This episode’s guest is Nancy Levin. For over a decade, Nancy has served as the Event Director at Hay House, producing and hosting conferences focusing on personal growth, health, and spirituality.
She is also a certified Integrative Coach through The Ford Institute For Transformational Training, and the author of a new book called: Jump… and Your Life Will Appear. In Jump Nancy gives a step-by-step guide to clearing the path ahead so you can let go and make the change you need the most. Through a series of effective exercises, Nancy walks the reader through their fear, ushers them up to the moment of jumping, and helps navigate what awaits on the other side.
In today’s episode, Nancy and I speak about:
- The concept of Jump, and how this came to being in her own life
- Her shift from projecting perfectionism to becoming more vulnerable
- How to know when we are not aligned in our life
- Getting to the root, uncovering Shadow Beliefs and transforming them into Empowering Beliefs
- The idea of the ‘Graceful Exit’ and the additional work that needs to be done after we jump
Tune in and listen to “Jump…and Your Life Will Appear” with the empowering and courageous: Nancy Levin.
Subscribe to the Emerging Women podcast on iTunes.
Nancy Levin: Hi Chantal!
CP: Hi! It’s so exciting to be talking to you today about your new book. For those of you out there who don’t know this, Nancy and I are actually quite good friends. Nancy lives in Boulder, so this is quite exciting for us to be talk and to be supporting her book launch at this point. It’s just so fun.
NL: Thank you!
CP: Yay! So I’m thinking that we should start with the title, and then maybe that will reveal more about your personal story and why you came to this. Jump … and Your Life Will Appear. When I first felt into that, first of all, I got scared, because I’m definitely one that feels like I need to feel safe before I do anything risky. And then the other piece was it was exciting, and [I] felt that it was perhaps the better way to go because no matter what, your life is coming anyway, so might as well jump in with two feet. So tell me a little bit about what you mean by the title, and how you came to this book.
NL: Well, the title really came from the concept that—you mentioned feeling safe, and most of us feel safe in certainty, in what we know, and then what already is. And what I’m asking the readers to do is take a bit of a reframe and realize that there’s actually much more possibility and opportunity available when you actually jump out into uncertainty. Because that’s when your life has the power to change and you can live into a new way of being in the world. Our present is really a culmination of all of our past choices and decisions, and so in the present, we have the power to change our future by making different choices and different decisions.
So in my own personal story, my Jump that weaves throughout the book is leaving an 18-year marriage. And for me, it was devastating. It was terrifying. It was unfathomable for a really long time, until I actually took the steps that are in this book. It wasn’t until after I was on the other side of it that I was able to look back and see, “Oh, here are the things I actually did that got me through this,” and then realize that they were actually applicable to other people in any other major change that they were making, whether it was changing a job or whether it was moving to a new city.
And so it was important to me to document my own journey that way. So my story really began in that I was—even though in the outside world, I was projecting this image of perfection, and my motto had been, “Never let them see you sweat,” and I had been managing the perceptions of others and everyone thought I was happy and perfect and had this perfect marriage, and all of this, the truth was that things were really crumbling inside for me and in my home life. And I overcompensated by really pouring my whole self into my work and the world.
I’m currently, and have been for the last 12 years, the event director at Hay House. So [I’m] producing these events around the world with these luminaries in the field of self-empowerment and personal growth and inspiration, motivation. And yet, while their teachings were sort of landing in me by osmosis, I wasn’t really able to think into them until I was in my own personal crisis and needed to reach out and ask for help.
What happened was in 2008, I was on my way home from a business trip and discovered that my husband of nearly 18 years had read my journals. And this was devastating to me because I really feared any sort of exposure, and he was really going for the jugular with wanting to expose me and expose my truth. I knew in that moment that I had a choice. I could either just numb out and go back to sleep and stay and be the people-pleaser and twist myself into this place of sublimating all of my desires to fulfill all of his, which is what I’d done most of our marriage. Or I could wake up and get about the business of making change and focusing on the healing of myself, not the changing of him and not the fixing of our marriage. That was, for me, the big jump.
CP: So you had—this was a crisis. Anybody that’s kept a journal knows that this is—I remember when you presented this at Emerging Women. The whole audience just went, [gasps]. It was like a breath of craziness to imagine that. And I’ll tell you, I think it doesn’t even matter what was in the journal, but just the fact that you feel like you might be writing privately to yourself and holding yourself through those pages, and to have them unwilling exposed to another. I think just that is—I can’t even imagine how painful.
NL: Yes, that was beyond painful, completely devastating. And the next day, I actually destroyed over 70 volumes of my journal. I destroyed them all. And I’d been writing since I was 11 years old, and it was really what had saved me much of my life, my writing. I didn’t actually start writing again for quite some time. I would at first write and then rip it all up and throw it away, and then write on my computer and carry my thumb drive with me everywhere. And then finally, when we were separated and I was in my own safe space, I started writing on paper again, in a book.
The time when I wasn’t writing wasn’t fully expressed. I wasn’t really able to process everything that was going on for me, because all along, that really was my personal practice. And I almost don’t know what I think or feel until I’m writing it.
CP: That is another thing I want to dig into, the fact that you had 70 volumes to even burn is remarkable. I want to hear more about that as a practice. But let’s keep digging in here, because here’s juice here.
But the other piece is that you were in a marriage where you were sad throughout the marriage. Maybe not throughout the whole marriage, but it got to a point where you felt that it was off. But you had not communicated this to your husband?
NL: Correct. This person who I am now—I would love to have been this person who I am now throughout my marriage. Although this person would never have been in that marriage, which is the truth. And, you know, at the time, when I realized I was not happy, what happened was the truth came out sideways. I wasn’t able to be honest with myself. I wasn’t able to be honest with him. I didn’t have the consciousness that I have now.
So I did the best I could with what I had at the time. And I now understand that the biggest betrayal is really the betrayal of ourselves, are the moments that we abandon ourselves when we are, for whatever reason, thinking that we are in service of saving another. When I met my husband—and I say this on stage at Emerging Women—it was really as if he [got] me high. I am broken, and I said, “Great! I’m superwoman. I will fix you.” And the truth is that all of our core wounds were a match made in heaven.
There was so much in me, from aspects that I now see in my early childhood. I had a brother who was very sick who died, so “broken.” And so I spent much of my life seeking out broken people to save and to fix and to heal. What was my motivation, what was my intention? That was the way that I was seeking external validation. That’s the way that I was trying to find love. And there was so much in my marriage around filling a void in my family. There was almost like an adoption ceremony. My ex-husband had no family, and so we brought him into my family to sort of fill a space in some way.
There was so much more of that going on in my marriage than there was what we think of as marriage. There was a lot of me having to step over my own desires in service to what he needed, because of the kind of attention that he needed. And I was a willing participant in that for a long time, until I no longer was.
CP: You know, I think there’s something in you book where you talk about, “How do you know when something is off?” And I’d like to hear to talk more about that, but I’m curious—before we do that, I want to ask this prequel to that question: Do you think that your family knew? So your husband didn’t know, yet you knew because you were writing about it. But what about your family? Did anybody in your life know?
NL: No one knew the real truth of anything, because I’d never revealed my discontent or my concern to another person. However, after the fact, my mother was the first one who said to me, “You know, we lost you. And we saw what was happening,” but my mother didn’t want to risk our relationship to take a step, to get in the way in my marriage. And she regrets that now, and I tell her not to regret it, because I’m now a firm believer that everything happens as it’s meant to for my soul’s evolution. Yes, she definitely knew.
CP: I ask that because I find that, especially with women who have this perfectionistic [attitude] that it’s not just we perfectionists that are caught in the trap. Other people learn to depend on that imagery as well. And as long as you’re keeping up the charade, people are like, “OK, well, we’re keeping this going, this is great for all of us.” And there’s that kind of pressure.
NL: Yes, I mean, that’s a big thing. It was really something for me to understand when, like I was saying before, I reached out and asked for help from the people around me—my family, my closest friends, and much of my community at Hay House—they were the people I feared revealing myself to the most, and yet they were the ones who rallied around me the fastest.
And that was shocking to me, because for so long, I really believed that I was loved for what I did for all of them, and that I was very busy earning their love. And it wasn’t until I really got clear that, “Oh, I am actually loved. They love me. I’m loveable just for who I am, not for what I do.” It sounds very simplistic to say, but when you are someone who, like me, for most of my life, had been so connected and committed to chasing all these gold stars and to getting all this external motivation. It was really a revelation for me to understand that I needed to resolve internally first what I was trying to achieve externally.
CP: Right. Because all those people thought you were happy.
NL: All those people thought I was happy. All those people thought I—and, really, the truth is for a long time I really just thought happiness and fun were for other people. I wasn’t even connected to any sense of my own happiness for a long time.
CP: Right. You were lucky enough to have this deep connection with yourself when you knew it was off. So you were journaling into it. I find sometimes it’s hard to know.
NL: I think it’s hard to know, too, but I do believe that we know when we’re out of alignment. We know when we’re out of integrity with ourselves. The first step in this book is admitting to yourself what you already know. I’m not saying that we all necessarily have deep, dark secrets and skeletons in our closets. It doesn’t have to be something so dramatic as that. But I really believe that we all know, when we get quiet, when it’s just you and you, you know where you are out of alignment with your truth.
So the first step is really coming clean with yourself. And then the second step is to tell the truth to someone’s face. Because there’s something that happens when you can’t stand fully revealed with another. It relieves so much pressure. It’s like you’re letting off steam out of a valve. I say “someone’s face” because it really does need to be someone you trust and who know has your best interesting at heart and is holding you at your highest.
And these people who were around me during this very difficult time—I realized that they became almost like a scaffolding around me while I rebuilt my courage and my self-esteem and my self-confidence. I was able to draw on their collective strengths and cumulative support that I, at the time, didn’t have enough of for myself. So that was critical for me.
CP: OK, so you’ve recognized something is off. You tell somebody safe, which is hard to do, right?
NL: It is hard to do.
CP: I’m telling you, I have a hard time—and one of your practices is write about something you can’t even write about.
NL: Yes. [Laughs]
CP: Talk to me about that.
NL: I do that often in writing workshops, and it’s fascinating to me how many people will then come up to the mic and share that one.
CP: Right. It’s almost like—I’m not a journaler. I just never have been. I’m a thinker, I’ll sit and think and meditate and contemplate for lots of periods. But I’m just curious, the writing—it’s so vulnerable. I wonder, even after hearing your story about your husband reading your journal, is there something about that? Why is it revealing if only I’m going to read it? Why is that a practice instead of just telling somebody?
NL: Listen, I tell people all the time, “Write it and burn it. Write it and tear it up.” I’m not necessarily a proponent of, if you don’t feel safe, saving all the writing. But I do believe that there is—and especially if you can do it with your hands, on paper, not on a computer—definitely a difference in the transmission of connecting.
There’s a different way that you drop into your heart when you’re actually writing hand-on-paper. And there’s a way that you can let stream of consciousness flow. There’s a way you can do a clearing of yourself. There’s a way that there’s an unveiling, that the cobwebs start to move and you can start to see things in a way that I will say that I haven’t been able to do when it’s just meditation and contemplation. There’s something else that happens, there’s another deeper level. There’s a different kind of explanation that happens when it’s on the page for me.
CP: Yes, and coming back to that initial point, I feel like writing is a practice for you, that’s just been with you for so long.
NL: Yes. It has been. And like I said, I’ve been writing since I was 11 years old. I moved to Boulder to get my Master’s in poetry at Naropa. That’s what moved me here from New York City. So it’s definitely a long-time piece of me.
CP: What I love about it, and what I think is interesting when you say, “How do you know something is off?” I find that when you write stuff down, you can’t hide. You build an intimacy with yourself, and that’s when you find out something’s off.
NL: Yes. It’s funny, like Louise Hay always says, “Your relationship with yourself is the longest relationship you’re going to have in your lifetime. Better make sure it’s a damn good one.” And I feel that that’s really accurate, and I feel that that has been my own personal work through this whole time of leaving the marriage, getting divorced, looking at how all of that reorganized my identity and my being and who I am in the world if I’m not that and if I’m this, and what all these different things mean. And so much of them has been focusing on my relationship with myself.
CP: You mentioned that this was a long time coming. It was a long process, and in your book, you’re kind of going back many, many times between your husband after the journals were cracked. And then you talk about that we find benefits in holding on to things that don’t serve us. What do you mean by that?
NL: There’s a pay-off. There’s got to be a pay-off or we wouldn’t do it. Let me just back up a little bit. So right when I got separated, a very dear friend of mine and author and mentor Debbie Ford, who died last year, she invited me to come do her three-day shadow process emerging weekend as a participant. I produced her events for years, but she said, “You’re going to come and you’re going to do this workshop as a participant.”
So that was really a major shift for me, to go from one side to the other, from producer to participant, and to really dig in and start looking at things. And that was the first time I was able to [ever] link the words “divorce” and “me” together as even an idea. And through that shadow work, I actually went on to go get certified in her year-long coaching training program.
One of the fundamental pieces of this work is that we have underlying commitments. So even though we say we want something on the outside, there’s actually something that is perhaps even unconscious that we’re more committed to that’s actually driving us. So this is the part about the pay-off. There’s something that’s keeping us, whether it’s keeping us stuck, whether it’s keeping us attached, whether it’s keeping us in a situation we say we don’t want to be in, the truth of the matter is we’re actually committed to something that we’re getting there. And it’s different for all people in all situations. But there’s something that’s keeping us there, otherwise we really would be liberated.
CP: I hear you. I’m just wondering, doesn’t that confuse with alignment? How do you decide, “This is not serving me,” if I’m getting benefits? What’s the fine—do I feel it in my body? Is there some other signal? Because if I am getting something from it, wouldn’t I just be like, “Well, that feels like it’s in alignment.” What’s that special sauce?
NL: [Laughs] The special sauce.
CP: You know, the sauce!
NL: Well, what it really is is that these underlying commitments are really based in these shadow beliefs. So when we’re really young—like I mentioned about my brother dying. So when we’re really young, events and circumstances occur that we are too young to process and digest. So we make them mean something negative about us.
For example, my brother was sick, he died. I, at two years old, was imprinted with this shadow belief of, “If I am imperfect, I will die.” Thus the quest for perfection is born. That’s what started driving me through most of my life. So it’s almost like there are blinders on with this underlying commitment to stay perfect in the eyes of others.
So the benefit I was getting was something external, in that people were seeing me the way that I wanted to be seen. Because I didn’t even know myself, so how is anyone else going to know me? And I was very committed to being closed and shut down and covered up at the time.
So what we want to do is we want to actually go back in time and see where these shadow beliefs were formed, where these commitments were formed, and unconceal them and then move them from disempowering to empowering. So that’s the reframe, that’s the switch. When we see what’s really driving us, what’s really the underlying commitment, when we see that it’s actually disempowering, the special sauce is actually to turn it on its ass and ask the question, “How can I turn this into an empowering belief and action?”
CP: As you’re talking, there’s just so many jumps in this. I thought it was one jump—you left your marriage, finally—but it’s actually—and you do talk about this, that it’s inch by inch, but they’re like tiny little jumps. Because that’s kind of a big jump, to be able to just call yourself on your own shit, that this isn’t working, and change it when you’re addicted to people loving you for what you do.
NL: It was huge for me. It was really a massive shift for me. In the book I tell the story of flying across the country to get Wayne Dyer’s briefcase that he left somewhere in the middle of the night. My intention and motivation at the time were to do it to get the accolades, to get the gold stars, to be loved, to be amazing, to be all that.
And I can look now and say, “Wow, I don’t have that in me anymore. I don’t have that in me anymore.” I might still fly across the country for the briefcase, but it would be for a whole other set of reasons. Not to get love. So I guess the question now that I’m really living with is, “Am I doing this to get love? Or am I doing this to give love?” I’m no longer operating out of the place that I really need to do anything to get love.
CP: Amen, sister. [Laughs] That’s sinking deep. You talk about a graceful exit, and it’s funny that you use the word “exit.” I guess in all cases, we’re leaving something behind. What do you mean by “having a graceful exit”? I mean, sometimes don’t you just have to burn it and freaking walk away, or peal out?
NL: [Laughs] I think the important thing, to me, about this book is that so many other books and programs and whatever leave you sort of at the jump. And it was important to me that out of 10 steps, “jump” was number 8, that there was still two steps left. Because there is the unexpected tension of opposites after the jump.
So much of this is about being able to really surrender to the grief of what was, even if you are completely thrilled to be in the new life. But there still is the processing of what was left behind. It’s naïve to think that you’re just going to land in the land of new and that everything’s going to be free and clear. So it was important to me to include pieces here about—really, it’s about the liminal period. It’s about the space between “no longer” and “not yet.”
And this is really where our resilience resides, and this is really where, if we can take time to cherish that in-between time instead of rushing like most of us want to do, then we are more prepared for the unforeseen opportunities and surprises and experiences that begin to open up. We’re more prepared to say “yes,” which is the last chapter, “Say Yes … And Then Say It Again … And Again.” But I think you can’t get there without recognizing and honoring the full range of grief, heartbreak, and joy.
CP: Right. Yes. You know, I’m curious, because this was a while ago for you, the jump that you made, but it sounds like there’s more than one jump here. There were lots of jumps on the way. But I’m curious to see—you’ve done the Debbie Ford, you’ve done the shadow work. You actually published a book a few years ago, your book of poetry, right?
CP: And you’re still at Hay House. But it feels like there’s—I don’t know, it feels like you’re in the middle of a jump right now. Can you talk to us about that? I’m feeling it, girl!
NL: [Laughs] You can feel it? You can feel it through the phone?
CP: I’m feeling it through the phone! This book was supposed to be self-published, and now it’s picked up. What’s happening?
NL: Yes, it’s fascinated. So I self-published this book with Hay House’s self-publishing division, Balboa Press, and it came out last month. Then, after two weeks of being out, Hay House made me a deal for it and it’s rereleasing a launching with Hay House next month. [Laughs] That blew my mind. It was not expected at all. It didn’t happen with my last book. I never expected it with this book.
My coaching practice has taken off, my speaking engagements, my teaching, which is all stuff I love. And it’s ironic because I even talk in the book about last year, wanting to quit my job at Hay House. And then Reid Tracy, the president and CEO of Hay House, who’s a very dear friend of mine in New York, had said to me, “You know, I’m not letting you quit your job. I’ll tell you when you can quit your job.”
CP: Love the Reid!
NL: I know, and I thank him daily now, like, “Thank you for not letting me quit my job last year!” [Laughs] But I was burnt out. I had this whole bout of vertigo. It was like adrenal burn-out. And he was the one who really said to me, “You know, you have set the bar for yourself so high. No one else has set it this high. You have. You’re the one making yourself crazy.”
That was really a big insight to me. And when I realized that my ego was what was driving all of my workaholism, that was a huge wake-up call. And that was when I was willing to bring in more staff on my team, and I was willing to delegate more, I was willing to be more collaborative. Because I realized that I no longer needed to be the only one. I no longer needed to believe that things couldn’t get done if I didn’t do them, or whatever. And that’s a big shift also, for those of us who are perfectionist and those of us who are really driven by outward achievement.
So it taught me a lot, this whole aspect of delegation and collaboration was a mind-blowing game-changer for me. But it’s funny that when, a couple weeks ago when they made me the book deal, Reid called me, like, “OK, in four months, I will give you permission to quit your job.” [Laughs] I know, and it’s hilarious because now I’m like, “Wait a minute, I have support! I have everyone doing—I’ve got this great staff, I have this great team! I don’t know if I want to quit my job anymore! I was scared to jump! Oh no, I’ve got to go back to step 1! What do I have to admit to myself about this?” It’s funny, but it’s true.
CP: Well, it’s funny because I guess you do. That would be a big jump.
NL: That would be a big jump.
CP: That’s a big jump, and I don’t know if the world’s ready for that jump, you know? [Laughs]
NL: I know! And actually, just this morning, I was writing in my journal, and I was writing about this, saying that really the practice here for me is to have faith. It’s not to feel like I have to make any decisions. And the old saying of, “When the fruit is ripe, it will fall,” and I have to just trust that if and when whatever changes need to happen in that regard, it won’t even be a choice. It won’t even be a decision. It will just be organic and it will be obvious. So I’m not in the place of faith and trust that all will be revealed and that I don’t actually have to do anything about it right now.
CP: Right. You could almost replace “jump” with “trust,” because they feel so the same. “Trust and your life will appear.” But sometimes you’ve got to actually jump.
NL: Sometimes you’ve got to take the action! That’s the thing. We’re in this world where everything’s about manifesting and the Law of Attraction. And I’m all game for that, but you’ve got to actually do something. You have to have forward movement. You’ve got to take responsibility and action in your life.
CP: Right. Well, thank you so much for spending the time! It’s been amazing to hear how this has unfolded over the years. You’re such a gift! You’re a gift on so many levels, Nancy.
NL: Chantal, thank you so much. I’m honored to be with you.
Also, get 10 free audio downloads of your favorite emerging women:
[ew-audio-download headline=”Free Audio Download” subheadline=”Power Practices, Vol. 1 Women Who Are Changing the World”]