Cloistered calmness

Wandering in the cloisters of the Mosterio dos Jeronimos in Lisbon trying (with difficultly) to ‘channel my inner monk’, I notice how much the architect, builders and funders of this magnificent building invested in creating a place of calm.
With my coaching clients I notice how many struggle with confidence and the agitation that generates. It seems that agitation is the enemy of confidence and deep confidence comes from an implacable calmness.
For Lisbon’s monks, contemplation and calmness were part of withdrawing from the world. In our time, finding a place of calm creates a platform for returning to the world.

Increasingly, that is what I see my clients find in coaching. Intractable problems have a frenetic quality, complex and inscrutable. Coaching brings clarity, simplicity and calm. Clarity about the issue and action are important takeaways. But the experience of being calm, of relaxed control, is just as important, and more enduring because it helps my clients feel how they want to be,  not just know what they want to do.

Becoming calm helps the mind do its work. Particularly if it removes the urge to force a solution to appear. I wrote the first two paragraphs of this piece and was not sure where to take it next. So I put it to one side and my last morning in Lisbon took me to the tropical garden in the Edward VII park. I was not trying to decide how to continue this piece, not even thinking about it consciously, but the germ of an idea found me as I enjoyed the greenery.

That’s why patience matters so much in coaching. And why becoming a coach requires us to unlearn so much of what we think we know about problem solving. It does not mean that we give up on looking for solutions. Sometimes they pop right out and moving into action is simply a matter of deciding. But sometimes stuckness goes deep and it’s only when we sit calmly and curiously  with it that clarity and simplicity emerge.

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