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Going Deep with Troubled Youth - with Coach Aaron Huey
Episode 2426th October 2023 • The Mindful Coach Podcast • Brett Hill
00:00:00 00:39:44

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One moment, being willing to sit in the darkness, one willingness to take a chance and say yes and find out the truth of another person's experience - can save a life. - Aaron Huey

Prepare to be inspired by the incredible work of Aaron Huey, a remarkable individual who has dedicated his life to helping troubled adolescents navigate through deep crises. With personal experience overcoming addiction, trauma, and suicidal thoughts, Aaron brings a level of empathy and understanding that is truly unparalleled.

Starting with a martial arts studio in Boulder, Colorado, his innovative solutions caught the attention of counselors and parents seeking transformative experiences for their children. This led to expanding after-school programs, weekend events, and even transformative teen rites of passage retreats. Aaron's commitment didn't stop there; he opened a sober home for teen boys, providing a safe haven for recovery.

Despite facing challenges like the closure of his treatment center, Aaron's expertise led to the development of the highly acclaimed parenting masterclass - Beyond Risk and Back, and the groundbreaking project, Safe Dojo.

His accomplishments have earned him recognition as a top healthcare visionary and industry leader. We are thrilled to have Aaron Huey as a guest on The Mindful Coach podcast, where he will share his insights and wisdom with coaches and mentors seeking to provide empathetic support and transformative experiences to troubled adolescents.

Get ready to be inspired by Aaron's incredible journey and learn how you can make a difference in the lives of those in deep crises.

Connect with Aaron:

https://aaronmhuey.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/firemountainprograms/

Beyond Risk and Back podcast





Mentioned in this episode:

The Mindful Coach Podcast

The Mindful Coach Association produces this podcast. An association for coaches and other helping professionals who value mindfulness in life and work. The association was created to help create community, and provide resources and ongoing learning for those aligned with its published principles and practices. If you're aligned with this work, join us at https://mindfulcoachassociation.com or contribute to our work with link provided. All funds go directly to cover costs and growth.

Transcripts

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So welcome to this edition of the Mindful Coach podcast. This week is really special because I have as a guest a really incredible person in the world who's doing such great work. Wait till you meet Aaron Huey. He is a remarkable person. I have spoken with him before. In the year 2000, he established a small martial arts studio, Bola, Colorado, which gained a lot of attention from counselors and parents seeking innovative solutions for their children. In response to growing demand, Aaron and his wife expanded their offering to include after school programs, weekend events, summer camps, and transformative teen rites of passage retreats. Oh, my God. Just that in and of itself know a year's worth of conversation because it's so missing from the culture. These rites of passage are so important not only for children, but for adults as well. And it's just completely been erased from our culture in many ways. In 2009, they furthered their commitment by opening a sober home for teen boys, providing a safe and supportive environment for recovery over the course of the next decade. Decade? Their endeavor involved into one of the most successful adolescent residential retreat centers in the United States, garnering many accolades and awards, including top 100 healthcare visionaries and top 50 Healthcare company recognition. Unfortunately, the closure of the treatment center in 21 was prompted by fires in Estes Park, Colorado, and that's a big deal. Estes park is a gorgeous, gorgeous area. I lived in Boulder quite a long time and spent quite a bit of time up in Estes Park, which is spectacular if you ever get a chance to go there. You should undeterred, though, because once you meet Aaron, you'll understand what undeterred means. He redirected his focus towards supporting parent schools and martial arts instructors, grappling with the challenges of working with addicted, traumatized, and suicidal children. That's an intense calling right there. His profound insights and expertise led to the development of the highly acclaimed parenting masterclass Beyond Risk and Back, which received the prestigious Telly Award for education in 2021. And furthermore, he has a groundbreaking project, safe Dojo. Safe Dojo, which earned him induction into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2022, solidifying his status as an industry leader. Welcome to the mindful, Coach Podcast. I'm so happy to see you here. It's really great to see you.

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I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to your coaches. I think the coaching industry is important, necessary. I just got off the phone with a brand new client and I love those first moments where you're just in the zone, you're in the flow and they're coming and I don't know what I'm going to do about this. And what about this? What about this? And even though it's their first time, it's your 1000th time hearing it. And so you have those soothing openings and bam, you're off and running, and they're ready to set up and keep going with you and make that uncomfortable change that, you know, they're ready to make. Otherwise they would have never called you in the first place. So thank you for giving me an opportunity to be with your crowd.

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Well, you're welcome. And thank you for saying yes. I want to talk to you a little bit about how was it that you got involved with because, I mean, the work that you're doing with the adolescence of the world and the transitional work, the rites of passage and the most challenging stuff out there in terms of people suicidal drug addiction I mean, that's really intense work. I'd like to know how is it you got involved with that generation, so to speak, that particular problem with adolescence and going right for the heart of some of the most challenging stuff that there is.

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What I will say first and foremost is that I was one of those kids. I struggled immensely. I was a drug addict for 14 years. I started using drugs when I was twelve, experimented for a few years when I was 18, attending acting school. I was sexually assaulted and that turned the experimentation into use and abuse that continued until I was 28 years old. So I was one of those young men with a kid, with a wife, lost, never found happier. When I was high and when I was sober, I was suicidal. I had a lot of loving people telling me I should let go of the crutch and start walking on the wounded limb. But that's not guidance, that's not support, that's just lecture. And it wasn't until I was ready to heal that the healing actually began. I've always had an ability to teach. Partly is because the teacher learns twice. I love learning from the stage. I guess that's the best way to say it is that I can watch a YouTube video and then turn around and teach it. And that's how I learn what was in the video. But having to sit and memorize and remember later on a test, that's not my learning style. I have to be put on the spot to get other people to understand before I understand. And that helped me find a niche market because once I understood my sobriety and I reached the twelveTH Step, which is taking the message of hope to others, that's where I really began to understand my own work as a coach, as a mentor, as a facilitator of rites of passage, as a martial arts instructor. And so things really took off. And they still take off. On Monday, I'm taking off to go to India yet again to teach martial arts in front of a massive group of people who are looking for that kick, proverbial kick in the pants to go to the next phase of their life. Martial arts has always been a really wonderful medium for transition and dealing with discomfort and embracing change and mastery of mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and even financial life. So I love the work, I love learning when I teach. And I was one of those kids and I had mentors do it for me. And so it's payback. It will be payback and the twelveTH step for the rest of my life.

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And so somehow this turned into people bringing their children to you for help. I mean, how did that come about?

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It started very early. This story always is very emotional for me because I'm still in touch with a young man. So as I begin to tell the story, there's a happy ending.

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We'll take our time here.

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Just as I was opening, a mom brought her kid to me. And I had done some work in a summer camp. That wasn't mine, it was someone else. I had done some work with this child and she came to me in confidence and said, I just caught my kid trying to kill himself for the third time. He was six. And she caught him trying to hang himself. Yeah, she caught him trying to hang himself in the shower. And she said, can you help? What am I going to say? No. The warrior finds or creates a way. So I said yes. Not having really any clue other than empathy because I was that kid. I was suicidal, I was depressed, I had a missing dad, I had what this kid had. I saw the cards the kid was holding and I had held those cards. I just had learned how to play them once I got sober. And so I said yes. And I jumped on the internet the night before and I said how to talk to a child about suicide. And I came across one article and the article said, whatever you do, whatever you say, don't sugarcoat it, don't tiptoe around the tulips, don't walk on eggshells. If this child has thought about killing themselves and has acted out, then they have thought about everything. There's nothing you can't say. And that gave me confidence because it wasn't that I didn't know what to say. I mean, that was a part of it, but I didn't not know how to say too much. And I didn't want to say too much. I didn't want to make it worse. And the article pretty much said to me, how could you possibly make this worse? And that gave me the freedom to do something that's so important for coaches. And I want to say this out of the gate. The best skill I have as a coach for families in deep crisis, the best skill I have as a consultant for teens who are really, really struggling is what I learned from that one article and practiced the next day is I sat in that child's darkness with them I didn't try to solve. And I shut up and listened. And that child felt me there in that dark, lonely, cold place with them and spoke. And I just listened. And I started with four letters, r U. Okay? That's all I said to the kid. And then I just shut up. And the kid started talking. I know he wasn't I had the backstory, but I also had permission to be in that darkness because this article just said everything's on the table. There's nothing they haven't thought of. How could you make this worse? And that child and I created a mentor mentee relationship that now I'm happy to call this young man a colleague. And I will tell you, on that day, all those years ago, I said, if you don't hurt yourself, no cutting, no burning, no scratching, no rubbing with an eraser, and no suicidality for one year in one day. And if in this year, in your day, anytime you feel depressed or that you want to hurt yourself, you call one of these three numbers. Me and these two other people that he had put on said, one year in one day. If we do it and you do it well, I'll buy you a Viking sword. He was six. He is now 25 years old, and he has a degree in Nordic History and Norse mythology. So, coaches, that's what I want to say is one moment, one willingness to sit in the darkness, one willingness to take a chance and say yes and find out how can save a life. And my first client is that model that I base all of my clientele off of. So you do it, you just go and that's how it started with one suicidal kid. And so I have a specialty with families in deep crisis because I'm not afraid to sit in their darkness with them and figure it out as we go.

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Wow. I just have to kind of hang out with that for a minute. It's such a powerful story. And the impact of that was that he wound up actually studying Norse. I mean, that just goes so deep. Like, you had such an impact there. Wow. So you took on this challenge, if you will, you stepped into the moment of just being present and making space for another person's grief. I'm going to call it that. And not trying to fix them, but just be there with them. And that turns out to be transformative experience. It's so powerful and it's something that a lot of us can do. I studied mindful somatic therapy with Juan Kurtz, who was the founder of Hakomi. And one of the things he used to say later in his career was about loving presence. And he would just know healing happens when you engage with loving presence. And so he kind of shifted. He had a whole lot of technique and skills and really amazing stuff. I mean, it looked like magic went in the hands of a skilled practitioner. But towards the end of his career, he shifted to simply trying to help professionals be of loving presence with others, as that was sufficient, more than sufficient. So some reason that comes up for me when I hear this story.

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Isn'T that what a mentor is supposed to do is show people how to be with moments that the mentor has been through, to just be there, and you do it by being there. The idea that we may be in a situation as a coach, in a situation that's over our head, is a very it's not a far fetched idea. It happens often. And I find that there is more ability to correct if that's preceded by a connect. So let's just say connection before correction, right?

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And connection, connection before correction.

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Yeah, let's say that. What that means is presence before presence. Right. There's something I have to get you, give you that you can use as a tool, a trick, a tactic or technique. But first I have to show up to where you are, right? And that's very somatic you know as well as I do, because this has been our discussions in the past about somatic therapies and about Hakomi is that you have to the empathy. It's not just I can feel sorry for you, but I can actually feel what you feel. And I can know that what I'm feeling is not mine, that it's yours. And that where I'm feeling it in my body. The empathic nature of the somatic experience may indicate where you're feeling it in your body. And it's not that if your arm hurts, my arm has to hurt. It's that I have to be willing to be in my space long enough that at the very least, I show you how to be in yours. And that's where the connection comes before correction. And for parents who are saying, my kid's been kicked out of school and they found pills in the locker and the scale in the bedroom when I searched their room and I didn't know what this was happening, and there's a minor in possession charge and they have to go to court, what do I do? I was like, well, first thing is we stop trying to handle the results. The results have already happened. First of all, what's it like to just be with your kid right now? Well, I'm just so angry. And I was like, okay, now we know where things are. So now I'm going to just be with your anger, and I'm just going to sit with you in this space of and I've heard it. And any parent who's listening, who is a coach or any coach who has worked with parents with deeply struggling teens, there is an experience of hating your child, that you have to navigate with families that this child has caused so much pain and suffering with their risky decision making process that I have heard parents sobbing, saying, I hate my child. I hate my kid. How did I become this person? So how do you sit in that? Do you say, oh, no, you don't. No, don't feel like that. It's okay. It's not okay. And they know it's not okay and that they do feel like that. Don't tell them not to be with them. Be in that space. What is that like to hate your child, be with them? What is that like to hate your spouse because they have now the difference is so deep or the betrayal is so what is that like to hate their business that they started because they wanted to leave a legacy? Can you be with them in this space that's being mindful of yourself as a coach first, Brett? My hobbies are outdoor survival, emergency medicine and martial arts. Those are my hobbies. Now, a good coach or a good therapist, as you are laughing, understand that that probably indicates I don't really trust the world. I'm pretty much prepared for things to go south mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and through business. I've had to learn how to do it financially. But can you sit with me in that space? Can you sit with my distrust of the world? Can you sit with the type of person who's so overwhelmed by what's on the news right now that I don't want to watch it? But I can't turn away from the human condition, but I also don't want to feel that. I also have a book that I'm publishing. I also have a business to promote and children to raise. I was made a grandparent two weeks ago, so I've got things.

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Congratulations.

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Thank you. I have things to do. So how do I sit in this darkness and still be the light? And how do I expect my clients to do the same if I can't?

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Yeah, that's just so passionately and elegantly put. It really is a both end to me. It's like the essence of human incarnation. Right. It's kind of like how do we be with this suffering and the beauty? And not to minimize either, nor to amplify either.

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Right. That's a good one. Not to amplify that's. Right?

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Yeah. Let me put it another way. I sometimes say to my clients and to my students, in a world with unlimited suffering and unlimited beauty, who do you choose to be?

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I've recently really begun to approach this concept that we all love to promote of oneness and to accept that that means all of us. Even the people you despise hate, even the people you try to avoid, even these people on the news who are doing the things and saying the things that you would never do or say. If we're not all one, then what are we? Are we separate? And if we are all one, then is it all of us? Am I really that politician that I cannot stomach? I kind of have to be in that space, all one or none? Is that it? Or do we get to pick and choose who's in the oneness and who's out? I had a very wise mentor. Tell me one time, as I was doing some very deep spiritual work and had a brilliant breakthrough and was my own paradigm of understanding was shattered. And I said to them, when do we all as a species, as humans, when do we all elevate into understanding? And he said, Are you not all of us or have you separated through understanding? Now that you understand, are you different than me? And I was like, Holy crap. He was like, Your understanding is our understanding, right? That's the all one or none.

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Because we don't get to pick and.

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Choose who's in and out of the human club.

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Well, that's a really strong point and I love it that you bring that up because it's a very big differentiating factor in terms of we're kind of going into uncharted territory here for this show. But if we want to bring up the notion of wokeness, what I mean by that is, like, there's a level of waking up to who you really are and who the world and how we're put together so that you become aware of this sort of oneness. And then there's using that as a differentiator I'm in a stratus above everybody else because I have woke up to this new level and there's so much of that going on.

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Brett, in the early 2000s, neropa University, which I know you're aware of, in Boulder, Colorado, in their brochure for their college, there was a quote that I saw and it was so impactful when I saw it that it was kind of one of those game changer. Eckhart tolle Paulo Cuello. Like you read something Carlos Castaneda and you're just like that. And this was anonymous and it said, it's not about being better. It's about giving up the struggle to be different from who you are. And that quote landed inside and became a central pivot point around which my identity and the identity of my clients all begin to rotate around is this idea that people come to the work, people hire you because they want change and want is the will trying to manifest. And that's good. That's the alarm clock of the soul. This wanting, that's the wake up now, wake up right now. Utilize that. Let that catapult you into the movement of change. But change is tough. Change is uncomfortable. Change is difficult. Change requires maintenance. Oh, the desire to change can happen in a moment. But the actual process of change is a 90 day minimum daily process. And that's wonderful. That's where the work of coaches comes in, is to mentor change.

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Yeah, I agree where you want these inflection points.

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Somewhere along the way I had read about Rites of Passage and it might have been back in the 80s when Iron John first came out. I didn't read Iron John in the read it in the late 90s, but when I read it, the first thing that I realized was that my parents had put me through one. When I was 16 years old, I was sent to Japan and I studied martial arts in Japan. I studied a very unique martial arts in Japan that is very popular, but no one actually believes it's true. So I became part of a unique community. Learning martial arts in America and learning martial arts in Japan is two different worlds because Japan is not a litigious society. So the instructors there will pretty much do whatever they want, including the leaving of scars. Mental, physical, emotional, spiritual. Wow. But Scarification is, I come to find out later, part of the rite of passage process. I was sent away from my family to have a worldly experience under the guise of mentors who were consciously and purposefully transitioning me into a different way of being, into a different stage of life. That, in essence, is the definition of a rite of passage. When I looked back reading about rites of passages as an adult and I had gotten sober, I started to see these things that we create as rites of passage when we don't have someone who facilitates it for us. Drugs, alcohol, unsafe driving, sex, being in a gang these are all facilitated by other people our age. And that locks us into that age. These types of things mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, sometimes financially. When a process is facilitated by a mentor who is consciously guiding the process, massive changes happen. I was sent to Japan at 16 years old without my parents to experience being with another family, another culture, a place where I had to be on the edge of survival. Right? 1ft off the cliff, taking a leap of faith, saying, I can do this. My parents saying, you can do this. And ninjas were a very popular thing in the ninja movies. Shoko sugi, American ninja, all that stuff. Well, I went to a ninja museum. I was obsessed with ninjas. I met the curator and I was brought in to learn from Grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi, the 34th Grandmaster of Togakuri Ninpotaijutsu or the king of the ninjas, the man who holds the scrolls. A real bona fide Grandmaster ninja, the real deal. And while my friends were at home playing Frisbee and skateboarding as was popular in the Was in the jungles of Japan, climbing trees and dodging swords and learning ninpote jitsu or ninjutsu and I came back and having grown up being bullied and started studying martial arts at age 13 and I came back into my 11th grade year. The first two weeks of high school, an age old bully grabbed me in the hallway and I dropped him and the whole school stopped and watched. We had all grown up together. I grew in a small town and I was standing in a fighting position called Ichimanji Nokamai. And he was on the ground and couldn't breathe. And everybody else was holding their breath.

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I'm holding my breath.

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I had my Karate Kid moment. But see, the rite of passage is the transition from one phase of our life to the next. And the twelve steps when I got sober were rites of passage. The drug use and the spiritual experiences I had during my deep LSD days were rites of passage. Some of them, some of them were horrendous lost. But when they were guided, when they were shamanistic and there was a person who was not using, who was guiding I'm a 32nd degree freemason and each degree of freemasonry is another rites. I was initiated into witchcraft at a very young age. Those were rites and ceremonies. I have been going through rites of passage in all shapes and forms throughout life. I see and facilitating them, becoming conscious of what had taken place and facilitating them first taught me that martial arts instructors are facilitating a rite of passage and if they do it accidentally they can really screw up the kid. And my safe dojo project was twofold. Number one, you are doing a rights here. Do it on purpose and purposefully because you are opening a door and this door is filled with shadow and violence and light and love. So do it consciously or they could walk the shadow path and then Safe Dojo also facilitated the therapeutic recognition of what martial arts does. You are doing therapy. Either do it on purpose or do not do the following exercises. So this became a very clear process for me of what a rite of passage. So when we began facilitating it for teenagers and children it was very clearly oh yeah, you're walking barefoot on broken glass oh yeah you're doing a firewalk oh yeah you're doing a sweat lodge oh yeah you're breaking an arrow with your throat oh yeah, you're breaking a board oh yeah, you are doing a vision quest. But it was all a very conscious process led by a group of elders and this stuff was planned deeply and facilitated consciously. And there were women to facilitate certain parts and men to facilitate and the parents were brought in here and it is not therapy. That was our biggest learn through doing all this because the transition from the motivational work of a rite of passage to the therapeutic work of residential treatment was very clearly understanding the difference between a state change and a trait change. Brett, you have therapeutic skills. The trait change is changing. That one thing. And it takes like 90 days of daily work and maintenance in a guided emotional process. That's therapy. Motivation is state change, right? We're going to increase a body state that can walk barefoot on 1700 degree coals go, right? And then, now where else can you use the fact that you just did that successfully? What's another version of that? These are motivational changes. These are state changes. You felt that way, now you feel this way about yourself and about life. But maintenance of change is a therapeutic process. And it was understanding those two things and how separate they are that guided us from doing rite of passage work, which we still do, into the therapeutic work of residential treatment program for children who are struggling with mental health, addiction, self harm. The coaching process straddles that line of motivation and then maintenance, because the motivation, as I said, the motivation to change is instantaneous. That's it. I'm changing. I'm done. I'm changing. Great. Now your job as a coach is to guide that change for 90 days and make it smart, sensible, manageable, achievable, reasonable, time sensitive, therapeutic is. Now let's deep into the emotional state. Tell me about your mother. Right. I'm being facetious, but you so I have continued to do rite of passage work consistently and I can say in transparency. I've recently begun my path with the Mayan culture and I live here in Mexico. I just spent the full solar eclipse at a Mayan temple doing ceremonial work. I do not use ayahuasca peyote or anything. I am 100% totally clean and sober. I just want to make that clear. I do not feel the need to add those things into my ceremonies. Other people do their choice, their process, their path. So I'm in a new initiatory Rights and we'll take it step by step, as I have my Masonic work, which I still do my own pagani and understanding of the Christian mythos as well as I understand all of the pagan mythos. And this is the initiatory rights. And I'm going out to India to use martial arts to perform them for about 350 people on Monday. And I still do it with children, teens and adults.

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Wow. Well, that's a lot right there. He has such an incredible story and such a rich experience to bring to any connection or relationship that you encounter. And I really appreciate your expanded view of rites of passage in terms of the things that we do to ourselves and the way we induce I'm going to call it heat into our systems to create enough energy to change through. And sometimes that can be dampening, like the drug addiction and seeking out stimulation to help us manage our experience. And then also the fact that when it's facilitated by somebody who kind of knows what they're doing and all the conscious thought went into creating these experiences for people, how much difference that makes in terms of helping people transform. There's a lecture. Andrew Harvey, who's a mystic who I follow sometimes has a really nice lecture on states and stations, which is similar to what you were talking about, and he talks about when you're doing in another hat I wear, is sometimes a spiritual person. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how all this connects up to those worlds. And in terms of spiritual awareness, there's this notion of the state that you're in and that can be variable depending on the kinds. Of things that you're doing. So you can encounter someone like you, or you can take a drug, or you can have something happen to you and it can change your state. You can say, we're going to get ourselves into a place where we can do things we couldn't normally do because we are transitioning to a mind body experience that allows us to go places we couldn't normally do. Unless you're doing those things, you can't maintain that state. Right? And that's where the 90 days of focus comes, like you said before. But when you do that, that becomes your new station. And I think this is what you're calling traits, right? So it becomes a trait now and it becomes something that so you have a new your your ceiling is now your floor. Your previous ceiling is now your those Gurdjieff used to call those octave shifts. And so I like that analogy as well because it's about vibration in that sense. And so it's really about all that. And being someone who facilitates those kinds of shifts is very high calling indeed. And you've really put yourself into immersed yourself as fully into that as you can, all the way from studying with the ninjas back in the day. Oh my God, that's such an incredible story. I could talk to you all day about this. How can people connect with the work that you're doing and find out about your current offerings? And I think you said you have a book coming up too, is that right?

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I do.

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Tell us about that.

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To connect with my work with parents and families in Cris, please go to parentingteensthetstruggle.com. That has everything. It has my podcast beyond risk and back. It has my video game Addiction book. It has my parenting masterclass, has a ton of free resources, videos, whole classes and workshops that I just have there to support that's everything to do with parents and families and teenagers who are really struggling.

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Okay, great.

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My next book that is coming out is called The Four Prime Archetypes. And it is an archetypal personality typing system. And this is my life's work. This has been the book.

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This is your passion project.

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This has been the big passion project that I have spent 25 years cultivating. Finally have collected all my materials, all the teachings and trainings I've done. You can find videos of me talking about it all over the Internet, but it's all been collected and perfected, edited, edited again, edited a third, fourth, and fifth time, and will be released on November 15, 2023 on Amazon called The Four Prime Archetypes a Guide to Understanding Why People Do the Things They Do. And I have great partners in the work. I've had a lot of wonderful connections with people through it. But it is literally one of the essences of the work I do, is understanding why people do the things I do through Archetypal symbology. And it's a fun book. It's a lot of finger pointing. Oh, you're a warrior, you're a wizard, you're a jester, you're a bard, those types of things. It's very fun, but it's also a deep analysis of the four prime personalities and how we receive and encourage the unconscious symbolism of mythology.

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I'll put a link to it in the show notes when it's out and also see if we can get that out to The Mindful Coach Association members as well. So thanks so much for the work that you're doing. So incredible. Always talking to you is just a deep dive into Wonderland, and I just really appreciate it so much. Let's keep in touch and we'll talk soon, okay?

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Yes, most definitely. Brettt, thank you for the opportunity to reach out and touch a crowd.

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Appreciate it. Appreciate.