I feel very fortunate that for over 20 years now, I have spent much of my professional life training professionals. It’s the work that’s near and dear to my heart, and I’m aware of what a great honor it is. From a young age, I’ve always admired my teachers. In so many ways teachers can be like our first gods. These days, there are all kinds of opportunities to learn from experts about how to be a good coach, practitioner, healer, or counselor. As I reflect upon my own journey, I thought it would be a good idea to offer you some of the great life coaching tips that I’ve accumulated along the way from a number of my beloved teachers. I hope these 5 coaching tips speak to you as surely and steadfastly as they have to me. Let me know what you think.
1. Begin Your Meditation Now
When I was a graduate student at Sonoma State University in California, I was in an amazing transpersonal psychology program. One of the highlights of my education there was my teacher, Robert Greenway. Amongst his many talents, he would lead a 2-hour silent meditation session several times a week. Nothing could be more torturous. After sitting for many grueling and sadistic minutes that seemed like a lifetime, I’d be asking myself why in the world anyone would want to meditate. Dr. Greenway always rang a small bell when there was only 5 minutes left. He’d say in a very low voice, “Begin your meditation now.” The first time he ever said this, my brain exploded in confusion. I was ecstatic there were only 5 minutes left, yet his words were essentially saying “ let go of the past, let go of the struggle, let go of the story you’ve been telling yourself for the last few hours, and start fresh.” It was clear that there was a deeper life teaching here: keep every moment new and crispy. I often remind myself to “begin your meditation now” whenever I find myself pushing to get out of the moment. If you get bored or anxious in a client session, in a classroom, or anywhere, begin again in each moment. Time is precious. Life is precious. What if your Life started right now?
2. What About Uncertainty?
In this very same graduate program, I had another epic teacher – Gordon Tappan. He had this fascinating talent that whenever he communicated an idea he held important, somehow, the room would get brighter. Really. Of course, this is impossible, but a bunch of us students figured out over lunch one day that we were having the same experience. One of the statements that Gordon would consistently make that seemed to create the most unexplained luminosity was when he would randomly ask this question: “What about uncertainty?” Eventually, I noticed that he asked this whenever one of us know-it-all graduate students would speak with conviction and authority about how life or the grand design of the cosmos actually works. He valued the unknown. He valued not knowing. He drew power from being wise enough to understand that not understanding is it’s own deeper wisdom. I like to think that I know a lot, yet whenever I’m sitting with a client or teaching students, I hear Gordon’s voice reminding me that relaxing into the uncertainty and the unknown of life has an uncanny way of transforming us. I’m still trying to make the room brighter.
3. The truth spoken without love isn’t quite the truth
My most influential yoga teacher, Yogi Amrit Desai, had a special knack for speaking in such a way that no matter what he said, the listener would always feel loved. It was remarkable to observe. I’d always wonder what his secret was. He could offer difficult and challenging feedback, but it always seemed to land softly. One day, he divulged his secret, which really wasn’t such a secret after all. He said “the truth spoken without love isn’t really the truth.” I learned so much in that one statement. We often say things harshly, with an edge, with judgment, or with the intent to hurt – even though what we’re saying might be accurate or true. You could tell a young child “ Your reading skills are absolutely terrible. What a mess. You should be doing far better at this point in your education.” Or you could tell that same young child “I’m so excited to help you improve your reading skills even more. By the time you grow up, your reading ability will be absolutely amazing.” I think you get my point. Whenever I’m with a client and I’m afraid to say something edgy, I remind myself to come from love. Can you think of a better strategy?
4. Before you speak, make sure it’s an improvement on silence
People talk a lot. You don’t have to look very far to find someone who has a lot to say. These days, listening is at a premium. When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I remember being at a big family dinner where the conversation was loud and authoritative and continuous. At some point, someone barked above the crowd
“This is such a typical New York get-together. Everybody talks, nobody listens.” For a moment, there was a pregnant silence, and then the yakking continued. We often become uncomfortable with silence. It’s as if the pause in the conversation is too painful for us to be with. And yet, listening to the silence is magic. When I’m with a client, I love to listen, I love to talk, and I value each moment of silence as if it’s gold. I learned this from my teacher’s teacher, Babaji. He said, “Before you speak, check in to see if it’s an improvement upon silence.” In the moments when words are absent, we can hear everything. The wisdom of the universe can finally speak to us. Trust the quiet.
5. What if every session was your last one?
In my early days as a practitioner, I’d often find myself having insights or opinions I wanted to share with a client, however I’d get concerned that what I had to say would be too much and my client would walk out the door never to see me again. Or in the worst-case scenario, they’d pull out a machine gun and shoot me. I have an active imagination. Granted, as professionals we need to choose our words thoughtfully. At the same time, we’re being paid to help make things happen by being smart. Inspired by reading Stephen Levine’s book One Year to Live, I had the thought one day, “what if I treated every session as if it was the last one I would ever deliver on planet Earth?” Suffice it to say, this changed my professional life. I started taking more chances. I stepped out of my comfort zone with clients. By imagining that the session I was in with the client was my last one ever, how could I not give my absolute heartfelt best? Often times, I will literally say to a client, “ if I was going to die today and this was my last session, I want to go out with a bang. So here’s what I would tell you so this last session would be meaningful and real…” Trust me, when you say this to a client from a place of sincerity, they listen. Be bold. Live your professional life to the absolute fullest. Give your clients all of you. In fact, if this was my last blog ever, I’d say this to you: “ It’s okay. Go for it. Go for all of it. Go for the life you want. Be the person you want to be. Give the love you want to receive. Be the abundance you want to have.”
I would love to hear about a situation where trusting uncertainty revealed a surprising result.
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