The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution. (I would recommend you start with Chapter 1 if you haven’t already read it.) I hope my words are a source of enjoyment and inspiration for you, the reader. If perchance you would like to purchase a signed paperback copy of the book, you can do so on my production company website Pandora’s Box Office.
From the back cover: “Imagine a conversation that centers around possibility—the possibility that we can be more accepting of our own judgments, that we can find unity through our diversity, that we can shed the light of our love on the things we fear most. Imagine a conversation where our greatest polarities are coming together, a meeting place of East and West, of spirituality and materialism, of religion and science, where the stage is being set for a collective leap in consciousness more magnificent than any we have known in our history.
Now imagine that this conversation honors your uniqueness and frees you to speak from your heart, helping you to navigate your way more deliberately along your distinct path. Imagine that this conversation puts you squarely into the seat of creator—of your fortunes, your relationships, your life—thereby putting the fulfillment of your deepest personal desires well within your grasp.
‘Parables for the New Conversation’ is a spellbinding odyssey through metaphor and prose, personal sagas and historic events, where together author and reader explore the proposal that at its most profound level, life is about learning to consciously manifest the experiences we desire–and thus having fun. The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.”
17. The Kitchen
The dinnertime rush at the village restaurant on the island of Allandon was generally hectic for the staff, and this evening was no exception. The cook was moving back and forth across a sizzling grill and the busser was washing and stacking a mountain of dirty plates like clockwork when the waiter banged open the swinging door with empty plates running up both arms. He dumped them down on the counter near the busser, causing one of the plates to slide off onto the ground and break into pieces.
The waiter paused for a second, as the busser immediately set down to pick up the pieces. “Well don’t blame me,” the waiter said. “Isn’t it your job to pick up the empty dishes from the tables?”
“It is,” said the busser.
“Well get on it, man! People are waiting to sit down!”
The busser did not jump, but instead finished picking up the remaining bits of the broken dish carefully with a broom. “Are they getting restless out there?”
“Damn right,” said the waiter, tapping his finger on the grill counter as he waited for his next food order.
“Any customers take it out on you?” asked the busser.
“It seems like they all are tonight.”
“Well if anybody can handle it, you can,” said the busser, resuming his dishwashing. “You just have this cool way of calming them down.”
A slight grin came over the waiter’s face. “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,” he said as he lined up the plates of food along his arms in perfect balance. He glided over to the swinging door and, backing his way out, added, “I’ve always said, ‘if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.’ “
“I’ll remember that,” said the busser, smiling to himself as he continued working through the pile of dishes.
The new conversation hinges on our ability to create a space—a space founded on acceptance, a space that builds trust, a space that encourages choice. You don’t need to be highly informed in all matters of great import to humanity to participate. If you bring an openness of mind and spirit, an authentic curiosity about views divergent from your own, and a desire to serve others on their path as you would be served on yours, then you will be doing your part. And if enough of us do our part, the world cannot help but be transformed.
The notion that there is a new conversation today in our society crystallized for me a few years ago during my training at the Adler School of Professional Coaching in Toronto. It was as though the seeds of thought that had long been swirling inside me had suddenly found the soil in which to germinate. While there was a curriculum for the course, the underlying agenda was for the facilitators and the students to co-create each session as much as was practical. The content of the course was fully embodied in its form—a spacious and free-flowing conversation. As a participant I was made to feel comfortable with who I was and where I was at. I could be myself, and there was nothing else needed or expected. Rather than being motivated by external forces based in evaluation and judgment, I was able to get connected with my own inherent desire to learn and to grow. From there I was able to step into the opportunity to be courageous in my participation.
A memorable example of this came during a creative exercise in which we were all asked to draw a picture that represented our inner selves. When it came time for each person to show and explain their drawings, my mind naturally gravitated to which ones were good and not-so-good, and how they compared (unfavorably) to mine. It seemed a little insincere to me how some people could praise and acknowledge each and every drawing, regardless of the clarity of expression or artistic merit. I assumed everyone saw what I saw, and were encouraging one another out of politeness and tact as I had learned to do.
But somewhere during the exercise, as I noticed how heart-felt one acknowledgment after the next seemed to be, an uncomfortable thought suddenly crept up on me: Was my assumption wrong? Was I the only one preoccupied with judgment and comparison? Was I the insincere one? It was a disturbing revelation, and though I could have ignored the thought and tried to ride out the discomfort, I felt I might be missing out on something important. It was only because of the non-judgmental space that had been created in the classroom that I felt just safe enough to risk the embarrassment and share with everyone what I had realized.
My admission—that I was internally judgmental about people’s creative expression and sometimes patronizing in my acknowledgments—made quite an impact on the group. A few seemed shocked by it, and tried to gently express how sincere they were being in their own acknowledgments. Another confessed that she had some feelings similar to mine. More significantly, the conversation as a whole seemed to move to an even deeper level of authenticity from that point on. People expressed gratitude for my honesty. I was grateful too, because of the rare opportunity for me to be in a space where I was able to be real. I believe it was the space that enabled me to hold the awareness long enough to make a courageous choice. Expressing myself went a long way to helping me let go of this habit of thought. In turn this helped me to experience something new from that moment on: a more profoundly satisfying appreciation of other people’s uniqueness and creative expression.
Later in the course, the acknowledgments I received for my own creative expression were all the more moving for me. In a homework assignment I wrote a parable about creativity based on an earlier conversation with one of the participants who insisted she was not creative (see Chapter 30, The Waiter). The praise and encouragement I received to seriously pursue the creative work of writing parables, which I loved to do, helped to inspire me to embark upon a new project I had been contemplating. In front of all my new friends on the final day of the course in October of 2003, I stood up and made the commitment that I was going to write a book that I would call Parables for the New Conversation.
Needless to say, being part of a course that focused on learning the technology of a powerful kind of interpersonal conversation—the coaching conversation—had a big impact on the subject matter of my book. I believe it would be very helpful at this point to explain what coaching actually is, and describe its influence on my vision of the new conversation.
The coaching I am referring to is broadly distinguished as life coaching. It is different from the traditional notion of a ‘coach’ who guides and manages an athlete or sports team and is supposed to be the wise authority on the game. In life coaching the game is life itself, and since the flow of life is change, the mandate of a coach involves helping the client deal with life changes or supporting them in making the changes that will take them where they want to go. Whereas the goal in any sport is clear—to win—in life coaching the goal itself is determined by the client. Together the coach and client identify obstacles along the path of change, brings clarity to real goals, and help clients move towards realizing them.
Coaching is different from therapy, psychiatry or social work, as it does not seek to resolve trauma or fix what is wrong with a client. It works from the standpoint that the client is already creative, resourceful, and whole—capable of being responsible for their own desired transformation. And unlike consultants, advisors, or mentors, a coach does not need to be an expert in any particular area—except in the art and science of the conversation itself. The coach keeps the conversation in a rhythm of penetrating and stepping back, challenging and allowing, inquiring and stating what is.
The coaching conversation tends to move through three phases, represented by the acronym ICA. The first phase deals with the issue that the client brings to coaching, and helps to find greater insight into the issue so that the client can become clearer on what their intention is for the coaching relationship. The second phase taps into the client’s creativity to uncover the broad range of choices available, in order for the client to find the one they will make a commitment to move forward on. The final phase determines the actions that will fulfill the commitment, and sets up the measurable conditions by which the client can be accountable. The learning and growth resulting from their actions gives the client a new awareness, which could lead to a new coaching cycle.
The coach is responsible for creating an environment within which the client can explore their greatest desires, and for providing guidance and encouragement as the client walks through and over the obstacles along their path. While on the one hand the coach is fully committed to the client’s development and has a pointed devotion to their client’s well-being, on the other hand the coach is completely detached from the results of the client’s actions, and so is never in any way judgmental in the way clients go about the business of their lives. In this way, the client is provided with the best environment to embrace choice, their natural birthright, without the influence of coercion, ridicule, pressure, or a sense of obligation, debt, or a desire not to disappoint. There is no doubt that the creation of a safe and supportive environment greatly facilitates a client’s capacity to step into choice and move forward authentically.
One important thing to note is that a true coach looks at themselves not as an authority or expert teacher. The coach models the attitude and behavior of a learner who learns right alongside with the client. It is this equality and reciprocity in the growth process that distinguishes the coaching modality from some of its predecessors. When the benefits are reciprocal, and the energy flows back and forth, then the circle is complete.
Thought not usually as formal as the coaching conversation, the new conversation employs many of the same principles. They are both founded in trust, openness and non-judgment. They both work with the ebb and flow of duality, of speaking and listening, of action informing reflection and reflection informing action, of our tendency to advance into the Dao Self and then retreat back into the Ego Self. These two conversations share a common purpose: to create a space designed to help us step into our highest vision of who we are. However, while the coaching conversation focuses on the specific goals of individuals or small teams of individuals, the new conversation is more expansive: it also holds the space for a unified vision for all of humanity, a collective ambition that plays out in synchrony with the pursuit of our individual purpose and aspirations.
It is in the intersection of our personal and collective journeys that human consciousness evolves. And so, in the new conversation, every single aspect of the human experience forms a part of the story: our politics and our culture, our technology and our art, our day-to-day concerns and the entire span of our history, our bodies and our souls, our greatest triumphs and our most horrifying atrocities. All things big and small, light and dark must have their place at the table if a vision of humanity as One is to finally be revealed.
I believe this revelation is well on its way to being realized, and more and more people want to be an important part of the process. I am noticing that speaking to people today, friends and strangers alike, is so different from how it was even twenty years ago. Today there seems to be a much greater interest in why we are here, where we are headed, what we can do. There is a growing hunger for authentic conversations that encourage us to be real, and hold us accountable for who we are being and what we are doing. Spontaneous discussions are breaking out everywhere, with birds of different feathers increasingly flocking together. We are forming conversation groups like never before to share emerging ideas and information about how to improve our lives, our communities, and the planet as a whole. In the spaces we create we are exploring rather than preaching, observing rather than judging, and opening up to having our deepest beliefs challenged. And the more we do, the greater our conviction becomes that working from such spaces will bring about the fulfillment of our personal and collective destiny.
 This means that not everyone is a candidate to be a coaching client, and the coach has an obligation to evaluate early on whether the client is self-responsible enough to bring about their own desired transformation. In a typical one-on-one relationship, a coach will meet with a client for an initial intake session where the coach will come to know many facets of the client in greater detail, including their values, strengths, challenges, and long-term goals. Subsequent regular meetings over the course of three months or longer are held with an awareness of the big picture, the long-term goals the client has entered coaching to achieve.
 This cycle is not cast in stone, and is subordinated to the uniqueness of the individual client and their situation. The client is fully involved in a co-creation of the form of the conversation that will serve them best.