Spirituality is an area of life we at the Handel Group® ask all clients to address. We don’t teach religion or promote any particular path, but spirituality has to factor in for any human being trying to better his or her life. I recommend yoga and meditation to most of my coaching clients. In fact, I recommended it to myself, so I’ve been hanging out in yogi circles and studying up for some time now.
I am heartened by the fact that I see yoga doing a good job at getting people centered in their own wisdom, acting in peaceful ways and feeling connected. As a coach, I further applaud that yoga teaches about the dark side, negative traits and how to face them. Yoga also teaches action.
As yogis, we have in fact learned to see our thoughts as thoughts, to calm and quiet them and to be more grounded with people. As a result, we’ve resolved old hurts and taken more risks. Not to mention the health benefits! These all help in creating happiness, but, alas, I am ever so present to how much more work a person really needs to do to feel free and happy as a regular way of life. And now I am writing not only as a yoga practitioner and life coach, but also as someone who started her journey of growth with spiritual work: tai chi, yoga, meditation, extended retreats with renowned teachers and of course seva, only to find that it wasn’t enough to actually get me sustainably happy. It wasn’t until I met the Handel Method® that I figured out what was missing for me and I think the world at large. (Though I am happily practicing yoga and meditation, too.)
Here is where I think yogic philosophy doesn’t go far enough to meet modern humanity’s issues.
1) Confessing to people around me. Yoga helps you discover the dark side of your mind and quiet it, but how do you actually root out and end negative traits and patterns? For me, it was not enough to just discover my jealousy, my judgmental-ness, my selfishness (to name a few). I had to feel the impact of the traits by discussing them with others, especially those near and dear to me and be willing to hear the impact it had on them. I even extended my awareness to strangers. Now I am rarely in a conversation in which I DON’T warn someone new about one or more of my bad qualities. For example: “I just have to warn you, I am a bit of a control freak, so let me know if I take over.” What purpose does this confessing serve?
– I can’t take this aspect of me too seriously. (Feeling bad makes you more likely to keep the trait, making fun of it makes it easier to stop.)
– Others are warned and empowered to call me on it. No victims around me!
– Because I’m up front about my issues and I’m able to feel the impact of them, I am able to catch them and keep them in check when they come up.
2) Clean ups from your past. Twelve Step Programs at least recommend this by devoting a step to it. In coaching we’re more adamant about the power of this tool. We also think the excuse of “sparing” another’s feelings is used far too often to simply avoid difficult conversations and admitting mistakes. Please, don’t go running out mending fences based on this coaching without supervision or clarity. There is a deep process to coming to your truth about something and then being able to say and own it in a way that can be heard by the other person. We’ve made it into quite the art and science by developing a very thorough technique for it. This is best handled with a very intelligent, objective coach who knows you well and wants your dreams to come true as much or more than you do. Clean ups are usually a necessary part of actually forgiving yourself and learning to trust yourself again at a deep level. It’s too easy to get out of those in a spiritual or religious practice, which is a shame given that clean ups are a great way to learn compassion along with self-love. Coaches remind you that you MUST and why, and then walk you through how.
3) Promises and Consequences. None of my yoga or spiritual teachers ever asked me to promise something or held me to account to do anything I was inspired to do. In the Handel Method®, we teach the alignment of heart, mind and body. This means we connect you to your soul’s deepest longings, help you make a plan to go after them and then hold you to taking the right (creative) actions to make your dreams happen. Spiritual practices can do a great job at connecting heart and mind. And action on the mat absolutely improves life, but we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to actions off the mat.
In every area in which a person is weak at having their dream come true, they must make promises (not just set intentions!) and then be held accountable to keeping them by a person (someone who cares a lot, like a coach) and a consequence. There are consequences to every choice; we know this because we understand energy (cause and effect). However, we are still complacent if negative consequences haven’t become unbearable and so we continue to make bad choices with food, cigarettes, alcohol, not listening, flying off the handle, ignoring important deadlines or relationships. Promises and artificial/creative consequences interrupt this pattern completely. Have date night with your spouse or lose TV and internet until you do. Eat only whole foods or lose your wine on the weekend. Do your daily yoga practice or owe 100 pushups the next day. You get the idea. You’ve got to train your mind on each and every dream you care about and train it OFF its fabulous flow of excuses. This has to become part of your spiritual practice for the spiritual realm to expand into all areas of your life.
I am so happy to hear about people finding their bliss, connecting with the divine and learning how to be of service. Spiritual practices however, absolutely must be made practical, real and solid in all areas of life to get people launched into lives that feel and are sustainably happy.