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STEPPING IN | EPISODE 13: GATEWAYS TO REAL CONVERSATIONS

MAY 23, 2018

stepping in podcastPCC graduate Kelly McGannon works in Washington DC, coaching and teaching mindfulness to leaders the US government. In this episode she talks with Adam about how today's political / cultural climate offers opportunities to have new kinds of conversations with each other—and with ourselves.

Resources from this episode: 
The Fisher King, Arthurian Legend
On Being, Krista Tippett


Learn the elements of a truly productive conversation in our three-day workshop Masterful Conversations.

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THREE MYTHS TO GIVE UP ON IF WE WANT TO GROW UP

MAY 16, 2018

An image highlighting one of our fascinating blog posts

At the times when the world has shrunk to its smallest horizons, when I have been most despairing, desperate, or alone, or when I have found myself working and pushing much too hard, it usually turns out that I have been living in thrall to one or more protective myths about life that I have carried from childhood.

Myth 1 – I’m not like other people

In this account I’m not really a person, while other people are. Others’ lives are complete in ways that mine is not. Other people know where they’re going, while I am lost. Other people made the right choices, while I stumbled. Other people aren’t as confused as I am. Other people don’t suffer as I do.

Underpinning this myth is a great deal of negative self-judgement, which fuels a sense of deflation, self-diminishment or self-pity. But it can equally be worn as a mask of grandiosity, in which I puff myself up with certainty and arrogance. Sometimes I bounce between the two poles, from deflation to grandiosity and back again.

Myth 2 – Death has nothing to do with me

Somehow I’m separate enough from the real world that death is not an issue for me in the way it is for others. It’s frightening but far-off, a rumour, something that happens to other people. Consequently, I need pay it little real attention. I can ignore what my body tells me, and what my heart tells me. I’m protected from seeing that my time is finite and that I have to decide in which relationship to life I wish to stand.

Myth 3 – A saviour is coming

If I’m good enough, popular enough, loved enough, successful enough, recognised enough, powerful enough, rich enough, famous enough, caring enough… then I’ll be saved. Someone – one of the grown-ups in the world – will see me and, recognising my goodness, rescue me from my troubles

And then I won’t have to face them any more.

This myth keeps me working really hard. Sometimes it has me try to save others in the very same way that I am desperate to be saved.

I know these are not myths I carry alone.

Growing up calls on us to see how these myths of childhood keep us as children, and to find that the that the protection they offer is little protection at all:

Myth 1 is the myth of specialness. It boosts our self esteem by giving us a reason for all the difficulty we’re experiencing. And protects us from feeling the suffering of others by keeping us out of reciprocal relationship with them.

Myth 2 is the myth of no consequence. It saves us from the burden of having to choose, or face the outcomes of our choices.

Myth 3 is the myth of dependency. By rendering us helpless it keeps us from taking on the full responsibility (and possibility) of our own adulthood.

I think we cling onto these myths because, as well as the explanations they give us, we’re afraid that if we face the true situation of our lives (we’re not so special, we’ll die, there’s nobody to save us) then our troubles will be magnified. But, as with any turning away from the truth, they come at an enormous cost. In particular they keep both our dependency and our hopelessness going.

And when we can learn to see through them, we can also start to learn how to grow up. We can find that the world has much less to stand on than we thought, and that we nevertheless have enormous ability to stand. We can discover deep sources of hope, courage and compassion which which we had been out of touch. And as we allow ourselves to step out of hiding and into relationship, we can discover that our capacity to help others – and to be helped by them in return – is far greater than we could possibly have imagined.

Justin is a Professional Coaching Course leader and founder of thirdspace coaching in London. Lots more of his wonderful writing can be found here

Begin a year of transformational self-development and dispel your personal myths. Join a free Meet the Leader Call to learn more about the Professional Coaching Course

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THE REAL LESSON IN THE TAOIST FARMER STORY

MAY 10, 2018

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There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy for what they called his “misfortune.”

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.


Coaches often tell clients this story to help those that are “fused” to their stories about a situation—to get their clients to create a little distance between their story about a situation and what the ultimate reality might be. They point out that the lesson of the Taoist farmer is, of course, that no event in and of itself can truly be judged as good or bad, lucky or unlucky, fortunate or unfortunate. Only time can tell the whole story. The thinking goes that getting some space between the story and reality might reduce stress and/or help the client move through life with more grace. That is certainly true.

But there is something important here that is often overlooked. The Taoist farmer didn't cultivate detachment as a means to an end. He didn’t keep an open mind to achieve better outcomes for himself. He didn't distance himself from his “story” to lower his blood pressure. He didn't answer “maybe” to maintain aplomb as a way to better deal with Life's ups and downs.

The truth is, he didn't care.

The Taoist Farmer literally does not care what happens. He doesn't divide Life into good events and bad events, like piles of laundry. He experiences Life as one thing: undifferentiated energy/consciousness. Given a choice between another Ice Age or another Renaissance, it would be a jump ball for him.

For the Farmer, this open-minded approach is not a strategy. It is the byproduct of what he was searching for and his ultimate realization. If clients are tired of being whipsawed by their reactions and want more equanimity in their lives, it is fine to tell them the Taoist Farmer story. But it might be even better to point out the path the farmer walked and why he walked it.

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.”  —Matsuo Basho

Dennis Adsit is an executive coach and consultant based in the San Francisco bay area. More of his writing can be found here

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THE PERFECT RELATIONSHIPS DON'T ALLOW US TO STAY THE SAME

APRIL 18, 2018

An image highlighting one of our fascinating blog posts

We can spend so much time wishing our partners were different, complaining to ourselves that they’re not responsible enough, they don’t make sense to us, they’re unable to be who we need them to be. Or they simply drive us nuts with how they chew their food or take too long to put their shoes and socks on.

All our relationships have deep potential for growth and learning. And the intimate ones count for way more because they’re more potent and there are fewer boundaries to keep us in check with our behaviour. So more of us gets revealed quite naturally.

The more intimate the relationship, the more unfiltered, the more raw we are. And this intimacy is extreme fertile ground: for wounding, for joy, for rage and for beauty.

What if we could birth a new narrative for relationships?

What if a relationship is a sacred learning ground that is designed by our less obvious, more powerful heart and mind—  and that provides us with the exact curriculum for our learning in this life?

If we had this in mind when we argued, how might it go differently? If we respected the choices we make as to who gets to spend time with us as intelligence beyond the telling, what would we say to ourselves when the pain hits and we feel trapped and choice-less?

Next time your partner or child opens up sacred ground (i.e. drives you nuts / annoys you / irritates you / does something you think is crazy, etc.), what if you could feel into the sacred ground of their actions? Can you sense the situation demanding that you grow, and have a conversation about it—a really honest conversation— with someone you trust?

Perhaps then we may not feel alone or helpless anymore. We can share and feel the relief of connection, reach beyond the four walls of our sometimes emotionally prison-like homes, and be in contact about this shame-riddled subject with our much loved friends.

Frankly and most probably, those friends will be deeply relieved that they are not the only ones in that sacred, fertile, and sometimes very scary ground. Sharing these experiences helps us know we are not alone; rather, we are all learning lessons and growing together and because of one another.

Lizzie is a coach and NVW faculty member based in London. More of her writing can be found here

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