I recently met with a life coach with one mystery I hoped he could solve: How could a working mother, wife and journalist do it all without feeling, well, a little stressed out?
Claudio Toyama, 41, who lives in Columbia and has clients around the world, set out to help me find my answer.
He is part of the burgeoning movement of life coaches across the country. The industry has seen huge increases in new coaches, according to a recent story in the New York Times. Coaches interviewed for the Times made anywhere from $25 to $400 per hour in the practice of their craft.
I first met Claudio when he saved a duck from wandering in the kitchen at in downtown Columbia.
Several months later, he offered me three complimentary life-coaching sessions.
I figured if he could save a duck, maybe he could save me.
Toyama is also a business consultant who helps companies discover what determines consumer brand loyalty. Toyama, who has coached a variety of clients, including students, entrepreneurs and small business owners, received his life coach training through the New Field Network, which according to its website, encourages coaches to “challenge” the thinking of their clients.
Which is exactly how Toyama approached our first meeting. I told him I was stressed, and he asked why.
I said it’s because my to-do list is too long for the hours in the day.
He challenged me to consider the origins of that problem as well.
Are you in the right profession, he asked?
I started to feel uncomfortable at this point, and Toyama could sense that. I told him there was no negotiation on my career; I loved it, and that wasn’t going to change.
I just needed to figure out how to relax.
He continued to listen to me. I told him how I’ve pretty much always been a ball of stress, losing sleep and getting ill over finals in college and freaking out about my grades in high school.
That was the extent of our first meeting. We didn’t talk solutions. Toyama just listened.
We met again later for what he called “guided meditation.”
“Guided meditation is a way to have your mind quieting down, so you can really listen to what’s inside,” he said. “There is a lot of wisdom in your own body, in yourself, when you quiet the chatter of the conscious mind down.”
For this exercise, I visited Toyama at his home, where he asked me to sit on his couch and closely watch the burning flame of a candle on his coffee table.
Toyama asked me to watch the flame until my eyes became very heavy and they closed.
He then asked me to visualize a variety of relaxing scenes—quiet rooms, rolling cornfields in Iowa, trees, sparkling lights.
As I did, I saw paper doll images in my brain pop up of my husband, my sweet toddler, and oddly, a typewriter.
I left feeling relaxed, but also grateful. What am I so angst-y about all the time?
I have everything I could ever want.
Of course, my problems aren’t completely solved—they never will be. This is just my personality and it’s worked for me.
Toyama helped me realize this as well.
After we concluded our three sessions, I asked Toyama about how the guided meditation worked for others he had coached.
Toyama said he’s had many people cry through meditations—and in at least one case—laugh hysterically.
“The craziest was this lady—and she came in, and she went into this deep meditation, she started laughing and she couldn’t stop,” he said. “It was this belly laugh. What happens is when you connect all those things… what comes out is what is suppressed. … In developed societies you’re not allowed to express emotions.”
Toyama, who was born in Brazil, also said the single biggest obstacle to people’s success is self-sabotage.
“People either have fear of failure or fear of success,” he said.