When we realize the fact that everything changes and can find our composure in it, that is the fruition of the practice.” – Master Suzuki Roshi
What is mindfulness and how can we bring it into our coaching practice? In this session, Alison Whitmire, President of Learning in Action, offers the benefits of incorporating mindfulness in our coaching and shares three practical exercises we can use with our clients for a deeper and more meaningful coaching experience.
Mindfulness is defined in many different ways by various people. When we break it down, it comes to purposely attending to our present moment experience with acceptance or without judgment. We can point to the three core components of mindfulness as present moment awareness, being on purpose, and accepting our experience. Meditation comes in as the practice we use to develop mindfulness.
How is mindfulness beneficial to our coaching clients? Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which was started by Jon Kabat-Zinn in a hospital in Massachusetts over twenty years ago, has been studied in a clinical setting for decades. Research provides evidence that mindfulness reduces emotional exhaustion, stress, depression, and anxiety. It also improves feelings of accomplishment, self-compassion, the quality of our sleep, and relaxation.
In these incredibly uncertain and challenging times, mindfulness can give our clients the ability to maintain a degree of buoyancy or a sense of resilience and spaciousness that they would find difficult to access otherwise. This is what we are looking to foster with our clients: the ability to be with what is, no matter the circumstances.
Mindfulness can create the container for deeper and more meaningful coaching. Many of us have learned in coach training programs to assume that our clients are creative, resourceful, and whole. And it does not necessarily serve us to assume our clients are creative, resourceful, and whole. Coachees often show up to sessions stressed, triggered, and reactive — a challenging state to receive coaching. Until our client is in a more receptive state of mind, it can be tough for the coaching to land. Mindfulness can create a container and invite our clients into a more resourceful place, regaining their capacity to be creative, resourceful, and whole.
Coaching works best when our clients allow themselves to be vulnerable and curious. And at the same time, coachees sometimes feel pressure to perform during coaching sessions or to look good to us as their coach. Our clients can sometimes feel like they need to know the answers to our questions and to respond in the ‘right’ way. While our clients genuinely want to be coached, they may not be able to dive into the vulnerability required for deep work. In these cases, mindfulness can sometimes do what coaching can’t. Engaging in mindfulness techniques can help the client to connect with their inner teacher, empowering them to ‘coach’ themselves.
Mindfulness can also enable the client to continue the work between coaching sessions. Teaching our coachees some simple mindfulness techniques offers them a way to regain their balance and resource themselves between sessions. We can work with our clients to find the mindfulness techniques that are the simplest and easiest and that they’ll actually be able to incorporate into their daily lives. We can also experiment with them during sessions and determine the times they find themselves triggered or in more reactive states, and find the techniques that help the most.Mindfulness can create a container and invite our clients into a more resourceful place, regaining their capacity to be creative, resourceful, and whole. Click To Tweet
What challenges can arise when we bring mindfulness into our coaching? To the coach, it can initially feel like using mindfulness in the coaching session is bringing our own agenda. In traditional views of coaching, this can feel like it works against the idea that the client brings the agenda and the coach brings the process. And, when we take a more broad view, if we hold that our role is to help our clients see what they can’t see about themselves, mindfulness can play a part in helping them to do just this — and to increase their receptivity and access to themselves.
Another challenge in using mindfulness in our coaching can be feeling like we don’t know enough about the practice to use it as a tool with our clients. We may feel like we need to know more or be more of an expert to truly help. Yet during these stressful times, we can choose to hold the intention to help as many clients and in any way that we can. We can allow this limiting belief to fall away and turn toward trusting our skills and intentions.
When we add mindfulness to our coaching, it can also feel confusing to know what the work is of coaching versus what the work is of mindfulness. As we experience the integration of both, we can come to see that it’s much more art than science.
Here are three practices we can use to enhance
Coachees tend to take their own advice, input, and perspective before they’ll take that of their coach. So connecting our clients with their future selves can be an intentional way to get our clients directly in touch with their inner teacher. The future self-meditation can be a useful tool to help the client shift their perspective when they feel stuck, coming back to the fullness of themselves.
Metta meditation, also known as lovingkindness meditation, is useful to use with clients in situations where they’re not well resourced and don’t seem to have the capacity to be coached in the moment. It’s especially effective when the coachee is overwhelmed, experiencing sadness or shame, or being hard on themselves. If we can invite our clients into a metta mediation, it has the potential to move them out of the feeling state of fear and separateness and instead reconnects them with their true nature, and a larger connection with life.
The third tool, Vipassana Outloud, is a two-person meditation conversation that opens the coachee’s awareness of what is present and expands their ability to “be with” it. This practice allows our coachees to control what they share and also relieves them from any performance anxiety they may be experiencing. It encourages them to experience whatever is present and helps them build their own inner ability to resource themselves.
Integrated into our coaching practice, mindfulness has the potential to do for our clients what coaching may not be able to do alone. Mindfulness can help coachees to more skillfully navigate their inner experience and to cultivate curiosity and spaciousness for a more meaningful coaching experience. It can help our clients to coach themselves between sessions and ultimately to develop resilience and the ability to be with what is no matter what circumstances arise.
Integrating mindfulness into coaching can make the coaching field more fertile. It can penetrate beneath the client’s surface and help them access more of themselves. Mindfulness can support the client in navigating their inner experience, and relieve them from performing or over-divulging. In short, mindfulness can extend and expand upon what coaching alone can do.