As a lifetime Social Worker, who also experienced living in a contemplative convent for over two years, I was intrigued by how I could bring this two world together. So I dedicated my career to training as a Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation and also became an active Mindfulness Practitioner. In reality, how can these two practices co-exist? In theory and practice, let us explore the impact that Coaching and mindfulness could have on coachees experience and more fundamentally on one's coaching style. 

The ICF core competencies guides and trains coaches in developing the skills of active listening, creating awareness and establishing trust with the client. While Mindfulness Practitioners are trained in improving their mental faculties of attention, intention and reflection, to bring non-judgemental attention to their daily experiences, as mindfulness master Jon Kabat Zinn explains, "mindfulness is the moment to moment, non-judgmental awareness." 

With this understanding, how can mindfulness complement both the coach and the coachee? Director of the Global Coaching Practice at the Centre for Creative Leadership, Douglas Riddle states that "mindful coaches perfect a form of conscious and comfortable simultaneous attention to themselves, their coachee, the relationship between them, and the mental, emotional, and relational dynamics occurring at the moment."

To highlight the impact of mindfulness for the coach and coachee, the author of Mindful Coaching, Liz Hall, conducted an online international survey of over 150 coaches from regions including the UK and the US. The survey revealed the top reasons why coaches practice mindfulness: to help them live more at the moment (74%), be more self-aware (73%), manage/prevent stress (67%), and be more present for their coachees (65%). And the main reasons they use mindfulness explicitly with coachees: to help the coachees become more self-aware (70%), be calmer/less anxious (59%), better manage stress/be more centred (55%) and better manage reactions/responses (51%).

When working in partnership with coachees who are experiencing the inability to relax, have low self-esteem, or are working through stressful situations, the benefits of mindfulness can shift each of these areas. The proven benefits of mindfulness have been to increase an individual's ability to relax, to develop higher self-esteem and to work through stressful life situations positively. Mindfulness is a practice of exploring how to consciously and systematically work with stress and the challenges and demands of everyday life by not turning away from them, but learning to be resilient with and through these challenges. Coachees often find that space to think, feel and explore while staying invigorated within the relationship. Besides, this dynamic has the potential to create genuine collaboration between coach and coachee. 

Modern brain research has shown that we move in and out of various states of focused or unfocused attention throughout our day. Coaching allows someone to stay on a line of thought until it yields new perspectives and answers. It proves powerful, especially when these are questions that might have hindered us for a long time. The coach wants to create an encounter in which the two people are in synchronized attention, where vast amounts of mental and emotional energy can be directed at the development of the coachee. This is a kind of mutual trance state, along the lines of being "in the zone" in sports, and most people have experienced it only briefly. The mindful coach can elicit this state and maintain it for the growth of the coachee.

The value of a meditative practice within Coaching is a way to master one's mind, to silence the ramblings of our everyday life and agenda. This approach can train the coach as they journey into a vast mental and emotional journey with their coachees. Coaches are committed to co-creating a relationship with the coachees, to be mindful in listening to the coachee's concerns, goals, values and beliefs. Mindful coaches provide coachees with the space to wander from viewpoint to viewpoint, from one incomplete thought to another until they begin to become aware of the whole idea and the basis for clarity. Entering the coaching conversation with a "still mind" is key to letting something happen in someone else. For all conversations, when someone hears us with an open, still mind, we have the space to sense our worth and value. This is the essence of Coaching.

Mindful Coaching is continuing to make its mark in the coaching world. With society having an ever-increasing demand on our time and energy, taking a few moments in our day to be centred and to centre our coachees has rich benefits in gaining clarity, finding solutions, managing stress and living with more depth. 

By: Renee Hodgkinston, ICF ACC Credential Coach and CMA Program Director for Beijing. 

Renee explores how coaching and mindfulness can co-exist in theory and in practice and explores the impact it has on clients and coaches' coaching style.