By Maridi Jooste
“The known way is not the only way.” Lao Tzu
The above-mentioned quote by Lao Tzu seems very applicable today (2020) where the world as we know it is turned upside down by the implications of the Corona virus and we are being forced to slow down. We are overwhelmed by feelings of uncertainty having to deal with issues we do not yet know how to resolve. In spite of a lot of people feeling isolated in quarantine, small groups are gathering together and universally an existential fear is connecting individuals from all over the world. It is not only a time for the world to stand together, but also a time to approach life from a different angle and possibly invite Spirituality back to the table.
Tzu’s quote also made Wilber (Wilber, 2000, 2), father of integral theory, realise that the time had passed where individuals and professionals were limited to the knowledge inherent to their own culture. Likewise, Wilber believes that everything has its place: body, mind and spirit, art and science. Likewise, I believe the Western world needs a more holistic approach. My personal experience I has been that therapy and coaching working verbally alone, is not enough to provide lasting effects. Techniques incorporating the physical, emotional and spiritual as well as working with the subconscious, such as meditation, visualisation and systemic constellations can have a much more lasting effect.
We know that much of Western logic as we know it today, including theories of biology, physics, law, literature and ethics, can be attributed to Greek Philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle. All fields were viewed as integrated until Descartes instigated Cartesian Dualism. The splitting of the concepts of mind and body meant that with time the body gradually became viewed as more important than the mind. Another shift in perspective occurred when James theorised that the soul was completely irrelevant. The Greek word Psych, originally referring to a man’s soul, then became primarily focused on the mind. The result was western Psychology completely disregarding the soul, or the spiritual.
Likewise, today, amongst certain groups there still seem to be great scepticism regarding some alternative techniques, especially those incorporating more “spiritual” aspects. It occurred to me that people who have never tried alternative techniques often make ill-informed assumptions about the techniques. I am also aware of the fact that many people are simply sticking to old trusted techniques. Very often naming the technique in a more familiar term can contribute greatly to its popularity. Lizz Hall (interviewed by Bell, 2013, 28) talked about the popularity of mindfulness growing when it was re- labelled as emotional intelligence or stress- management techniques by Google. Today Mindfulness is a well-known accepted technique while its origin in meditation is still viewed as alternative (Bell, 2013, 28).
Amongst some there has, however, been new interest in holism and alternative techniques available to use in coaching including techniques originating from South American, Eastern and African traditions. These traditions place more emphasis on incorporating emotion, art and spiritual effects, which often are claimed to contribute significantly to the coachee’s wellbeing and working on a more subconscious level than verbal coaching. Considering that the effect of these techniques is more experiential and not always able to be proven scientifically, literature and studies are limited, and the techniques are often left misunderstood or remain unexplained.
Today I would like to give you a short introduction to some of the alternative techniques I use in coaching including meditation, based on Eastern Philosophies, Systematic Constellation, originating from Zulu tribal rituals and the use of imagination/storytelling, popular amongst most tribal cultures from South America, ancient Norse and Africa.
Mindfulness and Meditation
In recent years, Mindfulness has gained great popularity in the Western world as a form of relaxation. My view, however, is that we all live in a hypnotised state in the world as we know it and mindfulness/meditation bring us to a normal state. Likewise, to the neuroscience of hypnotherapy, mindfulness changes in brain activation are caused when cortical inhibition slows activity in the frontal cortex and the anterior cingulated cortex as well as other areas where theta is prominent (Hartman & Zimberhoff, 2014, 101). When we meditate, we are in a present state, where we lose the indoctrinations of society and expectations from the ego. From this state we can simply appreciate nature and essentials from the eyes of a child. It might sound counter-intuitive, but from letting go, we are able to handle stress and responsibilities better.
Riskin (2004, 79) described mindfulness as a state of being conscious about one’s thoughts, emotions, body sensations and surroundings. Within a mindful state, decisions and behaviour can be decided from a holistic state, considering thoughts, feelings, and emotions without getting distracted by a chaotic environment. Furthermore, research has shown that through incorporating emotional dimensions into decision making, instead of simply reasoning with cognitive functioning, decisions are made from a more emotionally intelligent perspective and are therefore more successful (Lucas, 2015, 61).
Meditation, however, consists of mindfulness, breath work and visualisation. Incorporating breath work (often used in constellation work to integrate emotion and the physical body) and visualisation (included in storytelling and constellation work), can contribute a great deal in terms of connecting the client to the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects as well as incorporating the subconscious.
Storytelling and Visualisation
Teske (2006, 170) believed the stories we tell ourselves to be an integral part of an individual’s identity, self-understanding and a core in shaping their embodied, intellectual and emotional lives.
Joyce Carol Oates (1999 cited in Teske, 2006. 169) described the emotional connection humans attach to events by saying that Homo sapiens is a species that invents symbols to create an understanding of things and then invests in it with passion and authority.
Through imagination we can also create the world we would like to live in. If you can visualise it, there is a possibility of it becoming a reality. Every idea is born out of imagination. Likewise, when telling a story, vivid images can be formed in the brain, connecting both the right and left hemispheres, the logical structuring as well as the creative (Underwood, 1991).
The Greek origin of the word “story” refers to wisdom and knowledge, likewise storytelling can be used as a way to gather information and gain a better understanding of a person or situation (Yoder-Wise & Kowalski, 2003, 37). Through storytelling, connectedness can be found when incidents, values and feelings are shared (Reid, 2009, 24). In such a way differences can be cleared up and people from different cultures, for instance, can learn to understand each other’s thinking and traditions.
Dolchok (2003, 22) explains that Western medicine has accomplished a lot in overcoming illness, however, every wound, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual, carries with it a soul wound. This wound is not obvious to the eye and needs to be discovered. Through telling one’s story, the soul can be heard.
Originating from African Shaman traditions, Constellation work forms part of the family of storytelling, visualisation and metaphor while creating a structure representing another reality. Family constellation coaching identifies dysfunctional patterns in family constructs (McGoldrick & Carter, 2001, 281). Through identifying issues, such as individuals playing a role in the family that was not allocated to them by nature (for example a child taking over the role of the parent) or a person feeling suppressed by his/her family, ‘constellations’ can be reframed and restructured into well-working systems. The systems applied to the constellation work are similar to the coaching concept “systems theory”.
The systemic technique can, however, also be applied to other relational dynamics. Within a organisation, both storytelling and constellation work are used to help individuals see the bigger picture within the company and they are used as a way to provide value and make sense of situations (Ann & Carr, 2011, 310).
Within private existential coaching I often work with Power/Soul Retrieval as well as Inner Parts Constellations. Often in life an incident happens, whether this be a retrenchment, a divorce, an unsuccessful project or dealing with a bully, that just leave you “not completely yourself” afterwards. Constellation work can be very effective in helping you take back your power through a shift in perspective (Power/Soul Retrieval Constellation). It can also help you see a clearer picture of your current situation and the different parts of yourself in conflict with each other and therefore holding you back in life (Inner Parts Constellation).
Constellation work considers the spiritual, as well as physical elements and the expression of the entire body (Mayer & Viviers, 2016, 142). It is considered a form of somatic psychology that works with information stored in a cellular consciousness across generations and systems (Cohen, 2006, 226). Subjective experiences within the body such as emotions, feelings, moods, as well as body sensations are used as catalysts for providing objective information. According to Livotova and Livotov (2015, 204) the use of feelings can be used to gather information equal to other forms of information calculation for the purpose of effective decision- making.
Paul John Myburgh (2013, 5), who lived amongst the Bushmen, describes how they communicated with nature through being quiet, a position almost unthinkable to most Western people, however, somehow, they have found a way to survive. Perhaps, as a result of Corona today the Western world will also slow down and start listening to the unsaid. Accordingly, alternative techniques, having a more holistic approach, incorporating spiritual, physical and subconscious work, might be exactly what we need during these challenging times.
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.” - Albert Einstein
Ann, C. & Carr, A.N. 2011. Inside Outside Leadership Development: Coaching and Storytelling Potential. Journal of Management Development, 30(3), 297-310.
Cohen, D.B. 2006. “Family Constellations”: An innovative systemic phenomenological group process from Ger- many. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 14(3), 226-233.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. 1990. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. Harper Collins Publishers. Dolchok, L. 2003. Circle of healing: Traditional storytelling, Part Three. Arctic Anthropology, 40(2), 19-22.
Hartman, D. & Zimberhoff, D. 2014. Coaching and hypnosis integrating hypnotic strategies into coach- ing. Journal of Heart Centered Therapies, 101.
Livotova, O. & Livotov, P. 2015. The principle of feeling - The method of structural systemic constellations for technical problem solving and decision making. Procedia Engineering, 131, 104-113.
Lucas, N. 2015. When leading with integrity goes well: Integrating the mind, body and heart, New Directions of Student Leadership, 61-69.
Mayer, C-H & Viviers, A. 2016. Constellation work principles, resonance phenomena, and shamanism in South Africa. South African Journal of Psychology, 46(1), 130-145.
Reid, D. 2009. Storytelling, it’s the oldest art form. Adult Learning, 16-24. Teske, J.A. 2006. Neuromythology: Brains and stories. Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, 41(1), 169-196.
About the Author: Maridi Jooste
Maridi Jooste is an Existential Self-Development Coach and founder of Space for Self-Coaching. She is passionate about “waking people up” from indoctrinations and facilitating her clients to live their lives to the fullest. In addition to obtaining a post graduate degree in Psychology and completing the MPhil in Management Coaching, Maridi has studied various holistic wellness and creative techniques while working as creative professional and filmmaker. These techniques include
Kundalini Meditation (Teacher diploma), Acting and Creative Writing (BDramHons)/Storytelling and Systemic Constellations (currently training at African Constellations). Today she incorporates these alternative techniques to support conventional coaching in her practice.
SA Coaching News
Volume 2 Issue 3