Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Some Self-Coaching Questions, Statements and Exercises


1) Are you willing to change the way you see this situation?

2) How would you like to see this situation resolve?

3) Where in this situation do you feel you have the least power to make change?

4) Where in it do you feel you have the most power to make change?

5) How would your world look a month or two after the situation had resolved? How would it look a month or two from now if it does not resolve?


What are the three most powerful Perspectives from which someone could live their life?

a) You can be open to change

b) You have the ability to facilitate change

c) You can accept where you have power as well as accept where you are powerless.


Create A Dream Solution

Take five minutes to dream your most perfect outcome or solution.
Be as fantastic and “dreamlike” as you can be in visioning how your dream outcome comes into being.
You might want to draw the dream outcome, write a song or poem or story about it.
Perhaps you can turn yourself into a favorite animal in the dream or have a favorite “action” animal help you take action toward fulfilling the dream.

List what parts of the dream is obtainable and what is not obtainable.
How far from the dream can you reasonably expect to be able to reach?
What about you is like the animal chosen?
How can that part of you be enlisted to help you take action?
How might that animal also be a hindrance?
What five actions will take you closest to the dream outcome?
What is the first action? When can you take it?
What part of your dream outcome must you say goodbye to and allow to remain in the realm of dream?

Creative Depth Charges

Here is something from Rob Brezsny's Astrology Newsletter, January 30, 2008. I am by nature a skeptic about such things, but Mr. Brezsny's zany-to-the-point-of-revelation take on astrology and life itself always tickles and enlightens me some. I thought I'd share these because I think they are creative and depth enhancing exercises that might even be used in a coaching session or in self-coaching to help shift perspective, and do it with a little humor, fun and "game".

by Rob Brezsny

Part One: Experiments and exercises in becoming a rebelliously kind, affably unpredictable, insanely poised Master of Supernal Mischief.

1. "I have not used my darkness well," mourns poet Stanley Moss in his book Asleep in the Garden. He's right about that. His forays into the realm of shadows rarely lead to redemption. "One fine day/ I shall fall down ... in a prison of anger," he moans in one poem. "In this country I planted not one seed," he announces elsewhere. Other samples: "vomit is the speech of the soul"; "We die misinformed"; "How goes a life? Something like the ocean/ building dead coral." But enough. Let's not indulge Moss in his profligacy. Instead, we'll appoint him to be your anti-role model: an example of what you don't want to become. May he inspire you to regard your sorrows and failures as sources of disguised treasure; as raw materials that will fuel future breakthroughs. Now write a poem or story in which you use your darkness well.

2. Acquire a hand puppet, preferably a funky old-fashioned one from a thrift store, but any one will do. Give the puppet a name and wear it on your hand wherever you go for several days. In a voice different from your normal one, make this ally speak the "shadow truths" of every situation you encounter: the dicey subtexts everyone is shy about acknowledging, the layers of truth that lie beneath the surface, the agreed-upon illusions that cloud everyone's perceptual abilities.

3. All of us are eminently fallible nobodies. We're crammed with delusions and base emotions. We give ourselves more slack than we give anyone else, and we're brilliant at justifying our irrational biases with seemingly logical explanations. Yet it's equally true that every one of us is a magnificently enigmatic creation unlike any other in the history of the world. We're stars with vast potential, gods and goddesses in the making. Dramatize this paradox. Tomorrow, buy and wear ugly, threadbare clothes from the same thrift store where you got your hand puppet. Eat the cheapest junk food possible and do the most menial tasks you can find. The next day, attire yourself in your best clothes, wear a crown or diadem, and treat yourself to an expensive gourmet meal. Enjoy a massage, a pedicure, and other luxuries that require people to wait on you. On the third day, switch back and forth between the previous two days' modes every couple of hours. As you do, cultivate a passionate indifference to the question of whether you are ultimately an unimportant nobody or a captivating hero.

4. Is it possible that in trying to repress some of the things about yourself that you don't like, you have also disowned potentially strong and beautiful aspects of yourself? What are they?

5. Inventor Thomas Edison came up with a lot of ideas that went nowhere. While trying to develop the perfect battery, his unsuccessful experiments were comically legion. "I have not failed," he mused. "I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." There are other ways in which he didn't match the profile we usually associate with genius. He rarely had a dramatic breakthrough out of the blue, for instance. Most often, he tinkered and fussed until he discovered some new useful thing. Of his 1,093 patents, some were inventions he purposefully set about to create, but most he simply stumbled upon. Describe an area of your life where you've discovered 10,000 ways that don't work.

6. Chantepleure is a word that means "to sing and weep simultaneously." Think of a memory that moves you to do just that.

7. For the 2001 Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert, artist David Best constructed the "Mausoleum: Temple of Tears." Made from wooden pieces of dinosaur puzzles, this pagoda-like sanctuary took him weeks to perfect. Pilgrims who visited it were encouraged to write prayers on the walls, mourning dead loved ones and exorcising adversaries who had passed over. At the end of the festival, Best hosted a mass ritual of grief and burned his masterpiece to ash. Draw inspiration from Best's project. Create a talisman or ritual tool out of whimsical junk, use it a while to catalyze a catharsis, then destroy it or throw it away.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Empathy and Transference

In a practice coaching session I listened to tonight it was helpful to me to hear the coach in the session grapple with the powerful understanding that the issue being dealt with was also, quite deeply, the coach's own. The coach struggled with this knowledge and how to let it influence the session... or perhaps how to prevent that influence.
It has occurred to me that this is actually where the richest aspect of the coaching relationship lies. Regardless of how unnerving it may be to experience the sudden realization of a strong parallel between our clients' issues and dilemmas and our own, it is through that deep and sharp perception of equality in struggle that we can do our best work. It is where authentic empathy lies, and where we can truly become partners with our clients. Perhaps we can only remain in authentic partnership with them if we understand that their issues ARE or CAN BE ours as well; always... ...and all ways.

What was great about the practice session as well is that it seemed to me that the coach understood from a very powerful place that the overlap between their issues and the client's issues MUST influence the coaching dialogue... to actively attempt to deny that connection would occlude and obstruct the way in which an authentic dialogue could evolve. Perhaps the coach's main concern was HOW do I let this shared struggle instruct and inform my role as a coach? How do I allow it to inform our work without compromising the fact that I am engaged in this relationship primarily to assist the client and not the other way around? That any benefit I get from the conversation, as a coach, must remain a byproduct and that I must remain aware of my own issues and how they overlap my client's in order to go forward to assist that client.

This was an exciting process to hear take place. As I think about it, it seems to me that the only way genuine empathy occurs is when we accept that we will be moved in these ways by our clients' stories, dilemmas and problems; and that we must be able to move forward in our work with them with that awareness intact and acknowledged in order to do our most effective, true, work. To deny it interrupts the real power source of what we want to establish in the coaching relationship. To deny it means to push it into an area of potential unconscious expression that may actually damage our relationship to our client and/or our work with them.

It is out of those parallels that we are able to, or must, grant full autonomy to our clients in their struggles and work diligently to serve them because we understand we are also serving ourselves; that we can acknowledge the shared struggle as a way to assist our client in moving forward and as a way to help ourselves understand the depth of the dilemma, and as a way to help oursleves formulate healing questions, reflections and acknowledgements for the purpose of serving our client. From that place we know that the humanity in the vulnerability they have entrusted to us is truly an expression of our own vulnerability. We understand, from that place, how fragile and in need of nurturing those human frailties are, because they are ours as well.

This is the basis of why we wish to be of service to others... because from that place we know what we share with them and how we are equal to them.

"Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event," said Jung.

"Nothing determines who we will become so much as those things we choose to ignore." --Sandor McNab

Friday, January 11, 2008

Living Near Water

Many people seem to be drawn to living near water-- lakes, oceans, bays, etc.-- or they seek out water when going through an emotional crisis. Why do you think this is?

On the surface I think there are the relatively common insights about why people are drawn to the water’s edge. Soothing sounds, long constantly moving vistas, the potential to be able to watch the approach of changing weather, good or bad, waves that imitate the roiling changes in life… calms and tremendous swells and storms, the rising or setting sun, the great romance of birds that float over the endlessly rocking rhythms of a body of water. Rivers that move and move and move, some that can be dangerously explosive or others cleansing and medicinal, cool. It is as if we are watching the way our own bloodstreams move and wash and feed our bodies, our banks.

But these are reasons that occur to most people when they think of the effect bodies of water have on them and I think, however collectively true and right, they still fail to get at a certain very archetypal magnetism the water has on humans. We recognize the water as part of us from very deeply, pre-verbal, even vibrational levels. We feel it in our genes, in the way they speak to one another and to us about who we are and where we have come from.

I have seen maps of the first great migrations humankind took out of the African homeland. The movement of those groups, families, tribes, couples, and lone wanderers, all stretched along the great shorelines of the continents, around the Gulfs, the subcontinents, across the narrow isthmuses and over straits or land bridges…. always following the beaches, always moving away from home, coming to another home. What was that urge, that urge to follow the beach? Was it because the food was plentiful and easy as we traveled? Were there spiritual dimensions and rituals that we assigned to such journeys? What did we see or dream on the watery horizons? And what of our urge now to be near water, to always be able to walk the shore and look across the wide expanses, is sewn from the cloth of those early journeys? Perhaps, in being near water, we recognize we are closest to the original travel to and from our home.


The sight and feel and sound of water are part and parcel of its archetypal appeal to us. Not only do we have a pre-historic, evolutionary attraction to the water, but we were born out of it… we floated in it from conception. Womb water, great universe, conductor of first sounds, the thump of the heart of mother, the provider of nutrition and buffer between conception and the violence of the first air, the first harsh touch of the world outside the womb. We return to that safe place in our tubs and spas. We relax in our ultimate vulnerability. We remember our debt to our genetic ancestors and relatives, the fish, the toad. We cool. Without places to rest in water the sun turns killer and sucks our moisture from us. We honor that every time we fill the kids’ wading pool on a hot day and lie down in it with a beer or a martini, the newspaper, the popsicle.


My best friend in junior high and I introduced one another to the delights and tasks of owning and maintaining aquariums. Mine was in my bedroom. Its gurgling and bubbling accompanied and soothed my sleep, the hood lights turned on in the dark room illuminated fins and bright clear slow motion creatures in an brilliant underwater world that was at once deeply familiar and all together alien: angel fish and gouramis, neon tetras and zebra fish. They seemed not to recognize the limits of their ten gallon world. It did not take much imagination to go there myself.

Even bowls of water with one or two goldfish, or a single water loving plant, can bring the healing benefits of water, and the understanding of its life sustaining nature, into a room.


It would seem to me to be important to take into consideration the nature of the role and presence of water already in, or absent from, one’s immediate surroundings before planning a way to create a place for personal fountains, ponds or pools. In some areas such a use of water is wasteful and an unwise use of a scarcer and scarcer resource. In that case making sure regular trips to places where the presence of water can be shared with others would be important, and investing in wise use of public waters and advocating to protect public ownership of places where people can gather to appreciate and benefit from sharing shores and pools and little lakes and streams and the natural worlds around them.

The sound of water is as important as its visual presence. At the Alhambra in Granada Spain, a fortress/palace built and maintained by the Moorish Muslims, occupied by them until Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand pushed the last Moorish rulers out of Spain in the same year Columbus discovered the water-surrounded paradisiacal islands and peoples of the New World, water is an essential part of the construction. Water coursed through every courtyard and room, silently cooling the airy palace. Its waterways and little canals were made to be completely silent and then make varying kinds of music in very purposeful fashions, from bare trickles to the sound of dozens of single streams arching up and dropping into long rectangular pools.

There is a fountain there, a present to the Muslim caliphs of Granada from the Jewish leaders of the city, which had twelve lions, each with a spout out the mouth. The spouts were timed to work at the appropriate hour each day, twice a day, a clock fountain. A masterpiece of design and mechanics at the time. Ferdinand and Isabella moved from Toledo to the Alhambra primarily because of the running water available to them there, courtesy of the departed Muslims. The lion fountain amazed them and they asked for their most gifted engineers to take it apart to see how it worked. They were never able to duplicate it, and never able to put it back together so that it worked in the way it was designed to work. Not long after that the Spanish Inquisition was begun.


By the Green River

over the caves
every sun's voice is in the trees,
and down near the slow water infinite croaks
bleat every pulse of light.

Do not doubt that the voice of stars
starts in some pond that's gone
come first trillium.
By the green River

something drowns out mewling children
until they tire enough to sleep
with dreams that skid into secret rivers
that surface and sink into the caves again

and again. This is the story tree frogs
borrow from the suns.
Are you singing about your money?
You will die without it.

The real song of songs
tonight is near your foot
as you stand by the green river
in a mirror of stars.

--Bob Vance


On the Sand

Chinese mountains
the waves draw

a carp
not long dead
sails empty

skin a kite
wind of bones
over those mountains

gyre away gladly
white nimbus

over azure
eight-o-clock water

a side of every grass
there are many grasses

--Bob Vance

Sunday, January 6, 2008

What Makes Me a Good Coach?

What makes me a great choice as a coach?

-- I am empathic by nature, but have married empathy with various learned and practiced skills that make what I know from an empathic level more apparent and useful to progress forward in others.
-- My ability, due to experience and hands on learning in the helping professions, to make quick assessments related to the nature of the processes and essential coping strategies in use in people, couples and families/groups… and then to employ them in the manner in which I work with people to help them see, understand and employ them toward positive change.
-- Good sense of humor used liberally and in appropriate doses
-- A good solid understanding of the difference between my needs and my clients’

-- I refuse to be maneuvered into the role of the least favorite parent, or the voice of that parent, in my dealings with my clients. My work is often partly concerned with ways to help transform that persistent inner voice into one less judgemental and negative... and certainly less cruel. You cannot go into the future and real change without challenging and changing the nature of how you speak to yourself to motivate and reinforce that change.
-- I insist that my work with people be centered on strengths, kindness and gentle persistence, and that it is their responsibility to take tough measures against any persistent lack of follow through, once it is identified, not mine.

What kinds of qualities that I have learned from earlier in my life help with my coaching?

My innate understanding of the multi-faceted nature of human personality and human relationships. This seems to me to be more of a gift than a learned skill… or at least less learned in a purely academic manner. It is also less an urge, or even the need, to be helpful to others than it is the gift of understanding and tolerance of, or appreciation for, difference and diversity in thought, action, applicable coping strategies, values and the individualized nature of how all of those things are expressed and applied by people in their day to day lives. That is not to say, as well, that the application of that gift is automatically useful to me in my coaching relationships... that is where the development and practice of my skills has come in.

What about the idea of the inherent quality of the "wounded healer"?

There is much written about the proverbial “wounded healer”, and to a certain extent it is probably accurate to say that many of the best “healers” have also been people who have had a good amount of experience in understanding, surviving and coping with their own foibles and losses and life issues.

That being said it is also my experience that the worst damage in the helping professions can be done by someone whose relationship to their own “wounds” is left largely unconscious and merely sublimated by their desire to help or heal others. The various professional helper categories have more than their share of people who’s only coping strategies have been to assume the mantle of helper without understanding how the long term resonances of their own "wounds" cannot be left unattended without damage being done in their professional relationships. Those deeper issues cannot be managed solely through the indirect way of helping others without some potentially dire consequences. This can be expressed in the way the in-actualized healer suffuses their work with the expectation that others must comply with their need to be helpful to them. The healer is recognized as one who is more focused on being indirectly healed through their ministrations to others than they are to the healing of those who have come into their charge.

Everyone has run into someone in the helping profession whose anger and/or hurt at being unable to be of assistance is palpable and seems to be deeply interpreted by the healer, as the most grievous assault on their sense of self. These folks may in fact have some gift toward understanding and compassion, but it is almost always compromised by the palpable and manipulative sense of extreme loss of self, meaning and purpose if what they offer is not accepted or acceptable.

What kinds of attributes from the present assist me with my coaching?

-- Self awareness of the nature, extent and limits of the gifts that brought me into coaching in the first place.
-- An understanding that coaching cannot be seen as a way to exert control over others or bring others over “to my side”.
-- Good supportive family and friends who offer outlets for human relationship outside of client relationships.
-- Willingness to always be in a state of learning. Each client brings an inner textbook of norms, talents, gifts and processes…. a willingness to eschew what has worked in the past for what can and will work in the past or future.
-- An ability to disconnect my own processes from expectations of others’ processes.

I understand that being coached is not necessarily easy work, and one does not go from point A to point Z without a few of the letters in between necessitating hard won changes of presumption and pre-conception. That can be a challenging and painful part of the process of growth. I believe it should be reflected as such so that prospective clients get a better idea of what to expect. Work is work.