I Am Not Me Without You

This post was originally published on the Mindful Leader blog in January 2022.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of witnessing the certification of a new group of Integral Coaches: a powerful rite of passage that is the culmination of a year of hard work, dedicated practice, and profound growth. At the close of the session, one new graduate checked out with these words:

I am not me without you.

Though I know this person to be profoundly wise, spiritually connected, and relationally skillful, it nevertheless seemed to be a new realization for them—evident not so much in their words but in their way of being. They were profoundly still, a little solemn, full of wonder. Deeply rooted and vastly expanded all at once. All thoughts seem to have emptied out of them save this one. Their words were a transmission, it seemed, from somewhere far bigger than our love-filled Zoom gathering.

Because of all this, without this person needing to say anything more, we all felt what they meant in our own bodies and hearts.

Tapping into a deeper connection

It is true that students in Professional Coaching Course cohorts form lifelong ties early on in their year by the nature of the work and exploration they are doing. It is also true that by the end of the journey, when they undergo the ritual of certification and join the international community of Integral Coaches, they feel themselves suddenly and unmistakably part of a wider web of folks who are serving the world in a particular, often mysterious way.

But this graduate’s message went beyond even those truths. What it appeared they were discovering – and hence helping us all discover in a new way – is the fact of the literal connection between all beings. That there is not one movement, word, or breath that doesn’t somehow affect every other being we know and don’t know.

Naturally, as I try to articulate this now, words are falling short. I am bringing it up because, in this last week of 2021 as I write this, our staff, faculty body, and wider community are reflecting on another year of challenge, dynamism, change, connection, and… mystery.

In that certification session checkout, many students expressed some version of “I thought I was coming here for X. I can’t imagine or explain what actually happened,” or “I had no idea what I was actually stepping into.”

The truth is, as we’ve been reflecting, neither do we. Not really. Of course our programs are meticulously designed; our faculty members are profoundly experienced, educated, and developed; and there is a definite, intentional arc of what happens for students in our courses. But rather than an insistence, an injection of this intelligence into the world, it is all a response.

Attuning to the mystery

Integral Coaching is so much about attunement. What is our client in the middle of, in ways they may or may not know? How can we attend to what is coming up for them? What is the feeling of this room full of students; what is present in the collective field that needs attending? What is the longing of this greater community, both of people who have made their way here and those who are still looking? What is the call of the world? What is life asking of me?

Every day, in every moment, we are doing our best to answer these questions through how we live. In doing so we are attending to this precious, central, and sometimes overwhelming truth: that there is nothing any of us does that doesn’t affect everyone. In the Integral Coaching community—in our purpose of easing the world’s suffering and providing opportunities for everyone to find meaning, belonging, and contribution—we are ever cognizant of that new coach’s wise words: I am not me without you.

A practice for attending to this connection

Loving-kindness meditation is a powerful way to direct our attention toward this vast connection, infusing it with our own good intentions and receiving love from the field. Since it is a heart practice, it can keep us out of our heads, saving us trying to figure out what is ours to do. As we send our love out to individuals and the world at large, we are visiting with our loved ones and companions on the journey: those we know and those we don’t. Importantly we are also allowing ourselves to receive a portion of this infinite supply of love.

Here are some simple instructions from the Metta Institute for getting started.

There are many ways to weave metta into our sitting practice and daily life. Lately I’ve been dedicating about half of my sitting practice to it. I’ve noticed at some point I feel ‘full’ – a sensation and emotion that, like all we’ve talked about so far, isn’t the easiest to explain. It feels a bit like ‘enough’ loving-kindness has been expressed and gathered around me that it feels like I am in a kind of hammock of connection, where my mind and being can float effortlessly for the rest of my meditation. I can feel how all things are unfolding just as they are meant to, and in this practice I have done what I can to infuse it all with goodwill and peace.

Of course there’s lots we can do to heal this planet and help each other. Daily visiting the essence of why we are moved to do so in the first place—the fact that not one person, not one being, exists without all the others—can go a long way toward easing the suffering of all.

Joy is the Communications Director at New Ventures West.