Sitting in my bed with a cup of Market Spice tea, the doors wide open and the jungle still asleep.
Soon the sky will turn pink, the birds will stretch their colored wings and start their good morning routine. The roosters will let out their part celebratory, part indignant cry and the day will begin.
Right now everything is velvety-quiet and I am thinking back. Thinking forward. Mostly, thinking now.
Twenty years ago this month, I began my career as a life coach.
I had never heard of life coaching, and neither had most people. One late night on the phone, during this tentative chapter of the years following the end of my marriage, my sister casually mentioned that I may want to look into life coaching. "This is what you have always done," she said.
I was living on the island, away from my family, and had navigated the last three years through a blend of luck, hereditary business creativity, and my friends' generosity. It was time to face the fact that this was not temporary. It would be at least 15 years before I had the freedom to leave. 15 years is a lot of meals, shoes, school backpacks, vacations, and opportunities to either love it or survive it. I had to love it.
When I got off the phone and had tucked my kids into bed, I walked downstairs to the big computer and entered the words Life Coaching.
I did not look up from the screen until morning until it was time to make breakfast and get everyone to school.
I knew this work. In my cells, I knew what it felt like to listen to someone and to simplify their aching brains, their confused hearts. I knew what it felt like to go to the Essence (It would be years before I adopted this word) and to use the past only as a gateway to the present, to a sweet shiny present that was theirs, truly theirs.
I knew this work.
That night, in the dark of a sleeping house and with an intensity of focus that said "Ah... there you are," I met Thomas J. Leonard, "the father of life coaching." He had died a few months prior and along with the strange grief I felt about knowing that I would never meet him, I discovered the thousands of courses, papers, tools, interviews he had left behind. I read that Thomas wanted to create 10,000 coaches and equip them with the tools to go do all kinds of good in the world. He also knew how to turn this gift into a profession, a viable business. And god knows I needed a viable business.
I dove in. Deep.
I helped myself from this seemingly unending source he had left behind, that day when his heart gave out. I read, I listened, I took notes. For three months I walked around with earphones listening to his voice, witnessing his work session after session. It was like receiving an infusion. I downloaded his worksheets, his summaries, his dozens and dozens of lists. Had I known that most of his work would soon get packaged into expensive courses I would have saved a lot more of them.
Little by little, I could see it. I could see how with the help from this man I would never meet, I could turn something that was so natural to me into something that would buy meals, shoes, school backpacks, and vacations. My sister told me recently that during that time I said to her that "I wanted to build a career that I could one day practice from a beach in Mexico." I had never been to Mexico.
So for three months, while summer turned into early fall, I absorbed. I let his work gently wake up a knowing inside of me. I let his outrageous productivity organize me, too. I let him guide me toward a system. Not so much for the actual coaching as for the structure, the web that would hold all this goodness. I guess the coaching, too.
And then it was time to get to work. I did not have the luxury to do a potentially-soothing one-year certification program, I didn't have the time to take more time. I had to make this happen and with a gentle push from my other mentor Barbara Sher who shockingly told me to "get on the bike and start pedaling," I decided to well, get on the bike and start pedaling (you can listen to more about this HERE - including some darn funny typo).
It was time to take what I had learned for a spin and see what good I could do. I remember thinking also that I wanted to make sure I wouldn't mess anyone up.
I would offer four people four weeks of free coaching.
And that's how it started. Two of the four people turned into paying clients, more clients joined in, I fell in love with writing, I allowed courses to come through me, I taught, I coached, I created, I connected and I think I helped.
It was the first time in my life that I didn't feel like a fraud. I had had two successful careers before and yet always thought that at some point someone was going to bust me and call me on my bluff. I would be escorted out of the movie set, walked out of the bakery. I was going to be ousted as having used my French accent to make up for my lack of skill - and there would be some truth to that.
With coaching, never.
This is not to say that it was easy. It would be a few years before I could rely on my coaching to fill up our fridge. There were phone sessions held sitting on the toilet in order to get some privacy from a home full of kids. Our water got cut off a couple of times. But I never ever doubted that I was doing what I was born to do. So I kept doing it. Quitting was never once an option.
Eventually, through a blend of passion, persistence, and creativity, my work became very specific to me and the toolbox I shared became more and more distinct. I dared to blend my deep spirituality and what I see as the rules for dancing with Life's magic and share that, too. It just works and I hear over and over again about the deep, lasting changes that my clients experience. I get high from reminding my clients about how guided they are, we are. And showing them how to listen to this guidance. How to get intimate with their Essence, too.
I taught in hospital basements, in my home, and eventually in beautiful villas during Retreats all over the world. I did finally coach from Mexico and also from the sidewalk in Paris, from a small port on a Greek island, from a medieval village in Italy, from wherever I was traveling. Some heart-based, inspired people joined me and together we created online courses, opened the Center for Happiness, created high-impact community projects locally and internationally. I published a few books, created some art when I could, and was even able to certify a group of people to teach some of my work. I think this may have been the highlight of all these years, sitting on the floor and watching this body of work I had been blessed with come out of someone else's mouth and heart. That one made me weep.
What a ride it has been. Twenty years. TWENTY YEARS. What a nice round number. What a blessing.
As time passed, I brushed shoulders with a modicum of fame and realized that it gave me more chills of unease than thrill. Learning to balance community with privacy is something I am still dancing with.
I now live in Mexico, on the outskirts of a blessed little village tucked between the ocean and the jungle. There is a deep calm to my work as a life coach. The fire has turned into a forever burning bed of red coals, soothing, safe. I tend to it, I sit by it and I share it with the people who ask to join me. It's a new season. It's a glorious season.
Here in the middle of nature, my art has been allowed to make a sweet quiet skip from the back burner to the front burner and I am following this guidance. Writing is asking for a bigger spot, too. I am listening.
Mostly, I am grateful. And in awe.
I am grateful for the ever-present guidance, for continuing to listen to it, to dance with Life's magic. For the lives I have touched and the ones that have touched me. For all the ones to come whether we meet on the page or around a fire. On the screen or in person.
I am in awe of how much we are allowed to do, in this life. I am in awe of all the ways we can touch each other's hearts and fill our own. I am in awe of the playfulness, the creativity, the inspiration. The choices.
The sun is now peeking over the jungle and the roosters are decidedly awake.
We have a new day ahead of us, and what a Gift this is.
I look at this photo, taken a year ago.
It was sent to me by Rigo, whom I had left in charge of “saving my house” while I went to the States to sell my island cottage.
This morning, after a night of delicious cool sleep in my comfortable bed, knowing that I have a day of painting in my small studio ahead of me, delighting in the lushness of my tropical garden, this image brings me back.
To the angst, the hopelessness, the many highs too.
I remember telling someone, a few weeks before diving recklessly into buying this land and dreaming up Casa Sama, that “I needed a project.” I think that day I was already pregnant with the seed of the next year’s extraordinary ride.
What followed was the hardest and most exhilarating experience of my life so far - with the exception of raising my children.
As a single white woman with zero building experience let alone legal background, the personal learning has been huge. The healing, really.
In the nine months it took to go from dirt to my first at-home meal, I completed parts of myself that are now with me for the rest of my life.
Being fully alone at the helm made it impossible to escape and I think that it’s in the staying that the magic happened. The darn Staying.
Would I do it again knowing what was ahead?
Yes, but differently. With way more boundaries and self-assurance. Less deference for sure. Much more awareness of my abilities, away from language barriers and lack of formal education.
Sometimes it’s a blessing not knowing what we’re getting ourselves into. Because then we can transcend our decided-upon limitations and create way beyond what we could have imagined.
This changes the s*** out of us.
I am so grateful that Life guided me through this process. I am so grateful for all the people who crossed my path, even the ones who baffled me. I am so grateful for this land. This HOME where I get to live, in love.
PS: from the very beginning of this odyssey of sorts, I wrote. A lot. I wrote for me, and for my family, and for a couple of close friends. The words flowed uncensored. If you like the idea of making a cup of something yummy to drink and joining me in this crazy-but-not-so-crazy adventure, email me and I will send you the link to my private blog, The Making of Casa Sama. I do ask for your gentleness as you read my words since I did not know at the time that I would one day be ready to share them publicly. I think you will like it and I hope they will inspire you to say YES and hop onto your own beautiful ride.
You can email me at email@example.com.
Last night was a good one. Not a huge huge one, but we definitely felt it.
After days with no rain and lots of calm weather, Lila and I were sitting at the beach at sunset watching the surfers on their boards when an enormous gust of wind blew our way. What seemed like a million grains of sand swirled around us while I noticed the sky turning a dark shade of gray.
"The weather has something to say," I thought.
Then a drop of warm water, nice and fat. Then another.
I decided to skip the pizza and head home.
Lila and I hopped on the quad and made our way out of the village and towards the countryside. She ran part of the way, ahead of the bike as we both got wet. It felt so good, so free and alive.
Back home, the sky was getting really dark and the wind was picking up fast. It was happening.
I moved whatever was on the patio, closed our big doors and windows, gave Lila three heart-shaped CBD tablets, wished I had some for me and got ready. Tiji (the only Mexican-born of the family) was calmly stretched out outside, enjoying all of it. It took a bit for me to convince her that the bed would make a better vantage point. She took her sweet time walking in.
By then the thunder was thundering, and the sky was lighting up bright silvery white. The banana trees were fully engaged in the wind's invitation to dance, and there was very little holding back. Water, wind, crackling thunder, and us.
It went on for a while and in the midst of it, my solar panels blew a fuse. No more fans cooling the air, and because it was the first time, I did not know how to fix it. Now I do.
But we were okay. I talked nicely to myself and spent several hours on the phone with someone I love.
By early morning I went to sleep and did not emerge till about 11, which felt decadent and delicious.
We had made it through another one and I stepped outside full of gratitude and awe.
And right there, outside my door, was paradise.
Overnight, the greens had gotten brighter, the air was fresh, and the cows were mooing and eating, and BEING. A warm passion fruit had fallen to the ground, luring me into breakfast.
The thing that jolted me was how the energy was fully peaceful and there was zero leftover story about What Happened Last Night.
I have experienced this several times before, following a hurricane. The uncanny sense of peace.
But this was different. It felt like an invitation to learn something. A lesson.
A lesson in Presence, in Purity. In letting go. In Authenticity, too.
While Nature was being big, huge, loud, and disruptive, there was no excuse being extended. No holding back, no questioning how it compared to a blow-up of the past nor how it might look tomorrow. Pure energy. Presence.
The day after, there was no apology, no story, no hanging on. The cows were not talking to themselves about it, the banana trees were swaying their now dry leaves into the warm calm wind, there was nothing but peace. Presence.
I am sitting with this. Listening to the places inside of me that are thirsty for a human-level version of it. I am being. Open to the Gift of a possible up-leveling.
And because I am human and more complicated than a banana tree, I am going to pick up my broom and sweep the couple of light bulbs that got rattled onto my patio floor.
Then I will cut this glorious warm passion fruit in half and give thanks for living here.
For living, really.
SCARED OF THE SACRED