‘Metaphor underlies all forms of understanding whatsoever, science and philosophy no less than poetry and art.’ Ian McGilchrist
For me, supervision is like skiing - and I love skiing. The ascent in the cool, bright mountain air, the silence of a fresh fall of snow, emerging to the heart-lifting vision of snow-capped peaks stretching off to the horizon on every side. Then the moment of gathering and launching myself down the run, sensing the pull of gravity, responding to the angle of the slope, the quality of the snow, and the condition of the piste, my body and all my senses attuned to the flow of movement as I weight and unweight my skis in rhythmic turns.
At the end of the run, I pause to catch my breath, to relish the sensation - and to reflect on how it went. Were there moments when I was ‘in the zone’, totally immersed it what I was doing; or even better, skiing mindfully, aware both of skiing and of being aware of skiing? Were there moments when I lost my concentration, where I hesitated, where fear caused me to lean back and lose my balance? What did I do to cause or allow these things to happen? What will I do differently on my next run?
As a supervisor - or, as I prefer, a reflective partner - my experience has many of the same qualities: the anticipation of engaging with this particular coach, reviewing my notes as the meeting approaches, then centring myself and holding them in my awareness before launching into the session. We start gently, wide turns giving time to re-connect and re-contract, to re-create the holding space between us before engaging with the client issue the coach has brought. What does this client hold for the coach, what is the emotional pull behind the content?
I listen with my body and senses attuned until something tugs at my awareness. The slope steepens as I draw the coach’s attention to what I have noticed and we begin to explore the coach’s experience of what was going on in relation to the client, and perhaps the wider system. What images or feelings are being evoked, how those might be playing out between us in this moment, what insights are emerging? We continue together in the flow of our conversation, sometimes side by side, sometimes leading, sometimes following, but always in touch, sensing, experiencing, moving in the moment.
At the end of our time, we stop to reflect on how the meeting has gone, what has been discovered or learned on the way, and what implications that might have for the work with the client. After we have parted, I do my own reflection - just as I would after an exhilarating ski run.