Seven years ago my life took an unexpected and difficult turn. My life partner, John, died while visiting the States just days before our movers came to pack our belongings for our journey to America from Germany where we had lived for 16 years. To be with John in the States, I had given up my office and my apartment. I was suddenly free from responsibilities, but also homeless. The depth of the grief and the deep exhaustion from my responsibilities soon hit me.
At that point, I decided to embark on a journey beyond what I could have imagined. A client in Malaysia had encouraged me to come there with my son and teach mastery coaching. We spent a good portion of that summer of John’s passing in Asia—touring some of India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka thanks to Michael Heah, MCC, and his wonderful team. Soon after, the Sri Bodhiraja Foundation in Southern Sri Lanka became my home for the next 6 years.
While there, I deepened my coaching core competencies. Traveling with monks and sitting in silence taught me a sense of presence and awareness that goes beyond words. I learned to be more mindful and to experience depth in meditating on Metta.
There was also a reciprocity that I didn’t realize was taking place. While I was burned out, working, learning, and healing, I realized that nearly every volunteer who came to work with us also needed coaching after a few days. They needed someone to walk them through the changes and awarenesses that seemed to happen just by being there.
As I experienced it, coaching in Sri Lanka was a very directive conversation, more like teaching and leading, not like what we call the coaching in ICF. Consequently, I designed a training program that incorporated mindfulness and meditation. With training and mentor coaching, they developed a facilitative coaching presence integrating loving kindness, self-awareness and mastery. It was heartwarming to see the changes in the training participants.
Even more inspiring was seeing how teaching styles also affected children. The current traditional approach in Sri Lanka is to teach discipline, structure and skills with students’ writing at ages 3 and 4. So I was astonished to see how one teacher, using a coaching-like style, generated so much creativity and fun in her preschool classes. I have wondered if this vast difference influenced the recent preschool directive to have more play and creativity in the classrooms?
During this time, with the work and the love that I gave and received, my grief faded and burnout passed. Like a lotus out of the muck it grows in, a deepening love is still unfolding. Moving to a new culture into a lifestyle so far from what I was accustomed to was a constant learning experience. It raised my inner awareness. I’ve learned to trust my intuition while treasuring the learning every moment-no matter how difficult. Regardless of the hardships and challenges, given a choice, I would not have missed this opportunity for the world.
BIO: Sandy Weiner has been a Master Certified Coach and coach credentialing assessor for more than 2 decades. She is currently resettling back in Berlin and continuing to support programs for the poor in Sri Lanka with Sri Lankans. She is happy to share her experiences and would be happy to hear from you: email@example.com. Her current project is funding the move and expansion of the preschool she helped build– Future Kids— and is learning about crowdfunding at: https://chuffed.org/project/joyful-learning-beautiful-futures. Her son, Daniel, was recently engaged and is a PhD Candidate at NYU.