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The Power and Presence of Level 4 in Coaching and Leadership

  • POSTED ON APRIL 26, 2023
a pair of headphones around wooden blocks that spell “LISTEN” and “LEARN”

What is Presence?

Presence could be defined as an invisible and formless essence that our heart knows but our mind can neither grasp nor conceptualize. It deeply resonates as our truest nature and as the source of all that is. Everything appears in Presence. Nothing defines it. Presence is like the original sound, source of all vibrations, rising out of and dying in absolute stillness.

Another word for Presence is God but that has so many religious and other connotations, that it may stir up some resistance in some of us. More neutral words that come close to Presence are beingness, aliveness or resonance. The closer to Presence one is, the more aliveness is being experienced. The whole Co-Active Model points to Presence. In my experience, the Co-Cctive Model is like a key that opens the door to Presence.

From Seeker to Leader: My Journey to Presence

Before I started my Co-Active journey, in 2009, I was a seeker. I was trying to find the answer to all my deepest questions in books, gurus, courses, retreats. In 2009, together with a breakdown in my marriage, it seems like over a period of a few years, everything I imagined myself to be, was torn apart, ripped to pieces after which true Presence revealed itself more and more clearly.  Co-Active Coaching was the biggest gift when I discovered it right then, in the middle of a failing marriage.

Co-Active coaching helped me to courageously and steadily descend from the head to the heart. At first, it takes courage to let go of our mind that gives us the false idea of being in control of life through our beliefs, ideas, identifications and it is equally frightening to stay in the aliveness of Presence, staying in the resonance or the aliveness of our heart is so threatening to the very existence of the mind that we feel we must resist it, we must get on with life, rush through life and do whatever it takes to do rather than staying here, present, and simply experiencing the beauty of life as it is in this moment, it takes vulnerability to be touched by life in our precious and sensitive heart.  As we walk this path, we know that true freedom lies in the full experience of life in this moment, surrendering to that greater Presence that is the source of all that is. It is not that life only shows up in easy, comfortable ways, but it is always here as it is and nudging us forward towards the highest expression of ourselves.

The Power of Presence

When I relax fully and all mental activities slow down, when I am not interfering with life and allow everything to be as it is, the outer world of objects, the inner mental world of feelings, sensations, thinking and everything in between, Presence becomes more obvious; the objects and people we see from the perspective of the mind, create a reality that is a reflection of the viewpoint we occupy. Presence is freedom, it is glorious, heart opening, touching, beautiful. When I stop and allow everything to be as it is, even on a bad day, I feel the aliveness that comes from Presence.

Most of us feel that Presence in moments of flow when everything goes the way we want it to go and we tend to associate Presence with everything the mind would like to grasp and hold on to, however, if you start experimenting with opening up to this Presence on a bad day, and you let yourself, the world, all your ideas be exactly as they are, you may find that there is something enjoyable happening, a sense of aliveness, resonance, a connection to what is real and true. This is power: the ability to stay and be present to life as it is. When we are open and available to Presence, life is experienced as whole, complete, perfect. Not perfect according to some ideal vision we hold of how the world should be, but perfect, exactly as it is and there is no desire to label this experience, this moment as positive or negative as good or bad, or anything else.
This moment is and this is enough as it is. This quality of presence is what evokes transformation in us and in the people we serve.

How to Lead from Presence

When we coach or lead from the field of Presence or as Presence, we open up to our highest potential and we act from intuition which is knowing beyond our logical, linear mind, we act from direct observation, and it is not so much that we act, it feels like action is happening through us, effortlessly. Whenever I am engaged in life, participating in life, I don’t need to think to know what the appropriate thing is to do in this unique instant. I am inspired, empowered, in service. This is true self management as the context of the co-active model points to, the imaginary me disappears and we are attuned with this higher power. This is the magic of co-activity. It is felt by everyone and if you try to figure it out, to turn this into a rule, to find the recipe to get there, you instantly lose connection to Presence since there is no recipe. Presence is impossible to put in a box. It requires surrendering, trust, not-knowing, openness, transparency. You give up everything you know and have ever believed and then Presence reveals itself in the way it is, never in the way you want it to.

The Oneness of Coach and Coachee

Most coaches, including myself for a long time, believe there is a separate me here, the coach, who must create a positive impact on the other separate person, the coachee.

While both coach and coachee are different and unique expressions of Presence with different bodies and different world views and ideas, we are not separate, none of us is truly separate from one another, we are all stemming from the same source and are imbued by that same source even when each of us, every creation is unique. The love, beauty, intelligence we experience is sourced in Presence. The diversity in the world of form is rich and abundant and a celebration of life. The world of form is a testimony to the one source that all is. The relationship between us is not defined in time and space, it is beyond time and space and beyond the world of form, it is Presence appearing through us and therefore everything that happens in the relationship is reflected, sensed, felt, known by both, it is instant, it is all knowing and powerful. That is why being transparent creates trust and it is a confirmation of what we already know before any word is uttered.

To the degree we identify with the separate self as coach, we stop the spontaneous flow of life flowing through us. Dissonance comes from filters, stuck perspectives, beliefs and ideas, from holding on to memories. Resonance comes from Presence.

The Creative Process

When I open my mind as wide as possible, I seem to dissolve into Presence, I feel fulfilled, happy, radiant, full of joy. This is the creative process. The creative process is the exhilaration that is felt in your heart as you work from this openness, you enjoy what you doing as you are doing it and it is hugely satisfying. You don’t need to be an artist to know and experience the creative process. Everyone is creative in their unique expression of life; a plumber, an accountant, a janitor can experience this creative process as much as any other human whether they call themselves an artist or not.

As a creative, I love art and art making, but I experience the creative process also in simple activities like cooking, cleaning, driving, …  Whenever I act without an attachment to a specific outcome: not to gain approval, validation or money but purely, out of love or more simply, out of a natural unfolding within myself, out of this enthusiasm, I am experiencing the creative process at work, God in action, Presence. 

It has not always been this way. My younger self only enjoyed life when the circumstances were favorable, there were the things I loved doing and many things I hated doing, I resisted certain chores which I felt were below me. I am grateful to be free from all this now.

It is important to know yourself and know what feels most fulfilling to you so that you find work that is aligned to your values and inherent talents. However, it is very easy to turn this fulfilling activity into another burden, a means to get somewhere and be someone which in turn can take all the joy out of it. In Co-active coaching, we call this the saboteur, it changes form like a chameleon to maintain control over your life. It is a trickster.

The Power of Co-activity: How to Be Fully Aware and Engaged in the Now

The power of co-activity in coaching and leadership is this focus on the experience of life as it appears in this moment. Experience is life in action, it is creative. It is the manifestation of Presence in form.  Through this unique experience we are opening up to and connected to Presence which is also called the level 4 field in Leadership. It informs us and empowers us. Our focus as coach or leader is to help others to really experience what is going on in this moment. By noticing and becoming one with this experience, it is already changing into the next expression of Presence. Life is always happening right here, right now. While the past is also here in the form of memories, it definitively does not feel as alive and resonant as this moment which is ever fresh and spontaneous. When you are fully immersed in the river of life, being the river, you experience eternity. The moments that are fully lived are eternal and inspiring. Knowing this, as coaches and leaders we develop this muscle to remain unattached and open, to work from the now, from what is happening here as this moment, here and now is our direct access point to Presence that holds all potential, all possibilities. We let go of wanting to be the expert, the one who knows, and we become willing to explore the unknown by diving into this moment, open, innocent, without any filter.

When we talk with our clients about their topics, about life and how it should be, we are missing the point. The magic happens when we dive into this experience, this which is beyond or prior to our thoughts and ideas about it. This which is real and true now. It empowers the client as they can feel immediately and directly what is true for them and they become their own authority in life. From this place powerful and resonant action is taken and old patterns of outdated habits are released. This Presence is transformational.

In contemplating this moment, here and now, in sensing, noticing what is, the sensations, the sounds, perceiving what is, without interpreting them, without trying to be smart about them and without labelling, simply noticing what appears, as sound, as light, as form is touching Presence. We hear all; we hear the sounds, and we hear the silence which allows for the sounds to be heard, we see the objects and we see the space around it and suddenly the most common object becomes a piece of art. Unique and imbued with Presence. And as the saying goes: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We come to realize that we have this magical power to imbue life with Presence by relaxing into Presence and welcoming what appears to be happening as it is. It is Presence, from which I am born and into which I die, that has the power to see itself through the world as the world.

Presence reveals itself in this vibrant aliveness of this moment, it has no opposite, life expresses itself perfectly as it does and there is no judgment, no separation, no mistake.

Let us do an experiment:

Just allow yourself to stop and be, there is nothing for you to do and nothing to accomplish, you let life be as it is, including your body, let it be as it is, including your thoughts, let them be as they are, just let everything be as it is. Now bring your open curiosity to what is, no effort, just a relaxed open curiosity to what is beyond all this or prior to all this. Just get a sense of it.

  • What are you experiencing?
  • Whatever words come up, set the words aside and stay with this, what is being experienced now? And now? And now? and allow yourself to sink deeper into it.
  • What is this?

As we explore this vibrant, alive Presence, stay open to new discoveries, it is calling us forth, more and more. You may notice that every time you believe you found it, Presence shows up differently. Presence is undefinable, unpredictable, unfathomable, and ineffable yet real.

The Impact of Being One with Presence

To be one with Presence is what makes coaches and leaders show up most powerfully and impactful. This surrendering to Presence is the power that knows the way and guides us perfectly through whatever seemingly impossible situation.

In Presence, we feel safe, grounded, powerful and loved and Presence expresses itself through us with beauty, truth, and intelligence.

Annabel Bourgois Profile Photo
Written By

Annabel Bourgois

Annabel is a coach, artist, a visionary leader and free spirit. She has a Masters Degree in languages and is fluent in Dutch, French, and English. She also speaks Italian and German. Annabel lives in Belgium and works internationally with people, from U.S., Europe, and Middle East, who are committed to playing BIG in life. Annabel has been active in personal development since 1995 and joined CTI Faculty in 2014 as a Supervisor and Certification Program Leader. She loves empowering coaches to be even more daring and impactful.

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