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Posts tagged ‘Soul Coaching’

Not Worrying About the Woo-Woo*

I’ve been noticing a lot of people, especially in my life coaching communities online, discussing topics and techniques that have worked for them with clients, and more or less apologizing for the information they are offering to the group by qualifying it. They say things like, “Well, I know this may sound a little ‘woo-woo’ to some of you, but…. (x technique)…worked really well with a client I had the other day.”

Intentional Altar

For those who don’t know, please refer to a definition of woo-woo at the bottom of this post. Essentially, it is a derogatory term for things that may be considered metaphysical and/or unscientific.

In the coaching context, these references to woo-woo can range from EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), which is an energy modality combined with affirmations, (although that doesn’t fully explain it), to meditative journeys, (like having a client imagine or visualize talking to their Higher Self, or perhaps to a deceased relative, or even their child-self.) Or for some it might be offering Reiki energy healing (known to be very relaxing and calming) in conjunction with a coaching conversation. Or doing Timeline work or other techniques making use of visualization and “rewriting” your personal history.

For some it could be having the person create a ceremony to symbolize some transition, or perhaps for a change of thought or shedding of old beliefs. Or it might refer to offering advice from the realm of Feng Shui, the Chinese art of placement, which looks at the “energy” of a space, the psychological effect of clutter, and the benefit of energy flow, placement, and balance in certain themed areas of the home.

Personally I use a whole PILE of these techniques along with other tools, and artful questioning. Since I originally trained as a “Soul Coach” with Denise Linn before moving on to other life coach training, my introduction to coaching involved mainly guided “soul journeys” and “past life journeys”, both of which are meditative visualizations but where the client ultimately creates the vision from within. I facilitate and coach them through these scenarios with gentle questioning to see what they discover.

Oracle Card Spread

Also from Soul Coaching® I sometimes use oracle cards, also known as divination cards, to look for confirmation of things being discussed, or to see what other insights may be brought to consciousness by the suggestion of the cards. There is an element of the mysterious and metaphysical when dealing with these, and some would dismiss me as a flake.

And indeed, as I went to further coach training that had a more psychology-based focus and joined these coaching communities other than Soul Coaching®, I started to hide what I was doing, especially the use of cards in coaching, and past life journeys, and advising about feng shui concepts, which I am also trained in. I started to be afraid that I’d get called out as being “woo-woo,” and not taken seriously by my life coaching peers.

But ya know what? I don’t care anymore if what I work with is “backed by science” or not. The damn stuff WORKS! Clients have had big breakthroughs in journeying to a possible past life, in talking to their inner child, or to their deceased father in a journey, and being consoled by that “contact”.

People are delighted and surprised when a spread of cards confirms the very topics we have been discussing. With a recent client, a card spread for the whole of last year ended up offering her accurate guideposts for the events that subsequently unfolded. Some cards were predictive in  some months, or otherwise offered her some wisdom or theme to be guided and supported by as she navigated some difficult periods. It was like a lighthouse for her to see how the theme from each card could help her get through those months, and she was extremely grateful. I was not predicting events that would happen, which I do not do, nor claim to do. I was offering (or the cards were offering) possible themes that would emerge that could help her deal with various situations. And they did.

The client’s chair in my coaching office…next to an altar with meditating Buddha, salt lamp, a few “healing” crystals to set intention, some feathers…


Before I got that wonderful feedback recently I had gone so far as to remove my “Oracle Card Coaching” from my web site offerings. I wanted to be taken “seriously” as a coach, not look like some “woo-woo pseudo-psychic”. It seemed risky to delve into the realm of mysticism and spirituality, in spite of my own belief that that is really who we are…spiritual beings having a human experience.

But the more I see my “serious” colleagues sheepishly reveal the supposedly “woo-woo” techniques they are having success with, and the more I am honest about the results I often get using those tools, the more I realize it is time to ditch the term “woo-woo” altogether! It is insulting and demeaning to both us and to the stuff that works, and we don’t need to hide behind prefacing that our work may “sound a little woo-woo” as an apology…thinking we’ll be taken seriously as long as we admit that we know some stuff sounds crazy or unorthodox. That is just a feeble attempt to gain approval from people. It’s like saying, I want to do this stuff, I like it, but I still want all those folks who won’t like it to approve of me and like me anyway!

Enough already! A good coach uses stuff that WORKS for her clients. If it resonates with me, and could be helpful in a given situation, and the client is receptive, I’m going for it, no apologies. My interest is in helping the client get what they want in life. That is my job. I am here to serve you as powerfully as I know how with all resources at my disposal. If experience tells me something will be helpful, it’s my duty to use what I know. I take what works and leave the rest.

Spirit and mystery is not separate from the human experience, it is the essence of the human experience. Without it there is no spark, no wonder, no joy.

So, Oracle Card Coaching is now back on the menu at Co-Creative Healing Arts. And who knows what else!

From The Skeptic’s Dictionary:
Woo-woo (or just plain woo) refers to ideas considered irrational or based on extremely flimsy evidence or that appeal to mysterious occult forces or powers.

Part of the mystery….

Here’s a dictionary definition of woo-woo:

    adj. concerned with emotions, mysticism, or spiritualism; other than rational or scientific; mysterious; new agey. Also n., a person who has mystical or new age beliefs.

When used by skeptics, woo-woo is a derogatory and dismissive term used to refer to beliefs one considers nonsense or to a person who holds such beliefs.

Sometimes woo-woo is used by skeptics as a synonym for pseudoscience, true-believer, or quackery. But mostly the term is used for its emotive content and is an emotive synonym for such terms as nonsense, irrational, nutter, nut, or crazy.


As I anticipate leading another six-session run of the “Soul Coaching”® group program, (based on the book of the same name by my teacher Denise Linn), I recall the times I have gone through the program myself over the past few years. I do it annually usually to kind of “recalibrate” and get in touch with aspects of my life I may have been neglecting.
One of my favourite things about it has been the very last part of the process, after the exercises of the core 28 days have been completed — the personal “quest”.   The core of the program, as you may read on my web site, is 4 weeks of different themed activities and assignments, a huge toolbox of techniques for gaining self-knowledge, a connection to your spirit, and finding ways to rewrite your life story in more empowering ways.

After doing all that, Denise suggests that you wrap it all up and integrate the learnings by doing a quest, a kind of gentler version of a native American style vision quest, although you may do it as intensely as you choose. The origins of the word quest is the same as for question…from a word meaning “to seek”. Basically we quest to seek answers about ourselves, our life, our purpose.

A full-fledged vision quest typically involves going out on the land somewhere, usually wilderness, for perhaps three days, maybe more in some traditions, with minimal equipment or food. These are best undertaken with an experienced quest leader who knows the area, the wildlife, the issues that may arise, and can prepare you for such a journey.

These are very challenging, often emotionally taxing, experiences where one is left alone with themselves in an unfamiliar environment, with no-one to call upon but their inner strength and their allies in the spirit realm, as they search for a vision or answers to questions about their lives.

In the Soul Coaching® program, we do a modified version, mainly because not all of us are trained wilderness guides and many people who just read the book on their own are doing this self-directed. In the quest suggestions, it can be as little as a couple hours or as long as a full day, even indoors if absolutely necessary due to winter weather. It must be spent alone, in silence (although drumming is permitted), within the circumference of a sacred circle created by the participant.

My first attempt was in our own woods, just out of sight of our house, where I had intended to spend a full night beginning at 5 p.m. one July evening. I created my circle of stones and branches, carefully blessed and smudged my circle with sage and honoured the four directions, and spoke my prayers for the evening. I brought a tarp because the forecast called for showers overnight, and a sleeping bag, and lots of bug repellant! Image

Yes, it was mosquito season, and try as I might to sit in a contemplative fashion, calling upon my spiritual guides and helpers, my power animal and all, I was essentially tortured with stinging needles for 6 hours until I gave in. No amount of toxic Deet, layers of denim and a sleeping bag pulled over my head was a match for hungry ‘skeeters.

Despite all that distraction, in the pitch black of the night before I surrendered, the sudden snorting of two deer behind me ran chills up my spine, as they stomped on the ground. I was an intruder in their territory and they were letting each other know, or maybe warning me. It was exciting and frightening as I tried to remain calm, not being able to see a thing.  And a few minutes later they crashed into the bush and were gone.

I struggled with my frustration over my inability to persevere amidst the onslaught of bug bites, to receive any messages from Spirit, and decided after 11 p.m. to head home up the hill, feeling like a failure for not sticking it out.

I should have thought about Deer’s message as I proceeded to beat myself up. “Deer medicine” is gentleness, and in my case, it was to be gentle with myself. In hindsight, several years later, I would say that that was a great lesson of which I have often needed to be reminded. I am one of those many people who is my own worst critic, disappointing myself far more often than I disappoint anyone else. And I am rarely disappointed in others. But as I have learned in my Strategic Intervention coach training, I “create my own rules” about how easy it is or is not  to disappoint myself. So, the rules are changing.

In spite of my aborting my first quest early, I really learned what I needed to that night, that I was enough, something I coach others about! When I checked in with Denise Linn and my class from soul coach training after that quest, her simple reply was, ”You don’t have to suffer to grow”.

For my next quest it was the height of winter, and questing outdoors did not seem to be an option here in Nova Scotia. So I did what Denise suggests and created a sacred circle indoors, with a great view out of large windows so I could watch the sky and see the clouds and a view of nature. I found a time when no-one was home and I would be undisturbed.

I spent some time drumming and vocalizing to move energy through and out of my body as I found my jaw and throat really got tight as soon as I had settled and called in the spirits to guide me. I have learned that for me, a tight jaw and lump in the throat means something is needing to be expressed, so the drumming and singing can help release that with the vibration. It took me a while to move it and settle myself but eventually my mind calmed and I began asking my questions.

And, as often happens when I ask questions of “the Universe” or my guides, when I am in a truly quiet and open head space, answers came flooding through, which I journaled. In response to questions about the meaning of particular aches or sensations in my body, I was reminded of specific things needed to do for my general health and well being. And then the flow just continued, telling me about my life purpose or path, what I needed to learn in this lifetime to get beyond certain patterns of past lives. It was fascinating and made perfect sense. And then after watching for signs in the clouds outside, I decided it was time to get back to my family of husband and animals and ponder the advice.

My most recent quest was last December. I wanted to do it close to my birthday, and found a day, December 9, with a moderate forecast, sunny, above freezing, and no snow on the ground. As it turned out, it was cloudy with only sunny breaks, and it proved to be quite cool as I ventured down to the back of our woodlot in the shade. I had created my sacred circle the day before, having spent a week or so dragging rocks down into the woods with me on my walks with the dogs. I had chosen a favourite spot among tall pine trees with no underbrush, and a carpet of rusty pine needles, in an area we had named The Cathedral.Image

I was bundled in layers of clothes and woolen toque and gloves,  and had brought a sleeping bag for extra warmth, although I only intended to spend the day, not overnight. I wasn’t sure about dealing with coyotes in the dark of night a 20- minute walk from home.

I had set an intention for the day and a series of questions on which I sought guidance. Denise Linn gives different suggestions in her book for what you might address during a quest. I was ambitious and selected a few themes: first examining my life (reviewing my history), then confronting my fears, connecting with Spirit, and asking for my “Spirit name”, giving thanks, and asking for a vision. As I began to journal about my life and what I needed to examine or remember, words just flowed, things I had not expected or thought about in ages. I reflected on the relationships of people within my family and how I felt they had made an impact on me. I looked at turning points in my life and what meaning I had given them. Those meanings were the stories I had created around my life events, stories which had coloured my perceptions and in some cases, held me back.

At one point I decided to list all the things that I have done in my life that showed success or achievement in one way or another, as one of the ways to counter a belief that you can’t do something is to show the many ways in which you have already proved yourself very capable, even if you haven’t done the exact thing you are thinking about.  So at this point I looked for both examples of others who had succeeded or who modeled doing what I aspire to do, as well as looked at all my own accomplishments.

As I made that list, something made me glance up suddenly, and I was astonished and delighted to see a beautiful barred owl on a branch not 50 feet away, staring intently at me in broad daylight. After a few moments he flew to another tree just across the trail, and stared at me again. And then to another tree, all about the same distance from me in my circle. And then as silently as he (or she) had arrived,  flew east through the pines and disappeared.Image

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / pix2go

As soul coaches we are trained to “watch for the signs”, and I took this unusual occurrence as a big one! I walk this trail almost every day, all year round, snow pack permitting, and only once had I encountered an owl, and not like this in a staring match. The other time was searching for my dog Angus who had been missing for an hour, and the shadowy sight of an owl flying east through the trees had led me to sweet Angus,  gasping for breath, his neck in a wire coyote snare. Owl had led me there in the nick of time to save him.

The meaning I gave to this sign during my quest was that I was on the right track reviewing all I had already accomplished, to restore faith in my ability to do other things as well. I continued to journal, addressing many aspects of my life, the words just flowed that I had needed to hear. I even found my Spirit name, which I choose to keep to myself, but it resonated so profoundly that I cried tears of recognition. So many great insights came as I scribbled in the increasing cold.

I had also been blessed when I had first arrived in the circle  with the presence of Squirrel. I have seen squirrels many times on my walks in the woods, usually because the dogs are barking at them up a tree, but this was the first and so far only time in years that I have seen one in the Cathedral. They are never in that area, nor have I seen one on the ground scurrying from tree to tree as this one did. As well, the crows were very persistent that day in their chatter, and while they were not close to me, they had a prolonged period of very urgent cawing that was disturbing.

After about six and a half hours in my sacred circle I was starting to shake with cold and knew I needed to take care and get back home before dark. I packed up my sleeping bag and journal and water bottle, and just as I prepared to leave the circle I was shaken by a blood-curdling shriek that made my heart race! It came from the direction Owl had flown and I felt it was some kind of acknowledgement from Owl of my quest. Likely he was just hunting as it turned to dusk, but the timing was superb!

Upon returning home I checked my reference books about animal spirit guides and found that aspects of Squirrel, Crow and Owl were all very appropriate to the issues and questions I had been exploring that day, and the books were rich with messages that were spot on for me.

I know this is considered too long for a blog. I write lengthy emails too. But I am telling the story I want to tell…  it is mine after all. If you are not reading this on a smart phone then perhaps you’ve made it to the end, in which case I applaud your patience and attention!

Questing, even for only a few hours, can be a very profound and insightful process, especially soon after completion of a program like Soul Coaching®. If it piques your interest, my Fall offering of Soul Coaching (in-person group) is coming up September 26, there is still space available. I would love to assist you on this heartfelt exploration to your authentic self.

Watch for the signs!

With love, Mary

Here we go again….

Here we go again…

Funny how a year passes and it’s “deja vu all over again”, only in a slightly different way. Here I am, 11 months after my last blog post (what can I say, I’ve been busy!), and the theme of “letting go” is emerging once again in my life, and I think also in the lives of some friends too, some who have been or are about to, be moving across the country or from one country to another.

As I keep peeling back the layers of the amazing onion that is my life, (weird-smelling metaphor, I know), looking for that heart of me and the work that truly jazzes me, I find once again I am having to let go in order to make space for that which I want to emerge.

For the past year I have immersed myself in a course of study called Strategic Intervention, a life coaching modality (or assortment of techniques and theories), from Robbins-Madanes Training. It was created by coach-motivator extraordinaire, Anthony Robbins, in conjunction with psychotherapist Cloe Madanes, with coaches Mark & Magali Peysha. It has been a fascinating exploration. There is so much to glean from their work, so many revelations about the way people respond to their world and the people in it, myself included. Doing the program, as in most coaching schools, means doing a lot of study of, and work on, oneself as well.

On a very practical level, not associated with the study, is that I have recently come to some certainty that … gasp…  “I can’t do it all”!  As anyone who has followed me in my previous blog (which still languishes in obscurity over at my old, soon-to-be-dismantled photo site,, or in our newsletters from Co-Creative Healing Arts, Edward and I have created extensive gardens over the past 7 or so years on our little piece of country paradise, the land being our painter’s canvas and the plants our palette.
We love the creative exercise of making beautiful spaces and growing some of our own food. Along with herb beds, perennial borders and vegetable gardens, I went so far as to create my mini (or “petite”) Provence, inspired as I was from a long-ago trip to France and the views of great fields of lavender. While our wetter Nova Scotian climate does not quite support some of the larger lavender hybrids seen in huge plantations over there, it does allow for some of the hardier, traditional varieties to flourish, with some care and attention. Between 2006 and 2009 I planted over 500 tiny plants, including about 8 different varietals, acquired from various nurseries here and in Ontario and Manitoba.Image

Most were planted to offer a view from the house of a small field, about 20 rows 60 feet long, each with 25 plants or so. At one point I also created a “medicine wheel” concept garden, which still survives, ringed with lavender, as well as two gardens attempting to employ “sacred geometry”. One featured a raised bed in the centre shaped like a large 5-pointed star, with various perennials in the centre and lavender at the points, surrounded by a 30-foot diameter raised-bed  in the shape of an octagon, all filled with lavender.

The other beds consisted of two inter-facing spiral shapes, not mathematically correct but loosely drawn along the proprotions of the Golden Mean. Alas, the area in which these two elaborate beds were created suffered from poor drainage, and for a couple of years I was replacing rotting lavenders until I threw in the towel and removed my geometric creations.

The biggest enemies of lavender are “wet feet” as they often say in the “how to grow” guides, as well as weeds, which contributes to the wetness by trapping moisture around the crown and roots, as well as chokes the plants and steals nutrients. In 2009 I replaced over 200 small plants due to a very wet winter with lots of freezing and thawing. And while the past couple of years have enjoyed good growth, this year’s rainy spring and early summer, and then a heatwave, created incredible conditions for weeds…weeds like I have never seen before!

Spikey, thistle-y weeds that stick you with needles, flat weeds that travel and form an almost impermeable mat and look like some kind of alien life form, and everything else imaginable, have been growing….well….like weeds this year, finally sapping me of my will to continue the battle to keep the lavender weed-free. This was reinforced by last year’s decision, after trying a couple summers at farmers’ markets, that, “no, this is not going to be a business, this is a hobby that creates beauty at my home.”
Well, this year the thought finally became, “What’s the point of creating this beauty if I never have a minute to sit and relax and just soak it all in, enjoying my ‘Petite Provence’ with a glass of wine in hand? How can I enjoy it while fearing it would soon turn into a huge, ugly, tangled mess??”

It also became a huge distraction from my coaching studies and practice. For the past couple of years it seemed that everything I was working towards in that career, including my existing work as a Soul Coach and Interior Alignment® (feng shui) practitioner, got shoved to the side while “gardening season” took over my life. Remember, it’s not just the lavender crop, but all the other beds too, needing attention.

So…the choice is clear. Last week I gave notice on Facebook announcing my decision to sell off the lavender plants piecemeal. Like the market vending the year before and the photography gallery the year before that, I am once again in a space of letting go. And each time a little bit of my identity goes too, which is probably the hardest part.

Actually for me, this letting go is more about feeling that my labour and financial investment was a waste, but mostly the labour. As I have already been thinking of myself as a coach for a few years now, the identity of Lavender Farmer is much easier to shrug off than my former cloak of Photographer. More people knew me in the latter context for much longer.

And as with pretty much every change I go through like this, I have to draw on my own coaching skills, (and sometimes those of others with more objectivity), to remind myself that we are all so much more than what we do, or what we have. I know a few people have called me “The Lavender Lady”…. not my favourite moniker, conjuring for me as it does some kind of romantic English waif in a flowing dress, which I feel anything but! But it’s harmless. I am, for sure, a font of good, practical information about growing the stuff after this experiment.

But I am so much more than any label, and yet that is how we generally make ourselves known to others isn’t it? I am not much of a student of philosophy but I do remember Kierkegaard’s quote from university, “Once you label me you negate me.”  Labels are inherently limiting.

Our careers force us to wear labels to identify our skill set or products to our potential clients and customers. But it is always a danger to wear those like armour, because someday it will rust, or an arm will fall off or a joint will be pierced and we will change course or get fired or retire and then…who are we?  Some never find who they are without that career identity, and struggle with diminished sense of self while trying to get mileage out of who they used to be or what they used to do.

I am glad “Lavender Lady” has not, in spite of several years, infused my blood with its essential oil! It’s beautiful stuff, lavender. It smells great, tastes good too, but it is not who I am in my ever-evolving and unlimited Being.  Letting go once more allows “letting in”!

Have you ever had trouble relinquishing a label? How did you do it? Had trouble changing careers or lifestyle or habits because you identify so strongly with being that thing you have been? Have you experienced challenges starting something new because you have been hanging onto something that no longer serves you because your identity is so intertwined with it?

We can chat about these ideas over on our Co-creative Healing Arts Facebook Page. LIKE us on facebook to continue the discussion. And for more information on what my husband and I offer at Co-Creative Healing Arts, please check out our web site,


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