Taking a space walk
There’s a bit of a standing joke in my household that spatial awareness is not my strongest suit! I’m no map reader and can be pretty clumsy at times. I also don’t feel confident at judging distance which makes me a cautious driver.
Traditionally, spatial awareness refers to our ability to be aware of objects in space and our body’s position in relation to them.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to turn the traditional definition around a little, Here, I’m going to consider, from the perspective of coaching in particular, how different kinds of space can help enhance our awareness of our self and others. Spatial awareness.
Taking a space walk
Have you ever thought about the effects that different spaces can have for us at different times?
Perhaps you’ve noticed you’re drawn to particular types of place when you’re holding a certain emotion, problem or idea?
This is something we’ll explore in our Outdoor Coaching Collective Summer Event on 22 and 23 June 2023.
Maybe you’re drawn to high and open spaces when you want to invite in creativity (I know I generate my best ideas and decisions when I’m walking on the gritstone edges of the Peak District!) Or perhaps, if you’re feeling a sense of vulnerability, these spaces can feel overwhelming and a more contained space, woodland perhaps, brings the sense of safety which supports your wellbeing.
Connect and tune-in
When we tune in to how we are in different kinds of space, we grow our self-awareness and are provided with the opportunity to know things not only consciously and in our heads but unconsciously and somatically too. As Martin Jordan in Nature and Therapy (2015) suggests, ‘The outdoor environment has the capacity to mobilise different affects in relation to internal worlds’.
When you want to build your awareness in different kinds of space, you might want to ask yourself:
How is this space serving me right now?
How am I supported or nourished in this space?
How does the space challenge me?
Is there another space I’d like to be?
What do I know now?
Being aware of the impact of the space we’re in enables us to work with and manage our ‘state’, our wellness, the quality of our thinking and our ability to make good decisions. It can enhance our sense of agency.
When we understand that our ‘spatial awareness’ has an impact on how we are and what we know, we recognise that this is true also for those we’re coaching.
There are practical implications for this when we take our coaching conversations outside.
Finding a setting with options is useful. There are a couple of places local to me which afford my clients open space, height, the cover of trees, water, bridges, light and shade. We can check-in at the start of the session and as a coach, I can be led by their needs to move to a space which best supports their state and their desired outcome.
Led consciously or sometimes unconsciously by the coachee, using space in this way is a powerful support to the coaching process. It is as though there is an additional coach present.
I’ve created an exercise to help you explore the effects different kinds of space can have.
When you’ve had a go, I’d love to know how you found your experience in the comments at the bottom of this article.
- Identify 3-5 different types of outdoor space, for example, woodland, an open space, a valley or high point, beneath a tree or next to a building or beside water.
- Take yourself out for a walk around those spaces.
- Take with you this short mindfulness exercise via a phone and some headphones for example, a notebook and pen, or a voice recorder.
- The mindfulness exercise will serve as a guide to help you consider the physical, emotional and cognitive effects each space has for you.
- After you have visited each space, make a note of the following:
- What was the effect of each space for you physically, emotionally, mentally?
- How was the space of service to you?
- How was the space supportive / challenging?
- Did you notice any change in your response to the space over time or as the environment/landscape shifted e.g. a change in the weather or temperature, in people or animals/birds coming and going, in leaves rustling etc.?
- What new knowledge do you have now?
- How will you understand the (potential) effects of space for a) you and, if relevant for you b) your coaching clients?
- How could you use space to help you and your coaching clients access their own resourcefulness?
- Is there anything else…?
A simplified space walk
In short, the process becomes:
- How am I in my body, emotionally and in my mind?
- How do I want to be?
- What do I want to think about or what is my goal?
- What kind of space would be useful for me right now?
- Mindfully settle into the space. Breathe. Move slowly and purposefully. Settle.
- What is going on for me now as I spend time here?
- What is this space helping me to know in this moment?
- Is there somewhere else I’d like to be?
- What do I know now?
- What is my emergent knowledge over the hours, days and weeks to come?
I’d love to know how your space walk went! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.