What Does the Idea of “Living Consciously” Mean in Coaching?
I talk a lot about consciousness in my coaching practice : “living consciously”, “making the unconscious conscious”, “consciously choosing”, and so on. But what does it really mean?
On one hand, the idea of “being more conscious” could seem completely abstract and without any practical implications. This would render the idea, if useless, at least benign. But the idea of “becoming more conscious” could also seem to be just one of the latest of the self-help-yourself-into-being-super-human strategies, which may be good for marketers – “resolve all those nasty human traits in ten seconds a day by applying these three simple tricks of consciousness!” – but I contend that this would be very bad for the rest of us. We don’t need yet another expectation to add to our list, nor do we need yet another thing to guilt ourselves about – “if I were just conscious enough, I’d be able to…”
Rather, with “consciousness” as I use the term, I want to help simplify clients’ lives, to help people be clearer about who they are and what matters to them.
“Making the unconscious conscious” is a process through which we learn to go beyond living life as a quasi-unconscious, sometimes fun and sometimes frustrating routine.
It’s amazing how often we fall back into automatic pilot without even realizing it, following routines, following orders, living to the standards of others that we never actually consciously chose for ourselves, and worse, may be contrary to our own. “We” are living each day full of experiences, but to what extent are we consciously experiencing ourselves experiencing our experiences?
And this isn’t just semantics. Think about loving: you know love your friends, but how do you know you love them? Because you share routine experiences together? We share lots of routine moments with people every day at work or on the train for whom we don’t typically feel love. So what makes the difference? You know you love your friends because you experience yourself experiencing your experiences with them.
Great, but translated to real life? As we become aware of our sense of self as we experience the events of our life (some call this “self” Presence or Witness), we start to wake up to a more present, alive dimension. Becoming a present observer in our life – one who is there to witness, feel and confirm without judgment the experiences that we live – allows us to wake up to ourselves. We pay attention not just to the schedule, but to our experience of planning the schedule. We don’t just look at our face in the mirror, we experience ourselves looking, and we feel present. We no longer take the chatter in our minds for granted; we start listening to it and constructively using it to help us understand what is important to us and what actions reflect our true expression.
In essence, we start taking our experience of ourselves seriously. We slow down, we observe, we start to feel life.
“Why are you alive?” I often ask my clients. Of course, the answer can only be felt as an inner knowingness. When they don’t know or feel confused and unsure, this is often the spark to say: “It’s time to find out!” And our work together is aimed at helping shine the light.