Mystique of Ontology

Our learners ask us as to why we do not specify Ontology in our curriculum, or advertise it explicitly, as several others do. It is simply because everything we teach about coaching is based on Ontology. ICF competencies are based on Ontology. Unfortunately, there seem to be a few myths around this term.

A respected blog on Ontological coaching lists 7 characteristics of Ontological coaching. Of these, 6 are covered in the ICF competency framework. The seventh lists competence of Ontological coaching as a metric, which it goes on to define as an interpretation of a human being in three domains – language, emotions and body. All three are fundamental to any coaching.

What is the mystique about?

The Vedas and Zen in the East, as well as Aristotle and Plato in the West, defined Ontology as a study of ‘being’, or humanness. The ancient wisdom Aristotle called ‘Potentiality and Actuality’, Jung as ‘Collective Unconscious’, Gurdjieff as ‘The Fourth Way’, Hindu Buddhism as ‘States of Aware Consciousness’ is about the ‘being’ level existence of humans as different from ‘doing’.

Variation of ‘being’ level self-discovery as a means to self-improvement has been attempted by Werner Erhard through EST and morphed into Landmark later. These have received polarized opinions as being directive and even controlling. In recent times, a few coaching schools have adopted Ontology as their key offering to define coaching. While it sounds impressive in Greek, its English translation would be ‘coaching the person’.

Ontology links the inner state of ‘being’ to the outer state of ‘doing’ in multiple ways of cognition, emotion, and sensation through deep reflection, expressed in language. In Coacharya’s coaching process, we use the SET process of partnering by sharing Sensations of the body (somatics), Emotions arising in the limbic system (EI) and Thoughts from the frontal cortex (cognition). We explore how these come together, to evoke awareness of the future concerning present reality. The SET process is a standard technique in lab work by National Training Laboratories, the source of OD practice, based on the interconnection between Self, Others and It.

Coacharya’s interpretation of the ‘being’ state at its ultimate state of aware consciousness is mindlessness, an advanced form of mindfulness. We relate this to the Hindu concept of the Fourth State of Awareness and the Zen Buddhist concept of No-Mind.  These states of aware consciousness align with psychological concepts of Jungian and post-Jungian (NLP, PP, AI, TA, etc.) schools, neurobiology and quantum science.

We believe this approach in Ontology is the pathway coaches and trainers will move to in the future, rather than some of the directive pathways. All coaching should be based on the truth on Ontology, not the label. Coaching is about listening empathetically and generatively to the client, inquiring about the values and beliefs that underlie the ‘being’ of the client, evoking awareness in the client of limiting unconscious incompetencies, all the while centered on the ‘who’ of the client. These we believe are the truths of Ontology.

At Coacharya, Ontology connects our humanness and inner divinity, as articulated in this vision.

Are you interested in learning about the Ontological approach in coaching?

Join one of our 30 and 60-hour coaching training programs. Regardless of your experience level, we can help you achieve a deeper understanding of being.

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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