I met Thomas Katan on a workshop by the infamous Jamie Catto and I was inspired by his proposition. He was choosing to live a nomadic lifestyle so that he could do ‘live-in personal development coaching’ based on gifting and donation. I would give him a bed and food for a few days and we would hang , working together on anything I’d like to work on.
We agreed three days, Monday to Wednesday. I was excited! Time for some RADICAL COACHING in the form of 'Shadowing'.
(All the photos here are by him, as he shadowed me teaching a group.)
In preparation Thomas asked me to set an intention and give him my schedule - something I do with my own clients. His main difference was that we would then just hang out and follow the flow of interaction to see what would arise. I would describe Thomas as a coach that has an embodied faith in the wisdom of emotions. Our first interaction revealed that to me.
We met in the park, on a sunny Monday afternoon. We played around and talked with passers by and I realised that Thomas was very open to connections. I noticed the contrast in myself, the desire to get him alone and get ‘working’. So I bought him a smoothie and we found a quiet patch of grass to talk. I noticed my inner grumpiness and acknowledged it, trying to change the dynamic of things. Thomas invited me to feel into my mood and reveal, what he called, ‘the need underneath’. I realised that I had a strong impulse to move, so I stood up and climbed a tree as he watched me, and then I felt something new - aggression. I told him that I’d love a play fight. He was up for it!
So it was that at Two O'Clock on a Monday afternoon in Castle Park two grown men began grappling and throwing each other around, whilst people watched and ate their lunch. It was incredibly cathartic and we sat down, catching our breath, laughing. The emotion had moved through me and left space for us to connect. We made our way back to my place by bicycle.
Our conversations went this way a lot, following emotion and impulse into action - and this was very revealing. We talked about this word 'need' a lot - could we gently exploring soft edges of ‘neediness’ by spending extended amounts of time without food? We decided to do it together - 3 days of fasting, allowing 1 afternoon meal per day! For me this was unnerving, and fascinating.
Rather than direct coaching this was more of a two way ‘skill share’. We would learn from one another. Thomas came with me to my evening meditation class, which I teach. I taught about expressing emotion, through voice ('oming' meditation), sharing (I feel… I imagine…) and movement (shaking and sighing). This was a reflection of things I had learned in the play fight today!
Then I took Thomas to his first blues dancing class, taught by Tristan Brightman and followed by social dancing to live music (The Blues Happening). This was my community and a skill I had cultivated. At the time I thought this was out of his his comfort zone but after checking in with him I was surprised to see how comfortable and happy he was in that space. I was pleased to see him get stuck in, and we both had a lot of fun.
Day two - Building Trust
here is something about revealing oneself to one and another that enables trust to develop. We had each shared a part of ourselves with the other and now we were relaxing into being with each other, more naturally. Thomas led me through a morning movement meditation, which I loved. Rocking and stretching as we sat cross legged and observing emotions and thoughts. He then joined me as I taught a group in what I call 'Mindful Positivity' at the local NHS clinic. He was kind enough to take photos of the session. Thanks to Simone Davies for allowing him to come along.
The afternoon came - we ate veggies flavoured with basil in the sunshine and talked at length. What arose was a belief in me - “I need to do something, I can’t expect things to come to me”. Whilst this may seem rational it also came with an emotion which Thomas picked up. He probed me with questions and I noticed the emotion shutting down. That was no good - I wasted to catch it and build it up to discover what this was about - to ride the wave! I remembered that Thomas had done work with touch and breath so I suggested we switch gears and try those methods. I laid down and he pressed on the area I felt was the centre of the emotion - the chest and forehead. Here the work became more intuitive. I asked him to repeat some words and he encouraged me to see myself as ‘land’ and the emotion as ‘crashing waves of sea’. I cannot be harmed by them, and I can even build them up to an intense amount, as I observe from the land. This resonated and I was able to build and explore the emotion with safety. I explored bodily shaking, crying, memories and it revealed that fear was lying underneath the 'need to get things done’. The instinctive desire underneath all the thoughts and emotions was for friendship.
Something had moved through me and settled down to leave a beautiful oceanic depth. I asked Thomas “what’s the point of all this?” as I couldn’t cognitively grasp the process. He simply said “to connect you to yourself so you can feel good and realise the real inner need”. He was right - all this work is about feeling good, and connecting to myself - the scared, vulnerable and ultimately beautiful inner me. The me which simply wanted friendship. That emotional work was tiring and after a nap I finished the day by teaching with Mark Dunn at Bristol City Yoga. During these sessions I sometimes get nervous and lose my calm presence, however, today I was able to calmly listen and take in the emotions of others and even had the presence to see my own fears and impulses, without ‘needing’ to react. Mark lead with lots of words and enquiry of the students, and I listened. He had to leave early and I held the last 30 minutes. I was able to shift the energy of the room with movement and then gentleness and I think this had an enormous effect on everyone. I felt great about it.
Day three - MORNING routine
Another sunny day and another movement meditation, before Thomas went off to teach his own yoga practice. I channelled my inspiration into my morning routine (MORNINGS - Meditation, Outlook, Reach out, Nourish, Inspire, Nature, Gym, Stretch). I spent a good hour of ‘inspiration’ writing my book (work in progress) and when he returned we continued my morning routine - Nature (we went for a run and slack line practice in the park) and then Gym. I showed him my HIIT practice, which I do regularly. He particularly enjoyed the rice bucket challenge.
We spent the afternoon talking and eating, ending the three day food fasting. I helped him learn the guitar. We shared a lot of information and we explored the work again, in review of the past few days. We came to these conclusions:
At the end of day three
We chatted and Thomas shared his photos, and I felt close to this person who was but a stranger three days ago. I relayed how,the fasting process had been a microcosm of the ‘feel, reveal, heal’ method. Throughout the week I had found hunger arising and I would not react, as I have done in the past, with filling up. Instead I observed it and felt into the deeper drive, realising it was often an impulse to move, or to dispel a story and come back to my senses. I now know that the hunger waves don’t last long and I’ve discovered more energy when I channel my focus into revealing and healing the underlying drive and emotion. This is just another example of the insight revealed by working in a different way with an interesting person, like Thomas.
I feel grateful to have experienced Thomas directly. I intend to continue to develop and research the new modes of exploring that he has inspired in me. Overall the biggest takeaway of the week was friendship, which it seems was the underlying desire all along. :)
Check out Thomas here:
Neil Morbey is a meditation teacher, group facilitator and inspiration guide for Positively-Mindful.com