by Edna Murdoch
I read recently that the CSA mantra, ‘Who you are is how you coach’™ is a statement about psychology. My reaction to that was ‘No, that is only the beginning’. When this mantra first rolled off my tongue in a lively conversation with my wonderful colleague Aboodi Shabi, we were trying to bottom out what really made the difference in our work as coaches and supervisors. The mantra recognised that beyond all the models, tools that support the work, our identity as human beings and our capacity to relate to each other, was a key element in coaching's magic.
Of course, psychological make-up informs coaching and supervision practice and psychological maturity affects relational intelligence in this work. But ‘who are who we are is how we coach’™ can open the door to so much more than that. More than I knew all those years ago. For over 20 years, this mantra has challenged me as it keeps highlighting the different aspects of selfhood that show up in the living field of coaching and supervision.
‘Who you are…..’ includes our family experience, culture, training, intellect, our ancestry, our heart/brain connection, the ecological self, professional capacities and much more. We bring all of that to work. And yet, sometimes, we may not be conscious of all that we are.
I am glad to see that at this time in history the notion of ‘who we are…’ is changing radically for many people. Traditional assumptions of separateness, disconnection and of our dangerous ‘dominion over the earth’ are being seriously challenged. Our reciprocity with the living world is being acknowledged as our species takes its appropriate place at last - and there is a long way to go. I am glad too, that technology ensures that the global brain is growing and that there is an outpouring of new information accessible by millions of people. For example, it is impossible not to notice the many on-line global summits on major human themes, taught by global experts or the avalanche of new writers and associations brimming with desire to bring about profound societal change. And we now have more access to the traditions of native peoples across the world who have held the vision of connectedness and the sacredness of all that lives.
“Native American societies have a lived sense of the unity of all living things, as expressed in the Native American phrase ‘all my relations,’ which has been called a prayer and a cosmology in one breath.” Dr Leslie Gray, Native American Psychologist & Shamanic Councillor, founder of Woodfish Institute
In the last couple of years, we have been forced to look again at our identity – who are we? It seems that collectively we are in an initiatory moment; if we can grasp it, we will move into a much greater sense of kinship with every living thing, we will balance the masculine and feminine energies and will walk together with all peoples and in harmony with the more-than-human world. A necessary journey. Collectively, we will know that there is a sacred purpose infusing all of life and that we are part of that. Key figures in coaching are on board with this new vision; new practices, new associations, new trainings naturally follow. These are innovative times, as coaching welcomes the zeitgeist and gets creative.
Many of us can broaden the notion of self, to include Teilhard de Chardin’s words: ‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.’ This perspective underlines the growing understanding of who we are at a communal and cosmic level - and of course, it radically challenges conventional professional practice. We must remove the limits we sometimes place on our identity as coach or supervisor – ‘who we are..’ gets bigger as our understanding grows. Teilhard also said:
“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
As supervisor/coach, if I know that I am a ‘spiritual being having a human experience’ and live out of that awareness, and if I experience the ‘energies of love’ and have learned how to harness them in my relationships, my conversations with others will be more imaginative, open and intuitive. Perception will be quicker, clearer and my client and I will experience those marvellous co-incidences, unexpected insights and intuitive knowings that make for powerful, elegant practice.
This way of experiencing self-as-instrument is a game changer for coaches, mentors, leaders and supervisors. Because of it, ’who we are….’ is understood in a much bigger frame than a merely psychological one. Work with clients becomes more potent because of that. We do not have to struggle to be present or to remain present in conversations with clients. Presence is not ‘ours’ to manufacture; instead, we open to Presence when we align consciously with all that is and are awake, infused and fed from a shared source of intelligence. Tom Alee puts it this way: ’There is more to intelligence than a solitary capacity exercised within the life of one entity. As it attunes to life, intelligence evokes a fuller, deeper intelligence in and around it. Resonant intelligence is intelligence that grows stronger or fuller as it resonates with other sources of intelligence.’ (Resonant Intelligence)
Living the identity of being a ‘spiritual being having a human experience’ means that coaches and supervisors are in touch with a living field of information. Indeed, we can affect our clients before we even speak with them. Or as educator Christopher Bache writes: ‘consciousness is contagious’:
‘‘Our personal intelligence participates in a larger collective intelligence….When one person begins to throw off layers of their psychological conditioning, and awakens to clearer, more expansive states of awareness, surrounding people will necessarily be affected….Clarified states of consciousness are contagious. This is an utterly natural phenomenon, an unstoppable effect. Our spiritual ecology simply does not allow private awakening.’
Working over many years with his students, he notices that:
‘Beneath the levels of consciousness where our minds are separate and distinct lie hidden depths where they begin to interpenetrate until they eventually are enfolded within an unbroken, seamless field of consciousness.’
So we may ask ourselves:
How conscious am I of who I really am?
How do I work in that ‘expanded’ awareness, ’free of the constriction of self-reference’?
How might this affect my professional capacities?
The answer to these questions will determine the quality of the insights that arise in professional conversations. The ‘contagion’ which Bache points to, ensures that my client and I inhabit a field of information that will provide images, connections, intuitions, breakthroughs that neither of us would have had access to with the intellect only.
In the best moments of coaching and supervision, client and practitioner experience what it is to move into what Bache calls ‘pre-existing fields of collective consciousness’. He goes further and says that these ‘collective fields become the “working unit” of experience in these sessions. It is in these moments that magic happens, we are in a co-created space of profound learning and the work is easy, unstrained and is fed by the field of information into which we have both entered.
It is heartening to see that more coaches and supervisors - yes, and leaders, educators, mentors, people professionals everywhere - are experiencing working with this level of consciousness. What you and I bring in our being, matters. Who we imagine we are, must have no limits - especially not the limit of relying on our psychological make-up.
C Bache ‘The Living Classroom: Teaching and Collective Consciousness’ 2008