Finding Unconditional Spaces in Which to Grow
By Joy Reichart, New Ventures West
“Sorry, remind me how to pronounce your name?” I asked.
I knew about her alcoholic mother, about her cancer scare. I knew how many children she had, their ages, and what they were up to. I knew that she hoped to help teens and young adults with her coaching, inspired by her own difficulties as a youth and the kinds of situations she’s been privy to as an adjunct college professor. I knew that a pervasive fear of scarcity ruled many of the decisions she made, and that deciding to become a coach was a huge leap of faith for her.
I knew she loved horses. And three days into our year-long training, I knew I loved her.
But I couldn’t remember her name.
How lasting bonds are formed
Maybe this has happened for you in some retreat or seminar where the work happens at a deeper level than simply learning something new, improving, polishing, or adding to a resume. The ways you become acquainted with your companions in these circumstances are very different than if you met them at school, at work, or in your neighborhood.
It is something that happens frequently in Integral Coach training programs. Folks get to know each other starting at the level of heart, of interiority, forming bonds more quickly and powerfully than is possible over months of surface conversation.
Why is it important to know each other this way?
For us, it is essential to have a network of unconditional relationships to support learning.
For one thing, as part of learning to be a coach, folks will inevitably examine aspects of their lives that they may not have looked at in a long time—possibly ever.
For example, what might be standing in the way of a person being a fully compassionate, present, and sensitive listener? Maybe it’s a habit of interrupting: a behavior they cultivated early in life because they were constantly being shut down and talked over by their caretakers. As you can imagine, this isn’t a matter of simply deciding to stop interrupting. It takes observation, practice, and huge courage to acknowledge and heal the issue at its source. Attempting even one piece of this alone is daunting at best.
Community as a pillar
In our foundational workshop, students jump fairly quickly into coaching practice, discovering things about themselves and each other that they perhaps don’t expect to in a three-day program. By the nature of what students explore together, their practice partners become people they never forget. They may pass one another on the sidewalk in a few years and, though they may not remember the context, they’ll recognize the other person as a kindred spirit; someone who is dear to them. One less stranger in the world. For a moment, they are plugged into the worldwide network of folks who are dedicated to supporting others.
And in the Professional Coaching Course, our year-long Integral Coach certification program, community of practice is one of the three pillars of the program—the other two are learning the methodology and personal development. None of the pillars can work without the other two. Cohorts of students and faculty are together for a full year of training, getting to know themselves and one another on deeper and deeper levels; becoming attuned to each other’s needs and growth edges; and developing their coaching bodies by supporting their colleagues. When they begin practicing with clients they are likely to encounter shared challenges and breakdowns, and they can come together as a community to work through them.
Nobody gets there alone
In the Integral Coaching model and many others, a hallmark of deepening development is that a person has allies: like-minded companions who share their sense of purpose in the world. Of course, this doesn’t need to happen in any formal way—it’s amazing who shimmers into our lives when we are clear about the direction in which we’re headed. Nonetheless, this intention is baked into Integral Coach training. For starters, every person in every cohort has nineteen other students and nine faculty members dedicated to supporting them in discovering what is true.
At the end of my PCC year, on a lunch break during our certification, I was resting on a sofa in the hotel lobby when Shauna (I’d finally learned her name) curled up next to me. As we chatted, another classmate, Rue, wandered over perched behind me on the arm of the sofa. Jonathan came by and tucked himself in next to Shauna. Over the next five or ten minutes, one by one, the rest of our class joined us, until we were spilling off every piece of furniture in our little corner, like a big pile of puppies.
Less than a year before, the twenty of us had been strangers. And now here we were. Whatever happened during this rigorous rite of passage that was certification, we knew we could count on each other for comfort, support, and unconditionality—over the next few days, and for the rest of our lives.
Finding your people
What are the supportive communities in your life? If you can’t think of one, you might start by reflecting on a pursuit that feeds you. Perhaps it’s an art form, a spiritual practice, or an athletic activity. Seek out a local (or online) group that is engaged in what you love, and notice what happens to your own practice when it’s done with a group of like-minded folks.
It could also happen the other way around: joining a community might serve to highlight what’s important to you. For example, perhaps you connect with a group of volunteers picking up trash on the beach. Maybe this uncovers your passion for a particular species of marine life, your dedication to environmental issues, or even, through conversations you have as you work side by side, your gift for healing others by how you listen.
Check it out for yourself and see how what is important to you can be amplified and deepened with the support of a community.
Come get a taste of the kinds of friendships that can form over just a few hours at the Free Integral Learning Lab: a half day of learning and self-discovery. For a deeper dive into this rich methodology and community, join us for Foundations of Coaching. Get $100 off tuition with coupon code MINDFULLEADER.
Joy Reichart is the Communications Director at New Ventures West in San Francisco.
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