Opening Thoughts


Being Up To This

Several of you have expressed to me some uncertainty about being “up to” coaching other students on the individual phone calls. This is understandable — when we anticipate having to make a perfect comment or intervention in some future situation, it’s easy to doubt ourselves.

But like everything we’ll encounter on this journey, the uncertainty or doubt we might feel as we anticipate those moments is a perfect teacher. It teaches us because we know enough now to let that “uncertainty feeling” be just what it is, and to see it for what it is. See that it is simply a familiar judgmental response appearing. “Ah, I’m judging myself — judging how I expect I will be in the future. Mmmm, so that’s how it happens!” And then let that thought do what it naturally does if left to itself: let it disappear! You don’t need to try to milk it for wisdom or caution.

None of you need to be any “smarter” to do this work. What you need you already have: clear, open presence. Wondering about your capacities and reviewing your self-judgments will just get you in a tangle. “Clear, open presence” is simply another way of saying “be authentic.” How do we “be authentic?” By not trying! You only need to be what you are in the moment, present, awake, whole-hearted. If the moment involves you listening on the phone to a student expressing confusion, or judgment, or getting lost in concepts, okay, that’s what’s happening. No need to take any of this "personally.” And if the moment involves you suddenly not knowing what response to make to something the student has said, that’s just what it is: you don’t know what to say. So say that! For example:  “I don’t know what to say in response to you. Let’s be silent a moment and see if some clarity comes to either of us about what you are expressing.”  

The key, as we will return to again and again, is learning to rest in (as) the clear, open presence you are. Trust that. Then what you need to know, or be, or say in the moment will be given to you and it will be authentic.

Being a “Guide"

One other dynamic I’d like to mention here is the projections students may have on you as a “guide.” Even though this is, in fact, a “guides training,” it is more accurate at this point to call you a “trainee” than a “guide.” I like the word “guide,” but it does imply that you, as a guide, know how to find the way through the territory. That may be true, and sometimes, as we have seen above, it may not. Being called a “guide” might put you in an awkward situation, with students expecting you to be a perfect counselor, or with others waiting to criticize or judge you — after all, who do you think you are?

So we may be able to defuse some of this by calling you “trainees,” or “coaches,” or “practice companions,” or simply “companions.” I will do my best to express all of this to the whole group right from the beginning, so everyone is on the same side. And, as we will see, sometimes you as a “coach” will find yourself receiving coaching from your student! How wonderful!