why coaching, part three
Areas of Life Where Buddhist Coaching Can Help
1. The Love that Emerges from an Awakened Conscience — Lasting and conscious intimate relationships. You have decided that you are not going to be a nun or a monk, so for most of us that means we will spend a great deal of time in our waking life working on, or at least being in, an intimate partnership. Could anything be more wonderful — and challenging? Chances are that if you are in sangha, or some other spiritual community, the awakening of the heart is important to you, and you have probably even read John Welwood on conscious relationships, or Steven and Ondrea Levine’s Embracing the Beloved, or Charlotte Karl’s If the Buddha Had Dated, or David Richo’s How to Be an Adult in Relationships. And chances are, that if you are still reading this page, there are some areas of relationship that remain confusing!
But no matter how many books we read, or how much therapy we subject ourselves to, there are aspects of intimacy that simply confound all logical and rational comprehension. The role of a coach, who speaks our spiritual language, can help in many ways, not the least of which is we often need the one-to-one, undivided attention of a kind friend who is able to help us decipher the mystery of our love lives. They can help us wrestle with such issues as:
- By what invisible and magical means will I ever find and recognize a suitable partner?
- Will I have the patience and loving kindness to be able to tolerate the hyper-awareness that comes from Buddhist, or other spiritual, practices?
- What Divine Energies can help us love each other and be kind, and help us to keep our mouths shut when we need to, and the courage to open them when appropriate?
- Somewhere hidden in our journey to love lays a code that unlocks what we, and only we, can open. It is not just a therapeutic issue — of injury in the past. Or just a question of spending more time practicing loving kindness on our cushion. It — the ability to fall in love and stay committed to the right person and create a healthy family — is far more mysterious, and wonderful, than that — it is quite literally a creation, a magical and alchemical process that produces a shared state of mind that can house the whole family in its love and embrace. . .
2. The Historical Turning Point for the Western Family — parenting from a Buddhist/awakened perspective. If our intimate partnership, our alchemical marriage of hearts, is blessed with the coming of children, then we the Universe takes us to a whole other playing field of spiritual practice. There is very little more challenging, demanding, and rewarding than the conscious parenting of children. Give research on attached parenting, on fathers who have healthy relationships with their daughters, etc.
- But what if we came to the dharma halfway through our parenting journey?
- Or what if we are a bit over-perfectionist and want to raise the healthiest, most enlightened babies the world has ever seen?
- Or what if our jobs are so time consuming we don’t have enough time to be really with our kids?
- What troubles have we had conceiving?
- How do we practice self-discipline and self-control with our children?
- What core values do we teach them?
- What educational system do we try and find? Or create?
3. Work Like It’s the Most Important Project in the World — and Doing It with the Grace of a Child. . . the Action of Non-Action, and other meditations on career from an enlightened point of view.
Lama Surya Das posted this wonderful quote from Rumi last Labor Day on his Facebook page:
“Everyone has been made for some particular work,
and the desire for that work has been put in every heart."
Wonderful books on integrating Buddhism in our careers have come out over the years, The Art of Happiness at Work, Fearless at Work, etc., and these offer good material for us to come to grips with the special problems that come to dharma students: What happens at the intersection of dismantling one’s ego with our natural desire to fulfill our potential and serve a cause greater than ourselves.
A coach working with Buddhist practitioners must be conversant with such phenomena as:
- how crippling the hyper-awareness that comes from practice can be;
- the need to be ruthlessly honest with one’s self about one’s talents and ability to focus;
- the purification process of our egotistical drives for money and power and fame;
- how to summon the wind horse or primal energies of the psyche
- The experience of effortlessness, or the action of non-action (and what Daoism can teach us about working in the world). . . how to align one’s goals with the higher levels of our consciousness
4. Welcoming Jambhala to Your House: Managing Finances and Removing Karmic Obstacles to Money. It is no big news to say that of all the obstacles that we face living in the world, one of the central ones is going to concern our relationship with money. There are tons of books and workshops out there on the subject and the concept of attracting financial security without greed and using it for the benefit of all sentient beings goes back, in the States, to such writers as Napoleon Hill and Paramahansa Yoganandya, and there is a huge growth industry that has sprung up around these ideas in the recent decades.
But for the Buddhist practitioner, who perhaps is ready to go beyond the cant of so-called ‘prosperity consciousness,’ and really learn at a deeper level what it means to attract and use money skillfully, we need to consider ever-more subtle principles. A coach can help us wrestle with some of these issues:
- the realization that generosity and offering are key
- that the meditation on wealth deities initiates a very subtle process of refinement and purification of the ego’s desires for wealth
- what exactly did the Buddha teach about money
- what role does our past life karma play
- what role does self-doubt play
5. What Can We Learn from H.H. the Dalai Lama, Ashoka and Other Approximations to the Universal Monarch? . . Leadership, community participation, and the importance of dharma friends. In this political season, many of us in the spiritual community watch with a mixture of dread and lingering hope as the electoral spectacle unfolds. We may even call to mind what His Holiness the Dalai Lama said,
“It's unrealistic to think that the future of humanity can be achieved
through prayer or good wishes alone; what we need is to take action."
As 'cultural creatives’ many of us feel deeply the progressive call for more fair and equitable distribution of resources, a helping hand to minorities and immigrants, a profound concern for the environment. At the same time we shake our heads with frustration at the realization that even the most progressive of the candidates seem to have no idea that any person seeking to be a leader must have undergone a radical transformation of the self in order to purge egotistical notions of power and fame, and realize truly what it means to be in service.
A coach can sit with you in a sacred space and help you discern. . .
- Are we called to leadership in our community, our organization, our sangha? if so, who is going to answer?
- How does one turn the temptations of power and fame, some of the so-called ‘Lions at the Gate,’ into grist for the mill?
- What can we learn from the ancient traditions, like Daoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Shambhala, etc., on the how to lead from a state beyond the ego?
- Are we at a critical juncture in history when we must lead, in order to save the dharma, the planet?
- How can we integrate an understanding of the two truths, the absolute and the relative, and non-dualism, in our leadership?
- Should we create a ‘kitchen cabinet’ of trusted advisors?
- What does our spiritual teacher say about our taking on bigger roles of responsibility? What do the deities say? What does our astrologer say? What does our significant other and our children say?
6. Health, Well-Being, and Fulfilling Our Potential. Abraham Maslow, William Miller, Positive Psychology, HH the Dalai Lama (on the “Never give up” quote). Whole libraries of material have been published, seminars attended, websites proliferated on these topics, but little attention has been given to the underlying motivations that we have as modern citizens of the world to improve ourselves, and how to continually refine and recalibrate those motivations so that we are in harmony with our Buddha nature. How do we summon energy for the path, for those of us living in the world, the motivation, as Chagdud Tulku says, or as Abraham Maslow said, isn't the desire to fulfill our potential innate?
The Greeks called it telos. In Buddhism we call it the tathagatagarbha. . .
(Stagnant liver chi, and what that means around not fulfilling potential. . . in other words, does our health partly depend on us over-coming our Achilles Heels, becoming strong where we have been weak, and manifesting the skills and talents we were both with? (the Professor’s Hall of Happiness quote).
- Astrology and the setting and achieving of goals
- Asian medicine and paying attention to our psycho-somatic Achilles Heels
- Deity practices, like the Medicine Buddha, and how they can help ground us in the material world
- Divinations, asking for help from a qualified lama
- The guidance of our spiritual teacher, capitalizing on the direct influence, guidance, and support of the teacher who can see us
- Participation in a spiritual community
- The balance of spiritual practice and worldly responsibility
7. Creativity — The All-Important Gateway to Dormant Faculties of Consciousness. Having a healthy and vigorous attitude towards creativity naturally follows from working on our health, well-being and personal growth. It has often been pointed out that one of the main things humans do once they start reaching levels of enlightenment is that they are almost compelled to express their awe at the majesty and the beauty of the universe, through fine arts, architecture, music, dance, calligraphy, literature, etc. And, as contemporary authors like Julia Cameron have pointed out, creativity can also be a spiritually awakening activity, helping to stir and awaken dormant faculties of consciousness.
- A coach can help us honor our desire to be creative, to honor the mix of fun and hard work that it is, and re-embark on the creative journey many of us left in childhood
- A coach can help us focus on our expression
- By holding us accountable to our practice as artist, the coach can help us take it seriously, give it a place in our weekly routine, and encourage us to show our results to others
8. Lost in the Underworld — The Difficulty of Asking Strange Deities for Help. The way that the Buddhist path is foreign to us can translate to our deepest relationship to the divine. If we are not connecting to the Indo-Tibetan deities, or the Japanese or Thai motifs, then when we hit a moment of crisis or intense challenge it can be very hard to plug into the divine current, to supplicate the deity or the Buddha to ask for help. We need to understand our level of belief and trust in our personal teacher, in the yidam or deity, and our own Buddha nature.
Here it maybe useful to have a coach work with you on this very area of spiritual need:
- The coach can help us figure out where we are spiritually, not in the same as our teacher, but as our dharma friend
- The coach may be able to help us see where to direct our own appeals to the divine
- The coach may help us see the meaning of “flow” from a Buddhist perspective — the action of non-action, the perfect balance of emptiness and clarity
- The coach may remind us of the quantum changes, the epiphanies and life-changing events that seem to happen when an individual reaches a moment of humility and real need for help... (William Miller, Abraham Maslow, Evelyn Underhill)