What Does Buddhist-Inspired Coaching Do?
What I Do to Help You Balance the Worldly and the Spiritual
Dharma-inspired coaching is an example of skillful means where we take a recognized form of professional help and support — coaching — and we set up an alchemical process that uniquely serves the needs of the dharma student. In many ways, this is so different from conventional coaching that it needs its own language.
A dharma-inspired coach, trained in the dharma, strives to help their client balance on the thinnest edge, or fulcrum, imaginable. On one side lies the extreme of falling into the ego’s lust for money, power, and sensual desire. And on the other side, lies the extreme of denying the world, and one’s own potential, criticizing our own will to fulfill our potential as being “too materialistic.”
Goals with a Modicum of Ego
For example, all coaching makes an effort to help a client identify their goals in life, how exactly they want to become more high-functioning. But only with a fellow dharma student can we really talk about the delicate and subtle undercurrents of our motivation.
As we know, the way the ego works is often very subtle. We often need help to see how much or how little our goals are tainted by the desires of the lower ego. How much are they influenced by our belief in the permanence of our worldly existence? If our coach does not know what this means, then they may not be able to help us engage in the world with a clear vision and without many layers of doubt.
Being in Love, Parenting, and Other Challenges of the Heart --
How Does Healthy Attachment Bring Healthy Detachment?
Another value that a Buddhist-inspired coaching process offers is the view that transcends the paradoxes that often lock up our conventional, dualistic thinking, and thereby inhibit action. One of these mental blocks exists around the delusion that by fully loving, (and fully becoming attached to our loved ones), in some way retards our spiritual growth. Nothing could be further from the truth. . .
It is not news, certainly, that psychology has proven beyond any doubt that healthy attachment is integral to the full development of the child. Since the 1940’s we have known that having a secure and loving attached relationship with a caregiver is essential to normal infant growth and their ability to thrive. In fact, ‘failure to thrive,’ is a diagnosable condition often used by social service agencies in their analysis of the health of a family.
Unfortunately, fewer people are aware about how essential attachment is to adults forming loving relationships, and even less about how loving attachment can evolve and mature into loving detachment, a dharma virtue if ever there was one.
Reminding the Client of the Higher, Unseen Powers
We also may need a fellow practitioner to talk to us about dedicating the merit of a given activity, or the necessary purification that we might need to align ourselves with the higher unseen powers.
This back and forth between client and coach as goals are clarified, and ethical values are aligned, requires a meeting of minds in a clear and sacred space, with the benefit of all sentient beings always in mind. Clients sometimes may need to be reminded to ask teachers about how to call on the resources of the Buddhist tradition.
There are wealth and empowering practices — and teachings about how to manage wealth and power appropriately — practices for increasing or beginning new activities, clearing obstacles, prayers in order to activate our untapped inner resources, and visualizations of how to access the infinitely beneficent aid of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, dakas, and dakinis.
There can be enormous benefit from getting insight into the (via the Vedic or Tibetan systems) astrological profile we were born with, or the medical typology of our humors, or even the Western personality types such as the Myers-Briggs or the enneagram of the personality. All these skillful means are there in abundance for the householder to draw upon.
Our Sacred Duty to Function at a Higher Level — or Overcoming the Laziness of Inferiority
Or, perhaps we have too much ‘emptiness’ or false humility, or as His Holiness says, the ‘laziness of inferiority.’ Dharma-inspired coaching can serve the too-timid or self-doubting client by helping validate their need and duty to function at a higher level.
Is it not actually our duty to realize our highest potential, to manifest all of our talents and abilities, so that we can be of better service to all sentient beings, and by extension, our community, our family, and ourselves?
Non-duality, Living in the World, and Philosophical Calibrations
This process often involves helping a person get out of dualistic thinking, to see that there is nothing wrong with having wealth or power, or loving intimately, or being intensely involved with family or community, as long as we can get to a clear space in our psyches about it. As Shakespeare said, “There is nothing bad or good, but thinking makes it so.”
Sometimes the liberation of our talents and abilities lies simply in reframing our view with humor and holistic thinking. What is difficult is getting to this liberated state by ourselves alone. The coach can be that one to help us reflect back the absurdity of our dualistic thinking, help us laugh about it, and remind us when we slip back into its clutches.
For those practitioners inclined to Buddhist philosophy, it can be very interesting to try and marry theory and practice with being a householder. How does non-duality manifest in one’s efforts to live fully and harmoniously in the world? How does the doctrine of absolute and relative truth play out in my daily life? How can I observe ‘mind-only,’ 'middle way,' or ‘great perfection’ principles, while going about the tasks of life?
All of this can be done with humor and grace, and by remembering that in the Buddhist tradition, philosophy was never meant to be a stuffy, ivory tower pursuit of mental self-stimulation. For the Buddhist, philosophy is a way of life.
Coaching with a Background in Psychotherapy
As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, who has been working with individuals and families for over 24 years, and as a Grief and Suicide Prevention counselor for years before that, I offer something unique. Coaching clients can often benefit from the vast experience of the psychological community, whether it be transpersonal or positive psychology, personality inventories and typologies, journaling, narrative re-writing, and much more.
A client may need education about how we change habits, or instill higher levels of discipline. I can also help the client see when someone’s mental and emotional health has gone off the rails, and help them get what proper referrals they might need.
Because the path of dharma dredges up the very depth of our karma, and the purification process can be very intense indeed, especially when our teacher is far away, and we still have to get up in the morning, feed the kids, get them to school, go to our job, and not blow a gasket, then it is all the more important to have someone to help us stay grounded, to remind us to take it easy when necessary, to remember that we are not going insane, we are just having our old shell shattered into pieces.
In my experience, often dharma clients need less therapy and more coaching. Coaching helps us focus on how to change bad habits or fulfill their goals. And it is in the reaching of goals, or accomplishment, that we often find the fastest way to healing and the evolution of one’s identity.
Why Warmth, Loving Kindness, and Deep Listening Are Essential
But what is most important in this process is the quality of the relationship and that the client feels that their coach cares warmly about them. This is what creates the alchemy of change, and is exactly the same dynamic as has been proven, in research study after research study, to be most essential in psychotherapy.
In having a Buddha nature, the client has all the necessary wisdom and compassion and motivation within themselves to change and grow. And yet, this Buddha nature is more or less asleep, and we need someone who holds us in the sacred space of knowing that it is there, and is simply lying latent. Often enough, a catalyst and a sacred space are what we need to go deeply enough to find our own higher faculties of consciousness. Feeling the loving kindness of the helper greatly facilitates this process.
Being Held Accountable Is One of Life’s Greatest Pleasures
A core tenet of coaching is having someone hold us accountable to the tasks and goals that we identify and commit to. But we each want to be held accountable in our own unique way — that is, by someone who truly ‘gets’ us.
Each and every client-coach relationship is unique, and the client really has to feel the “click” between them, the beginning of trust, comfort, and a humorous view. We need to feel we are not judged, as I mentioned above, and we need to feel we can bare our souls when the darkness of our doubts arises. If we have demons getting in our way, we need to bring them out to the light of day. When it happens, and the coach has skillfully reminded us of our great potential, and our pure motivation to help all beings, it is one of the best feelings in the world.
The Only Way to Really See If it Works for You Is to Try
Please do not hesitate to call and talk it over with me. You have read this far and are hopefully intrigued.
What Clients Are Saying
"Mark is an amazing coach with the added bonus of having over 25 years of experience as a professional therapist. I had the privilege of being coached by Mark as part of our training with International Coach Federation. During one of the most personally challenging seasons of my life, Mark was able to keep me centered and focused on what i needed to press through it all. His presence was authentic and full of compassion. His questions and council were spot on, always mindful of the importance of moving forward. I highly recommend Mark as a coach for anyone who desires to reach more of their potential and greater results in their lives."