Trees and Tarot; what can they bring to coaching?

Having lived next to Greenwich Park for two decades and then moving to the less fashionable (yet infeasibly beautiful) bit of the Cotswolds, I’m entirely persuaded of the value – when appropriate – of coaching in green spaces. And two apparently unrelated events I’ve attended in the past week have made me reflect on ways of allowing the outside into our coaching.

The first was Catherine Gorham‘s workshop about eco-therapy in the beautiful grounds of Regents Park College. Catherine is pioneering ways of using ‘eco therapy’ in coaching and it’s well worth taking a look at her work. She is drawing on thinkers such as Berger and Marin Buber to explore how we can partner with nature to help our clients slow down and reflect on ideas and feelings that may inform their coaching. Even though I’ve been coaching outdoors for several years now, I was amazed at how much easier it was for me to ask a ‘client’ (to whom I had only just been introduced) to look around and choose something (a group of plane trees) that reflected where she wanted to take her career. She agreed that the¬†process felt easier and more memorable than it might had we been mapping out a diagram with whiteboard markers in a fluorescent lit room on the 22nd floor of a City office block.

The second event was Amy Sackville‘s talk at the Tetbury Goods Shed (organised by the indefatigable Hereward Corbett of the Yellow Lighted Bookshop). I did the MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths with Amy and it was clear from the off that she was a star. Now on her third book, Painter to the King, Amy was being interviewed by Fiona Lensvelt and Jennifer Connie of literary cabaret and Tarot consultancy, Litwitchure. Now, apart from being beguiled by the beauty of the cards, I’ve always been nervous of Tarot, all a bit too Madame Arcati for me. But – apart from the fact that Fiona and Jennifer are gorgeous and clearly knowledgeable about both literature and tarot – what struck me was the way the cards offered an external focus that allowed Amy to respond differently to some fairly standard questions; ¬†What do you need as a writer? What are your strengths? What drives you etc?

In both cases (trees and tarot) the process offers the opportunity for the client to tell a story in response to a prompt. Clearly coaching (and tarot) also require training, experience and insight to help inform the work, but a little like the traditional Rorschach test, the cards and nature can provides a jumping off point for a personal exploration. One that can bypass the more familiar analytical part of the brain so as to access some deeper – and more memorable – insights. Jonathan Hoban’s just-published book about Walking Therapy, Walk with your Wolf, contains a great line from Patrick Ness: when all is lost, something wild will find you. You don’t need to be lost, but it’s May in England; get those walking boots or Birkis on and head out into the rain to see what good things find you.