From Polarity to Presence – My love Story with The Coaching Room during the Integral-Semantics Facilitator’s Certification Training.
Pre-Framing the Pre-frame: I’ve learned from the Coaching Room that before you shock people (I don’t think they would use these words) it is always advised to prepare them for what is coming. This is my take on pre-framing.
Pre-frame for this article: This is a snapshot of my journey during the Integral Semantics Facilitator’s Certification Training. It is offered primarily and purposefully from the first quadrant.
If I haven’t lost you by now, read on…
As the end of the last day of the Integral Semantics Facilitator’s Certification Training approached, tears were streaming down my face. That might come with no surprise to most people that know me well, as I often display a variety of emotions with tears. My tears usually have no plausible explanation apart from the fact that they are often the result of intense feelings. From all of them, the tears I enjoy the most are the ones that surprise me and are deliciously unexplainable to the cognitive mind. These were those kinds of tears. Now, if someone had told me on the first day of the course that I’d be feeling this way towards the end I would probably have not believed it. But so it was.
I signed up to the course because I was curious.
Of course it was not as simple as that. Curiosity alone wouldn’t have been a strong enough impulse to consider paying big bucks for. I had heard about The Coaching Room from a few different (reliable) sources and I had become intrigued not only about their products, but also (and most importantly) about their delivery style. The facilitators and their delivery “method” had been described to me as unconventional more than once. I had met people that were drawn to them, others that didn’t resonate as much, but no one seemed to be indifferent. I could sense that whatever they did, they did it well. On the very first day of the course the sense of community was noticeable. People seemed to know one another and be familiar with the facilitators and their peculiarities. I wasn’t.
I wish I could say that the first thing that caught my attention at the opening of the course was something deep and life changing but the truth was that an inner red flag was raised once I realised that the beings that were meant to enlighten me on the path of facilitation were (what I judged as) two alpha males proudly wearing very similar tight shirts showing off their strong (you are welcome!!) upper arms. I am no novice on the path of self-development and I have the tendency to explore my own reactions with the curiosity of a crime investigator. This was going to be fun! Why was I slowly tightening my whole upper body in reaction to two blokes wearing tight shirts in the opening of a supposedly life changing course? I had no answer. Yet.
The Arrival. Again.
Joseph, whom I considered the alpha-alpha male of the duo took the lead. He introduced the course and talked for a while. I noticed that the more he talked the less I understood of what he was actually saying.
In between words he would casually pinch the nipple of his co-facilitator, James. Sometimes he would also comment on his mate’s workout achievements all followed by laughter from the audience. At that point my upper body wasn’t the only part of me that was tight. I was tense everywhere. As I looked around, no one else seemed to notice what was going on. At least this is what I thought. Was I the only sane person in that room? Or was I the only crazy one? I wasn’t sure anymore.
I raised my hand and clumsily voiced what could have been referred to as indignation about the “main” facilitator’s behaviour. From the corner of my eyes I could see some heads nodding as if silently approving my questioning but most people seemed to be well seasoned with the (unconventional?) approach.
What I really wanted to have said was: What was going on? Was that normal? Could anyone else apart from me see what was actually happening? Could all that teasing, (to co-facilitators and everyone else) be done on purpose, all meticulously calculated to bring particular reactions in different people or were we being led by some stereotypically uninteresting male blokes? I’d rather believe the first hypothesis (as the course would have been too overpriced otherwise) but by that point I was seriously in doubt. I made eye-contact with James, whom up until that point I had unconsciously assigned the role of the “underdog” and directed to him the final question: “Doesn’t it bother you to be treated like that in front of a bunch of people you are supposed to be teaching?” He looked me in the eye and said. ”Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t”.
He said many other things that I probably edited, deleted and distorted as my focus changed. With his clear acceptance of the dynamic I felt myself opening up to the possibility that I could have been mistaken in my judgements. That, alone, was enough to relax my body. In that moment my eyes briefly caught Joseph’s eyes. It was quick, flitting, but undeniable: they were eyes of pure kindness. How could I have missed that?
From this place of inner relaxation what I saw was dramatically different. Well, not that different. The two blokes were still there, in front of me, wearing the same tight shirts (they didn’t bother me the same way at this point and I even found it sweet in a nerdy way) but I just couldn’t see the arrogance anymore. The jokes were still there, the teasing was still there but all I could see was the love that was driving it all. It was freaky. As If I had taken a love pill or something. I didn’t know it then but as the course unfolded I could see clearly what had actually happened during the interactions mentioned above and my reactions to Joseph’s approach. I was holding a pole, my end of the pole, so tightly that I truly believed it was the truth. To me, at that stage, there was a “right” and a “wrong” way to behave as a facilitator. And Joseph’s behaviour wasn’t “right”. At that point in time I couldn’t recognise that I was only seeing reality through the foggy lenses of my self-created distortions. As the course went on and a variety of different polarities were explored I could see, in a very experiential way, that “holding a pole”, or “being stuck in one position of the polarity” doesn’t serve the individual, nor the collective. Wow. Big realisation.
During the course we were led to observe and practice what it felt like in our bodies to be vulnerable presenting to others from different “positions” within ourselves. The names given to these positions were: Place, Pole, Polarity, Paradox and Presence. Don’t worry, I’m not going to explain each of these different states of awareness (if you want to know more you should take their course) but what I will say is that going through this model whilst observing my own inner polarities and the fluctuation of my own awareness in relation to their “delivery style” was exquisite.
Once I had wiped the windscreen of my awareness, or moved from polarity into presence, I could see through the triggers and the conditioned beliefs I had come with. Without the expectation that “there was a right way to behave as a facilitator” I was free to see what was actually unfolding. With eyes to see, the facilitators astonished me with their capacity of offering whatever was most needed in any given situation. Wherever the blind spot was they would strike exactly there. Sometimes some of us would miss the point entirely but that was still addressed with unending (bittersweet!) compassion.
This type of timely intervention, it became clear to me, was only possible because of presence. They were present to all of us, to what was happening to each individual and to what was unfolding for the collective. That was the method. Presence.
Some of the interactions I witnessed reminded me of a story I had read about a group of awakened Indian sages that used to walk around pulling dead dogs by the lead. Most people would deem them completely crazy but others could see that what they were pointing to was the “craziness of life”. Or to the fact that our “reality” is only the result of a collection of “meaning making” that doesn’t serve much. The facilitators were “pulling dead dogs”.
The teasing and distractions had a purpose after all. My take on that was: if one can master presence whist enduring relentless teasing and nipple pinching, then there is nothing that could ever take him/her away from presence. So my personal journey with this course (and unfolding relationship with the Coaching Room) has been richer than I had expected. In every interaction came the offer of deepening my own awareness of self, and all the internal structures that might be in the way of a richer/truer reality. The tears of the last day came as I felt into the beauty that had been facilitated by two blokes with tight shirts “pulling dead dogs”.