My professional practice is all with friends now. I don’t always know these friends before we begin working together. But I notice now that I love each person I work with. I see them with the eyes of Love: “My holy vision sees all things as pure.” (A Course in Miracles, lesson 263). This is how I help best, by seeing you as the holy being you are, as gods and goddesses, as envoys from the Friend.
Or as my dissertation mentor the Belgian philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers put it, “gaining knowledge presupposes the creation of a link.” We cannot know without being connected to what we would know. This flies in the face of objectivity, the idea that there is any such thing, and the idea that we need to be objective in order to know something at all. Stengers builds a case using philosophy of science, and the distinction between Heisenberg and Bohr. (See her book, Invention of Modern Science.) I loved being able to build this case with her in my own work as a new philosopher, and I love what it means to me now: I can only know what I am connected with. For me, this implies that I can only know what I love. Senegalese poet Baba Dioum’s phrasing is very beautiful: “In the end, we conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”
In my coaching and consulting, this used to feel like boundary-blurring. People I esteem greatly become clients, people who start as clients morph into friends. Without clear boundaries, this can be a problem. But clarity has made love in action an efficient, elegant practice.
It used to make me nervous (“how do I charge this person for our time together?”) but that confusion around money is gone for me now. With clarity about when we are talking as friends, and when as client and coach/consultant, figuring out when and what to charge is easy.
I noticed this clarity with relief recently when I offered support to a person who is challenged by health in this present time of her life. She has come to a workshop of mine and coached with me. I didn’t even think about it, I just loved her without forethought. But my ease with this was different than the way I had related to her in the past, and I think she wondered about it, and asked me about it. I found myself writing her this:
‘You’re one of my soul-colleagues. Coaching was not on my mind when I called, and it’s not unless you say it is. My desire to connect with you is at soul level. A power-refrain for me is the first line in a novel Joan Didion wrote years ago: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” I think that is so right if we tell the right stories. The right stories are the ones that give life.’
Those of you who’ve worked with me understand how powerful I think the right story can be. I tell my client-friends stories of themselves I truly see. It’s up to each of us to make stories real, and we have to make choices: there are crossroads we come to where we have to choose, and “open the unusual door.” Or not! Sometimes the door that feels the most commonplace is really our door, too. But the loving story told by this loving narrator (me) with eyes that truly see my clients as divine beings with potential in every cell to do just what they have come to me to help them do, in abundance–this opens the path and with this love, I participate in building the beloved community.