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Lighthouse Ponderings

By: Candace L. Dorsey, MA, NCC, LPC

The lighthouse is often seen as a spiritual metaphor. It is a powerful symbol for guidance offering safe passage. I have vacationed at Hunting Island State Park, SC for nearly 20 years and have climbed to the top of the lighthouse many times.

The journey to the top of the lighthouse is arduous - going round and round, step after step. There are a few tiny windows as one ascends. None offers much of a view or peek; especially if you keep climbing as you look out; yet each of these windows makes you want more and motivates you to keep going with no conscious realization that this is happening at the time. There may be an underlying feeling of disappointment as you are also reminded that you are not yet there.

Upon reaching the top, one experiences a sense of exhaustion, relief, and exhilaration almost simultaneously. When you look out, the vast expanse of sea and sky seems to go on forever. The line that delineates the horizon is in some ways unreal or, perhaps, surreal. Looking down, there is a momentary feeling of fear, not only from being up so high but also at having to abruptly adjust to this other perspective. The people and pathways look small and rather distorted. As you look up and outward again, the air seems thinner and smells cleaner. The experience frees the mind, giving it permission to take in an intense and overwhelming sense of freedom and space which transforms one in some way into an altered state.

While gazing out at the endless sea, one may experience a paradoxical sense of being. In one way, infinitesimally small, like the proverbial grain of sand on the beach, while also having a sense of connectedness as though the universe would not quite be complete without one’s presence. This state of being is much the same that of lying on one’s back gazing up at the stars on a clear night.

Upon descending the steps of the lighthouse, there is a sense of loss, but also one of transformation in some intangible way. Nothing seems quite the same, and for some bizarre reason, when one looks back up at the lighthouse, it seems even taller and sturdier that it did before.

The lighthouse is a metaphor for the coaching process in that each step of discovery is small and seemingly insignificant; yet there is an odd feeling of urgency which soon becomes coupled with a blend of fatigue and excitation. Sometimes, one may pause and feel a slight sense of achievement or accomplishment and a touch of bravery at the approach toward the yet unknown. Upon reaching the top, there appears to be no end; yet one sees a distinction between earth and sky which is called the horizon.

The horizon is not in reality an actual line because there is still an almost endless expanse beyond it which can neither be seen nor denied. In that moment, there is something that propels one from the known to the unknown as though venturing out from dry land to sea. The water is another spiritual symbol. The journey across the water is fraught with danger but is also filled with cleansing and renewal. The experience becomes a sort of baptism that unites the self and the spirit via a process of self-actualization.

As a life coach, we are both the guide and the companion. We ascend the lighthouse by being present with the client and listening, then encouraging a next step by asking powerful questions or via the utilization of visioning—what is on that horizon line? What do you see three to five years from now? What is beyond that? Can you take yourself into the future and meet your future self? What wisdom does that future self share with you now? As we exit from the coaching relationship there is a sense of loss coupled with the renewal of the transformative process experienced by both client and coach.

To learn more about Hunting Island State Park, SC’s lighthouse see

Candace L. Dorsey, MA, NCC, LPC, BCC, became a Board Certified Coach (BCC) in May of 2012 and has been in solo practice as a Professional Counselor since 1995. She is on her own transformative journey from full time counselor to part-time life coach in semi-retirement. Candace thrives on helping her clients to become fully actualized individuals by identifying and clearing any impediments that block this process. She may be reached by email at