Yoga Life Coaching™ – Coaching to the Higher Being by Deborah Williamson (reprinted from the IAC Voice)
This article originally appeared in VOICE, the newsletter and blog of the International Association of Coaching (www.certifiedcoach.org) in March/April 2011, and is reprinted with permission.
People often ask me why I’ve called my style of life coaching Yoga Life Coaching™. After over 25 years working in yoga, while also mentoring and coaching both in corporate and private client settings, I’ve found that combining yoga and life coaching makes a whole lot of sense.
Traditionally, both coaches and counselors relate to their clients as human beings, but as a Yoga Life Coach™, I shift my focus to coaching the Higher Beings in my clients. Relating to my clients as Higher Beings has an immediate effect on their ability to receive coaching and move forward in the coaching relationship. This is the driving principle behind Yoga Life Coaching™.
So what IS a Higher Being?
A Higher Being can be described as a state of mind in which client (and coach):
- Have no wrong understanding
- Have no limitations
- Have endless energy
- Are timeless
A person who is living and acting solely as a human being is the exact opposite of the above; someone who has many misunderstandings, limits and excuses; who is always tired and short on time, money and support. Many of our clients enter coaching relationships from this perspective and will defend it vehemently.
Newer coaches inadvertently trap their clients in this state by coaching to a specific outcome or end result. This approach leads to stagnation and eventual frustration. It is our job, as coach, to “flip the switch” so that clients experience themselves and others as Higher Beings—capable of anything and already perfect—with endless choices and possibilities to pursue.
Let’s take this a bit further. Have you ever gone into work early in the morning and in one short hour accomplished more than you were able to do in the entire day previous? If so, you were operating from your Higher Being with endless energy and possibility—not limited by time or anything else.
On the flip side, perhaps you have also experienced a day when your list of things to do is five miles long, and everyone and everything is deliberately standing in your way. You accomplish nothing and feel tired and powerless. This is your experience as a Human Being.
We ARE all human beings, but when we enter the inspired state of Higher Being we truly and accurately believe that anything is possible, and we make it so. As a life coach, it is part of your continuing education to practice this shift in yourself. If you feel tired and annoyed, you are living as a human being. How will you shift to the state of Higher Being?
These distinctions of human versus Higher Being are rooted in the yogic theory of TKV Desikachar and also in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. This same theory can be found in hundreds of more recent texts as well, from Wayne Dyer to Byron Katie.
It is also in the IAC Coaching Masteries®, most specifically in Mastery #2: Perceiving, affirming and expanding the client’s potential (seeing the client as a Higher Being). And so as you begin to make distinctions around these two states in your own life, you have access to a fail-proof tool for coaching your clients.
Whether you use the terms human or Higher Being with your clients or not, (and I don’t), you can point out the difference between the two as you see them and encourage your clients to do the same. This understanding in and of itself is instantly life-changing. As clients create from their own Higher Being, they begin to see others in their lives existing in the same, effortless state. It is impossible to stay stuck in the state of human being while recognizing the Higher Being in another.
Here’s an example of how this might appear in one of your client sessions, when coaching a client through a difficult relationship.
Your client might say about her partner, “He doesn’t love me unconditionally.”
As a coach, you will question this statement. What makes you believe he doesn’t love you unconditionally? Is this really true? Upon further questioning, the client often realizes that it is she who is not loving her spouse unconditionally instead of the reverse. If there’s no truth to the original statement (he doesn’t love me unconditionally) the possibilities are now endless for this couple. Now it’s time to flip the switch from human to Higher Being.
You can ask: What is possible now that you know this thought is not true? How do you feel about your husband and your relationship without this old thought? How might he respond to you if you treat him like this thought does not exist? As the client shifts her thoughts away from misunderstandings and limits in the relationship (human being) to acceptance and limitless possibility (Higher Being), she is free to create whatever she desires.
This is one example out of thousands. When you recognize the symptoms of human being, you and your clients have instant access to living life as Higher Beings. We all move in and out of both states, but the continued practice of observation, instant forgiveness and forward motion (also important parts of any yoga class) will allow you more time to live joyfully as a Higher Being. This is the gift you can also give your clients.
Part 2 – Higher Being
In the March/April 2011 VOICE, I introduced the concepts of human being and Higher Being as I use them in my signature style of Yoga Life Coaching™. This month, I’ll share more about the foundation of this idea, which is harvested directly from what are known in the yogic world as the koshas, or layers of self. The koshas exist to expand our world and to help us connect to others around us.
Before we begin, let’s quickly review the difference between human and Higher Being.
Higher Being is a state in which you and your clients have:
- NO misunderstandings
- NO limits
- Endless energy
- Abundant time/sense of timelessness
Human being is the exact opposite. It is the state of mind where the obstacles of time, money, poor resources and argumentative people lurk around every corner to prevent growth, possibility, accomplishment or forward motion.
Obviously, one state is more enjoyable than the other. And, surprisingly to some, the shift from human being to Higher Being can happen in an instant, without any change in circumstance, wealth, intelligence, talent or ability.
This is where the koshas come in. Koshas are like energetic sheaths that surround us; five layers that relate to enlightenment and the quest for the true self. While some believe that enlightenment is something that you must suffer and strive for over the course of many lifetimes, I believe that we get it in bits and pieces every day. The koshas are the map that leads us inward to who we truly are—unencumbered, beautiful, joyful and capable—and whether you know it or not, you already experience them on a daily basis.
See the diagram below. Each circle represents a sheath, or layer, on the way inward to Higher Being.
We are born into the physical world, which is the outermost layer (kosha). Our body awareness is the entry point to the process of reaching enlightenment. As we start to notice our bodies, we begin to feel and become aware of breath and sensation and emotions (the energetic realm). From here, we observe, search for and assign meaning, entering the mental realm. As we go deeper, we experience understanding and true knowing without judgment or extraneous thought, moving through insight (where we reflect) and bliss (where we know all we need to know) until we finally reach the still point at center, or THE SELF. The second we are at the center and have the conscious thought of, “Here I am! I did it! I am now enlightened,” we are bounced right back out to the physical layer, and we begin again. In other words, the second we are thinking about something versus experiencing it, we are missing it.
In those moments at the very center of the circle at the layer of self, we have no wrong understanding, no limits; we have endless energy and endless time. We are not observing, thinking about or naming the external world. We see without assigning meaning, and we know all we need to know. Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’re driving down a country road and notice a heifer munching on some juicy piece of pasture. What might happen next? You probably assign a name (meaning) to the object, and think that word (“cow”). You might even point at the cow and speak the word aloud: “There’s a cow!”
When you’re living from your Higher Being, on the other hand, you see the cow but you don’t feel compelled to name it, know it or announce it. You just see it as it is without assigning meaning.
Why is this relevant to life coaching? Because both you and your clients will spend time assigning meaning to circumstances, objects and people. You are viewing these things through filters and they are colored by those filters. When you reach the center kosha at your true self, all filters are removed. You see without judgment and can choose from a place of endless possibility. Isn’t this what you want for your clients? Clarity of vision? Possibilities? Confident knowing? I know I do.
THAT is the shift your clients can have. That is the shift YOU can have as you practice moving in towards that innermost layer of self. Each time we move inward, we get to stay a little longer. Because the truth is, you (and your clients) really do know all that you need to know. Even though we all bounce in and out of knowing, we have the answers, the ability and the talent; we have all that we need to accomplish and contribute powerfully. Recognizing that fact is the first step to real and tangible life shifts.
This article originally appeared in VOICE, the newsletter and blog of the International Association of Coaching (www.certifiedcoach.org) in June/July 2011, and is reprinted with permission.
Deborah Williamson, owner/founder of Midwest Power Yoga, is also an internationally touring yoga teacher and Yoga Life Coach TM. She’s home only 10 days per month, and gets her greatest joy from mentoring other teachers and coaches around the world in reaching out to more students and clients. Debbie believes that “together, we elevate the world” and spends her days creating and maintaining a loving and vibrant community of yogis and non-yogis alike. More information on Debbie is available at www.deborahwilliamson.com.