Remembering the Wisdom of the Body

As part of promoting a tele-training that I am co-leading with Marlena Field, founder of Body-Centered Coaching. I wrote a blogpost for Marlena’s website, and I am sharing it here as well as I’m sure it’s food for thought and reflection for all ……

…. Since I first took Marlena’s tele-trainings years ago, and more recently her legacy program to become a Certified Body-Centered Coach, I have become increasingly grateful that I can coach my clients in this way.  It is heartwarming to witness the response from my clients on the impact body-centered coaching has for them.

My aha today is that coaching clients to access the wisdom in their bodies is inherently wise in itself!  When you think about it, why would we ever coach without including the body? Or as I like to say: the rest of the body (because the head is part of the body too).

Oh yes – our brains are wonderful sources of information.  But they are only one part of the wonder that is us.  Some suggest that we have several brains – our heart and our gut, in addition to our head, have knowledge for us.   However, the body centered coaching approach tells us that we also have valuable information in our muscles, our organs, our fibers –  in all of our being.   When we coach clients to solve their issues by accessing their wisdom wherever it is in their body, they experience new insights, relief, wonder, new possibilities, freedom, joy.

I recently coached a client who was struggling with which direction to take his career.  He was in the fortunate position of having several options at the same time and for each there were attractive pros and a few cons.   He was drawn by the ‘pros’ of them all and didn’t know which to pursue or which to let go of.
This client was in the midst of an MBA program, so my assumption and experience of him was that he lives primarily in his head, and wondered how he would respond to body-centered coaching.  But I realized I couldn’t help him in the traditional decision-making way of just examining pros and cons.

So with his permission to experiment, we visited each of those possibilities to see what information his whole body had for him (not necessarily to make a decision at this point).  During the coaching I thought the responses he articulated were somewhat head-based, and was concerned that he wasn’t getting it!  But when the coaching was over, he exclaimed:  “Wow! That was really insightful!  I now know which options are not right for me at all! Thank you!”

Yes, it is good to always remember that there is wisdom in body centered coaching, wherever it resides, and however it is expressed.

At a Crossroad

People often ask me what brings clients to coaching.  The answer is different for everyone, but there are common themes.  And the clients that do come my way usually say a variation of the following:

  • I’m at a crossroad
  • My work/my life isn’t satisfying/challenging/fun….
  • I know I’m not doing what I’m meant to be doing
  • I feel stuck
  • I don’t know what my next step should be
  • I feel like I’m in a fog
  • I want to change things, but don’t know how
  • If I could just figure it out…

There are times in our lives when all of us find ourselves at a crossroad.  The path we have been going down, while it may once have had appeal, had status, is lucrative, or even challenging, is not bringing deep satisfaction, joy and fulfillment.  It feels like it’s going nowhere. Like you are going nowhere.

However, when you stand at a crossroad and look up and around,  what you begin to see is an opportunity to change direction, to follow a new path, to discover what lies on the road ahead.

The known is comfortable – until it isn’t anymore of course.  So the first step to change is recognizing and accepting the discomfort or dissatisfaction.

The second is allowing yourself to stand in that place long enough to understand the messages it has for you.  Sometimes that’s painful – at first – but eventually it brings enlightened awareness about what really matters to you.  You can see, and almost taste, the possibility and probability of change.

When that happens, a shift occurs: the new road appears, and beckons, and with a little courage and encouragement, you step out of stuck and into that which you have longed for.

Have you ever been at a crossroad?   Did you change to a different path?  How did you do it? 

Or are you there now? If so, take heart. Allow yourself to feel what is true about that for you, what you long for.  Know that if you are willing to listen to and explore what messages are there for you, the change you desire is well within your reach.

Navigating the Road Ahead

Have you been for a long walk lately, on a path or road you’ve never travelled on before?

If you did, what did you notice along the way?  Were you fixated on what you could or could not see ahead? Were you excited or anxious about what might lie around the next corner? Did you notice the log or rock in the middle of your path, and if so, did you skirt around it? step on it?  jump over it?

Or what about the path or road you are familiar with? Do you pay attention to it, or just routinely cover the distance to where you are going, your mind busy elsewhere?  How often do you look behind you, peer in the rear view mirror, or do you keep your gaze on the road ahead?

I once broke my arm on a walk on a park trail that was partially groomed, but allowed to be natural, with roots sticking out here and there.  Apparently I was supposed to watch my feet (as my friend informed me a bit too late), and which doesn’t happen when one is gazing at the beautiful forest all around.  So now on nature hikes, I try to watch where I’m stepping, while at the same time popping my head up often, so as not to miss the sights around me.  (It works, sort of.)

The road, or path, is a wonderful metaphor for how we choose to be in all aspects of our work and family lives.  If we are looking over our shoulder too often, do we run the risk of turning to salt, like Lot’s wife?; if we gaze too far ahead without noticing what’s at our feet, or around us, do we trip and fall?  But if our gaze is fixed on our feet, do we even see the path that awaits our discovery?

What do you notice about the way you navigate the paths you choose to follow?

First Steps

This morning I woke early, restless, and picked up a book on my bedroom bookshelf that I realized I’ve had for a long time and not yet read.  “Dropped Threads” is a beautiful compendium of personal stories about women’s lives, edited by Carol Shields and Marjorie Anderson. I was on the third story by Isabel Huggan when a sentence leapt out at me.

In her musings about life learnings, Ms. Huggan observed:  You cannot know the path through the forest until your feet are making their own footsteps in the ground.

I like how this statement simply captures the notion that our journey is our own.  To me it means that the path is a unique one and that the road ahead will only be discovered step by step, with intention, curiosity, and determination to move forward.  No-one else can walk there for you, or for me.

So my questions to you this morning are:

  • What is true for you about your own path and the road ahead?  
  • Where have your footsteps led you till now, and where might they be taking you?
  • What is your first step?

A Focus on Transitions – the Centrepiece of Change

There’s something about the end of summer and the impending arrival of Fall that really resonates for me, and I suspect for may of you. It’s part regret (that the days are becoming shorter), part satisfaction (for having revelled in all that summer has to offer), and part eager anticipation of the opportunities that miraculously seem to appear when September arrives.

A friend (who pays attention at many levels to what is going on around her), mentioned, as we sat under a magnificent apple tree on an indolent, warm Sunday summer afternoon, that the past few months have been for many people she has observed, a time of transition. And I thought how true that was for me, for family members, for a number of my friends, and for many of my coaching clients.

And her remark got me thinking about transitions – and about what a valuable platform that is from which to view the role of coaches and other helping professionals who work  with people and organizations in these times of incredible change.

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Heart Intelligence

I’ve been reading a fascinating book called The HeartMath Solution, by Doc Childre and  Howard Martin of The HeartMath Institute (www.heartmath.org – a nonprofit research and education organization dedicated to heart-based living).  By that – i.e. heart-based living – they mean “people relying on the intelligence of their hearts in concert with their minds to conduct their lives at home, school, work and play.”

The Institute has found that the heart has its own intelligence and by learning to listen to and follow our heart intelligence, we create a ‘coherence’ with our brain, resulting in greater, clarity, creativity, and richer emotional experiences.

The Institute offers a number of techniques to create and enhance that heart-brain coherence.  When we apply them, we are able to deepen our heart qualities of wisdom, compassion, strength and joy and increase our intuitive, creative and heart-centered aspects.

More importantly, because the heart’s wisdom is so quickly accessible, it saves a great deal of agonizing and analyzing, cutting through quickly to the ‘heart’ of the matter.  We often recognize this ‘heart intelligence’ as intuition. What HeartMath does is scientifically explain how this works and how one can actively engage the wisdom of the heart.

This week, I paid attention to the wisdom/knowledge in my own heart, by not stressing over something I would have stressed over in the past, ‘knowing’ somewhere deep inside, that the cause of what would have resulted in my being stressed was going to evaporate. And it did.  As a result, I saved myself agonizing and a ton of what would have been unnecessary work.  I intend to tap into this more often!

  • Are you aware of listening to the wisdom in your heart?
  • What happens when you do?
  • What happens when you don’t?
  • What would it be like to choose to pay attention to what your heart knows?  What would it give you? 
  • How would your leadership be enhanced by paying attention to your heart intelligence?

Head vs. Heart

Every week I am on a call with a group of coaches with whom I took The Coaches Training Institute’s Coactive Space Leadership Program – http://www.thecoaches.com/leadership/ – a powerful, experiential 10-month program that we shared together eight years ago.

We have wonderful conversations and coach each other about issues we are dealing with personally and professionally.  We learn so much from these conversations, as well as support one another through life’s ups and downs, its challenges and joys.

This morning we were helping one of our group think through a decision she was trying to make.  Our questions and discussion really focussed on what the heart knows that the head is often arguing with.  How much easier is it to decide something when we get in touch with our heart where our truth resides?  So much less struggle.  So much more clarity.  So much more movement forward.

To me the heart and/or gut are the place of ‘inner knowing’, the place that has no time or space for the inner voices in my head.  I just know.  If only I would touch that place (literally or figuratively) whenever I have a decision to make, I know (because I just know) I would make it with ease and flow, and it would be right.

When you struggle with decisions, which part of you is running the show? Is it your head or your heart or gut?  Are you aware of the difference?

Next time you have a decision to make and catch yourself in the head game, touch that place in you that just knows and see how easy it can be.

Honouring Values

As a coach, I have the privilege of helping clients become aware of what is truly important to them.  Each of us has our own set of values that guide how how we act and often how we react.  I am often reminded of that when a client is upset about a situation.  When we talk about that situation and the clients’ feelings, and probe beneath the surface, we usually find that the anger, hurt or upset is due to a value ‘being stomped on’.

For example, a client of mine was recently troubled by an incident at work in which she felt her contribution was ignored.  When we probed under the surface, what came out was that she didn’t feel respected, and I was able to remind her that ‘respect’ is a high value of hers.  She respects others for who they are, for what they contribute, and expects, in facts, needs the same in return.

The simple awareness of this enabled her to breathe out her frustration and move on.

Often the  value has not been articulated, but it can be unearthed by taking a look at anger or frustration or hurt, and ask what’s underneath that?  What value is being stomped on, is not being honoured?

Can you identify a time when the heart of your hurt was a value stomped on, or not honoured?

How did recognizing that help move you forward?

Energy Plus

What is it about a sunny day that makes us (me anyway) feel so positive and productive?  We’ve had sun here in eastern Ontario, Canada for a week now and I am positively brimming with energy and motivation.  (Or could it have to do with the fact that I’ve been going to the gym more often than usual?  Or that spring really is around the corner?)

Anyway, there’s something about a bright sky that brightens my life…. And I bet yours too.   For me it’s a feeling of expansiveness, lightness, excitement, anticipation…..and more.

How much does the brightness of the day affect your energy level?  Your feelings of optimism?  Your motivation? Your productivity?  What else?

Using Time Well

Do you use your time well, or is managing it a constant challenge? 

Most of us tend to think that we have managed our time well when we have been productive, done all our tasks or projects, and feel a sense of accomplishment.

But what about down-time, time spent relaxing?  That, in my humble opinion, is equally important.  Reading a book, the newspaper, or your favourite blogs, watching TV, meditating (still or in motion), in conversation with loved ones or friends or even strangers – where do all these fit in your definition of ‘using your time well’?

I used my time well last evening because I packed for a short 3-day trip then, instead of leaving it until this morning; now I have time to relax, listen to music, and write a blogpost, instead of being stressed to be ready in time for my train.  Oh yes, and go to the gym! 🙂

What is your definition of using your time well?  What are your criteria for well-managed time? How do you rate yourself (or do you berate yourself?) about your time management? 

What tips do you have to offer others who struggle with or agonize about using their time well?