Working With Soul
Richard Michaels & Sharon Brown
Coaching for Transformation
Often, clients come to us without an understanding of working in the area of soul. In modern cultures, there is a bias against nature and our own wildness, which leads many clients to an overemphasis on the realm of spirit. “Take me toward the light” is a cry often heard. As coaches, we want to help clients move both toward the core of their individuality as well as to the realm of their oneness with all.
How exactly do we move clients closer to the core of their individuality? It begins with an acceptance and ease with where they are, balanced with fiercely calling them to what we see is possible. Add the power of curiosity and the beauty of looking for natural openings. And then, stand with them in their pain and their joy, in their stuckness and their creativity. That allows them to relax and allow their inner resources to flow.
In this co-created space, we can use many concrete tools to move our clients in closer contact with their soul. For example, nature gives us an easy and powerful way to work with clients in the realm of soul. The wildness of nature matches the inner nature of the soul. Even a small amount of time in a wild place can awaken the soul. Some specific ways to support our clients’ connection with soul include working with the natural world and working with wounds.
Working with the natural world
We can send our clients on nature walks or for quiet time in wild places. Help them create a context for this by crafting a question to sit with, without forcing the answer. Or, ask them to have a conversation with something in nature or the earth itself. This can take the form of a structured time of talking and then listening. Notice that nature is a mirror and step into silence and openness in order to see that mirror.
This work in nature is about opening to the possibility that the entire universe is a resource for growth. The earth is waiting to be in relationship with us all, and stepping into that relationship can bring profound insight and knowledge.
Maya: Since we’ve been exploring soul and nature, at times I remember a wild child side of me—the part of me that always loved adventure and was immensely curious about everything. She is the part of me that loved the beach as a child and sat on rocks by the water daydreaming. She was the moon gazer and the part of me that so enjoyed walking barefoot in the grass. She was not understood in my family, so I packed her away. I miss her.
Coach: Your face was glowing and your voice just seemed to flow and glide as you remembered your wild child. What do you notice as you talk about that part of you?
Maya: I feel so fully alive and connected. Like something that was lost and so important has come home. I want to play with her and explore with her again. I love the way I feel!
Coach: She seems so alive in nature. How can you play with her this week?
Maya: Oh, there are so many ways—so many places I want to go with her… We will walk in the woods or walk along the water’s edge at the ocean.
Coach: What will you open to while you are there?
Maya: I will be alert for all the wonderful things in nature that make me smile and all the messages that nature holds for me there. I sense a grounding and a returning to myself that feels so powerful. I am going to make space for that part of me every day.
Help your clients design personal rituals and ceremonies to mark important milestones or to call in unseen forces for assistance. Ceremonies can help clients when they know they want to be in deeper connection with their soul self or in deeper conversation with the Sacred Other. Ceremonies are a time to offer something back and to stand in deeper relationship with self and the Sacred Other. Ceremony and ritual can be reverent or outrageous; can be a simple moment or a community-witnessed event. Help your clients to be creative and to create ceremony and ritual from the place of their deepest knowing.
Using these tools can take courage on the part of the coach. Because of the societal pressures to conform, sometimes this work with soul can seem “touchy-feely” to some clients. This is where your power to invite them into connection with soul will help them venture into the unknown. Your fierce courage can call them into a realm they may be avoiding or unsure about. What you can count on is that your clients want a deeper connection with their authentic self and multiple pathways will take them there.
Working with woundedness
Some clues to soul work are the obvious places where we are drawn to time and again. The less obvious place to look is in our sacred wounds, those challenging, often traumatic events that have the potential to unleash our power. Acknowledging the power of our wounds strengthens us, as life’s emotionally painful events can be transformed into power and well-being.
From Bill Plotkin’s point of view, the biggest psychological wounds in our lives are only wounds because they keep us from fulfilling our soul work.1
For example, Clayton’s greatest wounding came from abandonment and lack of connection. That pointed him in the direction of natural connections, networking, spider webs and organic mycelium in the forest. Spending time with nature and opening to the messages from fungi brought insight into his soul. Making artwork related to these powerful natural symbols was a healing process for him. His coach helped him explore multiple opportunities to use his woundedness as a source of new growth.
We can learn much about clients’ potential soul work by listening to what they share about the wounds or scars in their lives and helping them explore the deeper meaning each may hold. This is related to the transformational agenda. What lies beneath the surface of the everyday problems holds deep promise. Our work with clients takes them to that place of deep exploration.
Such wounds are highly individual. An event that would be deeply wounding to one person might be trivial to another, even among siblings. From the perspective of soul work, an occurrence might only be wounding for someone whose soul imperative is related to that event.
Other tools to help clients move toward a deeper connection with soul include solitude, journaling (free-writing), active imagination, vision boards and the use of poetry, storytelling and dream work. All of these call out the deepest soul stirrings of clients and help them make sense of themselves in a less heady way. We can also encourage our clients to use dance, drumming, chanting or artwork to touch deeper into who they are. These same tools can help us connect deeply with our own souls in service to ourselves and our clients.
Additional resources we can offer clients are visioning work and vision quests. The beauty of questing is that our clients move into ritual spaces that remove distractions and invite them into very deep conversation with the Sacred Other and their soul. There are many types of vision quests available and, for the client who is ready for deep listening, it can be profoundly life-altering. We can choose a quest for deep diving into soul or for connecting with spirit.
1 Plotkin, Bill (2003). Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche. New World Library.
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.
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