would be blissfully unaware their father had committed suicide. Instead the slightly stubborn man went for a walk up a mountain, got lost and succumbed to hypothermia. After all, far less painful than a knife. Apparently dying of hypothermia was not that bad at all. I was finally going to get a good night’s sleep and silence the negative voices in my head.

Nearing the top was treacherous that day. It sounds silly, but I was scared as the weather was so bad. I was floundering around in knee deep snow when out of the bleakness a man dressed in full mountain gear turned up. Seeing I was in trouble and badly prepared for the conditions he suggested we buddied up and walked down the mountain to safety. He will never know what he did for me that day.

However, that was the wakeup call I needed. As Joseph Campbell states in the Hero’s Journey, it was my call to adventure. It was like a slap around the face with a freezing cold North Atlantic cod.

Scared and alone back in my flat I rang the local doctors and made an appointment. I remember to this day walking into Dr Silvers room. I’m a big strapping man but to Dr Silver I must have looked like a scared lost puppy. “So, Mr Walker, it looks like we need to talk” he said, and I burst into tears, and there I was for well over my 5 minutes. With love, empathy, and compassion he sat and listened to a blubbering snotty mess of a man. This was the first time I had ever shared how I truly felt, and it felt like the Universe had been lifted off my shoulders. Once he had referred me to a psychotherapist he let me out of the side door to save my embarrassment of being seen by the waiting patients. I stepped out into dappled sunlight shining through the autumn trees. That moment felt magical, as if I could have walked on the clouds.

Someone just listening to me for 20 minutes and had changed my life. Thank you, Dr Silver, from the bottom of my heart.

Who would have thought that we, as the human species, have evolved to have a negative bias? I, for one, did not. Without it we would have been really rubbish at surviving. We would have thought the dark shadow behind the rose bush was a cute kitten, and then we would have been subsequently eaten by the sabre-toothed tiger

that stepped out. This negativity bias and the fight and flight response served us jolly well for thousands of years. However, modern life does not have so many near death experiences when we pop out to the shops to hunt and gather any more. Instead the hippocampus and amygdala parts of our brain work like the clappers making stuff up, giving us false information until we give ourselves a DIY frontal lobotomy.

Our brains basically play with us just because they are bored. Of course, I am making light of this fantastical part of human evolution and it is far more scientific, and hugely more interesting and involved than I have explained. However, after a few sessions with a psychotherapist who really knew about this stuff, I realised what

I had gone through was just part of the human condition. It was not my weakness, it was not shameful, it was just being human, and everyone goes through it, every single day. We just need to get to know those thoughts. Know they are not real. They are based on the past and are imaginings of the future. We absolutely need to know it’s OK to feel shitty and we absolutely need to talk to people about it. Especially us men. It does not matter how big we are, how ‘hard’ we are, we are all human and we are all wired the same way.

In the last few months before receiving therapy, I had not been open to any of the positives that had happened. I had let my negativity rule the roost. I had not remembered the neighbour who had come over to give me a microwave hours after I had moved into my empty flat, he said “Hope you don’t mind but I saw you move in and thought you might like this to get you started again.” He had been in my shoes a few years earlier. My brother also, who would phone in the middle of the night knowing I was not sleeping and would read me poetry. Again he had been to the same place that I was in. Just a few of many beautiful acts of kindness I had not noticed in the depths of my depression.

I lived in that flat for a further 6 months and loved every minute. The flat had not changed, just my way of thinking. I left the radio on when I went out, and I bought a slow cooker, so I came home to the smell of fresh cooking, and Radio 4. What more could a man want? Now, I am not saying it is all sweetness and light; far from it. Life can still get really shitty at times. I saved like mad to put a deposit down on a new life in North Devon, an adorable place, and close to a couple of dear friends that had also reached out to me and lent me there pink sparkly bits (just ask me anytime. I will be more than happy to tell you about pink sparkly bits. I may even lend you some of mine.)

I moved in 2008, just before the banks crashed. Long story short, I gave the property back to the bank. They obviously needed it more than I did! Then I walked head long into what I know now as a co dependent relationship with a narcissist, so I lost my confidence for a while. My car was stolen along with £4000 worth of tools. I stood by my mothers hospital bed as she drew her last breath ( this was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced ( I can tell you more about that another time) Never did I slip into the spiral of despair again. I had built a coping mechanism an emotional intelligence and flexibility that was serving me, not enslaving me. I was getting there one step at a time. I had learnt not to outsource my happiness or unhappiness on external things but to accept the external things as moments in time that would always change. Instead what I found to be the true foundation of my happiness was loving myself and finding that passion for life within.

At this time, I began to discover Ted Talks, the Buddhafields and Seed Festivals and speakers like Mac Macartney, Satish Kumar, Pete and Lily from We The Uncivilised (make your next festival Seed or Buddhafilds, it will blow your mind and open your heart). All this led to a rabbit warren of research, mindfulness courses, and dare I say it, reading. I had never been a big reader, but this was different, I was feeling inspired and curious about life. My Life began to change. This hapless carpenter got offered a gig as a part time carpentry tutor in adult education. It filled me with dread stepping in front of my first class. I would then end up qualifying as a Tutor, and went on to teach many things as well as teaching Mindfulness, pulling from my own life experience. I was even teaching spoon carving (a skill I picked up at Buddhafields). Who would have thought how much I would love teaching, and my career would change, to become a tutor (get me!).

After a few years though, and by that time mainly working in an office managing tutors, rather than being a tutor. I began to notice how stressed I was. It was time for change again (I was beginning to relish change and the richness it brings). I ended up in Kashmir for a few months volunteering, opening my eyes to another world of permaculture. My return saw another change for me. I chose to spend a year living off-grid in a shepherd’s hut, to experience the 4 seasons and nature as closely as I could. During this time, I was picking up work back on the tools again. I found myself working with the very men I was working with years ago, an absolutely fabulous bunch of misfits. I say that from a place of love, they really are a fine team of men. Things had changed though. I was different.

I talked about stuff like emotions, meditations, and other shit like that. All this earned me a new nick name. There I was standing proud as ‘Fat Gandalf’. A few weeks later ‘Fat Gandalf’ was working in a room with a decorator, a 62-year-old tattooed ex-heavy-weight boxer. The type of chap that is good to have as a friend and not as an enemy. “You know what Si, I am so fucking lonely, I mean I have kids and grandkids, but I go back home every night and cry. What did you do to stop this? I just want to kill myself”. So, with love, empathy, and compassion I listened.

Our lunch breaks after that consisted of a few hairy-arsed blokey blokes sat round talking about emotions, feelings and neuroscience. Can you imagine the sight? I had just met Emily, a life coach and meditation teacher at a festival. I asked her to record a guided meditation for us about self-worth. So, there we all were. A bunch of builders meditating and their response was fabulous. One young labourer said that all the tightness and anxiety in his stomach was ‘now like butterflies’ and he was feeling freer than he had in years. This was the point for me that a seed was sown. It took a couple of years to germinate and grow. However, 3Monkeys Coaching is now here. Offering everyone but particularly men the opportunity to change internally what they see, hear, and say.

So, there we have it – my story. It feels odd sharing my vulnerability in a book. I can assure you though, for the first bit up to the mountain, I am asking for no sympathy. I now love that part of my life. Let’s face it even roses need shit to grow. As for the second part where I talk about me and what I have done, I can’t take the credit. We are all the same. Young, old, fat, thin, black, or white, rich, poor we are all wired the same. Never think there is a mountain you cannot climb. We all have the innate ability within us to be happy, and to grow.

Oh, and that reminds me, the reason why being asked to write this was inconvenient and at an extremely opportune moment: I received the email inviting me to write this as I was climbing Snowdon. This time full of life and happiness, and with my best friend, teacher, and lover, Emily. Life is about to change again; we are getting married next year. We are both passionate about coaching and believe everyone.

Yes, there are certificates filed away somewhere. I am relatively new to the coaching world. I started out life as a carpenter then a teacher but by far the best experience I bring to my practice is my life and how I have learned to live with the best authentic me. with that knowledge I will help you become the best version of you.  

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