I’ve always felt like an outsider, like Neo in the original Matrix. Living two lives.
One, in a traditional corporate career trapped inside my own expectations. Lawyer, consultant, executive.
The other, trying to figure out why doing what I was supposed to wasn’t making me happy, and determining what actually would.
Even as I hid that second identity for many years, I had some powerful insights along the way. Insights that helped me manage stress and be more present, and that helped others along their path as I figured out my own.
Insights that eventually helped me own my full identity, and to help more and more leaders own theirs.
But none of those insights was as powerful, as profound, as utterly simple as what I saw last July 7.
I was sitting at my dining room table listening to a conversation between Stephan Bodian, a spiritual teacher I’ve done some work with, and Sam Harris on Sam’s “Waking Up” podcast.
I remember Stephan saying something about noticing that all we are ever doing is experiencing sensations. And suddenly I was not Jeff.
Instead, I was a presence, an aliveness, that was so much bigger than what I had ever experienced as Jeff. A presence that was looking through Jeff’s eyes, that was, as I explained to Stephan later, “waking up from the meat suit.”
Something that had none of my characteristics or history or stories.
Something that had always existed, beyond birth or death.
In just a few seconds I had no doubt that “I” was not who I thought I was.
And in a moment, years of anxiety dissolved, as I suddenly got the cosmic joke.
As I lay awake that night, energy pulsed through me. Every time I closed my eyes, any sense of a body, of a boundary, collapsed.
I was the universe and the universe was me and even the idea of “I” seemed confining and silly.
Why do I bring this up now?
Because it happened again last week.
And because I realized in retrospect that seeing this has totally changed my coaching work.
Where before I talked about the possibility that we were more than our personal identity, that we had unlimited creative potential, I now KNOW this to be true.
And it seems to have an impact on my clients. Whether I talk about it or not.
I just finished a two day retreat with a serial founder to start a year of work together.
He was skeptical of taking two days away during an incredibly busy time.
But thirty minutes in, he told me I had already made my fee for the year.
The way that he had thought about his business, his legacy, his life, had begun to shift in that short a time.
He described his experience as “a calming presence.” He saw a way to be that he had not been aware of. And a mission that seemed larger and more possible than ever.
He’s not done. We never are. We go deeper and deeper the more we look in this direction.
The more we see what we truly are.
What do you see? What’s possible for you?