Person vs Self: Conquering Your Toughest Foe
By: Benjamin "Foghladha" Foley | : 2101
In life, we quickly learn that the toughest raid boss we face is the person in the mirror. Nothing is more destructive to our own lives than ourselves. We punish ourselves more than anyone should. We belittle and discount ourselves more than anyone will. The greatest battle we face in our lives, is one of Person vs Self.
Staci Brooke has made a living by helping people defeat that battle through spirituality and unraveling their personal barriers. Her methods seem strange—and sometimes outright paranormal—but her results can't be argued with. She speaks to you in way that makes you hear her. Sometimes that requires adopting terminology that you would understand, and sometimes it requires pulling you out of your comfort zone.
I personally have witnessed her change the lives of two of my friends for the better through her methods. While I myself am a skeptic and put my faith in science, I can't help but acknowledge that whatever her methods are, they show results. After all, I've never been to Africa but I believe it is there. Who am I to say something I don't understand and haven't witnessed for myself isn't real?
I've seen my best friend pretty much overnight become a driven person who shed over 90 pounds after years and years of looking for excuses and belittling himself. He came out the other side a strong, perseverant, and empowered man who commands respect and is focused on his mission now. Like a man freed from his shackles of self-loathing, he now soars like an eagle.
Today I sit down with Staci and discuss the common roadblocks people find themselves in and how she manages to get people past them.
Thank you Staci for joining us to talk to us about your tradecraft. Can you tell us about yourself and what it is that you do?
I think the simplest explanation of what I do is that I stop, look, listen, and then go ahead and tell healing stories. Some of my clients call me their life coach. Some call me a shaman or a wise woman or a seer. A few call me their lightning bolt! I like that one. I’ve been accused of having Big Medicine, especially around the story quilts I make. Finding relevant information, and making it accessible continues to be a talent of mine.
My big goal is to build bridges for my clients. When I sit down with someone in a Life Coaching session, they tell me what they want to change about their life, or where they feel stuck, or what they are afraid of. I get a picture of their life patterns and ask questions about past challenges or difficulties they’ve experienced, because everything is connected. Usually, the way forward out of the current problem, or toward the life they dream of, has to do with changing old patterns of behavior and belief.
In 2008, I began working part-time as a Life Coach and Wise Woman. At the same time, I was pursuing my professional career as a Reference Librarian, and before that I was a secretary for about ten years. From on-the-job experience, I learned about leadership, listening, team-building, time-management, business organization, and asking the right questions. It’s amazing how many doors you can unlock by asking questions!
I still love public libraries, and I’m proud of my MLS, but it became politically and emotionally difficult to juggle my calling as a life coach and healer, and my responsibilities to the library system and the general public. I’ve devoted myself to my calling full-time since 2013. As both a life coach and a textile artist, I combine empathic listening skills with my understanding of sociology, communication, world mythology, symbolism, modern academic research and traditional healing techniques. I use all that to tell real-life everyday stories about where we are, what is possible, and how we get from here to there successfully.
Can you tell us a little bit about energy healing and where it's rooted from?
If you look at just about any traditional or cultural belief system, or even take a basic biology class, you discover that there is energy in all things. And that these energies interact with each other. If you’ve ever been yelled at by an angry driver, or watched a kid with a new toy, then you know emotions have a lot of energy attached to them as well!
In India, this energy is part of an ancient system called “Chakras.” There are specific healing qualities for each chakra, and treatments range from the use of certain essential oils and stones to vocalizations and mantras (A mantra is a statement of belief—“I am good enough.” or “I belong.” or “Why not me?”). I find this interesting because modern Christians sometimes use similar vocalizations in the form of prayer and chanting, incense, and sacred artifacts to offer healing or change the energy of a situation. Native Americans and Mayans also work with sacred smoke, healing plants, healing stones, and prayer bundles and necklace shields similar in function to a cross or rosary. You find similar traditions in Chinese mythology, Acupuncture, and on and on around the world. Even many larger hospitals now offer pain-management programs that include movement and breathing techniques like yoga and meditation. Ever hear of doTerra oils or Rescue Remedy? These were also originally based in the field of energy healing, though they’re now available on many supermarket shelves.
Energy healing is the process of using clean energy—good vibrations of a particular kind—to reinstate a healthy balance in the energy of the unhealthy or unhappy person. It’s like tuning a violin string, or a guitar, or a harp by comparing it to an instrument that is already in-tune. I took an entry level biology class in a nursing program a few years ago. I was astonished to hear my grumpy old white-haired professor explain about atoms, and how the electrons that circle each atom in waves of energy are different, depending on the kind of matter you are dealing with. An atom of a stone has this set number of electron rings sticking out around it. A molecule of water has this kind of electron ring. And if you heat up those electrons of the water—they change! If you add another chemical to the water, its electrons interact with the chemical and become something different. We even use ionization in our air cleaners (negatively charged particles that vibrate at a different frequency, just like salt lamps, and pull pollutants out of the air by attaching to them).
There I was in a science class, having the reality of my energy work proven to me; everything is made up of energy, and the energy of one thing interacts and affects the energy of something else. So imagine if you grew up in a home full of negative energy. Or a home where people were being hurt and abused. Or a home that was dirty all the time. Imagine the long-term effect that might have on YOUR energy. Your subconscious bone-deep understanding of what you deserve to have, or to be in the world. Or what you think you have to do to be successful. Maybe those old beliefs are making you physically ill, or are holding you back from living a life you love. Maybe it’s time for a tune-up! Time to make some beautiful music with your particular life, skills, and way of being in the world.
What makes you a Shaman?
A traditional shaman spends years apprenticing with a master and learning the way of a specific culture and belief system. Usually, there is an initiation process where the apprentice has a near-death experience and learns a higher way of being in the world. Urban shamans today seem to have the near-death experience in common with that beautiful sacred traditional way, but we don’t often have the opportunity or the bent for a specific and extensive training process within a specific culture or tradition. I once read in one of Michael Harner’s articles (he’s considered the father of American shamanism) that around the world, the core of what a shaman does is to be a bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds.
If you want to jump your life forward, you have to have a solid foundation. Ever tried jumping in loose sand? You don’t go very high for all the effort you put out. So we build a solid foundation, and we talk realistically about where you are trying to go, and why. Then it’s just a matter of stepping over to the next part of your life path. To the good stuff. I call that building bridges. And it is different for each person I work with. Sometimes if a client is really doing their work, but something not of their making is holding them back, I do a little energy work. This will break their personal “glass ceiling,” or strengthen the weakest part of their metaphorical “bridge to a better life.” I’ve had clients say they even look different to their friend or partner after we do that kind of work.
I call myself a shaman because many of my clients call me that. Because I build bridges of possibility, and because I’ve been honored to see so many of my clients and former clients transform from stuck and unhappy into beautiful, fulfilled and happy lives that they are busy creating for themselves. Your friend is a great example of someone who came to see me, put in the work, and really transformed his life. I love that! I think for me the key is transformation. And it only works if the client is fully committed to the process, and to the goal. I can’t help you until you are ready to transform yourself. Frustrating, but true. In fact, most of my clients work with me for several months to really make the shift in their life, and to make sure they have the tools and skills they need to be confident in themselves and their path moving forward.
When you look at people, how do you see them?
It is a little bit like being in the gym locker room. I try not to look too closely unless I’m given permission, but I generally get a sense of a person’s heart. Their general energy. Are they good-hearted? Are they dangerous? Broken? Overwhelmingly desperate? I became a reference librarian because I like digging for answers, so I see all these people who are struggling, and the first thing I want to know is why. And I guarantee, whether you know it or not, you already have the answer to that. It’s part of your life story. So when I look at people, the other thing I see is their potential—the answers waiting to happen. The unwritten parts. Each person is this amazing choose-your-own-adventure story, and nobody can make those choices for you. But I can help you read what you’ve written so far, and give you new information and ideas so that you can become conscious of the choices you have, and intentional about how and what adventure you choose next! I actually had to learn to see people as they are now—and not just as these fabulous possibilities—because we all have free will. Not everyone will choose to live up to that beautiful potential of theirs. And I have to accept that. It’s okay.
If I’m in a session, and the client gives me permission to look deeper, I sometimes see pools of energy in the body. I’ve learned that these pools usually correspond to a person’s physical state, and their emotional history, or life patterns. So if you’ve carried a lot of anger in your heart for a long time, I’m going to see that you don’t let much energy move through that part of your body. You’re holding on too tightly to an old fear or an old injustice. And I’ll ask questions about that. In fact, I’ll probably give you homework similar to someone with high blood pressure or who is in danger of a heart attack. We’ll work together to find something else you can hold on to—something healthy. I rarely see the physical person in front of me at all, unless I make an effort to see that part of them. Height, weight, hair style… It’s just skin deep, you know. And really, everyone is beautiful in their own way. Every life story matters. It’s the stories I’m interested in. And the general state of your emotional heart, your center. Sometimes what I see is a lot more literal, though.
Have you ever been wrong?
I had a booth once, early on, where I was practicing giving strangers energy readings at a conference. I was taking the opportunity to practice “looking deeper” without already knowing anything about my client. I had a father sit down and stare intensely at me, and demand a reading of what was going on in his eye. He was kinda short, very muscular, wearing a diamond-striped sweater, and very determined. His wife and kids all stood around us looking impatient. No pressure. Well, I could tell he was a little limited in his vision (he looked so intensely at a goal that he couldn’t see anything else, I suspect), and I could tell there was something “pinching” inside one eye. He told me he was about to have surgery in that eye and wanted to know if he really needed it. I had no idea, and told him my “sight” wasn’t that good. I could tell that a doctor needed to get in there and figure out what was wrong, but that was all. What I see is more about emotions. So then he asked me to “scan” for anything else.
I looked and looked, but the only thing I could find was what looked like an Army tattoo on his chest. So I tried to figure out what that meant. And I asked him a bunch of questions. “Are you in the military?” Nope. “Do you have a lot of anger?” Nope. (His wife and I exchanged a glance at that one—because obviously, he did.) Does your work take over your life?” Nope. Finally after about ten minutes of trying to figure out what I was supposed to “interpret” about what I was seeing, his wife and kids were ready to leave. So I said, “Well. I don’t know what to make of this, but I keep seeing this Army tattoo on your chest right there. What does it mean to you?” And he replied, “Oh, yah. I have an Army tattoo right there.” And got up and walked away. I just sat there and laughed!
I remind myself of this story anytime I start to feel too full of myself and my abilities. Because so often my client knows more about what is going on in their life and their body than I ever will. Anytime I get too ego-focused, life gives me a little lesson in humility, and I get to eat a little humble pie. I’ve learned to laugh at the humor and ironies of my life, and learn from them before I move on. It’s part of my work as a shaman to be truthful and open—with myself as well as everyone else.
What type of roadblocks do you see most often in people?
Most people are afraid they won’t like themselves very much. They don’t want to slow down or be alone long enough to find out. We worry that we aren’t good people, or we believe there is something wrong with us that is the root of why bad things happen to us—we worry that we deserve those bad things somehow. Basically, the root of almost all roadblocks is a fear of not being lovable, or a fear of not being loved. We all want to belong, to feel good about ourselves, and to feel good about our place in the world.
Often, my clients are looking for the “magic formula” that will get them a great career, a great partner, or an easier life. Or they find themselves repeating the same unhappy scenario over and over, and they get frustrated—health fails, or diet fails, or career fails, or relationship fails, or just a sense of disappointment in how our lives turned out so far. They want something more, something different. They want the perfect partner, or the perfect job. They want to change their relationship with money, or they want to stop being so worried/upset/depressed/angry/unhappy all the time. They want to feel good about themselves.
Most of the time, we discovered a “rule of life” as children that kept us safe when we were little. But it isn’t working for us anymore, and we’re still trying to make the rule work for us like it used to. And we get really upset and frustrated because life isn’t working out like it’s “supposed to.” I have occasionally had clients who felt the rest of the world was at fault for their problems. These clients don’t often come back to see me, because it takes a lot of courage to look at our own mistakes and unhealthy patterns of behavior, and say “maybe I can do that differently next time.” That’s where I come in. I help you figure out why that WAS your pattern, and then give you ways to practice doing it differently. We figure out what you can change, and what is out of your control. And I give you the new, adult understanding of how your life might work a little more smoothly. Sustainable success. I also make sure my clients know that they are worthwhile, valuable, lovable. Sometimes the hardest thing to hear is a compliment. Always, I tell people the truth—the good, the bad, and the bridges.
What was one of your most memorable moments? What was one of the oddest things you've ever encountered?
First, I want to say that I am sharing this story from my own perspective, and that I hold great sadness for any mother who has ever lost a child. I have no idea what that is like for you. I can only say what the following experience was like for me.
I was teaching my favorite life-changing workshop for women in transition, called The Self-Centering Woman. Everyone in this particular group happened to be over 55, and there were a lot of great life experiences and great goals among the women. You have to understand, this workshop is all about discovering the way each person makes decisions about what is possible in their life—how we limit ourselves, lose our balance and lose our way—and how to find ourselves again. We ask questions like, “What do you want for your daughter’s career choices to be?” and then we ask ourselves, “Well, okay, why can’t YOU have that, too?” And then we destroy the “why-can’t-you rule” that is holding you back from living a good life, and replace it with a healthy plan, and some realistic next-steps. There’s nothing shamanic or woo-woo about it—just good old logic.
Well, suddenly, I had this really strong vision of a man about my age standing behind one of the women’s chairs. And he was staring at me with this look of hope on his face. I just knew I had to tell her about him. And he did a mime of himself rocking a baby. So I eased into this crazy conversation where I tell a perfectly nice normal woman that I see a ghost who wants to talk to her by asking, “Did you ever have children?” Yes, two grown kids. “I hate to ask, but did any of them die as babies?” She burst into tears. Yes.
I was able to be the bridge for that first step toward her forgiving herself for her son’s death. That guilt and pain were really holding her back. It was not about forgetting her son, but about letting go of the belief that she was somehow “unworthy” of having a good life herself. That man just held so much love for his mom; we were all sitting in the room crying by the end of it.
Together we figured out that I was seeing the energy of the child she’d lost, as he would have been today if he’d lived. It was deep, powerful, beautiful and sad. It was totally crazy. And the next day, I was still in awe. I called a good friend, and yelled into the phone, “GUESS WHAT?! I CAN SEE GHOSTS—THE SPIRIT ENERGY OF PEOPLE!!!” and she said, “Yah, I know. You helped me communicate with my dad a year ago, remember?”
So when a person comes to you, do you just wiggle your fingers and they’re fixed? How exactly does this work? What steps are necessary for a person to heal?
I wish I had a magic wand to fix the world’s problems, but I don’t. It is so tempting to believe that we can walk up to a stranger and they can fix all our problems in a blink of an eye. The reality is, that it takes work to make changes. Small steps forward that we repeat over and over until you realize you’ve actually made a lot of progress toward your goal. If you just want to know what I “see,” I can give you that in a single two-hour session. But it will be harsh. Painful. And I sometimes worry that it does more harm than good, because there isn’t a lot of context, no safety net or foundation to build from. Most people don’t want to hear it anyway. Not like that. They (rightfully) get defensive and close themselves off from the information that might—in a more compassionate context—help them learn to love themselves, get stronger, and live a life they are proud of.
If you want support, new skills and personal or professional progress to happen while you work with me, please plan to work with me over several months. We might meet every month, or every six weeks, depending on what you need and where you’re at in your process. We’ll talk a lot, I might ask you to hold a stone for a while or go home and light a candle for an hour every night. I give homework, but I never judge a person for not doing it. One friend of mine laughs that I told her she had to eat more spinach and stare in the mirror saying “I love you” to herself until she believed it. She just graduated with her second master’s degree and is heading toward the career of her dreams—and she knows which foods make her sick now, too.
I ask everyone I work with to sign a paper that they agree I can tell parts of their story (with respect, and without personal identifying details) in order to help others heal. We need to know we aren’t the only ones struggling with that—whatever it is. You are not alone. And other people have worked through that. Here’s what worked for them. I believe in you. We’ll get you there, safe and sound, too.
In my weekly check-in email, I often tell healing stories by taking bits and pieces from many different clients who all had experiences around a common theme. I craft a generic story. And then I get three or four excited replies asking if I was using THEIR STORY to help someone!! One sign of a healing story is that many people recognize themselves in it. It tells of a common fear, or a common experience that we can all learn and grow from.
And I give my clients little gifts to help them along the way. It is a journey we take together—a journey into healing and into learning to live a life you love. The hardest part (just ask my friend with the spinach—she told me to use her as an example) is letting go of any fixed goals. You may find that what really makes you happy and fulfilled isn’t what you thought—and that changing a part of your life you never thought about before, will actually draw everything you want toward you in this other area. Loving yourself, loving your life, loving the process of living and figuring it all out—this gives people a kind of glow that is really magnetic—good things just kinda get drawn into these people's’ orbit. But again, it’s a slow process with a big grand finish that sorta creeps up on you when you finally stop worrying about it.
In more concrete terms, sessions last about two hours, and I have met with clients over the phone, or skype, or with a photo of them in front of me. But I prefer face-to-face appointments first if possible. Expect to get really tired and need a nap after our session. Ever have a really great therapeutic massage? Know how you don’t really want to drive in heavy traffic right after? Same thing. I even remind you to drink lots of water, and do your homework exercises, just like they do.
What kind of tools do you use? Any black cats or brooms?
Nahh! Comfortable chairs. Kleenex for crying. Lots of paper and pens for taking notes, making lists, getting organized… Maybe a little rebalancing of energy now and then, if I have a client’s permission… I do make Blessing Bags sometimes, and traditional Native American Prayer Bundles as my drum teacher taught me, but that is rare unless a client specifically requests it. I often have semiprecious stones around, but my biggest tools go back to my library days: Books! I don’t know everything, so it is really helpful to point to an expert or two, who has written intelligently on whatever topic we end up discussing.
What is the difference between energy work and spiritual work?
That really depends on the individual’s belief system. I do my best to respect my clients’ beliefs in my work, and in our conversation. I’ll ask about any spiritual beliefs or concerns/questions regarding energy work at the start of a session, so that we can explore your problem and needs (and I can explain homework) in the most respectful manner.
Personally, I think they’re often the same thing. Have you heard of the Forgiveness Project? Look it up on Amazon. Scientists teamed up with the priest assigned to a large cancer treatment clinic to study the power of forgiveness. They found that the patients who really worked at it and were able to wholeheartedly forgive the people who had hurt them in their lives—and forgive themselves—almost always were able to go into remission or heal from the cancer. Those who didn’t participate in the project or who were unable to forgive had about a 50% success rate. Body, mind, spirit, emotion, energy, tree, fish, rock, sun… We’re all connected somehow.
Do you have an ethical code for how you use your skills?
Absolutely. As a life coach and a shaman, integrity is a lifestyle for me. I do NOT want to misuse my gifts! I do NOT want to break the trust of my clients and community. Not only am I respectful of what my clients tell me in-session, but I do my best to respect boundaries—spoken and unspoken—wherever I am. One of my strongest gifts is the ability to tell the truth in a compassionate and accepting way. I don’t lie. But I don’t set out to hurt, ever. And I do my best to live up to my beliefs in my real life. Live well, do well, be well.
I also work hard to create a safe space for shining a light on your dark side (insert Darth Vader breathing here), for trying out new ideas and new ways of being in the world, and I walk my talk. I’m a work-in-progress, too. We all are. As part of my ethical code, I also make it clear that my clients can interrupt me at any point in a session with questions, or to tell me I’m on the wrong track, or to say when a topic is off limits. You do know what is best for you, after all. And whatever I offer, take what works for you, and don’t worry about the rest. I get really upset when I see people offering to ride in on a white horse and fix your life for a set price. Or warning you that it might be too late, act now before the pumpkin disappears! There is no magic slipper, and neither one of us is Cinderella!
At the end of the day what do you hope people can walk away with?
Believe in yourself. Trust yourself. You don’t have to wear a mask and a cape, and have superpowers to make the world a better place. You also don’t have to do it alone. Just be aware—nobody can fix your problems for you.
Everyone deserves support, encouragement, and a hand up over the rough spots. Nobody’s life is perfect. What this means is that it can keep getting better and better over time! I’m a big believer in counseling, healing, therapy, life coaching—whatever you want to call it. If the first person you try to work with isn’t a good fit, try somebody else. It’s like interviewing someone to be your best friend. They have to listen to you, respect you, laugh with you, bring you new information and insights, and challenge you!
Healing Stories Life Coaching
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About the Author
Benjamin "Foghladha" Foley
Benjamin founded the Gaiscioch Social Gaming Community in 2001 and has since been the founder & activities director for this well known community. His role has gone beyond just running the Gaming Community and now includes running the Athletics Program in Portland, Oregon, as well as acting as the Managing Editor of the Gaiscioch Magazine, and is the Lead Producer on the Gaiscioch Livestream Productions. Additionally he networks with game developers to form relationships between Gaiscioch and development studios.
His experience in publishing dates back to helping his Grandparents who operated a printing press for over 40 years. In high school and college Benjamin excelled in journalism and played an active part in the school newspaper. Benjamin currently works full time as the director of technology for a franchise trade publication & education company.