Working With Spirit
Richard Michaels & Sharon Brown
Coaching for Transformation
Spirit is like a mega support system. This perspective meshes with the view that we each have a soul imperative in this world. We can see spirit as whatever we lean on as our connection to oneness. It might be helpful to consider spirituality as a relationship with spirit (or the universe, or the higher purpose, or God—however your clients view it). For Lily, the earth itself is the place she leans into to notice and understand her place in the oneness. For Raji, leaning on Ganesh to remove obstacles brings him into a state of awe and wonder. The understanding of spirit will be different for each of our clients, and part of our job is to hold that unique view for each of them.
We look for give-and-take between our clients and spirit. That relationship can mature and change over time, so we hold space for that change. We also hold space for interacting with spirit on levels other than verbal, including the heart, body, art, sound, work and emotion. This holds true for all aspects of coaching, but is especially important to remember in soul and spirit work, since many religious traditions have narrowed the realms of interaction with spirit.
Meditation and awareness exercises
Meditation is intended to still the mind, increase concentration and thereby tap into greater resourcefulness. That resourcefulness can be intensified by the deeper connection with spirit that people may experience through a regular practice of meditation. Some meditations focus more on joy, some on processing emotion. Some focus on the breath or physical sensations. Some can involve watching thoughts without engaging with them. Some are still, some are moving. Tai Chi is a form of meditation for many practitioners.
When we take ten seconds or a minute to have someone integrate an experience, we are using a simple technique that is the basis of meditation—paying attention to what is happening in the body, mind, emotions and environment in the moment; noticing without judgment. When we take a client into a body-awareness exercise, we are employing the idea of meditation or inner focus.
There are many workshops on various types of meditation that can be helpful in jump starting a practice. Surprisingly, meditating with a large group or with a friend can be easier than meditating alone. People experience great benefits from even a short amount of daily meditation. So beginners may find it more useful to take even a few minutes a day to meditate than to aim for longer daily sessions and fall short. There are many resources available on the internet for guided meditations.
Also, remember that for some clients, meditation is not the answer. Encourage clients to find their own way—which may look different than sitting still. They might walk quietly or work with awareness.
Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong
The Eastern practices of Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong contribute to mind-body harmony and deeper spiritual connection. In these traditions, the breath is a link between body and mind; and combinations of mindful movements, holding postures and breathing contribute to physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. These practices can be beneficial to a variety of people independent of their religious or spiritual beliefs. Through focusing on the breath and bodily sensations, these practices increase awareness, relaxation and mental clarity while decreasing stress, anxiety and tension.
In Western cultures, our thoughts frequently dominate our minds. A way to have a change of mind and see more possibility is to have a change of body. Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong and similar disciplines enhance the functioning of the body’s endocrine and nervous systems. They work on body, mind and spirit at the same time.
Along with awareness of what is happening in the body; stretching and simple postures and movements affect breathing and emotions and clear the mind. These can be integrated into a coaching session, not as a separate stretching session, but as a way to interrupt habit and bring the wisdom of the body and intuition into the inquiry of coaching.
Many clients find it helpful to incorporate some of these disciplines into their daily life or take a class which gives them a supportive structure.
Prayer, simply defined as “a devout petition to God or an object of worship,”1 is traditionally viewed as a way to directly communicate with God/Spirit. Virtually all religious traditions have prayer practices and many have extensive bodies of written prayers from which people can draw. These written prayers provide models in those traditions of how to address God or gods as well as offer comfort and inspiration. In some traditions, the prayers are all extemporaneous or come from an oral tradition. Often an understanding of a client’s prayer-life can offer a window into their most cherished beliefs about the universe. As coaches, whether we resonate with a client’s particular tradition or not, we can listen closely to the way that prayer allows the client access to their deepest spirituality.
Reading spiritually-inspiring literature
You can’t get spirit by knowing about it. However, the mystic, the poet, the teacher or the carpenter, who writes from a place of connection with spirit, is like a match that ignites a deep knowing.
As lifelong learners of human development, coaches often read about psychology, soul and spirit. The work we do on ourselves influences and opens possibilities in our clients. We are interconnected beings.
As it is helpful to understand the dynamics of human behavior, it is also helpful to be nourished by spiritual truths and guiding lights that open the way to our true nature.
Introspection and journal writing
While thoughts can get enmeshed in intractable patterns, making them conscious through writing can create clarity by putting those thoughts in the light of day. It is often useful to have clients explore what you have done in a session through inquiry. Writing opens the intuitive and creative part of the brain and is a vehicle to spiritual understanding and experience.
Taking the time to put our thoughts in writing can focus and crystallize patterns, ideas, points of view and dreams that were previously incoherent. Poetry or journaling can become a dialog with the self and a pathway to understanding the soul. Writing without censoring, or free writing, has the uncanny ability to provide creative answers. It is one of the ways to tap into the unknown, the collective unconscious and the universal mind, as well as a great way to download what is in the mind.
Action and service
Working with clients to align intention with their desires, passions and messages of body, mind, emotions and spirit is an important part of spiritual work. Action is the complement to all this deep work in the realm of soul and spirit. Action is where the soul and spirit fi nd fulfi llment.
The nourishing value of service work provides perspective on our own situation, and can open up the gateways to love and compassion that are tremendously therapeutic.
There is a world of difference between action for its own sake and action that is in alignment with body, mind, emotion, soul and spirit. This aligned action is what we call creation in the Coaching for Transformation model, because it has its origin in understanding and inner resourcefulness.
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.