Growth Stories

How You Spend Your Time is How You Spend Your Life 1024 768 Thayer Fox

How You Spend Your Time is How You Spend Your Life

How you spend your time is how you spend your life. When a friend said this to me a few years ago, it changed the way I thought about my time. He said that we are all concerned with how we spend our money and think little about how we spend our time.

After this conversation, I went home and looked at my desk calendar to analyze how I was spending the bulk of my time. As a stay-at-home mother, most of my time was spent with my children. The other quarter was split between “friends” and self-care. I didn’t have conscious parameters around friendship back then, so my friends were mostly other mothers who lived nearby. Gym visits and nail/hair appointments filled the additional flexible hours. Some of it was necessary to maintain a healthy body, and some of it was filling the void.

As my children grew, I longed to create my corner of the universe. I had an arsenal of excuses about what was holding me back that sounded pretty legit. There is a great saying “you either have results, or you have excuses.”

Six months ago, a friend asked me about my daily schedule after I described my desire to get back into writing. She also shared the steps that she had taken to create a new career for herself as a screenwriter. Revisiting the “how you spend your time is how you spend your life” conversation woke me up. I was saying that I was desperate to create something new, but my schedule did not reflect the passion in my words. Words without actions are concepts; only actions produce results.

I committed to reworking my schedule, with writing as my primary focus. Writing first thing in the morning with a clear mind was more productive and satisfying than trying to write in between lunch and school pick up. Creating new habits takes two months of discipline, on average. Now, two-and-a-half months later, I can’t remember life before my current schedule. I am much happier with my time and desire aligned.

At a Tony Robbins event I recently attended, “Date With Destiny,” Tony repeatedly bellowed “Raise Your Standards! They are way too low! Its why you don’t have results in your life!”

Here is a Tony clip I love:


If you don’t have results in a targeted area, take a good look at your standards. Does your schedule reflect your alleged commitment to this area? Who are you spending your time with? What are the standards in your peer group/closest relationships? When I had more excuses than results in my life, part of the issue was the people with whom I was spending my time. Small talking that occupied hours each day amounted to internal emptiness. The idler I became in my mind, the lower the energy in my body. That’s a state that people label as depression. Productivity is all about personal power. From that old state, I didn’t have access to the drive or confidence required to step up my game.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” Our relationships are imperative to our growth. Thriving people have thriving friends.

We always have control over the way we spend our time.

I understand now that the years I spent in advertising jobs complaining about my bosses were all a choice. The paychecks were good enough, and I was too lazy to look for a job with a kinder boss. We can’t choose the families we are born into, and as adults, we can create healthy boundaries if we have unhealthy relatives. When I hear friends say that they “should” do something, I feel their pain. A life of “shoulds” will never soar.

Look at the way you spend your time, and the people surrounding you. How many of them give you support and inspiration? Then look at your dreams and see how much time you allot to pursuing them. Do you have role models and strategies?

Even if you don’t want to make any changes yet, understanding that everything in your life is a choice is an empowering first step.



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When You’re Hysterical, it’s Historical

Have you ever experienced an immediate and overwhelming emotional response? As if a swarm of angry bees suddenly possessed your mind? Your heart rate accelerated as your body entered fight or flight mode? You called five friends to describe in detail the atrocity that occurred, later realizing that your reaction was disproportionate from the actual trigger? If so, then you have experienced an Amygdala Hijack.

Before I learned this terminology, I heard people in the rooms of AA say, “when you’re hysterical, it’s historical.” It took a while for this concept to sink in, but I knew right away that this applied to me regularly.

A few years into my sobriety, life got pretty good and yet I was often a wreck. Seemingly small incidents would set off my internal alarm system, and I would freak out. After a few hours, the overwhelming emotions would subside, and I would have to go and clean up the mess I made by overreacting. I got sick and tired of saying sorry. Around six years ago, I learned about an Amygdala hijack. Learning the science behind “when you’re hysterical, it’s historical” changed my life. Here it is:

The good news is that there are actions that you can take to diffuse this unbearable emotional state more quickly. Awareness is always the first step in creating change. Increasing your emotional intelligence will help you identify when you are in a hijack. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman is an essential book on this topic. Here it is:

Make a list on the notepad in your phone identifying your biggest triggers. Becoming familiar with your trigger list will immediately depersonalize the situation. Awareness does not prevent the storm from happening, but it will stop it from turning into a category 5 one. Once you realize that you are in the grips of a hijack, don’t react directly; focus on breathing and count backward in your head, starting at ten and repeating as necessary.

The sensation to release the upset feeling is powerful, and resisting the urge to share is the best tactic. If you cannot do this or need confirmation that you are in a hijack, speak to one safe person. Be mindful, that the more you tell the story, the stronger the swarm becomes. I sometimes ask my husband to support me, “I am starting to lose it, can you listen to me for a few minutes?” As soon as he confirms that my reaction is over the top, I stop talking. Another tool I learned in AA and utilize when triggered is restraint of pen, tongue, and email. Until the swarm is gone, it’s too risky for me to address the situation. An Amygdala hijack passes, and with older triggers, it can take an hour or two. The less time you spend giving it life, the quicker it will move through you.

My Amygdala was hijacked a few days ago. I haven’t experienced one for a while, and it was uncomfortable. I was caught up in a frenzy after a seemingly benign text message. Daniel listened to me patiently for ten minutes until I experienced a pattern recognition aha moment. One of my biggest triggers was activated – when I perceive someone has been dishonest by omission for personal gain. Sneakiness gets me every time, wiring back to a pattern in my family of origin. When I realized what was happening, I put my phone away in a drawer in my bedroom because I was tempted to respond. I counted backward as I paced around the apartment.

Walking is a great way to break up and redistribute negative energy- see my post below:

I continued to kick the disturbance out of my mind every time it popped up and my heart rate finally normalized. I had done no external damage, so no apologies needed. I thanked Daniel and picked up a book.
That’s a win with an Amygdala hijack.


Landmark Education: Change Your Thinking in Three Days
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How to Change Your Thinking in Three Days

A great workshop can change your life after three days. Landmark Education runs the most powerful ones around the world.

I disliked my first Landmark workshop called ‘The Forum.’ I attended it in January 2013 in New York City. The only Landmark space I am familiar with is the one in New York – a windowless basement filled with uncomfortable chairs. It’s not a stretch to feel like you are being held hostage down there. The temperature is comparable to a meat locker; I wore a down jacket and ski hat throughout the process. The hours are long, and the breaks are short. Pack a big bag of nuts, fruit, and a water bottle.

The person who hosts the forum is called the “Forum Leader.” Their unwavering energy and confidence will blow your mind. Overall, the support staff is fine. They smile a lot and use Landmark jargon, which can co-sign the cult story for people who are looking for data to confirm that belief. They encourage staying in the room, except for allotted breaks. This made me claustrophobic immediately. They even recommend that you only pee on breaks, which are two to three hours apart.

Landmark’s sales tactics are not subtle. Pressure is applied to sign up for the next course starting the second day. I was one of three participants out of a group of 1,000 who refused to sign up for the next workshop, called ‘The Advanced Course.’ They bank on the fact that most people won’t step outside the campfire. I believe it’s an opportunity to get in touch with the pleaser in you and the pushback that can accompany a firm “No.”

So why am I even writing about this unpleasant place and experience?

The weekends I have spent in the NYC Landmark basement rewired my brain. No other work I have done has been that effective in such a short time. Three days and 36 hours were all it took. Feel-good weekends full of trust falls, and affirmations are a lot more enjoyable short term. You may even fondly remember that type of weekend a year or two out, similar to how you would a fishing trip to the Bahamas. Within weeks though, you will revert back to your default setting. Our settings are powerful. Rewiring your reptilian brain is not a comfortable process. Your ego fights for its survival. I felt as though I was going to die in that first Landmark workshop. Now I know that something was dying – the part of my ego that was messing up my life.

I walked away from the Forum believing that I would never step foot in 317-A West 33rd Street again. So why did I end up returning to attend three more courses?

A month later, then a few months later, then a year later, I noticed that my headspace and internal dialogue had shifted entirely. I will write about some of the distinctions I learned at Landmark in later posts. Overall, my limiting narrative was gone. Without it, something huge felt possible, and I wanted to find out what that something was, so I signed up for The Advanced Course a year later. During my third Landmark course, The Self Expression and Leadership Program, I created a transformational program of my own called “Change Your Story, Create Your Life” (post to come). I went on to teach “Change Your Story” in a Juvenile Justice home in the Bronx with five friends for the next two years. CYS was one of the most magical experiences of my life.

Whenever I meet someone who has completed the Forum, I know they are a force. It takes something way above mediocrity to commit to a weekend in that basement. All Landmark graduates share a bond. Most people complain when they are there and walk away with significant breakthroughs. Whatever bothers us in our regular lives shows up in the Landmark room. If we hate authority (yes, that’s an issue for me) then all the Landmark employees can be perceived as controlling. If we like judging people, we scan the crowd and make up stories about everyone seated near us. It’s not a Landmark issue, just a blank space in which we cannot escape our own patterns.

And In all the Landmark courses I attended, I peed whenever I wanted to.




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Why I Decided Not to Shop in 2018

I would NEVER have conceived of not shopping for a year had I not read “The Year of No Shopping” by Ann Patchett that ran in the New York Times on December 15, 2017.

I posted the article on my Facebook page and asked my social network if anyone wanted to join me in taking this challenge for 2018. Two out of my 1000 “Facebook friends” responded. Two other friends, who are not on Facebook, said they were interested, so that brought us to five, which is a solid number for a group. Doing anything in a group is more fun than doing it alone, not to mention that your likelihood of success multiplies. Outside accountability when forming a new habit is helpful. It doesn’t matter how disciplined you are; habits take months to develop.

I emailed my No Shopping group, and everyone agreed to a January 15th start date.

These are our rules:

— No apparel.

— If there are desperate needs that come up (athletic gear), ask your husband for Valentine’s Day, bday, whatever. But don’t cheat and ask for a new handbag. That breaks the spirit of the rule.

— Outsource as much as possible to your husband, babysitter, whatever. Food is included because it’s a downward spiral.

— No browsing, anywhere.

— Gifts: as much as possible, give books. Stuff like other children’s birthday gifts — try to outsource.

— Experiences ok- travel, exercise classes, mani/pedi- if you can’t take it home in a shopping bag, you can have it.

— If you’re invited to something you don’t feel like you have the right clothes for, DON’T GO!

— Check social media twice a week only for 20 min period, unless using it for work-related activity.

— Can replace cosmetics/toiletries you already have once they run out and try to use excess in your medicine cabinet or under sink beforehand.

Shopping has been a blind spot of mine for a long time. I had a cognitive understanding that I shopped a lot, but still gave myself permission to do it, which is often the case in blind spots we learn of but want to retain. I am not referring to big-ticket items either. I cut back on that two years ago after a marital spat, where I came face to face with the disconnect between my entitlement and our bank account. After that, my shopping got sneaky.

I rationalized the time and excess by connecting it to my family. I spent more time and money than I budgeted in Whole Foods, squeezing organic fruit and filling my cart with seemingly healthy products I didn’t need. Amazon boxes arrived in piles every day containing one item each. A box with a new emoji notebook for my daughter, a box of caramel tea to add to a shelf that was already overstocked with ten other boxes of tea, a six-pack of pens that looked like they wrote more smoothly than the ten I already had in a cup on my desk. Three small items in three huge boxes, the waste alone was disturbing.

I shopped for things I already had, things I didn’t need. I bought backup for everything I deemed essential for life to run smoothly. God forbid, I had a tea emergency and had to run half a block to D’Agastino. There is clutter in every closet and drawer in my home. What is the layer below this habit? Below any unproductive habit? Is shopping a distraction? If so, from what? What will happen if I run out of something?

Leading to the January 15th start date, I panicked. The weekend before I intended to stop by all my favorite stores to stock up. I wasn’t able to execute this plan, and now a month later, I can’t recall everything on that list. I am sitting with my questions, uncomfortably so when a craving strikes.

Overall, not shopping is a relief. The fact that it’s off the table as an option creates space in my brain and schedule. Abstinence is the easiest way to jump-start significant change.

Don’t get me wrong; if I go down the rabbit hole of wondering if I have enough jeans to last me a year, I can quickly become concerned. What if I gain or lose 5lbs? Then buying new jeans would become a necessity that my group would understand. My mind is always ready and willing to offer me loopholes.

Thank God, for consciousness.


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Move a Muscle, Change a Thought

Do you think walking is useless? Not a calorie burning exercise and a slow way to get around? I didn’t learn about the benefits of walking until my first year of sobriety.

The first year of my sobriety was like restoring electricity to a house that had regularly been hit by hurricanes for sixteen years. Overwhelmed by the wreckage, I didn’t know where to begin. AA recommends you find a sponsor to guide you through this process. Fortunate to be immediately introduced to a woman I deemed appropriate, she told me to call her every day to check in. That sounded ridiculous initially, but I ended up calling her 3-4x a day because I had the coping mechanisms of a thirteen-year-old.

Most of my problems were fictional, stories I made up and played on a loop in my head. My thinking was obsessively cynical, portraying me as the victim in all scenarios. I complained to my sponsor incessantly. Two months into working together, she interrupted one of my monologues, “Since you have already been to an AA meeting today, why don’t you go for a walk around the block? Or if you have time, go for a walk in the park. Move a muscle, change a thought.” The simplicity of her suggestion annoyed me.

At that time in my life, exercise was a punitive measure after an evening of binge eating cupcakes. After I quit running due to injury, I would spend hours counting calories on an elliptical trainer at my neighborhood gym. Aimlessly walking around was a waste of time and how the hell would that solve any of my problems?

I took her advice because she had been spot-on about everything else so far. I got off the sofa, where I had been sprawled out stewing, put on some sneakers and a jacket, and walked out of my apartment. I had never walked without an end goal in mind. Something shifted as I walked around, listening to Van Morrison and looking at passing people and clouds. The thought bubbles I was stuck in burst and started flowing. I felt lighter, all my problems more manageable in this mindset.

Walking became my primary mode of transportation around New York. I walked home after work most days, sixty blocks from the Meatpacking District to the UES. On weekends, I walked around the park. Aside from AA meetings, it was the only time I could escape my mental tenants, Fear, and Anxiety. Occasionally, when I was focusing on the scenery around me, another voice would speak up. “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Friedrich Nietzsche This voice was softer and didn’t ramble on. It came from a deeper place, below my regular chatter. All my best thoughts pop up out of nowhere and come from this voice.

I still walk everywhere, in silence or with music or podcast or audible book playing. The combination of walking and replacing my thinking with better thinking works wonders. The problem du jour goes away in minutes. Taking in new information has been the most effective method of influencing my patterning. Move a muscle, change a thought.


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How to Build a Healthy Ego

Ego is a dirty word these days. “Get out of your ego”; “Your ego is the enemy.” I used to believe that when I had evolved enough, my ego would dissolve. Over the past five years, my thoughts on this have changed. There is no such thing as getting rid of ego. It sounds like a lofty goal and is an impossible feat. As my brilliant, old shrink Chris Ford used to say, “the goal is to create a healthy ego, you need a healthy ego to survive.”

So that begs the question, what is a healthy ego?

At my latest course, Tony Robbin’s “Date with Destiny,” I had a breakthrough on how to gauge whether I was living in the healthy part of my ego. Tony talked about The Six Human Needs: Certainty, Uncertainty/ Variety, Significance, Love/Connection, Growth, and Contribution. You do workbook and partner exercises to discover what two needs you inhabit most of the time. I knew as Tony explained that Certainty was the number one need. I like being in control, a lot. Certainty is also a commitment to being comfortable. Much of my planning involves creating optimal contented circumstances for myself. For example, I struggle for months before signing up for the workshops I attend. I know that they are designed to be uncomfortable, and I spend the week before in a state of dread. I know the cancellation policy and locations of all the exit doors.

My need for certainty conflicts with my need for Growth, Connection, and Contribution. True fulfillment is only available when you spend time in those three needs. Tony makes it clear that you can have all six needs met and there is nothing wrong with any of them when they are in the right order. When I allow certainty to be the deciding factor in my life choices, I limit growth and ultimately my happiness.

Unclear on my second need, I had to dig deeper. I assumed it was Growth or Contribution because spending time in either of these areas lights me up. Attending transformational workshops, doing service work in AA, and mentoring teenage girls in the Bronx are highlights in my life aside from Daniel and our children. So if I am already living a life I love, why am I crammed into a freezing West Palm Beach conference center pondering this question?

To reach a point where I even consider signing up for a workshop like Date With Destiny, my need for Growth has to outweigh my need for Certainty. Pain has always been my greatest motivator. When I stay stagnant for too long, I get depressed which manifests in complaints. I make everyone around me wrong before I go inside. When the low-grade misery morphs into pain, I take action. Even though I loved my life, I was dissatisfied with the level of my contribution. I was capable of doing a lot more in the world, now that my kids were in school full time, I was out of excuses.

Breakthroughs pop up in an instant, no rhyme or reason to them. Suddenly, I understood that my need for Growth and Significance were intertwined. Although I don’t strive to be significant in an overt way, the reason I felt dissatisfied was that my volunteer work didn’t feel like enough. When I sit down at a Manhattan table of significance, I fall short using the metric that most people use here, multiple degrees and titled jobs. Every environment also has a need structure, and on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, significance is king.

When I focus on my need for growth, the path ahead in the work I already do looks different than if I am striving to keep up with the conversation around me. Tony announced at the same time, “Significance is a mountain without a top! If you have this as your top two needs, you must get rid of it! It will make you miserable.” YES.

Every morning before I start writing, I go through a morning ritual which involves meditation and a cold shower. I stay in touch with my WHY as I write, and throughout my day. Spreading and supporting Growth is my happy place. Whenever I leave the world of action (contribution) and step over into results (What do you think of me? Am I doing a good job?), I move into significance.

It’s a great question to ask your self regularly. At work, when you are showing up for a friend, training for a marathon, volunteering at a kid’s school- what need am I in right now? Guarantee if it is Growth, Love, or Contribution you will be satisfied. If you feel that you are not being appropriately acknowledged, then you are probably in significance.

The part of the ego that doesn’t serve us is the part that needs to be in control and acts for the reward of recognition. A healthy ego focuses on putting growth or love or contribution first. Significance naturally moves down to the bottom when one of those three needs is first; the order is imperative. The great news is we can choose to shift our needs any day, any time. Today, I am putting Growth

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Find Your WHY

Two weeks ago I read Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” not expecting that it would put me on a path to find my Why.

Shortly after, I listened to The Tony Robbins Podcast “Simon Sinek on the 10 rules for achieving greatness.”

Here it is:

Then I visited Simon’s website that has a section about finding your Why.

Here it is:

Simon’s work is friendly and easy to retain. In the podcast, Simon’s humility shines through his responses. He is patient and present with the talkative interviewer. I kept listening because I liked him, not because I thought that he had anything groundbreaking to say. His theory, at a glance, occurred to me as rudimentary. If you find your Why and create your life, business, relationships from that base, it will soar. Most people and companies tend to focus on their How and What instead of their Why. I assumed that these fundamental distinctions were like learning the alphabet, geared towards beginners. For a seasoned growth vet like myself, this was merely a helpful review.

How wrong I was.

As I digested the information, I held on to the idea that I was already a self-aware person who understood what lit me up. I started to try and explain my Why to myself a quarter of the way into the podcast. I rambled about my life journey, passionate, and a bit scattered. It dawned on me that my Why at that time was like telling someone you are going to vacation in France, and when they ask the whereabouts, you talk in detail about The Eiffel Tower, vineyards and olive groves, without ever naming the exact location.

Finding my Why put the key in my ignition. I turned on.

My Why is that I want to share my process of growth, transformation, and healing with others to support and inspire them. Writing this blog became something that had to happen because it was in direct relationship with my Why. Navigating mundane areas of my life, like social and kid-related invitations, has become a no-brainer. I have always enjoyed working with my AA sponsees and now, connecting it back to my Why gives me clarity and purpose. The more opportunities I create to share and spread growth, the more energy flows through me. Any environment or individual that contains growth is always a yes for me. My Why is the reason that anything I do feels worthwhile.

I encourage you to discover your Why.

Back Pain Secret
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Back Pain Secret

I have been fortunate to avoid serious injury over the past 44 years. I do experience chronic back pain from tightness in the surrounding muscles. Once it activates, it can take weeks to go away. If you have other aches and pains from exercising, traveling long hours or sleeping too often in one position, then this tip is for you.

Aside from my daily multivitamin pack and two omega fish oils, I prefer not to tamper with my body chemistry.  The data on the effects of long-term pain reliever use include liver damage and ulcers, so I avoid them unless my pain level is at a 10. Two years ago, I strained my back doing yoga. Attempting to imitate a seasoned yogi on the mat in front of me, I felt a sharp, sudden pain in my lower back. This ego-inflicted injury taught me more of a lesson than my yoga practice ever did.

I visited a doctor even though I knew it wasn’t anything serious. She told me not to exercise for a few weeks, see a physical therapist to strengthen the surrounding muscles and take some Aleve when needed. Going without activity is only an option if I have been up vomiting all night. Exercise doesn’t have to be a shirt drenching, Soul Cycle class; it’s anything that gets me moving. An hour walk in Central Park or some light weight lifting is sufficient. Bottom line, I didn’t listen and learned quickly that consistent movement agitated my back to the point where I was in constant pain.

I reluctantly set up an appointment with a friend’s PT. My experiences with PTs range from a waste of time to feeling ripped off. Monica Joshi at Back in the Game Therapy located in Midtown Manhattan is the real deal. Aside from being an attractive woman, she is also a straight shooter with the goal of getting you in and out of her practice short term and long term at a rapid pace. She taught me exercises and gave me lifestyle strategies that helped my back enormously and still do two years later. It turns out the way I was standing was hurting my back more than any exercise I was doing.

Pain management became a fixation because I missed park walks and sitting upright in a chair at a restaurant was still sending my back into spasms. While grabbing some toothpaste at Duane Reade, I walked past an aisle and noticed a section with Icy Hot patches and ThermaCare Heat Pads. I had never used either. Grabbing a few boxes, I hurried home to conduct a performance evaluation. The Icy Hot patches worked well and reeked of mint. The ThermaCare pads were more effective without stinking up my clothes.

What started out as a way to manage my back pain turned into an obsession. I actually have one on my lower back now as I type this. Sitting and working on my computer for hours can still bother my back. The heat pads last for eight hours, staying in place even under a cocktail dress. They also function as a heat source on winter days. I also wear them to bed because I find that when vital muscles in my body are soothed, I sleep more soundly.

No, ThermaCare is not paying me to write this although they probably should.



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The We Space: The Energy Between Us All

Have you ever stared into a person’s eyes for a few minutes without speaking? Does the thought make you cringe? Do you long for deeper connection in your life? Is there a gap between how you feel about someone and your communication? What if I told you that when we tune into the space between us, without cluttering it with words, something magical happens. I spent a year exploring the “we space” by participating in a course called the Evolutionary Collective.

After thirty years in the New York City shrink offices, I believed that growth was all about me storming through my inner landscape with a flashlight and a microscope. Sometimes the work called for a toothbrush and other times a pickaxe.

Not a group person, I have always identified as a lone wolf. It’s ironic that AA saved my life because it’s a group setting. Dread is still my dominant default emotion before every developmental workshop I attend. Little did I know that my first workshop was the gold standard of GROUP.

After working with Jeff Carreira for two months, he suggested again that I attend an introduction to the course that he was teaching with Patricia Albere called the Evolutionary Collective. The name was weird, the location of the orientation was inconvenient, and I said yes because something had already started shifting internally after talking to Jeff regularly. I wanted more.

When I walked into the midtown west loft space on a Saturday afternoon, I freaked out. Men with facial hair sat chatting with middle-aged women in flowing clothes on brightly colored furniture. Everybody was enthusiastically greeting each other. I saw Jeff in a doorway that lead to another room and bee-lined over to him. He was talking to a tall, red-haired woman who stood inside the room. Jeff hugged me and introduced me to Patricia Albere. She held my hand as she shook it and stared into me with x-ray eye contact for an extended period. Pulling away first, I awkwardly asked if I could sit down inside what was set up like a classroom. I pretended to read something on my phone until the session began.

I learned later that Patricia was an original member of the EST organization (currently called Landmark Education) and was trained by Werner Erhard as a teacher. She became a teacher trainer in EST and Landmark. You don’t need to know a thing about her to realize that she is a force.

I can’t remember anything that Patricia and Jeff said that day because I spent the entire time in my head reviewing my comfort level and judging the people around me. What I do recall was a partner exercise with a man seated next to me. We were instructed to stare into each other’s eyes in silence for five minutes. Every minute dragged by as I self-consciously stared into this stranger’s eyes, my heart and mind racing.

Patricia rang a bell and then instructed us to share what was happening in the space between us. I had no idea what she was talking about and was relieved when my partner volunteered to start off. I will never forget what he said; “there was no space between us because you sat in your head the entire time.” He didn’t deliver those words sweetly either. Panicking because I was now a spiritual workshop failure, I felt like I was going to cry. I explained that this was my first time doing anything like this and I was uncomfortable. He said my fear and anxiety were my ego ‘s way of keeping me separate and asked me if this probably showed up in other areas of my life. Ouch.

After working with a few more partners that day, I became slightly more comfortable with the eye gazing exercise. Something in my body opened up, creating a softening in my heart space. I even hugged a group of women before I left.

When I arrived home, Daniel asked me how my “weirdo workshop” went as he stared at a Football game on the TV screen. He barely glanced over as he spoke and the communication felt hollow after what I had experienced. Wondering if this was a sample of all my relationships, I instantly responded that I was going back for the full weekend orientation in a few weeks.

I wasn’t sure about any of it, all I knew was that I wanted more in my life than casual glances. A week later, Daniel asked if he could come to the EC weekend with me. Noticing my surprise, he commented that something had been different about me the past few days and he wanted to experience for himself what caused it.

We both ended up joining the EC, as it’s referred to by its’ participants, for the following year. The commitment was three weekend-long retreats and bi-monthly Monday night calls. We also were assigned rotating partners to do a phone version of the eye-gazing practice. We did a lot more than stare into each other’s eyes over that beautiful year. I understood the power of commitment and intention. Getting out of my head and into my heart was gift enough. There were and still are many fascinating people in the EC. I met two mothers there who became soul sister friends. Almost six years later and I still have a monthly call with Jeff and a group of women from the original EC who live in Massachusetts.

The year spent exploring the “we space” changed me. I never realized that there is a dance of energy happening inside us and between us all the time. In every interaction, there is a space that opens up, be it two people, small groups or huge organizations. When we tune into serving that space and step away from self, love, we access the divine nature inside us all.

Patricia now runs the EC on her own; it’s bicoastal; here is the link:

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How Random Encounters Can Change Our Lives

Sometimes random encounters can change our life forever. This was the case when I met Jeff Carreira for lunch at a vegan restaurant in 2012. The next time you meet someone through unusual circumstances, stay open and allow the bigger picture to reveal itself in time.

I was desperate to feel differently, willing to take any measures. The funk I felt was similar to the bottom I reached at the end of my drinking career. I had become sober and grown immeasurably. How the hell did I end up spiritually bankrupt again? Every line item that I thought was needed for a happy life was checked: husband, kids, apartment, friends, personal trainer, and designer clothes, etc. On the outside, my life looked ideal, but according to what blueprint? Whose plan was I following anyway? Had I unconsciously been trying to recreate a better version of my childhood? Had I been hanging out in yesterday’s transformation for too long?

Meeting a middle-aged man who was a teacher at a spiritual community for lunch definitely took me way outside my comfort zone. When a man of medium stature with curly dark hair walked in and looked over, we identified each other immediately.

Our conversation was awkward at first until Jeff asked me why I was there. Three hours later, we were still there, holding hands across the table crying. “What if you had the same exact life but felt entirely different? That is what I can offer you,” Jeff said with certainty. It was a movie that I would have turned off a day before. I had no idea what he meant, or how he could make this happen, but at that moment I trusted him fully. “Give me a week to think through the best way to work together. I have a lot on my plate right now and don’t normally take on private clients” he said, as we were getting up from the table. A week was way too long, but I was in no position to push him.

Jeff also mentioned joining forces with another teacher, Patricia Albere, to run a year-long course called the Evolutionary Collective. Jeff asked if I would be interested in signing up for that group. I informed him that I was NOT a group person. All this talk of spiritual teachers and year-long commitments was more than I could handle. Working one-on-one with Jeff replicated the shrink model I knew well.

To my relief, Jeff called a few days later. “I have thought about it, and I can’t wait to work with you. I think talking at least once a week is important.” Over the moon, I asked if we could begin that day and he agreed.