OCTOBER 24, 2017

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I recently spent some time in northern Spain walking the ancient Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James). The Camino is a pilgrimage that has been walked for hundreds of years by people with a wide range of motivations from spiritual, to life transitions, to wanting a cultural experience. At the essence, all pilgrims are seekers. While some may be attracted by the adventure or the landscape, inevitably we all encounter an inner journey — a journey into the deeper parts of ourselves that get revealed in the solitude, the challenges, the tribulations, the support and the learning that emerges along the way.

This experience reminded me of the Professional Coaching Course, a year-long journey that people embark upon for varying personal and professional reasons with the sincere intention to learn to be of service as a certified professional coach. This decision to engage in the world through professional coaching certification is like saying yes to a pilgrimage.

There are three primary elements that form any pilgrimage: 1) the intention or calling, which is our inner motivation for saying yes to the journey, 2) the journey itself, which has some milestones to guide us along the way, and which is enriched by the challenges and learnings that are found in the experience, and finally 3) the destination, which is not only the physical space to which we arrive, but is also the destination that we find newly and freshly in our own hearts.

“To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.” —Mark Nepo

I came to New Ventures West back in 2005 seeking a life of deeper meaning and a career where I could support others in “achieving their goals and reaching their potential.” I knew little about what this meant back then, but I trusted the sincere intention of this calling. I had held leadership positions in the past where I learned that the more fulfilled people became, the better outcomes organizations would have, and the better our world would be. As I embarked in this adventure as an Integral Coach, I discovered that it was not just about the tools but also about how we are with each other: less about achieving and more about becoming. But how do we become more human? How do we become more of who we are meant to be and contribute to the world in our very unique ways?

Michael Mead says: “Our very mortality hides within it a divine seed, planted at the beginning, waiting throughout each life to be enlivened and flower forth.” I believe this is exactly what Integral Coaching is, and what the year-long training for professional coaching certification at New Ventures West is about: the very exploration of how each of us can become more human, more alive, and more capable of responding to the needs of the world from our own very unique location. Yes, we become Integral Coaches, but we become much more than that. We become enlivened human beings who are more in touch with our unique gifts to the world and are committed to bringing them forth in support of our own humanity.

This has been my journey, my pilgrimage, and the best part is that it is not over. I continue to learn, to unfold, to discover ways in which I keep becoming more human and more in service of the way in which life wants to shine through me.

Cynthia Luna is a Professional Coaching Course leader at New Ventures West. She is also a founding partner at LF Leadership, and a guide on The Leader's Journey, a program for professionals on the Camino de Santiago.

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APRIL 5, 2017

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As Director of Enrollment at New Ventures West, a question I am often asked is, “Is this a training to become a life coach or is it a training to become an executive coach?” My answer is “yes ... and no.” Many people approach our training with the intention to become a life coach or an executive coach (and they do!), but they also become an Integral Coach.  

Become a life coach or become an Integral Coach: what's the difference?

One of the missions of Integral Coaching is to draw together that which has been disintegrated. This begins in the intake session, during which the Integral Coach does her best to learn as much as they can about her client and the client’s world. The coach is interested in what is happening at home, at work, with the client’s physical practices, in their social relationships, and in their spiritual life. The coach will be curious about the culture the client is living in, as well as how the client relates to their environment, finances, and technology. When the coach assess the client's development, it will be across a range of concerns and competencies, allowing the coach to form a full picture of this unique human being they have come to coach. The coach might go very far afield from the “issue” that brought the client to coaching in the first place.

It is only once a full picture of this individual has been formed that the coach turns towards that issue that prompted coaching. Now, with a full and vibrant understanding of the client, the coach asks themselves questions like: 

Why is this issue so difficult for my client?
What interpretation of the world leaves them unable to generate the solution to this problem on their own?
What skills and competencies would assist them in developing a more powerful interpretation?
What activities can I have them engage in that would develop those skills and competencies?

From there, a customized development program is created. It takes a vivid understanding of the client to be able to generate a program that will take deep root in a client’s life and flower. When we are able to do so, we can offer a client something that can shift their life in a way that is transformative.

The person-first approach is essential

When we train to coach a person in a particular area (for example, when we train to become a life coach and coach people facing career, personal, or professional conflicts, or when we train to become an executive coach working with people in C-suites) we risk training blindspots into ourselves. We risk learning to approach people as if they will always be in a certain developmental scenario, with a set of competencies, needing a particular approach. When we do this, we cannot see people as they truly are. We miss all the ways they are wonderfully strange and special, requiring unique developmental interventions.

One of the most important things I learned in my own training as an Integral Coach was “You learn to coach freshly each time you sit down across from your client.” This was a way of saying that we can't come to our clients—even ones we had worked with for months—with any preconceived ideas about what they need. Instead, our best approach is to develop our flexibility, awareness, and deep resourcefulness so that we can respond authentically in the moment to whatever arises. When I am able to trust in my capacity to do this, it feels like being held aloft on a great, warm, strong current.

Flexibility in your professional options

I invite you into the possibility of a certification course that isn’t about just becoming a life coach or becoming an executive coach, but rather teaches methodology that encompasses both—and more. Integral Coaches can (and do!) become life coaches, executive coaches, financial coaches, career coaches, relationship coaches, and beyond. If your goal is to become a life coach, training as an Integral Coach will offer you a rigorous methodology that prepares you for working with anyone so that you will experience tremendous flexibility in your professional options post-certification. If you are interested in learning more, please contact me or join a Free Intro Call hosted by a member of our faculty.

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MARCH 16, 2016

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However life chooses us to be of service in it has absolutely nothing to do with us.

Calling is not a choice. It’s not what we think we like or prefer or have aptitude for. Our egos have plenty of ideas about what we’re supposed to be good at: what we excelled at in grade school, what is “marketable,” what will make the biggest splash, what we’d spend our days up to if we had a bazillion dollars and grillions of hours to devote.

Passion has nothing to do with what any of us came here to do. Desire: bupkus. Drive: meh. (Eek, sorry guys. I know these are the qualities most of us well-intentioned and productive westerners spend our lives cultivating, polishing, pining after. I think, unfortunately, they might be red herrings.)

It’s that gift part. It’s the calling part. It’s the quiet mystery. It’s the wonderful, insane, “how in the hizzizle did I end up here?” phases of our lives. Those are the times life is nudging us in the ribs, encouraging us forth to be of some actual use at this silly, short-lived party.

We know what’s ours to do, I think, when it’s something other than our own agency pulling us toward it. We know what’s ours to do, I believe, when we’re shocked that we’re doing it at all. We know what’s ours to do because it hovers above and around us in gentle, persistent presence. There might be resistance, drama on our part. We might ignore it or make ourselves sick willing it to go away. But it doesn’t.

I am conscious of two endeavors in my relatively brief, error-ridden life that have not gone away: writing and aikido. Ask me any time before 2011 if I saw myself as a martial artist and I would have snarfed red wine directly between your darling, delusional eyeballs. Ask me if I’m a writer and I would have until very, very recently given you my well crafted, overly prepared and rather arrogant line: “well yes, in a sense. Writing is my gift but it’s not my passion.”

I envied others’ pursuits, casting about for what I might do that was as beautiful and meaningful and powerful and exotic: why had I not devoted my life to being a landscape architect or an acupuncturist or a glass blower or a parent or a dancer?

All the while god chuckled, tears falling down its formless cheeks in knowing amusement.

Because in all my tortured searching, questioning, beseeching to be shown the path, it was right under my nose. When I finally looked down and saw I was walking the damn thing, I realized too that there had been no choice in the matter – it was never my call to make. It's just what was. And as I’ve allowed these two strange yet inevitable bedfellows to turn toward each other, they’ve begun an almost effortless dance that has had rapid and surprising effect. In a way I am shocked. In another, it feels like nothing.

If an endeavor has swept you up in this way (fixing old cars, caring for your elderly parents, going on ten mile runs, channeling the dead, walking dogs, having coffee after coffee with burnt-out coworkers, taking improv classes, letting people stop you in the street and tell you about their lives ) – even if you’ve only been up to it for a year or a month or a day – you might know what I mean.

If you’ve ever dug up a piece of garbage you wrote or painted a decade ago (right before you quit in despair and futility) and realized that, at the time, you were actually channeling the divine into a piece of fragile and fleeting beauty to live here on earth … perhaps you feel me.

Everyone else, keep looking. No doubt there’s something of this nature that’s whispering to you, waiting patiently to welcome you into its peculiar, irresistible lair.

What we find ourselves in the middle of—even if we're busy ignoring it—might actually be the very thing that’s rippling out into the world in waves of goodness and truth. It might be as challenging as it is enjoyable. It might bring us to our knees in its name. Or it might feel like nothing special: it’s just who I am; it’s just what I do.

But it won’t release us from its embrace.

As with most things, reading this won’t connect anyone to their calling in a firework-burst of sudden comprehension. As with most things, we’ve got to find this out for ourselves in however much time it takes (and then forget and find out, forget and find out, again and again in the ever-widening spiral). As with most things, it will probably involve a struggle of some kind. But perhaps this can serve as a kind of a reminder-buoy for the times you find yourself lost, treading water.

The point, though, is this: if you’re fighting like hell to make your purpose known in the world (or to yourself), ease up for a moment. You likely don’t have to try so hard. Instead, ask to be guided there – to be shown what you need to see. With a soft, broad focus, let it come to you. Give yourself a break from the laser-focused search. It’s not your job anyway. It’s none of your business.

Joy graduated from the PCC in 2010. You can read more on her blog, Beginnerdom.

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