Friday, April 29, 2011

Culturally Aware Coaching

Since establishing my personal website, I've had the good fortune to come together with a small cohort of coaches to focus on an aspect of coaching that, in our opinion, gets too little attention in the coaching profession. That important issue is Cultural Awareness.
We are all coaches of color and began to get together in an informal monthly lunch to talk about how cultural awareness came up in our coaching practices, and in our personal lives. After a year of such meetings, we realized our commitment to the topic, and learned that we enjoyed an affinity and a manner of working together that encouraged us to go further. So we established ourselves as Prism Coaching.
Each Prism coach maintains their own practice, while working on shared goals and activities of Prism Coaching as well.
I have not yet added a Prism link to my website, so I want to add it here. For more information about the individual coaches, and the work of Prism Coaching, please go to There you can learn more about Culturally Aware Coaching and about the gifts that each coach brings.
The one thing I will say, in this limited space is this: Cultural awareness is not another name for "diversity training". We can see, though, just with this comparison of terms, that our language has been evolving, toward recognition and respect of all people. We've come a long way from "the melting pot" terminology and ideology of the 1950's. We now talk about the culture of a business environment, for example. If a person moves from one company to another, he or she must adjust and learn the cultural norms of the new place. When we stop to realize the number of American businesses that now hire employees from foreign countries, and from distinct American ethnic communities, we begin to guess at the complex cultural landscapes of the American business world. When women began to move into managerial and executive positions, that too caused a cultural shift. That's just a glimpse at cultural awareness in business, and it doesn't begin to touch on the components of gender and lifestyle.
I have to admit that when I got my Masters degree in Culture and Spirituality, I had no idea that it would lead me to this work, but I guess it just proves that when you stay on your own path, you are guided, inevitably, to where you are supposed to be.
I just want to add that I'm grateful for the friends and colleagues I discovered through what has become Prism Coaching: (I've listed them in alphabetical order by last names) Jennifer Chien, Kim Fowler, Donald Gerard, Belma Gonzalez, Wendy Horikoshi, Johnny Manzon-Santos, Ernest Mark, Alfredo Vergara-Lobo, and Fresh! White. Go to to learn more about each of us, and more about Culturally Aware Coaching.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Don't Look Down

There is a new movie out called Soul Surfer. It's about Bethany Hamilton, the courageous young surfer who returned to her sport after the loss of an arm to a shark attack. I haven't seen the movie, but I did see an interview with AnnaSophia Robb, the actress who plays Bethany in the film, and she was asked about her own fears in learning to surf. She said that in teaching her, Bethany told her not to look down, and she found that to be the key to keeping her mind focused. In fact, when I heard Bethany interviewed, it was the key to keeping her head and surviving the attack. She said she realized that she was bleeding badly, and instead of trying to see how bad the damage was, she focused her mind on getting back to shore.
When I heard her say that, "Don't look down" suddenly it struck me as a piece of universal wisdom. I say it frequently when teaching people to dance, and I've heard it said about wire-walking and rock climbing. You've probably heard it about other things you've learned (from riding a bicycle to roller skating).
There are two reasons why "Don't look down" is good advice. First, the human head weighs approximately 10 pounds. As soon as the head goes forward, even slightly facing down, the whole body is pulled off balance. Anyone who has tried yoga knows that the alignment of the head with the rest of the body is very important in reaching and maintaining an asana (a Yoga pose).
The second reason "Don't look down" is good advice is: Looking down means letting focus and determination wane, and opening a window to let fear in. Looking down reinforces one's sense of danger. So "Don't look down" is good advice whenever you're taking on a new endeavor that takes courage.
When I heard AnnaSophia Robb say that in her interview, I realized that it was a message to me. For the last two years I've been involved with writing my first novel. I originally set out, about six years ago to write a non-fiction book, but I couldn't find the right voice. Eventually, I had the idea to incorporate the subject I wanted to write about into a story. So I started studying writing fiction, and by the time I heard the Robb interview, I had the novel completed, to such an extent that it was time to start "shopping it around" to agents. Suddenly, I looked down in the sense that I thought "Oh God, what have I done?" I have devoted months to this project, and now I am out here at a point of no return.
What could I do at that point to regain my focus? I had to accept the possibility of worst-case scenarios. I realized that there was no way the project could fail, because I had carried it to it's creative completion. The only way to "fall off my board" would be to stuff it in a drawer.
The drawing posted with this blog post is about the creative process. It's about those moments of fear when we balk or stop ourselves because we have 'looked down'. The blank page can be both the best catalyst and the worst bully. It can look like a deep canyon beneath you, or a space laid out just waiting for your self-expression. So, I hope when you have the next moment of hesitation, you too will remember Bethany Hamilton's life saving advice.