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Through the door …..


I imagine we’ve all experienced this, as a Coach or Supervisor. The time when we are totally in the flow, when there seems to be a shared space between us and the client, a joint exploration and co-creation. When I was training with the Centre for Transpersonal Psychology, we talked about “the dance” – the area where counsellor and client are finding their way together, even when confronting tough issues, in a synergy which is greater than either individual.

It is the area where not knowing is not a threat, where emergence can occur and deep, surprising, shared intuitions can arise. This is the area at the base of Scharmer’s “U model”.

There are probably many patterns of conditions which create this, but the internal condition of the Supervisor or Coach must have great bearing.  As Peter Senge observes, “The success of an intervention depends on the inner condition of the intervener.

Last time we looked at mindfulness as a way to develop our inner condition – gaining focus, losing the distractions of our own insecurities and attitudes and developing a spacious and accepting approach. Mindfulness is a wonderful thing. But, traditionally, mindfulness is only the beginning. It is the door to something else. In traditional Buddhist descriptions, what lies on the other side of that door is insight.

In my experience, it pays to be a little careful with mindfulness. If we equate it with focus and attention, it can become quite alienating – we may become a disembodied witness, watching with absolute attention but no engagement. Also, as we develop mindful awareness, in the early stages it requires effort, and the effort itself can be distracting.

However, at the point where effort drops away, something interesting happens. Awareness seems to operate of itself – we are “in the flow”, functioning at many levels. We are, in fact, fully present.

What interested me was how we can develop and enhance this state rather than simply relying on a chance combination of factors to bring it about. What I came to realise was that I couldn’t develop it. It doesn’t work like that. Then I began to understand – this is not about acquiring something new; it’s about relaxing into something which is already present.

There isn’t space here to go into the various meditation approaches which are intended to help us experience this, but here are some ideas.

Having entered a more mindful state, maybe through a centring exercise or breath meditation, try one of these:

  • Mindfully bring your attention to your direct experience now – including thoughts and feelings, things apparently “inside” and “outside” you. Then let those experiences go into infinite space. Observe how you experience awareness. If you allow your awareness to expand, does it seem to have any boundary? Again – don’t theorise about this. Just notice what is happening in your own experience. After all, even the most powerful scientific theory is just a very convincing story you were told by someone else. …
  • Bring your attention to the sounds around you. Notice when you start thinking about them, in the sense of building a “story”, and let that train of thought go. After a while, shift your attention to the silence between sounds, out of which they arise and into which they return. Every sound, even in the noisiest environment, is surrounded by silence – if you listen for it.
  • Instead of paying attention to the content of thoughts, observe the process. Where do thoughts come from? Where do they go? Don’t treat these as intellectual questions requiring scientific or other explanations – that’s just more thoughts. What is you actual experience, now, in this moment, of thoughts? And who is thinking them? Don’t try to answer these questions – just let them hang in the mind with a sense of wonder. After all – what is  a thought?

What’s the point of these exercises for us as Supervisors and Coaches?  For us, these are ways of relaxing into the wider space, tuning into the field where we are fully and effortlessly present with our client or  supervisee. From here we can:

  • Model  openness, calmness and authenticity
  • Demonstrate  a level of clarity about ourselves, our Supervisee and our Supervisee’s client which will identify areas of parallel process and transference
  • Help our Supervisee reflect on wider and deeper implications  beyond  a specific client or situation
  • Access deep levels of intuition and intuitive wisdom
  • Be prepared to operate in a field of “not knowing” in which knowledge, understanding and wisdom can spontaneously arise

Or, to put that another way:


“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase
each other
doesn’t make any sense.”



If you would be interested in further exploring the field of Meditation in Coaching and Supervision, please let me know at  . I hope to run some events later in the year if there’s enough interest.

Ian MacKenzie :  trainer and tutor for CSA’s Accredited Diploma in Coaching Supervision

February  2013