Awareness, Presence, Being: Life as our Training Grounds for Conscious Coaching

This article comes from the desk of Jonathan Haber on a warm Saturday morning in Santa Cruz, CA

When I first learned about coaching, I learned about it as a cognitive process for helping clients get to goals. The goal was set “out there” in the future, the action steps were outlined, and accountability kept things on track.

My ability to be present for my clients was deeply influencing the sessions, and yet, my personal work was not seen as a component to my training.


The purpose of this document is to illustrate the relevance of inner work in coach training, the costs when it is ignored, the benefits of integrating it, and then to illustrate some of the tools that I have found useful in this training.

To this aim, I will illustrate some principles that I have found useful for taking a conscious approach to coaching, we will explore the inter-relationship between different coaching modalities and methods for personal inquiry, and I will outline opportunities for deepening ones personal unfoldment that can compliment more traditional coach training programs

The relevance of inner work in coach training

It feels kind of like you are flowing down a river. When your client stops talking there is a silence, a waiting, and a deep knowing that all is well. As you open your heart and breath, you feel the upsurge of inspiration… something wants to be said.

You open yourself to sharing, knowing that the words are not part of your cognitive process. After you speak, silence again, this time different. With a sigh, what seemed like a problem before is unraveling and revealing itself to be a precious gem. A doorway.

This is a taste of what is possible in a coaching context. Its components are simple. Awareness. Presence. Being.
It comes from within, a personal alignment, a sense of integrity between mind, body, and the numinescent

The training ground is life. Learning to see everything, all circumstances and “realities,” as opportunities. Seeing the gift of learning and healing in each moment.

Supporting this training ground are manifold practices and schools, principles and methodologies.

This is a birds eye view of some of the principles and practices that have been useful to me. I hope they serve you.

Entrainment: Our level of awareness calls forth the same in our client

“[through] entrainment.. the depth of our own presence, our being, our silence, our acceptance of ‘what is’ – all duality and polarity…
invites the client into theirs…”

The concept of entrainment was introduced to me when I started learning about Reiki and other forms of Energy Work. The book I read outlined that when you set two grandfather clocks against a wall, each ticking at their own rhythm, that they eventually match each others rhythm. Each of their ticks are individual cycles, and by virtue of their relationship, they attune.

In a coaching context, the levels of awareness that we choose to show up with; including our levels of acceptance, the degree to which we are rooted in our physical body, the degree to which we are seeing ourselves and our client as inherently whole – this awareness sets the stage for the coaching to take place within.

“out beyond the world of right and wrong there is a field, Ill meet you there.” Rumi – paraphrased

Organicity: Trusting in the system to provide guidance

In Hakomi, or “Body Centered Psychotherapy,” one of the principles is that of Organicity

The principle of Organicity shows us that we can see the client/coach relationship as a living system, with its own intelligence, and its own capacity to adapt, self-correct, and evolve. This is aligned with the Co-active principle of coaching the third entity.

In Living Systems Theory; the concept of open Feedback Loops

We learn in Systems Theory that a living system is dependent on open feedback loops in order to function and evolve – with blocks in the feedback loops it becomes what is called a “runaway system” and is inherently self-destructive.

One example is my hand over a flame. My hand is considered a living system within my body, which is also considered a living system. The concept that there are systems within systems is known as holearchy. In systems terms, the whole must be able to communicate with its parts in order to adapt to changing circumstances… via communication self correction happens.

My hand sends a signal to my brain. I make a choice. I act to adapt through my hand. This communication happening offers the opportunity for adaptive change.
If there was a block somewhere in the communication… If I never found out my hand was burning…

Deep Listening and Organicity

In Coactive Coaching terms, the collective intelligence between 2 people can be seen as a 3rd entity. In living systems terms, this is a larger system containing 2 smaller systems.

Our ability to relate to the “third entity:” that is to say, our ability to hear and respond to that which is called for via our feedback, our open communication channels, is dependant upon the depth and level at which we are listening. Coaches interested in operating from levels of awareness that foster transformative change must learn to listen deeply, and to remove that which stands in the way of doing so.

Releasing Personal Agendas and Organicity

What stands in the way of listening deeply and attuning to that which is called to unfold?

Typical obstacles are the same as those that stand in the way of awareness; our personal agendas, our attachments, our motives, and any other influence born from dualism. The reward of clearing them for coaches, is that the process of witnessing another’s individual unfoldment becomes effortless… this practice infuses ones coaching experience with grace.

Buddhist Practice and Organicity

Buddhism speaks to this. In Buddhist practice we cultivate our ability to release our attachments, and with them, to come to a place of neutrality, which supports us in attuning to “what wants to happen,” and to support that natural unfoldment as opposed to our individual desire to get ourselves or our clients to a certain future point.

This shift, when applied to the “gap management” for our client, supports the shift in approach from changing ones circumstances to releasing resistance to what is. When applied to our desire to change who we are, the shift is in letting go of future images for the sake of learning to love who we are right now.

“the point is not to change ourselves, but to make friends with who we are already”

This requires a recognition of our common unconscious belief and fear, that if we stop resisting who we are, we may not be motivated to change, and in some cases that fear is well founded. If the only reason I am motivated to diet is that I am resisting my appearance, then fully loving and accepting myself in this moment may not inspire me to lose weight.

If I do feel inspiration to act differently in response to this, however, it will be a sustainable change, welling up from within, from my integrated being-ness, rather then a temporary band aid that covers up my internal resistance to what is. We learn these distinctions when we look at our desires, where they lead us, what they are rooted in, and how we try to respond to them.

Where value in a coaching session really comes from

I remember when I was first training to be a coach, and I often fell into the trap of thinking that as a coach, I would need to provide value for the session to be worth my clients time.

This was one way in which I fooled myself into thinking that whether my client received value from our time was my responsibility

What I learned is that value is not something that is provided by the coach to the client, rather, it is the clients responsibility to draw value from the experience, and the coach supports this by showing up fully for his/her client. This is illustrated by the following quote, paraphrased from a mentor”

“you are not somehow providing value to your client, by giving them something. It is through your way of being, and the stage that this sets, that your client is able to draw value. The value comes not from you, but from the quality of the relationship between you two.”

Inner work as Coach Training

What we learn as we undertake coach training and our inner work, is that we are the only ones capable of taking responsibility for how we show up as coaches.
“Psychotherapist Carl Rogers spoke of it as ‘being’ and our ability to ‘be’ with what comes up with clients.. is in direct proportion to our ability to ‘be’ with what comes up in ourselves.. hence the importance of working on our own ‘stuff'” (Ruth Hadikin)

The choice presented to us is one of assessing how committed we are to our own personal inquiry and unfoldment.
When we take responsibility for our internal process and unfoldment as coaches, we are more available to show up in a state of mind that will be useful for our clients

Tools and methods for Inquiry and our Coach Training

In the cultivation of our ability to show up fully, we practice the art of identifying and releasing attachments, personal agendas, desires, images of an ideal future or outcome for our time together, motives, and judgments.
In addition, as coaches, we recognize the importance of completion. As individuals interested in bringing a conscious approach to coaching, we take the time to come to completion and resolution of the unresolved, stuck parts of ourselves. We do this via Shadow Work, Persona Play, Contemplative Practices, Experiments in Consciousness, Explorations in Awareness, Personal Inquiry, Spontaneous Creative Expression, Interactive Exercises, Role Play, working with the Trickster, and in other ways.

These tools are related to the multifaceted ways in which individuals across the world approach their inner work and personal inquiry, and the tools and methods are available to coaches and seekers alike.

The Sedona Method in Coach Training

One tool that I find worth mentioning for moving in the direction of cultivating our way of being and the identification of and clearing of the obstacles in that is the Sedona Method. Inspired by Buddhist Principles, the Sedona Method is useful in the recognition and release of attachments. I find that certain practices that I learned through the Sedona Method Text help to prepare me for a coaching call by helping me to root myself in awareness of something more expansive then my individual desires and agendas.

In Conclusion

So, to wrap things up here. I find my inner work to be an essential component to my coach training, and I find my life to be the primary training grounds. To ignore this aspect of ones coach training will create a significant glass ceiling for any coach. In order to fully realize the potential that lies within a coaching context, it is imperative that we take responsibility for our internal process, awareness of what is going on for us internally, the release of our attachments, and awareness of deeper and deeper levels of phenomena.

We find ourselves in the midst of great change, and as individuals called to the helping, counseling, coaching, and facilitation roles we are called to step into the field of our potential. If there is any time other then this moment that is better to open ourselves the the full range of what we are capable of, when is it? Let it begin today.

The information contained within is inspired by a discussion on the Co-active Network Online Forum. Jonathan is a student of Joanna Macy and studied at The California Institute of Integral Studies. His research was based on the facilitation of transformative workshops through experiential learning, and he has facilitated over 50 workshops throughout California with an emphasis on Applied Systems Theory, Engaged Buddhism, and Deep Ecology. The curricula and guidebook were a gift from Joanna Macy.

One thought on “Awareness, Presence, Being: Life as our Training Grounds for Conscious Coaching

  1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    I am so grateful to have stumbled on to this informative and inspired expression of Integral Studies. The implications of these ideas are truly life transforming and insightful for me. This reading has application and relevance to several dimensions of my life as married father of three children, an executive director of a small not-for-profit and person of recovery.

    I hope we can keep in touch. I will work to check our articles more frequently. What a wonderful way to spend a cool, cloudy morning in central Kansas.

    Thank you!


    Andy Martin

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