The Mindful Coach



Get ready to hear inspiring stories, learn powerful coaching skills, stay updated on the latest technology, and gain insights from conscious marketing experts. Tune in to ‘The Mindful Coach’ podcast with host Brett Hill as he interviews an incredible lineup of coaches and helping professionals in the The Mindful Coach Association community.

Are you a coach or helping professionals who values mindfulness in life and work? Meet your colleagues in weekly meetings, list your services and who knows? You could be a guest on the show! Free membership.

Join the Mindful Coach Association

Join The Mindfulness Mentor Michael Gibian as he uncovers the power of nonverbal cues, discusses how to cultivate loving presence, and how to “wake up from the dream” in a quest to create a transformational experience for clients in a safe and connected coaching environment.

Both Brett and Michael have a common background, having studied extensively with Ron Kurtz and the Hakomi Method of mindfulness-based somatic psychotherapy. You’ll hear stories about their experiences with Ron and other excellent teachers.

In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Master the art of integrating mindfulness into daily life and coaching for transformative results.
  • Explore the profound impact of fragmented selves and learn how to awaken to a more integrated and authentic existence.
  • Uncover the significance of nonverbal cues in coaching to deepen connections and understanding with your clients.
  • Cultivate a compassionate and loving presence as a coach to create a safe and supportive space for personal growth.
  • Embrace the power of conscious choices and witness the positive shifts it brings to your coaching practice.

Michael Gibian has over 30 years of experience in mindfulness, meditation, and coaching, making him a seasoned expert in the field. His journey began with a deep passion for helping and healing people, leading him to study under renowned masters such as Sri Ravi Shankar, Jack Cornfield, and Thich Nhat Hanh. With a background in Buddhist meditation, including Vipassana, Michael brings a unique perspective on integrating mindfulness into everyday life and coaching. His teachings focus on compassionate presence, social justice, and the practical application of mindfulness, offering valuable insights for both practitioners and individuals seeking a deeper connection with themselves and others.

The key moments in this episode are:

00:00:00 – Introduction to Michael’s Journey

00:05:55 – Applying Mindfulness in Everyday Life

00:10:39 – Unpacking Motives and Practicing Generosity

00:13:16 – Mindfulness and Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness

00:16:11 – Internal Family Systems and Self-Integration

00:16:43 – Understanding Fragmented Selves

00:18:12 – Waking Up from Fragmented States

00:19:52 – Neuroplasticity and Mindfulness

00:21:17 – Developing a Practice of Mindfulness

00:30:56 – Somatic Orientation and Emotional States

00:33:23 – The Power of Nonverbal Cues

00:34:46 – The Influence of Ron Kurtz

00:36:35 – Cultivating Loving Presence

00:40:44 – Dealing with Stressful Situations

00:47:47 – Connect with Michael Gibian

Connect with Michael at

on Linked-In or on the Mindful Coach Association website


00:00:00 - Brett Hill

So welcome to this edition of the The Mindful Coach podcast. Really can't wait to have this conversation. I've been looking forward to this for a while. Let me tell you about Michael Gibian, who has over 30 years ago, he started to follow his heart toward an enduring passion to help people feel good in mind, body and spirit. He loves learning and spent many years living abroad and apprenticing to masters of many crafts. I've had the privilege, or he's had the privilege of directly dealing with mindfulness masters. Sri Ravi Shankar, The Mindful Coach Association, Jack Cornfield and Ron Kurtz. Ron Kurtz was the founder of the creator of the Hokomi method, as well as and from Hokomi came many other trainings, including recreation of the self by John Eisman and others that he's taken, to name a few. There are many other influences as well. But now he loves to teach, coach and mentor. He's helped for 25 years, helped hundreds and hundreds of others, many of whom have gone on to have successful careers serving their communities and beyond. But what he loves most is to share what he's learned along the way. So whether you're seeking mindfulness in everyday life, a deeper connection with yourself or others, or greater freedom and ease in your moving body, or exploring how all of these things are related, Michael's the guy. So welcome to the The Mindful Coach Association podcast. Michael. It's so great to have you here.

00:01:32 - Michael Gibian

Thanks, Brett. I've been looking forward to it as well. Thanks for having me.

00:01:36 - Brett Hill

Oh, my. I couldn't. I couldn't be any other way when I first had a chat with you and we discovered that we had all these incredible intersections that you had studied Hacomi with Ron Kurtz, as I had. And we know some of the same teachers in that field. And also John Eisman, who was also one of the co founders and went off to recreation of the self, which had such a big impact on me. And you sat through that. So we've had so much of the same background and I just thought, I've just got to have you on the show and find out how you got involved in doing, like, what were you doing before you got involved with Akomi and how did you do and all this other work that you've done with Han and Jack Cornfield and how did you find yourself? Like, this is who I am, this is what I want to do?

00:02:26 - Michael Gibian

Yeah, thanks. That's a great question. So back in 1989, I got exposed to meditation and yoga and so that was my entry to this world. And I also, at the same time, was exploring a passion for helping and healing people. I studied herbal medicine. I apprenticed myself early on in Latin America to different healers, faith healers, cudanderos and things like that. And I was really on a quest to find people or a person that I felt was really my teacher. And it took me a while to really connect with somebody that way. And so the very first teacher that I felt like really was, was Sri, Sri Ravi Shankar. And so he's known throughout the world as the founder of the art of living. He's not the musician, of course, who's also very famous. And Ravi Shankar, and I was lucky enough to get to study with him. And I was all over the world with him for about nine years, including in Rishikesh and Haridwar in India, in Europe. I lived at his ashram there in Germany, in the Black Forest, as well as here in Lake Tahoe. And he was a huge early influence for me. And then when I transitioned away from working with him, then I moved towards Buddhism more. And that's where I originally met Jack Cornfield and got to study with him directly. And Nat Han, who I think of as, in a way, sort of my most heartfelt teacher, who's now passed, of course, and he comes from the Zen tradition. And he was actually nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work around the Vietnam War. So I've been really lucky.

00:04:30 - Brett Hill

He was vietnamese himself.

00:04:32 - Michael Gibian

Yeah, he was Vietnamese, and he wasn't in favor of the war. He was a nonviolent activist. So he did a lot of work to try and help in Vietnam and in the US. And then he actually was. I'm not sure if he was deported, but he wasn't allowed to go back to Vietnam because of his efforts there. And so he settled in France originally and then later in the US. And so I got to study with him when he was here in the US. And Goenkaji also, who's an amazing Vipassana teacher, who's actually indian, but trained in the burmese style, as Jack Cornfield did. So my main background in buddhist meditation is in Vipassana. And I've been lucky enough to do many long retreats, silent retreats. And it wasn't until Han that I felt like I wanted to expand beyond what we think of as meditation, which is sitting on a cushion and tignat. Han really was formative in both. How do we use these ideas of Buddhism for social justice? Like, how do we actually take action in the world from here? But getting off the cushion and out into the world and practicing mindfulness in everyday life. And so, of course, he wrote over 40 books, I believe, and one of them that really was formative talked about even practicing mindfulness while washing the dishes. And so instead of washing the dishes with the agenda of getting them clean, washing them while noticing your breath, noticing you're standing on the floor, playing with the soap and scrubbing, and just really being really present with whatever activity we're participating in, which, for me, really shifted things. And so now we're talking about coaching and applying mindfulness in coaching as well. And I think it really elevates coaching in general.

00:06:36 - Brett Hill

Right. So there was a big shift when you begin, if I got this right, I'm paying attention to what's going on in my inner world, to I'm going to relate in a specific way to the way that I engage my daily life.

00:06:54 - Michael Gibian

Yes. Like, for instance, in the social justice movement, there's this misunderstanding of Buddhism, that a lot of people think Buddhism is equal to apathy, and that really couldn't be farther from the truth. The difference is that we make it a two step process, or at least I do, where I accept the present moment as it is, and then from acceptance, I can choose to take action. Obviously, most humans can tell right from wrong from inside. And I really love buddhist ethics, where depending on what information I have at hand, I might have a different opinion on something. And Zen has a lot of parables around that. Like, you see a hunter chasing a rabbit down the road, and it asks, which fork did the rabbit take? And you're left know. If I tell the hunter which way the rabbit went, then of course you're helping it kill the rabbit. But if you knew that the hunter had a hungry family to feed, you might actually want to help it. And so I love those kinds of ways of thinking where I have to be flexible in my thinking based on what I know in the moment and so pausing to accept the present moment and then taking action from there.

00:08:09 - Brett Hill

Yeah. Because I hear that a lot as a criticism of mindfulness and the notion of just being acceptance. And I think this whole idea of acceptance. And so can you say more about how this idea of acceptance doesn't mean just being complacent with an unjust situation or unfairness or accepting the crap that you have to take at work? How does your idea of acceptance differ from, I just need to be okay with this bad situation.

00:08:46 - Michael Gibian

Yeah, that's an important distinction. And so one of the ways it manifests, I would say, intrapersonally is, and this relates to the recreation of the self model, is that I have, like everybody does, I have these different self states that emerge in reaction to what's happening in my life. And so if I'm operating, if I'm living from a reactive place, I'm not really representing myself well, nor am I caring for myself or the person that I'm reacting to or at. And so by practicing, accepting that somebody might have a differing opinion, or the voice in my head is disturbing. By allowing that to be, I can actually turn towards it in a way that's more compassionate and understanding. And then it allows me to work with it in a way where it's not running me. Because when we're just reactive, there's actually a part of us from behind the scenes that's actually the operator, and we might not even realize it. So sometimes the practice can be, instead of what am I feeling or thinking, let me think about what's underneath that. Who's the one actually feeling or thinking that in the first place? And is that really what John Eisman would call the organic self, my sort of highest self? Or is that a part of me that got fragmented from a past wound? And in most cases, if I'm reacting versus responding, then it's not really serving me or the person I'm relating to, because it isn't coming from my highest self.

00:10:36 - Brett Hill

Okay, so you're in this space. Somebody says something to you, and you're taking, I guess, in the. In the mindfulness world, it would be like the default mode network. The automatic behavior would be to be reactive. And you've done some work on yourself. And so you're not reactive. Instead, you've got this spot where you've noticed, oh, yeah, that is coming from a wounded place in me where, yeah, I feel like this is some other part. But then again, it's like, if you're witnessing an injustice in the world, is it coming from a wounded part of you to kind of want to assertively say no?

00:11:21 - Michael Gibian

That's a great point. So I remember very clearly, I was taught is, for instance, if you notice a homeless person on the street, if I automatically reach into my pocket and hand them a dollar, what's my motivation? Where am I coming from? And so what I've been taught is if I take a moment to feel into that, what I probably am feeling is the injustice of another human not having enough to get by with. And so if I'm giving a dollar to assuage or cover over the wrongness of another human not having enough to eat. That isn't actually generosity. That's actually my tending to my own feelings completely unconsciously. But if I take a moment to really feel that, that's simply wrong and it's not okay, and I'm really honest with myself about those feelings, and I work with them actively from that place. I can also then give a dollar and have it hopefully actually be an act of generosity or even altruism, where I'm really actually thinking about their well being versus my own versus I'm generous.

00:12:34 - Brett Hill

Because there's a justice in the world. And so I'm acting out to see myself in a role of taking an action to fix that versus I'm connecting with this actual person that's right in.

00:12:47 - Michael Gibian

Front of me right now. We even call that virtue signaling, where you see on instagram, people pose in front of a place and they look like they're helping and they're only just doing it to get a post. So that would be the extreme version of that, of course. But in real life, we're doing that regularly. If we're not really in touch with what's going on inside of us and what our true motives are in that moment.

00:13:13 - Brett Hill

Yeah. So that's a pretty refined work. How does a person actually begin to unpack that so that they can tell? How does someone begin to know the difference between those states? Because when I feel into them, there's like the extremes, right? This is all about me. But there's also. Can it be both?

00:13:39 - Michael Gibian

Yes, it can be both. And so, just to be fair, I can fall into reactivity like anybody. So just to make sure we clear.

00:13:47 - Brett Hill

About that, I feel like I'm giving you. I'm not trying to give you a hard time, I'm just trying to explore these.

00:13:54 - Michael Gibian

No, I just want to be honest, I have reactivity as well. So on my better days, when I'm not reactive by slowing things down through mindfulness, and I think this is really sort of the crux of it, is what mindfulness does, is it allows me to go into a non ordinary state of consciousness. It's at the level of neurology, it's a different state than the normal conversational mode. And it slows things down in a way that I can actually be non judgmentally present for my unconscious material as it percolates up to the surface, as it tries to. So one of the metaphors I like to work with is, if all of my parts are in a minivan, I always want my organic self, my highest self, to be in the driver's seat in charge. So through mindfulness, what I can see sometimes is some of those parts are trying to get in the front seat and drive the van. And what happens when that happens is I can be reactive or I can take choices that are not serving me or short sighted or dead ends that then I can say, see, that's why I don't put myself out there, because it always fails. And so then I can continue to perpetuate those beliefs which are actually not who I really.

00:15:28 - Brett Hill

Just want to fill out a little bit for listeners, this notion of different, like, there's Richard Schwartz work with eternal family systems is a version of that, and John Eisman's brilliant with it. And Hakomi, they work a lot with child states and things like that. And so one of the ways this can show up is, for example, let's say someone is feeling like they didn't get enough in the world because they had too many people in their family. There wasn't enough food. And so there's a self that can show up that's like, there's not enough for me in the world, and that's an actual experience. And so they can walk through life going, well, there's not enough. Then there's another self that can come in and say, well, I have to fight for what I need. And then there's another self that can show up thinking, go, well, I don't want to take from others because, oh, no, excuse me. What I'm thinking of is I don't want to take what I need because that means other people don't get enough when there's not enough to go around, when the people, all these parts can show up within a single person. And like you say, who's driving the van? Right? And then there's survivor selves and caretaking selves and protector cells and all kinds of ways that we can fragment strategic selves. Is this aligned with your notion of it?

00:16:57 - Michael Gibian

Yes, exactly. So I operate mainly with John Eisman's model, where there are four main categories of. And just to be clear, the most basic understanding of it is that mainly in early childhood development, but throughout life it can happen, but mainly in early childhood development, when we get into an impasse, for instance, there's an innate part of me that knew that I am lovable and should be loved, and this is just a scenario, but had my mother not loved me over enough injurious interactions with someone who's supposed to love you and doesn't, the psyche splits off. A fragmentation of a self that can hold that wounding because it's too painful to hold in the actual self. So the way that's how they get formed and then they're frozen in time. And the way I like to think of it is, it's like when you have a dream, the dream seems so real. And then when you wake up from the dream, the waking self knows this is reality, and that was just a dream. But when you're in the dream, it seems so real. So when I'm dreaming that I'm being chased by a bear, I'm very taken with the idea of how do I outrun a bear? How do I survive the bear chasing me or following me up a tree or trying to eat me, right? But when I wake up from that, I don't actually have to keep problem solving how to be surviving the bear. I just have to wake up from the dream. So, similarly, when I'm finding through mindfulness, when I notice that one of those dreamlike states that seem so real is actually where I'm living from, I don't need to actually problem solve what that perspective is. I need to just figure out how to wake up from that state into the organic self, the truer self, the self with the capital s is how I think of it. I think of the fragments as little s's and the most true self as the capital s. Right? So I think there are tools and techniques to work both. How do I wake up when I'm in one of those fragmented states, which is usually contracted and small and less than unworthy and things like that, how do I wake up from that? And then the other part of it is, because of what we know about neuroplasticity, is that we develop deep grooves around what we practice. So if I practice thinking and feeling, and the posture that goes with feeling less than, then I get very good at it. And my neurology becomes really habituated to supporting that. So it's really easy for me to fall in that, including things like sadness. If I practice feeling sad, I actually have sadness readily available at any moment. It's no problem to feel sad. So the work then is, how do I wake up from the dream of sadness and then practice something else so I can learn how to sustain feeling that other state? I don't have to practice not feeling sad because neurologically that will dissipate. And the new neural net that gets created that you. Yes. And as I practice that, that gets strong and that neural net gets developed and the other one dissipates. In fact, some of those neurons get recruited for the new neural net if you practice it enough.

00:20:36 - Brett Hill

So how do you practice that?

00:20:40 - Michael Gibian

That's a great question. So, I think starting number one with developing a practice around knowing how to pause. So at any moment where I'm heated or in conflict or not at peace with or non accepting or anything other than feeling. Yes. Feeling like I want to lean towards the experience, anytime it's something other than that, then I try and remind myself, maybe I should take a moment to get really present.

00:21:14 - Brett Hill

So you're using that discomfort as a cue.

00:21:17 - Michael Gibian

Yes. And that's something that one can train themselves? Part of it is that I'm highly motivated to not suffer unnecessarily. That's a good one. Yeah. Another buddhist concept is that pain is inevitable. People that I love die. There's injustice in the world. There's unfairness. So that's painful, and that's just real. But the part that I might add to it, by resisting it or by craving only pleasurable things to remain permanent, I'm causing myself suffering, and I'm really motivated to not suffer. So I've taught myself to have a cue around anything that isn't the mission or purpose of my truest self. As soon as I can wake up to. Let me just take a moment here, then I can turn my attention. So, actually, this comes from recreation of the self. John taught what he calls a three step process. So the first step is actually contacting the experience. So that's noticing that I'm not aligned with my mission or purpose. So let me contact the experience of what is actually going on instead. And that might be some kind of resistance or feeling resentment or less than. Or anything like that.

00:22:43 - Brett Hill

You say contact. That's like noticing. And naming.

00:22:46 - Michael Gibian

And naming, yes, exactly. The second step is immersing myself in that, to take the mindfulness and deepen into the whole. Think of it at the neurological level, that whole neural net. It's containing the attitudes, the beliefs, the physical postures, the mood, beliefs about myself and the world, what's possible and not possible. And as much as I can immerse.

00:23:20 - Brett Hill

I'm sorry to interrupt, but could you help out? I think it'd be better if you could give an example of that. Like that mindset that you're talking about you're immersing into.

00:23:30 - Michael Gibian

Yeah. So imagine I'm at work, and I get into a heated discussion with somebody. So that heatedness is a cue to get really present. And so in this case, if I get really present, what I might notice the reason I'm feeling heated is that I can become aware through the mindfulness that I have a need that isn't being met. And so it's my obligation to express what that need might be and how the other person might work with me to meet the need. And so the way that usually shows up is that I first feel feelings, feelings of resentment or wanting to prove my point. I want to be right or I want to prove them wrong. And usually, since that's not my normal mode, that's a good moment to like, oh, okay. I'm noticing that I'm really feeling like I want to fight against this person and there's this friction there.

00:24:34 - Brett Hill

So this is like the dream you were talking about earlier, then?

00:24:37 - Michael Gibian

Exactly. The dream state is feeling at ods with this other person instead of feeling like I'm within myself and they're within their self and there's a certain amount of harmony, which is how it often can be. So that's my waking up to the reality that I'm in this dream state is there's all this tension and I have these strong feelings that I want to prove them right. And I'm going to say it this way and I'm going to say it that way until they see my point, which almost never works. That's the other thing about this, is that the solution doesn't come from within the dream state. It can't, because the only thing that that fragment itself knows is the storyline that supports that reality.

00:25:21 - Brett Hill

Right. So the only thing, if you ask that person who's having that experience right now about it, they're always going to say, well, this is why what I'm doing is, okay. It's because they're wrong and they shouldn't do that and they didn't treat me right and I handled this. You're only going to get stuff from that level.

00:25:38 - Michael Gibian

Exactly. That's why I think we can all relate to how from that place, if I just keep doing what I've always done, it's never led ever to what I'm actually wanting or needing in that moment. The only thing that can is to start to notice that I'm in this trance or dreamlike state. And that's by becoming aware. And when I become aware, I notice, oh, I'm feeling resentful, I'm feeling angry, I'm feeling misunderstood, I'm feeling unhurt or unheard. And part of why I feel that is below that there's a need of harmony or connection or cooperation. And so then maybe in this case, interpersonally, I might have to express that I have this need, and I'd really like to get along better. I feel like both of us have valid points here. Maybe we could try and slow things down and see if we can really come to a place of more accord rather than conflict.

00:26:38 - Brett Hill

Yeah, that's really nice. There are all kinds of other layers that can come in, though, right, in the sense that someone can notice, oh, there's all this conflict and what can enter then? What do you do with a voice that might come in and go, well, you shouldn't be mad. There's something wrong with you for being and, oh, there you go again, not being awake enough to manage this. What's wrong with you that you can't figure this out? Like, those kinds of voices can come in and kind of hijack the.

00:27:15 - Michael Gibian


00:27:16 - Brett Hill

What do you say to people that have those kinds of experiences?

00:27:20 - Michael Gibian

Yeah, so that's a great point. So Ron Kurtz, who created haikomi, used to refer to those voices as his butlers, because the right as his butlers, like, so the correct orientation or way to be organized is. I like to think of the minivan metaphor again. So my organic self that's really aligned with my mission and purpose is in the driver's seat. But maybe that driving style feels reckless to a part of me that's more conservative and concerned. So that part is going to be one of those voices that's coming up from behind and saying, maybe you should slow down or take the curves more easily. And the way I like to work with those is say, thank you. I appreciate your opinion. I'll take that under advisement. And let me see if I can accommodate so that you can feel like you can settle. Right. So in mindfulness, that's possible. If I'm not mindful, that voice comes forward, gets in the driver's seat, and takes over, and now I'm in the.

00:28:32 - Brett Hill

Dream state if it gets too threatened. Right. So what you're saying is sort of like, be compassionate towards the voice. Right.

00:28:39 - Michael Gibian

Be supportive, be compassionate, and align and be really genuine about taking in the feedback that they're receiving. Because for that part, that voice, their story, is very real. In fact, it's the only reality they know.

00:28:55 - Brett Hill


00:28:56 - Michael Gibian

And if I don't attend to it, they will persist and attempt to hijack, because their sole purpose is to prevent the wounding that happened in the first place from happening again.

00:29:11 - Brett Hill

Yeah. So another way of seeing this is, like, all those parts are actually trying to protect you in some way.

00:29:17 - Michael Gibian

They're absolutely trying to protect. Well, they're trying to protect me from the injury that happened that caused them to be born in the first place. Exactly. And so, for instance, imagine you're in a new city and you're in a dark alley at night in a place you don't know, and you feel a little bit like, whoa, I don't know if I should be here. Some of those voices are going to get louder and louder, and they're going to be like, this is not okay. This is unsafe. What we might not be conscious to is those parts are elicited because it's reminiscent of a past experience where we were injured or wounded. Right. So in mindfulness, my job then is to say, yeah, this does really remind us of that past experience. I hear you, but I've got this. This is not. Then I know it reminds us of that, but this is not them, because I actually can remember the past experience that was wounding. But I'm also aware of what's happening in present time, which they're not.

00:30:17 - Brett Hill

Yeah, great stuff. I noticed in your work you have a somatic orientation, and by that real body focused orientation. So tell me how that came in, because you talked a lot about meditating and then wanting to get to kind of a different place in it. How did that lead you to a body focused sort of orientation and learning about the value of that when helping your clients?

00:30:47 - Michael Gibian

Yeah. Well, I have practiced body work and physiotherapy and massage for almost 30 years now as well. And it was early on through, I was at a yoga teacher's training that I got exposed to thai massage, which is massage that comes from Thailand, which is in Thailand. They call it the lazy person's yoga. It's like having yoga done to you. So you get stretched and pressed and manipulated, and there's acupressure.

00:31:18 - Brett Hill

So it's pretty assertive, isn't it?

00:31:21 - Michael Gibian

It's quite physical, yes, but it can be gentle. But what I found in doing that for years and years and years was that very naturally, it seemed to evoke emotional states. It seemed to bring people into cathartic experiences. And I felt like it was an interest and a duty to understand the psychological ramifications of that. And so that's how I came across Hakomi. And of course, Hakomi is mindfulness based and somatic oriented. And so some of the way the somatic parts, I notice show up, like in a coaching session, you might notice, like in a zoom like this, where the client might. You might bring up something like, you really could try this thing, and they do something like, I don't know. Right. It could be subtle.

00:32:14 - Brett Hill

See how I'm just away and down.

00:32:16 - Michael Gibian

I'm turning away.

00:32:18 - Brett Hill


00:32:18 - Michael Gibian

And so in Hakomi, we're trained to notice that and take that really literally, because, again, at the neurological level, that turning away is part of a neural net that holds the beliefs and the attitudes and the mood that go with that. What are they turning away from? And so the way I like to work with that is kind of classic Akomi, is point out what I see and ask them to get extra mindful, get really present, and then slowly turn away. And by doing that in mindfulness, they can actually study that. And by studying it, what they're doing is they're lighting up neuron by neuron, and eventually there's a critical mass where the whole neural net lights up. And then they get full access to the attitudes, beliefs, and memories and story that go with the turning away and what they're turning away from and why they might feel like they need to.

00:33:17 - Brett Hill

And so in doing that, Ron Kirchwood call this, I think, studying the contents of the subconscious. Right. And so implicit in that is the assumption that there's something that the client's not aware of, that they need to be. So what's your thoughts around? Why does that show up as a nonverbal cue versus a verbal statement?

00:33:40 - Michael Gibian

Well, it can show up in any of those modes because neurologically, it's all been practiced so much that they're now bound together. The beliefs about what's not possible, the mood, the physical posture, the movement away. They're all completely bound together and highly practiced. And so sometimes it might manifest just as an internal voice for them that's saying, oh, no, you couldn't do that. Sometimes it manifests as the turning away. Sometimes there's different parts of it. And so our job is to try and observe them closely enough that we notice any flicker of that neurology that's indicative of fragment coming to the fore versus the person being in that place where I'm really connected to my passion and my purpose and my mission. And sure, I can have doubts, but there's a sense of they're connected to that for themselves. Right.

00:34:41 - Brett Hill

So you said you worked. How long did you study with Ron Kurtz?

00:34:46 - Michael Gibian

I studied with him about a year. And then I did the full Hakomi training, and then I did the full rcs training as well. And then I also did the Hakomi simplified, which was Ron in his older years, so he developed Hakomi with this group. Right. And then the Hakomi institutes systematized it and were teaching that. And so Ron was free to keep developing the work. And what he seemed to lean towards was simplifying and not really dentualizing it, but focusing, in my experience, on loving presence as one of the biggest elements of it. And I think that's the magic that we would see in Ron when he would do demonstrations, is that his loving presence was so complete that the entrainment, the mirror neurons, the person's psyche, felt so held and safe and connected that so much was possible. And that was sort of the magic of Ron himself. But I think we can also learn to replicate a lot of what he did through some of the things we're discussing. And loving presence is a great way to start because if you're working with a coach e, and you notice that you're feeling judgmental about them or frustrated, like, man, they don't take my advice or their progress isn't fast enough, or how's that going to reflect on me? Maybe we could still be helpful, but I think it would serve them and us to try and cultivate. Like, what about them is lovable? What about them? How do I see them in their wholeness? I want to be sort of the placeholder for the fact that they're already whole and they already have the capacity to achieve alignment with their mission and their passion.

00:36:51 - Brett Hill

So if you're like someone listening to this and you've done all this fabulous work with Hakomi and RCs and Han and all these other amazing teachers, what would you say to someone who's listening to this and going, well, great. But how can I actually use something from this without having to go through years and years of training? Like, what would be something you could say to either a client or a coach? I think primarily, maybe a coach, since this is the The Mindful Coach Association podcast, to help them kind of land in, I'm going to say, the benefit, but the value of this kind of an orientation.

00:37:35 - Michael Gibian

Yeah, that's important because, of course, not everybody can or wants to go study Hakomi, nor do they need to, of course. So I think what I would say is something, and I think that, like, in Hakomi, we actually train the first whole year, is developing selfhood. We don't learn to work with other people until we have learned to work with ourselves. And so that would be my first bit of advice to coaches, is to learn to apply mindfulness to themselves first before they start to feel like they can really do that with other people, because so often as a coach, one of the main limiting factors for our clients is how deep we're willing to go. Right? So I don't want to be the limiting factor in my coaches experience. So I think people could try something like this. John Eisman developed this idea of referencing the preference, okay. And the way he talked about it was, and not everybody likes massage. So this metaphor doesn't always work. But he talked about, when you're in a certain state, is to ask yourself, is this like a massage or is this like a hammer to the head? So in general, whether you like massage or not, I think we get the point. Do you like how this is going or do you not like how this is going? So we could be in back to the scenario of having a conflict with a coworker, or things aren't going well with a coachee. And in my own time, what I might want to do is reflect on that state that I felt and then ask myself that question, do I like it? I don't want to necessarily get bogged down in attending to. Was that the right viewpoint? What do I do about it? That's not the approach. The approach is not the details. But was that like a massage, or was that like a hammer to the head? And if it's like a massage, then it's probably aligned with your mission and purpose and you should continue to lean into that. But I think what people are going to find is that often it's more like a hammer to the head. It's more like having conflict or having a need to have more connection and accord, but being in conflict. Right. And so that's like a hammer to the head.

00:40:03 - Brett Hill

Go ahead, please.

00:40:05 - Michael Gibian

So when I notice that if what I'm feeling is like a hammer to the head, I want to notice that I have a preference to not have my life feel like that. And that preference is a propellant towards what else could I be doing? And that opens into a more expansive field where I can start to deidentify, disidentify with that state that's like the hammer, and start to identify more with a more expanded space that can look back and say, oh, yeah. So that's a pretty contracted part of me. That part is really concerned or worried or whatever, and I can start to work with that. So it's called referencing the preference feeling into is this pleasurable or not? And again, that's different than the, it's okay to like chocolate ice cream more than vanilla ice cream. Right. But what most people are actually struggling with is more of a stalemate between parts. Because we talked about these four different categories of parts, it's rare that one part is the one that's the voice coming in. Often what we're experiencing is a stalemate between them. So what I like to do is just notice that in that moment, I have a choice. Do I like this choice or that choice? And I lean towards the preference. And that starts to move me towards identifying with a more expanded part of myself, which is where the solutions, the answers and the wisdom is.

00:41:45 - Brett Hill

So there's so much in there. It's like the fact that people notice the pain, right? That's usually an awakening fact, right? Like if you're having a nightmare, that'll wake you up, literally. And so if you're really having a bad experience at some point or another. I've talked to many, many clients and people who have had their life become so stressful that they just have a moment where they go, this cannot continue. I have to do something different because this is a train wreck that is happening or is going to happen. And I know that can't maintain it. It's unmaintainable. And some deeper sense of us knows that that just can't be the way life is going to unfold for me to drive myself into a catastrophe through my experience of how wrong things are, how bad things are, or how stressful things are. And so some point that wakes us up to the fact that we might want a different choice. And so that moment is so precious. So this notion of reference for the preference is like, I would prefer to not be in that crappy situation. And then there's this balance of like, well, sometimes my house is being foreclosed on by the bank. That's not my preference. So how do I wind up being a choice around all of that, these crappy circumstances in my life, right?

00:43:25 - Michael Gibian

So if your house is being foreclosed upon, where I'm trying to turn the reference to the preference is not to the fact of the foreclosure, but to how I'm feeling about the foreclosure, right? That's the part I can do something about the foreclosure is just a fact. How I suffer or don't suffer around that fact is the part I can actually do something that's really.

00:43:49 - Brett Hill

That's exactly the way I align around this, too. I'm reminded of a section of one of Eckhart Tolle's book where he talks about, I thought, brilliantly, around somebody who is signing papers to be bankrupt and he's like, signing the papers. He goes, so before you sign the papers, you're sitting there, you're listening, and you hear a clock on the wall and the bird in the trees, and you hear the scritching of the paper, of the ink on the things, goes, what's changed? What's changed since you signed the paper? And he goes, nothing has changed. The only thing that's changed is you've entered some legal new system. But in terms of what's actually different for you in your life, right this second, it's an abstraction. It's a real thing. And I'm not trying to say it's not a real thing, and there are absolute real consequences, but how you are around it is the point that you can make a choice about if you have rehearsed enough to be able to have that choice. And I think that's what I hear you advocating for, is this practice. So what kinds of things help people to be able to make those decision points more frequently in their lives? To have those decision points? Like to snap out of the trance, so to speak. What kinds of practices help people do that?

00:45:15 - Michael Gibian

It's essential to be committed to the willingness to not suffer unnecessarily. That's critical. There are certain beliefs that people can hold that actually make it so that shifting states won't be possible for them. And it's a trap that I think many of us can fall into. But a willingness and an openness to want to not suffer is critical, because that's what motivates me to have that cue come up. That's what motivates me to take heed when the queue comes up and pause and not dismiss it or brush it aside or say, my feelings that I'm feeling right this moment are valid and I have to feel them. Sometimes that's appropriate and other times that's a story that we're telling ourselves.

00:46:14 - Brett Hill

Excuse me. Go ahead.

00:46:15 - Michael Gibian

So, just to be sure, let's slow it down. Let's get present and feel into it. One of the things I like to do, and I find this really helpful and simple, is I'll deepen into whatever's going on, and I'll ask myself, okay, here's the next moment of my life. Is this how I want it to be? And that simple question elicits a very spontaneous. Usually it's a yes or a no. If there's conflict and there's stress, there's tension. If things aren't going my way and there's a bankruptcy, then the answer often is a no. So what that leads to is there's always a part of me, a parallel neurology, to think of it like that, that's available, that knows something about how my life could be. So all I have to do is move towards that.

00:47:15 - Brett Hill

So you shift into a state of, this is more in the direction of what I would prefer.

00:47:21 - Michael Gibian

Yes, exactly.

00:47:23 - Brett Hill

Nice. So this is all great. So how can people connect with you to learn more about how to do all this goodness and learn more about how to apply this in their circumstances?

00:47:36 - Michael Gibian

Most easily is through my website,, and you can get to me through email there as well. And I have a Facebook group that you can look up as well. It's called mindfulness coaching and counseling. And it's a Facebook group dedicated to ideas like this, coaching in balance with mindfulness. And I'm here to help. That's what my mission and passion is.

00:48:05 - Brett Hill

Yay. Well, that's a great mission. And so we're really happy to have you as a member of the The Mindful Coach Association association and the great work that you're doing and the fabulous way you've taken this so seriously, throwing yourself into it, you have this whole history of, like you said, you wanted to be a student, you wanted to be taught by somebody who really, and you really took that seriously, and you really went after it and found out some good stuff. And then we have such a parallel there, not only in the desires to actually learn from the best that there are on the planet, but also the people that we wind up working with. So that's just so fun. So thank you for all of that and for the work you're doing. And I really appreciate having you here as a guest on the show.

00:48:55 - Michael Gibian

I appreciate having you having me. Thank you. It's been fun.

00:48:58 - Brett Hill

Thank you. We'll talk soon.

00:49:00 - Michael Gibian

All right, take care.S

Subscribe To Our NewsletterJoin our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!