In an Awakening Coaching Training recently, a woman was reporting that when she had guided another student into “Radical Awakening,” all his problems and issues has disappeared, and he had no interest or affinity to them any more. She was concerned if this was a real freedom, or just an avoidance of life.
Facilitating awakening is important, but that is not all we do in coaching. If that was only thing that we did, it would become a kind of denial. To take someone into transcendence, and then say “Look, you’ve got no more problems,” has been the limitation of Satsang, Advaita Vedanta, and non-dual teachings. You can easily guide somebody into a non-dual state, and then say “Look, there are no problems. There is no past, there is no other, so there is no relationship, there is no lack of money, because there is no money. All that existed only in thought – stop thinking and you have no problems at all. All your problems existed just because of duality. Just come back to this non-dual state and everything is perfect.”
This is kind of true, but it is also not acknowledging the full spectrum of our experience. As human beings, we do have access to this non-dual, limitless consciousness, and that is where we access freedom, spaciousness, humor, play and love. That is where we let go and feel spacious: the non-dual realm. But this is not every aspect of your experience. We also inhabit another dimension which is full of duality, full of “me” and the “other,” which does involve money, and being on time, and keeping agreements, and all sorts of things. We need to be able to live in both.
Sometimes suffering is simply caused by overlooking your true nature. If you just remember your true nature, the suffering goes away. But if that was the only thing that we had, it would leave you crippled, unable to face life in all of its multi-dimensional complexity, because you would be addicted then to just staying in this non-dual state, and denying the reality of relationship, injustice, and a million other things. So we want to have both: we want to be able to relax into spaciousness, but also to have the maturity and the courage to face life as it is, in its appearance, and to be able to deal with it skillfully.
The way to have both is having a variety of tools and to use them skillfully. Radical Awakening is a tool we use in Awakening Coaching to bring someone back deeply into awakening. It causes made up problems to disappear. That is an important tool for a coach to have in their toolbox. But you need other tools as well.
When we support a coaching client to enter into a more spacious state of consciousness, the physical determinants of the problem remain as they were, but having more spaciousness, more awareness, changes what the client brings to the problem.
For example, maybe your coaching client is working with somebody, and that person is upset and angry, and does not want to talk about it. That is a real problem, involving another person who feels uncomfortable. Ultimately that is going to require communication skills, and dealing with it. They will have to take some action about that eventually. In the meantime, by relaxing more deeply, by having this kind of awakening to the dimension that has no boundaries, it helps to see that it is just an appearance, just a fleeting mirage. In these moments of awakening, it is like when you are in a movie theatre, and in a moment you realize that it is just a movie. It is not real. It is not really happening. And therefore you do not need to feel so upset by it. This person is not really going to die right now, it is just a movie, it is an actor. And you relax and become more spacious, you can enjoy the movie more. That is the effect of radical awakening, it creates space around experience.
When your client goes back to work, their coworker may initially still be feeling upset. So after radical awakening, the problem remains seemingly untouched. The coworker is still upset, still resentful, still does not want to speak. But now the client is going to experience this in a new way. They are not going to be so reactive, they are going to have a more spacious and a more playful attitude towards the problem state. Having the spaciousness allows for the possibility of not being so identified, not being so wrapped up with it, and it means you can bring more creativity to the situation.
I cannot begin to tell you how benefited I was by my contact with Poonjaji in India. His role in my life was to awaken me to my true nature. It was the most significant meeting in my whole life, I could not possibly overestimate how significant that was. Now I am in a great marriage, a fantastic marriage, we have been together for 13 years and we are in love every moment. I cannot say that I learned any of that from Poonjaji. That was not his skill. He did not teach me the skills I now have to create a great marriage. I also train coaches, I feel like I do it pretty well, I am proud of the results of our coaching training. Poonjaji did not teach me how to train coaches. I also know how to take care of my body pretty well, I do Chi Kung everyday. For somebody who is nearly 60 I think I am in a great physical shape. Poonjaji did not teach me a lot about that either. What he taught me specifically is how can I have this space around experience.
We can make two errors, and they are both detrimental. One error we can make is to deny the importance of awakening. That error means that we just deal with the practicalities of life and we deny our true nature. And of course this is a very common error, it is how the world runs. Most of the world is in denial of this infinite spacious consciousness so we just live in the drama.
But there is another error that we can make, an error made by a very small subculture, which is the error of thinking that awakening to your true nature, on its own, will solve every problem and cause everything to resolve itself. This is blatantly not true. Having this awakening gives you detachment, a feeling of returning home, the recognition of oneness and of the playful transitory nature of your experience. In and of itself it does not give you the skills to resolve problems in the world.
I would say that a really good approach, that serves people in today’s world, has both. It has this awakening to your true nature, fully plugged in, fully activated. But it also has the possibility to bring forth skillful ways of living in the world, so that you can have a great marriage, not have to worry about money, have good health and relationship with your children, and give your gift to the world. When you have all of that going on – you are free, but you are also fully empowered. That is the approach I like.