How mindfulness informs coaching

If ever there was a helping profession that required practitioners to be mindful, it would be coaching. People opting for coaching need a coach who remains aware, observant, fully present and open to whatever emerges within the coaching conversation. More than that, they need their coach to be non-judgemental, accepting of what is uncovered, and might even expect to experience a suitable degree of kindness. The overlap between the principles of mindfulness and coaching is numerous and startling, so why is the complementary nature of such a natural union not more celebrated? 


People have been meditating for over 4000 years, a full fourteen centuries before Siddhartha Gautama was born, achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree and became the Buddha. So, we have to wonder what benefits of such mindful practice were sought and gained by practitioners – both outside and within the teachings of Buddhism - for tens of thousands of generations from India to Japan. There must be something truly valuable in such longevity, and perhaps something that the world could use a little more of today.

This article looks to explore how mindfulness can inform coaching for the benefit of both the coachee and the coach. Of course, it would be easy to instruct everyone to find between 15 minutes and an hour every day to engage in meditation, exploring the realms of their own consciousness with curiosity and openness. Indeed, for most people, the effect would be beneficial and transformative.

Positive outcomes of meditation are documented to include reduced anxiety, depression and stress; better resilience to pain, improved memory, greater awareness, improved health, improved sleep, better control of cravings and addictions and even decreased blood pressure. But an instruction to meditate, while probably being an excellent idea, is simply not coaching. Coaching is never about instruction.

So how can mindfulness inform coaching?

Mindfulness-informed coaching is coaching from a spirit of mindfulness in the coach. This means approaching the conversation from a calm, open, non-judgmental and accepting perspective. Thich Nhat Hanh, a peace activist and spiritual leader spoke often about the generative power of speaking with compassion, or loving-kindness, which much like Carl Roger’s unconditional positive regard, recognises the nobility of the essential inner nature of all beings. The belief that the coachee holds the key to his/her own growth is an unchallengeable concept in coaching. 

Another essential ingredient of effective coaching is the importance of presence – the coach being fully present for the coachee in the coaching alliance – attentive, observing and undistracted. In mindfulness-informed coaching, there is another meaning of presence as written extensively by Eckhart Tolle, in which the coach operates fully in the present moment.

Mindfulness teaches that there is only ever the present moment (this moment, only moment – Dzogchen Buddhism proverb), and all thoughts of the past and future are surrendered. For the mindful coach, this means experiencing all that is available in the moment with undisturbed clarity – the expressions, gestures, emotions, postures, energy and words of their coachee, as well as the assumptions, metaphors, repetitions, contradictions, hesitations and more of the words spoken. The mindful coach, endowed with a powerful sense of clear awareness, generates a degree of presence deeper and more transformative than could be achieved otherwise.

Through this mindful presence, the coachee is fully ‘met’ by the coach, and the power of his/her presence induces a mirrored state of mindfulness. As a result, the coachee is often surprised to see fresh options, insights and understandings about their world with new clarity. Mindful calmness is contagious.

A coaching conversation is invariably a conversation about change of some kind, and as such mindfulness-informed coaching can lean on the ancient wisdom and insights of mindfulness. This may be in areas such as the impermanence of all things; the self-care involved in finding acceptance of ‘what is’, the interdependence of our existence with our colleagues, friends, families and environments; and the need for a considered response to situations instead of an automatic reaction that is often unhelpful. 

The mindful approach is ideal for life coaching. It can be difficult to halt the relentless, distracting and non-sensical chatter of our minds, especially when it is merely enhancing the delusion of ego – that there is an inner self that is bruised, imperfect, indignant, superior, aggrieved or hurting. A tenet of mindfulness is that there is no self, and this informs the coaching in two important ways. 

The first is that the coach can easily step into the creative space between coach and coachee and operate from a state of no-self and pure awareness, leaving his/her own world in order to experience the world of the coachee. To ‘walk a mile in another’s shoes’ is to attempt to understand their values, beliefs and motivations, and it is the ultimate gift of coaching. For the coachee, the principle of non-self can be strange at first, but it can soon bring tremendous empowerment and inner peace. We are not our thoughts, feelings and sensations – these imposters come and go, and our consciousness remains. The mindful approach is one where thoughts are noticed and set free without getting tangled up in the feelings and emotions that they produce. 

For example, a common statement in the coaching room might be, "I am sad". But it can be pointed out that this identification with sadness is unnecessary because sadness is a mind state and therefore by nature is impermanent. It is liberating to rephrase the statement to,"I feel sadness". The difference is key to understanding how to distance the sufferer from the impermanent states of mind and allow the realisation that sadness will inevitably end. This too, will pass.

The quest for happiness is a common goal of life coaching. We all wish to be happy, and we wish that the people that we love find happiness too. However, too many people live a life of happiness delayed, making such claims as, "When I move to the country, I’ll be happy", or "Once I secure this promotion, I’ll be happy". Sadly, the reality is that happiness delayed is always happiness out of reach. Once again, Thich Nhat Hanh’s truth cuts through all the delusion to reveal the wisdom of mindfulness.

There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.

Everyone who feels uncertain, unfulfilled, inadequate or slightly drifting in life is seeking answers to some important existential questions. Life coaching is a valuable process for driving insight and understanding, and in this article, I have attempted to highlight how some wisdoms of mindfulness can inform the coaching approach. Mindfulness teaches us that the answers we seek are rarely ‘out there’, in the external chaos and conflict of the world, but instead are to be found in the inner world of our minds. 

Mindfulness-informed coaching is the intention to begin the exploration of this inner world, and the mindful coach can be a compassionate guide and companion on that journey of exploration. This journey can reveal the important answers that we seek about ourselves, which ultimately will generate an understanding of our purpose in life.

Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakes – Carl Jung

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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St. Albans, Hertfordshire, AL4 0QA
Written by Richard Smith, Mindfulness Informed Coach and Existential Coach
St. Albans, Hertfordshire, AL4 0QA

Richard Smith is a mindfulness informed coach at New Moon Coaching (

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