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THE TAO OF CHANGE: An Interview with Sandra Nicholas
Sandra Nicholas compares her work to that of a personal trainer who guides people in their physical workout programs. "I've always thought of myself as a guide or a teacher, but I think it's more or less like a spiritual trainer. I don't fix people. They fix themselves. I am training them just to remember who they really are."
Nicholas is one of a new breed of counselors who are popularly termed intuitive counselors. She calls her work transformational counseling. Her educational curriculum has been a self-designed collection of hundreds of hours of training in seminars and workshops conducted by the Who's Who of the Self-help Movement. As is true of any effective counselor, life experience and the gift of being a good listener are the personal traits that led Nicholas into her work and that continue to draw her clientele.
Nicholas, who describes herself as a recovering Catholic, studied theater arts and psychology in a private Catholic women's college. Her working life was in a corporate environment in communications and public relations. "It wasn't that I liked being in the corporate world, but I felt that was appropriate and that was my priority at the time," she states.
"Even at work," states Nichols, "I would be at the center of the nucleus; people would be telling me their problems, telling me what was going on. I love listening to other people talk about themselves. They would start telling me their secrets that they wouldn't tell anybody else."
The hero of her youth is obviously her hero in adulthood. Her conversation is liberally sprinkled with references to Einstein. As a high school student, Einstein's theory of relativity had Nicholas dizzy with speculation and wonder. "I just thought, wow, what if this thing called Earth is just a pinball in a pinball machine that some bigger place is playing with, and it's still trying to go out and find its bumper to go back home again. What if! What if! What if!"
Nicholas sees human beings as intimately interconnected in the manner of cells or molecules that are inseparable components of a larger organism. "Here we have all these autoimmune diseases," she states, "and what are we doing?" Answering her own question, she declares, "We're fighting against each other, and so it's reflecting itself outward."
Nicholas patiently dismisses with a smile what she labels the scientific attitude: "If you can't see it and touch it and feel it, it doesn't exist." She first noticed "scientific" validation of the spiritual when reading a book titled The Tao of Physics. One chapter, she explained, was devoted to what the mystics say and the following chapter to quantum physics.
"Science is catching up with us, proving all this stuff is real," she declares. "Science can't prove matter exists; all they can prove is energy exists."
When asked why people are turning to nontraditional techniques, such as those she employs in her work, she answers quickly: "Because the traditional isn't working for them. It's absolutely ludicrous to think this [the physical] is all there is. The metaphysical deals with the stuff that isn't known. The stuff that isn't known is the stuff we're striving for. You can't bottle love, you can't bottle peace, you can't bottle health. These are the things the metaphysical, nontraditional deals with. They deal with spirit. They add the spiritual element. That's why The Road Less Traveled has been around for so long--he started talking about God."
In those early years as a friend/counselor, the notion of forming a career from creative listening was but a subconscious germ of an idea. Nicholas's clients now express the same sense of safety that her friends and co-workers once felt. "People comment on how they feel this is a safe haven, like a mini-vacation where they feel safe to be who they really are and be loved for it, and they won't be judged," states Nicholas.
Nicholas believes that what people really want--peace of mind--is not what they ask for. She states that people focus on the things that they believe will bring them happiness--a new relationship, new car, new job--rather than the happiness and peace itself. "More ice cream sundaes and more cars are not going to make us happy," she declares.
"There's nothing common about common sense," says Nicholas. "Ninety percent of the things we worry about never happen, so it would be logical for us to not worry. In most cases we don't do the logical thing. We'll look for the negative thing to happen. Whatever you focus your attention on you're going to find. Whether it's there or not, you may perceive it as there. We are victims of our perception."
Nicholas teaches the mind/body connection, that our thoughts manifest physically and create our reality. "If you want to see what comes next, see what you're looking at now. What you're looking at now is what's going to come next. When we focus on things we are grateful for, we have more things to be grateful for. If we focus on all the things that are wrong, then we will have more things that are wrong." Gratitude and forgiveness are key concepts in her work and in her life. "I'm still learning about forgiveness, and I'm still teaching it," she states.
"I try to make change safe for people," says Nicholas. "People have this fear of failure or fear of rejection or fear of the unknown. What really is this unknown thing? Do you know failure? Do you know pain? Do you know heart break? I don't know anybody who doesn't know this stuff. Do you know unconditional love? Do you know bliss? Do you know unlimited success? Do you know perfect health? This is what we're afraid of. This is the unknown."
Nicholas employs simple techniques aimed at helping clients emulate the experience of their unknowns, in effect creating a positive past that can be brought forward into the future.
"When we keep repeating a pattern over and over again, it's not because we're masochistic, it's because we want to resolve it. And it will just keep coming up until we resolve it. There are no friends and no enemies, only teachers. There are no bad experiences or good experiences, there are only lessons."
Sandra Nicholas seems to subscribe to the philosophy that life is not meant to be a struggle, we simply insist on it being so. She states, "You can either ride the dragon and have fun with it, or you can be dragged."