Month: September 2020

An Exercise in Curiosity

question marksIn the training program leading to my certification as a Coactive Coach, we completed numerous practical activities to build and hone our coaching skills. The other day I was reminded of one, that in the moment, seemed incredibly difficult. We were to spend thirty minutes looking under our kitchen sink. Yep. 30. Long. Interminable. Moments. And it wasn’t to be just a stream of observation and criticism, it was an exercise in curiosity. You see, we were specifically instructed to notice everything we could but without judgment. We were asked to get intentionally curious about what was under the cabinet, but not to say if it was good or bad. Thoughts of the disorder or stained cabinet flooring were steadily replaced with “I wonder why the pipes are bent that way”. Or, “what’s the story of the persona that installed this”.

In all the years that have followed, I return again and again to this exercise, both as a practical activity and a metaphor. It leads to the potent understanding of curiosity and how it suspends judgment. My role as a coach is to get curious and ask powerful questions that deepen each client’s understanding of themselves. The benefits are transformational.

  • Curiosity leads to an openness to what is present rather than the closure of judgment
  •  It inspires a willingness to learn rather than assume what is happening
  • Most of all, it suspends judgment, which stifles creativity and growth and puts us at odds with potential learning

Developing the skill of curiosity is a beautiful way to stretch and grow, often with surprising results. As you do, you may find the scope of your questions expanding and deepening into what moves and motivates you. So, try this: open your cabinet, find a spot in nature that captures your attention, notice a meaningful object on your shelf, or anything else that can gain your focus for 30 minutes. If you notice judgment creeping in, simply acknowledge it and return to asking questions.

When you are finished take time to reflect on the experience. What did you learn about the experience? How might you apply this learning to other parts of your life? Drop us a note to let us know!

A mindful approach to grief

words related to mindfulness under a magnifying glass

Tara Haelle’s interesting post introduces some important ideas about the intersections of grief and loss with the crises of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ambiguous grief is central to our current experience and she offers some good strategies for managing it, including acceptance, setting reasonable expectations, and finding fulfillment in familiar activities.

Another challenge of the pandemic is our need for the “long view” or life after the pandemic. So much of our attention can be directed to the point in time when the pandemic ends, but as Haelle correctly notes, we are nowhere near the end. So how can focusing on the present moment by adopting a mindful approach to grieving be helpful?

  • Mindfulness engages us in the present moment. Cultivating mindful awareness gives us a sense of time and place and amplifies our sense of control over our circumstance
  • Focusing on the present reduces the stress of looking ahead and the “what-if’s” that come along with it
  • Mindful awareness, when coupled with attention to the breath, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system or the part of our wiring that is responsible for rest and relaxation

Mindfulness as a practice of self-care was pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn who defines it as awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. As I share this concept with my clients, I emphasize the non-judgmental nature of this focus. When we simply notice, rather than appraise what is happening and what we are feeling, we are better able to quiet the nervous chatter of the mind. Free from this distraction, we can then invest our energy in what is available in the present moment. 

Want to learn more? Join j for our Conversation Café on Monday September 21 at 7pm for a lively discussion about mindfulness and learn some practical applications for your daily life.

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