I am – a deep understanding of this word can change your life. “I am” is one of the more significant words.
Notice that when you ask yourself what “I am” means, a feeling arises. You feel something inside you. Isn’t it interesting?
Of course, you know you are and it goes without saying. But try to understand and feel it more deeply.
Stand with your feet on the ground and think “I am.” Repeat the word in your mind several times. Start walking with that awareness of “I am.” You can also run or dance with “I am”. Check how you feel and what you feel when you realize the meaning of the word.
I feel joy. And gratitude.
When you understand with all your heart the meaning of “I am,” it can change your life. So, please do experience. Knowing something and experiencing it are two different things.
“I am” – with this awareness everyday life is better. You notice more around you and enjoy it more. Gratitude awakens in you, which brings positive energy. It helps you live with a lighter heart.
Hardship and pain are part of life. They cannot be avoided. Thanks to them, we make effort and achieve something. We keep developing. But we have a choice to see consciously what gives lightness, relief, comfort, and what gives a sense of power at the same time.
“I am” is a powerful word.
To understand and see it better, you can go for a walk and photograph the topic “I am”. You don’t need to know in advance how to do this. Ideas will come. Walk, look around you and you will discover an unlimited source of wisdom, creativity and joy. Below are my photos of “I am”.
About the author: Dorota Raniszewska – certified professional coach, EMCC Coach and Mentor – Senior Practitioner, accredited coach Izba Coachingu, certified trainer, author of the book “ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS. Photography in personal development, healing and education. Notes from a personal journey”.
I can live in peace. I can return to harmony and rest whenever I need.
You can do as well.
There is something trans-material in the heart of our existence. As people, we suffer. We struggle. We strive for. There are also moments of joy, fulfillment and rest.
There is no life without difficult moments, or emotions that are unpleasant. Nevertheless, we are able to transcend them. We admire the beauty of nature. We find trust in an unknown future. Hope, beauty, pleasure give us a sense of freedom and lightness to life. And we can learn to find peace inside us. It resides deep within our hearts.
I will tell you my story of discovering peace. I was looking for it. I was looking for a way to find it in everyday life. I practiced body and movement awareness, meditation and breathing. But in fact, Mooji taught me how to find harmony inside my heart. I understood that peace begins inside me. I found a way to return to it. And I’m writing about it today.
When I feel tired, anxious, restless, confused, when I feel that too much is going on in my head, then I lie down. I close my eyes. I put all my thoughts aside. And I lie there for 10 minutes. I am resting.
When I find peace inside myself, I feel it around me as well. I am in the space of my peace. It begins inside the heart. You can feel it there.
But let’s go deeper into it.
What does it mean to put all my thoughts aside?
It means that I don’t think and put aside plans to be carried out, “to-do” lists, urgent and important things, missions, concerns, desires, needs, assessments. Thoughts will come back. The mind does not sleep for long. Believe me, thoughts will not fade away. So you can put them aside for a few minutes. They can wait.
Also, abandon any relaxation techniques, or motivational thoughts. And for a moment you are just as if empty. You rest in silence and emptiness. You are doing nothing. You simply are.
This is not meditation. It is just resting. Just like animals do on a hot day. You can even keep your eyes open. You are fully aware and you are present.
Notice that when you are in this ‘just-being‘ and don’t think, then you don’t feel any pressure. There is no judgement. There is no rush. There is nothing that makes you uncomfortable. You feel comfortable.
After a few minutes, get up. You will feel when you want to get up. Your body will be relaxed and your mind will be clearer.
I do it every day – even several times a day. Nothing is needed – no gadgets, equipment, techniques. Just allow yourself to put your thoughts aside for a few minutes and be.
This is how you will improve the quality of you life.
I learned to rest on demand.
I encourage you – try it. Don’t say ‘I know it’. Knowing and experiencing are two different things.
Experience it now.
I wish you a real discovery of WHAT is perhaps the most important in life. When you discover peace and harmony within you, you will feel it all around you. There is gentleness, love and sense of security in it.
This article is going to be a coaching exercise for me 😉. Why? I’m pretty good at spreading ideas and sharing my knowledge but I’m less good at celebrating success and showing great feedback received 😊. Sometimes I’m too busy and run fast forward, but many times, I’m simply having this kind of inner dialogue which you might know about modesty, temperance and letting things speak for themselves.
But this time, there is a special occasion. It is about coaches feedback received after the ‘Photography in Coaching. Making the Future Visible’ presentation at the EMCC Global Coaching, Mentoring and Supervision conference that took place recently.
Together with my colleague, Bara Belova who is a manager, mentor and coach we challenged ourselves to demonstrate a live coaching session on ‘The Most Important Photo’ – which is a coaching process that I’ve been developing based on the use of client personal photos and the model of neurological levels.
And here is what some of the conference participants shared:
This sort of topic can be filed under ‘Creative Stuff’ all too often. The use of personal visuals in our lives today is part of our everyday conversation; whether that be a visual or spoken exchange. This is so relevant to all natures and approaches to coaching.
My comment: Yes, indeed. The experience shows that clients personal photos are very useful in all coaching niches, i.e.:
life coaching – think about personal resources that are visible in the photos,
executive coaching – think of values that drive behaviours and leadership style,
career coaching – think of profile photos that are our public messages about our uniqueness,
relationship coaching – think of emotions and thoughts that relationship photos can evoke,
wellbeing – think of taking photos as mindfulness practice or creative thinking,
team integration and coaching.
Also, active taking of photographs is an excellent way to facilitate people communication and exchange of ideas, especially when there is a need to think out of the box and to speak beyond language limitations.
I found this very thought-provoking and powerful. I have been incorporating pictures and art into my coaching over the last year and will use ‘The Most Important Photo’.
My comment: It’s so nice to read that other coach also uses photos. Many use ready decks of photos to stimulate thinking and communication. I’m happy that you are inspired to use this process of the Most Important Photo. The use of clients’ personal photos is something unique in terms of connecting to the true self.
Learning a new way to help the client tap into his/herself was very helpful. Especially in this day and age of “selfies.
My comment: Well, yes. Memories and emotions triggered by our personal photos remind us of parts of ourselves that we might forget in a daily race. A simple photo from holidays, work, graduation, family home or the one we took and are proud of, can be very insightful in talking about what matters to us in life generally. And authenticity is a meaningful topic today.
Great appreciation to Bara for being willing to act as a coachee and great appreciation to Dorota for taking us through the coaching exercise. Using the personal photo was very inspiring. Thank you
My comment: It was an act of openness and courage. But we also benefited a lot from it. We learned a lot. I think that the session we presented was the most reflected one I ever had. Also, we were supported by the EMCC team in all the preparatory tasks, including the pre-recorded session, conference papers, promotional interviews. The work that was done by the EMCC team to organise this conference deserves the highest admiration and gratitude.
True coaching, thus very relevant!! 🙂
Insightful, innovative, valuable. Loved this session thank you both!
One more thing to share maybe. Besides the conference presentation, we also prepared a conference paper dedicated to ‘The Most Important Photo’ and the power of photography in coaching. I will be happy to share it with you. If it is of interest to you, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some of my quotes from the conference paper:
Photography assists us from birth on in all we create in life based on our dreams and hopes, strengths, relationships and achievements.
Photographs mirror, materialize and document the experiences of human life – our biography. They make it easier to connect to what matters to us. They trigger memories and provide a lot of material for the thinking process.
The Most Important Photo connects you to something meaningful in your life and to the essence of who you are and what is your core life experience. It is one of the important photos that are kept to remember important moments and people in life.
When you ask your coaching client to look for his or her most important photo, they will reflect on what matters to them in life.
If you wish to learn more about photography in coaching, you can reach my book ‘ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS. Photography in personal development, healing and education. Notes from a personal journey‘. It is available here
Thank you for reading this article.
Dorota Raniszewska – certified professional coach, EMCC Coach and Mentor – Senior Practitioner, accredited coach Izba Coachingu, certified trainer, author of the book “ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS. Photography in personal development, healing and education. Notes from a personal journey”.
During the rain, you can take a break to sit on the balcony or windowsill and watch the rain. Drink your tea slowly. Taste it with pleasure. Observe what’s outside the window.
Look up to the sky and the ground under your feet. Enjoy the view. Be happy that you can see a colourful world, hear birds, feel fresh air, wind, temperature.
A moment of rest and slowness – such a “walk on the windowsill”.
It may seem that everything has come to stillness. But when you watch mindfully in silence, you notice that the birds are singing, the branches in the trees are swaying, the air is slightly undulating like water. Everything is moving, but it is moving slowly.
“Slowness” is a small but significant word.
Plant a plant, water it, give it care, love, time, light, attention and it will grow. You will appreciate it after some time. Maybe you have plants on your balcony or windowsill that you care for every day. They grow over time, and you appreciate them more and more.
It may take many years for the plant to grow. And this allows us to see that time is something that helps us grow, mature and calm down in life. You learn to appreciate the time.
Many people say that time is money. Are you sure? Time is duration, development, life.
So often people are focused on finishing something, closing it up, bringing it to an end. But do they notice that life is going on? Do they enjoy what they are doing before they finish it?
Life goes on and now is the time to enjoy it because we are and live in a beautiful world that we can admire and enjoy.
Life is not just about closing, delivering. Life wants openness from us. Let nature guide you at least a little. Listen to the wind, look at the waves, the river current, watch the rain outside – it calms you down. When you look at the cornfields waving in the wind or the river or listen to the murmur of the forest, you return to yourself, to your soul. And that’s enough for you to feel good.
So let nature guide you from time to time. Notice that our Mother Earth offers what we need to live.
During this workshop participants will experience the power of personal photos in building positive narratives about themselves, understanding their needs, values and the essence of their life experience, of what makes sense for them in life. In a process of a self-reflection based on “The Most Important Photo” that is facilitated with the use coaching techniques and personal photographs, life achievements, relationships and character strengths become visible and expressed. I will teach how personal photos can be used to connect to inner wisdom, a sense of meaning and build bridges between past achievements and future possibilities.
The Most Important Photo? What is it? The Most Important Photo is a photo that the client is choosing deliberately from his or her photos that are kept to remember important moments and people in life. This is a photo connects you to something meaningful in your life and the essence of who you are and what is your life experience. It can be used as a gate for reflections about someone’s values, needs, future career choices, or life changes, etc. It is generic process.
During the workshop, I will also show two examples of using active photography to support wellbeing.
The first one is a case study from a one-to-one coaching process with a client who struggled with low energy in life and blocking self-beliefs. Daily morning photography and grounding practice helped the client to regain a sense of purpose, joy and self-drive in life. It resulted in significant changes for better in life.
The second one is a project reflecting my practice of photo-walks that I offer in order to support clients in connecting to themselves, supporting habits of self-care, finding joy in life.
I hope that I will start offering this workshop soon as an open-enrollment workshop!
“The roots are our family and important persons in our life. The trunk of the tree includes our strengths and skills that we have. The branches with the leaves are like all the things that we have done in our lives and we are proud of. The fruits are the emotions that we feel about our achievements. Life is like a tree that is alive in all seasons. In difficult situations, we have to connect to our emotions and also, to remember who we are and what we achieved.
I think that “The Life Photo Album” is a perfect tool to help people to understand their strengths and achievements.”
I received this nice and pictoresque reflection from Katerina Michael, a psychotherapist living and working in Cyprus, who attended the Course on “Photography in Coaching”. She was very inspired by the experience of the Life Photo Album Process. Thank you, Katerina.
I’ve been receiving questions about next edition of the Course on Photography in Coaching. So let’s make it! This is going to the 3rd online edition of the Course and I’m really very happy about it and proud.
The online version of the Course takes 8 weeks. This length improved significantly the depth of the connection between the participants and the quality of the learning experience. Connection and experience that don’t stop at the end of the course. We are still meeting, exchanging and learning from each other in a group coaching program.
„A photograph gives us a place to start, a stepping stone to continue the story.”
– a quotation from the book „ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS”
This quote is the starting point for talking about “AHA™ – photos that inspire”. After all, words and images go hand in hand. The language of imagery is ever-present in the realm of painterly metaphors, helping us to express in words that which is difficult to name outright. For example, we have the phrase “soft as velvet.” Thanks to the visualization of something abstract, it becomes almost tangible, and thus, easier to understand, to name and to describe.
AHA™ comprises an independent collection of 48 photographs and 12 accompanying questions that I have compiled over many years of coaching and workshop sessions. I have used these images and questions to spark sincere and worthwhile exchanges, to forge creative tracks for personal development, and to inspire hope, motivation, and engagement. From the moment I published my book on photography in personal development, people began asking: “Dorota, when will you publish your own photos? They’re so remarkable, so positive.” Indeed, I collected the images for AHA™ with the goal of setting the scene for positive work that would help individuals look towards the sun, in spite of all the challenges at hand, and to discover a brighter side of life. After all, you can take nearly everything away from a person – but you can’t take away their dreams. As long as we can dream, we are free. As long as we have dreams, we can evolve. What’s more, dreams give us the power to live better, more healthfully and happily.
Still, the collection had to wait until I had a sense of clarity about my purpose and concept. I wanted to find out exactly how to compile it in a way that would achieve its goal. This goal was to set up a solid foundation for personal development built from a sense of humanism, righteousness, ecology, and a positive lifestyle. When the concept had finally crystallized, we were suddenly hit by the pandemic, which effectively made AHA™ all the more relevant. Each photograph was taken in an actual, unstaged situation. Each image is an authentic framing of a spontaneous moment captured over the course of many walks, meetings, encounters, and expeditions. A record of these experiences and the emotions brought forth in the moment. A testament to empathy, gratitude, wonder, love, friendship, courage, initiative, passion, freedom, devotion and creativity. An imprint of dreams that have come true. An image of joy.
The Dalai Lama once said: “I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering.” (1)
It is through AHA™ that I would like to inspire others to appreciate the world around us, to care for it and develop our relationship to it. To develop our own humanity, our understanding of justice, spirituality, courage, equilibrium, and wisdom. To consider notions of independence, dependency, and leadership. To encourage positive thinking, self-esteem, hope, happiness, empathy, and gratitude — all the strengths that we are not always mindful of on a daily basis because we are busy chasing a notion of happiness under the shadow that we could get left behind. When, in fact, this power and this joy already reside within us. Joy, balance, a sense of capability, and freedom are all there. Sometimes it’s enough to pause for a moment in the tumult of the everyday, to take a leisurely stroll through the woods to help us see it with our very eyes and feel it with our hearts. I want to inspire others through the sorts of pictures we all have access to on a daily basis and everything that we can all discover within ourselves in order to live well and continue to grow.
AHA™ photography isn’t set up in any particular way and isn’t meant to be suggestive. These are images seen in the real world, at different moments of the day and in different places. They spring from what is vital and desirable – a sense of humanity, nature, the here and now, peace, ecology, and attentiveness.
While I do indeed use these images in coaching sessions, they are just as useful in therapy and pedagogy. I often get emails from various people telling me that AHA™ has supported them in their work with trauma, depression, helping subjects to go deeper into an idea, to alleviate scepticism, criticism and deeper levels of despair. These images inspire people to act and engage.
AHA™ photography is muted in its colors and tones. In this way, it is capable of showing us the world as we see it. These pictures are not “edited” in any way or adjusted with colored filters. Today, we see quite a lot of photographs that are tuned up in some way, just like there are foods with a great deal of additives to intensify their smell and their taste. Meanwhile, the world around us can sometimes be colorful, but it can often be pale as well, it can be bright some days or gray on other days. It can either invite us to activate ourselves or to let ourselves sit back and relax. The fog can be captivating, even though it is certainly quite pale. At dusk, the sun can be fiery and give way to dynamic impressions.
These photographs also have a broad layer of situational significance, creating a number of possibilities for references and associations. These images aren’t weighted down with a narrow framework of symbolism, so they don’t lead the subject towards any specific association, such as a pair of red high heels might, or a gold watch. For the sorts of symbols that are central to the concept of AHA™ photography, it is important to keep in mind that:
“An image doesn’t ascribe boundaries to thought. An image doesn’t describe its context as precisely as text. For example, words describing things such as death, joy, courage, or judgment carry a specific meaning. Images don’t bring in such narrowly defined ideas. On a semantic level, all images are boundless.”
– quotation from the book „ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS”.
AHA™ is more than just pictures. Posing questions about the pictures is just as important. The questions that accompany the pictures are just as important. These are questions that relate to who we are, for example, in the context of the roles we play, our values, character strengths, needs, and emotions, including the emotions we want to experience in our everyday lives. These questions mirror the structure of R. Dilts’ neurological levels. There are a few additional areas as well, such as the experience of gratitude or expressing our hopes and wants. The questions are not meant to be suggestive. Rather, they are quite simple and open-ended. These sorts of questions ought to be formulated in such a way that the individual is encouraged to choose a photograph and to explain how the image reflects a possible answer to that question.
We can find some sample questions in the illustration below:
The questions that are part of AHA™ make up the foundation for personal development work. They can be used in a broad range of settings by parents, career advisors, work teams, and coaches working in any area of life, work or relationships. Teachers can also find this framework useful in the classroom, particularly when dealing with social issues. Participants are also encouraged to contribute their own questions to the conversation. One side of each of these question cards has a 10×10 “post-it” sized blank space. It is designed in such a way that there is space for either a new question, a word or a full sentence.
Sample “post-it” questions are illustrated in the below:
How useful are photographs in this process? These images in particular? And do they look familiar? Here are a few clues taken from neuroscience (according to David Rock’s Your Brain at Work, Harper Collins, 2013):
The novelty effect: when our prefrontal cortex discerns something new, our sight becomes sharper, our ears perk up and we focus our attention. At that moment, dopamine is released in the brain, which allows us to improve our concentration and engagement.
Tangibility: We often find it easier to talk about something when it is right there in front of us, something we can see and even touch. When it is tangible to the senses and not simply seen or visualized. Thanks to the mechanism of projection, an image suggests its own meanings and responses to a given question.
The image as a complex source of information: A picture is composed of various elements at once. What’s more, these elements are interrelated. For example, we may see an image of a tree in the middle of a field, with a bird flying above against the background of the sun setting in the sky. This image instantly sparks a process of meaning-making and leads to a plethora of associations. Reading a description of a linear description of such an image would be a much longer process.
Economics of the brain: The neurons in the brain that deal with the visual aspects of perception are much more developed than the ones related to speech. The brain consumes less energy to think when we are looking at an image and, as a result, the thought process is carried out more swiftly.
A more pleasant response to what is familiar: When we get a glimpse of something familiar, such as a friendly face, a well-known pattern or design, the brain releases serotonin – the hormone that is responsible for feelings of well-being and security. The visual neurons in the brain take part in this process. When we see something that we know quite well, we feel secure. And this feeling of security allows us to feel more comfortable expressing ourselves, fostering a sense of spontaneity and openness.
AHA™ – Photos that inspire: Here you will find 48 inspiring photographs that will aid in eliciting emotions, deep reflections, and thoughtful responses. There are also 12 cards, each of them posing a powerful question that is meant to initiate a valuable exchange. A booklet is also included to serve as an introduction to the practical application of this tool.
Dorota Raniszewska, Accredited Coach and Mentor, EMCC, IC, teacher in the use of photography in coaching.
Yesterday we celebrated the end of the October-November edition of the ONE IMAGE MANY WORDS Photography in Coaching course.
Just to wrap up, these are the ingredient of the course:
This course is about coaching, not therapy. It is also about photography in coaching, not photo-therapy techniques.
All you learn in it, like silence and listening, not interpreting nor advising to the client, formulating and asking powerful coaching questions, or clean coaching questions for session summary, using STOP-START review as well as the specific use of clients’ photos is used in COACHING.
Coaching is focused on assisting and helping clients make changes in life they wish for themselves faster and easier. It is about people future and future starts now, the moment they stop and reflect on what they need and want.
To live as they want, people don’t need to understand the „why” about their past-present. They need to understand the „why and how” about their future-present. And this is when coaching helps perfectly.
In this course you will learn coaching skills, coaching tools, coaching processes with clients’ photos, coaching attitude and the power of coaching.
And of course, the power of photography in coaching.
Hi, this is Dorota :). Last week we started the ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS course on photography in coaching. I think that it is a great occasion to collect and share valuable insights from our group sessions with you. Today, it is about listening to the client, not watching their photos 😉
When we use client’s personal photos during a coaching session we do not comment or evaluate them based on artistic criteria. There is a better way to engage with the client. As coaches, we focus on personal meanings and insights from the photos. Not on the aesthetic qualities of the photos. For instance, we do not say that “it is a beautiful photo”. This would focus the client’s attention on what is not related to the coaching topic. Instead, ask about what is important in the photo or what was important in choosing and bringing this photo to the session, or how is it related to the goal of the coaching session.
The role of a coach is to create a safe and inspiring space for self-exploration for the client. Every second when a coach listens creates a second of self-reflection for the client.
That’s why we ask short, good questions and then, become listeners during a coaching session. And there are powerful coaching questions about photos that take people deep and far in their self-reflection. These powerful questions bring real value to the client who can find important answers. This is why people work with good coaches.
I hope you found this insight useful. If yes, you can leave your comment under this post, please. Thank you for reading this article and stay in touch! There will be more 🙂