Pause for a moment. Drop your gaze, release your hands, sit back in your chair and feel your breath. Pause "doing" mode and allow yourself to open up to "being" mode. Simply sitting here breathing. All sorts of shifts have just happened as you followed that simple guidance. Your heart rate will have slowed down, your body will have relaxed, your mind will have settled and your awareness will have opened up.
Pause for a moment. Drop your gaze, release your hands, sit back in your chair and feel your breath. Pause "doing" mode and allow yourself to open up to "being" mode. Simply sitting here breathing.
All sorts of shifts have just happened as you followed that simple guidance. Your heart rate will have slowed down, your body will have relaxed, your mind will have settled and your awareness will have opened up.
What do you notice now? Perhaps you are aware of sensations in your body - tightness, tension, tingling, softness. Perhaps you are aware of sounds in your environment - humming, buzzing, talking, movement. Or, perhaps you get a sense of the activity in your mind - a stream of thoughts, images, questions, ideas or space between them?
We only begin to notice our experience in this way when we press pause and open up our awareness to them. Giving ourselves the space to open up is the key to consciously tuning into our experience and the insight and wisdom it can offer us.
Through training and experience as coaches, many of us may know how powerful silence can be. Creating space for a client to reflect, explore and reveal a deeper level of understanding. At first it may feel uncomfortable to sit in that silence as a client looks at us, expectantly. Holding our seat and resisting the urge to jump in with the next question (or a well meant suggestion!) takes practice and over time becomes an important tool in the coaching toolkit.
What then is "mindful silence"? Surely all silence is mindful, isn't it?
Pause again and this time bring to mind what happens for you when you open up to that silence with a client. What do you notice?
You may find that your mind is quiet and you get a sense of emptiness or space in your mind. You may feel that this is the goal of creating silence in coaching. Not just space for a client but space for you too.
Whilst it may be helpful and may even feel good, I believe we can enhance our presence with clients and grow as a coach by looking at silence differently.
There are differing qualities of silence. There is the pure emptiness of silence whereby external noise has gone and we can be left with a wide open expanse, free from the disruption of sound. Then there is a mindful silence. Mindful silence is rich and full of insight and is where we connect in a curious and non-judgemental way with the intricate details of our present moment experience.
Mindful silence is not about emptiness, just as mindfulness is not about emptying the mind. It is not about achieving a state of calm. It is not about zoning out. It is about becoming intimately aware of the whole of our experience as it happens. The activity in the mind, activity in the body and activity around us. At first, it can feel as though the internal volume has been turned up and so feels anything but silent! As we sit with it, however, we begin to notice the ebb and flow of all of that activity and from that there is a lot we can learn.
Mindful silence is alive with sensations and insights. It is where we can get close to the wisdom that is held at a deeper level of awareness. Mindful silence is a conscious engagement with our experience without becoming distracted by it, or feeling the need to change it, analyse it or work it out. It is about tuning in to the thoughts, feelings and sensations as they arise with an intention to acknowledge them and then let them go without engaging in an internal dialogue with them (because that's when the real noise starts!).
The skill of being able to notice activity in the mind and body without engaging in it is the skill of mindfulness. Over time, that non-engagement (perhaps paradoxically) means we become more connected with ourselves and ultimately with our client.
This idea of mindful silence and pressing pause is something you can practice daily inside and outside of coaching sessions. The more you do it the more tuned in you become to your own radio frequency and that of others. Try building in moments of pause regularly and allow your awareness to learn from the experience.
I had spent most of my early 20's with a negative lens; I would expect the worst, worry excessively and lacked confidence in myself and others. When I turned 24, I finally started to think about the future, the hope of a better lifestyle, career and happiness, I knew that in order for me to achieve that I needed to work on myself and reconsider my attitude to life.
The seed was planted in 2008 when I applied for a trainer position within the company I was working for. At the end of the practical interview, I remember hearing one of the assessors asking me: have you ever thought about coaching? I remember that even if I didn't know exactly what coaching was, I felt curious.