With 2015 just around the corner I want to throw out as much encouragement as I can for you to make and attain some goals in the new year and to grow with God. I want to be a sacred companion for your new year.
This was a title we heard Fr. Richard Rohr use in his email I quoted in my last blog post… a sacred companion is a spiritual friend and/or a director who walks along with you. We walk with God, and a sacred companion is one who recognizes this and lives into that shared journey with you.
I personally come at this from two angles: 1) as a pastor and spiritual director, and 2) as a life coach. Let’s talk about the way each of these two roles can function for us in 2015.
As a spiritual friend directing you in prayer and spiritual growth I will be supplying you with a reading list of passages and questions for reflection. I’ll be supplying you with beginning places (intentions) and methods (different exercises) for prayer. You’ll journal and record the things you experience and discover in the practice of prayer and we’ll be in conversation about those experiences.
What does this spiritual relationship entail and require from you? You need to commit to several things: 1) At least a two month period of direction, 2) at least 30 minutes a day in prayer and reading, and 3) at least 30 minutes a week in conversation with me.
What does this spiritual relationship entail and require from me? I will be committing to several things as well: 1) praying for you daily, 2) reading the same passages you are reading, 3) at least 30 minutes a week in conversation with you, and 4) keeping in contact between our conversations.
Life coaching is a bit different from spiritual direction. In the life coaching relationship I still a companion, but I’m not directing the journey. I’m not providing you with readings and answers, but instead I’m asking questions and digging deep with you into the questions and goals you have about about your life. Life coaching is about managing change, setting goals, and achieving goals.
What does life coaching entail and require from you? Like a spiritual direction relationship, coaching will take some time and commitment… but the payoff can be more than worth it! You will be asked to: 1) be completely honest with me and yourself, 2) set some clear and measurable goals, 3) commit to yourself to pursue the changes and goals you identify as needed in your life, 4) meet with me for 45 minutes once a week, and 5) commit to at least four months of a coaching relationship.
What does life coaching entail and require from me? I also have a lot to do and accomplish with you coaching journey. I will be committed to: 1) being prepared for each meeting each week, 2) spending at least 45 minutes with you each week, 3) holding all our conversations in complete confidence, 4) being completely honest with you at all times, and 5) keeping in contact between our conversations.
A couple of my past posts on life coaching:
One Reason I Love Life Coaching: Healthy Dependence, and
I Will Listen
These are two ways I offer myself to you, in a committed journey of life. Have questions? Let’s chat. Have concerns? Let’s chat. Both spiritual direction and life coaching can happen, and happen well, either face to face, video chatting or over the phone. I actually do prefer Skype. Of course, I’m always happy to have some good conversations with you, but these kind of committed journeys achieve the most for both of us.
Can we mix them up and do both? I think I’ve learned that we cannot in fact mix them up. We can do both over the same period of months, but our times together in conversation need to be kept strictly within the realm of spiritual direction or life coaching. We can do both over the same period of time, or one after the other, but not in a hybrid form of both at once.
Sound like something you could use? Let’s do this! 2015 waits!
It just feels natural to look at the coming new calendar year and begin to dream. It’s a new year, but also the same old me. What will I dream for the coming combo of old me and new days? Am I ready to grow and seek, find and fail? Am I ready to move with a sense of purpose and love? Am I dreaming wide awake?
I was richly blessed by the daily email today from Fr. Richard Rohr. If you don’t get his emails I’ll link that email entitled In Our End Is Our Beginning as well as quoting a bit from it. He’s always laying some beauty and wisdom on us, a deep quiet for our busy and hectic days.
He lays out some important ideas for moving into the new year, new and old practices that help us engage life and growth. Here is how he labels and describes them:
Contemplative practice: Contemplation is a “laboratory” in which you learn to die and to be reborn. The rest of your life becomes the field in which you live out this way of surrender and participation in Love. Commit to a daily practice of some kind–silent meditation, yoga, chanting, or maybe one of the “Rest” practices introduced in the Saturday meditations.
Sabbath: Set aside regular, longer periods of quiet or retreat, simply to rest in awareness of God’s presence. Find a rhythm of rest and work that allows for renewal so that you enter your active life from contemplative grounding.
Service: Allow the natural welling-up of love to flow outward in acts of justice, healing, and compassion. Life is not about you; you are about life!
Shadow work: The task of searching out and embracing shadow–the parts of yourself that you hide or ignore–is ongoing, the work of a lifetime. Let the people and circumstances that “push your buttons” be your teachers. Look for yourself with a loving gaze in the mirror of both your enemies and those who enthrall you.
Spiritual direction: If you do not have someone to guide you, to hold onto you during the times of not knowing, you will normally stay at your present level of growth. Seek out a sacred companion you can trust to be honest and present to your journey, who can reflect back to you God’s presence in your life and the world.
These are beautiful movements of life and growth. How do we make them a reality in our daily hustle and bustle? What of these might you engage in 2015? What other dreams and goals will you set for these coming new days? You can call them goals, dreams or new year’s resolutions, but let’s talk about making some plans for 2015…
First, keep your dreams simple and attainable. Want to engage that contemplative practice? Then be realistic. You won’t begin by chanting an hour every day at 4am. Neither will I. Think about your schedule and where and when you might take a regular break. Is it the commute to work? Mornings are great times to center on God and God’s grace. Is it at lunch when you need to re-energize for the rest of the day? Keep your goals fairly simple and within reach: not too easy, but attainable. Then you can really celebrate the victory of that dream and move on with bigger ones! But doesn’t faith mean that I must dream bigger than I can imagine or attain? Nope. God does bigger than we can imagine, and we are not called to usurp God’s role in moving past our own abilities and imaginations (Ephesians 3:14-21). You can keep it simple and faithful. God will always surprise us.
Sharing is Nice.
Second, share your goals and dreams and have them visible. Let some others know what you are dreaming. They might become partners with that dream! You might inspire them to dreams of their own! But most of all, you are speaking that dream aloud and giving it even greater life. Write down your dreams and plans and keep them visible, prominent in a journal or on a wall at home. This helps you to be reminded of your goals as well as tracking progress and measuring your journey toward a dream. Life, as well as dreams, are best when shared. We need each other.
Plan for Success & Failure.
Third, make some plans for the times when you will succeed and when you will fail. We don’t like to admit that we may not meet a goal or always live according to our dreams for doing life, but it’s a reality that we are frail, fickle and forgetful at times. Be ready to celebrate the successes and to forgive yourself for the failings. How will you celebrate a dream realized? How will you “lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord”? (Psalm 116) How will you forgive yourself, learn whatever should be learned from the failure, and faithfully move on? Both successes and failures will follow our best planning and dreaming. Plan on it.
And finally, I offer myself as a sacred companion. I like that description which Fr. Rohr uses for a spiritual friend who travels along with you. I will be that for you and will ask you to be the same for me. Whether your dreams are more spiritual in nature, seeking growth with God, or more daily life in nature, looking for a new job or car, I will walk that road with you. Let’s talk more about it.
“Let no one ever come to you
without leaving better and happier.
Be the living expression of God’s kindness:
kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes,
kindness in your smile.”
Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Hey. I’ll listen. Need to say something? Need to get something off your chest? Need to just be heard? I will listen. Really.
I had a great conversation this week with a friend and fellow life coach about the struggle we often face to listen well. Sometimes we’re just wired to be talking. Sometimes our own pride wants to speak and to share and to be getting the attention. Sometimes we just don’t care what the other person is talking about.
But the other person has an intrinsic right to be heard. My friend said that he felt that “he owed it to the person speaking to listen as well as he could.” I think he’s right. He owes a debt of listening to the people around him. I owe that debt to others. I owe that debt to you.
We pulled out our Bibles and sat with Paul for a bit in the letter in the Philippians…
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:1-4
That’s kinda cool, huh? I have a debt to care about the things that interest you. Honestly, I was raised to think more that scripture told me what to be interested in, and by default I was to do the same for others. Looking into the Greek just a little it seems to me that the emphasis is as much on the “looking to” as the “interests.” It’s a posture of focus, attention and concern for the other person that flows from an experience of Christ.
In our life coach training we go over the essentials to listening well and ways to be sure that we respect and hear someone who is speaking to us. It’s not too hard, and here are a few of the core elements to adopting a posture of attention…
1. Give the speaker your visual attention. Stop looking at other things and letting yourself get distracted.
2. Don’t interrupt. Let the person say what they need or want to say. Silence really is awesome at times! Give the person time to refine their words and hear themselves.
3. Stop creating a response before they even finish speaking. This is a hard one for many of us as we want to argue and begin arguing in our minds before they finish their thought.
I need to be giving respectful attention, making eye contact and communicating my concern with body language. I need to give enough uninterrupted space for the other person to finish sentences and complete their thoughts. I need to release the assumption of needing to change the person, argue with the person or correct the person.
Having listened, I can be creative with ways to better understand what is being said. St. Ignatius taught a principle for listening that basically said I should receive what is said with the “benefit of the doubt” assigning the speaker the best possible intentions and meanings. He said that if I have trouble with what was said, I should ask for clarifications. If what is being said is simply hurtful or negative and there’s no good to be found in it, my response is still charity and love, even if I must give correction or a dissenting view. Listening well and trying to hear the best possible intention in the other person doesn’t presuppose acquiescence, but instead sets the stage for understanding and responding with charity and love.
If you’ve taken a counseling class then you’ve probably learned to ask clarifying questions. We were taught ask questions that clarify meaning and clarify feeling. We don’t want leading questions that presuppose a particular answer, but we want to encourage the greatest level of understanding and sharing. We want to create an open safe space for answering.
To open another piece of scripture from Paul, this seems to be an imminently practical way to live a fulfillment of our shared “debt of love.”
“Give to everyone what you owe: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:7-10
I’ll do my best to pay my debts. I’ll look you in the eye and give you the respectful hearing you want and need. If I’m not, poke me on the shoulder and remind me that I owe you more.
“On Whom Do I Depend?”
I think that creating healthy dependence is one of the things that makes life coaching a great experience. Life coaching helps us exercise a kind of healthy dependence that strengthens independence. Healthy dependence is the power behind that old axiom, “There is strength in numbers.”
Whenever I make a plan for action or set a goal in my life it’s good to know who is going to help me get to my destination. I ask: Who’s got my back? Who will help me? Who encourages me? Who can help me be accountable? Who cares about my success?
Who supports you? Who encourages you? Who will help you stay on track and meet the goals you set? Sometimes in life you might naturally gravitate to those people, but others times it can helpful to stop and think about with whom you will share your goals and plans. Surrounding yourself with a team of dependable people can make any goal in life, personal or professional, easier to meet and more enjoyable in the process.
Think about a few things:
1) With whom do I not need to confide and share my goals? Too often we have chosen poorly and shared our goals with the wrong people. Do you have a person in your life who has consistently discouraged you from your goals, even if they did so with the best intentions? You can’t change that person, but you can change yourself and your decisions. Evaluate the opportunities you have for creating a “team” of friends who will commit to helping you succeed. There is a difference between a friend who challenges and stretches me, and a friend who criticizes and discourages me. Often, the most well-intentioned friends hurt us the most simply by not communicating well. If they can’t tell the difference between challenging in a healthy way and hurtfully criticizing, I sure can, and I need to choose wisely when it comes to sharing.
2) How do I need to be supported? Most of us have been on the receiving end of unhealthy accountability. Unhealthy accountability is the friend or coworker who decides to hold us accountable when we haven’t asked them to do that for us. It’s also when we haven’t processed how we wish to be held accountable. We aren’t talking about being accountable to a boss or a supervisor at work, that’s a different thing. When I make healthy accountability with a peer or a friend to help me meet a goal, I need to do these simple things: 1) I need to chose a person who genuinely cares about me, 2) I need to share honestly and openly with my friend about my goal and the steps I am planning to achieve it, and 3) I need to decide how I want to be held accountable, as in what questions I want my friend to ask me and how often.
3) This is exactly what a life coach does! Sometimes we might already have these friends surrounding us and we know exactly how to fall into a rhythm of healthy sharing and dependence to meet goals in life. Often we don’t. A life coach is a dependable friend who listens, challenges, reflects and encourages, as you reflect, set goals and plan the steps to meet those goals.
Who’s on my team? On whom can I depend for help and support? I need a teammate or two or three to make the most of my time and energy applied to setting and meeting my goals in life. I may call on you sometime to “be on my team.” Please be gentle with me if I do. And if I can ever jump on your team to help out, you only have to ask!