The Road to Enlightenment
It took a rough road, a pilgrimage and a 9-year-old’s fondness for chocolate milk to show Ashley Jansen the way out of depression. Now she’s here to tell you that every day is a special occasion.
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Jansen is now a life coach, a mother, a wife, an artist, a minister, a director and an actress who has appeared in several local productions. But that’s just the beginning. Don’t worry if you don’t totally know her by the end of this story because she’s still learning about herself. It has been an amazing journey, but if you ask Jansen today, she’ll say it’s just beginning.
She’ll say that tomorrow, too.
At first, it would seem Ashley Jansen and Martha Beck would be as poorly matched as any two people could be. One was a Harvard-educated master life coach. The other was climbing out of the abyss of depression.
Jansen sought Beck after reading an article by her in O Magazine. “She was so funny and so wise,” Jansen says. “I knew I was in the presence of a teacher.”
The feeling would become mutual. Thanks in large part to Beck, Jansen is now able to help people who have struggled with some of the same difficulties. That, in turn, helps Jansen. “It’s a transformative process,” Beck says. “She transforms people.”
Jansen believes her breakdown was as much spiritually based as mental, emotional or chemical. Her first setback occurred on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where she realized her religious education had been rudimentary. The episode landed her in a hospital in Israel. Since her breakthrough, Jansen has attributed much of her success to a spiritual awakening.
Now Jansen looks for magic in her everyday life, so she is a perfect match for Beck. “We share the objective of trying to be gates of the soul,” Beck says.
That may sound like hooey to some, but Jansen believes there is power in self-awareness. Those who learn to see wisdom around them can subjugate themselves to nature and others. Beck and Jansen connect because of their willingness to do that.
“All streams flow to the sea,” Beck says. “The sea is lower than the streams, and that’s where it gets its power, from that humility. We know we’re lower than anything.”
Once, on a group trip to Africa, Beck and Jansen walked into the wilderness to ask a question of nature: Why must there be ugliness and brutality in the world? For seven hours they sat, awaiting an answer. Jansen paid special attention to a small clump of weeds. As she stared at it, trying to figure its purpose, the setting sun cast a ray that tuned the weeds golden.
“That was her beacon,” Beck says. “You can learn from anything.”
Jansen didn’t decide to share her story widely until last July. Beck was the catalyst. The two had become especially close over the previous four years, had learned much from each other. While at a Life Coaches convention in Chicago, Jansen heard Beck speak.
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