“We are living amidst a transformative period in human development, experiencing dramatic paradigm shifts and leaps in human consciousness itself. I invite you to participate consciously in creating who we are becoming personally, professionally and globally during this shift by living from your center within.” — Michele Rae
Michele Rae is a transformational coach, registered pharmacist, spiritual director, organizational development consultant and college professor with more than 25 years experience inspiring and leading groups and individuals in continued development and realization of their human potential.
A member of the graduate faculty at the University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing, teaching classes in mindfulness in business development and Mind-Body Science and the Art of Transformation, she specializes in organizational development and workplace enhancement. She has worked with a widely diverse array of small businesses in the service and retail sectors, including an oncology clinic, catering company, health and wellness retail, a scaffolding company, a Jiffy Lube branch, and a welding and asphalt company. She consults for large corporations including health care companies, pharmaceutical organizations and the public school system.
The most rewarding part of her work is when she sits down with individuals and couples — at her personal office near the Mall of America in Bloomington — to provide coaching and mentoring, helping them to destress from chaotic situations and return to balance with authenticity in concert with their souls.
She recently spoke with The Edge about her newly released book, Living from the Center Within: Co-Creating Who You Are Becoming, by Michele Rae (Paragon House Publishers), which is described as “a highly engaging, interactive, informative and accessible journey toward higher consciousness.” She also shared insights she has realized along the path of becoming a transformational leader for us all.
Let’s begin at the beginning. When you were a little girl, what vision did you have for the person you have become?
The vision that I had was not very specific. I remember I wanted to become a traveler and an explorer, and I remember I wanted to be an inventor, and I also remember simultaneously wanting to be a mother and a nun — I’m not really sure how I thought those would go together! I have really enjoyed contemplative living, even as a child, and enjoyed the thought of motherhood, so those are an interesting combination of things that I’ve never thought about before, but they all ran in my dreams when I was a young girl.
Were there aspects in your parents that helped lead you to the path you’re on now?
I think that there’s probably both the aspect of the opportunities they provided, as well as the pieces that I didn’t want to carry forward. We grew up in the Catholic Church and I remember studying the lives of the mystics and saints and the ritual of that. As I’ve said, I’ve always enjoyed the contemplative side of life.
On the other hand, my parents were very small-minded, I would say, very conservative, very much not about change and not about travel and not about being around people who didn’t think and act like they did. I think that informed my life of exploring and traveling and walking in other people’s moccasins, so to speak.
What inspired you to decide to become a transformational coach?
I had been always interested in coaching. As a student in the college of pharmacy, I won a national contest on patient counseling. I had really enjoyed that aspect of health care. Not long into it I’d found myself in a leadership position in a small pharmacy, and then I moved on to manage 12 states and leaders in different places around the 12-state area. Throughout that time I really enjoyed the coaching and mentoring and the human development piece of it.
But around 2000 I remember people coming to me, calling me or e-mailing me saying, “My friend so and so, who knows you, says that you would be a really great person to talk to because I’ve had this experience that has pushed me past my comfort zone and you think that would be normal.” It might have been a spiritual experience or just a new worldview experience.
That was a very inspirational shift for me, to step out into the world in that way. In 2001, I started my company, The Center Within, to really own that passion I have to assist people moving through periods of transition.
As a registered pharmacist, what are your perspectives on the pharmaceutical industry today and how to solve the problem of our over-reliance on pharmaceuticals?
As you may also know, I teach several courses at the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. In the health coaching program there, one of the things that I find at the core of the answer to the problem of this over-reliance on pharmaceuticals is for us to solve that problem by recognizing and owning that we have this inherent ability to heal, and we have this wisdom inside of us. Not only that, but we have the ability every single day to make good lifestyle choices, whether it’s sleep or stress or relationships.
It’s about getting back to that place where we recognize that we have the power to optimize our own health and well-being. I think we could move away from the over-reliance on pharmaceuticals and back into prevention and preventing diseases, especially the chronic illnesses that are often caused from lifestyle choices.
As I think about the coaching piece and the current healthcare system, I think the next rung of that solution is to employ and utilize other types of practitioners to be able to help us stay in balance, like massage therapists and yoga instructors and energy healers and chiropractors and acupuncturists, aromatherapists and Chinese medicine doctors.
We need to return to self-care and self-empowerment, and then utilize a variety of practices that help us stay in balance. Then when we really get out of balance, we can utilize our allopathic medical surgeons to assist us. If you break your arm, you’re grateful for a surgeon. If your pancreas stops producing insulin, you are really grateful to have a doctor who knows about that. If you have a raging bacterial infection, that is the time when you want the assistance from a good antibiotic.
Your point of pharmaceuticals being over-utilized is definitely one that takes a shift in perspective to go back to the beginning where each of us startd being responsible for our own health and well-being and balance.
You are envisioning a stronger integrative health system that does not rely so much on just managing symptoms?
Absolutely! The symptoms are the end result. The key is how to get back to the beginning.
I think you make a good point, too, in that we can really only solve this problem if health care providers — myself, for instance, in my role as a pharmacist — educate ourselves and our patients on the powerful and well-researched techniques that we have for self-care and the understanding of that intimate connection between body, mind, emotions and energy. It’s imperative that we start to do that. Even in the schools, for instance, it begins by educating our health care practitioners about energy medicine and the morphic fields and the latest research on meditation. It’s stunning! It’s almost malpractice to not be offering that for a variety of disease states.
We really do have an obligation to do that, even within our current health care system. And don’t get me started on health insurance, right? It’s about supporting wellness. It’s about supporting prevention in a big way, absolutely.
Describe how your business, The Center Within, reflects who you are?
One of my core beliefs, both in the business and in my own life, is that we are here to be an expression of the Divine, as the saying goes. We are Spirits having a human life.
One of the things that really lights me up is creating this safe and sacred space and a coaching relationship that supports my patients, my clients, my students, as they align their personal and professional life with that inner essence. I see my clients and myself already as whole and holy. I know that I don’t always remember that perspective, and my clients don’t, as well, so my role as a coach is to call people forward into that alignment, to help them put their lives into alignment with their passions and their gifts and their talents.
Part of the work of being a transformational coach is doing that in my own life. This is work that I love. There are a lot of ways to be in service, but this particular one is in alignment and resonates and helps create a life that I really love.
My work in the business of The Center Within really gives me an opportunity to walk my talk every day, because there certainly are multiple times during the day where I can run up against my own resistance, my own judgments. Just like everyone else, I get triggered and fall into my own limiting beliefs, so I have to do my practice. It’s in alignment with that work, as well as on the other end of my work internally, that demands that I increase my own willingness to surrender and live a big life, to be visible, to be open, to say yes to things that light me up.
It’s an inner and outer process, living more from our center within.
I’m sure your clients and students would say that you inspire them. Who has inspired you in walking the journey that you are on?
I have been so blessed to have several spiritual teachers in my life who have provided me with their wisdom and their compassion. I often feel like I stand on their shoulders and continue their work, because I have gained so many more levels of awareness through their teaching and having them walk me through things. They really have inspired me and encouraged me and supported me.
I am in awe and hope to emulate on some level those spiritual teachers who walk among us that are far past retirement age. I looked at Thich Nhat Hanh at age 90, Barbara Marks Hubbard at 87, Louise Hay out there at 90. They redefine the idea of retiring at 62 and going to the country club. And they aren’t just doing the work in the world, they live it, you know? They embody it. It’s the difference between doing service in the world and being service in the world.
What are the challenges in presenting spiritual practices and solutions with individuals and businesses who do not resonate with spirituality?
What I find is that every single person resonates at some level about wanting to be their best self, living from that center within, and each person longs for some coherence and resonance in their life — whether it is personally or professionally.
The challenge for me is in finding the language that meets them where they’re at. It starts with me being able to find the client or the work within an organization and get at that place where we can have a conversation, where I can understand their personal belief system, or the culture of an organization. Then I have to work to find that language, to open it up to spiritual principles in a language that resonates with them.
For the last year or so, I have been working with a paving company that lays asphalt for roads and parking lots, and I was thinking about the tremendous transformational period they have undergone. They are shifting their culture. They’re expanding. They’re doing things differently. Some of the words that I’ve found that resonate with them are authentic communication and healthy conflict resolution and collaboration, honoring and building on the strengths, both of the individual and of the company. And we were talking about consistent accountability. I think about that in practice all the time, about problem-solving and how we do creative thinking. How do we move into inspiration and engagement and creativity? And, how do we create a well-being culture that has low stress, as much as possible, and promotes ownership and team building.
Another piece I talk about is emotional intelligence, and I might not even call it that, or mindfulness, being able to be focused at work and be able to maximize and optimize your capacity for productivity.
Not everyone has the same language around spirituality that I might have, but I can help them resonate with my worldview and all the same spiritual concepts.
You’re an interpreter, in some respects, for these people who may not speak the same language.
You are exactly right. Those are phenomenal words for it. I do feel often like an interpreter because the principles excite me so much that I have grown to have less affinity towards any particular language. I just want to engage in the conversation. That’s exactly right.
While you were speaking, I was thinking about how difficult it can sometimes be for people of different religions to get along with each other, and how they need the exact same thing. They may not speak the same religious language, but the same ideas exist within every world religion.
You are exactly right. Huston Smith, another 90+ year-old guy who was out there teaching and who died recently, said the spiritual journey in every religion is like climbing a mountain. At the base of the mountain you think you’re on the only path. As you get further up, you begin to see campfires around the mountain, around that same place that you are, so you know there are other people out there who also have gotten this far on their spiritual journey up the path of the mountain. You start to wonder if maybe you don’t have the only right path. You keep climbing, and if you get above the tree line, you recognize that your path, and the paths of all the others, are actually on the same mountain going to the same place. If you read 12th century Sufiism, or Hildegard of Bingham, or modern day mystics, they almost always use the same words to describe that communion, but you have to be far enough along in your own spiritual development to recognize the common ground of it. Right? It’s important.
What are the key tools you use in helping others to co-create who they really are and live full out and fearlessly in concert with their souls?
I find that as people expand into their own authentic self, they bump up against their constrictions, their resistance and their fears. Some of the tools I have used that help people work with their limiting beliefs and self-imposed negative talk, for instance, allow them to be able to release them. Reflection, contemplation, meditation, storytelling, art and journaling are a few that come to me. They are tools that we can use to invite our fears and our resistance and really examine them.
Once we have a deeper understanding of them, most of the time we realize there is a core essence, maybe a lesson, in them for us, but mostly we learn that it’s completely made up, and we release that limiting piece. I also find, on the other side, that sometimes it is, “It can’t be that good,” or “It can’t be that easy,” or “I don’t really deserve to be that amazing.” There are tools we can use to accelerate and clarify and really brighten and enhance the parts that light us up. When I work with clients, the tools of deep listening, coming to honor our intuition and noticing synchronicity help a ton in that regard. There is a tool of appreciative inquiry to find what is working in our lives and to do more of that.
In my own particular training, I have found that the ability to calm ourselves and bring ourselves into that present moment really opened my own awareness and allowed me to come into that inner essence where I can live more full out with confidence.
Let’s talk about your new book, Living From The Center Within: Co-Creating Who You Are Becoming. Is it out yet?
Yes, it was launched March 1st, so it’s hot off the press!
What inspired you to write this book?
The book was inspired primarily by my clients and my students who were asking me for something that they can share with their colleagues or their wife or their son or neighbor. I had written pieces of it as articles before, but what they were really looking for was a guide to empowered living and mindful living.
That’s one inspiration that got me started on it, and I’m also very inspired by the urgency that many people are feeling during this time of such tremendous change and uncertainty. There is a lot of fear that’s created and many people are looking for ways to not buy into the fear and find community and to be able to create sustainable and mutually beneficial systems that really hold the highest good for all beings, rather than curl back in and feel this need to be guarded and protected and defended, because that is the place fear pulls us back into.
The heart of this book is the love I have to be love in action, in whatever way I can help people find a way to be of service through the expression of their Divine essence in the world. I think that is compelling every system, every institution, throughout the world to find new ways to be, whether it’s health care or business or education or finance or economics or politics or energy or religion. Brilliant people are out there saying, “Well, this is not working and I’m not going to bang my head against this wall. We’re just going to invent a different system that is much more.” That is so inspiring to me, to be part of that conversation.
I really find that people who can live with that higher level of consciousness, higher awareness, have more access to the subtle energy. It is like the Mozarts and Einsteins of the world who were totally present in their genius and could tap into that big field of consciousness and get the understandings and the gestalts, outside of time and space. Mozart described being able to hear the entire orchestra in a nanosecond.
I feel like there is an opening, a higher level of vibration of energy, that is available on the planet these days, and there is more genius to be discovered. Those of us who are interested in feeling into that inner-connected web of consciousness and understanding things at a totally different level have the ability to bring it back into our lives, personally and professionally. That totally inspires me.
Your comments inspired me to think about our need to overcome fear by taking that first leap. We either jump, or we move further away from the edge and try to keep what we’ve had in the past and not go forward.
That’s exactly right. And, one of the things that I am acutely aware of is if I can be at the ledge and other people can be at the ledge, you and I can be standing together and we both know that we have to leap, so we hold hands with community in doing so. It has a more supportive feel to it. We are all reaching out more and more to find each other, knowing it is absolutely imperative for our growth and development collectively and personally to be able to take that leap and to be in communion with each other.
I’m a grandma. I have two beautiful little grandchildren, and children who are in their late twenties, and I really am inspired to be able to take that leap and have that courage to create systems on the planet for those who will inherit the Earth. That’s motivating, personally and globally. It’s time for us to say yes.
What did you learn during the process of writing this book?
I learned a lot about surrender, that’s for sure! Acceptance and being willing to say yes. It’s been an interesting piece to find more clarity on my own soul contract. That’s how it feels to me.
It’s about stepping forward, at the risk of being misunderstood, and doing it anyway. To be more visible, and doing it anyway. I’ve had to ask for help in ways that have been outside of my comfort zone, and that’s been very humbling and very rewarding. I’ve certainly had to listen deeply inside to my own fears and do it anyway.
I feel like I’ve been in service to this book, and it’s required more tuning into the subtle messages and trusting the process. A number of different people have come into my life at just the right time — whether it’s an editor or a publisher or someone to endorse the book — and I feel they have responded to the energy of the book itself, rather than any personal request of mine. It’s been a labor of love and I’m delighted to have birthed it, but it’s been growing something on its own.
I was inspired looking about your book on your website that Dr. Jan Adams gave you an endorsement. She was the original health editor for The Edge back when I started with The Edge in the mid-1990s.
Mmmmm. When you asked about who inspired me, Jan was one of those few spiritual teachers who absolutely changed my life. She had gatherings at her house once a month that I attended, and I did retreats with her. She’s just a phenomenally gifted, left- and right-brain person, and a physician. So intuitive and so present. She’s one of those people that when you’re in the vibration of her presence you are healed. We were talking earlier about shifting our dependence away from pharmaceuticals. Jan really understood that being a healer has more to do with your presence than anything else. I do remember her writing for The Edge, as that’s one of the ways I found her.
For those people who may not be in the position of seeing you personally, what can they do if they feel like they are being constricted in that fear rather than stepping out to who they really are? What would you recommend that they can do on a daily basis?
I recommend a daily practice of whatever you are called to do. For me, it starts with the breath. Just to be able to pay attention. The process involves noticing as soon as possible when you start to move into that constriction. That’s actually a Jan Adams teaching. She said that sense of fear, that sense of constriction, comes first as just a little whisper. Try to catch it there. If you don’t catch it there, it will come as a tap on the shoulder, and if you don’t catch it there, it will come as a slug in the arm, and if you don’t catch it there, it will come as a 2×4.
So use your self-awareness to assess your current condition, and once you catch it as soon as you can, then apply a practice of some kind to bring yourself back to homeostasis, back to balance, out of that stress response — whether it’s your breath, walking in nature, calling a friend, taking a hot bubble bath. Just use your five senses in the given moment to bring your attention back.
The key is to know yourself, have a box of what I call transforming practices that you can rely on. Notice the stress happening as soon as you can. Apply a practice, and bring your attention back into the moment.
The way we build that spiritual muscle is by practicing those skills, those transforming practices, at times we set aside for ourselves. Maybe it is going to yoga class, or going to Common Grounds to meditate in the morning, or maybe it’s taking a walk in the woods or reading sacred text or being in community, intentionally with people who are like-minded. That way, when those times come up when you do get caught in the fear, you have a physical, mental and emotional practice that you can rely on to bring yourself back.
Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you’d like to share with our readers in conclusion of this interview?
The highest contribution any of us can make to creating who we are becoming is really living your own life in alignment with what really makes your heart sing. When we live in that alignment, there is a rush of magic and miracles that comes our way. Notice the subtle energies, those sensations, in your body early on about what constricts and expands you, feel the resistance, bring your awareness to it and be able to allow it to pass.
Focusing on inner peace creates outer peace, and that gives us the ability to not be so judgmental and allow other people to have their own process, to know they are on their own journey and to move away from feeling like we have to impose our rightness, any spiritual arrogance, on anyone else. We can speak our own truth and live by example. I do think that now is the time and we are the ones we have been waiting for. Our ancient teachings envelop the urgency of today, of our moment in history.
For more information on Michele Rae, visit Centerwithin.com.