This article was originally published on the Mindful Leader blog in July 2020.
When folks are considering Integral Coach training, they often bring very reasonable questions like:
- Can I leave early on the last day?
- Can I duck out for an hour to join a work meeting?
- Can I miss a day of Session Three to attend a socially distant wedding/company event/graduation?
These are all perfectly understandable scenarios, which is why it can be surprising to learn that our answer to each of these questions is “no.” We require students to be fully present during all days of all our programs, and that there are even assignments during lunch breaks (with time built in for self-care, of course). If there’s a known event scheduled for one of the weekends of a particular session of the yearlong training, we ask students to join a different cohort.
The reasons for this are myriad. The biggest one is that it takes time and space—usually more than we’d like it to take—for our minds and bodies to get used to something new. And ‘something new’ is precisely what Integral Coaching invites people into. In order to step out of our everyday habits and begin to operate in a bigger field of possibility, we need to actually live there (not just think or talk about it).
This can be scary because, at least at first, most of that bigger space is filled with emptiness and not-knowing. So it makes sense that we would lead with the questions we do when we’re considering a transformational program. We’re used to the rhythms of our lives and, sensing the disruption, our minds bring up questions like:
- Can I afford to spend the time, money, or energy?
- What might it interfere with?
- Who else may need me on those days?
These questions are stern and protective guards stationed at the gate of our growth. Even when it’s abundantly clear that we need to say yes to an opportunity, at the very least we need to negotiate with the guards, if not outright beg or bribe them. If we’re lucky, they’ll let us through.
But even if we do make it to the event, we likely spend the first part of it preoccupied with that email we checked before walking in, hoping the Wi-Fi stays connected, or generally wondering how the world could possibly be operating on its own without us.
Eventually, though, the reality of why we’re here in the first place begins to overtake the spin. More often than not, by the end of the day or days, quotidian existence feels like a foreign land to which we’re returning with some very strange souvenirs.
From a basic survival standpoint, the guards are onto something. We’re bucking homeostasis by toggling between very different states of being and, if the program fulfilled its intention, re-entering daily life with a piece of the liminal attached to us. Our automated survival mechanisms aren’t cool with this. They’ll protect us for as long as they can, forcing us sometimes to drag them into these sessions with us until they give up and go wait for us at home.
Considering all this, the decision to engage in a transformational program is not merely a matter of “giving ourselves the space,” though often it’s framed that way. As with the decision process itself, our minds and bodies need the time it takes to make the transition from the hypnotizing rhythm of daily life to the more liminal space of transformation.
Integral Coach training programs are an invitation to live in this tension, this liminality. It’s uncomfortable and requires a lot from us, and it’s necessary to cultivate because it’s precisely what we’ll be asking of our clients to help them grow.
And we don’t expect you to do this alone. On the contrary, lots of support is built in, which is another reason it is important that all participants bring their full presence to every day of every course. We’re entering this new territory together, and need everyone’s attention and intention to form a robust container of transformation and change.
The first step into life-changing programs such as these are the bravest because we’re leaving pieces of what we know behind—in some cases permanently—without really knowing what lies ahead. We must be willing to dive into unfamiliar territory, acknowledging our hesitation and claiming this new and unknown space for ourselves. We trust that you have the courage and capacity to step in.
Joy is the Communications Director at New Ventures West.