Integral Pragmatism: Living in an "And" World
“And” can be a powerful word. Using it opens the possibility of connecting things together. We’re familiar with and can easily hold simple examples of this: peanut butter and jelly, Calvin and Hobbes, simple and good, Jekyll and Hyde, shiny and new, cloudy and gray, etc. A central premise of improv comedy is “yes, and:” a phrase that opens world-building possibilities.
What seems more challenging for us is when two ideas, objects, people, policies are seemingly opposing. Our minds have more difficulty holding these together. This recently showed up for me in conversations about Integral Coaching. People were speaking appreciatively about the depth of the method, seeing the benefit of being connected to disciplines like philosophy, spirituality, neuroscience, etc. What I felt from some and was made explicit by others was a wondering about the practicality or pragmatism of it. The question I sensed was, “how can both depth and pragmatism live together?” It was as if depth negated pragmatism. This is a timely instance of where “and” is helpful. It led me to think about a concept I’ve begun calling “integral pragmatism.”
We recently asked for feedback from graduates of the Professional Coaching Course—all practitioners of the Integral Coaching method—and we were overwhelmed with stories of how they benefited from this approach. My own experience as an Integral Coach and witness to clients engaged with this method highlights its immense practicality. It is apparent in the shifts, openings, and transformations that occur for these individuals.
One client, we'll call her Joanne, was a professional at a large tech firm. She came to one of our coaches intent on figuring out what was next for her. She was nearing the threshold of tolerance at her current job and wondered what could be next, aside from the obvious move of finding another similar role at a different company: an approach she was aware was basically trading a twenty for two tens. The fusion of depth and pragmatism, what I’m calling integral pragmatism, called for a coach who could support her both in taking steps to resolve her situation and connect with the overall purpose and trajectory of her life.
This takes beholding her world, especially the suffering she was experiencing, and supporting her in imagining and—importantly—exploring what feels vital for her in whatever next step she takes. At the same time, the coaching needed to provide something tangible to do in the short term to help her take a stand in her current work environment—what we call practices and self-reflections.
A response that allows for both to take place was possible because it came from a coach who had a way of holding both being practical (aid for the short-term) and integral (developing over time). This response meets a person exactly as they are at a particular moment in time. It is about what to do now and sees this instance as a particular manifestation of something larger. It is a way of coaching that feels doable for the client and provides long-term impact so that the client experiences richer, longer-lasting growth.
In the coming months we will share more stories on our blog of how these two come together.
The kind of practicality Integral Coaching offers is specific, tailored and crafted for each person, so it lacks the generic markers we’re used to. Today’s “Best of” lists and “Five steps to ___”, while efficient, can short change us from appreciating the kind of pragmatism that arises from depth and nuance. We can all benefit from noticing how we take what our culture offers to the masses, and then begin to attune more closely to a truer need. The practice of the quarter addresses this more fully.
Transformation occurs in Integral Coaching because the client is seen and is given a means to regain access to the unique qualities that only they embody. When this occurs, we start to flourish and collaborate with life. We are carried in a way that is often inexplicable and full of power.
Our hope is that all of us can be met in a way that supports bringing our fullness forward. The practice and poems are offered in this spirit.
Focus: Uncovering What Truly Matters
In keeping with the spirit of living in an “and” world, there are two practices this quarter. The first has us work with ourselves in the more immediate day-to-day. The second is about cultivating a capacity that will support us in the longer term.
Practice 1: Seeing How I Navigate my Life (45 days)
The intention with this self-reflection is to bring awareness to the underlying principles by which we navigate our life.
For the first 14 days:
- Write out a list of all the values, considerations, criteria, people, and rules you use to navigate decisions in your life.
- At the end of each day, re-visit this list and see, given your day’s experiences, what needs to be added.
- At the end of two weeks, review the list and ask yourself the following:
- Which of these on the list did I intentionally choose?
- Which are inherited from family, culture or some other external source?
- Which of these align with the values, criteria, considerations I want to be committed to?
- What is missing that I would add?
- Generate a new list that includes those aspects you intend to live by, and begin including them in decisions you make.
For the next 30 days:
- Continue reflecting dailly on how the decisions you make align with your new list—or not.
- Ask yourself the following questions:
- In this instance, what feelings, thoughts, sensations allowed for me to navigate the decision or situation in alignment with my guiding list?
- What feelings, thoughts, sensations kept me from doing so?
- What actions do I want to take as a result?
Practice 2: Cultivating Heart Awareness (30-45 Days)
The intention with this practice is to cultivate more capacity to live from our heart center. This is the place from which it is possible to experience the wholeness of ourselves and life. You can do this practice concurrently with Part 1 or on its own.
- Take 5-7 minutes each day and sit in a quiet space without distraction.
- Sit with a comfortable and upright posture.
- Gently close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Slowly adjust your breath so your inhale and exhale are even, and each around 2-4 seconds in length
- As you breathe, begin to imagine your heart as a lung, the air you breathe filling it and leaving it.
- Keep your awareness on your breathing and your physical heart. Placing a hand on your heart can help in bringing attention to it.
what love isn’t
It is not a five star stay. It is not
compliments and it is never ever
It is solid. Not sweet but always
always herb, always salt. Sometimes
It is now and till the end. It is never a
slither, never a little
it is a full serving
it is much
too much and real
never pretty or clean. It stinks — you can
smell it coming
it is weight
it is weight and it is too heavy to feel
good sometimes. It is discomfort — it is
not what the films say. Only songs
get it right
it is irregular
it is difficult
and always, always
what is now will soon be past
Just because you do it
doesn’t mean you always will.
Whether you’re dancing dust
or breathing light
you’re never exactly the same,
as you are | you are the prayer
‘as you are.’ says the universe.
‘after…’ you answer.
‘as you are.’ says the universe.
‘before…’ you answer.
‘as you are.’ says the universe.
‘when…’ you answer.
‘as you are.’ says the universe.
‘how…’ you answer.
‘as you are.’ says the universe.
‘why…’ you answer.
you are happening now.
right this moment
and your happening
the thing that both keeps me alive
brings me to my knees.
you don’t even know how breathtaking you
as you are.’ says the universe through tears.
from My First Summer in the Sierra
Contemplating the lace-like fabric of streams outspread over the mountains, we are reminded that everything is flowing-going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches; the air in majestic floods carrying minerals, plant leaves, seeds, spores, with streams of music and fragrance; water streams carrying rocks both in solution and in the form of mud particles, sand, pebbles, and boulders. Rocks flow from volcanoes like water from springs, and animals flock together and flow in currents modified by stepping, leaping, gliding, flying, swimming, etc. While the stars go streaming through space pulsed on and on forever like blood globules in Nature’s warm heart.
Most of the pages in this collection of poems are filled with blank space, as the written text of the poem often contains a few lines. The result is a feeling of spaciousness and an invitation to the truth and depth the words point to. Waheed has a way of bringing forth sensitive and powerful subjects with a distilled clarity and elegance.
Engaging with the poems becomes a practice of sorts, as the subtlety of each piece invites pausing, reflection, and internal movement. It can also invite reading several poems more quickly— and suddenly the sum of their messages lands in a way one couldn’t on its own.
A contemporary poet, Waheed writes about many subjects relevant to our time: racism, xenophobia, love, relationships and misogyny. This volume of poetry invites you into each one in an unassuming, disarming and revelatory way. I highly recommend it!
New Entry Points
Community is one of the central pillars of Integral Coach training. We have found over the years that to engage this profoundly transformational work in any meaningful way, it is crucial to be supported by a group of like-minded and like-hearted people.
Wherever you are and whatever your schedule, we want to be sure you have a chance to sense into whether this is your tribe. You are welcome to attend as many of these events as you wish. We offer them as a way to explore and connect to yourself and others in new ways. There is no cost, and never any pressure.
- Meet the Leader Call—an hour-long Zoom call with the leader of an upcoming Professional Coaching Course. These conversations are guided by the questions you bring about Integral Coaching and the year-long course. They are offered bi-weekly.
- NEW! Integral Coaching Salon—a relaxed evening of learning and community offered every other month at our San Francisco headquarters. Enjoy refreshments, socialize, hear a short presentation about Integral Coaching, and explore the evening's topic to get a sense of how this work can be applied to every day life.
- NEW! Integral Coaching Forum—a slightly shorter, online version of the Integral Coaching Salon—minus the snacks. :(
- Free Integral Learning Lab—a half-day dive into Integral Coaching, offered one Saturday per quarter in San Francisco. Engage in dialogue about our work, have your questions answered, do some self-reflection and exercises around the day's topic, and observe a live coaching demonstration.
Many of these events are also a great way for our graduates to reconnect, so you may get an opportunity to meet and chat with them. Speaking of chatting, we love hearing from you. There's never any need to wait for a scheduled event to have your questions answered. Reach out to us any time at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415.221.4618.
Thank you to all who participated in our recent survey and shared the impact Integral Coaching has had on you, and your hopes for bringing it forward.
We were moved to read so many examples of how this work has changed the course of your life, improved and healed relationships, enriched your current work and/or set you on a new professional path. In true Integral spirit, you are continuing to learn and incorporate new modalities into your self-development and work with others. And you are bringing this work into places that need it—schools, corporations, government, families, and elsewhere. It is clear that it is not just something you do, but a way that you live.
We hear your desire to be of service to current students and your communities, as well as your craving for more in-person social connection with one another. We will address these and other topics in our upcoming virtual town halls (you can register for one here if you haven’t already). We and the other new Managing Partners look forward to gathering with you to hear more about how we might support you. We’ll also share more about what we learned from the survey.
Lastly, we are touched by the words of encouragement and support about the transition of leadership. We share your excitement for all that lies ahead. We feel so many possibilities opening with this work, and are eager to have your voices included in how the work of New Ventures West is expressed in the world in years to come.
Adam and Sahar
Anne Egseth, PCC graduate and regular leader of the somatic day in Session 2 of the PCC, has published her debut novel, This is All He Asks of You. You can learn more, read some glowing reviews, and pre-order the book here. Big congratulations, Anne!
Congratulations and welcome to our new graduates!
Kevin Bohnert, San Francisco, CA
Greg Dunn, Highlands Ranch, CO
Jeptha Evans, San Francisco, CA
Revital Ever, Seattle, WA
Jennifer Fagerstrom, Tigard, OR
Max Freund, Claremont, CA
Kaye Gardner-O’Kearny, Portland, OR
Alan Gellman, Oakland, CA
Çigdem Gencer, San Francisco, CA
Jack Griffin, Ione, CA
Gavin Harmon, San Mateo, CA
Jon Hurteau, Oakland, CA
Glenn Kwarcinski, Morgan Hill, CA
Karen McLeod, Corvallis, Oregon
Adam Navidi, San Francisco, CA
Terrie Peacock, San Mateo, CA
Anna Young, Portland, OR
Lin Zhang, San Jose, CA
|Professional Coaching Course||Cape Town||Beginning February 25|
|San Francisco||Beginning March 5
Beginning June 25
|Washington DC Metro||Beginning April 2|
|Montréal||Beginning May 4|
|London||Beginning June 4|
|Meet the Leader Call||Teleclass||February 6 & 19
|Integral Coaching Forum||Teleclass||February 25|
|Integral Coaching Salon||San Francisco||March 24|
|Free Integral Learning Lab||San Francisco||March 14|
|Free Coaching as a Guest Client||San Francisco||Half days February 21 or 22
Full day April 4
|Washington DC Metro||Half days April 24 or 25|
|Foundations of Coaching||London||February 15-16
|Washington DC Metro||February 25-26|
|San Francisco||March 18-19
|Book Study Group||Teleclass||Begins April 1|
|Masterful Conversations||San Francisco||April 14-15
Optional follow-on teleclass May-Oct
|Integral Coaching and the Enneagram||San Francisco||July 15-19|
|Coaching for Development||Cape Town||Beginning March 11|
|Johannesburg||Beginning March 18|
|Principes de coaching et de développement intégral||Paris||March 3-5|
View the full course calendar here.