OCTOBER 25, 2017

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I admit it: even as an Integral Coach and the person at NVW most responsible for spreading the word about our work, I’ve had moments in recent months when I’ve second guessed the point of it all. With so much of the world in dire emergency, it’s to the point that I’m literally forgetting to check in with friends in the path of fires or with family members in destroyed cities because I’m too preoccupied with concern about a close friend at a violent protest or my sister having to evacuate her neighborhood.

Between trying to figure out where to send emergency relief funds, scanning the news daily to make sure nobody I love is in jeopardy (and being heartbroken for the millions who are), and trying to gently educate relatives about the unconscious beliefs that are harming our world, putting attention on my and others’ self-development seems … extravagant. Questions of who I am and what my life is for are eclipsed by the urgent call from a world in crisis.

How self-development practices can shore us up

On a particularly tough day recently, smoke thick in the air from the fires burning a few dozen miles from my home, I began an evening of aikido—my central physical and spiritual practice. It was through an eerie indoor haze that I watched sensei take his place at the front of the room. We began as always, sitting seiza, taking a few moments to gather ourselves. Sirens shrieked outside—not fire-related, and not especially uncommon in our corner of the world. Still, it added to the air of something-not-quite-right-out-there as we bowed in.

In all the thousands of times I’ve commenced practice this way, it’s never felt holier to me. I sensed our group’s collective steadiness and inner quiet as the world was literally burning around us. The goodwill that we summon and send outward with every movement felt more significant; our connection to one another and the wider web far more precious and necessary.

Building capacity

This underscored a feeling I’ve consistently had in quieter moments: the element of my life that needs me most, that feels most necessary and right, is attending to my physical and spiritual practices. None more than they have given me the capacity to be where I’m needed. And what is needed, I’m finding—as many are—has to do with treating those around us in more loving ways. Recognizing each other as human, listening to each other’s stories, and sharing what resources we can—both tangible and intangible.

In terms of my own self-development, my practices have given me a physical sense of my own core, my own strength, and my own ability. Giving to others from this place feels less like an exchange of limited resources, and more like a decision that comes from a place of autonomy, abundance, and connectedness. I can offer kindness and help in ways that don’t deplete me or call for something in exchange. This feels extremely useful, to say the least, at this moment in history. Almost like it’s all been leading to this …

It’s a process that will never be complete and is rife with backslides and frustration, but it is happening. It’s an often unconscious yet undeniable unfolding.

What is yours to uncover?

Naturally the direction of your self-development is unique. Maybe our times call you out beyond the realms of simple, local acts. Maybe you are driven to activism, warriorship, craftsmanship, heroism, education, divinity. Whatever it looks like, there is something that each of our lives is constantly building towards, and layers we can continually shed to get closer to whoever and whatever that is.

Now is definitely not the time to abandon what keeps us most centered. We actually have to keep turning back to ourselves, keep digging up what is cluttering our souls in a devotional pursuit of the place most steady and true.

The upcoming Year Launch program with James Flaherty offers a deeper dive into this topic. The most recent episodes of the Stepping In Podcast take it up as well. 

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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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MAY 23, 2017

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My path into a coach training program

Eight years ago I found myself entering a life transition. Up to this point I was making a living as a technical consultant, working just enough to stay financially stable, while I devoted the majority of my time to nonprofit work. Specifically, I was part of organizations that worked to create a more just and loving world. One of those organizations did (and still does) this through developing tools for individuals and businesses to understand their connection to labor slavery and the practical steps they could take to end this shadow economy. The other provided learning experiences to support people in integrating their spirituality and life with God in practical, sustainable, and transformational ways. It was wonderful, challenging work. I was once glad to be a part of it and felt an inner restless—calling, if you will—that had me question my participation.

Honoring my place (privilege) in the world

Before all this I had studied engineering to the point of earning a masters degree. After finishing graduate school I decided engineering was not for me. The world (people, environments, etc.) was suffering in many ways, and I wanted to be part of alleviating this suffering—being the change I wanted to see in the world. So, I eschewed my technical training and entered nonprofit work. In order for life to work I took on minimal technical consulting work. All was fine and good. I viewed my life as a whole and the consulting was a way for me attend to the majority of my financial needs  and the other work was to help create a different a world. Fine, right? Well, yes, for a while ... and then no.

There came a point where I realized I wasn't completely "owning" my place in the world. I started to see that in my consulting work people interacted with me in a more open and curious way than with other colleagues and consultants. I was waking up to my influence and had a growing sense of my responsibility to step into and steward this influence.

Simultaneously, I began questioning how I relegated myself to a particular way of living (two means of work, each addressing a different concern) and how this also was a way in which I wasn't being responsible. In the current structure of the world, with my race, socioeconomic upbringing, talents, education, etc., I saw how I could be a funder of good work in the world rather than a requestor. With all of this swirling inside of me I knew a transition was in order.


I'm simplifying the story here, but what presented itself as a way of stepping into myself more was coaching. I was doing this in some capacity already, though I didn't call it coaching, and now felt life inviting me to do this more formally and with more rigor and intention.

The next step, then, was to find a coach training program. Little did I know this wouldn't be as easy as I thought. There are A LOT of options out there. If you've been looking for a program you've probably noticed. One of the most confusing aspects of my search was the disparity in how long the programs were, ranging from 24 hours to 1 year in length. Being a frugal person I first opted for a shorter program and in the first hour knew it wasn't what I was looking  for. Having been working with people in nonprofits and leading learning labs on life integration I had firsthand experience with the complexity of supporting humans in their desire for change. In this first exposure to a coach training program  I found the concepts too basic and not addressing the dynamism of being human.

Back to my search. After much googling, attending free intro calls, etc. I did a web search that ended my quest. I was a student of the Enneagram and thought, "if there is a school that uses the Enneagram, perhaps it will have enough depth in its approach to work more fully and effectively with people." So, I searched "enneagram and coaching" and found two schools. After a bit of investigation of each, you won't be surprised to read that New Ventures West stood out.

The main thing I'll say about why has to do with the way in which the method is infused with 1) a great appreciation and respect for the individual person, 2) a studied and refined way of understanding how people change and 3) a tried and true way of supporting people in their life. Coming from a background of working with people and change, what I found in the Integral methodology addressed the questions I had about how and why my previous work sometimes worked and sometimes didn't. I found it—and continue to find it—to be an effective way of supporting people.

My hope in sharing a bit of my story is help you as you search for your next step in (possibly) becoming a coach. You can join a Free Meet the Leader Call to get a better sense of whether New Ventures West is a fit. Whatever the next step is for you, please step into it with all of you.

Adam is a leader of the Professional Coaching Course and the Global Graduate Director for New Ventures West. He is dedicated to bringing more justice, love and creativity into the world.

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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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