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Founder Julio Olalla

"Julio has emerged as one of the great philosophers of our time. His audiences are forever changed after hearing him speak." —Richard Tarnas, author, Cosmos and Psyche

As the founder of Newfield Network, Julio Olalla is regarded as a pioneer of the executive coaching and transformational learning fields.

For over 30 years, Julio has trained thousands of individuals and worked with hundreds of organizations, CEOs, and government figureheads to challenge traditional thinking and create stronger leaders navigating the anxiety and turbulence facing our global community.

"I am passionate about helping others to regain the balance in their lives. Our world is too fragile for us not to be focused on how we learn, and how we must change our ontology in order to live more satisfying lives at work, at home, and in our communities."

With loyal followings in North America, South America, Canada, and Europe, his platform is a rich bilingual tapestry of weaving learning with relatable stories from his dramatic life experiences, clients, and travels. His global perspective makes him an in-demand trusted advisor of Fortune 500 companies, international governments, and high-profile individuals, such as the former Chilean President.

Julio Olalla is a sought-after guest and motivational speaker addressing audiences worldwide on the topics of leadership, coaching, transformational learning, education, and emotion. His message inspires audiences to review, not only the content of what they are thinking and learning but their interpretation of learning itself and its practices. His appeal is his dedication to generating a healthier, more sustainable way to inhabit the planet.

Originally an attorney with the Chilean government, Julio and his family made their way to the U.S. after the 1973 Chilean coup d’état. He lives in Colorado with a travel schedule that frequently takes him worldwide.

"We need to end the conspiracy of silence, the practice of hiding all experience that we cannot explain, so that we can rediscover the beauty of mystery and the power of questions.” - Julio Olalla

 

In this space, Julio shares his memories, history, reflections, and vision. He shares his knowledge of a variety of topics that he has spoken about over the past 25 years as a coaching master and pioneer. 

Reasoning is not the only way that human beings become aware. We also become aware through other interactions with the world. There are ways of knowing and understanding that transcend reason—such as intuition and mystical revelations. If we believe, as we have for centuries, that awareness and the power of reasoning are the same thing, we deprive ourselves of the mystery of life. We begin to feel alone. We stop listening to the signs that speak to us from unknown sources and that nourish the soul.

What we need are sacred spaces in which we can revise our assumptions and stop calling them truths, in which we can once again listen to the whispers of spirituality with respect, and listen to each other with profound empathy. What we need is to once again practice the art of creating an integral space in which both the spiritual world and all the dimensions of the human experience are contained.

It is for this reason that I’ve sought my education in the field of Theory of Language and in Education and am the founder of Newfield Network, a leading school in the world of coach training with a presence in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. It is also why I’ve worked directly with more than 60,000 people over the last 25 years.

We need to become aware that knowledge has become a possession and an object of greed. Wisdom, on the other hand, cannot be a possession. It cannot be commercialized, regulated or registered. It cannot be hoarded by anyone because it lives in a realm that is not exclusively human, but shared with the gods. Wisdom can only live in gratitude. If knowledge creates greed, wisdom integrates. If knowledge is to know something, wisdom is Being.

At Newfield Network, our mission is to generate and nurture spaces of reflection and learning that make possible the emergence of a new way of conceiving and experiencing knowledge. These new ways of experiencing will wake us up to a better life—so that we can inhabit an earth that is socially just, environmentally sustainable and spiritually full.

"We need to end the conspiracy of silence, the practice of hiding all experience that we cannot explain, so that we can rediscover the beauty of mystery and the power of questions.” - Julio Olalla

 

Reflections on Spirituality:

The Dalai Lama says that in our ever more materialistic world, we have been swept up by an insatiable desire for power and possessions. In our vain attempt to satisfy these desires, we get further and further from happiness and inner peace.

Even if we are surrounded by material comforts, he says, many people experience dissatisfaction, fear, anxiety and insecurities. It seems that something is missing in our hearts. He concludes that what we are missing is a sense of our spirituality.

And this raises a big question: What do we mean by spirituality?

Let me say it right away: this is not an easy question to answer. I will venture to suggest that spirituality, as Roger Walsh says, is the direct experience of the sacred.

In other words, spirituality consists of experiencing the sacred in the everyday. Spirituality is not necessarily what we believe in or what we theorize about. It is the experience of reverence for all that surrounds us, reverence for the things in which we see the gift of existence, and reverence for what overwhelms us with its simplicity, mystery and greatness.

We don’t need to go anywhere in particular have this experience; it is in the flower that grows in the garden, in the questions of children, in the eyes of someone in love, in the warmth of our parents, in the water that quenches our thirst, in the conversation with a friend, and in the caresses of the wind.

Spirituality gives us access to compassion and gratitude, emotions that alter our relationship with others and with the world. In compassion we feel and sympathize with human pain, in gratitude we experience the abundance of gifts that life offers us at each instant.

Spiritual practices help us find our humility without renouncing our greatness. They also give us other offerings: how to attain peace, access joy, listen to the advice of sadness, be amazed by the everyday, and feel that we are part of the immense mystery of existence. In these ways it opens up the path to happiness.

Spirituality does not only seek knowledge, it leads us towards wisdom. It does not seek more information, rather, it searches for how to live a good life.

Ontological coaching takes place in a spiritual space but does not require that we speak about spirituality or refer to it. This type of coaching requires spirituality so that we can listen with respect, to accept the ‘other,’ to experience ourselves as an integral part of this wonderful mystery, to have conversations that we have never had, to unite the interior and exterior aspects of the human experience, to ignite meaning, to humbly accept not knowing, and to set forth on the path of learning with a sense of peace.

Ontological coaching cannot take place without that spiritual background, without generating spaces that allow us to revise our assumptions and cease to call them truths, spaces where we can once again listen with respect to the voices of the universe so that we can experience the power of questions and the sense of wonder at the world.

Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

To be able to be enchanted by the world once again means to experience the beauty of mystery, to rediscover the passion of the search, the joy of learning. These are the things we are losing at the end of this era. Richard Tarnas says, “I think that the disenchantment of the modern universe is the direct result of a simplistic epistemology and a moral posture spectacularly inadequate to the depths, complexity, and grandeur of the cosmos."

If the task of ontological coaching is to generate an epistemology that integrates the internal and external aspects of the human experience, to move away from the obsessive search for prediction and control, to understand that the relationship between human beings and the world is not dualistic but participatory, then spirituality is inseparable from this task.

"We need to end the conspiracy of silence, the practice of hiding all experience that we cannot explain, so that we can rediscover the beauty of mystery and the power of questions.” - Julio Olalla

 

Reflections on Gratitude:

When I was a boy, I would hear my father tell stories of the experiences he had during the civil war in Spain. One of them took place in the northern coast of Spain, near the city of Llanes where he was in charge of distributing provisions to the republican troops. The Nationalists had surrounded the area and there was no food available for civilians or troops. The situation was so bad that several times they ate rats.

One afternoon, a neighbor came to my father’s office and begged that he please give her some food, anything… her father was dying of hunger. My father had a hard bit of bread in his desk drawer that he had saved for many days, and which was the only thing he had to eat. Faced with this woman’s desperation and torn between hunger and compassion, he gave her that bit of bread. This happened at the beginning of 1937, and soon after my father fled to France. Later, after another moving story, he ended up in Chile.

In 1967 my father and I traveled to Spain. We rented a small Seat 600 and together visited many of the places he wanted to see after so many years of being away. One afternoon we arrived in the small town where the story of the bread took place. We stopped in front of the house where his office had been during the war. He became very emotional when he saw it, surprised that it was still there, and began to tell me why this place meant so much to him. I looked with awe at this town, that until that moment had only existed as part of a story from childhood, and listened to my father speak as if I was in a dream.

Suddenly, a door from a neighboring house opened and a woman emerged, looking at us intensely. For a moment she hesitated, then she ran towards my father and asked, “you are Gregorio, right? Do you remember me? You gave me that bit of bread for my father during the war…” There was an exchange of looks, an anxious search through stored memories, a moment of immobility, and finally a long embrace amidst tears and whispers because words were simply insufficient to say what they wanted to say to each other.

That was my first encounter with the power of gratitude.

 

 

My second encounter happened five years later in Port Williams, at the edge of the Beagle Canal in the southernmost part of South America. There I found out that the last ethnically pure Ona native still lived. They called him grandfather Felipe. He was over seventy years old, had tanned skin, and moved and spoke slowly. I was enthralled with the possibility of meeting him. It was not difficult to find him. I introduced myself and said that I would be very honored to meet him and began to ask him questions about his life and his people.

At the beginning he answered in monosyllables and he studied me with his eyes as we walked along the edge of the water. We sat on the remains of an old dock. The conversation moved slowly and was filled with silences. Not far from where we were, a group of people were throwing garbage into the sea.

That’s when Grandfather Felipe changed his tone and said, with hopelessness and indignation, “you people, Julio is your name, right? You people don’t respect anything, you are not grateful for anything. Look at those people. The sea gives them gifts every day and they repay it with garbage. A tone of ancient dignity emerged from within him and he continued, “we the Ona lived always from the sea. Our life was the sea. Our father and our mother were the sea. That is why each day we show our gratitude, each day we thank it for its gifts. I continue to do so, how could it be any other way?”

I remember that I listened to him with great respect and at the same time I was disconcerted: how could we give thanks to the sea? That was something that I had never considered! It seemed to me inconceivable... give thanks to the sea? Thanks should be given to the fishermen, not the sea. At that moment my cultural history provided me with an explanation for what he was saying: these people act this way because they were primitive, they are animists.

The explanation let me put distance between what my intuition and grandfather Felipe’s indignation were telling me and what I as an ‘educated’ person was supposed to feel: a type of paternalism for these ‘primitive’ peoples, a paternalism that we now understand to be the arrogance of our times.

I never imagined that these two stories would be so important in my life, and that even though I would forget about them for a while, they would keep pushing me to reflect upon our culture and our times. The first story taught me about the relationship between gratitude and love. The second showed me how much our civilization has forced us to live in a disenchanted universe, empty of meaning, without purpose, and indifferent.

 

 

I would like to make a fundamental distinction between GRATITUDE and being THANKFUL. Gratitude is the emotion that we experience when we receive a gift. It moves us to reciprocate with another gift. The root of gratitude, gratis, means ‘for free’ in Spanish. Being thankful on the other hand, is the emotion we experience when we conclude a transaction, when the conditions for satisfaction that we set have been met. It moves us to manifest that that particular exchange has been completed. Both of these have great power and both have their role in living a good life.

Let us return to gratitude and the cosmology of our times. If the universe in which we live has no purpose, no meaning, if it is indifferent to human beings, if it lacks consciousness, if it is made up of matter and energy that simply follow deterministic laws of physics, if in the end all of this universe is nothing but a machine, how can I be thankful to nature for anything? How can I feel gratitude towards the sea or the forest? If the universe lacks a divinity, lacks sacredness, how can I treat it with reverence or respect? What exists is merely raw material, resources, that we human beings exploit, and we do so with ever more efficiency, as our domination and control over nature increases.

Jacques Monod writes from the perspective of science: “ man must finally awaken from his age-old dream to discover his total solitude, his radical strangeness. He knows now that, like a nomad, he stands at the margin of the universe where he must live. A universe deaf to his music, as indifferent to his hopes as to his sufferings—or to his crimes.” We therefore ask ourselves, “gratitude to what?”

From the prevailing hyper-rationalism, to express gratitude to the sea, to nature in general, can only occur because we project onto it our own humanity. This is contemptuously called animism, attributing human qualities to inanimate objects, that is, to things without a soul. According to this view, it is natural that the woman in my father’s story feel gratitude for his gift, but unnatural that the Ona feel gratitude for the sea. That is nothing more than despicable animism, once again, attributing a soul to that which has none.

The interesting thing however, is that the Ona left their ecosystem unperturbed while we, with our rationally impeccable wisdom create a disaster out of any ecosystem that crosses our path.

From the perspective of our ontology, we see ourselves as observers, separate from what we observe. From this perspective, the world is made up of parts and we define ourselves as subjects, disconnected both from each other and from the world that surrounds us.

This concept of who we are is deeply rooted in our civilization, in our technology, and in our common sense. It was understood in this way by some of the most famous thinkers of our time: Adam Smith when he defined his ‘Economic Man,” Descartes when he deduced “I am,” and Darwin when he described individual phenotypes competing for resources. We understand economics and evolution as phenomena based in competition without much space for collaboration and for gifts. We therefore understand how to be thankful but we are left with little room for gratitude.

In this prevailing view of the world, with its immense solitude and immeasurable indifference, what we have is attained through our own efforts and by competing with each other. To feel gratitude for the air we breathe, for the water that takes care of our thirst, for the gifts of the sea, rivers and mountains, is simply animism. It is to attribute soul to the world, to make it divine, to re-enchant it. It is, within the paradigm in which we live, ultimately irrational. Gratitude in this context only makes sense when the gifts we receive come from another human being.

The biggest ‘projection’ we make—and that we do not see as such—is to project our mechanistic view onto the rest of the universe, as if the universe were just another one of our machines. Our fiercest denial is the one that doesn’t let us see, for example, that the thousands of millions of cells that make up the body collaborate constantly with one another and with other beings in a dance that we call life. Without that collaboration between all beings and with the universe, life is inconceivable. We have understood economics and evolution as basically competitive phenomena, without much space for collaboration and for gifts.

When we recover gratitude, we not only reinstate wonder and divinity in our universe, we also are filled with humility and companionship. Thank you for the air, for my children’s kisses, for my parents caresses. Thank you for the music of the wind, the mischievous waves, the smell of coffee, the stars that guide my dreams, for the mystery of life.

“When we coach we re-enchant, re-beautify, drink from primordial springs, thank and illuminate each other, and recover the divinity that has been exiled.” - Julio Olalla

 

I Want to Serve My Land:

It seems to me that humanity has reached a point where we are beginning to realize that we are living with interpretations of the world that have become insufficient if we want to face the crises that life presents to us.

It is not only our knowledge that is insufficient but also our ideas about knowledge. We need to become aware that our interpretations and our teachings are not enough. We are looking for ways of learning in a world in which our old interpretations about knowledge no longer work.

In my view, all organizations are a network of conversations. A big part of what we do is hold conversations. It may be directly, through email, or by telephone. We speak. But we have developed so many blocks in speaking and conversing that the flow collapses and suffering emerges. This is, in summary, the field where coaching can be of service.

In my experience I can say that real culture change in organizations is not possible unless they also embark on personal transformation for their members. This style of coordination of action focuses on achieving results along with establishing values that will support the coexistence of all members of an organization.

Learning is the foundation of everything we know and what I have said here can serve as the foundation of future exploration for those who are interested in designing new practices around coaching and leadership.

The process of learning is sometimes like the process of birth. The biggest challenge and opportunity that we face is the creation of a new discourse around learning. It is a discourse that is new, multidimensional, and well supported, one that can face important and fundamental questions: what does it mean to be human? how should we live? and how can we make way for new levels of consciousness that we can use to connect with our worlds in a multitude of new ways?

We need to take our discourse about learning to larger audiences. We need to take it out of the hands of specialists and place it in the hands of everyone. We need to lift away the heaviness of learning, make it less gloomy, and demonstrate that it is possible to learn with joy, lightness, and depth.

“Ontological coaching is a field of knowledge that seeks to accompany others through transformation from the ontological coherence of body, emotion, and language.” - Julio Olalla

 

Ontological coaching is a practice, an art, called upon to give us back the freshness of spirit, the emotional openness, and the intellectual courage necessary to pay attention to those signs and to reconnect with our body, our emotions, and with nature.

Ontological coaching emerged in our times as a practical necessity: to challenge current epistemology. It is a spontaneous, almost desperate act, because we see ourselves facing a need to incorporate all dimensions of human knowing, not just knowledge of our exterior world. Ontological coaching emerges to meet the need to incorporate the different domains of our internal world into the act of learning, the act of knowing.

Ontological coaching is fundamentally a practice of conversational learning that does not leave aside body and emotion. It aims to create a new common sense, a new discourse. It is a practice that emerges to serve this new discourse, one that is guessed at, that is intuited, but that is not yet completely articulated.

Coaching has to do with shifting our position, with displacing the observer that we are to make way for the development of a new set of actions. Of course, the process is more complex than this, but that doesn’t take away the fact that, for me, this is one of the fundamental principles of what coaching is.

Coaching is, in a very basic sense, the creation of new coherences in people. When we coach, we are generating a context in which these can emerge. That is all that we can really do: create a context in which ‘good accidents’ can happen. We cannot determine the result. But, we can help people become more aware of their way of seeing so that they can find new options for seeing and through these, begin to engage in different actions.

+ About

"Julio has emerged as one of the great philosophers of our time. His audiences are forever changed after hearing him speak." —Richard Tarnas, author, Cosmos and Psyche

As the founder of Newfield Network, Julio Olalla is regarded as a pioneer of the executive coaching and transformational learning fields.

For over 30 years, Julio has trained thousands of individuals and worked with hundreds of organizations, CEOs, and government figureheads to challenge traditional thinking and create stronger leaders navigating the anxiety and turbulence facing our global community.

"I am passionate about helping others to regain the balance in their lives. Our world is too fragile for us not to be focused on how we learn, and how we must change our ontology in order to live more satisfying lives at work, at home, and in our communities."

With loyal followings in North America, South America, Canada, and Europe, his platform is a rich bilingual tapestry of weaving learning with relatable stories from his dramatic life experiences, clients, and travels. His global perspective makes him an in-demand trusted advisor of Fortune 500 companies, international governments, and high-profile individuals, such as the former Chilean President.

Julio Olalla is a sought-after guest and motivational speaker addressing audiences worldwide on the topics of leadership, coaching, transformational learning, education, and emotion. His message inspires audiences to review, not only the content of what they are thinking and learning but their interpretation of learning itself and its practices. His appeal is his dedication to generating a healthier, more sustainable way to inhabit the planet.

Originally an attorney with the Chilean government, Julio and his family made their way to the U.S. after the 1973 Chilean coup d’état. He lives in Colorado with a travel schedule that frequently takes him worldwide.

+ Memories

"We need to end the conspiracy of silence, the practice of hiding all experience that we cannot explain, so that we can rediscover the beauty of mystery and the power of questions.” - Julio Olalla

 

In this space, Julio shares his memories, history, reflections, and vision. He shares his knowledge of a variety of topics that he has spoken about over the past 25 years as a coaching master and pioneer. 

Reasoning is not the only way that human beings become aware. We also become aware through other interactions with the world. There are ways of knowing and understanding that transcend reason—such as intuition and mystical revelations. If we believe, as we have for centuries, that awareness and the power of reasoning are the same thing, we deprive ourselves of the mystery of life. We begin to feel alone. We stop listening to the signs that speak to us from unknown sources and that nourish the soul.

What we need are sacred spaces in which we can revise our assumptions and stop calling them truths, in which we can once again listen to the whispers of spirituality with respect, and listen to each other with profound empathy. What we need is to once again practice the art of creating an integral space in which both the spiritual world and all the dimensions of the human experience are contained.

It is for this reason that I’ve sought my education in the field of Theory of Language and in Education and am the founder of Newfield Network, a leading school in the world of coach training with a presence in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. It is also why I’ve worked directly with more than 60,000 people over the last 25 years.

We need to become aware that knowledge has become a possession and an object of greed. Wisdom, on the other hand, cannot be a possession. It cannot be commercialized, regulated or registered. It cannot be hoarded by anyone because it lives in a realm that is not exclusively human, but shared with the gods. Wisdom can only live in gratitude. If knowledge creates greed, wisdom integrates. If knowledge is to know something, wisdom is Being.

At Newfield Network, our mission is to generate and nurture spaces of reflection and learning that make possible the emergence of a new way of conceiving and experiencing knowledge. These new ways of experiencing will wake us up to a better life—so that we can inhabit an earth that is socially just, environmentally sustainable and spiritually full.

+ Spirituality

"We need to end the conspiracy of silence, the practice of hiding all experience that we cannot explain, so that we can rediscover the beauty of mystery and the power of questions.” - Julio Olalla

 

Reflections on Spirituality:

The Dalai Lama says that in our ever more materialistic world, we have been swept up by an insatiable desire for power and possessions. In our vain attempt to satisfy these desires, we get further and further from happiness and inner peace.

Even if we are surrounded by material comforts, he says, many people experience dissatisfaction, fear, anxiety and insecurities. It seems that something is missing in our hearts. He concludes that what we are missing is a sense of our spirituality.

And this raises a big question: What do we mean by spirituality?

Let me say it right away: this is not an easy question to answer. I will venture to suggest that spirituality, as Roger Walsh says, is the direct experience of the sacred.

In other words, spirituality consists of experiencing the sacred in the everyday. Spirituality is not necessarily what we believe in or what we theorize about. It is the experience of reverence for all that surrounds us, reverence for the things in which we see the gift of existence, and reverence for what overwhelms us with its simplicity, mystery and greatness.

We don’t need to go anywhere in particular have this experience; it is in the flower that grows in the garden, in the questions of children, in the eyes of someone in love, in the warmth of our parents, in the water that quenches our thirst, in the conversation with a friend, and in the caresses of the wind.

Spirituality gives us access to compassion and gratitude, emotions that alter our relationship with others and with the world. In compassion we feel and sympathize with human pain, in gratitude we experience the abundance of gifts that life offers us at each instant.

Spiritual practices help us find our humility without renouncing our greatness. They also give us other offerings: how to attain peace, access joy, listen to the advice of sadness, be amazed by the everyday, and feel that we are part of the immense mystery of existence. In these ways it opens up the path to happiness.

Spirituality does not only seek knowledge, it leads us towards wisdom. It does not seek more information, rather, it searches for how to live a good life.

Ontological coaching takes place in a spiritual space but does not require that we speak about spirituality or refer to it. This type of coaching requires spirituality so that we can listen with respect, to accept the ‘other,’ to experience ourselves as an integral part of this wonderful mystery, to have conversations that we have never had, to unite the interior and exterior aspects of the human experience, to ignite meaning, to humbly accept not knowing, and to set forth on the path of learning with a sense of peace.

Ontological coaching cannot take place without that spiritual background, without generating spaces that allow us to revise our assumptions and cease to call them truths, spaces where we can once again listen with respect to the voices of the universe so that we can experience the power of questions and the sense of wonder at the world.

Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

To be able to be enchanted by the world once again means to experience the beauty of mystery, to rediscover the passion of the search, the joy of learning. These are the things we are losing at the end of this era. Richard Tarnas says, “I think that the disenchantment of the modern universe is the direct result of a simplistic epistemology and a moral posture spectacularly inadequate to the depths, complexity, and grandeur of the cosmos."

If the task of ontological coaching is to generate an epistemology that integrates the internal and external aspects of the human experience, to move away from the obsessive search for prediction and control, to understand that the relationship between human beings and the world is not dualistic but participatory, then spirituality is inseparable from this task.

+ Gratitude

"We need to end the conspiracy of silence, the practice of hiding all experience that we cannot explain, so that we can rediscover the beauty of mystery and the power of questions.” - Julio Olalla

 

Reflections on Gratitude:

When I was a boy, I would hear my father tell stories of the experiences he had during the civil war in Spain. One of them took place in the northern coast of Spain, near the city of Llanes where he was in charge of distributing provisions to the republican troops. The Nationalists had surrounded the area and there was no food available for civilians or troops. The situation was so bad that several times they ate rats.

One afternoon, a neighbor came to my father’s office and begged that he please give her some food, anything… her father was dying of hunger. My father had a hard bit of bread in his desk drawer that he had saved for many days, and which was the only thing he had to eat. Faced with this woman’s desperation and torn between hunger and compassion, he gave her that bit of bread. This happened at the beginning of 1937, and soon after my father fled to France. Later, after another moving story, he ended up in Chile.

In 1967 my father and I traveled to Spain. We rented a small Seat 600 and together visited many of the places he wanted to see after so many years of being away. One afternoon we arrived in the small town where the story of the bread took place. We stopped in front of the house where his office had been during the war. He became very emotional when he saw it, surprised that it was still there, and began to tell me why this place meant so much to him. I looked with awe at this town, that until that moment had only existed as part of a story from childhood, and listened to my father speak as if I was in a dream.

Suddenly, a door from a neighboring house opened and a woman emerged, looking at us intensely. For a moment she hesitated, then she ran towards my father and asked, “you are Gregorio, right? Do you remember me? You gave me that bit of bread for my father during the war…” There was an exchange of looks, an anxious search through stored memories, a moment of immobility, and finally a long embrace amidst tears and whispers because words were simply insufficient to say what they wanted to say to each other.

That was my first encounter with the power of gratitude.

 

 

My second encounter happened five years later in Port Williams, at the edge of the Beagle Canal in the southernmost part of South America. There I found out that the last ethnically pure Ona native still lived. They called him grandfather Felipe. He was over seventy years old, had tanned skin, and moved and spoke slowly. I was enthralled with the possibility of meeting him. It was not difficult to find him. I introduced myself and said that I would be very honored to meet him and began to ask him questions about his life and his people.

At the beginning he answered in monosyllables and he studied me with his eyes as we walked along the edge of the water. We sat on the remains of an old dock. The conversation moved slowly and was filled with silences. Not far from where we were, a group of people were throwing garbage into the sea.

That’s when Grandfather Felipe changed his tone and said, with hopelessness and indignation, “you people, Julio is your name, right? You people don’t respect anything, you are not grateful for anything. Look at those people. The sea gives them gifts every day and they repay it with garbage. A tone of ancient dignity emerged from within him and he continued, “we the Ona lived always from the sea. Our life was the sea. Our father and our mother were the sea. That is why each day we show our gratitude, each day we thank it for its gifts. I continue to do so, how could it be any other way?”

I remember that I listened to him with great respect and at the same time I was disconcerted: how could we give thanks to the sea? That was something that I had never considered! It seemed to me inconceivable... give thanks to the sea? Thanks should be given to the fishermen, not the sea. At that moment my cultural history provided me with an explanation for what he was saying: these people act this way because they were primitive, they are animists.

The explanation let me put distance between what my intuition and grandfather Felipe’s indignation were telling me and what I as an ‘educated’ person was supposed to feel: a type of paternalism for these ‘primitive’ peoples, a paternalism that we now understand to be the arrogance of our times.

I never imagined that these two stories would be so important in my life, and that even though I would forget about them for a while, they would keep pushing me to reflect upon our culture and our times. The first story taught me about the relationship between gratitude and love. The second showed me how much our civilization has forced us to live in a disenchanted universe, empty of meaning, without purpose, and indifferent.

 

 

I would like to make a fundamental distinction between GRATITUDE and being THANKFUL. Gratitude is the emotion that we experience when we receive a gift. It moves us to reciprocate with another gift. The root of gratitude, gratis, means ‘for free’ in Spanish. Being thankful on the other hand, is the emotion we experience when we conclude a transaction, when the conditions for satisfaction that we set have been met. It moves us to manifest that that particular exchange has been completed. Both of these have great power and both have their role in living a good life.

Let us return to gratitude and the cosmology of our times. If the universe in which we live has no purpose, no meaning, if it is indifferent to human beings, if it lacks consciousness, if it is made up of matter and energy that simply follow deterministic laws of physics, if in the end all of this universe is nothing but a machine, how can I be thankful to nature for anything? How can I feel gratitude towards the sea or the forest? If the universe lacks a divinity, lacks sacredness, how can I treat it with reverence or respect? What exists is merely raw material, resources, that we human beings exploit, and we do so with ever more efficiency, as our domination and control over nature increases.

Jacques Monod writes from the perspective of science: “ man must finally awaken from his age-old dream to discover his total solitude, his radical strangeness. He knows now that, like a nomad, he stands at the margin of the universe where he must live. A universe deaf to his music, as indifferent to his hopes as to his sufferings—or to his crimes.” We therefore ask ourselves, “gratitude to what?”

From the prevailing hyper-rationalism, to express gratitude to the sea, to nature in general, can only occur because we project onto it our own humanity. This is contemptuously called animism, attributing human qualities to inanimate objects, that is, to things without a soul. According to this view, it is natural that the woman in my father’s story feel gratitude for his gift, but unnatural that the Ona feel gratitude for the sea. That is nothing more than despicable animism, once again, attributing a soul to that which has none.

The interesting thing however, is that the Ona left their ecosystem unperturbed while we, with our rationally impeccable wisdom create a disaster out of any ecosystem that crosses our path.

From the perspective of our ontology, we see ourselves as observers, separate from what we observe. From this perspective, the world is made up of parts and we define ourselves as subjects, disconnected both from each other and from the world that surrounds us.

This concept of who we are is deeply rooted in our civilization, in our technology, and in our common sense. It was understood in this way by some of the most famous thinkers of our time: Adam Smith when he defined his ‘Economic Man,” Descartes when he deduced “I am,” and Darwin when he described individual phenotypes competing for resources. We understand economics and evolution as phenomena based in competition without much space for collaboration and for gifts. We therefore understand how to be thankful but we are left with little room for gratitude.

In this prevailing view of the world, with its immense solitude and immeasurable indifference, what we have is attained through our own efforts and by competing with each other. To feel gratitude for the air we breathe, for the water that takes care of our thirst, for the gifts of the sea, rivers and mountains, is simply animism. It is to attribute soul to the world, to make it divine, to re-enchant it. It is, within the paradigm in which we live, ultimately irrational. Gratitude in this context only makes sense when the gifts we receive come from another human being.

The biggest ‘projection’ we make—and that we do not see as such—is to project our mechanistic view onto the rest of the universe, as if the universe were just another one of our machines. Our fiercest denial is the one that doesn’t let us see, for example, that the thousands of millions of cells that make up the body collaborate constantly with one another and with other beings in a dance that we call life. Without that collaboration between all beings and with the universe, life is inconceivable. We have understood economics and evolution as basically competitive phenomena, without much space for collaboration and for gifts.

When we recover gratitude, we not only reinstate wonder and divinity in our universe, we also are filled with humility and companionship. Thank you for the air, for my children’s kisses, for my parents caresses. Thank you for the music of the wind, the mischievous waves, the smell of coffee, the stars that guide my dreams, for the mystery of life.

+ Vision

“When we coach we re-enchant, re-beautify, drink from primordial springs, thank and illuminate each other, and recover the divinity that has been exiled.” - Julio Olalla

 

I Want to Serve My Land:

It seems to me that humanity has reached a point where we are beginning to realize that we are living with interpretations of the world that have become insufficient if we want to face the crises that life presents to us.

It is not only our knowledge that is insufficient but also our ideas about knowledge. We need to become aware that our interpretations and our teachings are not enough. We are looking for ways of learning in a world in which our old interpretations about knowledge no longer work.

In my view, all organizations are a network of conversations. A big part of what we do is hold conversations. It may be directly, through email, or by telephone. We speak. But we have developed so many blocks in speaking and conversing that the flow collapses and suffering emerges. This is, in summary, the field where coaching can be of service.

In my experience I can say that real culture change in organizations is not possible unless they also embark on personal transformation for their members. This style of coordination of action focuses on achieving results along with establishing values that will support the coexistence of all members of an organization.

Learning is the foundation of everything we know and what I have said here can serve as the foundation of future exploration for those who are interested in designing new practices around coaching and leadership.

The process of learning is sometimes like the process of birth. The biggest challenge and opportunity that we face is the creation of a new discourse around learning. It is a discourse that is new, multidimensional, and well supported, one that can face important and fundamental questions: what does it mean to be human? how should we live? and how can we make way for new levels of consciousness that we can use to connect with our worlds in a multitude of new ways?

We need to take our discourse about learning to larger audiences. We need to take it out of the hands of specialists and place it in the hands of everyone. We need to lift away the heaviness of learning, make it less gloomy, and demonstrate that it is possible to learn with joy, lightness, and depth.

+ Ontological Coaching

“Ontological coaching is a field of knowledge that seeks to accompany others through transformation from the ontological coherence of body, emotion, and language.” - Julio Olalla

 

Ontological coaching is a practice, an art, called upon to give us back the freshness of spirit, the emotional openness, and the intellectual courage necessary to pay attention to those signs and to reconnect with our body, our emotions, and with nature.

Ontological coaching emerged in our times as a practical necessity: to challenge current epistemology. It is a spontaneous, almost desperate act, because we see ourselves facing a need to incorporate all dimensions of human knowing, not just knowledge of our exterior world. Ontological coaching emerges to meet the need to incorporate the different domains of our internal world into the act of learning, the act of knowing.

Ontological coaching is fundamentally a practice of conversational learning that does not leave aside body and emotion. It aims to create a new common sense, a new discourse. It is a practice that emerges to serve this new discourse, one that is guessed at, that is intuited, but that is not yet completely articulated.

Coaching has to do with shifting our position, with displacing the observer that we are to make way for the development of a new set of actions. Of course, the process is more complex than this, but that doesn’t take away the fact that, for me, this is one of the fundamental principles of what coaching is.

Coaching is, in a very basic sense, the creation of new coherences in people. When we coach, we are generating a context in which these can emerge. That is all that we can really do: create a context in which ‘good accidents’ can happen. We cannot determine the result. But, we can help people become more aware of their way of seeing so that they can find new options for seeing and through these, begin to engage in different actions.