Coaching Podcast: Coaching and Spirituality, Can They Co-Exist?
This transcript of Episode 39 of the Catalyst Life Coaching Podcast centers on whether coaching and spirituality can exist in the same space with one another.
John: Hey guys, on today’s episode we’re going to talk about spiritual lives.
Noelle: Yeah, so from a coaching perspective, I think this is one of the areas where a lot of people struggle and feel grey because, in so much of our lives, we tell our coaches, “show yourself, show your niche”, but spirituality—what you feel about God, existence, the universe, religion, higher power—is so often taboo.
John: Yeah, and I think people are more open to it now, but I think when you mention the word spirituality, a lot people mix that up with religion and you get pushback right away.
Noelle: Absolutely, and religion I think is an appropriate word, ya know? The way that I feel about spirituality is very much equivalent to the way my mom feels about Catholicism.
Noelle: Apples and oranges.
John: What is your definition of spirituality and what that means to you?
Noelle: My definition of spirituality is the way in which a human connects to a spirit. Something greater than them, something that can be only referred to in some sort of a mystical route, that is not of this world, that connects to purpose, meaning, there’s something implicit about good in connecting with spirit, working for a higher good. It’s something that I rejected for most of my life until recently, and I think you and I are probably in the same boat with that. That, for me, religion represented rules, structures, deities—kind of like being forced into a box of certain behaviors, and I rejected it for a really really really long time and I’m just kind of now getting tossed so greatly in life that it brings you to your knees and it’s like, “oh, oh hello spirit what do you want from me?”
John: Yeah, so for me, when I was married, I was Christian, and we went to church on Sundays and I think I kind of went through the motions a lot for her, and and of course after the divorce, I kind of faded from religion, didn’t go to church much, and then I realized that you don’t just have to be religious to be a spiritual person, and so in the last, I would say, 3 years, I started to get in touch with my spirit and practice being a spiritual person, and I know that’s different for everyone, but I connect to this greater power and how it ties into our stories, and that’s where I really feel spiritual—in something greater working through us to write these amazing stories.
Noelle: Absolutely, and for me, what’s been really altering, has been everything that I’ve learned about science and earth and it’s biological and neurological and physics functions and then, in my late thirties, starting to learn about the different spiritual realms, and then seeing the two mirrored in each other. And it’s been startling.
John: What do you mean by mirrored in each other? What do you mean?
Noelle: So, a lot of the tenants of when we pray, right? Prayer—asking of something from a higher power. When we actually take and break that down to an atomic level, what we can consider is that we’re moving energy. And so to link this concept of prayer to then what we know actually happens, which is moving energy and even changing our genetic patterns, it's really startling that you can kind of strip it all away and say “wow from a really functional perspective we’re talking about the same stuff”.
John: Yeah, absolutely.
Noelle: So, have you ever introduced this with a coaching client? Do you have any fear or reservation around it?
John: No, so I really believe that, as a coach, you come in authentic, you come in as you are, and if you are a spiritual person, then I think it’s okay for that to leak in the conversations. Now, I don’t think you should put your stuff on other people or put a lot of “shoulds”, but I think that you should bring to the table who you are, and so you know, 10 years ago there wasn’t a lot of—when I was coaching people—there wasn’t a lot of conversation about being a spiritual person, or how our stories are bigger than us, etc. But these days, because I do a lot of narrative work, and using our stories, and rewriting our stories, and all that, sometimes I’ll come from a spiritual place and I’m comfortable with that, I think it’s okay.
Noelle: So, I, for the very first time, this week, acknowledged to a perspective coaching client with gratitude that I felt a connection. That was a really big step for me, because I’m pretty type A—super Virgo, East Coast, I like rules, I like science, I like being able to cite my material—and I’m changing.
John: How did you say that? How did you describe the connection?
Noelle: Somebody wrote me an email and said “I’d like to take up coaching with you” and I believed that I could help this person I—
John: You felt something, something bigger.
Noelle: Yeah, I feel a connection. I genuinely do, and I responded and I said “thank you for choosing me, thank you for trusting me with your story, thank you for trusting me with your healing” and I was honest and I said “I feel a connection here”.
John: I love that. I think that some people can be like “oh well that may be hokey or whatever” but to me, that makes me feel like okay well then we’re meant to have a conversation, we’re meant to connect.
Noelle: Mhmm. And yeah, I don’t know, I think that I would probably, because I have not gotten into any kind of spiritual work where I’m the coach, so I think I’d probably ask permission from the client and have a real conversation around what that means. But I’ve started to experience coaching on a spiritual level from people who are showing up as mentors and guides to me, and it’s been fucking profound.
John: Yeah, I think it’s all about how you decide to see the world, and the world can change, and this has to do with my spiritual journey. The world can change really in an instant when you start to see it through a spiritual lens, and you start to see a lot of things that, if you took away that lens, that would just be logical. Like for example, miracles and how things happen, and connecting dots, and the people that come into your life, and all of that stuff. Like making sense of your story, if I took out the spiritual piece, I wouldn’t be able to do it as well, you know?
Noelle: You know what I’ve started doing is just being completely open and honest with everybody in my life about the fact that I’m going on this spiritual journey.
John: Yeah, warning.
Noelle: Yeah, and it’s been both wonderful and hilarious. So, I live in Philadelphia, my friends are awesome, they’re East Coasters—everybody is skeptical, everybody is snarky—and here I am, they know I go back and forth to California and I’m like “I’m gonna pray for you, I’m gonna move some energy around for you, I’m gonna light a candle for you, I’m gonna set an intention for you” and I’ve gotten pushback, just people who I love and who love me have said “I really can’t take you seriously Noelle”. And we had this absolutely magical moment at a taco bar where my friend, one of my best friends in the world turned to me and said “I just can’t take you, I can’t take you seriously” and I looked her dead in the eye and said “Well I hate to tell you but I’m actually a fairy”.
Noelle: And she completely fell off her barstool. But you know that’s what it comes down to, right? In many ways, on a metaphorical level, I am a fairy.
John: Mhmm, sure.
Noelle: And so that’s what I’m doing now, I’m just telling people straight up, “I’m a fairy everyone”.
John: I like it, I mean you are what you say you are and if that’s how you see yourself I think that’s great, you know?
Noelle: I sprinkle kindness and love.
John: Yeah there’s something beautiful about breaking the norm and definitions and saying “you know what I am this or that”, that other people may label and judge. I think stirring the pot like that is great and it challenges people.
Noelle: Oh yeah.
John: And what’s interesting is that in L.A., just because of the yoga scene and wellness and all that, words like energy and spirituality, now they’re bumper stickers, they’re very common. So I think where you are, where you live, there’s more pushback than say in L.A., where people are more accepting of this spiritual stuff.
Noelle: Well, it will be a grand experiment—I’m gonna get back out there in a couple weeks so we’ll see how I do announcing in different venues that I am, in fact, a fairy.
John: Yes. How do you think your spiritual practice, your spiritual life, how do you think that this is gonna play in your evolution? So as a coach and also just as a human?
Noelle: It’s changing me. It’s changing me because it’s taking the pressure off of my ego—
John: Yeah, 100%.
Noelle: —to perform. And there’s a large amount of surrender that comes from engaging in a spiritual practice, and as a coach I tell our students all the time “you guys are conduits, when you step into a coaching space, your life is suspended for a little while and your purpose is to hold space for somebody else to figure out their life”. And, to me, that is sacred.
John: Yeah, that in itself is spiritual, right? That experience.
Noelle: That experience and when I pull back and I look at the expanse of my life, it’s so easy to feed into your ego space, your id, what you refer to as the pseudo-self, to measure yourself against possessions, money, status, power. But when you lean into your spiritual practice, those things hold no weight.
John: Yeah and I think you really hit it on the nail with this. I’ve been feeling the same way. I think that there’s—and we all have this—it’s a part of me, and it’s the ego. It’s the approval seeking, the person that wants it, you know, trace blueprints that have been created by society, and maybe old versions of me, and appearance, etc., advertising. But, when I start to look at my life through a spiritual plane, all of that dissolves, you know?
John: And there’s a lot of acceptance, and of course, the way that our life folds, that it never unfolds the way that we want it to, and when you look at that and your story through a spiritual lens, you’re able to let go more, and you’re able to accept people, and their opinions, and their decisions. It just reduces so much anxiety. It really is that whole idea of surrendering but in a good way, you know?
Noelle: Absolutely and I think I talk a lot, I’m a huge fan of community, of communal living, of sharing resources with folks beyond a family unit, engaging in a chosen family, and when you think about spirituality, for me at least, there’s this implicit concept of connection—that we are all connected, we’re connected spiritually, energetically, we’re connected because we live on this earth, we’re connected through society, we’re connected psychically. How cool would it be if we could all accept that as a reality and didn’t have to worry? So John, you and I are really close, right? We’re close, we’re business partners, we’re friends, our relationship is random as fuck.
John: Yeah, from the sky.
Noelle: How much of a difference in your life would it make if you knew that because you and I are connected you could always rely on me for resources? And you can, you know? But what if everybody were able to internalize that and actually make our connection firm?
John: Sure, and I think especially with today and the internet, we are more connected than ever, just through our phones and that can create a lot of—the word that we use is catalyst—but that could create a lot of human exchange, that if you actually look at it through a spiritual lens and you accept, that can be powerful, that could change your life. You could meet people and people could come into your life—that’s not logical, that’s unexpected, that could turn your life around. I think that’s exciting, I think that pulls you out of the trenches, the norm, and the paying taxes, and your daily duties, and all of that. It’s like when you start thinking about that and the possibilities, to me, that makes life exciting.
Noelle: And I think that’s the juxtaposition, right? Is it sounds so romantic when we say how fucking incredible that we live in a day and age where we could be connected to the hull of humanity, but what it looks like in reality is opening up Facebook.
John: Yeah, exactly.
Noelle: Right, you kind of have to look for it, you have to look for the magic because it’s so easy to let the mundane take over.
John: Well that’s the thing, so when you said open up Facebook, it just instantly became human, logical, phone, technology, it took the magic out. If you look at it through a spiritual lens and Facebook—the internet, technology is all just a tool for something that is greater, and a way for us to connect and evolve, then there’s magic there, right? Then it becomes romantic.
Noelle: Absolutely, and something I love doing is saying “Why do we consider this to make sense?” You know you and I live on a planet, suspended in a universe, it is not up for debate that there are other universes, there are other planets with life, we are composed of atoms that bounce in and out of reality. We don’t know where the atoms go, we assume that they go to other dimensions but there’s a lot that we don’t know. Everything I just said is fucking factual, right?
John: Sure, sure.
Noelle: So, we wake up every day and we put on the coffeemaker and accept that as our reality.
John: Right, and you know 15, 20 years ago, back when we were answering our pagers, this idea of what’s happening now, and even the idea of emails and now there’s something on my Google, I don’t know what happened but it’s actually finishing my sentences for me.
John: It’s greyed out and then you hit tab and it’s learning about you. So this kind of stuff, if you told me 15 years ago, I would think it was very Jetsons. I would think “no”, but it’s happening and I think all these are tools that are going to connect us, evolve us and ultimately I think this is all going to be, or is a spiritual experience.
Noelle: 100 percent.
John: I mean that’s the way I choose to look at it, you know?
Noelle: I have a burning question, did you have a pager?
John: Oh yeah, I had 2.
Noelle: You had 2?
John: I did not sell drugs, but I had 2.
Noelle: I have a request.
John: You know, one for these friends, and one for those friends kind thing.
Noelle: Can you bring back the pager John?
John: Oh man, I don’t know where if they sell them, but I would love to just have a pager. And also imagine just to put your phone away and the only way people can contact you is through a page. That would be amazing. You don’t have to text them back, you don’t to answer your phone, you just get this little vibration or beeping and you’re like alright I’ll call them later.
Noelle: Yep, yep yep. I think we should start a movement right now. Bring back the pager.
John: It will come full circle.
Noelle: Unbelievable. Yeah, so, from a coaching perspective, clients struggle and anxiety is crushing and depression is real and the reality of our lives—money, scarcity, pain, heartbreak—these are really real things. So, how do you think it can be beneficial to introduce a spiritual practice to a client and when is the right time to do it?
John: So, I think the way to do it is you don’t even have to announce it, I mean I love the you asking for permission, I think that is gentle, I think that’s kind, that’s great. But, you don’t have to go into sessions saying “listen I’m going through a spiritual part in my life and this is what I believe”. I think you thread it into conversation and I think people get to know who you are by the language that you use, right? So when you start using words like the universe, or energy, or I even had sessions where I would actually close my eyes for a second, you know? And they might be tripping out on the other side but I’m just kind of grounding myself and when you start just being a spiritual person, they get that very fast and they will either be attracted to that or they won’t, you know?
Noelle: So maybe I can just get a t-shirt that says “I am a fairy” and then proceed with the pitching.
John: I don’t know about the I am a fairy, but sure, that works. I think people that are into that would hire you instantly.
Noelle: So I’m big on applied positive interventions, which there are many. Exercise is an applied positive intervention, a gratitude practice is an applied positive intervention, savoring is a beautiful applied positive intervention. Savoring doesn’t have to be fancy—I’m enjoying this conversation right now, I can savor this in the moment. When I introduce those things and those concepts and ask people to connect more with their core, their primal self, that is my way of introducing spirituality to the coaching conversation.
John: I love it. So I want to end with this. Guys, there’s no right way, you do it the way that’s honest to you. Noelle, thank you for bringing up this topic. I think it’s courageous and important and I think it’s when we talk about spirituality it’s something that people, especially coaches kind of hide or may want to run from and we want to let you know that it’s okay to be a spiritual person and to talk about it.
Listen to the full episode here, and subscribe to The Catalyst Life Coaching Podcast on iTunes.