3. Look closely, then look again

“Phenomenology aims to arrive at an understanding of individual human experience, not by explaining it with a number of fixed laws, as natural science does, but by opening out the richness and mystery of life by successive description, a bit like the way an artist works, but more systematic. We call this being ‘experience-near’. Picasso was being a phenomenologist when he said ‘I can’t paint a tree. But I can paint the feeling you have when you look at a tree’ (quoted in Hare 2002).”

Martin Adams in his book A Concise Introduction to Existential Counselling (2013)

If you want to picture things as they appear to people, use a camera. This was my slogan for many years, when everything that took shape on my canvases was more or less nonfigurative. 

But then I joined a course in Porvoo and the first compulsory task was still life painting. I chose some random subjects from a cabinet and made an odd arrangement. And then, Thursday evening after Thursday evening, I stared at the setup. Forms, perspectives, light, shadows, colours - how do they actually look? How can I manifest what I see so that it’s recognizable to others?

This total concentration on the relation between the subjects and painting them resembles what happens in a coaching session. Existential thinkers call it phenomenology, a philosophical movement originating in the 20th century. It’s about the direct investigation and description of phenomena as consciously experienced, without theories about their causal explanation and as free as possible from unexamined preconceptions and presuppositions.

A coach tries to create a “safe bubble” with the client, where both parties can engage in  searching for truths that benefit the client in her or his life situation. It’s up to the client to decide what that might be.

As a coach I also need coaching. Some time ago I had a session with mentor coach Carin Bladh (https://www.carincoach.se/). As an experienced and engaged professional she quickly laid the ground for me to investigate what my next step as an entrepreneur could be. In less than two hours there was a picture in my notepad, and several in her notes, that she sent to me. 

Flowers. Words written on the pedals in mine. The stem of the flowers climbing around the sentences in Carin’s. The seed of a business idea was planted. 

But more important was that my mentor coach helped me to see something I had not experienced for some time. I didn’t notice it during the session, it started to grow afterwards: An insight that I can, may, should do more of what I really love to do. Read. Write. Watch films and series. Do yoga, including meditation. Listen to music. Paint. And coach others.

Then gather the joy of it all and find ways to bring it into the world, courageously.

This blog is one result of that insight. 

Thank you, Carin.


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