A Zen coach has been gaining popularity for some time. But in the recent times of stress and uncertainty, this form of coaching has become all the rage. What is Zen coaching exactly and why is it suddenly so popular?
Here is a video that explains what Zen coaching is all about. A very good definition explained here is a Zen coach trains you for “showing up for what shows up.”
Can I Be a Successful Zen Coach?
You may be wondering if Zen coaching is the right choice for you.
- Will you be able to get clients as a Zen coach?
- Can you earn enough money to survive?
- Does a Zen coach have a better chance of success than more mainstream niches such as executive, spiritual or success coach?
- Will it be challenging to get noticed and advertise your services?
Believe it or not, everyone has the same concerns about their coaching services in a tough market.
Relax. Your concerns are all valid. All economies are now suffering losses. Coaches are worried about their jobs, too.
Who is a Zen Coach?
In order to understand how Zen coaching impacts lives, let us understand what a Zen coach does.
When you type in Zen coaching in Google, there is one description that always pops up. Many define this coaching form as a powerful approach towards living.
Zen coaching is based on the teachings of different masters for example Thich Nhat Hanh, Marshall B Rosenberg and A.H. Almaas to name a few.
Principles of Zen Coaching
Kåre Landfald approaches Zen coaching as a “powerful, effortless coaching method and life approach that supports a profound inner journey, beneficial action and authentic relationships with others”.
He describes the state of Zen as “presence, awareness, mindfulness, relaxed alertness, true nature.” It is all about “living deeply connected with life’s essence as it unfolds and manifests in surprising and creative ways from moment to moment”.
Combined with this mantra is the basic principle of coaching. He defines coaching as “the art of supporting people in discovering for themselves their own inner resources and answers to their own questions. This is done mainly through deep, respectful listening and powerful questions.”
You can already start relating to a lot of coaching principles already, can’t you?
That is because the principles are meant to support everyday living for people.
The underlying principles of Kåre Landfald’s theory are in Zen Buddhism. According to this form of Buddhism, the key to self-discovery is meditation, known as Zazen. The latter is described as “the experience of living from moment to moment, in the here and now.” In this state, the individual may experience increased vigilance over themselves and self-discovery.
I will now paraphrase the main elements of this practice of Zen coaching.
Landfald believes that each person wishes to be more fully herself. Dissatisfaction and unhappiness originate from people not being in alignment with who they truly are. The purpose of the coach is to help the client to find the root of any issues that are standing in the way of this. The coach supports the client to be fully present at the moment using mindfulness techniques. In this state of awareness and presence, the client and coach work to explore self-limiting beliefs and strengths. Self-limiting beliefs are then adjusted by helping clients to identify their true nature as a state of awareness at the moment. This also helps loosen their attachment to their current mental positions, judgments and behaviors.
Relating to the Self and others
Landfald mentions in his website that the practice of Zen coaching supports us “in resting with both ourselves and others when relating, and connect heart to heart in any situation that may occur.”
This ability to connect with the self and others is also something that coaches focus on.
He explains that we live in a world where many of us focus more on getting heard. We offer well-intended comments and advice. But we 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.”
He highlights the A-B-C practice while communicating:
- 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, he says. It helps create the kind of “heart connection we long for” in every moment when relating with others.
If you are as fascinated by the power of the mind as I am, do read up my earlier blog Become a Mindfulness Coach.
Feminine View of a Zen Coach
Her notion of Zen coaching is a “fiercely feminine” one. Her book, “A Bigger Sky: Awakening a fierce feminine Buddhism,” is a powerful memoir of healing, strength and spiritual awakening.
“A Bigger Sky explores what it means to fill the gaps of a Buddhism created by and for men, to navigate the seemingly contradictory domains of secular and spiritual life, and to walk a path through the heart of the world.”
The story is her personal spiritual journey that seeks to inspire by shining “a light on pathways we can walk to become whole”.
Her bio on her coaching page speaks directly to executives and leaders.
“We offer leadership development programs that work from the inside out, growing the whole person – head, heart and body. Because of this full engagement, radical transformation is possible. Increased resilience (the super capacity), expanded self-awareness, stronger relationships and insanely good creativity, collaboration and communication are some of the results our participants experience. Personal Excellence Programs (aka PEP) offer a clear path forward for leaders to transform their insights and self-awareness into effective behavior change that lasts.”
The key principles of her coaching program incorporate the following essential elements. I have used the following directly from her website. To find out more, do contact her directly.
Her principles are based on the following points.
Lasting behavior change and growth requires developing the whole person – head, heart and body – deepening intellectual, emotional and somatic intelligence.
Instead of complying with what others think one “should do”, we invite leaders to choose a personal and meaningful development focus that taps into their heartfelt passion and firm commitment to stay engaged and grow – even when it gets hard.
People grow best in community
We all have “blind spots”! Getting insightful and compassionate feedback from people we trust is a powerful way to create awareness of what we can’t clearly see about ourselves. Our commitment is to create a safe, nourishing environment for participants to share and learn from one another. Being open and authentic in this way accelerates growth.
Mindfulness is about unhooking from reactivity and learning to observe oneself in real time. By cultivating mindfulness, leaders will learn to see themselves (and others) more clearly. And, based on this clear-seeing, they can make wise choices and respond to life with greater skill and effectiveness.
Sustainable growth takes time
Information transfer only needs to happen once to be successful. Embodied learning is a dynamic, living process that takes root over time. There are no shortcuts to lasting behavior change!
Are you confused about which form of Zen coaching to follow? Well, at the end of this blog I have provided the link to some books and a free webinar that I will host. Why don’t you sign up for the webinar as a first step? Read up more on how to go about becoming a Zen coach. If you have any questions, I will be happy to help.
Traits of a Zen Coach
There are several traits that all good coaches have. But over the years I have found that there are some traits that all the great coaches definitely have. There are several such traits mentioned as part of Landfald’s model of Zen Coaching.
Landfald mentions the following traits. I have provided some inputs into what these mean from a coaching perspective.
Listening from “inner spaciousness”
The coach should listen in silence and ask open and reflective questions. Then she needs to give the client time and space to respond. Since a coach’s main responsibility is to act as a sounding board, the more you listen the more you will get to help. Listen without a bias.
Helping through non-helping
The coach is present to support the client by being open and curious. Again, this goes with the earlier point. Listen without trying to solve problems. It is the client’s job to arrive at solutions after listing out what the problems are.
The coach supports the client to be fully present in the moment by being fully present and aware themselves. This is what we call “practice what you preach”. It is important that the client sees you modeling the behavior you want them to follow.
Support in connecting with self
Based on the Zen Buddhist belief that we suffer because we are disconnected from our true nature, Zen coaching seeks to help the client to reconnect. As coaches, we often tell our clients to go deep inside to figure out where the root of the problem is. Once there is clarity, we believe the client is motivated to change.
The coach adapts the techniques they use to the evolving needs of the client. This is easy to understand, is it not? Every client comes with a specific problem. And the coach must help with the needs of each and every client.
The most important attribute however is internal. Most people perceive Zen coaches as calm, patient and peaceful individuals. They are not necessarily removed from everyday life. But they work to keep an inner calm through the storm. The inner “balance” never falters in the face of adversity.
Even with these qualities, you may doubt yourself. How can you take your career online? How can you market your brand?
Do you want to seek formal training from a reputed institute? Perhaps you are wondering which one is good for you. In that case, you may also want to read my blog How to Select the Best Coaching Training Program in 2021.
And if you are just beginning your coaching practice, here is an article to help jumpstart your career.
In Quest of Becoming a Good Zen Coach
In this article, I have talked about the basic principles of Zen coaching and how it can support clients to reach their full potential.
The principles behind Zen coaching can be learnt by everybody. But those who are already working with clients who are managers, coaches, social workers, or teachers may consider this particularly relevant as part of their coaching journey.
But that is not all.
The principles of Zen coaching help you to connect with the deeper part of yourself, irrespective of which coaching niche you follow. The learning will also help you guide your clients and family/friends through the process of self-discovery and transformation.
This is an important skill for every coach, is it not?
Coaching is a lifelong learning process. Keeping abreast of the latest research in your niche will help you stay focussed.
Because even the best of us need refresher courses to stay updated!
Books for a Zen Coach
There are several books written on Zen coaching that you may find helpful.
Some of them are:
- Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryū Suzuki
- What Is Zen? by Alan Watts
- The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau
- Osho Therapy
- The Zen Way of Counseling: A Meditative Approach to Working with People by Svagito R. Liebermeister
- The Musician Samurai Code: A Modern Coaching Zen Guide for Everlasting Artistic Souls by Laurent Boghossian
- Zen Tennis: Playing in the Zone by Bill Scanlon and Joseph Parent
- The Zen Life: Spiritual Training for Modern Times by Alex Mill
- A Shift to Love: Zen Stories and Lessons by Alex Mill
This website also lists a number of books related to Zen coaching:
- “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Non-violent Communication” by Marshall B Rosenberg
- “Co-Active Coaching: New Skills for Coaching People toward Success in Work and Life” by Laura Whitworth and others
- “Elements of the Real in Man” (Diamond Heart Series, Book 1), A H Almaas
- “The Power of Focusing” by Ann Weisser Cornell
- “Embracing Our Selves – The Voice Dialogue Manual” by Hal and Sidra Stone
Other recommended authors and their books mentioned on the same website include:
Almaas (A. H. Almaas)
- Brilliancy: The Essence of Intelligence
- Diamond Heart Book series
- Enneagram of Passions and Virtues
- Essence with the Elixir of Enlightenment
- Facets of Unity: The Enneagram of Holy Ideas
- Luminous Hearts Journey
- Pearl Beyond Price
- Spacecruiser Inquiry
- The Diamond Approach
- The Inner Journey Home: Soul´s Realization of the Unity of Reality
- The Point of Existence
- The Power of Divine Eros: The Illuminating Force of Love in Everyday Life (by A. H. Almaas and Karen Johnson)
- The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram
- The Unfolding Now
- Falling Into Grace
Ardagh (Arjuna Ardagh)
- Better than Sex
Barber (Judy Barber)
- Good Question: The Art of Asking Questions to Bring About Positive Change
Berg (Morten Emil Berg)
- Coaching (Norwegian)
Bly (Robert Bly)
- A Little Book on the Human Shadow
Brown (Byron Brown)
- Soul without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within
Douglas-Klotz (Neil Douglas-Klotz)
- The Little Book of Sufi Stories
Dowell (John Dowell)
- Why Am I Afraid to Love?
Downey (Myles Downey)
- Effective Coaching: Lessons From the Coach’s Coach
- Zen Buddhism: A History
O Connor and Lages (Joseph O Connor and Andrea Lages)
- Coaching With NLP
Odier (Daniel Odier)
- Desire: The Tantric Path to Awakening
- Books I have Loved
- Buddha Zen Tao Tantra
- Meditation: The First and Last Freedom
- Returning to The Source
- The Book: An Introduction to the Teachings of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
- The Book of Secrets: Talks on the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra
- The No Book: No Buddha, No Teaching, No Discipline
- The Zen Manifesto: Freedom From Oneself
Another list is available here.
Podcasts and Videos for a Zen Coach
There are several YouTube videos and podcasts relevant for you as a Zen coach.