Reflections on a Reflective Practice

by Catherine Miller, IAC-CC

When first asked if I would write an article about my work, I thought it would be quite straightforward….until I started writing. Rather than a more objective account of my work, the following story came forth, despite my rational brain’s outcry. But therein lies a possibility, and my hope, that elements in my story will illuminate your or another’s story in a new light. If so, we will come to understand our inner world and our social world and possibly our work, a little better.

Life coaching began for me, like for many of you, long before I knew there was such a thing. I can trace my earliest leaning in this direction back when I was 12 years old. My Mom was often upstairs in her darkened bedroom, but in this particular moment, how I thought of her shifted from "Mom is not present in my life" to seeing a woman suffering unimaginable depths of depression. I wanted to know how to help her return to the bright, loving person she was and how any future depression for her could be prevented.

At the age of 30, I developed a chronic illness that stopped me in my Type A-driven tracks. This was a turning point for me—an opportunity to gain some practical self-knowledge—for as I returned to "normal life" three months later, I was frequently besieged by setbacks. It took months for me to realize that there was a link between the setbacks and driving myself too hard and/or too long. If I wanted to avoid the debilitating consequences, I needed to pay attention to, trust and honour my body, mind and soul. And following that, I needed to exchange some habitual beliefs and reactions that were leading me down the road to further illness for health-embracing ones.

My mother’s emotional and mental suffering and my physical suffering were powerful cornerstones in what became my more conscious desire and purpose to better understand being human and give others a boost along their way to improving the quality of their life, mentally, emotionally and physically. Over time, the focus of my work has evolved into helping people restore their peace of mind when their world and thoughts are driving them crazy. I help them develop their unique ability to cultivate their personal and professional inner well being.

I love to learn and when I come upon a method that resonates with me, I try it out. I want to be intimately familiar with the process and with its possible challenges as well as its benefits before I teach it to my clients. Over the past two years I have found that teaching my clients about the individual workings, abilities and even personalities of our right and left brains gives them a whole new perspective on what is going on inside—for themselves and for others, such as family members, friends and employees. I frequently recommend reading Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, My Stroke of Insight, as it is informative, intriguing and an easy read. My belief is that we were given a right and left hemisphere for a reason – to fully use them both.

A significant aspect of my work with clients, then, is helping them regain access to their right brain in order to give their logical left brain a breather now and then. By "taking two steps to the right of their left brain," they automatically access an underutilized wealth of knowledge, wisdom, memory and experience—thus assisting insights and brilliant ideas and solutions to come forth. For example, I lead them through experiential exercises that bring their focus out of their thoughts and into their senses—exercises they can continue to do on their own, any time they choose.

I drew on one of my favourite exercises today as I wrestled with writing a more personal story rather than an objective account for this article. My practice is to stop what I am doing and thinking, and tune my ears to picking up sound…without necessarily identifying or categorizing what I hear…just sitting still, listening. And the more I listen, the more my inner babble of thoughts, like those self-critical ones, quiet down and the more I hear sounds around me I hadn’t realized were there. This gives my left brain a breather and opens up the passages to my right brain from which insights and new, helpful perspectives come to light. This is a refreshing exercise that I can do just about anytime, anywhere, whether in the city or back home in my rural surroundings.

Here’s hoping this little journey has appealed to both your logic and your senses and brought you a little more well being too.

Catherine Miller, M.A., IAC-CC, coaches, writes articles, gives talks, and leads discussions, classes and workshops that help people develop their ability to cultivate their personal and professional inner well being. Based at her country home and office in Ontario, Canada, she works with people around the globe.

4 thoughts on “Reflections on a Reflective Practice”

  1. Thank you for your response, Bonnie. Further to your comment about needing to keep the left and right brain in balance – I heard the following comment recently that says it so well,I believe – ‘there is a reason we have a left and right brain – and that is to use them both!’
    Drawing on our senses brings us back to our senses(!) in more ways than one 🙂

  2. Sharada Chandrasekar

    Resonates a lot with my approach towards coaching clients. Thanks for sharing, Catherine. sharada

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