Archives for category: Coaching

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?

 

Obstacles in our lives come from two sources, and each can define us. Powerful weather events – violent storms, floods, wildfires – inflict change that is outside our control. Less obvious but perhaps more influential are the constraints we impose on ourselves from within.

The stories we tell ourselves are one example of a self-imposed limit. Many of those stories originate with hurtful events that have scarred us or messages of inadequacy that we have adopted and reinforced by repetition – not smart enough, not attractive enough, not good enough. Many of us have carried these stories around for years. What if we could remove those obstacles and tell a new story?

Fear is the second obstruction that most of us face. Who hasn’t worried about being abandoned or embarrassed or failing at something important? Often, our fears block us from stepping out, up or in to our fullness. What if we could move through our fears to acknowledge and embrace our gifts and celebrate the unique person we are?

If you are one who tends to constrict yourself, The Book of Joy may be a good resource. A quick and inspirational read, the book captures five days of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Each has known incredible hardships imposed from the outside. Spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama has lived much of his life in exile. Spiritual leader of Anglicans in South Africa, Archbishop Tutu has lived much of his life under the system of apartheid.

Each has met those challenges with astounding resilience, revealing the inherent love, goodness and joy within their hearts. Their examples inspire each of us to remove the obstacles that hide the radiance of our own inner light.

 

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How many times have you plopped into bed at the end of the day too tired to remember or value the gifts in your waking hours? How many of your days have flowed into weeks and then months, perhaps even years, without your dreams interrupting your routines?

The start of a new year offers an opportunity to reset intentions. What if you choose one episode to be the day’s gift? At the start of the day set one expectation that you anticipate. At day’s end look back upon the interaction that had the most impact and the lesson it served up for you. During the day, when you are surprised by an interaction, pause long enough to wonder about its meaning.

I am adopting this practice and finding it to be a very useful way to nurture mindfulness, joy, appreciation and purpose. One example comes from connecting the dots between recent conversations with a colleague. They are leading me to a modest role in a project he is coordinating related to our mutual professional interests.

Just one thing each day can add up to significant shifts in our life’s trajectory. Words from Maya Angelou’s 1993 inaugural poem, On the Pulse of Morning, elevate the message.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need for this bright morning dawning for you. History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, need not be lived again. Lift up your eyes upon the day breaking for you. Give birth again to the dream.

Women, children, men, take it into the palms of your hands. Mold it into the shape of your most private need. Sculpt it into the image of your most public self. Lift up your hearts. Each new hour holds new chances for new beginnings.

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Each of us writes our life’s narrative. Have you ever wondered why certain people have shown up in it? — those who lifted you up, those who darkened your days or those who left you wondering?

The closing of a year provides a timely opportunity to ask ourselves, “who were/are these people to me?”

Our stories have many purposes. They relay information and interpret events. They entertain. They also define us as individuals and communities.

Have you noticed that many of the most memorable stories are populated by distinctive characters? Often, they seem larger than life, exaggerated versions of our fears and foibles, our hopes and dreams. In most stories, and certainly in our own lives, the characters we meet often play a special role.

Reflect for a moment. Who were Tiresias, the Sirens and Cyclops to Odysseus? Who were the White Rabbit, the Cheshire cat and the Mad Hatter to Alice? Who were the Winged Monkeys, Glinda and Oz to Dorothy? Who were Yoda, Princess Leia and Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker?

In each case the characters represent more than their physical appearance. They tweak our curiosity. They threaten us and stoke our fears. They surprise us with insights and new possibilities. They tap our imaginations. They show us our courage when our knees are weak.

They are gatekeepers to the world of shadows and enlightenment. They are guardians of crucial information. They are guides who provide protection and encourage us to see the precious jewels in adversity. They help us see the essence of who we are.

Who are the main characters who populate your narrative? What was/is the meaning of their presence? Who are those who had/have the most impact on your life? What did/do they teach you about yourself and your journey?

 

 

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Has life ever handed you set backs or conundrums? Has it surprised you with health issues? natural calamities? relationship dynamics? job loss? cultural or political shifts? In one of his most compelling teachings, Alan Seale suggests that your answers to three questions may help you find your way.

When something extraordinary rocks our world, it usually exceeds our ability to explain or justify. A line from Bob Dylan’s song Ballad of a Thin Man comes to mind: “…something is happening here but you don’t know what it is do you, Mr. Jones?”

The first question is: What wants to happen here? Alan encourages us to turn from fear to curiosity. Since our usual explanations are inadequate, what are some possibilities that we haven’t considered? The Chinese word for “crisis” combines the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” It takes courage to believe there is opportunity on the other side of our vulnerability. However, unless we venture, we will never know.

Who is that asking me to be? Responding to new possibilities may force us either to reclaim basic values we have neglected or to embrace capacities that we have failed to acknowledge. Who are the parts of self that the crisis is calling into the center of our personal mandala?

What is that asking me to do? What are steps I can take to acknowledge that I am not in Kansas anymore? I may not be able to rewind a circumstance, but I do have the power to move toward the openings that new possibilities present. The actions need not be large. They need only be sustained.

For a more detailed exploration of the questions Alan poses, read his blog for this week.

 

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In an article this week, Why American Leadership Fails, David Brooks differentiates between a career and a vocation. While the main thrust of his commentary is to illustrate current political dynamics, the distinction applies to each of us on our own life’s path.

A career is something you choose; a vocation is something you are called to. A person choosing a career asks, how can I get the best job…? A person summoned by a vocation asks, how can my existing abilities be put in service of the greatest common good?

 A career is a job you do as long as the benefits outweigh the costs; a vocation involves falling in love with something, having a conviction about it and making it part of your personal identity.

 A vocation involves promises to some ideal, it reveals itself in a sense of enjoyment as you undertake its tasks and it can’t be easily quit when setbacks and humiliations occur.  As others have noted, it involves a double negative – you can’t not do this thing.

As one who coaches others to live their lives fully, I find the double negative compelling. The question becomes, how do we discover the thing we can’t not do?

One answer is to clarify what we value most and the things we do best. What pursuits yield our greatest joy? What activities bring us the greatest fulfilment? Who are the people and what are the situations that most attract us?

Students and grads of the equine coaching program with whom Peggy and I work have found their calling and are developing it. You are blessed if you can you say the same about your own path. If not yet, then is it not time to take your next step?

 

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It is early Sunday morning. The candle burns without a flicker in the still air of the room. Rain begins tapping gently on the skylight, its arrival a surprise. As the tempo increases the mantra of my meditation yields to the refrain of camp directors I once knew. It is a silver day.

Implicit in that message were two expectations. On the one hand, it informed campers and staff that most activities would be held indoors or special gear was needed for being outside. At a more sublime level the announcement was a pivot to channel any potential disappointment into opportunity.

There are many silver linings to a rainy day. On our hillside the thirsty garden drinks, as do the parched fields. The empty brook bed sings again accompanied by the chorus of forest leaves deflecting the downpour. The bird baths fill. Outdoor projects yield to unfinished work inside. It is a metaphor for turning inward, and for those of us who are introverts inward is home base!

The greatest lesson of a silver day is a reminder about the power of expectations. They shape our attitudes and effort which in turn influence the way we show up. A quote attributed to Henry Ford says it all: If you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right!

What does a rainy day say to you? Do your expectations shift? Do you anticipate a rainbow?