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‘Nothing to do. Nowhere to go’

‘Nothing to do. Nowhere to go.’ Zen Master Lin Chi

As Hunter Beaumont (Gestalt thinker, teacher and former president of Los Angeles Gestalt Institute) writes:

“When we mirror someone we don’t DO anything. We listen, we hear, but we don’t DO. Mirroring in that way creates a feedback loop that can facilitate awareness… that’s mirroring. Developing the capacity to mirror as not doing is extremely demanding. You must learn to forego all intention, including the intention to help. You have to trust a larger process……….it comes like a kind of grace to those who wait, centred in non-doing”.

One of the things that I notice in coaching literature, is that some of the more subtle aspects of our work– like mirroring, like non-doing, like embodied presence, like intuition – can be overlooked in favour of encouraging coaches to build a sack full of models and tools – all of which are necessary and useful. And whilst we need a strong theoretical base for understanding coaching contexts, resolving problems and creating new learning with our clients, this of itself is not enough. The quotation above powerfully reminds me that for the most potent practice, we also need to utilise these more subtle aspects of our skill set: non-doing, mirroring, presence and intuition. And while it’s one thing to have the knowledge that mirroring, for example, can be useful, it is quite another to have the spaciousness and the technology to accomplish mirroring as ‘non doing’. Marrying our coaching knowledge and tools with this more subtle skill set, creates mastery. Why coach at the base camp when you can guide yourself to the top?

When we consider that work with clients takes place in a fast-paced, often challenging environment, and within a contract which places explicit demands on us, we can understand why it is easy to slip into a diluted form of presencing, mirroring – as we hurtle from the taxi to the meeting place……’yes, I’m present, yes, I’m mirroring yes, yes, yes’! I find in my own supervision, and in the supervision I undertake with coaches across the world, that getting into a generous reflective space takes time – and paradoxically, effort. Slowing down enough to get there and trusting in this process, brings me much closer to the practical power of mirroring, intuition and of presence; they accelerate learning and change in our sessions and with our clients.

‘Unconditional presence is the most powerful transmuting force there is.’ J Welwood

When I am unconditionally present in sessions, I can show up cleanly for my clients. Creating this spacious listening environment is a daily practice for me. When I am ‘there’, clarity and insight emerge more easily out of the complex, systemic entanglements that are presented so often in supervision. I find that there is no way that I can rest on my laurels here. I may have been ‘good’ at this last week or with the last client, but each new client, each new moment in sessions, invite me to be awake and to be aware of how I can both enable and dis-able the ‘capacity to mirror as not doing’.

So I ask myself, what do I/we do, to engage and trust in the ‘larger process’ of which Beaumont writes? Do we trust it – do we have any idea what it actually is? How do we develop and deepen this core capacity? We talk about being in the flow and I think this flow occurs when we participate in this ‘larger process’ where there is ‘nothing to do’. We now know of course from the latest neuroscience research, that when we breathe a bit more and ‘don’t DO’, the brain calms down. We can then think, process, clarify and relate much better. And we can then be more intelligent about how we apply key coaching concepts, tools or interventions. My daily challenge, and I invite you to share it with me, is to become more aware of that ‘larger process’, to learn how to be in it consciously and to value its contribution to masterful practice.

Edna Murdoch  Co-Founder of the Coaching Supervision Academy