Key Practise 1: 1-2-3 or Coming Home To Who I Am
This practise is the foundation of what Zen Coaching is all about. Saying yes to my experience is coming home to who I am.
Step 1: Ask yourself: What is happening in me now?
This step is simple noticing, especially noticing physical sensations, emotions anthoughts. We allow ourselves to notice what is going on inside, whatever it is.
Step 2: Can I allow this to be as it is, resting as the Awareness that I am?
Can I say yes to this experience, just for now? Can I allow this to be as it is, without doing anything with it, without mentally engaging with it, without analyzing and commenting on it, without holding on to it or pushing it away? Can I allow myself to welcome, include and fully experience this experience, even honour this experience as an expression of the being that I am?
In this step we are not making any effort. We are simply checking what is true for us; we don´t TRY to accept or allow or welcome or include, we simply notice if we can allow what is happening in us in this moment, or not.
If the answer is ‘no’, we simply check if we can allow, include and fully experience this resistance, this ‘no’ to what is happening right now.
A ‘no’ is just as good an answer as ‘yes’. We are simply checking what is true, not trying to live up to any ideal. We are honouring the truth of the moment, not trying to create any special result or state.
Step two is allowing rest instead of creating stress and struggle. This is an opportunity and an invitation offered to us in each and every moment.
Stress and struggle is an old habitual inner action of pushing away our experience, trying to get a better experience, which is not helping us live powerful, peaceful, creative and compassionate lives in the service of others and ourselves.
The key here is to realize that we are not victims of stressful thinking and stressful emotions, but that stressful thinking and the related emotions is a choice our system is making because it believes that this is necessary.
Peace and harmony, however, is better served by allowing rest right now in this moment, by simply allowing and including what is, whatever it is, without commenting on it or struggling with it.
We are already peaceful awareness, and everything that occurs is an expression of this awareness. The stress is not in what is, or created by what is, but a result of our struggle with what is, of our pushing away unpleasant experiences. All stress is our creation, a result of fighting our experience. ‘No’ to our experience is suffering, ‘yes’ to our experience is peace.
Step 3: Going back to step one: What is happening in me in THIS new moment?
Key Practice 2: the A-B-C of Relating
This practice supports us in resting with both ourselves and others when relating, and connect heart to heart in any situation that may occur.
We live in a world where many of us focus more on getting heard and on offering our well-intended comments and advice, and spend less time, energy and focus on truly listening to ourselves and others.
When we focus most of our energy on being understood and heard by others, we tend to totally forget or be superficial in our listening. We then tend to listen more to our thoughts and interpretations of what the other is saying rather than to be really there for what is alive in the other in this moment.
This practice is an invitation to become a listener.
The A-B-C practice is communicating with the following three intentions in this below order:
A – First, to connect with myself,
B – Second, to see, hear and understand the other,
C – And only then, thirdly, seek to be understood, seen and heard by the other.
The A-B-C of communication can help resolve most of our relationship difficulties, and help create the kind of heart connection we long for in every moment when relating with others.
A – Seek first to see, hear, feel and understand my own reaction to whatever the other is saying or doing.
This step represents self-empathy; allowing myself to experience the feelings and needs that are alive in me in this moment. It means using 1-2-3 on myself, noticing and allowing what is happening in my mind and body, choosing to rest into what is instead of reacting, indulging or suppressing my experience.
From this deeper connection with myself I can listen and act – respond – spontaneously and creatively in a supportive way in the situation.
B – Then to see, hear, feel and understand the other (or others.)
‘Understand’ here means, as it does in step A, to understand with my heart. In other words, to empathically connect with the feelings and needs alive in the other in this very moment. This is not mental understanding, interpretation or analysis, but simply resting into the reality as it is experienced by the other in this moment.
C – THEN to express myself and be understood myself.
In this step we express ourselves honestly with the purpose of being true to ourselves, and in order to enable the other to see us and empathically connect with us in this moment. We express what is alive in us here and now, without placing the cause for what is being experienced on something outside ourselves. In other words, we take responsibility for and own our experience. This makes us masters of ourselves instead of victims of circumstances.
The more we express the feelings and true needs (longings) alive in us in this moment, rather than just sharing thoughts and viewpoints, the easier it will be for others to connect with us in a heartful rather than a mental way.
Step (C) is an offering as a gift our reality as it is being experienced by us in this moment. This offering may include the gift of making a request to the other.
A request is a gift because it offers the other a chance to willingly contribute to our well-being. The gift disappears when it is mixed with expectation and demand.
A-B-C keeps us anchored in restful awareness while relating. It helps us avoid the traps of victimhood, criticism, blame, expectations and demands that often infect our relating with each other. It enables mutual gift-giving and enrichment of life to take place as a dance between us, through the unique power of communication that we are gifted with.
In this way relating can be a celebration of our power to enrich each other´s life. Rather than relating being a struggle to get our sense of lack and limitations compensated for through others, or avoided through avoidance of others.
Key Practice 3: See – Be – Go
The Principle of Creativity, Choice and Manifestation
This principle is a formulation of 1-2-3 with special focus on choice, action and manifestation. It is bringing to attention the always-present possibility of living in effortless flow from inner wisdom and beneficial intention, in this moment, in service of the whole.
We see where we are and where we would like to go, we allow ourselves to fall or relax into ourselves, into being or awareness, and we allow action to occur spontaneously from being.
What is happening right now, inside and outside?
What feelings, needs and longings are alive in me right now?
What is of greatest importance to me right now?
What vision comes to me about how things could be?
What do I see as my most important intention(s) in respect of this moment and the vision?
Letting go of all mental actvity, resting as awareness, resting nakedly as not knowing. Waiting for the impulse from the Whole of what wants to happen. Letting Come of the spontaneous impulse to act, in the service of the whole. Allowing space for the choice and action for what wants to happen to come through me.
Allowing spontaneous choice and action to manifest through me into the world. Then going back to step 1, Seeing, and repeating the cycle.
Stop, Notice, Allow
Stop: we stop for a moment, stepping out of our identification…
Notice: where is my attention right now?
Allow: allowing my experience…
Fully experience: fully entering …
The practise of Reframing
Problems don´t exist in the world, but in our minds
A problem exists in our mind, as an interpretation of our situation or our experience. Problems come into existence through negative thinking about our situation and our experiences. A problem is seeing a situation or an experience in the light of what is wrong and bad about it.
An issue thought about as a problem perpetuates the issue as a problem.
Reframing a problem into a heart-opening takes only three simple steps:
Beware: this process may have far-reaching consequences for how you see yourself and the world, and for how you live your life!
Step 1: Describe the Problem
Describe something you see as a problem, using pen and paper, or share with a friend. Use this sentence: ´It is a problem for me that …. because …. ´
Make sure that in describing the situation, you remain as factual and objective as possible, not mixing in your judgments.
Also make sure you are clear about WHY you consider this particular state of affairs a problem. This may take some serious exploration into understanding what is REALLY the problem for you in this.
Step 2: Connect with your longing
Take some time to feel into your body while asking yourself what longing or longings (deep needs) are not met by this state of affairs. Then change the sentence above so that the situation is described in this way:
´The situation, which is that …. , triggers my longing for …. ´
Make sure that in describing the situation, you remain as factual and objective as possible, not mixing in your judgments.
By ‘longings’ here we mean longings of the heart; in other words INNER QUALITIES, and not something physical or outer. Some examples of words pointing to longings are: love, freedom, trust, strength, joy, peace, connection, creativity, unity, value, existence, being myself, truth.
Step 3: Allow and experience the longing
Drop your thoughts about the situation, focusing only on the longing. Use the sentence ´I long for …. ´ Allow yourself to feel deeply into your longing, while allowing all feelings and thoughts that arise as a consequence of this, without trying to change anything.
Longings in disguise
We can easily reframe our problems into possibilities when we realise that problems are longings in disguise.
A problem is a negative description of how we experience something. A longing, in contrast, is a positive quality of the heart that we are, for the moment, not in touch with. By acknowledging our longing, we automatically start reconnecting with the quality we long for – which is always available, in our heart, here and now. At a deeper level, we are what we seek.
Let us take an example: Let’s say I am in a situation that I describe in this way to myself and/or to others: “I feel sad and empty, my life is meaningless, and I hate being in this state, I want to feel good”. This is my situation described as a problem.
I can reframe this situation – see it in a different way, and thus experience it differently – by describing it positively, in terms of what I long for. In the example above, this could look like this: “I feel sad and empty, and I long for meaning, for inspiration, and for self-love.”
By allowing myself to feel my feelings and sink into my longings, I will experience how my heart – mysteriously, but very naturally – opens into the qualities I long for.
Feeling into our longings
If we reframe our ‘problems’ in this way, and genuinely feel into the feelings and longings expressed (rather than just say the words without going into the experience of them), we will open into a powerful dimension of ourselves.
Every challenging issue can either be described as a problem or as a longing. By describing our challenges as longings, we open the door to present-moment body experience. This provides an opening into essence (into being, into a quality of the heart), and to release, transformation and the experience of new possibilities.
As we feel into our longing, new ‘problems’ may arise (for example, a block to feeling deeper into our experience, the arising of too many distracting thougts, etc.). Then we simply reframe these ‘problems’ in the same way, as longings, which again open us into the realm of essence, release and transformation.
Reframing as a way of living
Our life can be lived in this way, as a continues practice of using each situation and experience as a doorway into essence, and as opportunities for release, transformation and new possibilities.
The obstacle is the path. Everything we experience is a possibility to meet ourselves at a deeper level. Nothing needs to be discarded, nothing needs to be fought against, pushed away, rejected. Everything can be welcomed – and when we welcome it, it transforms, and we transform with it.
We are, most of us, strongly conditioned to interpret experiences and situations in terms of what is not good and right about them. Therefore a continuous focus on reframing is necessary for most of us if we want to live in connection with ourselves, and not get lost in the limiting and painful perspective of seeing challenging situations and experiences as problems.
Exploring your deepest intention in life
Find a pen and paper and write down your answers to the questions below. The exercise is most powerful when it is done slowly, feeling into the body with each question, and allowing and embracing all feelings – pleasant and unpleasant – that arise in the process.
The answers can then arise in an effortless way from your spontaneous inner wisdom, from your gut or intuitive response, rather than from a mental process of thinking.
1. What do I long for?
(if you have all you long for, what do you want to continue having or have even more of?)
By ´longing´ here, we mean the inner quality of existence, such as peace, love, freedom, trust, flow, connection etc, and not specific things or events. Specific things or events we may want or desire are the STRATEGIES that you believe will help you get the qualities in your life you long for.
An example of the difference between LONGING and WANT (which we can also call desire or strategy):
I may WANT an intimate partner, but what I LONG for is not the partner. What I long for is the qualities I believe having a partner will help me experience, such as love, connection, support, playfulness, passion, worth etc.
2) What could I do to be more in touch with these qualities in my life?
Make a list of things you can do, perhaps could do, would hope you could do etc, being VERY SPECIFIC. This is a creative process to see what might be done, and not yet a decision you make to do these things.
3) What do I regularly do that stops me from being more in touch with these qualities?
4) What needs (again, QUALITIES) do I try to serve by doing these things that STOP me from being more in touch with what I long for in my life?
A short explanation of the background to this question:
Whatever I do, a part of me CHOOSES to do because I believe it serves me. Criticising myself for doing what I do (calling myself ´lazy´or ´stupid´or whatever) is dishonest and abducting my responsibility for my actions. It is more honest to take full responsibility for the fact that I believe these actions serve me, and that it is therefore that I act like I do. When I explore WHICH needs (qualities) I believe I serve, I discover self-compassion, and can start seeing the truth of whether or not these actions actually serve me.
5) What other ways can I find to meet these other needs of mine (identified in the step above), so that I don´t sabotage what is truly important for me in my life?
6) Based on the insights I have received from the above, what actions do I decide to take, starting NOW, to increase my inner connection with the qualities I long to have in my life?
Living according to my true intention
Be specific about how, when, with whom, how often etc, and check your motivation by asking yourself for each action: ´how motivated am I on a scale from 1-10 to take this action?´. If your motivation is 7 or less, ask yourself what it would take to bring it higher, or find another action with a higher score.
7) Finally: Whatever your answer to the last question, check to see whether one of your actions was to notice, acknowledge and allow your inner experiences as they are, as often as possible during the day. If not, consider the value it may be to make this one of your main action steps, and to even make it your key life practice.
The Key Zen Coaching Practice is this: Noticing and Relaxing into What Is. When we notice and relax into what is, we introduce the Power of Awareness into whatever is happening.
A particularly powerful effect comes from discovering and relaxing into our heart´s deepest longing. This means to be clear about our longing, and to simply allow ourselves to long fully, and also allow all feelings – pleasant or painful – that arise as we relax into – stay with – our longing.
As we practice this and realize the effect, our trust grows in the power of awareness to guide us and take care of everything in an effortless way. We realize more and more that thinking is not as necessary as we may have thought – that our natural, embodied intelligence can take care of our life without a lot of mental processing and all the hopes, fear and worrying that results from all our ideas, ideals and thinking processes.
In Zen Coaching we work primarily with loving intention, silent presence, powerful questions and precise reflections.
Powerful or empowering questions help you or the person you are supporting to meet that which is, with full awareness, and to go deeper into the experience of the present moment. This will eventually release the natural wisdom and power which is always available within us.
The coach does not go along with seeing challenges in life as ‘problems’. Instead she or he invites the person receiving support to look and feel into the actual experience and truth of the present moment, in which a ‘problem’ is nothing but a thought about a feeling or a situation.
The realisation that every ‘problem’ is a thought and not a reality, and that every ‘problem’ is a beautiful longing in disguise, opens the door to profound transformation and to the release of inner freedom and strength.
Some empowering questions used in Zen Coaching:
To be your own coach and explore you own situation, exchange ‘you’ with ‘me’ or ‘I’.
What is most important for you?
What is most alive for you now?
What do you mean by …? (include word that is general, or expresses an unclear want / need.)
Can you be more specific? Can you give an example?
What is happening now?
Can you allow that to be as it is?
Can you say Yes to it?
If not, can you say Yes to the No to it?
Can you let that thought be there, without engaging in it?
Can you allow yourself to feel that?
How do you experience that in your body?
What is … ? (include word for needs / longings, such as inner peace, freedom, connection etc.)
Questions for exploring wants, longings and needs:
What would that give you? (And after the answer:) …and what would that give you? (explore wants until you reach the deeper level of need / longing).
What do you do to meet your need / longing for …? (add word expressing need / longing).
What need is met by doing / saying that?
What need is NOT met by doing / saying that?
How would you present that problem if you were to describe it as an unfulfilled need / longing?
What is the most nourishing action that you could give yourself now?
What will you do (what can you do) to better meet your need for …? (be specific – what, when, where, for how long, with whom …)
Facing challenging moments
When facing ANY kind of challenging moment in life, you may enjoy trying this:
- Feel the effect of the challenge in your body; notice the related thinking.
- Ask ‘What does my heart long for now?’
- Ask ‘What would that give me?’ repeatedly, until you reach the deepest longing of the heart.
- Say to yourself, or out loud, ‘I long for …‘, 2-3-4 times, and feel the effect physically in your heart, in your chest, in your belly.
- Stay with all feelings this brings up – both expansive states, and possible fearful or vulnerable states. Do this until you sense a full relaxation and expansion.
- Explore all the aspects of the expanded state, notice size, shape, physical sensations, light, space etc.
- Look again at the challenge. See if it is experienced differently this time.
- Repeat the process if necessary
From victimhood to freedom
An inquiry to support us in moving into empowered choice
- In which ways do I think of myself as a victim?
- How does it feel in my body when I see myself as a victim?
- What specific thoughts are creating this sense of victimhood?
- How is my life when I believe in these thoughts?
- WHO or WHAT is aware of these thoughts?
- Can the consciousness which is aware of thoughts ever be a victim of thoughts?
- Can I say yes to what I am experiencing right now? And if not, can I say yes to my No to this experience?
- What is one empowering choice I could make in this moment?
For further inspiration on how to move from victim to creator:
Allowing everything to be as it is – Expanding as Being
Ask yourself these questions as a meditation for 15-45 minutes, answering them from direct experience in the present moment, from your belly and heart. Then make this exercise an ongoing inquiry that informs every moment of your daily living, to live increasingly in allowance, ease and flow in everyday life.
- What is happening in me right now? What am I experiencing – thinking, feeling, physical sensations?
- Can I allow this experience to be just as it is, just for now, without trying to fix, change, avoid or do anything with it? (- do not TRY to allow!); If yes, go to (5) below.
- If there is a no, a resistance, how much resistance is there: a little bit, a lot, or full resistance?
- Can I allow myself to have that degree of resistance, that degree of ‘no’ to my experience? If not, can I allow also THAT no, that resistance to the resistance, to be as it is?
- What is happening now – what am I experiencing now? Is there a sense of relief, of letting go, of deepening, or relaxation, of lightness, of expansion? If not, go back to (1)
- If yes to the above: Can I allow myself to let the relaxation, deepening, lightness and expansion continue? (Continue for 10-15 minutes to notice, experience and be one with the expanding and deepening qualities of Being that now are real for you.)
1-2-3 to Transforming judgment of others into Essence and Gratitude
1. Allow your judgment of someone when it arises
Simply notice that ‘now I am judging this person’
Notice the content of the judgment.
Notice how you feel when you judge, and allow those feelings (or the resistance to them)
2. Look again at the other person, and ask yourself:
What essence qualities is the energy that this person is expressing right now
How does it feel to receive these essence qualities?
What is great about these essence qualities?
How am I living these essence qualities in my life?
What would it take for me to live these qualities more in my life.
3. Look again at the other person, and ask yourself:
What am I grateful for with having this person in my life (generally, or just in this moment)?
What is happening in me right now? Notice and allow (or allow the resistance to) whatever you feel in your body right now.
Resolving inner conflicts
- What are two essence qualities that often seem to be in conflict for me?
For instance ‘peace’ and ‘adventure’, or ‘being myself’ and ‘connection´ — that both can´t be present at the same time, that I need to choose — and yet I don´t want to compromise with either of them! This kind of inner conflict leads to chronic stress, and is entirely based on a strongly held core belief normally established in early childhood.
- What is the core belief (or beliefs) that make these qualities seem to be in conflict in daily life, that make me believe I can´t have both at the same time?
- Looking at that belief (or beliefs): Can I be sure that this is true?
- Place one quality in one of the hands, the second quality in the other, feel both of them fully.
- Slowly bring the hands towards each other, feeling all thoughts, feelings and physical sensations in the process. Let the hands meet and merge. Then let the merged hands merge with the chest and with the body; let go of the hands.
- Spend some time noticing how your body feels as a whole now.
- Imagine a concrete situation in life where you are experiencing both qualities at the same time. How is this for you now?
- What are two essence qualities that often seem to be in conflict for me?
Quick Choice Approach
Sometimes when we think that a decision we make is for life – where to live, career, partner, etc – the investment in the decision gets so great that it becomes hard to decide, and we start to think back and forth a lot. For most things, including many of the ‘big’ decisions, however, we can simply decide based on what feels lightest in the moment, and make a new and different decision when inner and outer conditions change, or our insight grows.
We don´t need to think a lot to make good decisions. We can keep using this basic tool below moment to moment until it becomes a habit to navigate life in this way. We can use it for big as well as small decisions – which job to choose, or which food to eat for lunch.
- What qualities of being are important for you to live?
- What do you want to decide about now/today?
- What are the options you see? (including the option of doing nothing, right now)
- For each option:
a) imagine how it would look and be if you chose that.
b) notice whether your body relaxes and lightens up, or contracts and feels heavy with this option
- Choose the lighter and more expanded option – just because you can!
Living the Being qualities we value, every day
We tend to easily forget to live according to what we actually know is most important for us. This practice supports us in bringing our insights into daily life. It will take you an hour or two the first day, and 10 minutes every day after that. Repeat for at least a month, preferably longer.
- Ask yourself for one full day, repeatedly: What do i really long for in life? What are the most important qualities I want to be living in life, every day? Make sure the words you come up with are qualities of being, qualities of the heart, inner qualities (such as peace, strength, joy, love, compassion, value…) – and not external things.
- At the end of the day, write down the five most important qualities on a piece of paper.
- Every morning, spend 5 minutes looking at the list. Allow yourself to fully feel and fully allow each word emotionally, and physically in the body. Do it as a meditation, without thinking.
- Every evening, spend 5 minutes looking at the list. Allow yourself to fully feel each word in the body. Notice memories from the day that pop up – ways in which you lived those qualities, ways in which you did not live those qualites. Notice choices that you made during the day that supported you, and choices that did not.
Getting Un-Stuck from the Fear-Mind
We tend to live a lot from unconscious fears, choosing what truly does not serve us, without exploring why or how. And when we do so, our actions tend to create exactly that which we are trying to avoid.
Here are some simple questions that require a bit of inner searching and feeling to get to the root of our unconscious fears, and start making more conscious choices:
- What am I afraid of?
- What is the worst that could happen if that happens?
- And if THAT happens, then what is the worst that could happen?
- And if THAT happens, then what is the worst that could happen?
- Continue the above until reaching the root fear.
- How bad would that REALLY be? And how likely is it that it would happen on a scale from 1-1000 if (1) happens?
- What will happen if I AVOID doing what I am afraid of?
An inquiry and meditation process in six steps:
- What is one thing that I am criticizing myself for having done, or NOT having done?
- What heart-needs where NOT met by doing (or avoiding doing) this?
- What heart-needs did I TRY TO MEET by doing (or avoiding doing) this?
- Feel the answer to both (2) and (3) physically in your body; stay with, embrace and allow all physical sensations and emotions that come up, for some moments or minutes.
- Notice if a sense of compassion, understanding and self-love automatically arises out of this exploration; if not, repeat the process and see if there are deeper heart-needs to be identified, or a need to feel and allow deeper what comes up.
- See if there is any further action or actions you would like to take in respect to the issue you explored, or if it feels complete.