As I look back on my life I can see that I have always followed a thread – let’s call it a red thread – that has wound its way through many different inner and outer experiences in many different places around the world. I have always felt a sense of the strength of my will to achieve my deepest desires, at the same time as a deep sense that I was being guided along a destiny line that was not under my control. Central to the theme of my life journey has been seeking to understand and integrate the two parts of myself that I would now call Feminine and Masculine.
The red thread tugged me through the landscapes of individual achievement, heroic risk taking acts, business building, and into the mystical, otherworldly, heart centered, community oriented world of human potential.
Everything has prepared me to be available NOW in these turbulent times, ready to guide women through the necessary birthing of the next level of our potentiality – a way of being and doing that I call Mysterial.
A positive vision of a new world is necessary, but not in itself sufficient, for the evolutionary upgrade we are in the midst of right now. We will also need to do the powerful shadow work of unhooking from millenia-old patriarchal codes woven deep down into our very DNA.
Zig zagging Between the worlds
I was born in Toronto, Canada and from as early as I can remember I wanted to be seen, approved of and loved by my father. He was a larger than life patriarch in our family, with a ferocious sense of ambition and the accompanying drive and capacity to leave his mark on the world. And this he has done.
While my father was busy stepping out onto the world’s stage, my mother was the steady and unconditionally loving presence in our home. With the same force that I aligned with the Masculine, searching for the approval of my totally unavailable father, I was deeply supported by my mother to follow my thread.
In many ways her ability to see to the core of my being quietly nourished another world that was growing deep inside me, even as I was being swept along by the driving energy of the masculine. A very active imagination bloomed and I created a vibrant inner life of mystery and wonder. I quickly learned, that to keep this world alive inside I would need to keep it very secret. And so I lived two lives, one that was marked by a desperate need for my father’s attention and an attempt to please him with excelling in the tools and knowledge of his world, and the other which was rich with images, spirits, stories and magic…always magic. An outer world in which I appeared so normal, self- confident, and happy and an inner world in which I felt like a freak, deeply alone, and very confused by all my feelings and the experiences I was having.
1972 – 1982 Exploring the Inner Terrain of Consciousness and Community
At the age of 18 a neighbor gave me a small white book called On Having No Head by Douglas Harding, who was an early non-dual spiritual teacher. A veil parted and I understood for the first time that my experiences of non ordinary reality were not my crazy imagination but were shared by others. The world that had been so hidden inside me as I tried to please my father was now pushing me out into explorations of identity, consciousness and spirituality of every kind. I knew I had to meet this man and within the year I was sitting with him and his students in Nacton, England.
This was the beginning of a period of exploration at every level: I lived on a kibbutz in Israel and taught skiing in the Golan Heights, met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and did Transcendental Meditation and lived for a month in a remote cliff cave in Crete exploring altered states.
I learned French and Italian and studied restoration architecture on a prestigious international scholarship at the University of Florence, Italy where I met and learned from the renown visionary and architect Buckminster Fuller. He opened my eyes to seeing and thinking beyond the rational mind and ignited my own visionary nature.
I lived in geodesic domes, danced naked under the full moon worshipping the goddess in France, learned to read auras and astral travel. I lived for a short time with Theravadan Thai monks in a monastery near London, spent time at Findhorn – a spiritual community in Northern Scotland, and lived in sister spiritual communities in Canada for the next 15 years.
1983 – 1993 – Excelling in the Outer World of Achievement as a Corporate Consultant
My beloved mother died of a sudden heart attack just 9 days before my 30th birthday. As I pushed away from the pain of this loss an heroic Masculine energy rose up in me, like a fire in my belly. I was passionate about bringing my understanding of transformation and awakening to women, helping them to reclaim their power and authority. I flew around the continent delivering powerful Winning Woman seminars, keynote speeches and giving TV and radio interviews to anyone who would have me. My words were way out ahead of my lived experience.
My passion inspired women to set their goals on the sun, be willing to take risks, and boldly launch into orbit. This was also a heady time in my management-consulting career, as I worked with big multinational organizations that were scrambling to meet the changing nature of the marketplace. I ran 10 day Leadership Seminars at Sea in the Caribbean, Zen and the Art of Leadership on Skis programs in the winter months, and was one of the first to use outdoor ropes courses with corporate clients.
In 1991, our consulting firm won a huge contract to deliver a Transformational Leadership program to all senior and middle management in IBM worldwide. Overnight, I found myself an in-demand, swashbuckling international consultant. I was based in Paris working with multinational clients across Europe, teaching at INSEAD in the summers and thriving as a woman in the elite circles of mostly male executive development.
1993 – 2003 Awakening the Forces of the Deep Feminine
In my pursuit to make a difference in the corporate world I had become ‘one of the boys’ and lost contact with my deep and soulful side. And I was not alone. I could see the same thing happening to the few female corporate clients who had made it to the executive levels of leadership. Something was drastically wrong with this picture.
In search of answers and my own healing I took a trip to Bali, Indonesia to visit my sister Hannah. As we traveled around that beautiful green jewel, I began to drop into the exhaustion in my body that I had been too numb before to feel. My senses drank in the sweet smells of early morning jasmine and incense, the evocative sounds of evening chanting, the sights of women with prayer baskets balanced carefully on their heads and the feeling of the warm, humid air on my bare skin. As we fasted, meditated, and took long walks on the beach something was starting to shift inside of me.
Early one morning, sitting above the layered rice fields, I entered into a deep state of meditation and union with the most exquisite Divine Mother Feminine energy. In that moment I was liberated from the drive and press of time and space and floated in a sea of love and connection with all things. When I came out of this state all I could remember was that at some level I had agreed to help bring this quality of Feminine energy into the world. I did not know what that meant, or how to do it. I did know that it would require a terrifying leap of faith to let go of everything that I had worked so hard to achieve.
Stepping onto the Path
Within a few months I had left my very successful consulting firm and opened up a private coaching practice for women, where I began to explore a different model of leadership that would include both our Masculine and Feminine strengths. Within weeks my practice in Paris – which I called Soul Journey Work – was full, a testament to the many women who were struggling with how to bring the fullness of themselves into their professional lives.
I was myself only a nanosecond ahead of the process that I was leading my clients through. I realized that if I was going to keep doing this work I would need to return to graduate school to understand more deeply how to help myself and other women develop our wholeness in psychologically sound ways. As fate would have it my new husband Robert had just been given the opportunity to open the US branch of a French medical software company and before we knew it we were settled in Seattle, and I was enrolled in a MA Psychology program with a focus on women’s development.
We were determined to start a family and in order to get pregnant, my 40+ body required many interventions ranging from In Vitro Fertilization to artificial insemination. My body was poked and prodded, analyzed and assessed. And it failed me again and again. After 4 pregnancies and 4 miscarriages I somehow still found the strength to go forward.
As we fused together more and more in our hope and grief I snuffed out my creative autonomy. My previously expansive world began to shrink, smaller and smaller until there was little left in it but Robert, and our dreams of having a child. My 5th pregnancy was the most hopeful and lasted the longest. When it too ended I knew I had reached the end of the road. With our shared dream of a family shattered on the floor it wasn’t long before our marriage followed the same demise.
2003 – 2013 Landing in the sweet spot of my life
Shortly after the dissolution of my first marriage I met David Smith who became my beloved husband. These were my happy years as I dropped into a deep sense of belonging inside the safe and nourishing embrace of our relationship. In the marvelous way of synchronicity he had deep connections to Indonesia as a collector/seller of Indonesian antiques and furniture. Our lives moved easily back and forth between Bali, Java and Seattle.
My path also crossed now with Susan Cannon who became my creative partner in our women’s leadership programs. My understanding of the nature of women’s psychological development braided together powerfully with Susan’s PhD thesis understanding of the collective emergence of more Feminine values bringing a timely balance to a hyper-masculine world. We provided each other with important missing pieces. Yet in all of our research neither of us could find any adequate models of a new way of being for women that would truly include all of our complex nature and be a match for the demands of the times. Nor could we see any transformative paths forward toward that wholeness that were integral enough to ensure that we were addressing all domains of a woman’s experience.
We realized that we would have to cut a women’s leadership path – based on the Feminine and Masculine essences – ourselves. We embedded our work first in Antioch University, Seattle and then with LIOS (The Leadership Institute of Seattle) at Saybrook University so that our programs would be grounded and accredited with a university level certificate. It would take a decade of continuous research, trial and error, and collaboration with our talented faculty and courageous students before the Way of the Mysterial woman would show herself to us.
2013 – present Walking the Way of the Mysterial Woman
The manuscript for The Way of the Mysterial Woman was complete and my co-author Susan and I began looking for a publisher. We were ready to fly up and out into the world to liberate women from the old codes handed down from millenia of a patriarchal consciousness. But that was before Life said, ‘Not so fast Suzanne. How do you know if this new Mysterial way of being will hold up even when everything falls apart? And I mean everything. How will you do when all that you hold most close to your heart is ripped away and you are left alone on the barren shore of a new life.’
On January 3rd, 2013 my husband David took his life and my life as I knew it cleaved away like a giant iceberg breaking free. The earthquake of my husband’s sudden and brutal suicide set the tsunami in motion that would wipe away all the outer structures of my life and rearrange my inner world for ever. Within 6 months I had lost everything I held most precious – my beloved husband and our future together, our island retreat center home, my cat, my community and my company.
I made my path through this bleak landscape by walking the way of the Mysterial Woman. And while I had no certainty that this would work out or take me through the dark night I was entering, I knew with absolute certainty that this was the path I would walk.
My Mysterial inner operating system held up. I took all of the work of the previous decades deeply into my body, heart and mind, refining and updating my understanding of the true principles of resilience. A lot was at stake for me personally. I knew that if I got through this trial by fire I would be able to guide others through the profound rite of passage of radical change.
The Way of the Mysterial Woman became a triple award winning book and when women around the world became interested in engaging in the deep developmental trauma work I created online global programs. It has been thrilling to experience the potency of our emergent collective work across culture and timezones. And as it turned out, when the pandemic hit I was already well versed in how to create deep transformational virtual space.
It has taken everything I have learned to traverse these years and I have drawn deeply upon the friendship and support of many dear friends, family and allies. I am currently working on my second book about how I walked in the Way of the Mysterial Woman in the aftermath of my husband’s death – my working title is We Make Our Paths by Walking: A Mysterial Guide Through Loss and Transformation.
My two cats Bodhi and Leela have been my feline companions since I moved into Seattle from my island home. I have found love again with a new partner and with him have returned to the freedom and great pleasure of skiing and road biking. I drop into the sourcing well of the great Mystery in a daily meditation and ritual practice.
I continue to be deeply committed to awakening consciousness and leadership capacity in women today. I believe that the future depends on our ability to access our Deep Feminine essence and weave it together with our healthy Masculine essence into profound new ways of being and doing that are a match for this complex moment in our collective evolutionary unfolding.
I was born for these burning times. It is my great honor and pleasure to guide women through the fires of transformation to become Mysterials who can shape a positive world for all being.