Dan was the founder and director of a continuing education learning community for coaches and healthcare practitioners for over 16 years. (New Edges Learning Community).
Dan Petersen is a personal and professional development coach, living and working out of Sage Canyon Ranch in Cortez, Colorado. He is certified as a coach by the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara, where he was also a faculty member of their Coaching Intensive Training and seminar programs. Dan received his master’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and his DDS from the University of Southern California. He completed post-graduate work in holistic healing with an emphasis on body-mind psychology.
Prior to becoming a coach, Dan worked in healthcare as an orthodontist for more than 20 years in San Diego, California. In 1990, he left his practice to study the fundamental principles that positively effect healthcare professionals, private clients, coaches, and organizational leaders. He has spent over 25 years studying and teaching professional performance, personal development, refined coaching technologies, and integral evolutionary methodology.
The Slender Thread of What Wants to Happen
At 77, I was property poor. I had left an orthodontic practice 28 years earlier having worked half time and followed other passions the rest of the year. I bought an 86 acre ranch in the four corners area of Southwestern Colorado amongst the pathways of the ancient native Americans where I built two homes. The first extending out of the red rock cliff, the “Cliff House” and the second a larger ranch house with a barn, tack room and horse facilities. Jack and Jet, the ranch horses, grazed on the pasture grasses across the creek. The ranch grew to 186 acres as adjacent land became available and my retirement account shrank, the land becoming my principle asset. I continued to add land to the ranch as it became available until it was 186 acres in size, funding building projects and land purchases from my retirement account. My brother moved onto the ranch which worked to everyone’s advantage until the first crisis came between us. Our political differences became insurmountable during the 2017 presidential campaigns and we parted ways. It was a bitter parting, leaving me without the help I needed to run the ranch. I wanted to clear the financial debt of the building projects, but the separation with my brother left me property poor and at a loss for a family. Life took a dive at that point.
It was time to put out the call for help and I quickly found my friends rallying around me.
No one in my community wanted to see the ranch change and with the best of intentions each one stepped in to preserve the status quo. However, following cancer surgery I felt my capabilities were in question and the reality of needing help became obvious. I was feeling a darkness descending on my life; youth was behind me as independence and the capacity for an autonomous life came into focus. It was time to set up a trust, intending to keep the ranch and community together until and after my death. In time after healing from my first real health challenge when breaking up the ranch to restore balance came into focus.
As a personal development coach, the ranch has acted as a retreat for clients. My intention had been to use the retreats here to support my life’s work in the evolution of human consciousness. I had hoped that people would come to the ranch for self-realization and healing – as it had healed me. People came, but not to the extent needed to sustain the overhead. I was also in a new relationship and the ranch was taking too much of my time. Letting go was the order of the day. It was time to explore ask myself the question I often put out to clients, the question of what wants to happen. I use the phrase “what wants to happen” as a way of trusting there is always a call from the future, trusting whatever happens in life to guide me and my intuition to play at the unfolding edge of life. Self-importance had to surrender to curiosity and the unknown.
My particular letting go required a different trust, an internal strength and acceptance an external mystery that had eluded me up to this point. There was a fear I was alone and alienated; no longer seeming to create a sense of belonging. I had not trusted that I was really never alone. I am referring to the “slender thread” of curiosity and connection that has run throughout my life. This slender thread became a connection between living a purposeful life, meaningful personal relationships, the right work and living in the right place. I used my passion for snowboarding as a metaphor and realized I could ride that slender thread of always being connected and belonging in life just as I feel the support of gravity when snowboarding. I saw doing the work of “dancing beyond my comfort zone” offered new worlds of self expression.
At a point when I was with my long-time mentor in a moment of profound appreciation when I said to him, “I trust you more than I’ve ever trusted anyone.” He put his hands on my shoulders, looked deeply into my eyes and responded, “You know it’s not me you trust.” It was like a bolt of lightening when I realized what he was saying. He was telling me it took a deep trust in myself to trust another that much. The slender thread said ‘Yes’! I was learning to trust myself and my gut feelings. This naturally became an essential principle of my coaching work. Since that pivotal experience with a teacher, my coaching is really about helping healthy people dig deeply into knowing the when, how and why of self trust.
I changed. I became smart enough to be quiet, not always having something to say as listening became a more powerful role. I came to see that life is not a problem to be solved, but rather a future to be discovered. I now allow people and situations “to be what they are” rather than to think I should control or improve them. “What wants to happen” has been a study in life that requires trusting something much bigger than my tiny ego; following the evolutionary principle of trusting my curiosity.
Change also came to the ranch. I worked it through difficult conversations, compromising, and changing habits. Healthy discrimination was necessary. I didn’t want to drive anyone away, but I needed to practice what I was coaching. I was dealing with that fragile edge between too much and not enough of being myself. There remain some rough edges as I am making end-of-life decisions on just how much is enough for me, a principle that carries over into coaching relationships. I guess it’s inevitable that the crowd thins but there is such richness with those who remain.
The ranch has become the physical manifestation of my wholeness as the embodiment of wholeness requires both the masculine and the feminine and dancing the partnership between the two. My masculine strength comes through in the get-things-done energy. It also lets me embraced the power of feminine wisdom as it gives my heart a home, allowing for tenderness and kindness where receptivity is actually the teacher. The ranch is a feminine strength that truly fulfills any need to belong. I must bring both the softness and toughness essential to being whole. As a result, my heart found its home. I live with purpose; I live life fully; and I help others do the same.
We have new neighbors at the ranch who share the pursuit of conscious evolution. There is a new horse to replace Jack who died last January. I can mourn the losses – the lost relationships, my lost youth, my diminishing physical capacities, my mortality. If I were flying, I would describe myself as on an approach and looking for a soft landing place.” Despite losses, I am ever optimistic, simplifying, getting clear on what’s important. I don’t have to perform and I have fortunately learned to reach down and bring forward what is needed for the moment at hand. I am more and more a witness, watching with curiosity this process of being human. Perhaps I become that slender thread…”