I have lived for about thirty years in Italy. The very first visit to that country was to Genoa in December 1963. All I can say is that when I deplaned and my feet touched the tarmac, my soul came home.
I eventually came to live in Italy in 1969. My first home was in a place called Santa Margherita di Pula located in the southern region of the island of Sardinia. This island captured my heart. The sea is turquoise, the beaches are pristine, the rocks are unbelievable, the people are delightful, and the food is incredibly good.
The last four and a half years of my time in Sardinia were spent on the island of La Maddalena. If Sardinia was said to be the crown of Italy, La Maddalena would be the diamond sparkling in that crown. In my post Poetry- Sharing My Love of Sardinia I already described this beautiful island and shared one poem that I wrote in nostalgia after I left. Here is another poem that I wrote during the course of a revisit.
Hot air hanging languidly in a shimmering haze.
Warm brown bodies proffered to the sun,
Splayed on molten sand.
Still waters reflecting glistening gems
Of cool coral edged with mother-of-pearl
Mirrored under translucent turquoise.
Oh island of my heart, my soul, my mind,
Resplendent as a queen you proudly lie
Royally robed in colors warm and bright.
Your elegant form bedecked with dazzling jewels
Enchanting all who dare to gaze upon you,
By nature so generously endowed.
In sharp contrast is the city of Naples. I returned to live in Italy after spending five years back in the UK, and by God-incidence I ended up in Naples. Naples is a wild and chaotic city that lives by its own rules, as do the Neapolitans! It is a city of wide contradictions and immense fascination. There is a saying that goes, “See Naples and die”, meaning that nothing counts after experiencing Naples.
In my previous post Poetry- The Urchin From Naples, I gave some personal insights into this crazy and wonderful city as well as sharing a poem that I wrote before I ever physically visited there. The following poem describes how I felt about it after being there just one week. Naples had “grabbed me by the throat” (this is what the locals say about the effect their city has on some people!l).
Faded ochre, dirty rose,
Clothed in webs of ivy green
Spattered with dust.
Crooked cracks, crusted crannies
Creeping in all directions
On ancient walls.
In bright profusion.
In loud confusion.
City of love and painted passion,
Full of life and sight and sound,
City of song and laughter.
The dust may cling and spread around,
Crimes may take place each day, all day,
But you are throbbing, alive, and gay.
You are a heartbeat unto yourself.
And as you spawn your hopes, your fears
Into your maddening noises streets
I can no longer ignore the fact that some of you may be wondering why the words Life Coach precede the words Spirit, Body and Mind at the top of my blog page. Life Coaching is a new career field that has opened up in recent years and I am, in fact, a certified Life Coach. I chose to get my certification with the Certified Coaches Federation (CCF).
However, Life Coaching is something that I have been doing for years. I just didn’t call it that or realize that I was doing that until late last year. That’s when I “God-incidentally” received an email through an unknown source that introduced me to CCF. I contacted them to make inquiries about the certification course they offered and that was when I recognized that most of what they taught I already knew and practiced. I just didn’t have certification in the specific field.
I have already mentioned in previous blogs that I made a serious life change about thirty years ago. This entailed much work on myself, changes in attitudes and behavior, in other words a major lifestyle change. As a result of all of the above, I opened my heart, my mind, and my soul to many opportunities that I would otherwise have never seen. I opened many doors that I had previously ignored and began to live a very full and rich life and continue to do so to this present moment.
I explored many paths on the road back to the religion of my childhood – Catholicism. However, the practice of my religion is only one aspect of my spirituality. Along the way I opened myself to being there for others, becoming part of the CREDO retreat team in Naples, Italy and also becoming a facilitator for a class called NADSAP. This acronym stood for Navy Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program, which was later known as Navy Alcohol Drug and Substance Abuse Program. I believe that today this program carries yet another acronym and name which I do not know.
In order to undertake these roles I had to go through both programs as a willing participant then undertake paraprofessional training. They were both fairly stringent and involved a lot of personal growth and continued maintenance training each year. I will not go into the details of those trainings but I can tell you the skills that we came out with were highly developed in the following areas: active listening, empathy, compassion, tracking, objective feedback, personal disclosure, non judgmentalism, personality recognition, and genuineness.
So let’s get back to Life Coaching. What is it? And why do people need a Life Coach. If you think about a sports team, whether they are good or bad, they got to where they are with the help of a coach, maybe many coaches. The coach is there to assess the teams strengths and weaknesses, to see where they stand right now, and to look at what they can do to achieve future goals. He or she is there to make sure they don’t get stuck.
And so it is with an individual person who is attempting to navigate the oceans of life. Why can’t the team or the individual see that and work to change things without the help of a coach you may ask? The best answer to that question may be because they are all too emotionally close to the the issue/s at hand. In other words they can’t see the forest for the trees, or vice versa.
This is where the coach comes in. However, there is one big difference between a sports team coach and a Life Coach. A sports team coach, once he/she has made all the necessary assessments, then makes a plan and gives instructions as to what the team has to do. A Life Coach creates a professional rapport with the client from which he or she can then help the client recognize where they are at and what goals they want to achieve. Then through the skilful use of uniquely created tools, the Life Coach will encourage the client to take action to achieve their goals.
Life Coaching is most definitely a process which involves a commitment from both parties – the coach and the client. And when I say a commitment I mean a signed-on-the-dotted-line-contract kind of commitment. This creates a professional relationship between the two parties. The coach commits to be there fully and intentionally for the client, and the client commits to stick with the coach for a specified amount of time in order to reach his or her goals.
The main idea behind Life Coaching is to help people to recognize and break through their self-imposed limitations and to identify and achieve goals, dreams, and aspirations that will improve and enhance their lives, their careers, and their relationships. The coach never tells the client what to do. The coach is there to actively and objectively listen, to empower, and then to encourage the client along his or her path.
The beauty of Life Coaching is that it does not “brain wash” or take away from the client’s unique ideas, nor does it seek to interfere with or change their personality. The coach becomes a “companion walker in life” if you will, however the client has to take his or her own footsteps.
Another unique aspect of Life Coaching is that you do not have to be face-to-face with the client to do effective coaching. In fact much Life Coaching is done over the telephone. My personal preference is to have at least one initial face-to-face session with the client and then move to telephone sessions if that proves to be a convenient method for the client to be coached.
Life Coaching is a very satisfying career. It is a privilege indeed when someone asks me to enter their life. My sense of wonder increases a thousand fold as I watch a client’s sense of wonder at themselves increase through the coaching process. I find that it is an honor to help someone to recognize their personal beauty, worth, and potential as they explore their relationships, their place on this earth, and the value that they can bring to anything they put their mind to.
A couple of months ago I was part of a team putting on a women’s retreat. We had come together on the Friday evening to do the set up and preparation for the weekend. There was a lot of physical work involved and by the end of the evening I was tired, disheveled, and sweaty. Although I felt in inner satisfaction at the work achieved, I did not feel pretty in that moment.
Some of the team had already gone home; family schedules or sheer tiredness. But a handful of us put the finishing touches to things, and then gathered for a few moments of prayer together in the small chapel we had just created for the weekend. One of the ladies said a spontaneous prayer about us being instruments of the Lord and asking God to let His light to shine out from us.
On my way home I had to stop off at Publix to pick up a few items. It was almost closing time, about 9.40pm by the time I got there. I ran in, grabbed what I needed, and headed out the store to go home. As I stepped out and into the parking lot a gentleman had just parked in the Handicap slot and was exiting his truck.
In that moment my mind took in a couple of things: he had parked in the Handicap slot and he was using a cane for support as he walked. I took my second step into the parking lot as he turned toward the store and our eyes met. It wasn’t a “frozen-in-time” moment. I’ll try to explain it.
The next three or four seconds seemed to run in slow motion. Everything that happened was like a .1 of a second, frame-by-frame shot of those moments. I took in the gentleman’s physical handicaps (possibly the result of cerebral palsy). I saw his eyes light up as he took in my presence. I watched as his mind began framing a thought and then started transmitting that thought from his brain to his mouth.
Speaking slowly and with some difficulty he said, “You are so very pretty ma’am”. I was totally caught off guard. I think I hesitated for a fraction of a second in my step as I tried to process the words that I had heard and the context of the moment. And then I gave him a huge smile as I replied, “Thank you sir.” Again, I watched his thought process form and the transmitting order going from brain to mouth, and he added, “You are glowing with prettiness”. Without hesitation I said, “That’s because I’ve been about God’s business”. He nodded, tipped his baseball cap, and we both went about our ways richer for our encounter.
This story so far, in and of itself, is beautiful. But it didn’t end there. I went home feeling light as a feather and feeling truly beautiful inside and out, as only a 65 year-old women who was feeling very scruffy at the time of this occurrence could possibly feel. I was not only smiling with my mouth, but it felt like I had a huge smile inside my stomach that was just spreading all over my body.
Next morning I was up before dawn to head over the St. John’s river to the church. We had an awesome first day of retreat and early on Sunday morning we gathered together in our chapel for morning prayers which Deacon Paul had written especially for our weekend. Imagine the synchronicity, the God-incidence that I felt when we came to read the response that he had created for our Intercessions. The exact words were (thank you Sue!), “Lord, make us shine with the brightness of Christ.”