I first met Helen at an event at Stanford Business School where Helen was a facilitator for a NLP & Coaching Training Program. As I sat listening, I realized that sometimes the universe puts you in exactly the right place at the right time. In a field that is often saturated with male teachers and mentors, it was refreshing and inspiring to be in the presence of a master coach who was a woman.
I loved the idea of learning from a female colleague, someone who was a peer on many levels. Because of this, in 2014 I applied to the Academy of Leadership Coaching & NLP’s coaching course. I expected to get a strong foundation for the preparation for the certification test. I had quite a few consulting and workshop leadership skills under my belt, but I wanted to differentiate facilitating conversations from true coaching skills. I am happy to say, the course delivered all of that and so much more.
There was a variation of ages in my cohort. The majority in my particular group were in the mid to late 30s. One was pushing 50. Two of us were in our late 50s, early 60s. In short, it was a younger group. On one hand, I got to appreciate the wisdom I had accrued as a senior level consultant, on the other hand, I was surrounded with younger adults exploring futures filled with vast opportunities and time in which to embrace them. I found myself having to confront what my own, rather shorter, future could be.
While the younger students explored their own visions with enthusiasm and “It’s all possible!” attitudes, I felt trapped in a spiral of unrealized goals, desires, and dreams. Over the course of the training and the focus of NLP and belief systems, I realized that I was trapped in a box of my own beliefs about what was possible at this time of life, hemmed in by my own “givens.” Given that I am a woman of a certain age…Given that I live in San Francisco…Given that my profession for 30 years has been as a consultant and workshop leader… I was caught in a matrix of resistance all of my own creation.
The coaching processes revealed to me a forgotten vision that I harbored of starting a retreat center near the beach. But given that I was an established business woman ensconced in The Bay Area I kept coming up with countless reasons for why I couldn’t just give up everything and move to the ocean, could I?
Attending the Academy of Leadership Coaching & NLPs Coaching course cast me into a deep transformational process that has lasted to this day. The skills and frameworks I thought I would work with others began to work me.
When I completed the training I started building a coaching practice focused on professionals dealing with leadership challenges in their corporations. I chose this niche because it was one of my “givens” – I had always worked in the corporate world. I was working with clients who had valid and meaningful issues. I was surprised to feel drained of energy while trying to be supportive, neutral, and effective as their coach. Their challenges drove me deeper into my inquiry of what brings me energy and passion in my own life and work. I experimented coaching women who owned small businesses, an area that I loved, but quickly realized that I couldn’t expect to charge the fees I had become accustomed to in my corporate consulting practice.
I entered that space of knowing what I no longer wanted to do, but didn’t have clarity of what I did want to do. I was open to new ideas and approaches when I received an email inviting me to bring my business online through the creation of online workshops. Tempted by the idea of applying my Givens in a new way, I bought a URL and found myself drawn down into an even deeper existential crisis. Exactly what would I offer and to whom? If not some form of business skills, what would be the nature of the workshops I would bring online?
Just as I was struggling emotionally with a professional as well as personal identity crisis, I was injured during a dance class. The pain became so intense that I could hardly walk. It was as though my existential pain and resistance to change was manifesting itself physically.
In the Fall of 2015, I started working with a coach who lived outside Estes Park, Colorado. We had a few standard coaching calls and she finally said, “You’re at a point where there’s no other choice but to do the deep, no holds barred, dive.” I didn’t want to hear it, but I knew in my heart she was right. For ten months, she flew in once a month and spent a week coaching me through my mental and emotional issues that had caused so much resistance and pain in my mind, heart, and body. I began to actually rewire the neuronal pathways of my brain. Having the framework of NLP and belief systems was a powerful support to stay committed as the waves of resistance rose up and receded.
Through that profoundly transformational process, I became aware that I needed to unplug completely from the “San Francisco Matrix.” I gave up resistance as well as many of my possessions. I sold, donated, or stored my “stuff.” I stopped working, deciding instead that it was more important for me to do the work on myself than to own material things. It was like shedding layers of myself.
In July of 2016, I packed what few things I still needed and drove to Colorado to work even more intensely with my coach Pilar. I hiked every day, at first just a few feet and eventually long rambling hikes through the beautiful Rocky Mountains. My lung capacity grew and agonizingly slowly, my physical pain receded. In that crystalline mountain air my mind became quiet and my heart became more open to hearing and seeing what my spirit wanted for my life to come.
After an intense 3 months, I drove back to California and headed to Santa Barbara where a friend offered her home as a retreat and space to consider the next era of my life. From there I flew to Honolulu where I live today – less than a mile from the ocean. I can feel how my brain is still creating new pathways of thinking and feeling. I am still catching up with my true self. I have decided to allow myself to BE, rather than to do. I’m letting Hawaii work its magic on me.
For now, I am “in creation”. I have melted away so many of my long-held givens and beliefs about what is possible. I have youthful energy and vitality! I live in the knowing that I can ‘create a life I love to wake up to’. This is the essence of ALCN’s coaching model. I am completing a certificate course to become a Lifecycle Celebrant. I love the deep spiritual roots that surround lifecycle events and the way that ritual, tradition and storytelling come together to create something personal and meaningful. My coaching skills have been a great asset as I explore this new direction, especially when I talk with the couples with whom I’m creating their wedding ceremonies, house blessings, and baby blessings. And – as I have shared my odyssey on Facebook – I have been encouraged to coach others as they venture onto unfamiliar paths in the quest of a more fulfilling life.