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.
SCARED OF THE SACRED