The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.Jon Kabat-Zinn
I would like to start by saying that this article is based on my own experience of meditation or mindfulness – as it has become better known in the west, as a practitioner and professional coach and the benefits that this practice can deliver.
I had my first contact with meditation some 10 years ago. I became aware, from the very outset, that it was something that had a positive impact on me – although I didn’t yet know exactly why, or how – the truth is that it took a good number of years for me to take the step of incorporating meditation into my personal and professional lives.
My decision to access mindfulness was not based on logic, or on studies that prove the results that, these days, science has definitively identified and substantiated. Strangely enough, the decision and my subsequent actions originated in my use of a coaching tool “Line of Consequence”1, an instrument that proved to be very effective at triggering my action drivers. From that point onwards, the practice of meditation slowly made its way into my daily routine.
#1. Ethical and professional principles
For your right hand to ignore what your left hand is doing, you should hide if from your conscience.Simone Weil
Mindfulness makes sure we are in the here and now. It invites us to look first at ourselves and then at the other, non-judgementally and with compassion. If the mind is to be in equilibrium in the present, it is essential that the conscience be at peace, and that in itself is an echo of our behaviour. It leads us onto a path where (physical, spoken or thought) actions are guided by an elevated sense of morality: to not do, say or have the intention of hurting or harming oneself or the other. And this key principle of mindfulness tends to strengthen with practice and develop into integrity and respect. In the case of the coach, this commitment is doubly reinforced by the code of ethics.
#3. Establish trust and intimacy with the client
There is a voice that doesn’t use words, listen.Rumi
There is a meditation practice called metta bhavana2, which activates out ability to wish well for the other (and for ourselves). If this feeling of goodwill to others is incorporated into the regular practice of mindfulness, it is transmitted through our non-verbal ability, without the need for words. If we take into account the functioning of the mirror neurons (the neuron “mirrors” the behaviour of the other, as if the observer themselves were doing), activated in the coachee with this feeling, we are fostering the creation of a space that encourages mutual respect and trust.
I would remind you of a mindfulness exercise that has the power to generate a feeling of inner self-happiness: in a public place, such as an open-space office, on public transport or in a café, try picking out a person randomly. Someone you don’t know. Put this person into your mind and, with your eyes closed or just focusing on the idea of the person, wish that they are well and happy.
#4. Presence in coaching
The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.Thich Nhat Hanh
Our ability to get into a state in which we are fully aware is made that much easier by mindfulness. When one speaks of the practice of mindfulness, we mean exactly that: an exercise that is regular and aware. Just like a muscle that develops when it is exercised, when our mind/heart is exercised with full attention, it develops the ability to be fully present in a coaching session.
#5. Active listening
Curiosity is more important than knowledge.Albert Einstein
As we practise mindfulness, the filters that we see the world through tend to fade away and we develop the ability to be more present for others, taking a stance that is non-judgemental. Curiosity, in the sense Einstein meant, is an innate attribute for a coach, and, as a result, it emerges as being even more available and more stimulated. It fosters the ability to concentrate fully on what the coachee says and does not say, so the true meaning of what is said and not said can be understood, in the context of the objectives that are to be attained.
How can I be an even better coach?
The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.C. G. Jung
This view of the impact of mindfulness on four of the core skills of coaching (ethics, trust, presence and listening) demonstrates the importance of inner development, guided by a way of being that is more present and more aware.
I believe that the practice of mindfulness, an activity that elevates us as human beings, also makes us better coaches.
If you are interested in trying out mindfulness, there are a number of useful resources and tools available. These include:
- Visiting a meditation centre near you. If you are interested, sign up for one of the starter offers, such as an introduction to mindfulness, or even for a longer programme;
- Search the internet for free information and guided meditations;
- Use an app like InsightTimer (free) to access guided meditations;
- Read “The New Insights” by Daniel Goleman and “Feel Like a Buddha” by Lodro Rinzler;
- For a more intensive experience, I suggest a 10-day Vipassana retreat. There are Vipassana Centres all over the world.
Article published in infoRH: «A mindfulness & coaching experience»
1) Book “Good Questions” by Judy Barber – “What if I do nothing” by David Hyner
2) Metta bhavana is a meditation practice in the Buddhist tradition of cultivating loving kindness to all sentient beings. From the Sanskrit, metta means “love”, “kindness” or “friendship” and bhavana means “I cultivate”.