I didn’t always have a concentrated interest in personal growth, expanding my consciousness or spirituality, mostly because I didn’t know such a world existed. However, I have always loved learning and improving myself; and I admit to reading magazines like Glamour and Cosmopolitan in hopes of discovering a hidden secret to happiness, being irresistible to men, achieving perfect communication, and having an eternally sexy abdomen.
My career began as a recruiter for computer professionals. This company valued training, and one of those dimensions included personal development subjects. I remember one exercise in which I was required to draw a circle with four quadrants. Each quadrant represented an area of my life; career, health, relationships, spirituality. I was instructed to rate each area on a scale of 1 to 10 to describe how well it was working for me. I remember looking at “spirituality” and rating it a zero. It didn’t even get a one or two. At that time, it was not an area of my life that I had deemed important. Although I was raised Catholic, I had lost interest in organized religion and had unconsciously eliminated spirituality as a category of life to develop. At the time, I was at peace with this zero rating and relieved to focus on the three other areas. Despite that momentary satisfaction, the “zero” left an impression on my mind. Maybe it was the initial spark that allowed my journey to begin.
Life back then seemed pretty good. I was consistently a top producer for my company. I supervised three people and made a healthy living for a woman in her mid-twenties. I had a boyfriend, good friends, a loyal dog, and a comfortable lifestyle. While the exterior of my life may have looked good to many people, there was a numbness inside. I was floating along life’s path reasonably well, but not consciously in charge of it. My life was shallow. I was a product of the conditioning and expectations of society, school, family, and friends. While I experienced positive emotions, I didn’t feel connected to my life.
Sometimes I think my life would have been simpler had I not awakened to the notion of living a conscious life. Without an awareness of another way to live and choose, I didn’t know what I was missing. Back then, I didn’t see anything wrong with floating through life in this manner.
Somehow in the midst of floating through life, something clicked inside of me. Just as Neo chose the red pill, somewhere I must’ve chosen the road of consciousness, too. Despite the numerous ups and downs, I have experienced since then, I wouldn’t want to have missed this journey.
One day, a friend of mine took me to a presentation for a network marketing company. The dream of a residual income in excess of my earnings from recruiting, and of not getting up to an alarm clock each day appealed to me. Someone told me that if I could be successful in recruiting, I could do anything. Being young, naive, and willing to work hard, I believed them. Surely I could succeed in network marketing and retire at age 27.
I gingerly proceeded to leave the recruiting business, certain I’d soon be earning $20,000 per month. Anyone who has experience in network marketing knows it is not quite that easy.
Soon afterward, I decided to take my turn with a small business venture. Two other partners and I set out to transform the restaurant industry with our software. The idea of running a company seemed glamorous and I still thought I could do anything. I quickly realized the challenges associated with being a partner in a start-up company.
Imagining a very bright future, I contributed larger amounts of my own money to meet payroll. However, we struggled to compete with companies that had deeper pockets, larger teams, more experience, and proven track records. My “set the world on fire” attitude and confidence diminished. How could I have been so successful as a recruiter, and now be struggling so much in business? Although I had been willing to be patient, I became discouraged after nearly two years of waning savings and trying to convince restaurant owners to automate.
In January 1994, I attended Tony Robbins’ “Date With Destiny” event in Aspen, Colorado. I remember sitting in the room on that first evening thinking to myself, “These people must be really messed up.” I mistakenly assumed what kind of people would be attracted to a personal growth seminar. I, of course, was there for my own reasons.
I quickly realized the vast majority of the audience was actually quite successful and balanced. There were doctors, lawyers, CEO’s, business owners and professionals from nearly every line of work. Others were in transition. I admired their honesty as they revealed their humanity. It was easy to identify with a portion of everyone’s experiences, even those individuals with more challenging lives. Most of all, I respected their desire, willingness, and commitment to discovering another level of mastery within themselves.
That is where my initial awakening began. There is an endless variety of triggers that might spur an individual’s initial breakthrough to awareness. Seminars, highly emotional events, or even peak experiences of joy, love, or fulfillment serve as the catalyst for many, as they gain a new level of awareness about themselves.
For others, a significant emotional event such as the death of a loved one, divorce, a serious accident, getting fired or laid-off, a near-death experience, heart attack, or relationship break-up can trigger a shift in awareness. For still others, being the victim of a serious crime, being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, or experiencing a near-miss disaster triggers the shift.
Witnessing the tragedy of another human being or animal may stimulate the shift. The tragedy of 9/11 served as the catalyst for a friend of mine, as it may have done for numerous others. For some, the combination of reading a book or listening to a certain audio series after a tragic event prompts a life-altering change. An awakening of consciousness is often stimulated by a deep sense of fear, followed by a profound sense of love as one realizes they are okay.
For some, there is no tragedy, but instead, their turning point is stimulated by a peak experience of joy, love, adventure, or fulfillment. The birth of a child, a profound love relationship, a graduation, a significant achievement in sports or business, sailing in the South Pacific for two years, doing a fire-walk, participating in a ropes course, spending time in nature, being in the presence of a wild animal, or simply a moment of silence on the hull of a ship at sea can mark a turning point. There are numerous potential triggers to spark consciousness in human beings. What is significant to one person may be frivolous to another.
Much like Neo in the movie “The Matrix,” at each significant juncture, an individual has the option to choose. They can continue their lives as they know it and possibly become more disenchanted by life’s follies, or they can choose to experience a shift in consciousness. After that initial awakening, going back to their previous life is not possible.
While the experience is distinctly different for every human being, there are several common themes in awakening experiences. Many people describe their hearts opening in new ways, feeling a profound sense of connectedness to self, to another, or to the world in general. For others, there is a profound sense that “All is well.” Some suddenly become clear about their life purpose. Many people experience a deep sense of inner peace as they notice their previous anxieties disintegrate. Some realize how unconsciously they have been living. As people begin to understand the influences that have shaped their lives, a sense of freedom may develop. Some just realize their lives aren’t working and they become inspired to create a radical change.
As most people will confirm, the initial breakthrough doesn’t mean lives suddenly become perfect and full of happiness. How I wish it were that simple. If you take the red pill, whether by accident or deliberately, you can no longer depend on habits to make life smooth; you will forever be confronted by choices.
A whole new world opened up for me in January of 1994. Suddenly it wasn’t as flat and emotionless. I felt new emotions and more connected to myself. These experiences were exhilarating, much like the feeling of sailing harmoniously across the water or hearing a perfect melody. I walked around for weeks constantly smiling ear to ear. Inside, I felt alive and free. But I was a slow learner.
Some people leave events and immediately apply everything, and experience instant results. It wasn’t so automatic for me. I had bursts of productivity and enthusiasm, followed by struggle and frustration. The new wisdom felt clumsy and awkward. I was torn between the new ways of being and my old ways, even though the old ways didn’t bring much satisfaction. I was having a hard time letting go of them, much like a favorite pair of pants that I had outgrown. Furthermore, my friends and family who hadn’t attended the seminar didn’t understand my enthusiasm for a refreshing new way of embracing life, and I felt somewhat isolated. It would take me years before I had fully integrated this new found wisdom.
Since I had lost interest in the software company, my recharged optimism about life led me to another network marketing company. Even though I had sworn off this type of business, I felt a resonance with the company’s mission. It offered a 24-hour Success TV channel with programs to empower people’s lives in the areas of business, health, relationships, parenting, and life success. As I had recently experienced the joy of transformation, I wanted others to experience the same.
Working from my home-based office, I boldly and enthusiastically contacted everyone I could. I supposed that everyone else would be interested in transforming their lives and in starting a home-based business. I worked hard and didn’t understand why I experienced so much resistance, especially since I felt empowered with my new insights and skills.
I realized that my initial inclinations to take charge of my life were largely selfish in nature. After I left recruiting, I had focused on making money, so that I wouldn’t have to work and contribute to the world. I don’t believe now that I was a bad person for aspiring to financial independence, nor do I think others are wrong for their pursuits of wealth. But, there is more to life. For me, I know this discovery and these experiences that led to it were integral parts of my path. I believe my self-centered focus cut off some of the natural flow of abundance that I had experienced previously.
When the Success TV Network was sold, I suffered a major disappointment. Anyone who has given heart and soul for a company or cause knows the grief that ensues when it ceases to exist. I genuinely loved the people I came to know and work with, and I was sad to part ways with this group. Also, meeting dozens of speakers and authors had allowed me to learn more than ever before. My customers who embraced the idea of personal growth television found their lives transformed in beautiful ways; witnessing their growth touched me tremendously.
The sale of the company was also a relief. The intrinsic benefits and friendships far outweighed the external financial rewards, but after four dedicated years, the accumulated net loss diminished my financial reserves by an embarrassingly large amount. My external world was now rather flat, yet my internal world had begun to thrive during these difficult times.
As synchronicity would have it, the week before the company was sold in 1998, I attended The International Coach Federation Conference. Wayne Dyer was the keynote speaker. Since I loved playing a role in people’s transformations, coaching seemed the natural next step for me. But I had experienced two significant financial losses and several disappointments; now I was cautious. My energy was depleted. The idea of working hard again didn’t seem like a possibility and my esteem had taken a hit. I jumped into coaching, but this time, my usual enthusiasm was muted.
The Challenge of Integration
Now, more than ever before, it was time for me to integrate the principles I had accumulated over the years. Although I knew a lot, I was learning more every day through training, other courses, and starting to coach. However, despite all that I knew intellectually, I was acting on only a fraction of it in my daily life. I had to admit to this condition because a nagging uneasy feeling told me each time I fell into my old ways.
The realities of my life brought pressure on me to find new ways. I was in my mid 30’s and I was still single despite several relationships. That situation did not fulfill my desire to have a life partner and to raise a family. There was also a pressing need to earn a viable income and to rebuild my financial reserves. During this time I was experiencing significantly more emotional ups and downs than ever before. They interfered with my ability and motivation to develop a thriving coaching business and to manage my time effectively. I wanted to be consistent, but at times the weight of emotions got the best of me. Yet, ironically, I was supposed to be helping other people realize their dreams and handle their biggest challenges.
Although teachers and authors offered illuminating keys, I found myself constantly asking for the step-by-step how’s. I didn’t understand because I hadn’t personally experienced what they were trying to describe. How could I embrace the feeling of abundance when my bank account was depleted? How could I let go of an ego reaction in the heat of an argument? What was my life purpose? How could I get inspired when I felt lethargic and disheartened?
My integration process parallels the ongoing experience I have with yoga. As instructors call out a certain position, I attempt to get my body to follow their directions. Sometimes the instructions are straightforward and I seem to follow along just fine. However, often my body just doesn’t go where I think it should. My body may not be flexible enough yet. I may not be listening attentively to a part of the instructor’s guidance. Then, one day, when I’m least expecting it, I find my body going in the position slightly differently—and I think, “Oh, that’s what they’ve been describing.” I know it is right because I feel a sense of alignment and ease. There have been times I thought I was doing the posture correctly. Then, one tiny adjustment alerted me to that feeling of exhilaration, indicating that NOW I am doing it right. Until I experience a posture correctly for myself, there always seems to be a little “disconnect” in understanding. Equally frustrating is experiencing perfect alignment one day, and being unable to experience it again the very next day. Such has been my internal journey.
Our most difficult experiences can become our greatest teachers. A couple years ago, I found myself in an unusually challenging relationship. We reacted to each other like the sting of salt to an open wound. He seemed to misinterpret virtually everything I said, while I found myself taking everything personally. His comments seemed harsh, unkind, and unfair. My friends discouraged my continued involvement, but staying in the struggle seemed very important to me.
Over that two-year period, I shed more tears and experienced more frustration, anger, and internal turmoil than I could have imagined. From the beginning, I looked at this relationship as an opportunity to master myself. It required a new level of self-honesty, as I confronted my deepest insecurities and fears. I discovered how I “made up stories” and how I wasn’t really listening. I began to see how old habits were unconscious attempts to manipulate or control another. While I had always considered myself an honest person, I simply hadn’t realized how much I was distorting, denying, and embellishing the world around me as well as the world within me. Although my coaching practice was thriving, this aspect of my life remained a sharp thorn in my side.
At about the peak of this battle, my coach introduced me to the work of Byron Katie. I listened to her CD series and proceeded to follow her instructions for inquiring into every reactive thought I had about the man in my life.
A week later, I found myself in another confrontational experience with my beloved partner. This time, something radically different ensued. Instead of reacting to some harsh words, I remained calm and centered with my heart filled with love. It wasn’t something I consciously orchestrated. It happened almost automatically. And it brought me a wave of relief and of joy.
For the next several weeks, I experienced a profound sense of inner bliss that is nearly indescribable. I felt connected to everything. I had experienced this state briefly before, but now it was virtually constant. Every morning I awoke asking, “Is that feeling still here?” And it was, again and again. I was clearly drawn to the interconnection between the works that I had studied over the years. I began to see patterns between the various disciplines. I wasn’t working on finding them; they were vividly jumping out at me. Every seminar or audiotape I listened to spoke more deeply to me. I “knew” what they were describing. I had finally experienced it.
As I casually picked up Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now Handbook, what he described resonated with me in a new way, as I had now experienced similar states for myself. I later learned through various authors, that what I may have experienced during those several weeks was satori. While it’s not an everyday occurrence, numerous others have shared in similar experiences of various length and intensity. While the state doesn’t often become permanent, those who share in these experiences always remember the potency. You may refer to Dr. David Hawkins’ book The Eye of the I, page 246, for an expanded description of satori.
Since the experience during those few weeks, life has not been totally smooth sailing. In some ways, it has been more frustrating and painful to experience this clear state and then to find myself caught in reactive states. Nevertheless, when caught in a reaction, I am generally able to navigate myself back to a state of inner peace relatively quickly, usually with new insights. Every day brings new opportunities for me to strengthen these processes.
|Excerpt from The Power of Inner Choice: 12 Weeks to Living a Life YOU Love|