After several months of coaching, Ava declared her best sales quarter ever. Her success was even more dramatic when viewed against the backdrop of a depressed economy in which most of her colleagues experienced flat or reduced sales.
Ava's new goal was to shift from selling big ticket, high tech products and services to "enrolling" people into educational products and services about which she herself cared deeply. The change would require her to hold conversations with many more potential clients, manage more conversations about different programs simultaneously, and listen to people more deeply.
As a master salesperson, Ava was an expert at tracking and managing contacts. To become a master "enroller," she would have to learn how to "hold" many open conversations at once and over time. In somatic terms, she had to develop greater "width" without sacrificing "length" or "depth".
Ava pinpointed a major problem. "When I listen with full attention," she said, "my first impulse is to get defensive whenever someone gives me a negative assessment. This is particularly true with people that I give authority to, like teachers, my coach, and friends. How can I stay more open in these situations?"
To help Ava begin answering her question, I asked her to notice her body's reaction in one of these conversations. She saw that when she imagined others assessing her negatively, her shoulders dropped, her chest caved in, and her mind filled with negative chatter. She said this was the first time she could actually see how her automatic defensive mode works on her.
To help her stay more open and able to choose her response to a negative assessment, I asked her to stand with her feet shoulder width apart, arms out as though wrapped around a gigantic ball, and from there extend her energy out through her arms. While she did this, I had one hand on her sternum and the other on her mid to lower back to help her stay present in her body, keep her energy extending, and anchor ("ground") this new, more open stance.
This was not an easy practice for Ava. A rush of energy made her feel very vulnerable. "It's hard to stay present in my body for more than a few seconds," she said.
I explained that emotionally and mentally "leaving" the body is common. Children instinctually learn that "leaving" the body is one way to protect themselves against the pain of trauma. When "leaving" becomes an unconscious habit, the person can be uncomfortable being more fully alive and present.
I asked Ava to walk with raising one knee to the opposite hand until she was back into her body and grounded. We continued the extension practice, this time without my hands on her, but with both of us observing, and me coaching by asking what she sensed as she extended her energy.
After a few times, Ava could do the practice without "leaving". She felt more peaceful, more open to inquiry about what she was sensing and feeling. She had increased confidence in her capacity to manage all the conversations she had in her sales pipeline for multiple programs.
I asked her to continue the extension practice daily until our next meeting. With continuous practice, Ava learned a different way to "sell" and built her capacity to be able to manage her responses differently so she could be successful in her new environment.