For many people, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of mindfulness is meditation, stillness and quietness. But is this accurate? And how could this be useful in coaching which is a conversation based approach to change?
Well, let’s start by setting the record straight. Mindfulness is not about meditation, although meditation may be how some people achieve mindfulness. Nor is it about trying to be calm, quiet or still.
Mindfulness, in fact, is simply the deliberate act of attention, awareness and presence in the moment. Described like this, it becomes much clearer how mindfulness is useful in coaching.
If we think of coaching as exploring a client’s experience over time, through past, present and future, then mindfulness becomes a tool for bringing the client into the present moment and for helping them to become more fully aware of the present.
So often in life, we are living into the future and coaching often encourages this very activity: plan a goal, imagine how it might feel to achieve it, project yourself forward to it happening. All these very classic coaching activities take a client from the here and now into an imagined future. And whilst this can be useful and allow the client to connect to what they want, it can also be a distraction from what really matters right now to the client.
Mindfulness in coaching encourages the client to become present to their experience, both in the coaching and in their life. It enriches the client’s lived experience as they tune in and notice every day activities they typically take for granted. Which most of us typically take for granted.
Mindfulness is an act of waking up. Waking up to the now.
Think about a simple activity that so many of us do without really experiencing it: drinking a cup of coffee. Think about how quickly we drink it, barely remembering that we even did. Now imagine doing it mindfully. Feel the texture of the cup under your fingers, feel its weight, feel its warmth under your hands. Now imagine the smell when you fully allow it into your awareness. Stay with it. Imagine the cup touching your lips and the first taste of coffee. The heat on your tongue. Imagine just holding on to that taste before you rush to take a second sip. Now imagine swallowing the coffee and feeling its heat in your chest.
Wake up. That’s coffee. Now imagine life.
Notice what a difference that is from how we typically drink coffee. You might be thinking, “Well, of course, but we couldn’t spend our life being quite so mindful of everything!” and you would probably be right. Mindfulness is not about transforming every second of your waking life through this high level of awareness but rather of having the ability to tune into it when you want to.
In coaching, this is a powerful tool to have at one’s disposal. After all, when better to really notice the present experience than when thinking about one’s life, one’s future and the sense of what’s going on for you. It allows us to tap into our real feelings, to notice what is rather than what we would like it to be, to stay with the exploration rather than rushing away from it.
Mindfulness encourages and facilitates the client to become present, to notice without immediate judgement or interpretation, to become aware of things currently unnoticed. It raises their awareness, engages their curiosity, opens their mind, and allows them to see more.
And all without meditation!
It also enables both the coach and the client to become more fully present and focused on the here and now in the coaching session. Practically, the coach might share some tools that the client could take into their daily life, tools which might transform how they connect to and enrich their experience of life and the people around them in a more meaningful way.
It is certainly true that mindfulness in coaching is useful for helping clients live better with hectic, complex lives and it been shown to work well with stress, anxiety and worry. But mindfulness doesn’t have to be the preserve of mental wellness. Mindfulness can enhance any coaching journey. It encourages curiosity and level of awareness that is useful in any coaching, from the rigours of business coaching to the transpersonal explorations of spiritual coaching.
It is unfortunate that mindfulness has sometimes divided people, with one side embracing it as a whole way of life whilst another rejects it as being something “out there”, something woowoo! In fact, it doesn’t have to be so extreme and thankfully many more people are now waking up to the practical use of mindfulness in their life. For coaches, mindfulness is one more approach that we might use to support our clients and to enhance our own practice.
Mindfulness has become something we can do any moment. It is no longer seen as some obscure practice that takes us away from life but rather a moment-to-moment connection to the experience of being alive. Mindfulness and coaching is really a perfect combination.
Now, back to that coffee…