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A Serendipitous Connection!

February 11, 202413 min read

"The Best gift we can give someone is to just Listen!"

Nurturing Friendships at IANDS Conferences

In 2022, my first venture into the IANDS Conference introduced me to a multitude of incredible individuals, and one, in particular, stood out – Courtney Lesler. A radiant soul, she embodied aspirations as a writer, a powerhouse in her career, and a devoted mother of two. Our connection unfolded over breakfast on a serene hotel balcony, where, despite the bitterness of my coffee and the staleness of the cinnamon roll, our conversation about life's complexities and the beauty within them took center stage.

Fast forward to 2023 in Washington DC, a chance encounter with Courtney at the IANDS conference brought forth an instant reunion. The warmth of our smiles and the embrace reflected the depth of a connection established just a year earlier.

Little did I know that our breakfast conversation had sparked something profound within Courtney. A heartfelt message from her revealed that our encounter inspired her to embark on a writing journey where she invited God to co-create with her. The result was a piece that radiated magic, and I felt honored to be a part of her creative muse.

In her words, Courtney shared, "I didn’t have any intentions about writing this story, but it just flowed out and felt like magic." The beauty of our connection transcended the ordinary, weaving into the fabric of her newfound creative exploration.

The article she penned is a testament to the serendipity of connections fostered at IANDS conferences. It not only encapsulates our shared experience but also delves into the spiritual realm, embracing the divine in the act of creation.

Gratitude fills my heart for the IANDS conference that provided the space for such meaningful connections. Reflecting on my first conference, the atmosphere was nothing short of magical – a continuous, elevated state of love, frequency, and vibration for four enchanting days. Describing the profound connection with strangers is a challenge, for it goes beyond words. There's an inexplicable sense of unconditional love that manifests in every smile and embrace, as if the arms of source gently cradle you through the physical touch of a stranger.

I feel privileged to share the beautifully written article by Courtney Lesler, a testament to the transformative power of authentic connections. The IANDS conference has not only been a platform for exploring the depths of life, death, and everything in between but has also become a sacred space for weaving the threads of extraordinary friendships.

As we embrace the synchronicities of life, may this story inspire others to welcome unexpected connections and invite the magic of divine co-creation into their journeys. The IANDS conferences continue to be a haven for those seeking profound experiences and the magic that lies within genuine connections.

Evan's Choice

“Thank you so much! And yes it is wild how impactful a conversation/single exchange of love can be. This whole year, I’ve been like “she has no idea that she unlocked something for me that morning. The breakfast was a piece of my puzzle to change my life.”  Courtney Lester 

Be the Light Wherever You Are

By: Courtney Lester 

Tuesday, November 8, 2022 @ 2:06 PM


To all of you who are restless, questioning, seeking something and not sure what that something is or how to find it, I see you and I know you. I know so many of you are like me, flooded with all the "shoulds." Or in my case, should-ing all over myself. My shoulds were primarily around my career. Should I leave my job? Should I stay at my job? Should I ask for more money? Should I just be grateful that I have a job? At what point should I stop being patient and start making a change? Should, should, should, should.


My professional background has been in strategy. When I'm feeling stuck on a strategic project, I always ask myself the same series of questions: where am I now; where do I want to be; how do I get there? I've found the best way to answer "how" is to do what I call a "look back" - figure out where you're going and then then reverse engineer what needs to happen to get there.


In applying this framework to personal strategy, I've learned the hard way that "Where do I want to be?" has nothing to do with my job, income, or savings. I've also discovered that, for me, death is the best "look back" there is. Even with the cloudiness of all the shoulds, I knew I wanted my last exhale to be one of peace and of knowing that I'm leaving behind a legacy of love. I also knew I didn't want to be plagued with regret about what could have been (which according to research by palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware is the top regret of the dying: "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me"). This conclusion that death can be the ultimate teacher of life, combined with interest in the subject after two gut-wrenching miscarriages, led me to near-death experiences. 


I have a friend we’ll call Mina who I met at an annual conference for IANDS, International Association of Near Death Studies. She had a near death experience herself, which resulted in the onset of several spiritual gifts. We had breakfast one morning and were outside on the hotel patio. I was telling her about my debate on leaving the corporate world in search of spiritual work, when she emphatically set down her fork and said:  


"Do you see this cinnamon roll? It tastes like shit. Not because anything is wrong with the cinnamon roll but because the person who made it didn’t give a shit. Their energy is all over it, and it tastes bad to me. This is why I can’t eat out. I wish people would just do whatever they are doing now with love. People keep thinking they’ll leave their jobs for another one and find meaning, but guess what? No job can give your life meaning. Sure, the world needs light workers, but we have a lot of those. The world also needs landscapers to make this patio beautiful. The world needs people to prepare food with love. We also need people in corporate and government jobs who are making the decisions that impact so many lives."


That conversation has haunted me since on many levels. I knew there was a message there for me. It made me wonder if the message was that I’m supposed to stay and be a beacon in corporate America; like maybe this is my equivalent of monks scrubbing floors as a means to enlightenment (golden floors in my case). I had a great job. Great pay, great people, great flexibility, and yet a part of me has always resisted the job. For the last 13 years, I have always cringed whenever anyone asked: “So what do you do?” My response shouldn't have been cringe-worthy. I was a VP of Strategy and Chief of Staff to the CEO of a publicly-traded, global payment platform. And yet, still I cringed. Every. Single. Time. For 13 years. My stomach always dropped, my chest tightened, and my body felt heavy every single time I answered the question.


And then I took a one-month sabbatical.

On Day 2, I was on a plane headed for a conference and seated next to a chatty middle-aged man. He asked me the usual "So what do you do?" And this time - no cringe. I calmly and excitedly responded: “Well, I used to lead strategy for a global payment platform, and I’m actually on sabbatical right now writing and compiling my poetry, and in the near-term I’m planning on applying to PhD programs in psychology of purpose.” Big exhale. I couldn't believe it - no cringe. I felt light. It actually felt good to say it out loud. (As it turned out, my fellow passenger had his seat number confused but ended up sitting next to me anyway. Also, he was a State Senator and eventually made an introduction for me to MassPoetry ha!)


Fast forward to the last week of sabbatical, and I was feeling really heavy about returning to work. I had a spiritual mentor give me this advice: “When you meditate, instead of asking God for what you want, try listening. We don’t always know what we want, but God knows what we need. You can try saying ‘Here I am, Lord, listening for your words of Grace. My inner ears are open.’”


I meditated later that night for maybe 30 minutes, which is longer than I usually sit. I said the prayer he suggested and then just sat in this incredible peace. It was so beautiful that I had tears rolling down my face. My left-brain was trying to put words to it, and the best word I could describe it with was “home.” It was as if I was remembering the love from which I came and wanted so badly to be as close as possible to that same love. I broke my silence and listen-only mode and whispered a prayer: “All I know is that I want to be of service. Do I stay in corporate work and focus on being a light there, or do I leave to become a light worker? If you want me to stay, I'll stay. If you want me to leave, I'll leave. I know you gave me these gifts for a reason, but I don’t know where I’m supposed to use them.” I then drew on a message from another near-death experiencer, who was given a choice to stay in spirit-form or awaken to her human body. I kept repeating her prayer: “Please send me wherever I can serve God the most.”


After my meditation, I had a big “Oh shit” moment. I was second-guessing myself: "What I have done? Now the universe might actually keep me in corporate America! Stupid, stupid. Don’t ask for a sign and then not follow it. Shit, shit, shit." And yet, my heart remained open to whatever the outcome would be.


The next morning, I was sick in bed - as I had been for almost my entire sabbatical. I spent three out of four weeks fighting off and recovering from multiple back-to-school colds that my germy little munchkins kept bringing home. Right before napping, I drew upon another lesson from a mentor: "Pay attention to your dreams. Before you go to sleep, ask for dreams that will expand your vision." I drifted off to sleep and then woke abruptly from my nap with two distinct, vivid images. The first was a single eye, which I interpreted as a Third Eye, a cross-cultural symbol of intuition and spiritual gifts. The second image was the tip of an old-timey pen. It had a metal tip that was shaped like a hawk’s beak. I saw it writing with such grace and fluidity in bright blue ink. It was clear that the pen itself was not the image, but the pen in motion, the putting of words on paper.

I quickly jotted down these notes:

I am to write

That is how I will serve God the most

The writing will evolve into sharing

I am to write

I started (groggily) journaling to further process the dream. I got my answers. To the question from last night of, "Do I stay in corporate work and focus on being a light there, or do I leave to become a light worker?” the answer was almost maddeningly simple: "Be the light wherever you are." When I return from sabbatical, I am to be the light in my corporate job. Or as Mina taught me: whatever you do, do it with love. I also understood that I have agency in this process. I can stay in my existing job if I want, for as long as I want, and would be loved unconditionally just the same. There is nothing to prove. There is no one to disappoint. However, there was a cautionary message for me: "it will not feel right unless you write.” And that, I understood to my very bones. In my 13 years of revenue and strategy work, it has never felt “right.” I have always felt to varying degrees that I've had to fight with myself (often daily) to stay focused. Even though I've had a great job that I’m really good at and that has worked well for my family, it has never, ever felt “right." Why I've stayed is another story, but the short answer is that I never found another job that felt "right," and it never felt like the "right time" to leave either… until now.


So what does feel “right?” For me, it is writing. It is so simple and obvious that I never saw it. I felt a huge sense of relief. What my heart is pulling me to do is also how I can serve God the most. My heart is telling me to use my gifts to write. More universally stated, the wisdom becomes: "following my heart is how I can serve God the most."


I was instantly reminded of a near-death experience another mentor, Evan, had described to me. He was clinically dead (no heartbeat, no brainwaves) for several minutes after being crushed by the weight of a truck that had collapsed on him. At one point in his experience, he saw himself on a path and was instructed to follow the path and was told he would need to make a choice at the end. His experience resonated deeply, and this poem came to me: 4. Build relationships with potential customers.

Through Evan's experience, I understood what both paths had in store for me. I realize now that my plea of “Please send me wherever I can serve God the most" was essentially a willingness to follow Duty (even if it’s divine Duty, it’s still Duty). I know God did not ask me to leave my job. I also know that I have a right to follow my heart. I have divine permission to follow my heart. And get this – nothing is special about me. We all have that right and that permission. To me, Duty is living up to the expectations, demands, or commands of others at the expense of your heart. And thanks to end-of-life research by Bronnie Ware and others, we can know where Duty leads. It is choosing Duty that leads to the ultimate death-bed regret: "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."


I don't have all the answers by a long shot, but I do have all the answers I need right now. The best way for me to serve God is to follow my heart, and so, this writer will write. Eventually I will share, but for now, I will write.

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