Archives for category: Coaching

No! This post is not about managing financial resources.  It’s about cultivating the qualities that inspire you on your life’s path. 

We live on a hillside, so any travel coming or going requires ascending slopes. The shortest is a half-mile. The longest is more than twice that.  In addition to length, the slopes vary in gradient, a fact that immediately becomes apparent when walking them! 

During the recent heat wave, I set out for an early morning walk. Hot and tired as I labored up one half-mile stretch near the end, a voice asked me, why are you doing this? Fortunately, my mind found enough oxygen to deliver an answer. 

As I have written in posts over the years, we only control two things in life – our attitude and our effort. Rather than dwell on my fatigue and the distance remaining to reach the crest of the hill, a rationale came to mind that bolstered my attitude: your effort is an investment in your future; you are tending your physical health, and you are following your vocation to explore meaning in life’s terrain and share its lessons with others.

The effort in this example involves setting an intention to cultivate physical health, breaking its attainment into manageable pieces, and following through by walking those steps. The attitude includes reminding myself that if I take one step at a time with the expectation that that there are lessons to learn, I can do this.  

As you consider your own path, what goals do you currently have that are worthy of your effort? What intentions might you adopt today? Then ask yourself, what manageable steps can I take each day to move up the hills in my life to achieve those desired outcomes?    

Over the weekend trees blown by the wind fell on electrical lines cutting off power to many members of our community. Thanks to the efforts of those tasked with disentangling heavy limbs from live wires and repairing broken connections, power was restored within a matter of hours.

For the most part those of us living in remote areas are accustomed to such interruptions and have attuned our attitudes and responses accordingly. At the same time, I confess that powerful winds tap the fears in my lizard brain.

Perhaps planted during childhood in Kansas and Oklahoma when tornado warnings would send our family to huddle in our shelter rooms, those fears grew with age during years of monitoring hurricanes coming up the east coast when we lived there. Today, strong gusts continue to bring me the greatest unease.

Yesterday, I discovered that a large birch tree on our land had succumbed to the wind’s force. Fortunately, it fell downhill from the lines into our house. As I assessed the situation it occurred to me that the very forces I feared had brought a gift. Laid out before me was the balance of firewood we would need to feed our stoves in the coming winter. In addition, the timing could not be more propitious, occurring before the full arrival of the seasonal black fly nuisance. As the picture shows, I began bucking it up.

Perhaps this episode can serve as reminder to you as well. What is a gift within the fears you face today? How can it help transform your prospects for the coming days?  Is it helpful to know that you are not alone?


Lessons from the liminal life

The pandemic has thrust us into a free fall, a plummet into loss – of control, resources, relationships, health, and for too many, life itself. We are suspended between what was and what will be. We are in a liminal time.

Liminal passages are periods of “neither/nor” as well as “both/and.” An adolescent, whose behavior embraces both realities, is no longer a child but not yet an adult. When we mourn, we honor the blessings of the intimacies we knew while holding the pain of the loss.

Joseph Campbell and Arnold Van Gennep studied and identified key patterns of the liminal time. Focusing on four of those dynamics may help us take more control over the trajectory of our own upended lives.

Each liminal stage holds for us a jewel, a truth of insight, knowledge or understanding. In order to access that precious awareness, we go through many demanding trials. We are challenged by trolls, those who confront us with the dark sides of our nature, and we are assisted by guides, those who elicit our redeeming lights. Inevitably, the precious jewel is protected by a guardian who must be persuaded or conquered to gain access.

Liminal times beckon us to identify and generate our answers to four questions.

  • What for me are the jewels at the heart of this difficult time?
  • Who is/are the guardian/s of those precious insights?
  • What are the dark-side trolls keeping me from getting there?
  • Who are the guides I can turn to for advocacy and support?

This time of great upheaval threatens us individually and collectively. With the time granted us may one of our responses be to seek the growth possible within it, and may we support each other in that pursuit.

Clients often confront those of us engaged in the healing arts with perplexing and demanding dilemmas. It is part of what draws us into this work. Frequently, the queries stretch us with challenges that are either outside our life experience or too familiar from it. Either way, we can view the questions as threats to the presumption of our competence or doorways to new dimensions of understanding for both client and coach.

I was reminded of this recently by two events.  Last month’s annual Touched By A Horse Summit included the graduation ceremony of several persons who had successfully completed the intensive two-year coaching certification program. Having coached many TBAH students and graduates in past years and having shared in the launch of our own business, I am aware of questions that arise.  Sometimes they can be almost immobilizing, threatening our forward progress with the specter of inadequacy or failure.

The second recent event – the arrival in my email of one of my favorite poems by Denise Levertov – provides a tender reinforcement of the power of embracing questions as pathways to new insight and appreciation.  And remember, we need not be in the helping professions to embrace the questions of those whom we value most.

A Gift

Just when you seem to yourself
nothing but a flimsy web
of questions, you are given
the questions of others to hold
in the emptiness of your hands,
songbird eggs that can still hatch
if you keep them warm,
butterflies opening and closing themselves
in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure
their scintillant fur, their dust.
You are given the questions of others
as if they were answers
to all you ask. Yes, perhaps
this gift is your answer.

(Sands of the Well)


I remember a rhyme painted on a pottery pitcher in my parents’ kitchen. “Little duties still put off will end in never done. By and by is soon enough has ruined many a one.”  Beyond the judgment on procrastination this potentially guilt-trolling little ditty may offer another insight.

Without knowing it a friend challenged me recently. She went looking for my latest blog and found that it was six months old! Fortunately, it offered a boon to her spirit, a fact she shared with others and me.

Reflecting on the hiatus in my writing led me to realize that I sometimes balk on the brim of forward movement. Does that happen to you too? Do you also find an excuse to postpone taking what you know are the first steps down the path to a fuller expression of your heart’s truths? I know from coaching that there are many who block themselves at the brink.

What if the “little duties still put off” were owed to self and led the way to the potential that beckons from the other side? What if, as David Whyte says, the step is simpler than we had thought? My step today is to begin writing once again. What is yours?

It is always hard to believe that the courageous step is so close to us, that it is closer than we ever could imagine, that in fact, we already know what it is, and that the step is simpler, more radical than we had thought: which is why we so often prefer the story to be more elaborate, our identities clouded by fear, the horizon safely in the distance, the essay longer than it needs to be and the answer safely in the realm of impossibility.

From “Beginning” in Consolations


Have you asked yourself lately where you are in your life? Are you clear about your purpose, the reason you are here? Are you fulfilling it? Are you content with your answers?

The familiar Shaker hymn reminds us – ’tis the gift to be simple. ‘tis the gift to be free. ‘tis the gift to come ‘round where we ought to be.

First, a disclaimer: the word “ought” can be fraught with danger. Too many of us “should” all over ourselves to the point of diminishment, convincing ourselves we are not enough. Rather than self-blame, what if we think of “where we ought to be” as an embrace of the truth of who we are and why we are here?

Having said that, I don’t want to imply that “simple” means easy. Rather, simplifying involves focusing on the essentials of who we are and aligning ourselves accordingly. It is a process that can reveal and reinforce the gifts we have been given and those we bring to others. Our circles of influence may be small, but they are uniquely ours and critically important.

If you have not yet explored deeply your sense of life’s purpose or wish to revisit it, let me suggest a resource that served me well over a decade ago – Alan Seale’s Soul Mission, Life Vision book and training.

Having a clear sense of purpose is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and others. Knowing who we are, why we are here, and having a vision for how we can live that purpose is a significant key to a rewarding and fulfilling life.

May each of us in our own way manifest our intention “to come ‘round where we ought to be.” What’s your first next step?

Recently I held space as a friend processed the weight of many pressures. When leaving he said, “you helped me discover what I already know.” That’s a profound insight for all of us and for a coach the highest of compliments.

Most of us who have lived a few years know what makes us tick and what brings us joy. We also recognize that sometimes life buffets us with unforeseen force that can overwhelm our internal GPS. Taking a time out to reclaim our core can help us regain our balance, direction and momentum.

Some of us call our internal GPS our soul’s mission – what we already know about who we are and why we are here. Opening to that sense of purpose is an ongoing pursuit, as the Buddhist Metta prayer reminds us: May I awaken to the light of my own true nature.

A recent post from Bishop Steven Charleston offers timely encouragement when we lose sight of what we already know:

Life will find a way. No matter how dry. No matter how broken. Still the green shoot will appear. The stubborn sign of hope. In each of us there is a force more ancient than any of us can remember. We have sheltered it for generations uncounted. It is not the will to live, for there are times when the will alone is not strong enough. It is the faith to live. The deep roots of life finding water where no water was meant to be, the emerging spirit of life rising to seek the light when all light was supposed to have gone. We carry that within us. You carry it. It is part of who you are and will always be. Have faith. Life will find a way.


I heard from two friends this past week. One hovers on the brink of a life defining decision. The other has made hers. The first weighs carefully the pros and cons, hesitant to fully embrace what she knows deep down she must do. Having committed, the other shares with gusto and resolve her first strides into its unfolding.

Do you see yourself in either of my friends? Or perhaps both? I do for myself. Once again, the words of John O’Donohue touch my heart for such moments. Perhaps they will provide some helpful perspectives for you as well. Which of his lines below speak most closely to your current situation?

For the Time of Necessary Decisions

The mind of time is hard to read.

We can never predict what it will bring

Nor even from all that is already gone

Can we say what form it finally takes;

For time gathers its moments secretly.

Often we only know it’s time to change

When a force has built inside the heart

That leaves us uneasy as we are.


Perhaps the work we do has lost its soul

Or the love where we once belonged

Calls nothing alive in us anymore.


We drift through this gray, increasing nowhere

Until we stand before a threshold we know

We have to cross to come alive once more.


May we have the courage to take the step

Into the unknown that beckons us;

Trust that a richer life awaits us there,

That we will lose nothing

But what has already died;

Feel the deeper knowing in us sure

Of all that is about to be born beyond

The pale frames where we stayed confined,

Not realizing how such vacant endurance

Was bleaching our soul’s desire.

One key to successful coaching of self or others is the ability to frame questions that open the mind and heart to new possibilities. The end of the day and the close of the year are propitious times for probing queries that can pull us forward.

In his book, To Bless the Space Between Us, John O’Donohue bequeaths us some compelling inquiries for these moments of reflection. I offer them to you, either as guidance for your reflections at the close of day or your review of the year gone by.

Here are some samples from his meditation “At the End of the Day: A Mirror of Questions” (p. 98).

What new thoughts visited me?

Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?

What differences did I notice in those closest to me?

Whom did I neglect?

Where did I neglect myself?

What did I begin today that might endure?

What did I do today for the poor and the excluded?

Where could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?

Where did I allow myself to receive love?

With whom today did I feel most myself?

What reached me today? How deep did it imprint?

What visitations had I from the past and from the future?

What did I avoid today?

From the evidence – why was I given this day?

Which questions engaged you the most? In all likelihood, it is your responses to those queries that your head and heart are asking you for.


In the early days of map making cartographers designated unexplored regions with images of threatening beasts. “Here be dragons.” The image serves us today. How do we face the demons that lie within us?

A first step in confronting our dragons is to see them for what they are. My profession has taught me to pay attention to projection – the unconscious tendency to transfer our personal dynamics on to others whom we then blame (or bless). Becoming aware of our fears begins to defuse them.

A second step is to explore what our demons tell us about ourselves. Why are they there? In one of his letters written to a young poet Rainer Marie Rilke writes:

We have no reason to distrust our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors. If it has an abyss, it is ours… And if we would live with faith in the value of what is challenging, then what now appears to us as most alien will become our truest, most trustworthy friend.  (July 11th, p. 192) 

Lastly, when we befriend our fears by acknowledging their truth, we often find they hold a jewel. Rilke continues:

Let us not forget the ancient myths … about dragons that at the last moment transform into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act just once with beauty and courage. Perhaps every terror is, in its deepest essence, something that needs our recognition or help.

If our demons are powers that call out for our recognition or help, what is one of yours? What is its truth? Who is it calling you to be? What is it calling you to do?