I’ve always been one to pursue personal growth and development – partially because I had a few things I had to overcome from my upbringing if I wanted a truly free and happy life; but it’s just always been in my nature to want to grow and evolve. In hindsight, although there were many books, many attempts at meditation, many times trying to develop a passion for yoga, and many courses and retreats, there are three key pursuits that helped to propel me to the happy and in my opinion, successful life, I enjoy today.The three things are (1) Landmark Education; (2) committing myself to my Christian faith and deepening my relationship with God; and (3) PAX Programs. In a nutshell, Landmark helped me to break off the things I was carrying that didn’t serve me, developing a relationship with God helped me to become lovable (by myself and others), and PAX taught me how I could still be a strong, independent woman who could be voluntarily vulnerable in relationship with men, hence giving rise to a healthy and fulfilling relationship and then marriage.
(1) Landmark: Clearing the Space
Landmark Education runs many programs, but their flagship is the Landmark Forum. It’s a weekend long, fairly intensive program. I first did Landmark Forum almost 20 years ago when I was living in New York doing a Mountbatten internship program. I don’t even remember who brought me there, but I know it was a turning point in my life. I’ve spoken a little bit about the challenges of growing up with a really brilliant, high-achieving sister, and the label of mediocrity I’d put on myself. Landmark helped me to let go of that – so much so that I forged my way on to medical school, and a life in the United States that I love. Without Landmark then, I probably wouldn’t have had enough belief in myself, and would have gone back to Australia and found a mediocre job somewhere. There are a few things about Landmark I’m not crazy about, such as some of their marketing strategies – but what I got out of it far outweighed my discomfort around those things.
I repeated Landmark Forum about five years ago, and found it to be equally powerful in my life. My business has grown exponentially since then, and I no longer feel hampered by feelings of limitation or lack. I think the thing that sunk in the most for me at the Forum was the teaching that when something happens in our lives, there are two things about it – there’s the what happened, then there’s the story we create around what happened. It’s the story we create around things that usually causes us pain and suffering, so now, with that awareness, I can catch myself making up stories – interpretations if you will, through my own filters – and they’re not necessarily true. Just that insight alone has helped me so much in how I perceive the things that happen in my life.
So Landmark got rid of the old stories, the old hangups, the old perceptions … and left a clear slate on which to build a great future.
(2) Relationship With God: Letting Love In
I was brought up Church of England, and attended a Christian school, but it was all pretty much a formality. I would not say I had a deep and meaningful relationship with God, nor an active church life. My ongoing desire for spiritual connection always led me into more esoteric realms, a more new-age spirituality. I always craved the spiritual connection, but just never really found it until I found my way back into the Christian church.
As is often the case, I was at a pretty low point in my life when I started going to church. I was in pain and was desperate for relief, being in the end stages of a pretty unhealthy relationship. I first went to The Rock Church here in San Diego – a huge non-denominational Christian church. A couple of my friends went too, and it was here that I committed myself to the Lord and started putting roots down in the Church.
After a few months, I was told about C3 – Christian City Church. It was a smaller church than the Rock (that wouldn’t have been hard!), and it was based out of Australia with a strong San Diego base. The pastors are Australian and many attendees are Australian. I loved it! C3 took my much deeper in my faith than the Rock, and I thrived there. I got into a small home group, a women’s prayer group and made some wonderful friends who I’m still close with today. I made one friend in particular who set it as his mission to make me feel loved and remind me constantly of the love God has for me. He was persistent in his mission, and although it was not in the cards for he and I to develop a relationship together, he definitely helped me to feel God’s love and accept God’s love. I also saw a Christian counselor throughout those months, and she also helped me to walk into God’s love and open my heart to it.
I know that without that process, my heart might have stayed closed and protected. I might always have sought out a loving God but not been able to find Him, purely because of my own reservedness.
I no longer go to C3 because my husband is Catholic, so I converted to Cathlolicism to marry him. I miss C3 at times but it was important to me to marry someone and share the same faith, in particular in raising children. It was the right decision, and I find the same God in the Catholic church as I found at C3, just with a very different presentation!! I still listen to my worship music when I want to feel filled with the spirit, and still pray fervently, as my fellow Christians there taught me to do!
PAX: Relationship With Men
PAX, created and led by Allison Armstrong, is such an amazing organization, and I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. PAX helped me to understand men – and understand them for who they truly are, not who we women want them to be or try to make them be. PAX also influenced who I am around men. It was 3 days after a PAX retreat that I met Dave, and it was in direct response to something Allison said during that weekend about how we connect with men, and how much they just light up when we say hello to them and are friendly to them. It was such a simple comment, and just spoken off the cuff, but I came home from that weekend and decided I’d be more friendly to men on a daily basis – not flirtatious, but just opening up, saying hello, smiling at them. Allison reminded us of how much that just makes their day, but how many women are walking around in “protection” mode and closed off. I started saying hello to people I’d pass when I was on my runs in the mornings, and within a few days, I was saying hello to Dave. Within a week we had our first date. Within a year we were planning a wedding, expecting a baby and buying a house. All because I looked up, open minded and open hearted, said hello and smiled. The funniest part was that later on, he told me he’d been saying hello to me for a couple of weeks, but I hadn’t responded to him. I didn’t even know! That’s how much my blinkers were on!!
PAX helped me to understand men – the stages they go through in their own lives and what that means for them in terms of career and relationships. They also helped me to walk into my own femininity. I think it’s easy for strong, career-oriented women to live in masculine energy much of the time – achievement, accomplishment, working hard, striving, etc etc – are all quite masculine qualities. The feminine qualities of being still, being able to receive, being soft, vulnerable, loved – I needed a reminder that those were in me too. PAX helped me to remember who I am in this world and the values that I stand for, which I then apply to everything I do. PAX workshops are also fun, vibrant and very positive in their energy, and I met some amazing women there.
I recognize that there are many paths to personal growth – some involving varying faiths, some involving informal self-education, some involving formal education, workshops, retreats. To me there is no right or wrong way as it’s all so personal and individual – these are just my three foundations of personal growth that have helped me the most in my own life.
What is important to me is to keep moving forward, keep growing, keep deepening my faith, and keep being the person I was designed to be. I also won’t say that personal growth work is easy – it can be challenging, confronting and painful at times. But the results have been so worth it for me. I now live in positive thoughts where I used to live in negative thoughts, I now believe that I can do anything I want to do, I now feel that I’m a place where I can be a good wife, treating my husband with love and respect. Most of all, I feel that I am lovable, which has allowed me to be loved by God, my husband, and others. It has led me to a happy and fulfilled life, with a sense of true freedom.