My name is Matthew O’Connell. I coach, teach, mentor and generally do my best to help. I take a critical, spiritual, humanistic approach to it all. My style of working is most likely suitable for, but not limited to, the following types; spiritual but not religious, ex- or current Buddhists, ex-New Agers looking for direction (and reality), critical thinkers and rationalists that hide a desire for meaning and some sort of humanistic spiritual practice, atheists interested in meditation, intuitives fed up with the woo-woo, the spiritually disillusioned, those after an approach to change and/or self-development that doesn’t require the suspension of intelligence or blind faith, spiritual types looking to leave the spiritual bubble and change their lives for the better.
Coaching provides a systematic approach to establishing patterns of change, inquiry or self-development by utilising goals and meaningful objectives, and working with patterns. It specifically involves unlocking dysfunctional patterns of behaviour whilst looking to find balance, examine and challenge beliefs, work with intent and personal responsibility.
Counselling means listening, connecting and being honest with ourselves. It means finding our own answers and recognising how we negotiate feelings with ourselves and others, whilst creating elaborate codes of emotional expression and suppression. It means being compassionate and understanding towards our own limitations, failings and fears.
Post-Traditional Buddhism takes our immediate and accumulated experience with Buddhism (as practice and as something you do rather than believe) as the perpetual starting point for the path. It involves examining myths, assumptions, expectation and potential. It draws on traditional Buddhism but is free to experiment, mould and personalise practice to make it relevant to our lived experience. It assumes that we must act on Buddhism and not just receive it passively.
Contemporary Shamanism sees the human world as a ritualised one in which patterns are the expression of shared ritual gesture. Stories are the means through which we enact our shared ritualised (i.e. patterned) existence. It works with the symbolic nature of the human world and with dynamics such as power and weakness, fear and confidence, freedom and entrapment, and the deliberate encompassing of cycles of death, change and renewal. It recognises that form is always emerging out of emptiness and that participation means engaging with the forms of our individual and shared humanity as potential spaces for liberating experience.
My approach is holistic, working on the totality of our lives and seeing all spiritual practice as firstly, human, secondly as necessarily concerned with the reality and circumstances of our lives and lived experience. So, no room for escapism or the superficiality of the happiness trail. What is spiritual is up for debate, but in my view, it needs to concern itself with the full spectrum of our shared humanity, which is personal and shared.
Coaching is generally based on cycles of short-term support which are renewed as needed. If it’s helpful, it can continue. The first meeting requires no commitment. We meet, discuss your needs, and look at what is possible but if you are motivated, we can start the ball rolling right away. Each cycle is based on four meetings with email updates in-between.
If you’re interested, get in touch. I primarily work through skype these days.
For more on Post-Traditional Buddhism, click here
For The Imperfect Buddha Podcast series, click here
A note for ex-, current, post- Buddhists
One issue that emerges when looking at contemporary western Buddhism in a critical post-traditional way is the lack of support and guidance outside of mainstream Buddhism. We are frail after all and we need each other. So, where do we go? Do we give up on Buddhism or spirituality completely? Do we look for another balsam? Do we accept the contradictions and limitations or tradition and stick at it?
I’m not a Buddhist or meditation teacher but I incorporate both into my coaching work. It would be hard not to after 25 years of intense involvement. I started out with Theravada practice in my late teens before moving over to Tibetan Buddhism. I have practised with the Gelugpas, Kagyu in a variety of groups as well as the Aro-ter. I have a lot of retreat experience and experience with a range of meditation styles.
I see my coaching work as an extension of the Bodhisattva prayer and the recognition that we must choose to participate and choose to share our knowledge, gifts and talents with those who may benefit from them to help address ignorance and suffering in the world to the best of our abilities.
I made a podcast episode that expands on this. Click here to listen. It’s just 12 minutes long.