Integral Coaching Canada

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Federal Government Manager
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Senior Executive and Professional Coach
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author, A Theory of Everything

Seven Weddings, Seven Funerals

By Joanne Hunt

I was getting my hair cut the other day at Marilyn's house. She has been cutting my hair every five weeks for the last ten years and the hour is filled with getting caught up with each other as my ever greying hair drops to the floor. I should also mention that Marilyn has her doctorate in Psychology and a private practice. She cuts hair for long time clients on Monday; we have journeyed with her on her doctorate path as she continues to walk with us on our winding trails.

During this latest hour in the chair, I was telling Marilyn about the number of clients that I have been working with who are experiencing deep fatigue. We all have such full lives. I include myself in the club of people who know of a tiredness that is not about getting a few good nights of sleep. I remarked that the last few years have been filled with many great events: we got married, we built a house, we formed a partnership with the Integral Institute, our coaching training program got ICF accredited, and we have travelled far and had great vacations. But even though it has been a wonderful period of time, the corresponding fatigue is present too.

Marilyn commented, "The body doesn't know the difference between seven weddings or seven funerals."

I sat up abruptly in the chair and exclaimed, "What? Say that again." She repeated the sentence more slowly for her now fully awake client.

And I have been thinking of weddings and funerals ever since. Good stress and bad stress – I remember in high school learning about Hans Selye's research about stress. Remember? Stress and Eustress, I think he called it, and one kind was actually good for you and the other was not. His research was pre-Internet and cell phones and 24/7 access to everything and everyone. This additional stress underlies every wedding and funeral situation in our lives.

Besides the effects on our bodies of the Weddings = Funerals concept, it is fascinating to contemplate from a perspective of attachment. We tend to get more positively attached to the things that we call "good" in our lives. Great news. Vacations. The perfect martini. Happy times. We like them to last as long as possible. We prefer to have not so wonderful things last a very short amount of time. Illness. Heartache. Conflict. We would rather get over these quickly or make them go away in general. Move on. Things will be better in the morning.

And yet, if the body doesn't discern funeral or wedding and instead registers "demand" or "extend" or "engage" or whatever else is being called for from the body, then attachment to good things seems kind of crazy. Don't you think? If the long-term demand on the body through good or bad times registers the same result, say, deep fatigue, then why would we only get attached to only the good things? It has the Zen practice of non-attachment make sense from a somatic equanimity perspective. Somatic equanimity: demand registers in the body whether no matter the source.

Then I started reflecting on my work with clients. Clients experience a great deal of change in their lives when they are engaged in an Integral Coaching® Program. The work always enables significant transformation in a client's life. In that regard, it is part of the "good" side of the equation. The yummy, make last and last side of life's feast. And still, I look at the possible lack of differentiation somatically between weddings and funerals over the long term and I wonder…maybe the client needs a rest. Not a "period of integration" that follows after a Coaching Program completes but rest that should be scheduled throughout a Program.

For even when a client is experiencing monumental change in their life, they need to let their body rest after bringing about such transformation. How do we hold the positive changes as no different, in principle, than negative changes in that they both demand something from the body? The body has exerted and so it is important to ensure that a client rests. "Yes, I have a new practice for you over the next two weeks. It is called a Rest Practice because so many fabulous things have been happening in your life!" Of course, taking time to rest in the midst of a fantastic period can seem counter-intuitive but the more I think about it, the more necessary it feels.

I just got off the phone with a long-term beloved client who told me that he was having a "Null and Void Day. I have mostly been sleeping," he said. I replied, "Great! Good plan!" Those seven weddings wore him out.

So, here is your next practice: yes, you! Have a rest. Take a nap. Lie down. Put your head on your desk for one minute. Close your eyes. It has been such a great ten minutes; have a rest!

I can hardly wait for my next haircut.

© Joanne Hunt

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