So, I was coaching this week, and together with my ‘coachee’ we were reflecting on the incremental changes she has felt over the months we have worked together. Although at times the change hasn’t felt huge, what each small realisation and adjustment has done, is enable everything, most days, to become easier, clearer, ‘in flow’.
When she said ‘in flow’ an old metaphor for coaching came to mind. In fact a metaphor for what, I think all of us who are working to improve ourselves do. It involves heavy ice, a river, and an ice pick….
The metaphor is beautifully explained in one of my favourite books – ‘The Space Within‘ by Michael Niell. And in the next few minutes I will attempt to paraphrase it….
So, here’s the story…. in your minds eye see a river, a beautiful river but completely iced over. Under the shiny ice the river is flowing, always, without pause. You have a feeling that the beautiful river, flowing underneath is an ever flowing eternal wellbeing and wisdom. Some kind of energy source that flows through us all, deep within – some call it the universal mind.
This river of ‘wisdom and wellbeing’ has been within us always, flowing. But as we grow up, our thinking, our experiences, they all ice the river over. Covering it, obscuring it. And we learn how to push and shove and navigate a precarious ice road.
We forget how to flow, and be carried along.
As we work on ourselves, and especially when we go through a coaching process, we can imagine we are going down to that river bank regularly, and we hack away at the ice, attempting to free the river. We find new and wonderful ways to break it up, to disband it, to take off chunks. Slowly we begin to change the structural build up of the ice, but it still refreezes every night, slowly reforming, covering over the river. (Old ways of thinking, habits, they die hard!)
Sometimes it is frustrating and difficult. Sometimes it is fun and exciting. Some days you break away a huge chunk – and the river flows through it, and even helps you, it carries away other chunks slowly thawing the ice and carrying it downstream melting it back to water again and forming part of the flow from which it first came. Then, gradually, more and more chunks break off. And the river begins to work for you. Until the river flows freely, easily.
And that is the moment where my lovely client now finds herself, right now she has released so much ice back into the river that the river is working for her, supporting her, carrying her. Things are easier.
That may change one day again, because everything does, but for now, her work has improved her experience of life. And now she knows where to go and how to find that ‘flow’ once more.
So I thank Michael Niell, this concept has been so helpful, especially when I, or my coachees feel they may have gone backwards (as inevitably we all do) …… because ‘the Space Within’, is the space within us all….. and is, indeed the wisdom of the river under the ice.
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