Friday 21 December 2012

Paying for wisdom

Once upon a time I participated in a poetry workshop led by Robert Berold. He mentioned two things which struck me, and have reverberated to this day: the first was a rhetorical question designed to show us how he thought about poetry. He was reading a poem by one of us. He stopped, looked up and asked quietly, apparently of no-one, "What is the energy of this poem doing? Where is it going?".
Those two questions taught me how to leap beyond words to the energy that permeates words.

The second thing that he said that afternoon was a criticism of my own poetry. He read something I had written, pondered for a moment, turning it inside -out, and then said, "Poetry isn't about wisdom."

It baffled me at the time, but the more I have thought about it, the more I agree. I don't really know what poetry is about, essentially, because whoever writes poetry has an singular fingerprint for each poem, and you have to read with the intention of grasping that which moves at a pace beyond verbal understanding.

I begin to have the same appreciation for coaching. The essential activity of coaching is communication, and the purpose and meaning of the communication also imprints singularly and uniquely. If the coach comes with a system, the system may work well or not at all. If you read a novel or watch a movie knowing in advance the nuances of the plot, the quirks of characterization, the tension of dialogue and the final outcome, most of the fun disappears.

I've said before that I don't really like the label "coach" because it implies that I can do something better than you can, and thus you pay me to tell you my secrets. My secrets are for free, my time is valuable.

So what is the valuable crux of communication in the executive, life, health, educational, spiritual, creative coaching that spans the bridge between professionalism and industrialization? I would answer in two words: truthfulness and wisdom. Put more practically, by this I mean that truthfulness is that you know what's going on, and wisdom means you know how to deal with what's going on.

Why would you want someone to tell you what's going on in your own business and what to do about it? Why would you want someone to tell you how to go about living your own life? Or how to relate to others?

One of my psychology tutors remarked, "If we had more friends, we'd need fewer psychologists."

Perhaps, if we had a more free-flowing truthfulness, we'd use fewer coaches. Perhaps, if we communicated with each other less in terms of roles and more from our places of wisdom, we would hone our purpose of  the moment more quickly and sharply.

Wednesday 19 December 2012


A lot of people think I'm impatient. I'm not. It's just that I was brought up by a Swiss mother who accepted nothing but immediacy when it came to responsiveness to anything from being called to supper to knowing what to do in a medical emergency. She was a paediatric sister, and no doubt the worst scenario was the death of a baby when it could have been avoided. So I admire this trait: immediacy.

If you apply it as a rule, which I prefer to do, but don't, as not many can get with the pace, things tend to work.

Alas, I live in a country where things tend more and more not to work. This seems to be a global trend, although Africa is extremely good at things not working.

You get things to work by attending to emergencies immediately, effectively, sustainably. Pain of all kinds, physical, emotional, intellectual is a signal of emergency. Physically, I am very well, yet I suffer emotional and especially intellectual pain daily.

I have found that the best way to deal with intellectual pain is using humour. I think, therefore I joke. However, this becomes tedious and boring.

Testing thinking against another person's thinking will take you to a mentor. I had a really good one decades ago, whose stride still awes me. When you find that what's necessary is to stretch your legs and start to run if you don't want to miss the chance in front of you, you've learnt what immediacy requires.

All my life, the sense of immediacy has enveloped me. I like this sense very much, and I recognize it has not always endeared me to others. Yet I recommend this path: when you follow it, things tend to happen.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Focusing on, focusing from

Focusing is an action of intent. It's a spontaneous action, usually strongly associated with, but not only limited to vision. Emotional fluidity or fixation is also a focus, as are intellectual habits. We have many verbal metaphors for what we do when we zoom in, focus on, resonate with, tune into, tap into, go with.

We have far fewer notions of where we focus from. Our subjective platforms are largely unconscious, although extremely significant in respect of enabling or disabling focus.

Finding out where you focus from can be reduced to straighforward answers to easy questions:

What story do you tell yourself about yourself? Write down your answer in less than 60 words. Then meditate for ten minutes. Then write down your next attempt. Meditate again for ten minutes. Write down the next version. This exercize will test both your thinking and your feeling. Do this as regularly as you can over three weeks. Fundamental change is guarranteed. You will begin to get the idea of where you have been focusing from.

Many coaches carry on about "passion". This doesn't always make sense to me. D.T. Suzuki and the Jesuits taught me that being dispassionate and passionate at the same time is far more mind-breaking than being locked into an unsustainable enthusiasm. If you've locked onto an energetic pattern chances are you're coasting rather than creating. Cheering for your team will greatly assist but not actually create the goal. There's a random element to the ultimate game, and I believe that's about choice. You can choose, you don't have to choose, and that depends on where you're focusing from, not only what you're focusing on.

Where you focus from is spiritual. There's much more to flesh and blood than blood and flesh. Your experience as a responsive agency is your platform for responsiveness. You can always change the platform, but you have to dig a little to do so.

Because neurons like patterns, we tend to level out at a default based on early responsiveness and experience. Either you take charge of your patterns or the patterns take charge of you. Deciding to have a dialogue with patterns is a good start because you can then create a mutuality that banks can't afford to think about let alone create. Read Lynne McTaggart's "The Bond" to learn about this mutuality.

In short, what you focus on arises directly out of where you focus from. The former is more or less spontaneous, the latter unconscious until you choose to grow. The path you follow is the path you have followed until you decide to take the road less travelled by. Thank you, Robert Frost. It makes all the difference.

Thursday 13 December 2012

What older people say

This morning I said goodbye to guests: an older mom and dad and a younger couple, son with wife. It was great to have them, and the goodbyes were fervent and real. The older gentleman looked me in the eye very directly and said,"You must enjoy life, every minute!" I could feel what he was saying. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my high school music teacher in December 1999. Decades after school we had a meal out, a good chat and a few direct questions.

"Any regrets, anything you would have changed in retrospect?" I asked.

He chuckled in his characteristic way. "More kinky sex, and I would like to have travelled more."

I listen to what older people say, because when you finally get the idea that this life isn't forever, what do you say?

Whatever is said, the energy that goes into the communication is unmistakeable: when you're in that place of linking mortality with immortality, you sense spiritual wisdom.

At the end of the day, there isn't much to say, yet presence becomes so significant, contact becomes ultimate, continuity asserts itself as the same, yet different, faith shows up as inevitable.

And love? I have never understood the word, yet I realize that every time you speak from the heart, show consideration and kindness, offer frankness, decide in favour of fruitfulness, you light small fires of intent that glow fiercely and will never go out.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Short and sweet

I like quick realisations that ring true, so here's one that struck me a couple of minutes ago: the English-speaking population of the world is at a severe disadvantage: they use the word "love" as a deep basis yet fail to reach an intellectual match for what this word actually means. It's always an impenetrable, unfathomable yet utterly real emotion. Here's my take:

love is a shortcut: it's merely a matter of glancing at someone and knowing what the connection is.

If you have to explain, you've lost it already.

Across age-group, gender, social class, culture, colour: one look, and if you can feel the heart chuckle, that's where it is. If you feel it shout, scream or weep, that's also where it is.

Monday 10 December 2012

BodyWorlds, MindWorlds

I recently went to the BodyWorlds exhibition in Cape Town. The experience moved my boundaries of perception unexpectedly. Perceptually, emotionally, attitudinally, I had to retreat and regroup after going in the direction that I was led, there. I learnt that the platforms of perception that we build for ourselves, our emotional homes and our stumbling attempts at decision are indeed temporary.

Looking into the space between the front and left sides of a human head, cloven in two, was humbling, as was the peaceful and almost communicative expression on the plastinated face. Observing an entire nervous system laid and pinned out, resembling a Christmas tree, made me more, not less aware of the profundity of human awareness.

I admire the originator of these exhibitions for the courage, scope and art of what has been achieved so far. The taboos across which he has stepped are also temporary.

I began to wonder what could emerge if a "MindWorlds" was attempted. How could mind be portrayed and set out in a similarly truthful and provocative manner? It struck me that everything manmade is already a MindWorlds. From pencils to ipads to tennisballs to bread, wine whisky and Wellington boots, the obvious creative, pragmatic and concrete evidence of mind is observeable.

That which holds, however precariously, businesses, marriages, families, nations and cultures together is mind-glue: emotional attachment and permissibility of belief. For tweny-four hours a day we breathe our way through mind, largely unaware of the immensities and temporary structures that offer a sense of reality, when indeed, there is no reality except for what dreams may come.

The exhibition underlined, for me, the understanding that my spiritual destiny and earthly work are the same thing. I was brought up to be certain of being spiritually correct: a worthy yet impossible quest Now I grasp that spiritual correctness is not only in the thoughts but in the action, movement and desire that result in obvious fruit of mindfulness. I have invented nothing, have composed one somewhat useful tune that was performed at a tweny-first birthday decades ago, have written some poetry, have produced a non-productive novel, have put out some academic papers and contributed to a number of journals. I have changed from being an isolate to participating in many overlapping family layers. I have given myself permission to live as I have been created to live. My heart has learned how to beat with gladness rather than mere purpose.

The fascination that surpised me at BodyWorlds remains with me now, as I observe with greater clarity the worlds of mind that impinge on me, and encourage me to engage with more directness and empowerment. Realizing that mind is as liquid as water yet as productive as fertile ground is a connecting perception that follows its own route from person to person.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Freefall consciousness

Fall isn't exactly the right word, but the feeling fits. Fall implies from up to down, and what I have in mind is from here to anywhere. This bit of blog may look as though it's exceedingly abstract because of the language, but the feelings that I want to evoke should be dramatically vivid. For decades I have been contemplating reality, and that focus has been both baffling and illuminating. First I complained that there wasn't enough of it, then I thought there was too much of it, then I couldn't pin it down well enough to know what I was trying to think about, and after that phase I tried with all my might to analyze and synthesize it. Reality. An abstract noun that's supposed to lead one up to a non-negotiable, and that's where the nose rubs against the wall and you can't go further. Reality limits you. You have to obey reality because you have no other choice. You can change neither your face nor the Milky Way.

I have come to realize that the word is a misnomer. It doesn't fit it's own authority. Sure, there are natural processes that are non-negotiable: I don't argue with sunshine and I prefer to see, hear, taste and touch what's in front of me. When it rains, I get wet. When I was ten I tried out my theory that if you dive through a pool very quickly you won't get wet. My ignorant friends urged me on and watched while I experimented and became raucously merry as my hypothesis failed time and time again. I still say that perhaps I didn't slip though the water quickly enough.

Freefall consciousness is scary. Many gurus refer us to the present moment, teaching us that in the present moment we will experience eternity. I followed this practice for three weeks and came to the disturbing conviction that I do not want to be myself for eternity. I want to fall further than that. But which way to fall?

Clearly, the word and the idea of "fall" have to do with acting mindfully, purposefully, skillfully. I have an outstandingly active imagination which often runs away with me, yet it's a very necessary ingredient to take me where I want to be. From here to anywhere. My advice to myself is to know the way very well to, in and around logical positivism while profoundly accepting the seeming chaos of freedom. Sensory experience is discrete, imaginative experience is continuous. Put the two together and you have pragmatic dreams. Automobiles. Electricity. Moon-landings. Ipods and ipads. Skype. Kindles. Pondles. Dripletts. Very soon, now, we will be able to dive through water without getting wet.

I don't have much hope that humans will make peace with each other, although I wish they would. I would prefer humans to put dogmatic fervency aside and learn to trust that which is trustworthy. My dream is that we should speak to each other with the clarity of those who are searching for the same thing, the same truth. Truth is not certifiable. It can't be framed. Even though I can't dive through water quickly enough not to get wet, I can walk on it, as though there is no "it" and yet "it" is.

When I accept that consciousness is in freefall, I can better learn how to trust, and in the end, so far as humans are concerned, that's probably the most real feeling of all.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Coaching and non-formal education

I learnt valuable lessons as a student in the faculty of adult, non-formal and continuing education at UCT. I don't think anyone consciously taught me how to get a feel of what non-formal education is, yet it's one of my favourite feelings. Not formal, not informal, just non-formal. Real, without being regulated. Valuable, without being commercialised. Deep, not necessarily serious. Free to grow, no restraints except for self-imposed focus.

If there's one impulse I'd like to spread as strongly as I can, it's the urge to take your own non-formal education seriously. Learn to like learning, because this is how you discover your undiscovered self. The Undiscovered Self is the title of one of Jung's books, and I enjoy the cover of the one I have: it's a reflecting cover: the title is printed there, and furthermore your own face peers at you while you look at the words "The Undiscovered Self".

Our adolescent years tend to put our curious minds in the corner, on hold, possibly forever, while we move inexorably towards the requirements of the formal world. Once in the economic ocean, we sink or swim until we die, and using energy to stay afloat, buy a boat, move towards our dream island absorbs us for our length of days. The formal world, as lawyers well know, has a strangle-hold on the sense of reality. Formal education is mostly a matter of training and certification, along with a fair amount of socialization. Non-formal education, on the other hand, is about discovery, extension, absorbtion, growth at any level and in any sphere. The Open University and The Third University cater to this in a structured way, and there are probably many more like these. Many universities allow non-formal students to follow courses on an ad hoc basis for non-degree purposes, so long as they pay the relevant fees.

The energy that drives non-formal education is sheer interest, the hallmark of connected mind. When curiosity revisits in mature years, it's a grand occurence. If curiosity persists, and the demand of wanting to know for myself remains awake during all our decades, leadership is bound to emerge.

To engage in non-formal education, you need to dedicate some time, have enough money to buy a book (or download one, and if you've bought a tablet, you have the money to download), attend a short course, meet with others, and the freedom to approach leaders in the area of interest. Interested people are always keen to spread their interest. This a huge benefit of non-formal education: the generosity of spirit you will encounter in your pursuit of growth.

Generic coaching lends itself naturally to non-formal learning. How do I learn to start a business? To live more effectively and happily? To sort out relationships? To achieve optimal rapport with people? To know my destiny in life? In a more practical sense, if I want to start growing a vegetable garden, I"m free to ask my neighbour who already has one, for advice.

As an educational coach, I encourage people to take pride in the hair on their heads before they put on a formal hat. Your formal identity tends to overwhelm the undiscovered self, the wild stuff that growls unseen from the middle of the thick copse. Your natural interests connect you to that hidden energy that would prefer to stop growling and emerge.

You're fortunate if formal education has assisted your pursuit of growth. Large parts of mine did so, and that's how I leant that the more hats you take off, the more you can put on.

Non-formal education doesn't require nearly as much structure as formal education. You begin whenever you want to, follow whatever you choose, resource whatever you can. The internet is a massive resource, but short on interpersonal encounter which is a crucial part of any education. That's where my participation as an educational coach is valuable: what is it that you've focused on, and what do you want to gain? If you want to gather information on tunnel-farming, I'm sure you'll find it. If you're grappling with a question you can't quite verbalise, maybe we can form the question together. Roles for our consciousness are changing ultra-quickly. I wonder how many people sit down and think about prioritizing their roles. What am I first? Mother, son, citizen, consumer, manager, tax-payer? Non-formal consciousness which is a given in my book knows how to leap and doesn't always have a concept of where it lands. It explores as it lands. Frogs do this habitually. Humans complicate the water-lilies, yet it's just a matter of focus. The basic realisation is that consciousness can be formally channeled but not reduced. You can put a litre of water into any container you want, but if you pour it into something less than a litre, spillage there will be.

Monday 29 October 2012

Biofocusing, sailing and the sense of requirement

Some years ago I had the experience of going to sea from time to time in a small yacht. Its name was Vagabond and my friend took me out from Simonstown, a bit more than halfway down the Cape Peninsula on the Indian Ocean side. I enjoyed doing that: we experienced all sorts of weather and on hot days I'd dive off the side, and swim back. One day as I climbed back on board, a shark glided by. That helped me to remember to think before I dived off again.

Weather around the Cape Peninsula can change quickly: often we had to jump around to get out the storm-jib. What I remember well, though, how the main sail took the wind and held taut, in moderate conditions, cruising at a fair rate of knots. All tensions were in balance: the wind speed, the taut sail, the pressure on the rudder, the weight of the keel, and the direction in which we headed. For me, there was a perfection in that blending of tensions.

The situation required no more, no less. You can't force wind, speed or direction, given what there is, and this is how I understand one of the key aspects of biofocusing to work. You can't change what you have experienced, and neither can you change past responses to experience, yet you can change core building blocks of experiential learning by altering personal strategy in the present moment. Choosing your emotional stance, your language stance, simply using the platform of choice deliberately and reflectively; any of these will change patterns of self and social context.

Change one key habit, and all others will be influenced by the ripple.

The key habits that require attention are usually obvious. Take one clear look at your client, or even better, yourself. There's a known reason for that bulging stomach, that tension in the throat, the jutting jaw, the hesitation before speaking, the way upper legs and thighs are held in posture, the way eyes dart and blink. Clear way all judgement, and you'll be left with requirement. A situation that calls for no more than this, no less than that. A balance of subjectivity within endless influences.

I experience a need for peace coaching: to put quietness and peacefulness before excellence and outstandingness. The calm of confidence is a strong platform for excellence in skills. It is gained in the comfort of the moment when all you may have is wind and sunlight, or whatever simplicities abound in your immediate environment. If you learn how to weave your self into these, you are able to blend the complications of sophistication into purpose. Reading requirement is like focusing naturally on what is near or far: you simply go there and stay for as short or long as necessary.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Coaching and quickness

The English word "quick" comes from old English "cwic" and a similar old Norse word, but this time with k's rather than c's and the archaic use of this word means to be alive, living. The quick and the dead...

This relates to the bio of biofocusing. How quickly neuronal impulses move has been measured, and we all in a general sense live at sixty seconds a minute, and sixty minutes an hour, but how quickly we think, respond, decide and act is relative from person to person. In Blink Malcolm Gladwell checks out how quickly awareness moves in distinction to consciousness. In my view, awareness is immediate and consciousness is more deliberate. You can be aware without knowing what you're aware of. As I walked out of the supermarket one day I began to think of someone I knew. I wondered why this person had come to mind. Something had triggered the image, but what? I stood just outside the door and looked around, up and down the road. There it was, quite far away, and I certainly had not consciously seen it, but had clearly noticed it in my awareness: his car. One morning as I brushed my teeth in the bathroom, I began to feel a little depressed for no reason. I got cross with this and slowed down to check out what my brain was doing. It's a strange thing that if you want to find out what's going on, nearly always you can. My cream-coloured towel was lying on the floor where I had tossed it. The random folds had created a face that I now saw more consciously, a rather evil face. I kicked the face that wasn't there away, invited my brain to think again, and the mild depression lifted. Perceptions. We create so many each moment, some stick, the vast majority flow on, but our moods are felt, filed and stored to help create what comes next. Your ego, that mad hatter that you have created consciously and unconsciously is slow, really slow compared to the rest of your awareness and consciousness, but very stubborn. You have to decide to go with the quickness rather than the stubbornness. Many academics are quick thinkers and slow participants. They sit, read, write, think and write again. They can argue quite brilliantly but put them in a business context where they have to respond to what emerges on a minute-to-minute basis, and they'll flounder. The businessman who can't begin to argue on a conceptual basis but who anticipates next week's obstacles and overcomes them before they hit his desk is quick enough to create financial survival and growth

Much of coaching is cutting to the quick. Getting to the alive places and paying full attention to what's happening there. The alive places are usually fun places, yet certainly they can be sore and painful and even traumatised if you've taken shocks and beatings along the way. The sense of truthfulness lives in the alive places, yet people often prefer this sense to be more fixed than fluid because of insecurity. It can't be done: aliveness isn't owned, dogma can't sort it once and for all. Aliveness is shared although eating livingness to continue living is the name of the game on planet earth. To be radical, what's the difference between eating a cabbage and a lamb, really? Both are just as alive as each other.

On a more personal level, it's easy to catch yourself, although you have to be quick to do so. The ponderous hands of thought are no match for the lighter finger-tips of immediate sensing. It's just a question of where you focus awareness minute by minute. Even if you focus on making awareness more conscious, you're going to be too slow. In biofocusing, the "you", the ego, is put down in a completely different part of the equation. No longer the "b" of bodmas, it's more like the "a". You don't prioritise yourself, but you remain in the equation.

Awareness of livingness is humbling and challenging. Your quickness is related to your body but not ultimately bound to it. There's a lot happening around the sub-atomic, atomic, cellular, molecular and physiological structures of the body, and awareness is a dim grasp of these happenings. Coaching quickness will amplify awareness so that zooming, panning and whatever action of consciousness you want becomes possible. Imagination has no boundaries.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Coaching states of mind

Firstly, it's important to note that a "state of mind" is not merely a way of thinking. Mind comprises cognition, emotion and volition (exercising choice), and when one of these patterns changes, so do the others. It's one system, or rather, one ecology that connects to an increasingly expanding possibility of purpose, awareness and intent.

Most state of mind coaching happens on the job, or in training for the work. Aircraft pilots have their way of focusing: clear, concise communication for the sake of operational functionality. Teachers use multi-layered communication, catering for varieties of communicative receptiveness. Hairstylists depend on what works for them, adapting their coversation form client to client. And nuns who take the vow of silence have to learn how to deal with it. Communication obviously plays a huge part, and begins with intra-communication: how you talk to yourself.

Coaching confidence, for example, often involves deliberate neglect of a problem area of self-acceptance and the building of a scaffold of pride in a new area, and shifting awareness or focus to that new area. Whatever you say to yourself, or whatever attitude or stance you communicate to yourself can be changed, even though the pattern of awareness may feel as though it's written in stone.

As a child, I was taught that healing as in miraculous healing was not part of God's will. You accepted afflictions and bore them as part of God's plan. Miraculous healings might have been on the pages of the Bible, but they were to stay there. "Sickness and illness are not part of God's plan for us," said the preacher, one day. "The Bible tells us this." I remember that moment very vividly. I was on my feet within one hundredth of a second. "Where?" I demanded. He swung towards me, a bit surprised at the interruption, but didn't miss a beat. Calmly, he began to recite and refer to Biblical texts. From then on I wanted to know more, but was still convinced that miracles certainly weren't for me. Decades later, I can state with certainty that anyone who wants to learn the state of mind that assists healing and curing in dramatic ways can do so. It requires a few easy exercises, a lot of practise and a firm, clear intention. For example, I once had a patient with a frozen shoulder. She could bearly move her arm to the front of her chest. Within forty-five minutes she could touch the back of her head. I don't know what the long-term outcome was because she was so alarmed at her dramatic progress that she ran away and never returned.

Coaching states of mind is voluntary. The coach has to be very sensitive to the subtleties of what the coachee asks for, requires and demands. These might not be the same thing, Business coaching, career coaching, relationship coaching, life coaching, health coaching and spiritual coaching have a starting point in common: the need to change the pattern of mind in respect of cogntion, emotion and volition. "I can shift your stuff," says Graham le Sar frequently enough on my laptop screen. Fair enough. But why can't I shift my own stuff? Why do I need a coach when it all depends on me, anyway? There are two reasons to call for a coach: to learn the manouvre or two that he or she knows and you don't (and you know you don't) and for the accompaniment (the extra monkey effect). Often you move along far more rapidly and effectively when there's more than you assisting your movement and growth.

Coaching states of mind is where most coaching begins. Boredom can become fascination, listlessness can turn to excitement, despair to hope and grief to joy. Faith is not about belief but about profoundly influential action based on trust. It's common to defer such action for your whole life, and then die. Much better to give yourself a heads-up and look for the ecology that begins with your present state of mind but certainly doesn't end with it.

Friday 5 October 2012

Coaching the mind

The point of contact between the coaching exercise and the individual is mind. This is a bit tricky, because "mind" lacks an objective description. The mind is thoroughly subjective and there's no getting past, around or through that. My take on "mind" is that it's the combination of emotion, cognition and volition. Patterns of all these are established consciously, unconsciously, intra-vidiaully (this is my word, nobody else can take it) socially and ecologically.

Coaching your mind is less academic than coaching the mind, and that's the real difference between formal and non-formal education. In formal education your results are the goal; in non-formal edcuation your formation is the purpose.

Most minds don't like to analyze too much, and generally stop before enough exploration gets going. Coaching employs many methods to assist minds to take easy steps to recognize what they're doing, what they have done for a long time, what they do that goes nowhere, and what they could do to enjoy themselves a bit more and add fruitfulness to the world.

I'm not sure about the extent to which people experience themselves as mind. Daily habits create patterns of intellectual focus: we think about our work, and thus we become agents of our work. Our intra-vidual comfort zone is fine until random experience changes that, and that's disturbing and how we deal with it depends on the greater patterns that we've learnt to set up or not set up. If we've coached ourselves adequately from previous experience, we have resilience. Going along with all this is the greater impetus of volition: decisions we have made that set us on a path until we change direction.

Thus, coaching mind is highly specific. The coach has to be with the mind, minds-on, recognising, honouring, challenging, doing whatever is required to make mind move in a desired direction.

That's why, if you don't know what you desire, you're in the very early stages of being a candidate for coaching.

You have to be alive at least unto yourself, if you want to feel desire. It's quite weird how some folk refuse to connect intra-vidually. The railway lines that can go to work, order coffee and buy clothes are all fine, and the ones that ask why expectations are not met and why prejudices are allowed and why ignorance is promoted are seldom connected, so no passengers go to these stations.

The mind is free. Let's take away the usual linguistic signals and make a more pithy statement: freedom is mind, and that's why if it becomes enslaved in any way, you'll feel it.

I think we all do, we just don't go there to any depth, because what do you do with that realization? Reality bites. Hegemony rules. But then again, as St Paul discovered, you can't kick against the goads. And ironically, freedom is a goad. It won't let your mind sleep until you embrace it, and embracing freedom involves becoming free, free in yourself, and as free as you can be in a world that needs your energy to free it up for better things than chain it to a wall of our own making.

Biofocusing involves allowing free focus of and in the mind. When intent, desire, decision and action are one, I'm not sure whether we move towards the object of attention, or whether it moves towards us, but movement there is, and the meeting happens. Separating intra-vidual, individual, social and spiritual mind can't really be done. It's a theoretical exercise. All the time, for all creation, we're in a field of connectedness and whether we call it a field, mind, holism or heaven, we're to go with the freedom it entails. Otherwise we're kicking against the goads. And don't equate freedom with permssiveness, these two aren't the same at all. The demanding aspect of freedom is strict.

Coaching the mind finds easy steps to achieve this simple reminder. It begins with paying attention to what's happening intra-vidually, because all the information at this level is entirely yours and altogether accessible.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Standing for, standing against

Cosy understandings of the human sphere will never work. Humans have psychic teeth, and in South Africa, you better believe it.

Biofocusing means focusing with all that you have on as far as you can go, spontaneously.

Why does a country in crisis tolerate a president who declares that everything is okay and even better than before, when all the evidence points the other way?

I suppose that if you have only one taxi going your way, you try to get on. Wait till the fare gets too much to pay. This is the ANC taxi.

I have never participated to any real extent in politics. I vote. I have have uninformed opinions. Yet I know a political crisis when I see it because it's not merely a political crisis but an obvious disaster not in the making, but having been made.

Micro-level. Today I took the dogs for a walk, the usual route, around the vineyards, past the graveyard. One small buttabean dog (name) alerted herself to the fact that a worker was doing something in the space she usually found empty of humans and rushed up barking. The worker got a fright, shouted and hurled stones at an animal ten per cent his size. I made it clear to the worker that stones weren't necessary. The dog wasn't going to attack him in any fatal way. He made it clear that I was a criminal to point this out and said he would lay a charge againt me. Funny thing, a beggar came to my door, the other day, and demanded money. When I refused, he said he would lay a charge against me, too.

The thing to do, when a charge is laid against you, according to what I perceive, is to fight it with all your might, using taxpayers' money. Charge straight back.

I begin to wonder about what this nation stand for and stands against. The constitution is an out there, somewhere. It's supposed to work but you have to have bucks to make it work for you, because access is via bucks, and the ordinary person doesn't have too many left over after deductions and party affiliations. The ordinary person has become a demander of rights, and what's mined is mine, as far as digging deep goes.

Can you fault anyone for wanting more when King Zuma doesn't want to know your troubles? How do you get his attention? No-one knows what he stands for, not even his artifical stance is clear. You also don't get clarity about what he stands against. His words are written by a speech-writer and his actions are showered down.

Macro-level. When a group stands for something, there are consequences. The group spirit becomes apparent. The NP was a bus with various drivers, conductors and passengers. It doesn't exist anymore. The ANC is taking the same strain. Who's in charge? Power is taken, if you're doing power, and that's the issue in this suffering country. Let it be said that the ANC depends on 60% of the voting nation, but doesn't care about the nation. It doesn't stand for the nation. Its leading members are looking out for themselves, not the people who vote for them, and the sooner the voters recognise this, and vote, rather than strike, burn and rubbish the national infrastructure, the better.

Problem is, there isn't another taxi that the voting population is prepared to wait for. The trains also don't run on time and SAA is heir-borne. One chair leads to another.

Have I said this before, somewhere? One day in school assembly, the headmaster was giving a stirring talk about standing for what is noble in life. It touched me. When he asked, "Who is prepared to stand?" I didn't at that tender age realize that he was asking a rhetorical question, and stood up. I quickly sat down again when I appreciated the situation more fully, but the sense of standing has remained with me.

In the days of apartheid, battle-lines where ascertainable in respect of morality, expediency and reality . Now that we have the days of rights-without-fears, what I want is what I want. No-one can tell me I'm not allowed to want it, and even if I'm the sacked chief of whatever, I can still want it.

I'm against arrogance and greed, and if you want what you want on the basis of arrogance and greed I'm against you.

On the other hand, if you are a sincere ordinary person who wants sense, reponsibility and clarity, there's a path that opens. You'll have to confront those who are intent on going the other way, and some of them are really evil, and what you must do depends on with whom you communicate. Agree with the evil intentions, and there you went. Maybe Harry Potter can keep us rowling along. There's a lot of sense in a good story.

Monday 1 October 2012

Time and boundaries

Time is a construction, and a tricky one. We are said to exist in time and space and while this seems to be an inevitable idiom, it comes to its limits. Space is physically defined, time isn't defined beyond nanoseconds, and when you really get down to it, you have the sense of being here at this time, and in this space. Being in this space means that what whatever your skin touches, that's it. Being in this time means that you extend or project or in one way or another imagine yourself to be limited by the sense of passing seconds. Seconds, minute and hours do indeed pass, as do planets, stars and constellations, as they turn and turn, but just how that impinges on the sense of time is mysterious. I would say that the sense of time is actually an absence: an absense or presence of self. When you get lost in an activity that absorbs you, you're doing something different with time. Press any hard-boiled scientist to prove that time is objective, and I reckon the argument will go totally Irish.

Time is on my watch and in my heart. Being Swiss as well as lots of other things, I have an unfair advantage when it comes to time. The more time I spend in South Africa, the more pride I find in myself, and that's a surprise, of being Swiss. If I say I am Swiss, I am not entirely truthful. Immanuel Kant would have me choose a category. I am South African. I am Swiss. I am Scottish. I am Spanish. I am English. I know that these strands of family background are actual, but how are they relevant?

The verb to be makes one tense. You have to choose in which kind of tension you wish to live. The very name of our Creator, in the Old Testament is "I an who I am". The present moment is paramount and death is about crossing from one moment to another kind of moment, yet keeping something that's eternal in the moment.

What's kept?

In another blog I referred to a continuum. Everything that's properly ultimate is continuous. Who you are in time connects with who you are beyond time. These days there's a lot of fascination about checking out your past lives, and regressing. Try going forwards. Then try going outwards. Try going any way you want. Here's Burt Goldman telling us to try jumping. "See you in another universe," he says. Thats's okay, so long as you don't find yourself stroking a cat on a tin roof.

Seriously, the boundaries of who you perceive yourself to be are bound up with your sense of time. I have an alter ego called Waterman. He is simply everywhere in the human domain. Like water, he flows and presents as a swirl, a bubble, a tide, a spirngtide, a tsunami. Or is still. He has very grey eyes. Despite all his movement and energy, he knows that the human species is contained within time. He wonders what will remain of the memory of humans 150 thousand million yeras from now.

I was trying to explain a little bit about this to students the other day.

"You imagine yourselves in respct of time," I said. "How far into the future do you project, habitually? Three years? One year? Ten?"

They gave me their answers, the average of which was two to three years. The one bright spark asked me where I projected, habitually. "150 thousand million years," I said, promptly. She simply laughed.

But I don't laugh. In 150 thousand million years, when all our prejudices, fears, stupidity and fear have come to nothing, where and what will the memory of who we are be?

We're parcelling ourselves, self-wrap, as we go along and each one is crucial. We're delivering ultimata every day, and may God forgive us for being Vespasian's monkey. You remember the line, Peter O'Toole and the top of Masada.

For those who want to experiment about going beyond the grief of believing in time, I recommend Gordon Smith's Intuitive Studies. Thankyou, Gordon. Time seems real, but isn't real enough. There's more, much more, and all will be revealed in time, if you can accept that time is more than sixty seconds, sixty minutesand twenty-four hours.

Thursday 27 September 2012

De-mystifying coaching

I wouldn't have aligned myself with coaching five years ago. Even two years ago, I would have raised eyebrows if someone had suggested that I'd make a commitment to coaching. I rarely make commitments, since I don't identify with backing out of one. But I have had a career change.

I've changed track from formal education to non-formal education, and coaching is one of the better platforms for non-formal education. You want to learn something, you can be taught, you look for a teacher, you find one, you engage. You change. You like the change even though you experienced a demanding process.

Were you educated, coached, trained, inspired or impelled?

I've learned that the words of what you prefer seldom adequately reflect that which you really do prefer.

One of my favourite cinematic moments is when the Guarani man slices off Robert De Niro's burden of guilt after he's hauled it up the Iguassu (hope the spelling's right) Falls more than once. One man's unpardonable guilt is another man's utter irritation.

In Afrikaans they say "Ek sal jou help om reg te kom". In English this means "I'll help you to get it right". In Guarani, one sharp blade means instant freedom from guilt whether you like it or not.

I wouldn't say that the Guarani man coached Robert De Niro, necessarily. I would indeed say that he saved him. Coaching is intensely personal. That's why the activity defies words that would contain it. As I understand it, the basis of all coaching is NLP. The basis of NLP is establishing models of outstandingly effective psychotherapists, with prime examples of such people as Virginia Satir and Fritz Perls. My take on outstandingly effective psychotherapists is that they are people who engage with the souls of other people with the same integrity as they engage with their own souls.

During the last decade I reached a place of silence in my soul. I decided that words were so futile that they were hardly worth saying. This wasn't a bad place at which to arrive, although it was solitary. Travelling through this place led to a remarkable discovery: the silence communicated more than the noise of words. When people speak, they are actually throwing out strong signals from the place of silence. If you enagae with them at the level of verbalisation, you will miss what their silences are saying, and if you miss that, you miss the point of what's being communicated.

The label "coach" has a history of developmental progress. The activity of coaching is manifold, but I understand it's core to be not merely helpful but also corrective. C.S. Lewis pointed out that if you have made a mistake somewhere along the line, you have to go back to where you took the wrong turning, and correct the mistake there. And then the aspect of coaching that sets it free from pretentiousness is that it's a voluntary exchange that happens in the market-place. There's no point in trying to assist someone who doesn't want help. There's no point in trying to save someone who doesn't acknowledge dire circumstances. Not unless you're a Guarani with a sharp knife under the guidance of a brilliant movie director.

I encourage those who are still suspicious of coaching to take a closer look. I don't like the label myself. But I have found really brilliant cut-to-the-quick intellects, souls so sensitive that they have the ability to open doors without touching the handles, and minds decisive enough to make strong, fruitful commitments.

If you wanted to change your life, who would you go to? Priest, minister, therapist, doctor, friend? Never mind the label: the person that you go to, that's your coach. Never mind the label, again: if the roles overlap, and the friend is the coach, or the coach is the therapist, or the priest is still climbing the Iguassu Falls, the outcome will still be the same. By going to someone, you will have set the outcome in motion.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Common sense and deep appeal

What's the bottom line when you appeal for recognition that ought to be there when all games are called off? Fairness? Reasonability? Common sense? Or is it just a tone of voice that says "Come on!"?

I wear glasses, and have done so from a very tender age. I spent many school holidays with a particular family in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town, with Dutch parents and bilingual children with whom I was friends. Sometimes we got into arguments, and the bottom line, when my buddy deemed me to have crossed the line, was "Come on, Goggles, you know that's not right!".

Deep appeal connects with the sense of common identity. Using your common sense has meant to be alerted to a wake-up call, but I begin to think that what we have to watch out for is people who attempt to own common sense. South African politicians are a good example of this: on the one hand people burn tyres because of lack of delivery, and on the other, the dancing Prez says delivery here is the best in the world.

If you go to your own place of extreme dissatisfaction, and appeal to yourself, you may be surprised to experience a kind of mini-common-sense. You can persuade yourself to change your stance and move to a place of better balance. A vet that we used quite a lot had a way of rubbing the animal's head saying, "It's not so bad, Felix (or whatever name) it's not so bad". That was the standard call, no matter whether it was for treatment for worms or euthenasia.

Deep appeal is a human signal. More than a cry for fairness or common sense, it's a heart thing. When the games stop and reality bites, it's plain to observe. Not merely emotional, not intellectually containable, and not really open to decision as to whether it's there or not, it appears nakedly, and that's why we usually avoid it. It speaks of all the things of living that operate at that level, the one that everyday behaviour overrules until the strength of the appeal overrules everyday behaviour. We are encouraged to buy into everyday behaviour, because going to intense places is too weird to sustain. Good movies, gripping novels, magnetising dramas revolve around mere moments of deep appeal. More, and the audience will get confused. Me, I like it. Go straight to the moment of deep appeal, gently open it up and see where it goes to next. Keep going. Unimaginable adventures, emotionally very stretching, intellectually terrifying, and as for choosing, well, you soon find the imperative rather than the invitation.

Common sense invites us to a place of sincere connection. If you accept, better prepare for the turmoil that precedes truth bcause connection, once started, doesn't easily stop. Heaven is not a cosy place, and that's why the dream of a cosy earth is too precious. Someone has to uphold that which keeps everything going, whether it's money or meaning, and everyone's second name is Atlas because no-one is exempt from holding up the mirror that shows human expression to the watching crowd.

The difference between common sense and deep appeal is the difference between Facebook - one friend leads to another - and the Caps Lock key. Don't understand what I mean yet? Come on, what's not to understand? Are we all part of this or aren't we?

Wednesday 5 September 2012

No country for old teachers

If you're a teacher in the department of Basic Education in South Africa, and have pre-OBE experience, the department doesn't want you. It can't recognize you. It doesn't know how to speak to people who can do more than puppet-speak.

There's something very sad about wasting your life waiting for your pension which, when you get there, won't be worth as much as it is now.

One more time: education isn't about a system of schooling, it's about personal, social and economic growth. No fit between schooling and growth in South Africa.

A pre-OBE teacher should resign, take the pension pay-out, pay the immoral tax for doing so, read Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki, find a good entrepreneur coach, and go for it. You will soon learn how the puppets are manipulated, and why they speak in such funny voices.

There's a big difference between access to schooling and passing grade 12 (just)  and access to education. Access to education in South Africa is firmly denied to all, and at the moment only strenuous efforts by those who are in a position to rise above the puppet-speak are keeping education going (just).

The department of Basic Education will have none of that. Way back in the early twentieth century, for example, teachers generally were feared in respect of discipline. Today, our SA teachers are trained how to invigilate exams, and receive a certificate when they are competent to walk up and down a hall, and take in papers.

Not only is this no country for old teachers, it's also no country for unborn children if access to education dies permanently, and I don't think there's another kind of death. If the writing's on the wall, cynicism and clarity are the same thing. Here's what I mean: two desires are keeping South Africa going: the desire for a strong economy, and the desire to milk a strong economy. When the latter empties the former beyond the tipping point, we tip.

One more time: I recommend educational coaching. Coaching has arisen largely because of the popularisation of self-development, and has many, many advantages to offer young people who are intent on development. Find a reputable, trustworthy coach and pay the money. Many lessons have helped me to find a coaching platform, but what comes to mind every time I consider these lessons are the following: studying psychology, especially those psychotherapists whose work is the foundation for NLP, i.e. Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir, and being taught by Dr John Gibbon in respect of educational leadership and management. I am most thankful for this.

I wish that the older, competent teachers who can't fit into the mindlessness, and who are not puppets would also do themselves the favour of following a course in NLP, or at least read a book. I recommend Joseph O'Connor's NLP Workbook.

It's never to late to develop and grow, and do something to move the tipping point further away.

And if any individual or group wants to approach me for assistance, you're welcome. Even the action of approach leads to fruitfulness: if you don't get up, you'll never walk.

Monday 3 September 2012

Managing emotions, spontaneity and the sense of self

We're emotional beings, and there's no getting out of it. Ioften found experience in a university context to be a bit bizarre: here we were, the intellectuals of the world, being erudite, wise and perspicacious, offering our learned informedness to whoever wanted or didn't want it, never admitting to the emotions that actually drove us: egotism, greed, competition and the need for recognition. Blatant and obvious non-communication between emotions and intellect. A model that many students followed, if they were to succeed. I once failed a student for getting 95%. He was obviously baffled and indignantly wanted to know what I meant. My answer was to the point: "You're more interested in the marks than the subject".

We're also creatures of context. Milieu therapy was once a fashion. We respond continuously to our environment, balancing, rebalancing and counter-balancing our internal harmony which is felt, although we take the base state for granted: this is the felt sense of "who I am". We expand some sensitivites, we diminsh others, and ignore more. The sense of  "who I am" is an emotional complex more than anything else. There, somewhere in your chest, throat and tummy, more than your head. If I say something to you that sounds soothing and sincere, your guts will calm, even though your thinking might go on alert,

E.Q. is a commonly used concept, now, yet is a very valuable tool in the coach's toolkit. There are quite a few kinds of intelligences to bring to daily awareness: I.Q. of the first kind, E.Q., spiritual intelligence, ecological intelligence. Let's simplify them, and say they're a sum total of how we respond to daily experience, which necessarily includes experience of the self. Do we experience the "self" or is the self that by which we experience? I have the idea that this is like asking if we side more with quarks, neutrons or charming, strange sub-particles, all going up, down, top and bottom at the same time.

Adept use of logic should blend into emotional dexterity and versatility. It's remarkable that some of the most closed-minded people are very clever scientists.

What's valuable to you is the survival skill you've chosen to keep close by. I was raised in an extremely judgemental context, and much, if not everything, depended on having the upper hand in being right. I learned to use reason and logic not so much for playing chess, but for the survival of my veriest self. I was delighted to discover that kindness, human kindness that brings the heart into the recipe for gracious consciousness, as a most basic ingredient, is even more crucial to the taste for truth than wit.

Biofocusing and spontaneity have much in common: we don't deliberate on seeing, our eyes go to the point of interest automatically. Our hearts recognize more than choose. The emotional knot that's the self will untie to an extent in the event of physical death. What's saved thereafter is what's worth saving. Survival in respect of physical life is bound to be more tricky than survival in respect of spiritual life, when basic fears are literally put to rest .

The problem of authentic living is that it involves a huge tension between the spontaneous self and the mananged self. Coaches who propound the enthusiasm and energy of authentic living mgiht find this to be a cul-de-sac. You can't create emotions to order. The fierce dog, the policeman waving you in, the advert flashing by, the strange cloud over the mountain: you can't predetermine the responses of your guts to these.

In the very gap between the managed self and the spontaneous self lies the way on. This is an educational path. NLP as I understand it, isn't a closed system. It's a strong yet open system, accepting of insights that provide growth and self-development. The model of the outstanding and excellent self can't be a static model. Tricks of shifting awareness and manipulation of consciousness are not the goal: The undiscovered self is essentially mysterious, spontaneous. The discovery of the undiscovered self can be both exciting and horrifying. Tight-rope. Can be fun if you have the guts for it.

Friday 31 August 2012

Emotions are for moving

Intense, vehement, profound emotions are disturbing. By definition. They stir up what's calm, they tip up what's stable, they roar through stillness. Iconoclastic, they break, pierce and shatter patterns of perception, visual and visceral.

Intense grief. Intense joy. I think it was Anthony de Mello who taught that these arise from the same place, and I think he's right.

We are taught to tame our emotions, to de-authenticate them by adhering to social mores of politeness and deference and this is a delicate balance. Coaching involves developing deliberate choice as to this balance. Deciding your balance for yourself. Man is a wolf unto himself. All we, like sheep, have gone astray. Honesty is the best policy. Look after the pennies, and the pounds will take  care of themselves. Penny wise, pound foolish. Rich Dad, poor Dad. Power is taken.

Make a list of the idioms and sayings you believe, and you'll read your balance there. I was pushed to believe what I was told to believe. It didn't work in the long run. Like Jung, I shy away from belief. I prefer to know. According to the defrocked priest, Hans Kung, belief has less to do with dogma and more to do with trust. No wonder he was defrocked. Dogmatic people need to trust at the verbal level, because the emotional level is either too complex or too threatening for them.

One of the most shattering dreams I've had was of a lion coming through the wall of my childhood bedroom. There was a split-second of a roar, a charge and I woke up at some height off the bed. I could still see the lion. The wall had kept the imprint of the fierce head and shoulders, but the charge had not broken through. I had learnt the meaning of the iconoclast. T.S.Eliot does the same thing, using the image to introduce the impulse that vitalises the image:

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

Emotions provide the gate for perceptions. And often, they're not allowed through, themselves. They should be invited sooner rather than later, since when the neural path dissolves, the imprint will persist. I have the idea that this is what grief is about. Profound, unverbalised recognition not only of specific loss, but of all loss, and with limited ecological intelligence, we, as a species, are helpless to understand that which we avoid either on purpose or by default.

What's your favourite feeling? Taking up the challenge? Alone-ness? Being part of the flow? Not being part of the flow? Creating structure? Creating chaos? The gratification of obedience? The defiance of individualism? You can reduce all the words of your philosophy to one true sentence about emotion, if you try hard enough.

On top of a Swiss mountain, outside a hospital, I read the words, in German: Father I do not understand You but I trust You.

That which moves us makes us who we are, and the movement persists further than synaptic milli-seconds: the connections between your fear in the last hour, and the dogged detemination of the your last decade and the hopes of your adolescence and the defining moments and patterns in childhood hold, and will yet influence the story of what's behind the gate, at the gate and through the gate of what impells you.

You should not have to believe, you should know you are not alone.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

A coach's perspective on advising the national spirit

When I began teaching in schools, my actual mission - although I wasn't capable of verbalising it to myself at the time - was to build spirit. Having grown up in a conservative Chrisitan home, and being exposed daily to exhortations to follow a spiritual imperative, I had the unusual advantage of being sensitive to spiritual movement and meaning before I learned to spell my name. It was entirely baffling, of course, since mixed messages abounded, and trying to find an exact fit between language and spiritual awareness is an extremely ambitious quest. Yet I strongly felt that within myself there was and still is a clear call, and answering that call is what my life is about.

I can't spell out that call in definite words because even the most abstruse, comprehensive and profound concepts available have not sufficed, and time is running out, and in any case, concepts aren't the bottom line, although the philosophers wouldn't agree. I have learned to agree with myself, and that's good enough for a very argumentative person.

I was taught about the call as an imperative that required truthfulness, faithfulness, obedience, and unfortuantely, tribalism. The worth of the first three are unquestionable, and the fourth, which is a crude way of describing the end dynamics of a fruitless church, is reasonably accurate. Important symbols, valuable rituals, profound naratives and group awareness should lead to discernible growth, which wasn't the case in my own experience.

It's wrong to judge Christianity on the basis of what happens in a local church, yet if there's a cover-up that goes a long, long way back, accountability also goes a long, long way back. And the long, long way back might refer not only to historical figures but also to current leadership figures. The spirit of any group is the signature of what the group means to itself and beyond itself, and narratives are the key to elucidating the signature. When the National Party was in power, the actual narrative was well hidden, though the signature was obvious enough. Now that the ANC is in power, the same dissonance is evident: the official narrative is that the country is improving, yet the signature declares the eaxct opposite.  Infrastructure, health, education, justice and social fibre are close to collapse, and the economy is used and abused by people who have contributed nothing to it.

I'm not a political commentator. My purpose here is to address the spirit of the nation, not the state of the nation. Patient as metaphor for nation: the patient is extremely ill, not yet at the point of death, and may possibly rally, but the possibility is remote. While there's life, there's hope, you say. Yes, but if you refuse to take your medicine, you're giving away, rather than giving up hope.

Here's a daring one, but I think it works: the worst of the Nats honestly believed that they were following God's will. The ANC doesn't care about God's will. Whether God is a supreme being or your ancestors is not the point: it's about being sensitive, respectful and co-operative with spiritual context, which has direct influence on whether you are sensitive, respectful and co-operative within human context. Coaching involves discerning the processes by which meaning and satsfaction are achieved. Perhaps it would be a good idea for a political incumbent (I hesitate to use the word "leader" as "political leader" is for the most part a contradiction in terms ) to be surrounded by a group of coaches rather than advisors, as truthfulness may have a better chance of being achieved.

It's a pity to watch a desert with oases turn into pure desert. Beautiful landscape doesn't ease the agony of dying of thirst.

I remember the day when Van Zyl Slabbert announced his departure from politics. He no longer wished to engage. F.C.H.Rumboll's advice to his students was "Rise above your problems". South Africa's problem is not one of lack of concern, it's about the vehicle of concern. A devious (read one minister one agenda) cabinet led by an unfazed president (another agenda) who all have their work cut out to win friends and influence people in the ANC, and nowhere else, are prisoners of and in the party vehicle. Jockeying to be drivers, navigators, engineers, they should realize that the tyres have been stolen. They fear no other vehicle because they assume that they're the only car on the road. I am of the opinion that this vehicle is breaking down. It has to break down, anyway, no empire has ever persisted forever, and the ANC hasn't the strength of solidarity.

Leadership coaching (this is really what we're talking about) shows that blaming is a fruitless exercise. You actually can't blame a party for being voted in. The triad of weird and evil sisters is population, party and party-leaders. If we refrain from political analysis and attempt a systemic analysis involving especially emotional patterns of proximity and distance between these three strands, we might sort out the difference between the lord of the flies, queen of the bees and the bugs of paradise.

Who are you going to blame for oppression in South Africa from the fifties to the eighties? The prime ministers, generals, apartheid, Afrikaners or whites? Pick on something or someone for the Holocaust: Hitler, Germany, Nazism, Germans, the generals. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, and the whole is closer to the spirit of the nation than any of the parts. If you break the parts right down to rock-face, they're you and me, and what we're going to do or not do in the next hour. All of these minutiae add up to the signature of the whole.

I aimed for the whole in those early classrooms, with the pupils' carefulness in language, meaning in lterature, growth in character. I continued with the same kind of mission at university, wanting to move beyond the motivation of merely attaining a degree to providing students with a vision of how they could contribute to a world by helping to create it.

The ANC is simply not the whole of the spirit of the nation, although its leaders would like it to be. There are other vehicles of transport, not necessarily clothed in the colours of politics. Wherever there's growth of awareness, there's the possibility of fruitful change. I don't think of God as an anthropomorphic supreme being: I would prefer not to use words, but to recognize a singularly riveting signature that stirs me as vividly as it alerts me. I would prefer God to issue forth a name rather than be given one. The national spirit cannot be claimed: it comprises, intransitively, spontaeously, limitlessly. I am reminded of something my Irish friend taught me, when I was about four or five years old:

He drew a circle that shut me out.
I was a heretic rebel, a thing of flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
we made a circle that drew him in.

Friday 24 August 2012

An educational coach's take on Basic Education in South Africa

For international readers, Basic Education is a government department that regulates education in South Africa up to grade 12, the school-leaving grade. After that the department of Higher Education takes over.

Transformation is a key term that is bandied about, to justify what this department does. It was necessary to transform the old South Africa into a new South Africa after 1994, and education was an important aspect of this. The immediate priority was to de-racialise education (and everything else), so the leaders changed colour fairly rapidly. The insistence on this priority is still there. The policy of affirmative action smudges into ANC cadre deployment, so the suspicion that the Broederbond has been replaced by cadre deployment is not unreasonable. Then the grand strategy: outcomes-based-education was taken on: an over-ambitious, badly-advised choice which failed because it had to. It has been replaced by CAPS, a whipping-stock to turn gutter education into mediocre education, because no good teacher needs CAPS. Applied as it is at present, I anticipate that very few excellent teachers will appreciate being squeezed into a mediocre box, and thus, no educated, competent person will feel at home in a school before long. Whereas OBE pressurised teachers into an open-minded accountability, CAPS now pressurises teachers into a closed-minded accountability. Results achieved through curriculum and assessment. Just work, deliver, and don't think. This is not a good basis for growing awareness, reasonability or personal accountability.

I have heard that eighty-five per cent of schools and teachers in South Africa is dysfunctional. I haven't checked this figure for myself, yet what is evident is that the vast majority of schools and teachers is indeed dysfunctional. Effective leadership at any level of education remains a pipe dream while the politicians avoid serving the nation in any real way. It makes them stand out in the top echelons of the ANC, and as any school-child will tell you, standing out isn't cool.

What interests me is how people make sense of situations, especially young people, since life-long habits are formed early. Reading texts and reading situations are not dissimilar. The more proficient you become, the more acute becomes your sensitivity to subtleties. It doesn't take adolescents long to sass out what makes sense and what doesn't make sense in their school environment and to act accordingly. Unfortunately the older, wiser teachers in South Africa are prone to assuming that schools should still be the places they used to be: places where moral correctness was demanded, places where carefulness was instilled, places where respect was a norm. Not any more. School is a place you go to get your matrick. I'm deliberately spelling this incorrectly because it really is a trick. An illusion of education, because marks without related skills don't mean a thing. I'm really aghast at the way standards have dropped and marks have gone up, and both parents and learners are anxious to believe that that matrick will open doors on the way to survival if not wealth.

Soon there's going to be a crisis of credibility concerning the actual value of the matrick. Universities and employers won't be able to pretend that the matrick holders have the metaphorical hands to manage and accomplish what's required.

Enter the educational coach with the can-do proficiencies. The working, available model that replaces the plodding, boring, drunk, corrupt, incompetent or otherwise inept teacher who ticks all the boxes and stops there, happy to receive a salary for doing meaningless work that is deemed to be meaningful because it's dressed up in the trappings of formal requirement. Don't get me going on educational bureacracy.  There's a three-way relationship that is the real basis of meaningful education, and that's between teacher, subject and student. The rest is bureacracy, and best minimized as far as possible.

If I had my way, I'd set the students free with an ipad and an educational coach. What could be better than a comprehensive up-to-date encyclopedia in your hand and someone whose guidance clarifies and directs where needed?

Here's a truism: schooling tends to make us stolid. Education at its best frees us. We seldom realise what it is to be free. We seldom use our freedom for growth. At every point of our living we are influenced and entrapped by political and economic agendas. If I could sum up Nicholas Berdyaev's impetus in a succinct way, I would say, "Loose mankind's imperatives, and look for the spiritual imperative".

The coaching continuum reaches all the way to that which is spiritual. Under Chrisitan Nationalism, the curriculum of necessity included spiritual awareness, which was indeed contorted, but nonetheless aware. I doubt that state schools in South Africa will ever regain spiritual awareness in a social way.

Re-enter the educational coach. Rapport, focus and intent between people is a marvellous generator of fruitful energy.

In past decades, gifted child programmes and enrichment programmes were luxuries: I now perceive them to be basic, more basic than basic education. While the minister of basic education pulls the matrick results out of the envelope as well as the hat, and shows indisputably that more learners have passed than ever before, individual giftedness in whatever form it manifests dries in the sun of the classroom that isn't there.

National graphs mean little at the rock-face where the child or adolescent or adult hasn't stepped into a role of fruitful learning. These are political tools used to tweak perceptions.

My parting comment: go to school because you must and go to university if you should, and look deeply into what sets you free from imperatives you have not deliberately chosen with your whole being.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

The coaching continuum

The world with its sunrises, skyscapes, seascapes, landscapes, colours, storms and smells is a beautiful place. Humans are amazing: look at what they've done: violin, skyscraper, ipad, jet-engine, anaesthetics, g-string.

Yet there's a dreadful abbreviation of spirit, purpose and effect in the human world. Call it sin, stupidity or selfishness, it's a fact of life. It has to be dealt with, on a grand scale, modest scale and minute scale, if we aren't going to make ourselves powerless unto ourselves. Politics, economics and, previously religion, affect the grand scale. Education and social propriety used to influence the modest scale. In respect of the minute scale, you're in charge of yourself, and if you aren't taking charge of yourself, someone else is using you for their own purposes.

The continuum I'm thinking of begins with health coaching, moves on to educational coaching, then to life coaching, and comes to business coaching.

As a species we create an immense amount of stress for ourselves. I can't imagine wars in the animal kingdom, though famines are plentiful, and being eaten is rife. Certainly there's theft, but limited murder. There's deception, but not fraud. When it comes to emotion, animals are entirely spontaneous, I think. The humans are otherwise. They can be utterly devious, disgusting and downright evil. I admire people who decide that they want to grow and take active steps to do so. Eligo crescere. This is a perlocutionary statement. Growth is healthy. Stagnation isn't. And of course, loss, the kind that takes away that which you virtuously gained, and is akin to destruction, is what we have to fight against on a daily basis. Health is a balance, and the tightrope we walk grows ever more thin. The stress of pretence and acceptance of compromise is what makes us civil rather than savage. Yet civic sensibility doesn't equeal health. Cutting off your enemy's head is far cheaper and less time-consuming than going to court, and probably relieves a lot of stress as well, provided you have a clear conscience. And our core roles have changed quite dramatically from being villagers to ballooning as consumers.

The point I want to make is that health coaching is a stock-taking, a reconnaissance, applying ecological intelligence so as to restore necessary balance to our corporate and individual living before our physiological tissue takes the strain. An intial point in the continuum of conscious movement and movement of consciousness that can be called growth. I sound tedious to myself, but honestly, I get the idea that just about no-one listens to or sees the obvious. I'm fairly sure that everyone feels that he or she is alive, and that personal experience entirely influences what the base state is (NLP language). Yet few take decisive action to grow from the base state, because of being accustomed to the base state and because of not being alerted to the fact that growth from the base state is possible. Next step: educational coaching. The bell is ringing. The coffee is steaming. The red light is flashing. Alertness spontaneously increases. Attention focuses. Escape is possible. Movement is inevitable. Desire abounds and flows. Energy surges. Harnessing all these elements of active growth, change and transformation and condensing them into formation and information drops us into the tumult of education which, with a little coaching, can be clarified to carry us on life-long journeys, and beyond. We are not who we think we are. As Jonathan Jansen has said, You have no idea of the greatness that is within you. So we move to life coaching. Take on the challenge. Let desire, not fear, lead. Be the change you want to see. Just connect. Just do it. Speak to yourself in words that you will obey. Tools, not rules. Okay, now we've rocked, rolled, realised and released our greatness. Here comes the real hurdle to hold us captive: cash flow. Solution: business coaching. Whether in the form of  The Ten Day MBA (thanks, Steven Silbiger) or the Cash Flow Quadrant  (thanks, Robert Kiyosaki)
it's necessary. What food is to animals, money is to humans. You have to have an idea, a purpose, a plan and then persistence.

The essence of this contimuum, as I understand it, is energetic engagement with oneself and one's context. As a child I was encouraged to disengage. As children of God, we were to be separate from the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any number of carefully designed cogs spinning in isolation will never create a gearbox that delivers leverage. C.S. Lewis's defintion of love was "intelligence in action".

Coaching is not an ends in itself. It's a means to action, especially fruitful action. The actual means emerges by unpacking the mystique of the human spirit. An elusive story will drive curiosity mad, yet the human spirit is precisely that.  What is the story of the human spirit? Someone once told it to me, but I'm keeping it secret. I won't tell you.

Monday 20 August 2012

Focusing on your allocation of excellence

Recently someone asked me for my definition of biofocusing. I have been shying away from providing even myself with a definition, because once you define something, it loses something. It loses the mystique of power. Power depends on the mystique of fear, embarrassment, whatever creates a sense of powerlessness so as to force capitulation, and for many, the sense of having such a handle is better than not having it. So handles are created, and the purpose of many systems i.e. handles is to guard power. Banks do it, governments do it, fathers do it, so do mothers. Many systems of communication are designed to impede, not assist communication. All quite strange.

I am going to try this statement as an accurate generalisation: each and every individual comes into the world with an allocation of excellence that often needs a nudge to come forth. I regard educational coaching as the activity of providing that nudge. Maybe your share of excellence is to write a novel, to lead a nation, to overcome a chronic disease, to design a new gearbox, to nurse a family member, to survive the pavements one more day, to look at an empty future and yet retain hope.

The nudge that came my way was from an older gentleman who went about campus talking to students. He was neither a student nor faculty, just someone who made it his business to nudge students, as God told him to. He was a Christian, and after having his quiet time in the morning, would go to the hostel, wake up some unsuspecting student, and say, "Come on, we're going to read the Bible and pray together".

In those days, I was deeply offended by what I had experienced from Christians, and while I found this gentleman affable, friendly and approachable, I would not have responsed well to an early morning call to devotions. I continued to be aware of what he was doing on campus for a couple of years.

One day as I was crossing the central point in front of the Jammie steps, he stopped me. "God spoke to me so clearly about you in my quiet time this morning," he said, looking at me very directly. "So we're going out for lunch. I'm taking you. We're going to a smart place, so put on a tie." It was a Friday, and going out to lunch seemed an excellent idea, even if I had to wear a tie. So, in due course, at midday, to lunch we went, and it was a good lunch. We ate, drank and spoke in general. Not one word about religion, Christianity or anything that related to reading the Bible and praying.

As we got to the end of lunch, and it was time to part, he simply said, quietly, "God needs chaps like you and me to work for his Kingdom".

That did more for me than all the sermons I have ever heard, and I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to thank him, in heaven.

You can use whatever words you choose, the bottom line is that you're here to learn and make a return of some valuable kind. And indeed, this will not come merely from you, but from God, too. Your allocation of excellence does two things at the same time: it builds God's kingdom on earth, and it often stands directly against what  people in the world build, as they attempt to serve their own greed and folly. You'll need plenty of courage, but that's fine because courage is a matter of the heart, and that's where you'll find your experience of God, too.

So here we go with the wheel of excellence, one more time...

and the view from the top...

Friday 17 August 2012

Biofocusing, educational coaching, NLP and what to do about folly.

Living on a continuum between wisdom and folly, what do you do? Let's define terms: wisdom is about using your mind i.e. your thinking, feeling and power of choice to best advanatge (what does best mean?) and folly is choosing not to do this. The power to cancel power.

Why would anyone cut off their own hands? Why would you set fire to your only sail when you're in the middle of a quiet ocean?

Lack of intellectual capacity means that one is disabled, not foolish. Foolish is when you make a bad decision because of rash feelings or inadequate thinking. You needn't have made that mistake. So, don't do it again, and you're not such a fool. You can be taught. You're a fool when you make the same kind of mistake again and again on purpose, and refuse to learn to change this pattern.

People do this all the time, though, being creatures of habit, preferring this habit to that, the more immediate outcome to the deferred outcome. It's far more comfortable to come home to warmth, supper, family and rest than to go out on a quest for your personal grail. In fact, far easier to allow warmth, supper, family and rest to be be the grail. There's nothing wrong with that, many folk don't have even these simple joys.

Yet even the most ordinary person has a calling to extend an allocated quota of excellence into the immediate environmnet. Don't ask me to define excellence. We read Plato's Meno for a whole year, and still, like true philosophers, couldn't reach consensus.

We tend to think of fools as extreme cases. Not me, I'm no fool. One moment, though: all your fruitless habits are evidence of folly. All your moments of misdirection add to the world's misery. My purpose here is not to moralise, but to awaken. I'm less interested in the mistakes that you're aware of making, and more concerned with the mistakes you keep on making quite unconsciously. Your patterns of permanent pointlessness. I earnestly recommend that everyone should go through a course of NLP. It's the most efficient and kind way I've found that alerts you not only to fruitless and destructive patterns of mind (include thinking, feeling and deciding) but also provides pretty rapid solutions.

There's not too much reality, as a given immutability in the material world. Even faces can change, and I'm not talking about cosmetic surgery. Bitterness can turn to peacefulness, and grief can turn to joy. I'm not talking about positive thinking. I like what Demartini says about positive thinking. It can't be done on any permanent basis. If you go through the exercise of what he calls the quantum collapse you'll come out with something fruitful, whatever the experience.

I came to the idea of biofocusing - one of the many stations - by pondering the term proprioception. Sansonese in The Body of Myth spends a chapter on this one, explaining awareness, consciousness and focused yet ultimately extended attention: awareness external, internal and beyond the body. We have unworkable concepts of living, since we are held in the limiting confines of the material universe, but that's only for a few decades for each of us. A concept is merely a matter of stabilised intellectual energy, an idea that you can pass on. Emotions, hideously labelled and presented as nouns, are far more fluid and brief than that, yet profoundly intense and exciting enough to change a life at any moment.

So the responsibility of choosing fruitful patterns of living lies with the individual, which is probably what humanity is for, in contrast to to zacunanity, that other species on a different planet, far, far away. They have a different lesson of cosmic proportions to learn. The individual had better get on with it, then, by learning sense, learning how to speak it, and learning how to speak it in such a way so as to be clearly heard. The good news is that this will work, the bad news is that you may be the only person to hear what you're saying. Nonetheless, do it. This is the antidote to folly, because at least you will have decided to make a commitment to wisdom. Frankly, I don't expect that you'll be the only one to reap the benefit of your own better patterns of purpose. Wisdom, movement and growth tend to work together. Perhaps there's not just one great tipping point, but many small incremental decisions adding to the sum.