To coach or not to coach..

Persephone-03Recently I was asked to write a bio of myself and the coaching services I offer. I had to write about my coaching style and approaches, and here I was, typing out furiously (and self-righteously) the various NLP techniques, evidence-based coaching approaches, when i suddenly remember a coaching incident I had last month with a client. I call it an “incident” because it was neither planned nor both parties.

Without going into the details of our conversation, suffice to say that it was just quite a bizarre experience, at least for me, when the conversation went into a more spiritual realm of spirits and ghosts of a dimension that I have not encountered. As the conversation hurtled along my mind’s corridor of unknown, I wasn’t sure when I should stop and asked if I should refer my client to someone else who may be more professionally trained to deal with the spiritual issues that she was facing. And then, I just decided to listen whole heartedly without placing any judgment on MYSELF and my perceived limited capabilities. I allowed her to just pour out everything she had been bottling inside, and shared my own stories when she asked. I stopped second-guessing myself as to whether I should maintain composure or not, whether my stories would help in any way, and whether this is going to even help. At the end of the day, my client walked away with a lighter heart, had the confidence that I, as her sherpa, am walking alongside her, not just as her coach but as a friend too. I did refer her to a psychologist who would have a more precise and technical repertoire of solutions to help her get through such difficult times. There is a difference between listening with the heart and holding her hand, and prescribing solutions to alleviate her pain. However, at that juncture, when she was sitting on my couch, speaking into things that I was not really able to understand because of my limited exposure on spiritual realms, I was glad I did not let my own pre-notions and self-judgment on my own limitations and cultural prejudices to be in the way of being emphatic and loving. I was grateful for the ability to stop being afraid, to step out of the textbook coaching approaches, and to just reach out like the greek Demeter reaching out her hand for her daughter, Persephone who was kidnapped by Hades into the Underworld. Demeter couldn’t understand what Persephone had experienced in the hole she was sucked into, but that did not stop Demeter from stretching out her hand to try to be the lifeline that Persephone was looking for.

Empty Oneself

Today I am borrowing a famous Zen story to illustrate this week’s food for thought – The necessity to empty oneself in order to unlearn our natural responses to a problem, and begin the healing or rejuvenation process.
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!” “Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Often times we are full of ourselves; our opinion about ourselves, of others and of the world, though may not be verbalised outward, echo resoundingly in the sanctuary of our minds. Some people call this phenomenon “self-talk.” I just refer to it as a hindrance, a nuisance to learning something new about ourselves and the situation we are currently in.

When we are so fixated with how we feel and think about a certain subject, it is hardly easy to unknot our existing mindset. So go empty your cup of Self, so said the Zen master.

Easier said than done – so how do you go about emptying your cup, really? It’s not like you can see this cup and you pour its contents down the drain, is it?

Perhaps the first step is to recognise that our cup is already full. For example, if we are working towards achieving a different paradigm about forgiveness (towards a friend, your spouse, your MIL), the first thing to do is to say out loud, if that helps, that our ideas about this friend, spouse, mother-in-law, etc.., and what led to the state of unforgiveness, are percolating unhelpfullly inside our cups (translated = mind and heart).

We need to intentionally tell ourselves that we need to pour these bad thoughts out so that good thoughts can finally go in. But the only way to do this is really to say that we are WRONG…okay, maybe not that we  ARE wrong, but that we COULD BE wrong in our opinion about the said situation or person(s).

Nobody needs to hear that out loud yet, it does not need to go into public space.  BUT we need to say it out that we could be WRONG in our current assessment. We could be wrong in thinking that the friend in question was being unfair, unreasonable, unthinkable, etc… We could be wrong in feeling wronged. For those of us who have a hard time accepting that we are wrong, perhaps we could tell ourselves (for now) that there could be another extraterrestrial explanation.

It’s almost like having to mouth out loud this mantra over and over again, “we could be wrong, we could be wrong, we could be wrong,” until the truth sinks in that we could possibly be wrong in our assessment of the situation. Once that kicks in, which could vary between 20 seconds to a few years, we are ready to unlearn our current paradigm of unforgiveness. The Zen master in us (or our coach) will appear. Learning, Unlearning and Relearning can only take place when the student is ready, is it not?

“But what if I don’t want to?” you lament.

It boils down to our MOTIVATION to want to unlearn and relearn, to want to be healed and reconciled, because let’s face it, what are we without the comfort and familiarity of that speck of unforgiveness, that well-worn picture of betrayal, anger and frustration that keeps playing in our minds..

..till the next post.

What is Coaching?

There are at least a million ways of explaining what coaching is but I like this quote (most likely made by Lao Tzu, but hey, we can’t be 100% sure!) that encapsulates what coaching gives.

Catch a man a fish

Feed him for a day

Teach him how to fish

And feed him for life

Coaching frequently involves self-reinvention, as sparked by an inner change and transformation. The coaching process is driven by a sense of curiosity (or frustration) about one’s placement on earth and ask, “is there more to life than this?” or “What am I here for?”

Coaching begins with a confidential relationship between the coach and the coachee (or the Client) where the coach provides a safe environment and the necessary tools for the Client to engage in self-exploration and self-discovery. Throughout the process, the Client learns how to peel back her various layers of Self and begins to approach problem-solving more creatively in her own sphere of influence – home, workplace or community. The coach plays the role of a “Sherpa” and with her professional coaching “toolbox” that is equipped with creative tools and methodologies that help to ignite self-awakening and jumpstart the creative process.

The coach-sherpa walks alongside the coachee to conquer her own Everest and in that process, be enlightened about her own strengths and potential, and be able to tell the difference between real limitations and limiting beliefs that prevent her from living out the life that she desires.

People who engage coaches to walk alongside their life journeys are interested in learning more about who they are and who they are meant to be; how to harness their latent strengths and potential to surmount their personal fears and reservations, in order to live abundantly, beyond their current status quo.

Are you one of them?


An Invitation

by Oriah
 Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me
 what you do for a living… I want to know
 what you ache for
 and if you dare to dream
 of meeting your heart’s longing…

It doesn’t interest me 
how old you are… I want to know if you will risk
 looking like a fool
 for love
 for your dream 
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
 what planets are 
squaring your moon…
I want to know
 if you have touched 
the centre of your own sorrow
 if you have been opened
 by life’s betrayals
 or have become shrivelled and closed
 from fear of further pain.

I want to know
 if you can sit with pain
, mine or your own
, without moving to hide it
 or fade it 
or fix it.

I want to know
 if you can be with joy
, mine or your own, 
if you can dance with wildness
 and let the ecstasy fill you 
to the tips of your fingers and toes 
without cautioning us 
to be careful
 to be realistic
 to remember the limitations
 of being human.

It doesn’t interest me 
if the story you are telling me 
is true… 
I want to know if you can
 disappoint another
, to be true to yourself. 
If you can bear 
the accusation of betrayal 
and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless 
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty 
even when it is not pretty
 every day. 
And if you can source your own life
 from its presence.

I want to know 
if you can live with failure, 
yours and mine
, and still stand at the edge of the lake
 and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me 
to know where you live 
or how much money you have… 
I want to know if you can get up 
after the night of grief and despair, 
weary and bruised to the bone 
and do what needs to be done 
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me 
who you know
 or how you came to be here.
 I want to know if you will stand
 in the centre of the fire
 with me 
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me 
where or what or with whom 
you have studied… 
I want to know 
what sustains you 
from the inside 
when all else falls away.

I want to know
 if you can be alone 
with yourself
 and if you truly like 
the company you keep
 in the empty moments.