Bringing Spring Freshness into the Coaches Mind

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In a recent issue of Forbes Magazine 23rd January 2013 I noticed an article “Three Keys to Mindful Leadership Coaching” by Douglas Riddle.

“There are countless executive coaches I would never hire for myself, no matter how wise, insightful, dynamic or experienced. If a coach can’t create an environment that dissolves the limitations of history, expectation, and assumption, I’m not interested.” says Riddle “The coaches who expand my mind, emotions and performance come to the coaching relationship from a place of inner calm. They have quiet minds. They are not beguiled by fancy techniques or elegant coaching models. They are midwives for the narrow, messy emergence into a larger world – and they rely on habits of mindfulness to accomplish that.

So how do you prepare your mind, body and soul for being in a coaching session?

A typical response might be “ I have a little routine that I go through to check I am ready and prepared then I centre myself with a few breaths before the client arrives!”

Let me ask the question again. When you are stuck on a train with only five minutes to go to the beginning of your session and you have a migraine starting, how do you take care of yourself?

Perhaps, you are sitting comfortably in your favourite chair, note pad on your lap and telephone ready and waiting. It rings, you pick it up and launch into welcoming your client but surprisingly it is another caller who launches into a long story. In that moment what happens to your sense of quiet readiness? Where can you begin to feel the panic rise or those thoughts of “How do I get her to stop!”

Life and coaching sessions can be dotted with “in the moment issues”; clients are unpredictable beings, technology can cut out communications and of course, we coaches are but mere mortals at the end of the day. If you have not taken care of your own inner resources, it makes no difference if you have every coaching model up your sleeve and a degree to prove it.

Often in supervision sessions, the question comes up, of how appropriate it is for a coach to be coaching when their personal challenges are relentlessly stressful? Reading coaching ethics and standards might guide you, talking about somatics , EQ or thinking about meditation might assist but to be able to sit with our client’s inner landscapes we need to touch deep within our own landscapes. Mindfulness gives you a deeper awareness of yourself and your inner resources.

We coaches do struggle with our own daily worries , we hide our vulnerabilities and push our physical bodies through winter flu, cancer scares and addictive behaviours. Living in “automatic pilot” with a brain full of over –activity is common to us all. I wonder how many of us slip into automatic pilot during our coaching relationships ? Cultivating an inner awareness of ourselves allows subtle changes in the way that we experience alertness in our sessions.

The introduction of westernised Mindfulness pioneered by Jon Kabit Zinn, has brought mindfulness into clinical practice and made its benefits available to the ordinary person who is suffering in some way. Large companies are engaging Mindfulness based courses for employees and we cannot ignore the huge evidence that mindfulness not only works but can hand control back to the individual. Our clients or potential clients are benefiting from the new availability to access a more wholesome way of living their lives in and out of work. Can we executive coaches celebrate and share the deeper insights, lessons of compassion and encourage our clients to “be” in this brave new world that is developing?

Can you give yourself permission to stop and just be?

Do we have a regular time that we give ourselves to sit in the present moment; a quiet moment to really recognise how we are being in our bodies, with our thoughts, emotions and senses?

Cultivating a real awareness of how we are, in our body and minds may feel like a huge commitment. What are the basic foundation stones of developing self and deepening our capabilities in that space we meet our clients in? How often are we really being in the present moment whilst coaching? Do you ever witness our own voice and its questions during sessions and sense a discord deep inside? Yes we do have inner voices which may be saying “when was the last time your walked your talk, coach?”

Mindfulness combines both formal and informal practices which can be added into our daily lives creating opportunities for coaches to adjust their way of being. There is no right or wrong way of being mindful but modern research has helped us to understand the depth of the benefits found in adopting regular exercises. The structure of our brains can change after just 8 short weeks of regular practice.

The AC have offered wonderful opportunities to learn more about Mindfulness and coaches can immerse ourselves in the plethora of wonderful books. However adding this mindfulness practice into our lives is one of the challenges that we all face. No matter whether you are a Buddhist or coming from a secular perspective, finding real time and commitment to stopping and giving attention to our wellbeing in the present moment is significant. Mindfulness is not just a new tool to be added glibly to our tool kit, it is a commitment to embody a new way of being in our lives not just in our coaching sessions. This is an ancient practice which deserves respect and appreciation.

Inviting a fresher alertness into our lives

  • Can we enter each session with the freshness of a beginner’s mind? An empty mind is key to letting something happen in someone else. It is the essence of coaching.
  • Can we sit with ourselves and develop compassion and self -care?
  • How self managed are we in our lives? Can we respond rather than react?
  • How does our self judgment play out in the coaching space?

As Riddle says in his article:

“The real question for the coach is this: how can I prepare myself to create a mental, emotional, and relational space in which someone may grow and develop? Mindfulness practices prepare coaches to really help instead of just trying to be helpful.”

The Pillars of Mindfulness and Coaching

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In the early years of being a coach I had the privileged of attending a European Coaching Conference in Sitges, Spain where Master Coach Hannah Wilder PhD was running a lunchtime workshop on Mindfulness. Hannah, an American coach had been following the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn and the Order of Interbeing for many years and she was offering a slow down session for all the noisy, over excited coaches who had come together in 2002. It was a peaceful haven, with no Buddhist robes, amidst the high energy of Julio Olalla, Sir John Whitmore and Alain Cardon. A year later Hannah ran another workshop on Mindfulness for coaches in a London pub—it was an evening that inspired me even more. Hannah became my mentor coach, colleague and friend over the years and has always encouraged me to follow a more mindful existence.

Not only did I discover the amazing Order of Interbeing I also realised that there was a whole community of international people who had taken his teaching deep into their westernised lives. Thich Nhat Hanh taught me the wonderful ways that we can incorporate the simplest of practices into our daily lives. The humdrum activities of walking, eating and housework suddenly became alive and purposeful.

Hannah, introduced me to incorporating mindfulness into not only my everyday life but also into my coaching. As I evolved and grew so has my coaching. Adding mindfulness for me has been very natural but often challenging journey. So many of us have floated in and out of contemplative practices over the years but have wavered in continuity under the real daily pressures that we live with.

I so acknowledge all the coaches that I have met over the years who have truly adopted a mindful way of life and so generously share this with friends, clients and other coaches. I could list hundreds of coaches and other professionals that have championed the way and inspired myself and others; from the fields of retreat coaching, ontological, eco- psychology, somatics, neuroscience————

This is not new ground for many people and there is nothing inspirationally different in the revival of age old practices. We who are advocating for mindfulness know that it works. This article is written as a way of informing coaches that more and more of their clients may already have been introduced to this way of being. It is mainstream in the NHS, Transport for London and already holds its own in schools and so many avenues of life internationally. Today as globally identifiable companies are running “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” MBSR programmes, there are so many more possibilities for coaches to work with executive clients who are already working in an open and unlimited space of possibility, within the workplace. Can we meet them in that space?

As coaches attending workshops and trainings we develop ourselves, top up our knowledge whilst deepening our own self awareness and ticking the box for CPD hours. How long does the effect or influence of a refurbished coaching model, a new tool or attractive training, last for? What is the deeper imprint on you and on your imprint on the world?

Globally, this feels more like a conscious choice for creating wholesome people, workplaces. On the individual level many ordinary people are noticing subtle, but life changing shifts in their self – awareness, their own personable ability to control their own thoughts, emotions and bodies with a gentle commitment to following regular practice with the support of other people.

I have noticed the subtle changes personally and my clients are benefiting from the way it has blended into my work as an Executive Retreat Coach. My heart and mind always knew that to work with the whole person I would need to ask clients to step outside the office and their daily lives just for a short time. Mindfulness becomes a way of life which then influences who we are in the world and in our coaching. Everyone that I have ever met has agreed that being part of a really likeminded group is the most supportive way to have a regular practice. Whether we connect virtually or through regular practice, meetings and retreats, mindfulness need not be a solitary affair but it is a wonderful opportunity just to be with you.

There are so many threads of commonality between mindfulness and coaching. Whether you have adopted a simpler way of living your life, attend meditation or mindfulness classes or like me have chosen to train as a Mindfulness Instructor, you embed the learning and begin to reap the subtle benefits. It appears in strange changes that you notice and others comment on.

Discovery is an essential part of the coaching process for both coach and client. The similarities and interwoven principals of both mindfulness and coaching are initially not appreciated nor acknowledged. Everyday our new awareness brings fresh realisations and often, in both supervision and coaching discussions, the connections become so real.

This is a journey of commitment and discovery for coaches who have a mindfulness practice, whereby they begin to notice changes within themselves and in the way they are in everyday life. There may be subtle shifts in the way we remain present, in the way we listen or how we remain detached from our clients’ emotions whilst coaching. In our daily lives, we sleep better, find pleasure in more and notice our balance of intention and attention slowly evolve to permit our general wellbeing to be enhanced.

Noting the commonalities and benefits from encompassing mindfulness into the coach’s life is the beginning of a powerful awareness raising process. Here are a few common threads running through the two practices;

  • Beginner’s Mind
  • Working with the Unknown
  • Present Moment Awareness
  • Non judgement
  • Trust – letting go of your own agenda and attachment to outcomes
  • Empathy and Compassion
  • Patience – with self and the process
  • Completely open to the NOW
  • Non-striving – a recognition that things can only emerge in their own time

Join me in adding to the list as we continue to develop together, raising awareness and leaving a positive imprint on the world.

Present Pause Mindfulness Course for Coaches 24th September -29th October 2014

24th September – 29th October weekly 17.00-19.00
Brighton, United Kingdom


Present Pause is a short six week course in Mindfulness.Allowing two hours to spend time with yourself in the company of other coaches. If you are open to experiencing formal and informal mindfulness practices which will raise your awareness of the threads of commonality between mindfulness and coaching, then join this specially designed course.These 6 evening sessions will offer you

  • the opportunity to “Pause” and sit in your own presence
  • bring individual quiet time into your life with an increased awareness of the subtle benefits
  • a sense of control over your own health and wellbeing
  •  changing perspectives of your life and your way of being with self, clients and the unknown
  • deeper understanding of coaching competencies; listening to self in the moment, noticing nuances of communications, working with thoughts and emotions
  •  a self directed commitment to stretching your own personal and professional boundaries; deeper understanding of acceptance, choice and change
  • being who you are with acceptance and solid ownership and responsibility taking, which can be modelled and shared in work, rest and play
  • using embodied mindfulness with clients

Before we start

There will be an introductory telephone conversation prior to beginning the course. Each participant will  have the opportunity to hold a conversation with Dorothy whereby she can check  whether this is a suitable time for you to commit to the course. You will be able to ask questions and talk about the practicalities of attending the course.

Dates for your diary-

24th September, 1st October, 8th October, 15th October, 22st October and 29th October.

Time to arrive –

Arrival  16.45  beginning session at 17.00  – 19.00

What to bring –  Exercise mat, warm cover, cushion or pad or meditation stool

Do call on 01293 550 835 to discuss.

 

 

 

Standing in Silence

Remembrance Day and the three minutes silence that we are invited to take part in, can be an exercise which arouses both emotions and memories. I also take note from hearing the voices of veterans, their families and friends that the most powerful words uttered are based on strong values and beliefs. Honour, patriotism,dedication,courage,commitment and sacrifice are but a few.

For those who stood in silence, there was an opportunity to recognise just how powerfully those values were held by those who fought for peace and freedom. How today there are many who still hold these values but for perhaps a larger majority these are concepts taken for granted.

As a coach I am used to asking questions and I must admit to being somewhat self reflective today. I am asking myself; what makes me patriotic? Would I be willing to sacrifice anything for my country? What took so many young men away from home,family and country to serve for their country? I wonder how many false values and beliefs came to them as they lay wounded and dying? How many values instilled by the communites they lived did not serve them well?

The questions of commitment; how commited are you on a scale of 1 to 10 ? A question often asked. How far would you go to complete a task, be lead blindly down a fatal path or carry out an order that meant you or your family would be left pained ad traumatised?

Take a few silent minutes each day to stop and ask yourself a question. Stop to acknowledge another or view your actions and then ask yourself  ” How am I measuring up to other peoples values and how am I honouring my own values?” Taking time to question yourself before you judge others.

Building Resilience through Mindfulness

The ordinary person has extraordinary possibilities. We look to extraordinary others to try to find out how they do it? Everyone stumbles and falls from time to time, but each of us has the capability to get back up and carry on. I call it bounce-back-ability others call this ability to get up and get going, resilience. Read more