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Life Coaches and Marianne Williamson

Posted by Julia Stewart

Life CoachesSaturday, I attended an all-day seminar with Marianne Williamson, the best-selling author, speaker and spiritual teacher who popularized the profoundly mysterious Course in Miracles that thousands of spiritual seekers have studied.

The Midwestern New Age community was out in force for the event (Conversations overheard in the ladies room could have come straight out of Shit Life Coaches Say.)

Life coaches can be pretty New Age-y, especially when they are new. But what I like about Marianne is that she's the real deal. Instead of dressing in flowing tie-dye and spouting the latest spiritual-sounding gobbledygook (I'm totally downloading!) She's dressed in a simple pantsuit and not afraid to use some hard language.

Those who are truly evolved tend to be more  bracing than comforting. They aren't particularly warm and fuzzy. Marianne's a great example. She ended her 8-hour seminar with, 'God bless you. Now go kick some ass!'

High points of the event:

  • Marianne told us all of our problems are directly related to what we're not giving. An African American woman raised her hand and said her problem was having to live with racism and she didn't see how that was about what she hasn't given. Marianne could have told the woman that her problem was that she hadn't forgiven. Instead she commented that racism continues in America because there's never been a national atonement. So she asked all black Americans to stand up and a white American stood with each. Each white American asked for forgiveness and each African American gave it. That's a healing conversation if ever there was one. There were many tears. Some were mine.
  • She said it's easy to make fun of the consciousness movement, because since it avoids the negative, it lacks gravitas. We need to focus more on what's not working and take responsibility for it (again, every problem is about what you're not giving). Reminds me of what another bracing spiritual teacher, Andrew Cohen, says in his book, Evolutionary Enlightenment, that we need to notice everything and avoid nothing. Otherwise, we're choosing not to evolve. (So all you coaches who avoid the news, if you want to evolve, or not be made fun of, you need to stop avoiding what's going on.)
  • You know that famous quote from the Dalai Lama about how, 'The world will be saved by the Western woman.'? Marianne's reply, 'Do we really need a man to endorse that?'
  • She said if Western women cared as much about the world as they do their careers, 17,000 children wouldn't die of starvation everyday.
  • She told us that it's easier to teach political skills to conscious people than it is to teach consciousness to politicians. Therefore, it's our responsibility to get more politically involved (She'll be teaching a course on how to do that in November).
  • When someone stood up and asked her to run for President, she said she can better serve by helping other conscious people run and that's what she's working on.
  • Kick ass, indeed!

By the way, I lunched with veteran coaches, Joanne Waldman, Kristi Arndt, and  Lynne Klippel. None spoke a single New Age syllable.

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Topics: Coaches, Become a Master Coach, Andrew Cohen, Life Coaches, Kristi Arndt, spirituality

Coaching Tip: Enlightenment Can Be Bad For You

Posted by Julia Stewart

Coaching TipHow do coaching, personal development and spirituality cause dysfunction?

If you think coaching, personal development programs and spirituality are all good, think again. The tools that coaches use and that personal development gurus and spiritual teachers also may employ are usually great when used in the right situations by people who are ready for them. Try using most of those tools in every situation, though, and you can get yourself in a whole lot of trouble.

 

Which tools am I talking about? Well, many. But here are a couple of examples that are closely related to each other:

  • Seeing the perfection in every situation
  • Eliminating the ego 

I've coached a lot of people who were 'highly evolved'. They were very spiritual and always saw the beauty, opportunity, learning, etc. in everything and rarely let their egos get in the way.

Their lives were a mess. And they were tough to coach, because they felt good and they thought they were supposed to think that way. People who feel good aren't motivated to change. People who feel good when their lives are a mess are in some ways a little bit crazy.

Come to think of it, I passed through this stage years ago when I first started meditating. Suddenly, things that used to bother, hurt or anger me, didn't anymore. It was very freeing. It felt good. I loved it.

And my life started falling apart. Why? I'd lost my boundaries. I got into dysfunctional relationships, because my former warning system, pain, had shut down. I was very forgiving, had but lost the ability to say, 'Hey, this is not okay with me.' Fortunately, I learned to grow past my 'enlightenment'.

Coaches who have drunk too much of the Coaching Cool-aid, sometimes fall for this. They will quickly reframe every challenge as an opportunity. Or they will coach everybody they meet, as if their own needs never matter. They lose critical skills when they try to show up 'like a coach' in every situation.

Skills like:

  • Discernment
  • Engagement
  • Commitment

Procrastination, complacency, and cluelessness may set in. Because after all, everything's great, right? So there's no need to make changes. People may start to avoid them. Relationships, careers, health and finances begin to fall apart. But all the while, they feel GOOD, because they're stoned on their own endorphins. And like all opiate addicts, they've lost the ability to notice and respond to their environments. Not pretty.

In addition, by choosing in advance to respond to everything in the same way, they are limiting possibilities, rather than expanding them.

Worse yet, they may create shadow behaviors that are acted out out unconsciously. 'No ego' becomes arrogance ('I'm more enlightened than you!'). 'Seeing the perfection' becomes passive aggression (Got a problem? 'Just see the perfection in it!') 

One of the many things I value about Zen Master Genpo Roshi's teachings is that he takes this problem head on. He calls this level of enlightenment, dysfunctional and says a zen  master's job is to push you through this stage as quickly as possible. Because otherwise you can get profoundly stuck. Feeling good all the time is very, very seductive.

Not many teachers even recognize this problem. In fact, some of them are actually stuck here, themselves. Many teach that this stage is desirable. Don't get sucked in by that.

Remember the saying, 'When you're going through Hell, keep going'? Well the great thing about Hell is that it feels so awful you want to keep going.

The awful thing about Enlightenment is that it feels so good, you want to stay there. And as soon as you try to hold on to it , you're not enlightened anymore. Keep going.

When you fully engage with life, experiencing pain, resistance and yes, even your ego, you are fully alive, highly functional and - you're enlightened in a mature way. Then you've got the makings of a great coach. Yes, get your ego out of the way and see the perfection when you're coaching your clients. That's your job and it's a huge value to the people you coach. But when you're not coaching, be fully human.

And keep going.

Topics: Coaching, ENVIRONMENT, Coaching Tip, Genpo Roshi, personal development, spirituality

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