Over time and particularly as a student of Chrissy’s I have amassed certain principles to bear in mind when dealing with this experience of life and for coaching others.
- Keeping an open heart and mind. This is our primary responsibility as far as I can see. As long as these are open we can trust our intuition. If they are not open, I’m afraid it is no-one’s responsibility but ours, no matter how awful other people are.
- Life is perfect. This does not mean that life is nice or even fair. It is perfect in that it is imperfect (typically paradoxical like most wisdom), ie. it is all the frustrations and black holes that we come across that provoke us to think more deeply and evolve. When you look from this perspective all the suffering and chaos suddenly seems quite stunningly and brilliantly orchestrated for everyone to learn exactly what they need to learn. It is also worth noting that this could be entirely untrue but it is still a good perspective nonetheless since it allows us to manage our own motivation and learn as much as we can.
- You are never in someone else’s black hole, if you are in a black hole, it is yours. Much of the time we think that the problems we face and the black holes we are stuck in are caused by other people; that they are to blame for how we feel yet cf. 1 above.
- Trust other people to be who they are not what you want them to be. Chogyam Trungpa had this one right. Don’t give anyone else responsibility for your heart, expect them to be exactly as they are and you will be able to keep your heart open to them even if you don’t like what they do. People often complain that this sounds as if you are letting other people get away with being terrible and condoning it, but it doesn’t. It means that you are not shocked or offended by others actions even if you are hurt and this leads on to the next principle.
- The only thing you can control is you. Indeed even here it is debatable how much of ourselves we control, certainly many things like our body, our personality and our fate seem beyond our control. The main thing we seem to control is our attitude to things but this is much more powerful and important than most people are aware – in fact it is the key.
- You do not have to enjoy or like life as long as you are managing the five above. Life is not always enjoyable or likeable, as long as you are not expecting it to be and you are not attached to being happy then you are not going to have an unrealistic picture which would cause you to suffer unnecessarily.
- You cannot lose what truly belongs to you even if you throw it away. This comes from the I-Ching and I have found it to be true. Of course, this cuts both ways, in that if you are going to have a crap time you are going to have a crap time and there is no getting away from it. Death truly belongs to us and there is no getting rid of that one. At the same time, it is nice to know that we needn’t worry about losing other people or things, if they belong to us we can rest assured we won’t lose them.
- To go one’s own way with sincerity, how could there be blame in this? This also comes from the I-Ching. Shakespeare said something similar – To thine own self be true. If we follow our own hearts we will end up in a place which reflects our heart. The rest is fear.
- Exercising controlled folly. Don Juan in the Carlos Castaneda books points out that when we reach a certain level of wisdom we look around and see that we are surrounded by folly including our own. He says that the only way to live when we see this is through exercising controlled folly. That is we recognise that nothing we do will make any difference since we are infinitesimally small in the grand scale of life. Therefore we live our lives with complete commitment and responsibility doing everything in our power but we are completely unattached to the outcome. I often think of this in terms of living life as an experiment or a series of experiments. Ghandi called his autobiography The Story Of My Experiments With Truth.
- You cannot avoid pain and suffering in life, only the indulging in it is what Don Juan taught in the Carlos Castaneda books. We can try and live life serenely never feeling any fear, anxiety, neurosis etc. etc. but I haven’t found that it works. We are human and we are going to experience the whole gamut of human experience and emotions, however, we can become less identified with these emotions so that we see them for what they are and have a sense of perspective and that brings me to the penultimate point.
- A sense of humour is imperative for playing the game of life. If we take life or ourselves too seriously it just isn’t funny. Life is not quite how it appears. In this respect it does not conform to the laws of physics, as most people believe. For evidence of this just take the example of the Heathrow Express train which I frequently catch from Heathrow to Paddington, mostly late in the evening, when I am tired and have a connecting train to catch. This train is officially timetabled to run every 15 mins but actually runs between 13 and 15 mins after I arrive on the platform and no matter which train I catch it will always arrive at Paddington at the same time that the hourly train to Kemble is just leaving.
- It’s ok to lose the plot, life isn’t easy.
What does this mean when coaching people? What I notice is that coaching like any other subject of study is succumbing to the difficulty of being taken over by people who want to measure, quantify and apply rules to it. With this it is losing its flexibility and applicability and becoming instead a set of rigid rules. People are also contrasting it with other things like mentoring and counselling and appraising and saying that it must be different so applying rules to try and make it different. Most religions fall into a similar trap of taking a valuable truth and turning it into a set of rules. Therefore the principles above are just working guidelines and I am sure there will be exceptions to them.
When working coaching people I am most interested in helping them to see. That is, I am concerned with helping them understand the other people they describe in the context of being characters in their drama or evolution and looking at what they are learning from them. I am not really interested in deciding what to do about these other people in the sense of changing them or how to succeed or win. Most people present themselves as the victims of other people and situations. The game is to get you to identify with their position that other people are awful and something must be done about them. Now other people are frequently awful but since we are all “other people” that includes us too. With this perspective we can have more tolerance and empathy for others rather than judging them. People are very clever so they know how to present their situation in such a way that we rush in to protect and help them but re-inforcing them in the position of victim negates any possibility of them taking responsibility. Having been taught according to these principles over the years has meant that I coach people from the position that the problems they face are entirely their conundrum to solve and I am not interested in trying to come up with strategies for how to manipulate these other people to be more the way the individual wants them to be. As far as I can see the only issue is helping people to see, ie. to recognise and take responsibility for themselves and to understand their own journey of development so that the other people (particularly the ones they find difficult) become a rich source of learning. Everything else follows from that.