Individual Contemplative Coaching|
Individual Contemplative Coaching is a joint endeavor to support the recognition and embodiment of the inner peace that is always here. The coach invites you, at your own pace, into an inner exploration of both your essential spiritual nature and your various human parts. Your essential nature, or Self, is peace, joy and compassion. Your parts allow the expression of this true nature in the world and constitute who you normally think of as yourself. When vulnerable parts are wounded or traumatized, however, they often take on burdens of emotional pain or unhelpful beliefs. Other parts, in turn, take on extreme, burdensome roles in an attempt to avoid the pain. Contemplative Coaching creates inner harmony—and genuine self-love—by extending the understanding, appreciation and compassion of the Self to these parts. This process releases them from their painful burdens and tiresome roles, thereby freeing you to relax into the peace, joy and fulfillment of your true nature.
Individual Contemplative Coaching is available for individual adults and children and groups of individuals. Relational Contemplative Coaching is available for couples, families and groups of couples. Coaching is conducted in person, by phone, and face-to-face over the Internet via Skype.
Our True Nature
Contemplative Coaching integrates the radical recognition of our essential, spiritual beingness with pioneering, non-pathologizing experiential therapies of proven effectiveness. This coaching resolves the psychological and emotional conflicts that block the manifestation of our true nature of peace. Growing numbers of people are reporting experiences of recognition that our true nature is not only who we think we are. There is much more to us than our constantly changing thoughts, emotions, sensations and bodies. Who we truly are, in our essential, absolute core, is limitless, eternal, unchanging awareness. This awareness is peace itself—utterly still and empty, yet overflowing with joy, compassion, and fulfillment. Who we think we are—all of our every-changing thoughts, emotions and sensations—arises in that awareness. The world of phenomena that is apparently outside of us—all that we can see, hear, taste, smell and touch—also arises in that awareness. When directly explored, the boundaries of this awareness cannot be found in time and space.
Mystics of all religions and all ages and ever growing numbers of contemporary pan-demoninational spiritual teachers and even some denominational ministers point towards the recognition of their true nature as this core, essential awareness or Self. We (Beth and Linda) know hundreds of people who have reported direct, undeniable experiences of absolute clarity that their true nature is peace itself. And it is likely that everyone has had at least moments of recognition of their essential nature, perhaps in a moment of reverie while watching a sunset, gazing at a flower or walking in nature.
The Root of Conflict
The question then arises: If our essential nature is peace and so many of us have consciously experienced this—even for prolonged periods—why is there still war? Why is there conflict in our communities, families, and within our own minds? Why do we still suffer? Or, in other words: After profound experiences of spiritual recognition, how does the Self become so quickly hidden, as if no spiritual recognition had ever occurred? We asked ourselves these questions over a period of many years, while we were noticing this paradox in our own lives and in the lives of hundreds of others, including even powerful spiritual teachers with thousands of followers.
In 2005, we found powerfully useful answers to these questions in the seminal work of Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., founder of the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model. (See [Helpful Resources].) Schwartz is a family therapist who set aside some of his formal training to simply listen deeply to his clients. He noticed that clients often described themselves in terms of parts and recognized that all of us have a normal, healthy multiplicity of mind. For example one part might work too much and another part might want to relax more. Or, one part might make a good case for why you need to go to bed and another part might insist on staying up to watch a movie. And, one part might feel driven to selflessly take care of everyone and another part might feel resentful about all this effort and want to be taken care of. When Schwartz explored these parts with his clients and asked them to differentiate their parts from themselves, people spontaneously experienced compassion and peace in the therapy room. When Schwartz then asked about that part, his clients said, “This isn’t a part. This is who I truly am.” They introduced the doctor to the Self.
Schwartz went on to discover that two main groups of parts, protectors and exiles, and one main mechanism, avoidance of pain, creates the internal conflict that obscures the Self. He crystallized his discoveries in a model which he calls Internal Family Systems (IFS). IFS utilizes the power and compassion of the Self to heal the conflicts in the internal family of parts.
An Opening for Peace to Shine Through
In brief, the IFS process involves identifying parts, unblending or differentiating from parts, and giving parts what they need to be able and willing to allow the Self to shine through. Vulnerable, burdened exiled parts, likes ones burdened with feelings of inadequacy or loneliness, usually need to have their pain witnessed and to be reassured, unburdened and given permission to resume their natural roles—usually playing or resting. Protective parts, like those with people-pleasing, striving or addictive tendencies, mainly need for the exiled parts they protect to be unburdened. Then these hard-working parts are free to relax, take on their preferred, unburdened roles, and allow the Self to come to the foreground.
While numerous practices and approaches also help uncover the Self, such as mindfulness meditation and approaches based on mindfulness (see Helpful Resources), the IFS model is particularly powerful, direct and effective. In fact, the effectiveness of IFS in alleviating suffering—including physical suffering from chronic illness—has been validated in a well-controlled empirical study conducted at Harvard University (ref). See Resources for IFS-related books and links.
Contemplative Coaching focuses first and foremost on our connection with our true nature of peace—not as a belief or affirmation, but as an immediate, direct expeirence. Then, coaching involves an in-the-moment exploration of any inner experience—the thoughts, emotions or sensations of any part—that distracts from that peace. When clients learn to recognize their parts as only parts—and not who they are—and to treat all of their parts with compassion and appreciation, they experience a profound inner relaxation. This relaxation opens them to allow the peace that is always present to shine through.