A clear direction for my business.
A directive to help me focus my energy.
A concrete plan towards untold wealth and riches.
A clean apartment.
Before I go any further, let me acknowledge that I’m a coach myself, and a good one. I understand the process of helping clients connect with their inherent wisdom and create solutions based on their deep knowledge of their own situation as opposed to someone else’s formula. What happened during this session shouldn’t have blown me away. But it did.
My coach listened to me spin out for a couple of minutes. I could feel her listening through the phone. She asked a couple of clarifying questions. Then she asked the question that I knew was coming. It’s the same question that I would ask:
When you get quiet and connect with yourself, that inner wisdom that you carry...what does it tell you?
When asked well, this question is more than just a query. It presents an invitation. An invitation to leave the worries of the rational mind behind. An invitation to acknowledge that intelligence does not reside exclusively in the mind, but also in the body and in the heart. An invitation to connect and have that connection witnessed with support and compassion.
When asked less well, the question can provoke shrugs and eye rolls.
In this instance, my coach asked the question well.
Accepting the invitation, I took a deep breath. And I waited. I breathed.
Silence settled over the phone line.
A less experienced coach may have jumped in with a question. Or checked to make sure I was still on the line. My coach did neither of those things. She sat with me in the silence.
Silence is nothing new to me. I have a dedicated meditation practice and try to sit in silence for at least a few minutes every day. But this silence had a different quality.
This silence was consciously cultivated in direct response to a question. My tendency is to leap straight to solutions. To use my brain muscle to resolve questions as soon as, or even before, they arise. The silence gave my brain the chance to leap to a solution, let the solution go, then relax.
This silence was held and witnessed by my coach. Having a witness, someone to create a safe space within which the silence can grow and nurture connection, creates a barrier against distraction. On my own, I might flitter off and think about emails or folding laundry. With my coach, I allowed the silence to become almost sacred.
After a minute or two, a feeling arose in my chest. At first it didn’t carry words with it, just a feeling of expansion and lightness. Then an answer rose into the space created by the sense of expansion.
The answer was simple, elegant, and not at all groundbreaking. It was nothing that my coach couldn’t have told me within 30 seconds of our session starting. What made the moment so impactful wasn’t the answer itself, but the way it showed up.
Instead of being imposed or suggested from outside, it came from within.
Instead of being a part of the constant noise and hubbub of the world, it stood on its own.
Instead of coming from a busy mind stuck in a fight or flight cycle of tension, it came from a deep place of silence.
This moment with my coach–a moment which probably took no more than two minutes–blew my mind precisely because it was so simple and so powerful. From that moment to the end of the call, I felt energized, centered, and proactive. All it required was patience, silence, and trust.
With that moment firmly in mind, here are some ways I’ve committed to cultivating more productive silence in my day:
Three conscious, deep breaths every hour.
Starting client meetings with a conscious pause to set the meeting off from the rest of the day.
Letting silences in conversations linger for as long as it takes for something more valuable than silence to surface.
That’s me. What role does (and can) silence play in your work and life?