Two minds and presence

In September 2018, I received an email recruiting professional coaches for a Harvard granted research study “COACHING PRESENCE RESEARCH” by Tünde Erdös, a PhD candidate at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The research explored non-verbal interactions in coaching by utilising motion energy analysis (MEA) software to analyse both coach and coachee movements within a coaching session. Imagine how it would feel for someone like me, who have made presence his vocation (Learn more the beginning), invited to research about coaching presence? Based on technology that can demonstrate how presence work between two people engaging coaching from a physical point of view. I remember I was ecstatic, driven to become a part of this, and it felt like I had found the missing piece of the presence puzzle. If you are curious to learn about the research process, you can find more here https://www.coachingpresenceresearch.com/

Although we had difficulty in scheduling our first meeting, I felt guided to see this through. Tünde and I have finally met, and it felt to me back then that, like me,

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Tünde was searching for her missing piece of the presence puzzle. So I did not just participate in the research; I have also offered to bring in the ‘how’ element to complement the research project’s ‘what’. I did not know back then if my offer would resonate with Tunde or not, but I have decided to act from a place of presence. Tunde’s excitement and passion for the offer was a great surprise. We found that Somatic Thinking would add value to describing the cognitive and somatic nature of presence.

Fast forward two years to the end of 2021, Tünde has published her invaluable research, gained her PhD and published her book “Coaching Presence: Understanding the Power of the Non-Verbal Relationship” I highly recommend this book to all professionals in coaching, human development and mental healthcare.

This is a snippet from the research findings that you can find detailed in the book.

“Synchrony through spontaneous non-verbal responsiveness between coach and client has so far received scant attention in coaching psychology. This approach to coaching presence represents a new direction for research, which has long been

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preoccupied with coaching techniques and what coaches need to do to support our clients’ goal attainment. Both the quantitative and qualitative avenues I applied to explore presence through spontaneous movement synchrony show valuable, albeit unexpected outcomes. The qualitative explorations indicate that coaches need to do the following:

  • Allow themselves to be seen as vulnerable, emotional, feeling and sensing.
  • Acknowledge that they may and can be affected by clients’ vulnerability, emotionality, feelings and sense sharing
  • Use their awareness of self and interoception to attain professional proximity and work effectively, if we are to understand coaching as a ‘way of being’ in the world.”

 

Tünde’s warm words about our collaboration and Somatic Thinking:

“Samer Hassan and I met while I was recruiting participants for the study. He participated in the project himself and offered to bring in the ‘how’ element to complement the research project’s ‘what’ aspect. We found that his model would add value to describing the cognitive and somatic nature of presence, and the research project and its findings would frame it.

This is a beautiful collaboration that exemplifies itself the nature of presence beyond coaching. It is an authentic example of how we can create effectiveness and goal-attainment in any activity by being fully present moment by moment. The way this relationship unfolded deserves to be included in this book as a chapter as it manifests how we practice presence beyond simply speaking and writing about it. We wish to lead by example by showing how our way of being present creates results.

The somatic Thinking model integrates three elements, and Samer Hassan uses imagery to describe the model in a simple and easily accessible manner: the past, the future and the present state of sensing and thinking.

He will relate his somatic thinking model to the research project and its findings. In particular, he will speak about how the ‘present state’ of sensing and thinking relates to the research findings embedded in the integrative presence model. He will use real-life coaching examples to help make sense of the model.

The value of integrating this chapter in this book is the flowing nature of the research project. As such, it incarnates the character of presence and how when we pay attention to how things emerge and unfold moment by moment, and we can create real value, development and effective mutual learning: we are successful.”

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I was honoured to share some aspects of Somatic Thinking in this book in support of Tunde’s work:

  • Chapter 5: Somatic Thinking Framing the findings with deliberate practice. (p.71-82)
  • Forging final reflections: Somatic Thinking in leadership. (P.131-140)

A snippet from my contribution to the coaching presence book:

“This book and this Chapter on Somatic Thinking form and frame Integrative Presence as an evidence-informed methodology and practice. Both share the primary focus of demystifying ‘presence, and this is where I would like to start.

Presence is the innate ability any creature possesses; it forms the basis of each skill humans have ever developed. For us to learn, we need to be able to observe ourselves and our surroundings in interaction beyond what we can observe in our immediate environment. Our ability to observe is conditioned by how well we can stay present to the energy exchange manifesting in the space and at the time things happen and as we are embedded in a larger global legacy.

If Sir Isaac Newton[1] had not been in a state of presence when the apple was falling from the tree as embedded in his own global legacy, he would not have observed the apple that stimulated the idea of gravitation, the foundation of his universal gravitation laws and all the scientific advancement spawned as a result. What if he had stayed pre-occupied about something earlier in his life, or something his wife Hannah had told him just before, or anything else for that matter?

Presence plays a critical role in our effectiveness. It is the root competence that feeds all the other coaching competences. Presence in coaching is the ability to focalize what our clients are communicating – verbally, nonverbally, and universally. We cannot listen profoundly, or partner up with our clients, or ask powerful questions, or be effective as coaches unless we are in a state of presence, without which a conversation transforms into anything but coaching potentially limiting both our clients’ growth and our own impact through coaching.

As this book pursues the purpose of carving out presence as a purpose in itself, what can Somatic Thinking contribute to this end? How can it foster the book’s purpose? How can we access presence by design through Somatic Thinking?

In a world that is fused by the need to survive, multitask, play many roles, put our head down and keep grinding never having enough time, I wonder, “How can we attain presence in a world of accelerating speed, chaos, uncertainty and unpredictability? What if you wished you could thrive but felt that you did not have the time nor the space needed in your life for a demanding discipline like presence?” Presence demands of you to be simply ‘there’, the way Isaac Newton was ‘there’ to became aware of the sacred essence of gravity. And that is pretty much to ask for.