For the past several months my life has been consumed by the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program, in Washington, DC. The program, which leads to certification as a leadership coach through the International Coaching Federation (ICF) is rigorous and intensive, requiring a real in-person commitment to showing up every month to whom you are as a leader, coach, and person in the world. It also asks you to to think about how you can become more purposeful, skillful and centered in your own life. “Success” in the program means asking what you have to learn personally from the process of coaching. In essence, the program is one long coaching session with oneself, as folks in my cohort and I have done lots of intensive introspection on the nature of our personal stories, the intensity of our personal realities, and the paradox of their self-creation–you can’t change what you don’t notice is an essential precept here–all as we are practicing live coaching. I wonder about this as a parallel for the transformation of our teaching sector: what are the stories we tell ourselves about our work, and how can we change those stories?
As coaches, we offer our cohort a set of resources, explicitly joining our offerings to the many other coaches who have graduated from the program. These resources join a huge pool of other leadership and human development sources.
The two resources I call out here point to critical pieces of my own coaching practice, involving helping folks work with self-acceptance and self-compassion, and also my belief in the power of communities of caring. I offer them here as a beginning, a pool of resources to changing our stories in education.
Name of Resource: Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha, by Tara Brach (2003)
Type: Book and accompanying Audio CDs
This book, and the accompanying CDs on meditations for emotional healing, are useful for individuals who struggle the “trance of deficiency,” lack of self-acceptance, judgment and shame. Brach, founder and senior teacher of the Insight Meditation Community in Washington, DC, wrote this book (then her first) from the standpoint of a single mother working through her own difficult journey of self-compassion and self-acceptance. The book is down to earth, offering an initial bridge to awareness of a negative internal dialog, for individuals who have had little practice noticing their self-talk. In each chapter Brach offers several guided meditation practices on softening to pain, learning to unclench and open to experience, pausing, and awakening the heart to compassion.
This book, and Brach’s accompanying CDs, are especially useful in understanding how to work with trauma, finding forgiveness, experiencing greater compassion, and in cultivating self-acceptance. The practices it offers are simple and straightforward; Brach’s voice is also healing and reassuring if readers are inclined to listen to the accompanying CDs.
I personally have also experienced Brach as a meditation teacher, and she is one of the most ego-less, straightforward presences I have ever encountered. It was instructive simply to be in her presence; her lack of it “being about me” has a powerful lesson in itself.
Each chapter in the book describes several meditation practices step by step; the CDs take the listener on meditative journeys of about 20 minutes each. This book speaks directly to the difficulty we often have dealing with strong emotions, and straightforwardly offers a pathway to working with them. Available at Amazon: Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha, by Tara Brach (2003)
Here’s another resource for renewal I can’t recommend highly enough. I’m going to Kripalu this weekend.
At one of the foremost retreat centers on the East Coast, R&R Retreat-goers can plan a day-long, weekend, or four-or-five day retreat of relaxation, gentle yoga, hiking, and all-natural and delicious, healthful meals.
R&R packages are extremely flexible and relatively inexpensive: you go and pay the R&R rate and can partake in a great array of body, mind and spiritual one or two-hour programs throughout the day, or do nothing at all except enjoy the beauty of the retreat center and experience an environment where everyone is committed to self-care, relaxation and renewal.
Kripalu is non-denominational and spiritual in the broadest sense; welcoming and accepting, low-key, non-spa-like, humble and easy going. No one dresses up, and many folks just wear yoga clothes all day long. Physically, the retreat is a former Catholic monastery set in the Berkshire mountains, with extraordinarily beautiful mountain views, a lovely lake for swimming, and walking trails on the property. Accommodations are modest, although a newer wing has been added that has a more hotel-like atmosphere (more expensive, obviously).
The town of Lenox, Massachusetts is also where the Tanglewood Music Festival is held every summer, and Lenox and Stockbridge are tourist-attraction towns for people who need a reason to visit this part of the world.
Kripalu R&R packages are useful for individuals who are experiencing difficulty pausing and stopping in their lives. The flexibility and low-barrier-to-entry packages allow for great choice of how time off is spent, and simply being at Kripalu allows individuals to experience what it feels like to spend a whole day, or a whole weekend, taking care of oneself, eating well, exercising mindfully, and enjoying natural beauty in the community of others similarly inclined. If this is not sufficiently stimulating, the Center also offers dozens of programs a month for more specific types of spiritual, physical, or mindfulness experiences.
Thousands of people visit Kripalu from all over the world every year, and yet it still maintains a sense of uncrowded responsiveness and reflection. I, and many of my clients, have found Kripalu an important spiritual stopping place and an opportunity to reflect on important values and to reset life goals.
Online resources that explain the R&R packages are extensive. Making arrangements via the website are exceptionally easy, and you can also talk to them on the phone at 866.200.5203.
At Kripalu, I appreciate the range of retreat options available in one place, without a sense of hurry, pressure, or commercial scale-up. Kripalu faculty are engaged in the work of mindfulness, reflection, and more healthy living as a matter of principle, and the spirit of the place reflects this. This is not true of all retreat centers. This is NOT a spa.
You do not have to be a yoga master to feel comfortable here.
What are you doing to take care of yourself, educational transformer? If you are not involved in self-care, how is this affecting your work?