05/01/2013 06:36 pm ET Updated Jul 01, 2013

Waking Up

One of the questions I am often asked is to explain the difference between traditional life coaching and what I call "transformative coaching." The difference is actually quite simple:

Traditional life coaching helps you to master the dream of life; transformative coaching helps you to wake up.

(Ironically, waking up makes it easier to master the dream of life too -- it just doesn't wind up mattering so much when you do.)

One of my favorite analogies for waking up was inspired by my mentor George Pransky and is based on the story of Harvey, the 6-foot-tall rabbit who was Jimmy Stewart's imaginary companion in the movie of the same name.

It is in our deepest sleep that we think we are most awake. Our dreams are so vivid and unquestioned that there is no delineation between our thoughts and our reality. At this level of "sleep," you can see and hear and touch the rabbit, and anyone who suggests that the 6-foot-rabbit standing next to you isn't real is clearly insane, up to mischief, or both.

Then, at some point, we receive the gift of doubt. We catch a glimpse of the space between our thoughts -- someone shares a new perspective on things that we can't completely reject. The 6-foot rabbit of our thinking still looks and sounds and feels real to us, but we're beginning to open up to the possibility that maybe things are not exactly as they seem.

Over time, our understanding of the nature of thought deepens, and we can witness our thoughts leading us around by the nose, urging us to feel short of time in the midst of eternity and making us miserable in the midst of paradise. Our moods and experiences seem so random that we start to question our own sanity -- yet ironically, we have never seen things so clearly.

This stage serves as a sort of gateway to waking up -- like a twilight sleep where we aren't quite asleep, but we aren't quite awake enough to do anything about it. We kind of know the 6-foot rabbit isn't real, but we still carry carrots around in our pocket, "just in case." I think of this as the "apologetic" stage of awakening, when our language begins to be peppered with phrases like, "I know this is probably just me, but..."

Finally, with luck or grace or the benevolence of a friendly universe, we awaken within the dream. Through a series of spiritual insights, we see deeply into the nature of thought, and the nature of consciousness, and even into the nature of a universe where everything from the beauty of nature to 6-foot white rabbits to a bowl of vanilla ice cream is made of the same essential energy.

Miracles of transformation can happen because we see through the illusion that there is anything to transform. Our hearts are filled with compassion for the confusion of the sleepwalking masses, and we realize the deeper meaning of phrases like "in the world, but not of it."

I am not awake. But I have my moments of clear seeing, and I am thankful for each and every one of them. They make it easier for me to be, as George once said, "grateful for my highs and graceful with my lows." Each new insight allows me to enjoy my life a little bit more and appreciate the beauty of being exactly where I am.

And while being awake to the fact that I am dreaming is not the same as being fully awakened, for me, for now, it is more than enough.

With all my love,


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