In September 2011, Ling Kulanko drafted a letter to her employer to resign. The date she’d written on it to actually send it was January 5, 2012. She’d come to the decision to start fresh down a path of discovery and further exploration outside of the corporate world using the tools and techniques she’d been amassing for the past 15 years. Two days before the date Ling had intended to finalize her resignation, news came that she was being retrenched. Coincidence, one might presume. For Ling it was another confirmation of what happens when set your intention clearly and make steps to head toward it - the universe conspires to make it happen. Her journey into the world where she finds herself now has been one of learning to live her truth. In this interview in front of a live audience, Ling shares her life then and now as a Transformational Workshop Leader and Life Coach.
Q. What exactly does a Life Coach do? If I came for one of your workshops what can I expect to get out it?
People come to me to want to have a change, to transform. I provide that assistance using tools and techniques. I’ve gone through different techniques as taught by my own teachers and coaches. My style is to customize them or rather use a combination of all the different techniques I have learned and suggest, or put it in an easy to way to understand, the different steps they can take to make that change.
A Life Coach’s typical definition is a person who works side by side with them one to one. It started when friends or strangers came to me. I love engaging with people. I like to meet somebody new and connect heart to heart with them and share – sharing is two way. After that I realized there is always a meaning why you meet someone. Coaching is really bringing out the true essence of that person by working together with them. It’s not me telling them what to do or to follow a style but giving them tools or suggestions or just being there so that they can try to see if it works.
That’s how I transformed. I went to different coaches. One coach asked me if I knew how to receive the love from myself? She told me to go read this book (10 yrs ago), meaning Louisa Hay “You Can Heal Your Life.” You know sometimes people tell you to read a book and you pick it up maybe a year or 5 or 10 years later. I think it must have been a couple of years later I picked up this book and found that I’d been doing what was in the book.
Q. Where does NLP come into that?
I realized that NLP techniques are very practical and specific. So when I do NLP I follow the visualization process and the way that we can communicate with ourselves. The techniques are very easy to apply. It’s just one of the areas, techniques where I empowered myself. I feel the different areas of knowledge in the universe are there to offer an option for us to see what we resonate with. We are so unique - there are different tools out there for us to tap into it and see what resonates with us.
Q. Do you think what you do is considered spiritual?
Very good question. I’ve recently come to my own definition of spirituality because I just realized I’ve been avoiding this word “spirituality”. I wasn’t comfortable because I hadn’t arrived at my own definition of it.
To me, everyone is spiritual. Spirituality is defining or living our life, expressing our true self, being very conscious of our own being. We are all one and yet within ourselves we are so unique, we have so much magic. This might be a bit controversial for some people. Being spiritual to me is being so consciously grounded. You’re here and so special so be fully aware of yourself and be able to express your truth freely so that you can connect with others. It’s not about just being psychic or spending so much time going to other dimensions, because we are all here. I am here, not in another space and dimension and I want to connect with people here heart to heart and engage with them through the eyes and body. There are millions of people here on Earth you can connect with, sharing magic.
Q. You mentioned years ago you received a “message” through a medium from your grandfather and that’s what inspired you down this path in which you find yourself 15 years later?
I’ll talk about my grandfather first. He appeared when I was starting out to change my life, so to speak. I was healing my relationship with my parents because we were brought up in an environment that made me lose confidence and I had a lot of criticism. The medium said my grandfather wanted me to pass a message to my mother to tell her he was very sorry for all that he had done to my mother. He was very strict with her and he felt that she suffered so he wanted to say he was sorry. But it was like a message for me that I had to heal and to forgive my parents, that they are who they are. That message was to heal my mother but I felt it was also for me.
My grandfather was a traveler who had sailed from China to Singapore and at that time I was venturing out of Singapore to find a place I wanted to go that I could find myself, to find my identity and really do it without my family around me. So I feel very connected to him even today and that he is present to encourage me in this journey. So that message sort of triggered the healing process and then after I was always finding different ways to heal - that key word - to heal our emotions, to heal our physical disease due to the emotions that we have. That message meant a lot to me.
That was about 15 yrs ago and my job until January 2012 was as a trainer for Nokia “Connecting People” (laugh). As the years went by of being a trainer I realized that especially in a corporation, people could just take what is passed down from the top. But I discovered I had transformed and that yes, I had to follow what the company wanted to achieve but I used my communicating and my intuition such that the person feels through the heart that they can do the job. I used my understanding like I do in coaching to listen to them, really connect to them in training sessions.
I travelled to many different parts of the world - USA, UK, Germany, Australia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan - I felt so connected to the different countries. To me, it’s all the same, we are all humans. I wanted to find a way to connect to them and not say, “Oh they are Russian, they are different.”
Q. You’ve said before that you’ve got to have the “bread” to eat somehow and about doing something a little bit more mainstream that you could also pull in what you’re doing now?
It’s like any other profession. If it’s not bringing that bread money, I tell myself not to despair because I can find a middle ground. I feel that some people say they are going to stop working and do only this “kind” of work, and that it obviously isn’t going to fly through the sky in the first or even second year. But they are so engrossed in really making it fly and making affirmations that it will work but realistically it may not happen for all people. It doesn’t mean that you cannot proceed with what is your true passion. You find a middle ground and get some “bread” money and honour that passion and your identity. Having a corporate job doesn’t mean you cannot do healing work in that setting. You need to not have a one sided view that you’re only going to do Louise Hay workshops (for example). It’s about really honouring your passion and how to apply it to different areas.
Q. You’ve been married before your current marriage, what happened? How did you end up in Finland and what are some other endeavours that you have there?
I got married very young because I thought I couldn’t live by my myself, I had no self identity and I was afraid of a lot of things. So the natural thing was to depend on someone else but it didn’t work out that way. That was 18 years ago. The moment I met my husband I had this euphoria that lasted 3 weeks. I felt this is what it means to be my own being and appreciate myself and not depend on someone for happiness because it’s in me. When I met him I felt he was like a gift from God. We have definitely grown together. We were much different 10 years ago when we met. About 4 or 5 years ago I felt that we began to be as one person. Hurting him would be like hurting myself.
I went to Finland 11 years ago for work, stayed there 4 years and then came back to Singapore with my husband about 6 1/2 yrs ago. Last year we decided Finland was the next stop where we could be connected with our creativity in the way we want to carve a new journey. So we chose to go back there to do that and have been studying and creating a lot of stuff. I do not know when I’ll be back (permanently) in Singapore but I do know now that I’m very connected to here, which is why I try to spend time here. We’re usually here from January to April or May. My husband loves Singapore as well.
I do different kinds of projects in Finland. I have started to take interviews and videos of people I connect with and share on YouTube to let people know that there are people, perhaps sitting right next to us, who have a story that can inspire others to change. So I’ve put up these stories to let people know you don’t have to be famous in the media to be able to tell a story that can be captured and shared with as many people as possible.
I started to paint as a way to express my creativity and thoughts and usually through painting I get a self-empowering process. As I painted, I felt this is how you go through challenges in life. There was one painting I couldn’t paint my hands and fingers the way my eyes visualized them to be. It’s like when we have a vision and can’t act it out. They are just challenges and it doesn’t mean you’re not going to get there. So I just worked through my painting like I do in my life and ultimately I arrived at the picture I was happy with but that someone else may not see the same way.
Q. What are some challenges you have in Finland? How do you find what you’re doing is received in Finland as to how it’s received here in Singapore?
It’s definitely very different however I still feel it’s all about how we connect. In both of these countries I feel there are different sets of challenges. In Finland, my challenge is language. When it comes to personal development, about coaching, they are naturally more comfortable when they can speak and express themselves in their own language.
The sharing can be very different in the type of format. In Singapore it’s a bit more official as in you go through a meetup or through a holistic centre. We don’t start talking to someone in the bus stop or picnic about healing but of course, sometimes you do meet up with people.
In Finland they are very open to these ideas, to healing. I have never heard anyone utter the word “spiritual”. To them it’s a natural human process to talk about healing, about love. And if they choose not to talk about it, it’s just their choice, but if they want to ask questions, they will. I’ve never heard anyone say this is a “spiritual” topic and I’m not “spiritual” so that’s not for me or I’m “spiritual” so I’m going to share this topic about “spirituality”. To them, it’s just life and they are very connected to themselves and therefore they give the respect to others that “I’m here to listen to you.”
Q. What does your family think about what you do? Do they understand?
I really don’t like titles and we give a name to ourselves because it’s a widely known title like Life Coach, Counsellor, something like that. To my mom I’m like a counsellor. I notice that the more I changed and first focused on myself, they start to change and they start to tell me similar things.
Ten years ago I started to tell my mom, “Hey you need to heal yourself, you need to heal your arthritis, do this and meditate - you have the healing power.”
By telling her that, she was very defensive and the more I said, “You have to do this cause it’s good and I did it,” it didn’t work. So now, I try to be very creative. I have to tell myself to use different words and don’t use the words that don’t resonate with her like healing. I use it but she doesn’t. I use it amongst friends we know but for her I’ll use it a different way but the process is the same. So I try to be creative to use words that can connect with her but we are talking about the same topics. She’s started telling me more about how she connects with people. I can respect where she’s coming from and I can feel that connection with her on the same topics.
Q. What are your fears and how do you deal with them?
At times I doubt myself. I started to tell myself to honour all these fears that are most often when I start to do something new. I have fear of holding workshops that are new, fear of doing something that I’m not sure is going to work. But I often have this voice that says, “If you don’t do it then what will happen?” So I have inner courage to say, “Sorry, you have to do it.”
I’ll go into this kind of fear reactive mode and I practice being able to pull out from this experience faster and faster by non-judgmentally watching myself. This technique was taught to me by my coach 8 years ago and I find it quite effective. When you can do that you realize there is so much to learn. Each time when I have this fear, it’s always telling me something and I have an inner dialogue to ask why I’m afraid of doing something that I like? Maybe this is not what I really like?
Q. Do you feel, as many people seem to, that you need to protect yourself against negative energies?
I have felt spirits but not seen anything. When I was travelling around the world, for example, when an earthquake was about to happen or when I’ve been in hotels I’ve felt “stuff”. It’s always back to being self-conscious of our own being. You manage yourself. You manage your own energy. I have a magnetic field of my own, each time I would say, “Give me my space.” If people feel fearful and need to protect themselves then I don’t think they know how powerful they are. I honour that we have our own magnetic field and energy and our own power. Yes, you might say it’s protecting but you are honouring your own energy. In life we have our own aura, our own being and it’s about sharing and respecting your space - the same with spirits. If you are fearful, then fear will come to you.
Q. How do you deal with all the trauma, catastrophes, crime, war and terrible things we see in the media? What is your way of dealing with this type of negativity and perceived lack of “Oneness”?
For me to say being One, I’m not defining it as we are all godlike, really. For me to say we are all One is that I feel we are all in the same process, however the experience of course will be unique. We are going through challenges and there is very deep trauma in countries with a lot of poverty and natural disasters. There are different kinds of trauma in life, challenges. I sympathize with the different challenges that they face and I feel that as much as possible we are here to support one another. To go down a path of negativity by being sucked into very un-resourceful thinking that there’s so much stuff in the world, “what should I do?” and being lost is not helping anyone. Just sympathize with somebody and know that we are all as vulnerable. You don’t know when you do something what will happen. All I can do is what is next to me, whatever I feel and see I can do.
Q+A with Audience
Singapore is a country of very young consciousness. What do you think could be done to raise the consciousness? “Spiritually” we are no doubt in the East, but consciousness wise, we are a very young country?
In Singapore, the things people have shared with me in my workshops and have come to me with, is that they are not sure of themselves. That is the most common issue that they face. They don’t know what they want and they sweep things under the carpet and don’t identify things. Consciousness to me is first, you have to be conscious of yourself - can you define yourself? Then stand up and say, “This is me.” A lot of the times they make excuses like I have a family, a business, etc.
I think to raise the consciousness is the basic question of asking, “Can you define who you are? What you really like?” These are very practical questions. People are all coming to me and saying, “I’m not confident, I’m working with conflict in the office, I’m changing jobs all the time.” I ask them if they honour what they truly want in life… “No I can’t because of this and that.”
Basic consciousness is to really know yourself. Talk to people - some of them would like to share. It’s as basic as trying to share more, to share your being. Aren’t we all here to share and yes, talk about our issues, to share our energy and our being? Be conscious of your being and share it – to me that’s spirituality.
Q. What is the most important advice you have for people?
Be very connected to your truth.
Ling holds a variety of workshops here in Singapore and Finland that include topics such as Effective Communication Skills, Self-Empowerment, Being Aware of Your Energy, Create the Vision to Success, Receiving Prosperity and Louise Hay Heal Your Life Transformational Workshops. She will be returning to Singapore in January 2014.
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Ling’s free practice workbook, "3 Powerful Mindset Changing Techniques" for gaining awareness and switching states effectively to a more resourceful and helpful state in processing a situation can be found here this month on Evolve Asia.
This interview was conducted LIVE by Regina Sayer in an ongoing series of LIVE interviews with practitioners in the community.
Readers are invited to listen and Q+A after the interview, contributing to the dialogue in the community.
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