Basic Life Coach Training Update:
Lately I’ve been reading about Buddhist meditation and mindfulness – specifically what’s known as Vipassana meditation. At it’s core, it’s the practice of seeing the true nature of reality without preconceptions or illusions, and can be a great technique to share with others as part of your life coaching and life coach training. This may sound simple, but being mindful goes against much of what we’re expected to do in daily life.
So what does this have to do with life coach training? After practicing mindfulness, even for a few minutes at a time, I realized that this is also a great tool for overcoming judgement. Being objective and nonjudgmental – sometimes called “witnessing” – is an extremely important aspect of life coaching. In fact, it’s nearly indispensable if you hope to have effective conversation with your clients.
It’s the nature of the mind to judge almost everything that we perceive. For example, when you pick out a piece of fruit at the grocery store, you’re judging whether or not it’s good or bad. You look at color, shape, and size. You may even judge it as being “bad” just because it has some natural blemishes. This is a fairly harmless example of judgement, but it extends to almost all areas of our lives.
If you go to a coffee shop and someone in frayed clothing and unkempt hair walks up to you, how often do you make an assumption that they’re poor, looking for spare change, or simply aren’t someone you will want to talk to? These judgements are based on past experiences and past decisions about what fits your life and what doesn’t. Mindfulness is simply knowing your brain does this “judgement thing” and letting go of the judgement about even this! The thoughts themselves don’t hold you back so long as you recognize it for what it is, and make more decisions based on facts, not suspicions.
That person with the frayed clothing and unkempt hair could be handing you the keys you dropped in the parking lot. Or they might even be a wealth of knowledge on a subject you’ve been researching. But because of your perceptions you didn’t give yourself the chance to know, or even talk to them.
So take time to practice mindfulness. While you may not have the opportunity to use Vipassana meditation under the supervision of a Buddhist monk, you’d be surprised how easy it is to add a little mindfulness to your life coaching, as well as to your daily life. And share this with your clients. Those who are open to it will appreciate your suggestion.
So how does one “do” meditation? The first step is to find a quite spot. Find a comfy chair or sofa if you’re at home, or go to a park or sit quietly at a cafe if life at home is not so supportive.
Once you’re settled, take a moment to turn off the distractions: cell phone, concerns, and other items that might interfere. Relax. Sit straight without becoming rigid or tense. Allow your awareness to focus on your breathing …don’t “try” to relax (this is actually an oxymoron). There’s no need to change it, just notice. In and out. In and out. Do this until your mind is relaxed but focused. Now you can turn that focus to a specific person.
You might think that the point of meditation is to stop thoughts or eliminate them completely. Don’t try – this will only result in strain and inner conflict. Instead, let thoughts arise like bubbles to the surface of your mind. The difference between your everyday thinking and mindful thinking is being aware of these thoughts. In the beginning you may notice LOTS of thoughts. As you do this more often, however, you may find yourself settling in a bit more.
Imagine the presence of someone you know. Notice the thoughts that come up and welcome them. You don’t have to engage with them, just be the observer. Remain as detached as possible, and even notice when judgements come up about “not being detached enough” (they will)!
What thoughts arise about this person? Are you comparing them to yourself or people you know? Are you deciding what you like or dislike about them? Just notice.
Once you are mindful of your thoughts, notice again your many judgements. This is normal. Most of us do this all of the time without realizing it. Once aware of the thoughts, let them go.
When thoughts arise, instead of regarding them as faults, “recognize them as the emptiness they are and leave them as they are.” – GÖTSANGPA, The Highest Continuum, translated by Elizabeth M. Callahan
You are not your thoughts. You are much more than you think. There is something deeper and more powerful inside of you – that which can actually watch the mind. This is what some call Being, Divinity or your True self.
Once you are able to let your thoughts pass as naturally as the sound of traffic outside your window, you become ready to truly listen to and observe another person. So use this new-found skill with your coaching clients. Notice what they are saying. What they’re expressing… and how. Notice how your perception changes when you aren’t clouded by your own mental conversation and judgements.
It can take a while to “get it,” but once you do you’ll be amazed at the results. Basic mindfulness is a fantastic way to find clarity and be more present from moment to moment. It is easily the most valuable skill taught as part of any life coach training. By taking a few minutes before each coaching session to invoke mindfulness, your coaching conversation will be far more effective, and building rapport will come naturally.
Do you use mindfulness? If so, share your results by leaving a comment below.