As I continue through the alphabet in this weekly series, it was fitting that the letter "I" came around this week. There is something quite intimate about the loss of someone close as it brings you profoundly in touch with what is most essential about your life. For example, I reflected that while Ann was so vital and generous (hallmarks of intimacy), she seemed to struggle to really let others in. It is something I see time and time again in my workshops and coaching sessions—people who can so easily give to others what they secretly long to receive for themselves.
In this same week or so I ran one of my most powerful Labs ever (near Amsterdam), had some important conversations with my daughter, reconnected with a dear old friend and started a new relationship. What these each had in common was a much greater willingness on my part to allow in the other person. As a result, I am exploring intimacy as joyful and engaged reciprocity. As meeting in the unknown with full presence. As creating moments of meeting that heal, ourselves and others.
Where can you open yourself to more intimacy in your life? Let it flow...
Key to creating these moments in how we coach and how we work is the mindfulness. Yet, if we are not careful, the amazing potential for this body of work to foster health and well-being may be compromised. Read more about it here from Zöe Krupka. I see a need to think of mindfulness and health at four levels, starting with the most common one at the bottom of the ladder. Mindfulness:
TWO QUESTIONS FOR YOU: Where are you on this ladder? Where can you bring more mindfulness and health into your life in ways that enrich your life and that of others across all four levels?
I was thinking about gratitude as I prepared for my presentation to about 20 members of their HR and coaching communities. Yet again I find that my descriptions of narrative coaching are more and more about the ability to be simply and deeply human in the presence of another person with intention. Gratitude is essential for keeping within the non-judgmental frame that is at the core of narrative coaching.
I also came to realize that gratitude also plays an important, yet unacknowledged, role in learning. It enables us to soften the grip with which we hold on to certain stories—even those that actually keep us from what we most dearly want. I thought if that in the course of my travels to Europe when I encountered on several occasions people who were so caught up in their own world that they did not recognize they were infringing on everyone around them.
I saw in reflecting on those encounters how I trapped myself in stories about them—and more broadly the state of the world—in ways that continued to hinder my experience long after they had gone. Gratitude is not about condoning, but rather about freeing ourselves to learn and pivot in the moment. It is one of the key skills we teach in our programs, as part of moving away from old explanations and into new experiences.
Gratitude is an act of appreciation for the gift of awakening, a release of the grip and an opening to learn and step into a more generative story. It is being grateful for the discovery of what one needs to learn, which then enables us to move toward a new story. It is available to us each and every moment, though it often becomes more obvious to us when our Shadows cross our path.
What is yours to learn in this moment? Will you allow in a sense of gratitude to soften your narrative grip?
I saw this marvelous sign on the side of a museum by the wharf in Oslo. I was there running a Lab with some wonderful folks in a beautiful city. It was one of those trips were most things flowed quite easily, not always the case with travel these days. It got me to think about frustration.
No, not the kind that comes when you are one of 400 passengers sitting on the tarmac for nearly three hours for 'maintenance' issues, only to be let off and discover that—once can find them—there are only two service staff to process all of you. All of you...
I mean the kind that is generative. Like, when something doesn't go your way and you use the occasion to clarify what you really want. The key difference is the former experience is deadening while the latter is awakening. One of the greatest gifts in coaching is to help people learn much faster such that they can get the key insight and pivot from frustration to flow in the moment!
As I write in my book, "Narrative coaching views frustration . . . as a generative and essential driver of growth when handled well. We don’t rush to relieve people’s frustration, but instead use it as an opportunity to explore their wholehearted wish and what stands in its way." We are curious about, “What frustrated desire is this person seeking to express and fulfill in this story?”
I think of a workshop participant who complained that her partner in the exercise was trying too hard to help her and wasn't listening to her. Rather than step in, I asked her what she was working on in this exercise. She responded that it had to do with claiming more of her personal power. I offered the possibility that her frustration was an invitation to notice that he was the perfect person for her in this exercise. He was offering her the perfect opportunity to express more of her own personal power by inviting him to participate with her differently. She later reported that this issue, which had plagued her for some time, began to dissolve in that moment. They went on to work well together.
Where is there a frustration in your life or practice that is calling you to wake up?
Dr David Drake is the founder of the field of Narrative Coaching.