Where can we find the richest source of love, creativity, wisdom and faith?
Those treasures that we all seek in others and ask for in our prayers are already here and available, contained inside each one of us. The greatest act of self-care we can ever do is to start our inner journey, to explore self, to get access to our spiritual sources and stay connected. That is what we call a Spiritual Work or Spiritual Journey. Humanity’s Great Masters have walked all that way for themselves and for us, passing on their wisdom, their guiding principles, and their practices. However, a Spiritual Journey is not a tourist's path, and we can’t simply mindlessly walk behind our guide.
It is ultimately an individual experience. It requires our full presence in the NOW with a deep inward focus both at mental and physical levels. What we really need to make this Spiritual Journey is a system of personal principles and mental models that will keep us moving forward, no matter what the current weather forecast is for us. How shall we know how to keep on track?
Marilyn Atkinson created an innovative course called Deep Coaching based on over-arching overviews of spiritual development pathways, taken from decades of direct experience in many personal growth activities and practices. Marilyn has been interested in all great religions and has explored their varying spiritual paths, including Sufi and Buddhist teachings, gaining a diverse breadth of insight into what can keep us spiritually focused, and learning how to impart that insight to others.
As an NLP master modeler, she has modeled great language learners, public speakers, and coaches. But it's all rooted in her deep study of Spiritual Masters of different types. During the course of her lifetime, Marilyn has become a senior teacher in the Integral Pathways towards Transformation of human possibilities. In this interview, she offers her insight into the spiritual side of coaching, and explains how the Deep Coaching course can transform people spiritually and empower them to keep moving forward along their Spiritual Journey.
Teaching others how to keep on track in their Spiritual Journey was the founding focus of Marilyn Atkinson when she designed the program. Marilyn is well known globally as an originator of the Advanced Solution-Focused and Outcome-Oriented Coaching model, known as Ericksonian Integral Coaching, and the spiritual area has always been a key focus of Marilyn Atkinson’s work and her life.
Q. Marilyn, when we experience spirituality it becomes a source of inspiration and orientation in life. That’s exactly what happens in coaching! So can we position coaching as a new spiritual way?
Marilyn Atkinson: Absolutely! In fact, the name Spiritual Coaching is a great name. Sometimes people get it mixed up with religion, but it is entirely separate. Spirit means breath. It means finding your deeper knowledge -- your inner truth if you like -- the way in which you can work with yourself. Your inner awareness opens in a very wonderful way when you start to explore it. That is where self-coaching comes in. And developing spiritual awareness may or may not tie into any of the traditional spiritual paths at all. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.
Powerful coaching allows people to have a fresh view of their spirituality. It can weave together insights from many areas or can assist people to step even further along the spiritual path they are actually on. Or it can help them forge a brand new pathway.
If you look at the word “inspiration" it actually means “to inspire, to breathe in, to take in.” When we breathe in and breathe out and we are getting into a rhythm with ourselves, very deep insights can happen. And that also begins very powerfully with coaching. When we ask questions inward, take them in, ponder them, we then begin to realize new aspects of what we are truly engaged with as our life game.
Q. When we say Deep Coaching, I start to think of a measuring stick, and I question whether we can measure our AS-IS spiritual level.
Marilyn Atkinson: Well, mapping our spiritual direction can be exciting work, and that’s what Deep Coaching is all about. Not someone else evaluating you or training you in a practice, but you discovering for yourself how to create your own inner awareness system to determine where you are, where you have been before, and where you want to be. It’s about your next step in that self-discovery.
You, first of all, discover how to get in touch with your own inner scale and how to watch for it and recognize it. You begin to key into the landmarks when you are moving ahead and what that means. We will do a huge stretch, which we call Moving Up the Levels of Consciousness. I don’t know if you can imagine a room about this size (80 square meters/850 square feet), transformed into a framework for exploring consciousness.
In coaching, we work with scales from 1 to 10. But suppose you could think of a self-development scale from 1 to 1000. If you could, think of all the different levels and kinds of consciousness on a scale from 1 to a 1000 and imagine moving through stations using a measured room to explore them. And, if you could begin to think of the strongest spiritual teachers that have assisted humanity from the early times, you begin to get a few ideas about what the course makes possible. We can learn from the Masters and wisdom holders, and how they moved in their own spiritual journey to move humanity forward. Then you begin to be able to imagine how you might use this room.
When we explore inwardly we simply pay attention, and then what we do (and this is the most wonderful exploration) is to begin to link it to the different states we explore in our life, which may be called developing and balancing in our “Very High States” - the worthy states for our inner world. For example, children very easily go into states of absolute love. Have you noticed that?
In the Deep Coaching course, participants spend some time in the room of consciousness and explore it from the highly creative states of a child. They notice what it is like to move into a high state of awareness as a child. Everyone can actually do that! You have been there, and you know this inner territory. It’s not so difficult to leave your whole adult persona behind and once again and start to explore your life from the awareness, the strength of love, and the value you brought to your life as a child.
Q. How does this course assist people in moving on or starting their own discovery?
Marilyn Atkinson: The Deep Coaching course includes “Four Alignment Stretches”, which create some fundamental distinctions in the key areas where people can advance their own inner development:
- The Coach Position Stretch: One place where people can actively make powerful gains with inner awareness is in developing an effective coach position with both clients and their own inner “mind theater.” This program really assists people in developing high-level coach position awareness. People build an amazing capacity to develop a powerful coach position through the program. And they really surprise themselves how far they can move. When you study many meditation practices one practice is called building an inner “Observer”.
Meditators spent a lot of time exploring how to maintain their focus. Their aim is being able to maintain a state of inner balance no matter what is happening around them. In this program, we do the same, training people on how to maintain their awareness no matter what is going on.
- The Perceptual Position Stretch: This powerful work means we assist you to create a strong ability to take different points of view. Many times people don’t even know that they are locked into certain points of view, and so we assist you to get flexible with inner awareness so you can step into different points of view in some wonderful ways. Perceptual positions have to do with the richness of your awareness. The Art & Science of Coaching programs train coaches to do a point of view shift using an “as-if” framework.
We ask: "Suppose you could look from this person’s point of view, or this system’s point of view, or that persons’ point of view". In The Advance of the Spirit program with our advanced Perceptual Position Stretch, you discover how to stay balanced in your own perception effectively, not to go crashing into negative emotional states, and then painfully pull yourselves out to a position where you once again can see a little more about what is going on.
- The Relationship Stretch: The Relationship Stretch is an expanded level of relationship awareness. People sometimes dissociate from their own spiritual advance because of relationship fears. We learn a lot when we listen to how people describe their relationships with others. You see, when people experience others emotionally, it tends to be because either they like them or not. Either they can include them or will not. Emotional responses lead to “yes/no” and “either/or” questions and not to curiosity. In the program, you learn wonderful ways to widen this. When we develop spiritually, we notice how people are essentially whole and also similar to us in their desire to grow further. We notice the shared bond we have. We compassionately notice the steps they are on in their own journey. We start to really respond to each person from an awareness of their unique gifts. We see the wholeness of life and respond to this person’s development as a vision holder. We move past a lot of relationship gremlins (or fears).
- The Time Stretch: In this multifaceted wonderful program, we also perform a Time Stretch. This is where we assist people to move beyond, integrate and transform their “Time Gremlins.” Our Time Gremlins are hard on us, and it is the same in multiple cultures around the world. They show up as serious little voices constantly saying: “What a waste! You wasted your time there.” Some part of you is biting you as if you should have “developed a different future".
We assist people to move past, and integrate, and transform their “Time Gremlins” – that is what we call A Time Stretch. We learn how to actually expand into the experience of “all Humanity through time” -- the development of “Humanity Time” -- really stretching your awareness out to a time frame that includes thousands of years of humanity’s advance, an awareness which includes this moment and all moments in a really integrated way, so you feel it as a presence. It is very enlightening to make this stretch; also very humbling. This is a wonderful way to add time awareness to your life as the presence of the “eternal.” Living in an expanded time gives you a lot more humor.
Expanded Time Awareness assists us to build what we call an integral Spiritual System. Once people have discovered these distinctions they can create a much more comprehensive map of inner wholeness. As they begin to really pay attention they build discernment and awareness of their own shifts. By day four we finally work with the great map of consciousness. The map itself is incredible! It allows people to really explore different qualities of Consciousness, and you will develop a wide field of awareness, that is still very much your own passionate journey. We call this an Integral Transformation Course because we find our integrity by stretching all the four dimensions of integral awareness.
We are looking at the space of developing awareness, of ourselves as holders of time, as holders of coach position, as holders of perception and as holders of life development. And you build a clear engagement with your own development in these areas and learn how to integrate them into one combined internal awareness of who you are being and becoming.
Q. It sounds like they start being connected to Transpersonal.
Marilyn Atkinson: Exactly! This is a transpersonal experience. As we move on we explore what it means to think from the standpoint of "WE." People start to deeply respect the largeness of being human.
Q. What’s happening to our Gremlins (or fears) as we advance our spiritual journey?
Marilyn Atkinson: (Laughs) They just disappear, as after all, they are just small fears. We no longer give them a function. They are not needed to do a job for us anymore: Bye-bye. This is a wonderful way to live your life. And it gives you a lot more humour. It begins to build your larger life, and yourself as a participant in that.
Q. What are some Languages of Spirit which people learn during the course?
Marilyn Atkinson: Well one is the Language of Vision, to visualize a journey of a great mentor. This allows us to trust our ability to envision our inner purpose powerfully. Second is the Language of Music. We use music through the course; we use various types of spiritually equivalent music that take us further on our inner journey. We also create an authentic bond with the group. The participants share what they experience in a safe environment. This means that they are being listened to by people who offer an environment of deep trust.
Q. How do tools and exercised in Deep Coaching help people to build their mental, intellectual and emotional powers?
Marilyn Atkinson: That’s a great question. First of all, people get to actually realize the territory of Spirit experientially. It’s very different from thinking about transformational states. When you actively step into and genuinely feel what it’s like as you actively move into a state of love, or to a state of joy, there is a deep, deep awareness of presence. You feel it through your whole body.
Now as we recognize that we make that even more available to ourselves, it shifts the experience of being alive and people start to recognize that field of presence – to be deeply alive, and aware of the call of inner awareness. People become profoundly aware that they have much more potential than they thought. They can move much deeper into their own life than they thought -- that they know much more than they thought, and they can trust themselves much more than they thought.
Another place we explore is to deeply touch the awareness of the wisdom holders that we deeply respect. Everybody here may have spiritual teachers and masters, as well as traditions and religious systems that you have learned from. And so, with great respect, we walk in the shoes of a Master. We experience their questions and explorations. What we do – we walk in shoes of a Master and even explore a little bit of their journey. We do it by experiencing and sensing this person’s journey and their levels of consciousness in ourselves. That is our exploration – our private exploration. This is a very powerful journey.
People learn powerfully to move towards what deeply lights up their life. They begin to recognize what an enlightened state is because when we deeply light up our values, we can start to integrate and experience these deeper levels of our own meaningful awareness.