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How to Find Compassion When Judgment Arises

Wolf Picture as reminder

In my office hangs a picture of a wolf. When I was a tween, my mother won first place at the Orange County Fair for this picture. She shot it at a small zoo in Big Bear on a family vacation. It reminds me to be a compassionate teacher.

Wolf packs have a natural hierarchy with an alpha male and female leaders, who are also often parents to the rest of the pack. Each pack member plays an important role within the pack, and if one member becomes injured or dies, it greatly impacts the survival of the pack as a whole. They’re strategic hunters and fierce protectors of each other.

Yet, the alphas are playful and extremely patient teachers. Watching adult wolves play with pups, one would liken them to any domesticated dog. They recognize that to lead, teach and inspire requires a light touch. I try to take the same approach with my coaching.

When we’re compassionate, we see all as one, equals on different parts of the same journey toward peace, joy and freedom. From this perspective, we can understand others from deep within ourselves and as a result, our actions and words come out of love. And we are inspired to be playful in our interactions.

It’s not always that easy to approach every one we come in contact with, with compassion. I, too, can be judgmental when my ego feels wronged or self-righteous. When I see myself as separate from the other, when I don’t have a common connection to link me to empathy and compassion, I drive a wedge between us. That wedge is burdensome and takes away from my work and purpose.

What helps bridge that gap is to become an alpha wolf. Even if I can’t immediately see myself in the other, I know that most often the actions that I perceive as wronging me are merely a misstep by a young pup that is still learning. If they’re caught up their own mind’s fear-chatter, they don’t know what they don’t know yet. And THAT stage of life I remember. That lights my compassion fire.

From that heart-space, I find patience and am inspired to playfully engage them as an alpha wolf, who is ready to lead by example and help them find their place in the pack. Because each of us has a role to play, and each of us is critically important. We wouldn’t be here otherwise.

When you find yourself judging or feeling separate from someone who triggers you, I invite you to also become an alpha wolf. Ask yourself, “How would I engage with this person if they were my child?” My hunch is your word choice and actions would dramatically change. Try coming from that place’s perspective and watch what happens.

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Coaches Benefit from Coaching, Too

Coaching in Nature

This past weekend I hosted my first retreat. Even though I’ve planned and produced a plethora of events throughout my career, they’ve always been for someone else. I had no idea how even the planning process would bring up my vulnerabilities, insecurities and more opportunities for self-growth through self-coaching.

In complete transparency, I have a fear of public speaking. I also don’t like to be in the spotlight and much prefer working behind the scenes. Unlike coaching one-on-one, the thought of coaching at scale made my heart palpitate, my palms sweat, and my breathing shallow and gasp-y. So I attended a class on EFT Tapping for that phobia, and it helped immensely.

At one point, I asked my retreat partner (who is a yoga instructor) if she wanted to put her picture on a flyer instead of a generic beach shot. She then suggested that both our pictures be inserted, and my lizard brain made that mean I would be judged unworthy. (How ridiculous that sounds now!)

For anyone who thinks coaches somehow live a painful-thought-free life, guess again. Our thoughts are as chatty and catty as anyone’s. The difference is that we have the tools, and have built up the noticing and awareness muscle to recognize when it is time put those tools to good use. (And we help our clients learn to do that on their own, too!)

The morning of our first retreat day, I had nervous energy that I needed to release. I would not consider myself a runner (in the traditional sense), yet after setting up, I ran a half-mile simply to release that reptilian adrenaline. Then, with intention, I shook out whatever was left.

On my walk back to our little space on the beach, I asked my spirit animals to show me how I can best be present, grounded and a vessel for sharing knowledge. One of my core beasties is the dolphin, who showed up as a pod swimming together where the waves were breaking. In general, dolphins sense where other members are in their pod and swim together like one body, flowing in a particular direction.

Originally, we had wanted attendees to sit under tents at picnic benches while I stood and spoke with them. That morning, it didn’t feel right. So we asked folks to stay on their mats while I stood. That still wasn’t dolphin enough – yet. It felt like I was ‘on stage’ giving a performance rather than my authentic, true self.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught my dolphins’ swimming (once again) as a unified group. This prompted suggesting that we form a circle with our yoga mats and towels to all sit together, myself included. My fear and self-consciousness immediately dissipated as we all sat eye-level with each other. Words flowed, information came forth organically and we found a rhythm. I simply needed to be a part of the pod.

The weekend was a success and I’m hugely grateful for every person who joined us. Timing had an easy cadence, folks opened up to the tools, and each component of conversation wove seamlessly into the next topic. Two days of emotional, mental and physical release, as well as reconnecting to bodies, spirits and each other. My gratitude abounds.

If I can impart any guidance to my fellow coaches, it’s this: Keep self-coaching, use the tools you know and love, pay attention to your body compass and adjust accordingly. It’s ok to change the plan if it feels right to do so. Follow the signs.