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When to Choose Experiencing the Moment as a Pathway to Alignment
Richard Michaels & Sharon Brown
Coaching for Transformation
When clients experience intense emotions, resistance or have trouble finding their voice, Experiencing the Moment can help them slow down and get to know themselves. When they are going full speed ahead, ignoring their body, or living in a state of confusion, Experiencing the Moment brings them into full awareness.
Experiencing the Moment is valuable when a client is having trouble fully experiencing or accepting some part of their life. This can show up as a lack of emotion or words not matching their tone or energy.
We use Experiencing the Moment skills in every other alignment pathway and, for many coaches, it’s their first choice as a pathway because authenticity becomes paramount. Exploring Needs and Values are more compelling when our clients have a strong, visceral experience of their relationship with their needs in the present moment. Envisioning the Future has more impact when embodied rather than just imagined. Likewise, when we ask our clients to Expand the View, or Embrace the Shadow, their visceral and physical experience is a powerful resource.
When we are present with shifting emotions and needs, we help people connect with their aliveness in times of difficulty as well as joy.
When a client has a psychological condition that we are not trained to work with, we make a referral to a therapist. But this does not mean we stop coaching or avoid looking at what matters most. Some clients work with both a coach and a therapist at the same time, and others find it more effective to take a break from coaching while doing deeper healing work with a therapist. Experiencing the Moment helps us work skillfully with our clients’ processes, creating a space of safety and courage that facilitates self-acceptance, understanding and integration.
The essence of Experiencing the Moment coaching is integration. It allows people to include all parts of themselves as they move forward. This place of full acceptance puts people in touch with themselves and enables them to move into action in an aware, integrated and creative way.
Primary Skills Used in Experiencing the Moment
We use all of our coaching skills in this pathway, in particular:
Inviting clients into the present moment, we welcome all parts of their experience. To become comfortable with a full range of emotions and expression, we shift from judgment to curiosity, and welcome them all. Otherwise, clients take our cue and avoid stepping in, experiencing and expressing what is going on. To develop self-management, we get coached ourselves so we integrate those parts of ourselves we have neglected or pushed away. Once we fully embrace ourselves, we can offer the same to our clients.
Bring people into the moment, by interrupting with simple empowering questions such as:
How do you feel about what you just said?
How is it for you to notice the joy (sadness, confusion, elation, etc.) of this moment?
What is the impact on you now?
What just happened?
Naming what’s present
State what we see, for example:
I hear you telling the story, but you are not really here.
I sense there is a whole lot you are not saying.
I notice you step into the moment then jump back out. What is happening?
We share our sense or hunch about what is happening now, without censoring or filtering. We stay unattached to intuition being “right,” and check to see if our intuition is useful. Instead of analyzing or interpreting our intuition, we blurt it out and create space for the client to make their own meaning.
For instance, if we sense a fog rolling over a client, we name it, “I sense a fog rolling over you,” but we avoid interpreting it, “That must be about the loss and confusion you are feeling right now.” Instead, we ask the person we are coaching to make their own meaning, “I sense a fog rolling over you. Is there any meaning for you in that?”
I have a hunch...
My sense is...
My gut says...
I have a sixth sense...
My intuition is…
I have an instinct...
My guess is...
These phrases help us voice our intuition and help clients recognize that we act as their partner, not as a guru with the answer. However, we don’t overuse intuition because too much sharing of our intuition can rob people of their own insights.
We recognize that the client’s culture—race, ethnicity, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, geographic connection, etc.—is always present and has an impact. We make room for and avoid judgment about a client’s willingness or ability to step into their experience. Also we get curious about how their self-identifications affect what they feel and experience right now while still keeping them in the present moment experience.
What comes up for you specifically, in this moment, as a Latina?
Where does your sense of identity live within you? What does your identity say about your experience right now?
Step into your cultural identity. What is it saying right now?
Silence allows the power of this pathway to emerge. Being fully present in the moment takes space and time. Experiencing the Moment coaching can mean setting a pace for spaciousness. Creating space for reflection allows people to get to know themselves as they step into their experience. It can be seductive to want to provide the solution that will change people’s lives. If we notice the desire to have the answer or be smart, we can slow down, listen and give space for our client’s own answers to emerge.
When clients are silent in response to our questions, this doesn’t mean they don’t have the answer or are stuck. We may have hit on something they want to ponder. If we resist the impulse to jump in, we let them swim in the questions.
We also follow our intuition that points us to ask another question and explore what is going on. We continuously walk the line between giving space and holding the energy of the coaching session. We want to tap their aliveness, but that does not mean we have to be upbeat or moving fast. As we expand our range as coaches, we include a balance of keeping things moving and holding space with silence.
One way to move from “talking about it” to experiencing the moment is to invite the client to express their experience in a metaphor. They can express the now with an image, a physical posture or movement, or a sound. Then they can step into the metaphor and explore it. Metaphors make it easier to step into, stay with and explore the sensations.
What image comes as you stay with these sensations?
Step into the cave. What do you see?
What is the temperature?
Reach out, what do you feel with your fingers?
What sounds are here?
Acknowledging and championing
Experiencing the Moment can lead our clients into difficult or uncomfortable places. When our clients struggle or lose confidence, we can let them know we see their essence which helps them continue the exploration.
I’ve seen your courage and willingness to face dark places. You can go even further.
This lets our client know that we are with them, taking in their experience.
I hear that this is frightening for you.
Stay in the here and now
Experiencing the moment means being with the person right now (and then right now, and right now). By truly holding the focus on this moment, the person being coached can experience the depth of whatever is present. If the client starts talking about the past, the future or people who are not present, we bring them back from their flight to the here and now.
How do we bring attention to the here and now? When clients take a trip into the past or future, we can bring them back to their experience right now with simple questions...
What’s happening now that reminds you of this story from your childhood?
When you talk about your ideal future, what parts of that do you have access to right now?
Who is in your life now that reminds you of the old experience you are describing?
When you talk about the historical suffering of your people, how does this help you connect with what you are experiencing now?
Excerpt from the book Coaching for Transformation: Pathways to Ignite Personal & Social Change by Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg, Richard Michaels and Sharon Brown. As faculty at Leadership that Works, they certify coaches who offer personal, organization and community transformation. Check out the free Power of Coaching teleclass.
Coaching is life-changing, world-changing work. The coaching programs at Leadership that Works go beyond theories and models and work with clients on a deeper level. You learn how to coach the whole person: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Whole person Transformation.
Transforming the world.