Being Fully Present in a Complex World

A Conversation with David from Fully Integrated Leadership

In this episode, I am joined by William Walker, a coach and entrepreneur who works with individuals, teams, and organizations to develop sustainable practices that meet with their specific circumstances.  William’s coaching is integrally informed, developmental, and authenticity-driven and helps his clients constantly inquire into what is happening right now in their lives and what the best actions are to take based on that knowledge.

In the interview, William guides us in an “embodiment practice” that he uses in his own life and with his clients.  He then talks about how this practice, and other practices meant to cultivate presence, can help in practical ways in our life and leadership.  We spend quite a lot of time in the interview practicing and talking about presence.  I encourage you to actively participate in the practices as we walk through them in the interview.

Towards the end of the interview, William and I talk about co-hosting a follow up call for people interested in asking questions, sharing, and continuing the conversation.  If you are interested, please contact me on my website at


Some of the resources mentioned during the interview include:

3 Coaching Traps That May Stifle Your Practice

This short article is for beginning and seasoned coaches who may feel burnt out, listless or in doubt over their practice. I have practiced coaching for several years and have noticed three themes that have surfaced from time to time in my own and other coaches’ work. To be aware of these potential patterns can help keep your practice liberated and maturing. Here are the three traps and potential ways to navigate them:

1. Depersonalization.

By depersonalization I am not necessarily referring to extreme forms of detachment that would be categorized as dissociative personality disorder. Here I am referring to more subtle and coaching contextual habits of detachment of oneself and one’s personalness out of a belief that this is of service to the client. These are the moments when we check out or take an overly disengaged observer or witnessing role out of unconscious habit. Or, we don’t speak up. A part of us is there but we are not ‘wholly’ there. After a session where we have depersonalized we might feel depleted, left out, or even rejected. In such cases this has to do with how we are holding ourselves in relation to the client. We need to do both as coaches–be a participant in holding space as well as present and engaged (i.e. fully with ourselves).

If you notice this happening to yourself in a coaching session I recommend making conscious inner contact with yourself again such as feeling your feet and arms, your bones, nervous system, etc. In other words, presence yourself and re-engage.

2. Not Prioritizing your Needs.

There are many kinds of coaching, containers for coaching and optimal conditions for the kind of work you do. In this time of technological accessibility it is easy to do coaching online but it is not best for everyone and especially not initially. When I started coaching I did a lot of work with people outdoors and I still do sometimes. I also engaged the body quite a bit through movement. This isn’t as much of a need for me today as it was then but sometimes I am called to do it. Trust what you need to get coaching and to unfold your coaching. In addition to context, timing is important. Respect your limits. And finally, your process is your process and you may, depending on your work and your client’s work, need to entrain your clients into your process. For instance, you may need to pause to take something in, to really get your client. Tell them and take the space you need. In this you are also modeling leadership in taking care of your needs. Likewise, if you intuit your client needs a particular movement to integrate something invite them to do so.

Not taking care of your legitimate needs in the coaching space won’t help your practice grow, it will disengage you and you may feel dis-empowered. Know and learn about your needs as you coach and act on them.

3. Let your personal unfoldment have a place in your practice.

What is going on in our personal evolution may sometimes seem like an impediment to our practice or to our clients but this belief is worth challenging. First of all, you are always likely going to be unfolding new meaning and complexity personally so we can forget about thinking we need to have arrived somewhere as a coach. Mastery does not mean completion. Secondly, it is possible that this personal edge or major transformation you are going through is of potential benefit to your client as well as an entirely new demographic you could open to work with. Coaching is not only about skills it is about you, what experiences you have integrated, what territory you have lived and know that others would feel safe with you guiding them through it. To clarify this is not about us taking over the coaching session though you have to trust your style and attune to what is happening in the coaching space. Sometimes the raw experience I share that I initially felt I needed to hide opens the client’s connection to their authentic voice and it creates more efficiency in the coaching space.

Be willing to bring yourself in in ways you intuit as appropriate. This will leave you feeling like you made a deeper impact then simply demonstrating your listening skills. Further, this is also what differentiates you. 

Finally, let your practice breath. Sometimes you might need a break, a different experience or two, or new projects to engage which, when you come back to your coaching practice, will make it even stronger.

I hope this helps, beginners and masters alike. If you want to talk about your coaching practice in more detail feel free to send me a message.

Nature’s Mirror

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

—Henry David Thoreau, Walden


After a few days rest it felt great to be back on the trail. My pack was down to about thirty pounds, I had five days worth of food and the poles were making hiking up and down ice a lot easier. I took in some beautiful views and ran into a few day hikers on my first day back on the trail. I made it to the “priest” shelter by about 5 p.m. It’s called the “priest” because the climb is so steep to reach the summit of the ridge that you need to see a priest when you get to the top to count your blessings. It was close to four thousand feet up there so I set up my tent inside the shelter to stay out of the wind. I ate, then tucked my food away in the roof of the outhouse. I tried to get a fire going but it was too windy so I called it a night. I put on a few layers of clothes along with my balaclava and cocooned myself inside my sleeping bag.

I awoke, wondering, “What is that sound?” I had no idea what time it was or how long I’d been sleeping. I heard something outside the shelter. I could hear an animal walking around the fire pit sniffing and making a huffing sound with its nose. “What is that? Is it a raccoon, a porcupine?” I was now paying close attention. Then it made the huffing sound again and then a snorting sound. “That sounds bigger than a raccoon or porcupine. It almost sounds like a pig or a boar.” I heard the animal come closer, huffing its way to the shelter. “Shit, that sounds more like a bear.” (I have encountered bears camping in Ontario and know the sound they make). Suddenly, I heard a loud ‘thunk’ as the animal stepped into the shelter. I could feel by the weight of this beast it was a big animal, bigger than a human. It walked over right beside my tent and I could hear it take a sniff toward me. My heart was now rising up into my throat. “You have to be kidding me. This isn’t how I go, is it? Should I make noise and try and scare it away? No, it knows I’m here. It’s not scared of me. Stay calm,” I advised myself. Now I was hyper-alert. My heart was beating so loud the animal must have heard it. I reached for my knife in the bottom of my tent just in case I had to wrestle with the animal. The animal began to go through my backpack, pushing it around in the shelter. Thankfully I had no food, toothpaste, or anything scented in there; anything attractive to animals was in the outhouse. Within a few minutes, which seemed like years, the animal got bored and stepped out of the shelter. We never saw each other eye to eye. I still don’t know if it was a bear. Whatever it was it wasn’t afraid of my presence. I slept with one eye open the rest of the night.

The daylight brought me deep relief from my late night wildlife encounter. “This may not be the last time,” I thought to myself. There was also a gift in this. This encounter vitalized me to my core, to the immediacy of now, and woke me up to the fact of my tenuous existence. I didn’t know it was possible to feel as alive as I did while the animal was breathing next to me. Nature is a humbling mirror when we dare to get really intimate with it. It strips us naked of all our means of psychological and structural separateness. It cuts through our false sense of superiority, immortality and confronts us with the facts of life: we are going die and we don’t know when it’s going to happen. In our essential physicality, we are as perishable as any wild animal. This moment, is all that there is.

Excerpted from Walk of Life: A pilgrimage in search of roots, healing and inner truth by William Timothy Walker