Friday, November 26, 2010

The Pilgrim’s Path and the Coach’s Quest: Thanksgiving 2010

Perhaps for a day, or maybe much longer, pilgrims of purpose can bring peace to our beleaguered planet. A Pilgrims purpose is much more than a pilgrim’s progress, for progress without purpose is like a head without heart.. The following passage from T, S. Eliot’s “East Coker” epitomizes the essence of the pilgrim’s path

We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and empty desolation,
The waves cry, the wind cry,
In my end is my beginning.

Since our concern here is the coaching experience, it leads us to the question: how can a pilgrim, often a seeker of wisdom and spiritual rebirth, journey be compared to the co-creative process embarked upon the coach and his/her client

Most coaching engagements never reach the state of purposeful intention and collective unity that the positive purposed pilgrimage reaches. However, when accomplished correctly the coaching alliance becomes a journey, a flow-like pilgrimage as it were, to a more enlightened and balanced self for the client and the coach as well. Unlike in the pilgrims ‘journey to a spiritual, or other significant, physical place, the coaching alliance seeks elevated awareness and action almost anytime or any place. But both processes seek permanent, and ongoing, transformations from within and without.

How can this happen? How can the coach and the client reach this unified state encountered during a pilgrim’s progress towards peace and purpose? Such methods as active listening, mirroring, guided imagery, re-visioning one’s life narrative to perceive one’s world from a more promising perspective can all certainly help. Also, assisting aligning the client’s thoughts and actions to reflect their core values and beliefs are significant signposts as well.

However the quintessential quality of the coaching alliance that ushers the pilgrim’s purpose may be found in the coaching relationship itself. Mindful presence in the moment, and an unwavering belief that one’s client is capable of realizing their articulated aspiration- let alone dreams they may never felt possible- is at the core of an effective coaching process. Concurrently, if the coaching client can accept the coach as a trusted guide and visionary co-creator, then the coaching alliance can, at times, achieve the magical aura and transcendent experience similar to that of the pilgrim.

So in some cases a coach, like a pilgrim, can empower a client to reach a sublime state of mental and spiritual clarity and commitment. However, as we can infer from Eliot’s wise words, this is not always a peaceful path, for the ambiguity of being simultaneously “still and still moving” and beginning and ending can have both an ecstatic yet exhaustive effect. Yet, in their totality, the pilgrimage and coaching processes can often activate an ineffable unifying quality, similar to a universal law of purposeful intention. In our troubled and terror ridden time, this may even engender a pilgrimage which forsakes a passive promised land in favor of an ongoing peaceful, coaching like, process with an uncertain but potentially optimistic never ending outcome.

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