Learning to fly is a metaphor Pamela Hale can use literally. In addition to being a life coach and teacher, Hale is also an author and pilot who uses flying to help people live courageously.

In her recently published memoir, "Flying Lessons: How to Be the Pilot of Your Own Life," Hale takes readers through her own self-doubt and fear by way of seven "flight lessons." The book, which is illustrated with Hale's dramatic aerial photos, also chronicles her fight with breast cancer.

"Since my mother and grandmother had died of the disease, I knew I needed to do everything in my power, using both allopathic medicine and alternative methods," said Hale, 69.

A graduate of both Columbia and Stanford universities, Hale attended Tucson's Tacheria School for Spiritual Direction, where she studied spirituality and leadership, and became certified as a mediator.

At 57, she began a new practice, combining energy healing, life coaching and spiritual counseling from local traditions and those practiced in Central and South America.

"I hope I provide some practical and powerful tools for healing and transformation, and that I do that in a creative way that helps people to love life and themselves, and to heal old wounds, live in gratitude, feel a sense of purpose and passion, and contribute to a healthier planet," she said.

In addition to her book, Hale offers retreats at her family's Rocking X Ranch in Gila County's Sierra Ancha mountains. Her goal is to provide people time to get unhooked from electronics and connect instead "with the life force within."

Here are excerpts from a recent interview with Hale:

Where were you born?

I was born in Sacramento, Calif., where my father was an Army flight instructor, and moved to the Pasadena area when I was 2, after my father was shot down and killed over Germany in World War II. I stayed in the area and brought up my own children in South Pasadena.

How long have you been in Tucson and why did you choose to live here?

I moved here in 1989 - 23 years ago - for love. I re-met Jon Trachta, my husband, whom I had known in college. He didn't want to leave his law practice here, so I decided to embrace the desert Southwest, which I had always suspected would feel like a spiritual home.

Tell us about yourself and your career.

I began my career as a sixth-grade teacher in Harlem and the Lower East Side of New York City, where I got my master's at Columbia Teachers College. After moving back to Southern California with my first husband and having my two daughters, I got involved with photography and eventually founded an educational studio in the 1970s. I created curricula for all ages and for people with special needs, and became involved in the international photo-therapy movement. I was able to travel, speak and write about how to use photography to foster learning and personal growth.

A divorce forced me to close my studio and find a salaried job, so I began a decade of professional fundraising at a Los Angeles nonprofit for the arts, (and then attended) Stanford University.

Why did you decide to earn your pilot's license?

When I turned 40, probably feeling death was imminent, I made a bucket list and wrote down, "Get private pilot's license," even though at the time I had only been in a small plane once and didn't have money or time for flying lessons.

When I met Jon, I learned that he had been a fighter pilot in Vietnam, and that he shared a small plane with his dad. After I'd flown in the right seat with him for eight years, promising that I was going to get my license one day, he finally asked me if it was just talk, or whether I was actually going to do it. So his challenge was part of my motivation.

On a rational level, I wanted to do it to add to our safety as we got older, but I think my real motivation was the thrill I felt seeing the beauty of the Earth from the eagle's view. I also was researching my father's life, and wanted to fly for the connection to him. On a more subconscious level, I know I wanted to overcome fears and self-doubts that kept me from "soaring" in life.

Please tell us about being a cancer survivor.

There are so many levels to being a cancer survivor - so many questions it has brought up:

How did I help create an environment in my body where cancer could take hold, and how can I change that environment so it is no longer welcome? How can I do this with self-love, without blame or judgment, and remain in hope and joy?

When cancer returned, in what ways did it ask me to go deeper in my healing journey?

How can we honor death as a part of life, know that some are healed even when not cured, and still remain open to being well?

In what way is it true that strengthening the immune system is about connection and fluidity more than about a battle and polarization? And how could this idea help society?

As I live out questions like these, I also help others to live out theirs. Though my two bouts with cancer were very difficult and I am missing some body parts, I am filled with gratitude for all I've learned and been able to share.

More information

To learn more or sign up for Pamela Hale's newsletter and blog, log on at throughadifferentlens.com

Learn to fly

Pamela Hale will begin a new spiritual coaching group, "Advanced Flying Lessons," from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 26. Registration forms are online at throughadifferentlens.com

The group, which is limited to 12 participants, will meet monthly through May and is open to men and women.

Contact reporter Patty Machelor at 806-7754 or pmachelor@azstarnet.com