Recently, a subscriber to my email list wrote back and said

“I love working somatically with people, and what you highlighted for me was the importance of asking one question further – asking them to give details about what they say they’re feeling.”

Of course, this lights me up as I want to be helpful in my heart-of-hearts.

I wanted to share my reply with her because it’s a story I don’t often tell, yet it has powerful teachings for coaches who want to uplevel their skill in consciously asking clients carefully crafted questions.

To set the stage, mindful-somatic work is different than many coaching modalities. We often direct the client’s attention to their inner experience. For example, if a client expresses dismay at negative feedback at work, rather than immediately focusing on what she can do to fix the problem, I might ask, “Do you want to do a good job?” If she says enthusiastically, “Yes!”, I would help her mindfully, somatically explore the feeling of that “yes.”

In other words, in this work, we help clients explore the landscape of their inner world so they can better navigate their way in the world.

And it’s in this context that I shared the following story with my reader:

My initial training in mindful, somatic work happened many moons ago with the late Ron Kurtz, founder of the Hakomi method of somatic psychology, and many others.

In training one day, he told the following story. This is paraphrased.

“I was working with a client and we were at a point where he was being mindful of his experience, in the moment, because of the work we we doing. Suddenly, he said ‘I don’t know why, but I smell cheeseburgers.” So I paused, then replied, “What kind of cheeseburger?”‘

Wow.

What kind of cheeseburger?

I wasn’t expecting that.

Why is that a brilliant intervention?

Because a question like that asks the client to a) stay with their somatic experience and b) bring a higher degree of sensitivity to their inner sensitivity to answer the question.

This is so important.

Asking “what kind” is directed at the client’s nervous system to help them stay out of their heads and in connection with their in-the-moment, spontaneously emergent experience.

In contrast, a question like “What do cheeseburgers mean to you?” or “Why do you think you’re smelling cheeseburgers?” jumps the client out of their experience and asks them to start finding meaning.

There’s nothing wrong with that, and at times that is very helpful. Still, if you’re a mindful-somatic coach like me, you know that the client’s spontaneous, unexpected experience is often a gift from the subconscious, and you won’t unwrap that gift by asking “what do gifts to mean to you?”

Just help the client explore the experience as much or as little as they wish.

If there is meaning there, it will emerge. It wants to emerge. That’s why it showed up.

When you trust that you, as coach/therapist/healer, don’t need to make meaning for the client but rather help the client mindfully explore and give voice to their experience, meaning will spontaneously emerge.

These emergent insights are often transformational for the client and deeply satisfying for the coach.

That is my wish for you as either a client or coach.

If you’d like to learn more about this as a coach, check out The Mindful Coach Method, where I teach how to use these skills. Also, Mindfulness and Presence for Coaching FastTrackis about helping you build and sustain your in-session presence.

If you’d like to experience this as a client, let’s connect and see if this is a good fit.