I spent some time letting thoughts come to me yesterday.
I’d been working on the design for a new coaching programme for several hours and needed a break from the design work to do some thinking.
I’d been chasing ideas all morning, but they weren’t for being caught, so I took a walk in the sunshine on my own and without my iPhone.
That was rewarding in and of itself. Connecting with the countryside and the joy of different birdsong and bufferflies on the wing, in all shapes, sizes and colours.
The experience put me in mind of a conversation between Winnie the Pooh and Rabbit in ‘The House at Pooh Corner’. The exchange comes on the back of Rabbit overhearing Pooh humming a little hum.
“Did you make that song up?” asked Rabbit.
“Well, I sort of made it up,” said Pooh. “It isn’t brain,” he went on humbly, “…but it comes to me sometimes.”
“Ah!” said Rabbit, who never let things come to him, but always went and fetched them.
What Pooh knew, in his own way, was that our unconscious has a way of allowing things to surface when we’re not really trying, and it’s a curse of our constantly connected lives that we often don’t allow ourselves time to let ideas come. Even when we’re in need of creative inspiration we often, very much like Rabbit, go looking for ideas.
More often than not, we need to let them find us.
The American poet Ruth Stone used to talk of poems barrelling across the countryside, finding her out in a wheat field, and of her running home to try find pen and paper in order to capture them. And the marvellous songwriter, Tom Waits, would tell of cursing songs that turned up when he was speeding along a freeway unable to capture the words or melody, knowing that they may never return and might well carry on, ending up at Leonard Cohen’s feet.
Fortunately, the ideas that sought me out on my walk stayed with me and have now made it in to my workshop and saved me a whole load more chasing.
Whilst coaching, I am always looking for that opportunity to allow the new thoughts that clients would like to show up, to actually surface. In order to do this, as coaches, we have to create a space.
It’s within that space that the client’s unconscious does it magical work.
The client might well be talking when the thoughts start to come. They may speak those thoughts out loud; thoughts that had never occurred to them before, or they may pause as their new thinking takes them by surprise.
Alternatively, they may be sitting in quiet contemplation as the thoughts show up and be silent for some time.
However the thoughts choose to show up for our clients, it’s important that we stay out of the way and let them surface. We have nothing to add to this process, other than our presence, to create the space necessary.
And the thoughts will come, if we just give them space.
And whether they’re just a little hum or whether they’re something transformational, they are always worth allowing to surface.