“We are shaped by our thoughts
We become what we think
When the mind is pure
Like a shadow that Never Leaves”
Siddhartha Gautama –
If the Buddha was a blogger he could pretty much stop there and hit publish, because really what more is there to say? That’s a drop the microphone statement and my Infinite Possibilities friends know a little something about dropping the mic!
I’m nowhere near as profound as the Buddha so I will continue to write. After approximately a year of living in a Universe where I finally realize the Infinite Possibilities of life and my divine responsibility, I’m approaching that shadow of joy referenced by Buddha. While I hope that shadow never leaves I accept that the journey is filled with both ecstasies and contrasts. I will gladly spend my days remaining in this lifetime pursuing not only my contentment, but helping others find their own joy. Here’s a portion of my story and one that is quite appropriate to tell on this day of Triple Infinity – 8/8/2015.
I’ve lived a life of peaks and valleys. Much like all of you, some of those summits have been dizzyingly high and some of those valleys have been miserably low. And the amazing thing is that no matter how hard I try to navigate the path of life, BOTH the peaks AND the valleys keep coming! In fact it is usually when I’m navigating the hardest to get out of the valley that I find myself sinking the deepest! Isn’t it true?
The day that I married Christiana in August of 2013 I truly didn’t think life could get any better. The day was perfect. The venue was perfect. The ceremony was perfect. And the man who performed the ceremony was perfection embodied. Our dear friend Richard Harsch put more love and caring into our wedding ceremony than any two people could have ever dreamed of.
The high that we carried forward from our wedding day was such a lofty high that we both thought or a while that there quite possibly were no more valleys left in our lives. We carried that tidal wave of love and joy straight through to the end of 2013 and into a new year with excitement and opportunity. Then in January of 2014, Christiana came to me and told me something I didn’t want to hear. She told me we had to move.
We didn’t need to move because we had new jobs or because we were relocating. We didn’t need to move because we hated our home. We didn’t need to move because our landlords were selling. We needed to move because we were hemorrhaging money way faster than it was coming in and we could no longer afford our fancy downtown high-rise lifestyle and if we didn’t move we might end up going bankrupt.
To many people moving is one of the more stressful experiences they have to deal with. To me moving is like being yanked out of my shell, tossed out to sea amongst the sharks, and left to drown while scrambling to find any sense of new stability. Yes, if you haven’t guessed by now I am indeed a Cancer the Crab.
This Cancer had lived within a three-block radius of the State Street and Roosevelt Street intersection since I moved to Chicago in 1990. Now it was time not only to find a new shell to live in but also a whole new ocean. There was no way we could afford anything in the once fledgling and now flourishing South Loop. Despite my vehement protestation we set out to find a new neighborhood in which to reside. The process took some time and a little creative visualization. That visualization is another story altogether, but eventually we settled into a nice three bedroom apartment in a north side neighborhood called Peterson Park. Things were going okay. I was starting to feel like I might live through the whole experience. Then April 9, 2014 arrived.
On April 9, 2014 I was in a yoga class and I looked down and my phone was ringing. The strange thing is I almost never take my phone into yoga class. In the entire 20 years I have been practicing I may have done it a dozen times. On that night I was running late for class and I accidentally walked into the room as class was starting with my phone in hand so I threw it down by my mat and started to practice. Clearly it wasn’t an accident. About ten minutes into class when I noticed I was getting a call from our dear friend Richard’s wife, I knew instantly that something was wrong.
Richard and I talked daily but his wife Rhonda had never called me before. Not even once. I left the studio, answered the phone and heard these words, “James, I need you to come right away. I just got home and Richard is face down in bed. He’s grey and I don’t know if he’s breathing. The ambulance is on the way. I couldn’t think of anyone else to call.”
As I left the studio and began my drive up Lake Shore Drive to Weiss Memorial Hospital I started to compose Richard’s eulogy in my head because I already knew the outcome. Little did I know at the time, that in delivering Richard’s eulogy I would be speaking in front of a group of people for the first time in my lifetime. I have now spoken to groups almost 100 times in the last year alone. I’d rather not thank Richard for starting my speaking career the WAY he did it, but at the very least I will recognize with gratitude the fact that he has been the Source of so much of my determination in the last year.
Richard’s death sent me on a downward spiral into the deepest valley of depression I have experienced in this lifetime. Over the summer of 2014 I was miserable. I was drinking way too much, I was overweight, I hated the way I looked and I had barely begun to adjust to living in a location that I could settle for but didn’t love. Richard had become a combination of an older brother/father figure to me in the three years we knew each other in this lifetime. His unconditional love for me was equal to that of a grandparent. I treasured our daily conversations. He stimulated me to THINK and he inspired me to do something special with my life because he always told me I possessed more wisdom than anyone he had ever met. In fact it was Richard himself that first suggested that I should go into mentoring and coaching. His suggestion came over breakfast in the Spring of 2013 while we were spending time together preparing the wedding ceremony. One year later in the summer of 2014 the concept of finishing my coaching certification seemed utterly ludicrous to me. How in the world was I supposed to help other people figure their lives out when I was a complete and total train wreck?!
As I sank deeper and deeper into my despair Christiana watched and worried. She too was grieving the loss of our friend and was in pain from the suffering we were enduring, but she all too well understood that I had lost the equivalent of a sibling in Richard’s death. In early July of 2013 she came to me and said, “I have an idea.” I said to her, “I hope you’re not going to tell me we need to move again!” I spoke only slightly tongue in cheek and very passive-aggressively. She went on to tell me that she had been following these things called “Notes from the Universe” and that the author of the Notes, Mike Dooley, was coming to our hometown in Chicago for a conference. She told me that she thought maybe I was supposed to go to the conference. Perhaps it would be the kick in the pants I needed to get me out of my funk and back on the path to coaching and having a life filled with purpose. I knew right away who Mike Dooley was when she said his name. Christiana didn’t realize it at the time, but I knew Mike Dooley as one of the teachers featured in The Secret, which was a book that figured prominently in the story of Christiana and I coming together. That too is another story for another day.
I then asked Christiana how much the conference cost. She told me it cost $1000. The sound of my jaw hitting the ground still echoes in our apartment to this day. I think I said something to her along the lines of, “We haven’t even paid off the $1000 it cost us to move to this place I hate. Where in the hell am I supposed to come up with $1000 to go hear some Woo Hoo freak tell me how to fix my broken life!”
Wisely she let a day or two pass and then she came back to me and said, “I have an idea about that conference…” I asked her what her idea was. She reminded me that my 50th birthday was coming up. That little milestone, by the way, was not helping me get out of my depression at all! She said that maybe we could tell my friends that instead of birthday gifts this year people could contribute to my education fund for future coaching training. I believe my reply was something like this, “So you want me to ask my friends to give me money so I can go try to fix my broken life by listening to a Woo Hoo person talk for four days. Not a chance!”
Once again Christiana wisely let a day or two pass as her idea germinated. About ten days before my 50th birthday she came to me again and told me that lots of people had been asking her what I wanted for my birthday. She said that she thought if she wrote a tasteful email that said something along the lines of. “No gifts for Jim’s birthday party this year. If you insist on doing something I recommend you contribute to Jim’s workshop and seminar fund. As many of you know he has been studying coaching and has a few conferences on his radar that he’d like to attend.”
I finally succumbed. I told her that she could send the email from her own personal email account. That she should send it only to people who actually asked or people who had been invited to my party. I think I added that I didn’t like the idea but she had worn me down.
Sure enough in the ensuing days people started dropping by work or showing up at one of my yoga classes with cards and words of encouragement. Many of them said that they couldn’t make my party but they really believed in what I was doing. Some people put a few dollars in their cards or a check. Then on the day of my 50th birthday many more people gave cards with words of support and contributions. The money part was nice, but really it was the support and love that people were directing my way about following a path that they thought truly fit my ultimate life purpose that I placed the most value on. After everyone left that night we opened up all the cards and when we counted all the money and checks we didn’t only have enough money for me to go to Mike Dooley’s conference in Chicago. We had enough money for both of us to go to the conference…plus three dollars extra!
And if the fact that we came within $3 isn’t remarkable enough, get this! The reason we had reached such an odd number was because one of my friends always ends the checks they write for gifts with the number 8 for good luck. What happens when you turn an 8 on its side? You’ve guessed it; the infinity symbol. We were about to be on our way together to a conference entitled “Infinite Possibilities Train the Trainer” as a gift from our family and friends. Little did they know at that point how priceless the gift was going to become.
On the first day of the conference we could feel the buzz in the air from the few hundred or so high-energy beings gathered together. As the opening speakers took the stage we saw Andy Dooley, Mike’s brother, tell stories and captivate the crowd with humor and passion. We met a woman named Regena Garrepy who was so caring and open-hearted that she was glowing. We saw Mike talk about how he got started and the nature of reality and his take on how Thoughts Become Things. We saw keynote speaker Norberto Perez talk about how he has spent his entire life working with people in the Florida correctional system as they try to rebuild their lives because he decided that his path to a lifetime of happiness was to help other people. After that first hour of presentations I was supercharged. I wanted to rush the stage and tell a story of my own. I turned to Christiana and said, “I want to do that! I want to talk to people about the power of thought and joy and love and help people empower themselves and create amazing lives!”
And then I went home that night and I quickly reminded myself that I wasn’t good enough to do any of that. I told myself that I had no idea how to even get started. I remembered that I was deathly afraid of speaking in front of an audience and I had just spent the summer swimming in an ocean of self-doubt. There was no way any of that was ever going to happen even if I tried for a million years.
The next day we returned to the conference and Mike led us through the day by reviewing the seven chapter workbook he created for his signature Infinite Possibilities program. We talked about his take on the Law of Attraction and how he created the phrase Thoughts Become Things. We learned about how he presented on the topics contained in the program while struggling through his first Toastmaster’s speeches. We learned about how our emotions and beliefs shape the way we think. We talked about the importance of taking action and even when you are presented with nothing but bad options, take the least unattractive option. Do something! We learned about having faith and trusting our instincts. We talked about re-awakening that inner voice we are born with that taps into our deep sense of knowing. Lastly we talked about the meaning of life, more specifically we learned how to redefine what abundance meant to us personally.
At the end of the day I realized that not only was it not going to take a million years before I could ever start to believe in myself again. In fact, in ONE DAY I was given all the information I needed to re-launch my life of divine purpose and joy. I had just been handed the keys to the kingdom and it was my decision what I wanted to do with those keys! Wow!
Christiana and I returned from that four-day conference feeling like we had been filled up with a high-octane rocket fuel. Then our individual and collective re-entry started. We started to get caught up in our own limiting beliefs. We argued about how we might proceed and whether we wanted to teach the material together or separately. We started to tell ourselves once again that we weren’t good enough. Why would anybody listen to us? Who are we to present on the power of thought?
Then one day we pulled out the workbook from the conference, the same workbook that Mike took us through in one day. We started looking at our own exercises and comments. We began to visualize what it might look like if we taught our own workshop. And we began to teach. We revised our joint vision board and set higher goals. When we didn’t have enough room on our existing vision board we built a bigger one out of a piece of plywood and cork and fabric. I’m not about to rehash everything that has happened since that conference. Many of you have followed along for the entire ride though social media and our weekly newsletter, which by the way we borrowed from Mike’s Monday Morning Motivator of years gone by.
Suffice it to say it has been a remarkable year. Yes, it was just a year ago almost to the day that I was still in the valley, still swimming in an ocean of self doubt, still waiting for the ship of my dreams to find me passed out on the couch.
I’ve learned so much about the nature of reality in this last year. I’ve learned so much about myself. Of the many things that I have learned I think the three most important things are these:
- Yes I am good enough!
- To get started with any life change I only need to take action!
- The path to overcoming fear is to trust the process, the Universe and myself!
A very wise man taught me a year ago that I already held the keys to the kingdom in my hand and that everything in my life was exactly how it was supposed to be. I believe that with every fiber of my being and with all my heart.
Now Christiana and I are living the life of our dreams. Our less than a year old business, Emerging into Joy, is thriving! We are helping others find their own voices. We have been certified to share with others a program that helps people empower themselves and create the life of their dreams. In essence we’ve been given a “dealership of kingdoms” and we can pass out keys to anyone who wants to claim their own. What a remarkable year. The word grateful can’t even begin to express the love that is radiating out of my heart.
What’s next for the Herberts? More teaching, speaking, and coaching! I’m sure there will be even more than that and I’m also sure that the Possibilities are Infinite!
Peace and Love and Joy!