Barbara shares her story exclusively with Migrant Woman magazine, of how she progressed from starting as a cleaner, to becoming a successful businesswoman in a wonderful city like London.
Barbara arrived in London in November 2002 with a dream of studying here and developing her knowledge of approaches to therapy and care. She has always been driven by a desire to help people to flourish and live a life where they can express their gifts. Before Barbara could share that goal with other people, she had to learn English and overcome her fear of speaking a foreign language. “This was a big challenge for me and there were difficult times” says Barbara. Yet once she decided to stay, she felt ready to explore her capabilities and to change her life.
What do you remember about your first job in London and how did you experience it?
My first job was as a cleaner in a kebab shop in the East End. I also cleaned at a pub in Deptford. I remember contemplating my future every time I dusted a table or mopped the floor, always focusing on what I wanted to do and recognising that every swipe of the cloth brought me a little closer to realising my dream. I remember the importance of connecting with people and of doing my job well, and how I was determined to get the job at the kebab shop as if it was the most important job in the world. I understood that it would allow me to progress and knew that I needed to take this risk in order to move forward. I learned to appreciate the tiny movements that will lead step by step to the fulfilment of one’s vision.
I remember the importance of connecting with people and of doing my job well, and how I was determined to get the job at the kebab shop as if it was the most important job in the world.
What kept you believing in the vision of the world you wanted to create?
I took strength from the beauty of the human heart and those creative connections that arise between people when they are able to share experiences in the atmosphere of openness, shamelessness, fearlessness and non-judgment. Beneath or behind this was my developing philosophy of ‘Say Yes’, to live, to express, to accept and be guided by whatever comes into my experience. During one of my jobs – as a hairdresser’s assistant – I met a White Witch who stopped me and said that she had a message. She told me that she had never seen so many animal spirits around a human being and said that I was blessed with the gift of giving unconditional love.
Who has been part of this journey during these years?
I was blessed with the friendship of one of the first people I met in London, an English music journalist and writer, who was completely open to my soul and interested in my life. I received powerful guidance from him when I needed it most and he has continued to observe my journey over the past twelve years. We meet regularly and share our experiences of personal growth and development. My clients over this time have also been so important, from the people with multiple disabilities I cared for to those whose hair I styled and many, many others. And there is the spirit of my beautiful mother, who taught me to live simply, smell the flowers and smile at people from the heart.
I have found my home in my new, true identity. By persevering in building my knowledge, working full-time and studying full-time – year after year – spending all my spare money on education and integrating my knowledge, i have built my spiritual home in London. I still remain nomadic at heart, which is why i now live in a small rented room and have not yet found a fixed home. My identity as i experience it today is closely linked to my philosophy of no identity, of being able to let go…
What are the most difficult moments of your life as a migrant woman?
For me the worst thing was not being able to express myself freely in English, feeling mute and deaf as I went through my day. In Poland I was well established as a senior clinical social worker and loved to play with language in my world. After moving to London I felt the pain of losing what I thought of as my fixed identity. At first I learned to read body language, to gain a sense of what people were saying or thinking, vaguely gauging perceptions of meaning and trying to see through the fog of the unknown. I also remember how difficult it was to stay on track with my dream, because of the monotony of my new life and the steep drop in my living standards. I experienced periods when my confidence evaporated and I began to question whether I would ever achieve my goal. This was very difficult for me, especially as I had been developing some interesting projects as a clinical social worker in Poland.
How did you overcome these difficulties and what was your coping mechanism?
Because I felt trapped beneath the heavy weight of misunderstanding, I began to experience the physical symptoms of not being able to breathe properly. This is when I first started to draw human portraits and discovered that through art we can shift our consciousness away from personal pain and gain a new perspective on the richness of life. This revelation encouraged me to carry on, to develop my full range of communication and not be bound to words. I coped by going to dancing classes and singing from my heart, while often crying. My approach was to test my negative beliefs about ‘failure’ and not being ‘good enough’, constantly questioning this type of thinking and developing the foundations of a strong, loving rapport with myself. I knew that I had reached the zero point and recognised that to continue with self-deprecation would create zero squared!
After many years in London how do you feel? Have you found your real home?
I have found my home in my new, true identity. By persevering in building my knowledge, working full-time and studying full-time – year after year – spending all my spare money on education and integrating my knowledge, I have built my spiritual home in London. I still remain nomadic at heart, which is why I now live in a small rented room and have not yet found a fixed home. My identity as I experience it today is closely linked to my philosophy of no identity, of being able to let go of attachment to any fixed view of who ‘I’ am. That process of owning and then letting go of myself has been very empowering for me.
You have invested a lot in your career. Do you feel fulfilled?
Writing my master’s dissertation on the edge of my single bed, on a tiny laptop, in my tiny rented room, was such an achievement for me, a real high point. I have taken that energy with me ever since and used it to discover my inner world. My life feels good on the inside, thanks to the influence of my studies and the creation of my Say Yes business and the philosophy that supports it. I am now able to help people cultivate self-acceptance and self-knowledge, which in turn leads them to experience good rapport with others and contributes to a greater sense of harmony in the world. And yes, to see that happen in others is truly fulfilling for me and makes my heart sing with joy.
I was hungry for experiences of diversity. It has been so rewarding for me to feel embraced by the cultural diversity of London.
Apart your career what else is important in your life?
Simplicity, playfulness, joyfulness, laughter! I use these to develop looseness at the edges of my character. I value the courage of being able to see that everything I need is within me right now.
What are the main principles you use in life?
I believe in asking clear questions about who I am and why I am here. I create my vision around the compelling answers that arise through experience, whatever that experience happens to be. For instance, I decided to design and build my website rather than use a professional designer because I wanted to present a colourful and intimate picture of my journey. That arose because I asked quality questions about the nature of my Say Yes business, how I want it to reflect my life and reach out to others without judgment. My principles challenge me to be integrated, to be gentle to myself and let go of the ‘musts’, ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ from my internal self-talk. This matches my Say Yes philosophy of experiencing life, owning it, loving it, being it and letting those experiences go.
How do you keep the relationship with your home country?
By nature I am cosmopolitan. My home is wherever my life takes me. When I lived in Poland, which is mono-cultural in many respects, I was hungry for experiences of diversity. It has been so rewarding for me to feel embraced by the cultural diversity of London. I share my experiences with my family in Poland but am not in touch with life there. I am strongly informed by my Polish identity, that which connects me with my roots. That will never go away and is how I maintain my relationship with Poland on a human and spiritual level
Are you connected with your community or have you extended your presence in different communities?
If you embrace cultural diversity it will embrace you in return. My curiosity is motivated by the power of new connections and the chance to understand and celebrate the human community. Our interdependence rather than separateness is very clear to me. I believe separation is an illusion. We are all one energy soup!
What makes your life meaningful?
Powerlessness, hopelessness, meaninglessness. These all give me the urge to search for meaning, to go into nature and experience stillness, to connect with all living beings and sense that there is something much bigger than ‘me’. I imagine a stream of light coming from the core of the supporting earth, coming through my body and into my heart and meeting another beam of light coming from above, from what I think of as pure undivided consciousness. That creates a bubble of love and compassion, which purifies and allows me to soak whoever or whatever I encounter in my day-to-day world in a bath of laughter, light and love.
Saint Valentine’s Day is coming soon. Have you found your soul-mate yet?
For me Valentine’s Day is every day. I also celebrate my birthday, Christmas and Easter every day, multiplying the energy of exuberance, of being proud of myself and grateful for my life and the lives of all others. By celebrating in this way, I feel that I and every living being benefits. A ‘soul-mate’ is for me someone who effortlessly resonates with my nature. I have met and continue to meet many people who vibrate with me in this way, where there is mutual inspiration and unconditional connection.
What is love for you?
Love is loving life and all living things with a child-like heart, beyond judgment. It’s locking one’s eyes with a brief encounter with a stranger in the street and all those fleeting moments of unconditional, abundant kindness and acceptance. Love is about being honest with what is and to be able to express it, in song, in poetry, in dance, in painting, cooking, hugging, crying…. And saying ‘Yes’ to life with exuberance and triumph!
What dream scares you but you still want to achieve?
I want to become a charismatic speaker who is able not only to inspire others but also to show others those moments of not knowing what to say by revealing the expression that goes beyond words, through singing or making sounds from the guts. I have some fear about achieving this but believe passionately in the power of authentic human communication, that which embraces all aspects of our experience and is bigger than thought, bigger than ideas or the things which we say to impress or because we think we should say to them.
I want to create radical circles with people who are facing the fear of public speaking and show them who they are in this very moment of fear, without any script. It reminds me of an ancient song, something that we know without ever being taught how to sing it, something that has always been there inside us just waiting to be expressed. I imagine audiences who are able to receive this song, in workplaces, corporate conferences, schools and colleges: the inarticulate, raw visceral truth of who I am here and now.
If I met my younger self, I’d say – “You are beautiful and amazing, and I love you to bits!”
It may sound irrational to some, but I want to create an alternative model of care and therapy. I imagine opening a Say Yes clinic where people can discover their talents and gifts that have been buried by social conditioning and self-deprecation. I want to see them leave with personal breakthroughs and a renewed sense of connection to the world, to others and themselves. I am driven by the power of positive psychology and inspirational approaches to individual flourishing, where people develop the skills and emotional positivity required to shape their own fulfilling futures. That keeps me motivated and focused.
If you would meet your younger self now what you would say to her?
You are beautiful and amazing! And I love you to bits!
What you would say to yourself 10 years from now?
I love your paintings, I love your musical compositions, I love your spontaneity and charisma and the way you brought innovative ways of being into this world. I love the effortlessness of how you have achieved your life dreams, the love you have shown to others and have used to inspire their lives. I celebrate the pure joy of your wow-soaked life!