Stop and Relax

by Tine Vindeløv


An interview with Tine Vindelov by Patrycja Załug, trainer, coach & owner of Institute of Transformation and co-owner of the Women of Success Academy

The main goal of Zen Coaching is supporting us in recognizing our true nature as consciousness. What does that mean?

What is important to me is to integrate the learning from Zen Coaching in people’s practice and experience. To me it isn’t something very spiritual, out of touch with reality. It’s an approach focused on how to bring specific benefits into a person’s life: How to make a desired transformation in your relation to yourself and to others or to life.

I combine this beautiful – both practical and philosophical – approach to specific, everyday challenges.

Let’s start with what consciousness is. It sounds very spiritual. And yes, Zen Coaching is inspired from the tradition of Zen Buddhism. Many people think Zen Buddhism is a religion, but that’s not how I understand Buddhism.

Zen Buddhism is a 1000 year old wisdom about how to approach life in a way that creates less suffering. Zen is knowledge on how we create our own suffering, how we can stop doing so, and how we can begin to live more in happiness and peace instead. I want to stress that Zen Coaching has nothing to do with a religion, it is a very practical approach, focusing on how to get in touch with our inner life understand it better and, form a peaceful relationship to ourselves and other people more easily.

Consciousness is necessary to see what our inner world actually looks like, to recognize our feelings and to understand what is happening inside us.

So when you say consciousness or awakening you mean seeing our inner life, our emotions, and thoughts?

A lot of people live as if they were asleep. They don’t think about their lives, they are not aware of how they actually function. Many people go through life with blind convictions regarding what is right and what is wrong, without considering whether these convictions support them and others in a fulfilling life. When I say consciousness, I mean that awakening, I mean that looking at the way I look at my life and what I believe in – waking up to my ideas and asking what about this is really true and what is not.

The more you develop this consciousness and mindfulness of looking at life, the more you will start noticing that you are not your convictions, you are not your thoughts, and sometimes you can even experience that you are not your body, not your family, nor a career position. You will start experiencing that you are an awakened free presence. I know that this might sound very spiritual, but it is, at the same time, a very direct practical experience of inner space. The better you see your emotional patterns and convictions, the more you look at them from outside, the more you gain distance from them. And in this distance, more clarity and freedom is born in you. Then a wisdom that understands reality better expands in you; a wisdom that deals with life more easily than when you are completely absorbed by your feelings and identified with your ideas.

Could you give a specific example?

There are many areas of life where this is happening. For example let’s look at money. Let’s look at people who are sure that money is, in a sense, dirty. Some people have many negative ideas about money, i.e. they think that rich people got their money by exploiting others. At the same time, these people might not understand that these are only their ideas and not the full reality.

It is just one of the ways of looking at reality. If you completely identify with these ideas, you treat money in a certain way. The way you see it affects your behavior around it: You do not want to look at money or see the principles that rule money. You might feel resistance to looking at your bank account, push relating to money in your life aside. In a sense, it is like you are sleeping. You do not see that you have these ideas, you do not see how they influence your life, you are not aware of them. In this area of your life you are in avoidance.

When a person like that comes for the session of Zen Coaching, the process of awakening of consciousness begins. Supported by the Zen Coach they will be able to see their ideas and the way they affect their lives. They start seeing their own approach to money, from a distance and they have more space in themselves. They begin to gain a new freer perspective and that is what awakening of consciousness means in Zen Coaching, gaining the distance towards the problem.

Once you have that distance, you wake up and understand better: ‘Alright, when I have such and such idea, this idea influences my life in such and such way and it actually does not serve me well. So maybe I will give myself more freedom and I will look for ideas that serve me better, for more supportive ways of looking at life.’

What will happen if I look at it in a different way? Were the ideas I had up until now actually true? Has every rich person really gained their wealth by using others? You might start becoming curious, as to where your idea that money is dirty comes from. What approach did your parents have? What is the source of your conviction?

The more consciousness you have, the more space you create around the issue, the more ease and feelings of distance and liberating curiosity can appear. You are starting to learn about yourself, you are becoming curious about yourself, instead of avoiding the issue.

It is a kind of an awakening of consciousness and thanks to the awakening, you get to know yourself better and you become better able to solve your own problems because you begin to see the bigger picture of what is going on in a peaceful non-reactive way.

One of the benefits that Zen Coaching offers is increasing consciousness of one’s convictions and patterns that rule your life in a way you are not aware of. What other benefits do people taking part in Zen Coaching sessions get?

During a session of Zen Coaching, I am mostly in a state of relaxed curiosity and allowance. Through open non guiding questions, I support my clients in exploring themselves. Instead of fixing and solving problems we open up the challenge and we try to recognize what is going on. We do not attempt to solve the problem before we have an intimate understanding and recognition of what the challenge is about. We do that in an atmosphere of allowing anything, without attaching ourselves to any idea of what direction our search is supposed to go. When your way of treating yourself and the challenges is free from the will to fix or change yourself, but full of open allowing curiosity instead, then you get to know yourself better, you gain a deeper contact with what is really important to you and the solutions often appear on their own.

As long as you fight the challenge, as long as you want the problem to disappear, as long as you are trying to solve it, change it and fix it, you are not allowing the problem to show you its solution on its own. So during a session of Zen Coaching we leave the idea of fixing, solving a problem or reaching a goal and instead we help people to let the challenges in life teach them what they long for and support them to get closer to themselves.

The benefit of it is that a person starts treating their challenges in such a way not only during a session, but also in their lives. So taking part in a Zen Coaching session one does not only solve their problems, not only learns about themselves, but also gains a new way of treating oneself, which is much more nourishing, full of love towards oneself, and helpful in how we can cope with challenges, and support our lives in moving towards more fulfilment.

How can people who do not feel connected with themselves enter into more connection with themselves?

In Zen Coaching we do not give any specific advice. During the Zen Coaching training we teach several approaches to life. One of them is about stopping. Usually when we do not feel grounded in ourselves, it is so because we are rushing. And usually once we stop, there is immediately some kind of relief, an outbreath. It is very, very useful to STOP.

A part of the escape from oneself is the assumption that what we have right here and now is not good enough, that we should be in a different place. So part of the main training as a Zen Coach is to stop and recognize what is here and now. What feelings are in me in this very moment? We see if we can notice them and meet them with allowance. What are the colours of where I am? What do I feel in the body? The stopping often immediately brings the peace many people long for in their life.

And meanwhile the goals are waiting for us and tasks need to be performed …

When our minds and our bodies are full of fear and effort (and this is what happens when we are very much goal and task-oriented and we are afraid that we will not reach them), then on some level we become more stupid. Our minds shift to the level of the primitive reptilian brain. This is why in the state of the inner rush, we become less effective and we have more difficulty reaching our goals. Perhaps this sounds like a contradiction, but stopping and relaxing is more effective than running. When we rush, our goals possess us, we become blind, we are not aware, and we run like a machine. When we stop and take a step back, we see much more effectively what we need to do.

Monk Thich Nhat Hanh who was an inspiration for Kåre Landfald (the founder of Zen Coaching) and for me as well, always walks slowly. All the things that he does, he does slowly, and he wrote over 100 books, set up a monastery and is an incredibly effective person.

And how do we cope with fear? You said that because of fear we act too fast and in tension. 

Fear is created out of two things: Firstly it comes from our ideas about things (‘Oh, something scary will happen if I do not catch my to-do list!!’) and secondly from a specific body response. The idea impacts the body. When the idea is activated, we begin to feel fear in the body. Then if we subconsciously believe in the fear in the body we will create another fear-based idea which amplifies it and create more fear in the body. The spiral of fear winds up.

The question is: How can you stop this winding up of fear?

Every emotional load related to fear or anger disappears in the nervous system after 90 seconds. So if I am able to stop, breathe and feel this fear and all of the emotional load and stay with it for 90 seconds, the fear will disappear. This is physiology. So when you feel fear, stop and allow yourself to feel this emotional load in the body and then simply wait a moment, and it will pass.

The second thing that could help you to cope with fear is looking at the fact that some ideas (often about the future) are the cause of it and not the reality right now. You have to have a lot of awareness and mindfulness in you in order not to be hi-jacked by your ideas, to see them as ideas, to have distance to them, to see your own resources, to notice how the idea affects your body and to stop it. It requires practice, but all it takes is stopping and seeing from some distance your own fear and the idea that caused it.

Let’s look at it in a specific example. Let’s imagine a manager who is just before the presentation of an important report. The presentation will begin in a couple of minutes. His fear is growing; he knows that his boss will be at this presentation and that the success of the presentation will decide about this man’s future. The stress is growing from minute to minute. What could he do in this situation?

This is a very good example. When you describe this situation, you practically show us how this manager is increasing his fear. He thinks about what he will be doing in a minute, and his fear is growing. Then the next fear comes: ‘If I don’t do it, I will lose my job.’ – There is even more fear coming. So again a fear spiral is created, especially present in important life situations. It was created from many thoughts and many reactions in the body to those thoughts and images.

In this specific situation he needs to understand what is really happening: ‘Ok, I have such thoughts about the future, and they impact my body. Then it would be good for him to take time to feel all this fear and stress, to see it fully, and to let the fear help him to become fully aware fully awake. When he is aware, he will not be hi-jacked. He will be bigger than the fear.

One more thing is important and that is that one has to see one’s own involvement: How much am I involved in creating this fear? Can I stop identifying? Can I take a step back and see this situation from a distance? When our manager stops and becomes fully aware of everything that is happening in him, before he enters a conference hall, he will be more present, he will not be so afraid to speak and he will have better connection to his intelligence than when he completely identifies with his fear.

If he is lucky he will even be able to use the fear as fuel to become even more aware and awake. Fear is nothing else than life force and depending on how we relate to it we either are ruled by fear or awaked by fear.

This is a very practical way and I can sense that it is very helpful in feeling many life situations. I have an impression that many of us experience this winding up of the fear spiral every day.

What is funny is that the mechanism of such body/mind loops also appears when we fall in love. You look at the handsome man and you feel nice. Then you start imaging how nice he is, and slowly, on the basis of your images/ideas (and not facts) you begin to create even more pleasant feelings in your body. When you begin to believe in those feelings you just created yourself, you can start developing more ideas: ‘Perhaps he is really interested in me.’ You can have an image in your head, how wonderful it will be to be together. The result is a whole load of pleasant, warm feelings. We begin to really feel them, as if they were true. You created all these emotions with your own thoughts and the reality is that you met him a moment ago in the street and he smiled at you – Nothing else. I think it often happens to us, women and probably also to men. This is the same mental spiral as in the case of fear. The only difference is that this time it is pleasurable.

Are you laughing because you know it from your own experience?

Absolutely, I do! This happens to me every time when I meet a handsome man.

The problem is that you don’t really see a real man, just your idea of him. When the feelings pass, you feel like a drug-addict after going off a drug. Here again what is helpful is awareness: What is true? What is an image or an idea? Ok, he smiled, this is a fact. We had a nice connection and I felt pleasure in the body. This is a fact. This is actually happening here and now. But the whole rest of it are fantasies. It is all about seeing what our minds are producing and what is reality. In this way you will be able to have real connection with this person, the way he or she is, and not with your projections (ideas) about him or her.

Coming back to achieving goals without the inner pressure from fear, what can Zen Coaching teach us?

The Zen Coaching approach to reaching goals is different from other types of coaching. First of all, we work with internal goals, and not external, because the majority of the external goals is an expression of longing for an inner state. When I say that I want to buy a car, I don’t really long for a car. I can long for a sense of worthiness or a sense of safety that a car will give me. My deepest desire is the experience of the sense of self-esteem and safety in me.

When we set ourselves some outer goals it means that there is some inner longing, the longing to connect with those qualities in me. In Zen Coaching we support people in translating outer goals into inner goals. If you long to meet a man, because your longing is to connect with love, creativity and intimacy, then instead of helping you find the right man, I will help you to connect with those qualities in you. When you are connected with love in yourself, you have direct access to what you are longing for already, and you will beam with this quality. From this place in you it will be much easier to attract a man. This is a completely different quality to when you have the focus outside of yourself, spending your time thinking about who that man should be. When you connect to this quality inside yourself you begin to experience it right away. You begin to live it, instead of postponing the fulfilment and making yourself dependent of whether or not somone wants you.

One of the pillars of Zen Coaching is begin here and now. Stopping requires connection to here and now. How can we be more here and now?

By stopping (she laughs). This is the basis. Usually our minds are busy with something happening outside of this moment. You have to stop thinking about the future, stop getting involved in creating images and ideas, stop getting away from what is happening here and now.

What can a person considering joining the Zen Coaching training expect from it?

Zen Coaching is not a traditional form of learning – where I am a teacher and you have to acquire and remember everything I said in order to learn this approach to coaching.

This is more of an invitation to integrate different ways of looking at life and see how they work in practice and in exercises.

Zen Coaching training is focused on the process and on experience. We focus on how knowing ourselves better increases the sense of relaxation enjoyment and grounding in the moment. During this training there are exercises in pairs, a lot of guided meditations and practices deepening our awareness, there is also a theoretical part supporting understanding of your experiences. We emphasise creating a friendly space, where you can begin to relax and start experiencing your own individual process in a safe nonjudgmental atmosphere.

See more from Tine and her work

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