In his classic The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), William James conducts a pragmatic examination of a large and varied sample of documented religious experiences from Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. His pragmatic approach assumes anything that produces results must be real. He concludes the act of praying produces beneficial personal results beyond what the individual’s own self-development efforts are able to produce. James theorizes that in the less conscious recesses of our being we interact with God in a holistic and genuine way, a mysterious sacred relatedness. This is where and how spiritual healing and practical spiritual revelation occurs. This is the type of healing our own egos resist. Because, as the ego attempts to change itself, it is also seeking to maintain its status quo.
A careful review of the ICF Master Coaching Criteria reveals qualities of interaction one might intuit as sacred relatedness, similar to the relatedness James describes, we experience with the Divine at the deeper levels of our being. The following statements are a small sample selected from the ICF Master level competencies.
- Coach is connected to complete trust in new and mutual states of awareness that can only arise in the moment and out of joint conversation.
- The connection is to the whole of who client is, how the client learns, what the client has to teach the coach.
- Coach’s listening is completely attuned as a learner and listening happens at the logical, emotional, and organic level at one time.
- The coach recognizes both hers and the client’s ability of intuitive and energetic perception that is felt when the client speaks of important things, when new growth is occurring for the client, and when the client is finding a more powerful sense of self.
- The coach hears the totality of the client’s greatness and gifts as well as limiting beliefs and patterns.
- The questions often require the client to find deeper contact with the client’s shadow and light sides and find hidden power in himself/herself.
- The coach is not afraid of questions that will make either the coach or the client or both uncomfortable.
Please do not misunderstand what is being proposed. The coach is not taking the place of the Universal Divine within the client, but rather the coach is walking with the client into the depths of their being to explore the gifts of a Divinity that is the Ground of Being. Paradoxically, the deeper we go the more we experience higher wisdom. My first awareness of walking with another into the cavernous mystery of self-exploration came to me as a Stephens Minister. The more the person being ministered to felt my presence with them as they explored the depths and mystery of their own being, the more willing and optimistic they were about the process and potential of that exploration. This is not to suggest that Master Coaches are gods, but rather, our willingness to enter into that state of mystery with the client encourages the client to be more willing to explore and discover their undiscovered self, underutilized knowledge, skills, abilities, hopes, passions, spirit, and purposes….and their relationship with the Divine within.
The level of relatedness described above is rare and fleeting, but the benefits are powerful and lasting. The obvious benefit for the coachee is identified issues are addressed, which is important. But perhaps the more important and lasting benefit is the coachee develops trust in the process of exploring their deeper self, the confidence to engage in that process, assurance they can count on the Divine within, and the abilities to do so. The benefits for the Coach are similar. The coach and coachee are often both profoundly moved by this level of sacred relatedness.
Perhaps the greatest danger of coaching is not developing ineffective action plans, but a coaching session that ends with the coachee celebrating the skills and wisdom of the coach, giving the coach credit for the insights and action plan. This comes dangerously close to the coach playing God, and denies the client the opportunity to explore and develop their relationship with the Divine within themselves, creating a dependent relationship with the coach and undermining the client’s and the coach’s relationship with the Divine within.