Meeting My Mentor
The Exceptional Louise Hay!
Published: January 20, 2013
Life lessons about walking your talk.
It was late afternoon as I sat down to have lunch with Reid Tracy, the CEO of Hay House. Reid and I have known each other for many years, and recently we’ve been teaching a workshop for experienced professionals who would like to expand their reach. Together, we walk participants through the process of writing and publishing, public speaking, appearing on radio and television, and using social media to build an audience for their work. We call the workshop Speak, Write & Promote: Become a Mover & Shaker, and it’s a legacy project that affords us the privilege of cultivating new, conscious leaders in the self-empowerment field.
As we began eating our lunch and discussing the progress of our latest workshop, Reid caught me off guard with an unexpected invitation: “I’ve been thinking about your next project, and I wonder if you’d be interested in writing a book with Louise.”
I carefully placed my fork on the table next to my plate, and looked up at him. “Louise Hay?” I asked with a mouth full of food and a worthy amount of surprise.
“Yes,” he said with a smile, “Louise Hay.”
Louise is considered one of the founders of the self-help movement and a pioneer in mind-body healing, and I’d known her for more than 20 years. Not personally, in the beginning, but through her writing and speaking. Published in 1984, her book You Can Heal Your Life was one of the first to introduce the connection between physical ailments and their corresponding thought patterns and emotional issues. I knew that Louise’s books have sold more than 50 million copies and that people from all over the world have been influenced by her work.
As I sat staring at Reid, the phrase coming full circle popped into my head. Write with Louise Hay? My mind flashed back to our first meeting. It was the mid-1980s, and I was a young woman trying to find myself. You Can Heal Your Life was one of the first books to set me on my own healing path.
At the time I was volunteering at a place called Interface in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Interface was a holistic education center that boasted a curriculum taught by cutting-edge thinkers such as Marion Woodman, a Jungian analyst and pioneer of feminine psychology; John Bradshaw, the man who introduced the concept of dysfunctional families to America through his PBS series Bradshaw On: The Family; and Bernie Siegel, the surgeon who challenged doctors and patients to see healing as a holistic process that encompassed our emotional and spiritual lives, as well as our physical bodies. Louise was set to give a lecture about her book at Interface, and I had been chosen to drive her from the airport to her hotel.
The thought of picking up Louise Hay at the airport was exciting. I was both anxious and thrilled to meet someone who had touched my life so deeply. In her book, Louise told the intimate story of her life with such courage and vulnerability that she felt like a kindred spirit. Her ability to turn a violent, abusive past into a present filled with peace and healing inspired me to get on a healthy path myself. And she challenged me to see growth from a radically new perspective: If I wanted to change my own life, I first needed to change my thinking. No more victim of circumstance. It was time for me to step firmly into the driver’s seat by using the practical tools she provided to make positive, long-lasting changes.
As I drove to the airport, I had to keep reminding myself to keep my excitement in check, avoid bombarding her with questions, and give her plenty of space. When I arrived, I discovered that her flight from California had been delayed, so I sat at the gate for more than two hours and my excitement never waned. It grew. Eventually, when Louise stepped off the plane, I made my way up to the gateway and introduced myself. She smiled and shook my hand, and then we walked to the car. I barely said a word all the way to the hotel.
Life would bring us together again several years later—this time under very different circumstances. The young girl who was so desperate to find herself in the ’80s became a woman who would write books and take others on their own journey of self-discovery. This time, Louise and I would meet again at an authors’ dinner hosted by her publishing company, Hay House. This would be the first of many meetings that would allow us to get to know each other in a more personal—and meaningful—way.
As the years passed, our time together provided me with a refreshing look at someone who, even now, at the age 86, still practices—diligently—what she teaches. Louise is a beautiful example of what it means to think and speak your way to an exceptional life.
Cheryl Richardson is the New York Times best-selling author of Take Time for Your Life, Life Makeovers, Stand Up for Your Life, and The Unmistakable Touch of Grace.