This is my article from the Devotee Care Journal.
Title: HELPING DEVOTEES SUCCEED
Subtitle: Spiritual life coaching for ISKCON devotees
Author: Akrura dasa, Gita Coaching, London UK
In this article I present my experience in attempting to care for devotees in ISKCON over the past ten years through spiritual coaching and guidance. I call it Gita Coaching as its purpose is to help devotees learn and apply the Bhagavad-gita As It Is in their lives. As I consider Bhagavad-gita the ultimate (holistic) success book, thus coaching based on it is also holistic, i.e., it covers all the key areas of devotees’ lives, with the aim of making spiritual advancement.
I started Gita Coaching around the time when I joined ISKCON London (Soho) as an executive secretary – in September 2001. While coaching devotees I constantly learned many principles and tools from professionals via live courses and the Internet. After two years of coaching and self-education I took three coach training courses from the Newcastle College in England and completed them successfully. I learned a lot about how to help clients succeed I am using it to help Krsna’s devotees succeed, based on the principle of yukta vairagya.
The purpose of Gita Coaching is helping devotees succeed in all areas of their lives. It is based on the Vedic aphorism sarve sukino bhavantu – let everyone become happy, and on the Bhagavad-gita verse from the Second Chapter which says that soul is amazing (Bg 2.29). Every devotee has much more potential that he is currently using. Gita Coaching helps to discover and engage that potential in Krsna’s service, for the greatest benefit of the devotee.
Helping devotees succeed is like a journey. You become curious what Krsna has in store for a devotee you are assisting. Krsna usually has both roses and thunderbolts for a devotee, and it is wonderful to see how these come about. It is also an honor to be with and assist someone while they are experiencing Krsna’s support in various ways as well as challenges, both internal and external.
Usually the obstacles devotees face are mainly internal: the way they see people and things, the way they see themselves, the way they are habituated to think and feel, and their desires. We help them overcome those by gaining clarity about what they want and the determination to pursue worthy goals. Once they start overcoming internal obstacles they are more capable of dealing with any external obstacles that come their way.
Helping devotees succeed also involves helping them see what happens to them and around them through the eyes of the scriptures, because the significant problems we face cannot be solved on the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. We need a fresh perspective, a new, uplifted consciousness.
We help devotees to build strong pillars for their success, like steady and serious chanting of japa every single day. For this we provide a Japa Excellence Tool, a simple one-sheet table to keep track of the daily progress (available upon request). What you measure tends to improve. Some devotees report to me about their japa for years, as it helps them improve their chanting. Another pillar is regular reading of scriptures or hearing classes, or both. Instead of listening to our mind, we can listen to something spiritually uplifting and enlivening, but in order to bring good results, it needs to become a daily habit of actively seeking new principles, stories and tools that will help us support our spiritual advancement and material sustenance.
Gita Coaching services provide support, guidance and sometimes challenge. Support is given by sincerely seeking to understand a devotee, a genuine interest in devotee’s life and a sincere desire for them to succeed in all areas. Devotee’s life becomes important to you. Guidance is provided by asking relevant questions and sometimes giving recommendations or directing a devotee where and how he can learn what he needs to learn in order to move forward. However, we encourage devotees to seek their own solutions and draw their own conclusions about what they want to do with their lives. We encourage taking full responsibility for one’s thinking and action. Challenge is offered only when a devotee has trust that a coach has his best interest at heart. Usually the challenge comes in a form of a question that helps discover devotee’s internal obstacles to progress or highlights the goals that devotee wants to achieve but is procrastinating.
In working with hundreds of devotees from many parts of the world, I have seen that the real effective change and a positive progress starts when a devotee stops blaming anyone, including Krsna, for his distress or lack of success, and takes full responsibility for his life: past, present and future. Success starts with clarity about what we want in life and what are our main roles (responsibilities and relationships) and with taking 108 percent responsibility for our behavior, our spiritual practice, our service and work, and especially our relationships. Taking responsibility is another great pillar for devotee’s success and I always look for an opportunity to encourage it.
As Bhagavad-gita is holistic, so is the Gita Coaching. It helps devotees become more effective in the areas of health, sadhana, service, relationships, etc. As all these areas influence each other, it is important to work on enhancing all of them, as far as possible. So we help devotees to look at their life as an indivisible whole and to see how various parts relate to and influence each other. For a peaceful and happy life, balance is an important factor, which is mentioned in the Sixth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita.
In helping devotees succeed, Gita Coaching approach does not create dependency, rather it strives to help devotees to help themselves by becoming spiritually and mentally strong and physically healthy. Success happens on the field, when you are not with your coach. Your coach will provide powerful questions, principles, strategies and tools, but if you want to make progress you need to practice every day, you need to pay the price of success every single day. Accumulation of these sincere, regular efforts attracts Krsna’s attention and brings strength and momentum.
The most exciting part for me in helping devotees succeed is discovering their worth and potential, and discovering with them new possibilities, advantages, options and solutions. Gita Coaching process does not work on a devotee, but works for him and with him.
On a practical side, Gita Coaching is a weekly or a fortnightly, focused conversation (face-to-face or on the phone), that helps you clarify what you want, make an inspiring plan and take dynamic, intelligent action. It is focused on you and your needs, your goals, and your success. A coach will help you see and focus on what you can be rather than what you are.
We use this simple GITA coaching Model as a framework for coaching:
Goals – Instructions – Tests – Action
Goals: we ask you to choose an important area of your life you want to work on and write down goals you want to achieve in that area.
Instructions: we ask you to choose one goal you would like to work on right now and find spiritual instructions and, if needed, professional knowledge that will help you achieve it.
Tests: we ask you to write down what internal and external tests or obstacles you have to pass in order to achieve it.
Action: we ask you to write down a weekly action plan to start moving towards achieving your goal.
We also ask for accountability. Sometimes devotees ask to send me reports and be accountable for their goals and action, because it helps them focus and discipline themselves to work on what they have chosen as important. For a spiritual coach, being an accountability partner is an important part of being a success partner of the devotee.
Here are some of the good results and benefits you can get from Gita Coaching if you take the process seriously:
- Powerful ideas for your spiritual and professional success, leadership and management service, and preaching
- Better self discipline and sadhana
- Better Relationships
- Excellent time and life management and goal setting skills
- Taking responsibility for your constant motivation
- Overcoming internal and external obstacles to success
- Tapping into the power of intuition and a greater ability to listen to your conscience
- A sense of being connected to Krsna more strongly
- Strong connection with timeless success principles or natural laws
- Spiritual support and guidance
- Career ideas ... and much more!
Helping devotees succeed is a process, not an event. I call it a lifetime coaching for devotees (instead of ‘life coaching’). It is a developmental process of constant improvement in key areas of your life. Once you start it, you will not want to stop, as it brings satisfaction of knowing that Krsna is pleased when we make a conscious effort to constantly improve ourselves as devotees and humans, and then also help others do the same.
I wish you success in your sincere efforts and look forward to assisting you and serving you in some way.
Below are some links where you can learn more about Gita Coaching and helping devotees succeed and where you can get ideas and tools for your success. If you are interested in becoming a spiritual coach or using coaching for your own success please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
GITA COACHING LINKS
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/akruradasa
Success dialogues with Mahatma ACBSP: http://www.krishna.com/reality-check
Topics: Comfort Zone, Connecting With Your Dharma, Do I Need A Coach, Faultfinding, Limiting Beliefs, Mind, Possibility Thinking, Power Of Questions, Responsibility, Self Confidence, Self Discipline, Self Sabotage.
Gita Coaching Course video at krishna.com: http://www.krishna.com/gita-coaching
Coachee/client success stories: http://vedicilluminations.com/gitacoaching/successstories.htm
Personal Success Magazine article on Gita Coaching (pages 14 and 15)