How I Transformed my Relationship to Love and ultimately, to my Self

Date: July 16, 2015

posted by Marijana Cabrita / Comments: 4 Comments / Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

I have come to know a sacred truth about how I experience love that has completely transformed how I relate to life and the notion of love itself. This truth about love became very clear to me when I would suffer major losses in my relationships. I noticed with each painful loss that I was awakening to an ever present loving awareness that metaphorically held my hand and walked me home to a peaceful, loving, open-hearted presence that I later learned has always been walking my life path with me.

I now know that it has always been present with me, through the good times and the difficult times—but my awareness of it was limited. I remember sensing it through my life.

I gradually discovered how my own limiting beliefs about myself as a partner, a mother and, ultimately as a woman were preventing me from having the love that I yearned for. That my mind was navigating my hearts pulse and it was turning most situations into feeling like I was not good enough.

I began to notice how scared I was of facing the truth and learned that if I made a conscious effort to notice how I was feeling that I could also consciously lend myself compassion, which would in a sense accelerate healing. Healing that otherwise would have been prevented by avoidance, disconnect and the negative core beliefs that revolved around fear.

As I allowed myself to be consciously and compassionately present with my pain—I could eventually settle into peace and so too, joy would often arise. As soon as we lend our experience of pain the love that it desires, the grip of fear loosens and releases the grief we’ve been holding on to.

It wasn’t about not wanting to feel the pain anymore but rather, accepting that I was feeling it, which opened the doors to a greater loving awareness of who I was, beyond my belief system.

I began to understand the power that the mind has on the heart and how it can direct me toward suffering or wellness depending on my awareness. That the negative chatter in my mind often lead me to shame, disappointment, anger and judgment. Knowing the whole time that this was not my natural state but often feeling trapped in a negative web because I didn’t yet know how to trust this greater loving awareness.

Conscious compassion helped me surrender to my experience of pain. The more I practiced this, the more I found acceptance for myself, which allowed me to enter the world of presence more and more. I was able to see that it wasn’t my mind that was the perceiver of all my experiences.

It was again, that ever-present loving awareness that has been holding my hand so to speak and witnessing my life unfold with an un-abiding loving presence. The more I embraced this presence the more I could identify this aspect of myself as presence, itself and less as the thoughts that I think or the feelings that I feel and even less a need to get fulfilled by someone else. I started to get acquainted with my Soul (in my opinion just another word for presence/loving awareness/love/etc).

It became clear to me that this presence, which always seemed to be accompanied by a loving awareness, was who I was beyond my physical being. That it reigned above and beyond the ego-driven mind, which constantly strives for external validation and toys with our emotions.

Love is the essence of life itself and works with the physical and psychological aspects of our selves to promote our growth, when we invite it.

By relying solely on the mind, relationships cannot thrive to their full capacity, because the mind by itself can only offer ego driven solutions to love. Positive or negative, our passive reactivity or active seeking for love always has us looking outside of ourselves for security. The more I understood this, grieving dissolves and the truth of who I am begins to surface.

More and more I could trust that Love was not something to seek outside of myself and that embracing this was my life purpose.

As I awakened to this greater level of awareness, this deeper essence of who I am, I rested in knowing that I do not have to put any effort into being anything other than I am. I can make space for increasing awareness of soul love and that it exists without effort. That because it is my true essence, in order to trust in it and embrace it, it is my responsibility to stay present and clear away all the unconscious baggage that gets in the way of thriving in this love.

As I began to regard this loving presence as soul love a sense of aliveness, direction, expansiveness grew within me. I began to free myself of the shackles of rigid and self-defeating thoughts and experience a presence in my relationships that I have never known.

Soul love is love that is beyond measure. It lives and breathes and is the pulse of not just my heart, but of the life that we all share and are all a witness to.

In Western society, the term love is mostly used as a verb. As an act that produces feelings between people. Soul love as a noun allows it to reign as a being in and of itself that is enhanced by the act of loving but exists as an ever present, unchanging, life-affirming aspect of who we are.

Seeing myself and all of life from this place of loving awareness gifts me with the choice to rise up and meet life as it is in truth, freeing me from self-made constraints. Today I choose love. Today I choose presence. That means trusting in my higher purpose and committing to live this life with an open heart. With soul love.

 
 
~ Marijana Cabrita is a psychotherapist, mentor, workshop facilitator and lover of this sacred life. Marijana’s passion is in bridging the science of psychology with the power of spirituality. She is committed to helping women awaken to their true sacred essence and embody love. www.marijanacabrita.com
 
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A Body for Everybody

Date: July 14, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , , ,

Last week, sporting magazine ESPN released its annual Body Issue. A clever play on words that conjures up, for me at least, images of my own dimply thighs. However, this Body Issue isn’t what’s in your head making you insecure…it’s the exact opposite. A huge number of athletes have posed completely naked, most of them whilst engaging in the sport they love on the pages of this month’s ESPN Magazine and it’s an absolute feast for the eyes. It is a thing of beauty, the human body and there are no finer examples than the ones on ESPN’s recent pages.

What caught my attention about this issue more than issues in other years was their choice of cover model, 25-year-old American Hammer thrower, Amanda Bingson. There is no doubt that she has an incredible body- a powerful body that does incredible things, but regrettably it’s a body we don’t usually get to see much of on magazine covers.

Amanda has a broad frame and describes her body as ‘dense’ but also says in the same breath, ‘I’ll be honest, I like everything about my body.’  Yes! More of that please! This is a young woman who didn’t take up Track and Field until 2009 and now, just 6 years later, she’s poised to head to her second Olympic games. Inspiring? Hell yes.

Another incredible story in the latest issue of ESPN is that of Natalie Coughlin, the only female U.S. Olympian to win 6 medals in one Olympics. Her photo is absolutely stunning; her long, lean frame is captured underwater and completely nude, but her tan lines create the illusion of a swimsuit. I have never been jealous of tan lines before. I want her tan lines.

Coughlin says, ‘I was turning 30 and married going into the 2012 Olympics, so everyone assumed I would retire, have babies and disappear. There are teammates on the male side that don’t get those questions.’ Preach! How interesting to hear the stories of these incredible female athletes who so rarely get to talk about anything other than their sport of choice and their latest competition.

Coughlin goes on to talk about the extreme body issues that young women face in her sport and how, ‘there were times when I wasn’t happy with my body, but I always knew that I was really fit and that it was what allowed me to be successful in the pool.’ These are the kinds of stories I wish I was reading when I was 15 and too shy to go out for the swim team because I didn’t want to be seen in spandex.

This issue of ESPN Magazine is filled with stories of triumph and of heartbreak, but mostly, as the name of the issue would imply, it’s filled with stories and photos of and about bodies- all different kinds of bodies. I urge all you parents to pick up an issue for your pre-teen or teenage child and look at it with them. In a society so saturated with manufactured and unrealistic representations of what we’re all supposed to look like, it’s refreshing to see so many shapes, colours and sizes all in one place and all being celebrated.

Top Wedding Tips From a Top Wife

Date: July 6, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , ,

One of my best friends announced recently that she is getting married. HOORAY! I love a wedding and I love being married, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to give her, and anyone else who wants it, my top wedding tips; including how to plan, execute and enjoy your day.

1. A wedding doesn’t have to cost a fortune
Anyone spending more than £3,000 on a wedding is crazy. Taking out a loan or saving for years for one day of your life isn’t practical. Think of all the handbags you could purchase with £20,000, all the amazing vacations you could take or…all the Cinnabons you could buy! Seriously, though, you want to enjoy your marriage and the biggest reason for newly married couples to fall out is over money. Don’t start your marriage in debt and resenting each other, it won’t end well.

2. It is your day
Everyone will want a piece of you and want to dictate some of your wedding details. From the guest list to the dress, everyone wants to have a say. Don’t let them. You haven’t spoken to creepy Uncle Alan in years. He doesn’t need an invite. Your mom doesn’t like the idea of a Swing band and wants a DJ? Too bad, mom! It’s not her wedding. You want to get married by Elvis, but your Maid of Honor thinks that’s gauche? Pay her no mind and get The King on speed dial! This is your day to get married to the man you’re into. Do it your way or you’ll regret it.

3. Dictating gifts is tacky
If you’ve been together ages and don’t need much, the people who know you will get that and give you cash. Those who are so out of the loop, they think you’ve gotten this far into adulthood without being able to toast bread probably shouldn’t be invited, but if they are, accept their toaster with a smile. Don’t be an ass and don’t expect or demand people to pay for your honeymoon. Ew.

4. Pick the people you want in your bridal party
No one cares if your second cousin Mabel asked you to be a bridesmaid in 1995, you don’t have to return that gesture. Pick people you love and who will support you, not compete with you or stress you out further.

There’s always some miserable friend you’ve had since high school who ruins your fun by trying to dictate the dress she wants to wear or by refusing to walk down the aisle with your grabby step-dad. You don’t need that. You need people by your side who will rally. People who will wrap you in cling film when your dress won’t zip up the morning of, or who will fix your makeup when the girl you hired makes you look like a rodeo clown whore.

5. Your partner may not do much
I know that I’m generalising here, but in my experience and the experience of all my other married friends, this has been the case. Don’t get frustrated about it, just accept it and move on. Their reluctance to get involved with the flower arrangements doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Their reticence to write their own vows says nothing about your relationship, they’ll do it. Eventually. And those vows will be beautiful and touching and make you have ugly crying face in many of your photos. Their lack of interest in planning a wedding does not reflect their level of interest in you.

6. No one cares about decorations or favours
Your guests are there to celebrate the love you and your partner have for each other, not to get free match books with your names on them. I find that if you have a chocolate fountain, no one ever complains or looks dissatisfied the whole damn day.

If you waste money on little magnets with your faces on them, don’t be upset when most of them get left behind at the venue. Spent £1000 on flowers? Guess what? You have to take them all home with you and watch your hard earned money die in your front room. Look for other organic and inexpensive alternatives, your wedding will still be increds.

7. Your dress, your rules
If you take your mom, then take no more than one other person dress shopping with you and take your most fashionable friend. Dress shopping can quickly descend into stress shopping. If you find something you love, get it. You have to wear it and love it. If you feel amazing in it, you look great too. Hell, if you’re anything like me, your partner won’t have seen you in a dress many other times, so it will be special no matter what.

Don’t want to wear a dress? Who the heck says you have to? Wear that Velvet jumpsuit with pride and rock down that aisle. You look fabulous.

8. Someone will lose their damn mind at your wedding
A member of my bridal party sexually molested another member after she threw a tantrum and bled all over her dress trying to dry-shave her legs in the sink. At my friends’ wedding reception, the venu shut down and we all got kicked out because two of the other guests were having relations in the bathroom. At yet another friend’s wedding, a mutual friend got so drunk she lay on the dance floor screaming ‘when will it be my turn,’ as we all did a meloncholy version of The Birdy Song around her.

I say this, not to scare you, but to warn you that it’s real. This stuff happens and it’s best you just get away from it as fast as you can. Have good people around you who will insulate you from the insanity of some of your guests. Weddings do weird things to otherwise totally normal people.

9. Remember what the day is about
Whether you have 150 people at your wedding or you elope and it’s just you two, remember that the wedding is a celebration of your union. It’s whatever the hell you want it to be, but it should be yours. Turning into Bridezilla whilst planning and trying to get through the day is a tragedy. Keep it fun and awesome, like you two and everything will be fine.

Ode to my Menstrual Cup

Date: June 30, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , ,

A few months ago, I made the decision to stop using tampons. Mostly because of my upcoming trip to Sri Lanka, as personal hygiene can be a bit of a challenge in a country where you can’t even flush loo paper and it’s totally normal to burn your trash. The last few summers I collected my tampons during my cycle and then took them down to the railroad tracks to burn. If you think that’s gross, you’re totally correct, but it’s also environmentally irresponsible and slightly humiliating.

I’ve been using tampons since I was 15-years-old. They were a godsend to stem my insanely heavy flow and although I suffered occasional leaks, they were far more reliable than the diaper-sized pads I used to stuff my pants with. At nearly 35, the decision to quit tampons was a terrifying. These tiny, bullet-sized products were so entwined with my period and my psyche I wondered if I could ever stop using them for good.

I was due to depart for Sri Lanka in June, so in April I decided to take my Rainbow Cup for its maiden voyage to see how she fared. It had been sitting in my drawer since February, but I didn’t pluck up the courage to try it out until then.

The Rainbow Cup comes beautifully packaged and in a variety of colours (I went for blue.) I removed it from its organic cotton pouch and eyed it suspiciously. It seemed cumbersome and I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get it in. Ironically I had the same feeling nearly 20 years ago about tampons, so I read the instructions and went for it.

I ran it under the tap, folded in into a ‘C’ shape and inserted it until I thought it was in the right place. I twisted it, as per the directions and was instantly surprised that I could no longer feel this object that was so like the plastic nipple of a baby’s bottle. After doing a little dance in front of the mirror I pulled on my underwear and went about my day.

Admittedly it’s a little tricky to remove. You have to relax and pull it out by the stem-like extension of the cup. The first couple of times it was almost like a vacuum and I had to pull super-hard and left the toilet bowl looking like a particularly juvenile Pollok imitation, and I know this may sound pretty gross, but it was actually quite beautiful.

I hadn’t ever had contact with my menstrual blood except for instances of leaking and it was fascinating. There were bits and it was much darker than I anticipated and even after I had flushed, a small pool of it lingered in the toilet. It was pretty cool and I was suddenly inspired by my bodily secretions; for a second I even considered making some art with it. I haven’t quite gotten around to that yet.

I wore it that first night to sleep in without incident. No leaks and no setting an alarm to remind myself to change my tampon. I slept incredibly well and knew from this point on that I was hooked and could never go back.

The money I save alone each month is a good enough reason to keep on cuppin’ and the environmental and personal health benefits just seem like a bonus. I’m not necessarily trying to convert anyone here; I just want to share how much better I feel for having made this change.

I’ve recently read articles like this about young, otherwise healthy women contracting TSS from all of the chemicals used to manufacture these monthly necessities and it makes me shudder. There are alternatives out there and I think that at times we’re a bit scared to try something new unless we know someone else who has.

Well you all know me and I’m telling you that there is life after tampons and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have. I am also in no way being compensated by the aforementioned menstrual cup, this is not an advert. I just wanted to talk about something I think a lot of people avoid discussing. You’ve got choices and you’ve got nothing to lose.

Girlfriends vs Girl Friends

Date: June 22, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , ,

I’ve always had a lot of male friends, just as many if not more than female and some people find this dynamic a bit abnormal. I’ve never understood this attitude, as gender plays no role in whom I find interesting or attractive. This identifier is just one small part of what makes someone who they are, and a part that they most of my friends didn’t have any say in, so why should it have any bearing on whether or not I socialise with them or like them?

I believe it is perfectly healthy to have friends in all shapes, colours, sizes and genders. My husband has more female friends than male and that’s nothing I’d even given any thought to until recently. I was out with a male friend of mine and was accused, quite violently, of having an affair with him by his then girlfriend. We are not teenagers, we are in our 30’s. Of course the accusation is totally false and laughable, but it did make me think, what did I do to cause this kind of suspicion? We two have never met, so it couldn’t be something she had observed which planted this idea in her head, it was very simply the fact that I had a vagina that led her to this ridiculous conclusion.

I have never suspected my husband of having an affair and I’m out of the country for three months in a row sometimes, so he’d have plenty of time on his hands to stray if he wanted to, but he hasn’t and I don’t worry that he will. Worry is futile and destructive. I choose to trust my partner and as a result, our relationship is wonderful and built on trust and respect.

I am often blown away by the insecurities some people live with on a daily basis, be they body related, work related or relationship related. I’m certainly not saying I’m the most confident person on the planet, but I luckily don’t suffer from a heightened, irrational fear of loss, because for those who do, that fear is the force propelling them towards what they are most afraid of.

Accusing someone you love of sleeping with someone else is not going to help that relationship to flourish. Of course, if there is evidence to support the accusation, my recommendation is that you have a difficult conversation and get the hell out of Dodge. However, if the only proof you have is that your partner is hanging out with someone of the opposite sex, then I think you may be jumping to destructive conclusions.

We all want to be loved and with love, there comes a certain amount of implied trust and respect. I understand that jealousy is a powerful emotion and that the invention of Tinder and other such apps has made flirting and engaging in sexual behaviour with people more accessible and attainable, but without any evidence to support your accusations, you are only harming yourself and ruining your own opportunities.

When did being friends with someone automatically equate to sexual intimacy? Why are we as women fighting with each other instead of encouraging enriching relationships in each other’s lives? Being suspicious of another woman’s motives helps no one. Not you, not your partner and certainly not their friend. Try trusting more. Why spend so much time and energy worrying if something bad might happen? You’ll most likely miss out on something good.

All About Attitude

Date: June 15, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , ,

There was a time a long time ago when I believe many people would have described my attitude as poor. I wasn’t a big fan of authority and felt that I was entitled to be treated a certain way, irrespective of how I treated others. I didn’t have the best time through my younger years and with my mother dying when I was a teenager, I seemed to have a permanent chip on my shoulder.

I was always getting in trouble for this attitude, but that only fed the monster. I felt like I was misunderstood, because on the inside I was scared and soft and sweet, but too afraid to be those things and to live that way outright, I defaulted to the opposite in an attempt to protect myself.

I was twenty-two when my attitude changed. That was when I moved to New York City and realized nearly instantly that I was not nearly as important to anyone as I felt I should have been. I was ripped off, harassed and forced to work terrible jobs just to barely feed myself. I couldn’t protect myself from New York City, so I stopped trying. That’s when a wonderful thing happened- my attitude changed.

It’s so hard going through life angry and irritated. It’s exhausting and isolating and it’s selfish. What the hell is there to be so angry about anyway?

It breaks my heart to come up against someone so like I was, and it happens more often than I’d like; someone whose world begins and ends with themselves and who treats others as lesser beings. Sadly it’s usually women I see treating other women this way and I’m sensitive to it because I was it.

We’re all just people with hopes, dreams, ambitions and fears and we’re all doing the best we can to get through this life, so why not be kind to each other and be kind to yourself? It doesn’t have to be so difficult all the time and if you stop competing with other people, or trying to always be right, things become so much easier.

Here are my five ways to a better attitude:

  1. Listen- I know this sounds simple, but too often we are only waiting for our turn to speak. Or if someone is giving us feedback we shut it down with a ‘no, I know but…’ Let them finish and try to accept and digest the information before reacting. It makes you a much better conversationalist, friend and human being.
  2. Learn the art of apology, it feels better than fighting to be right all the time.
  3. Focus on the positive- Complaining is a way of bonding with others, but next time you’re tempted try and find something positive to say instead. All that negativity affects your mood and your relationships, yes it’s raining, but think of all the good that will do for the flowers in your garden.
  4. Give yourself a break- Stop rushing through your life trying to tick boxes and get to the finish line. Set yourself small attainable goals to avoid the constant feeling of shame and disappointment. You want to feel good about yourself so you can spread the love around a bit.
  5. Take your time- Relax and take it a bit slowly, if you’re always rushing you can forget to enjoy yourself and may end up losing patience with others. There’s no rush, you’ll always get there.

Your attitude is intrinsic to everything you do in life, even in how you view the world. You have the power to make your world a less intimidating, more welcoming place and it can all start with a little self-awareness and understanding.

I’m so glad that New York happened to me and that I was open to that experience and didn’t fight it. The sooner you adjust your attitude, even slightly, the happier you’ll be in your own skin and in your own life.

Alone, Not Lonely

Date: June 8, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , ,

When I’m away for work I spend an awful lot of time alone. It’s something I’ve gotten used to over the years, but at times I still find it a challenge, as I’m a massive over-sharer at the best of times and more often than not, there is no one here to share with. I have days where I long for companionship; the opportunity to engage with someone on a level that doesn’t involve spreadsheets and budgets, but I can’t because that’s not my job.

I am always at work when I’m here. Therefore I’m always visible, always available and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it also means that an occupational hazard for me is loneliness. However, where once the solitude of this very social position made me a little sad, it now excites me because I have learned over the years how to really be alone.

I just had my dinner all by myself; I made a table of a patio chair and scooped mouthful upon mouthful of delicious kotthu into my greedy gob and somewhere along the way I bit into one hell of a fiery chili. Now if this was real life and I was back at home, I’d have been able to express my discomfort with someone, because that’s what we do as humans. We crave shared experience as it gives us validation that we are, in fact, alive.

However, as I am on this balcony, eating off of a plastic chair solo I had to experience it that way. I had to live through it and see how it made me feel. What, if anything I could learn from that experience? I didn’t run to post about it on Faceboook, or tweet a picture of my dinner with the caption DANGER under it. I just felt it, got through it and had a truly authentic personal experience witnessed by no one but me.

I know the chili might not be the most profound example, but try it yourself. The next time you’re alone, really be alone. Turn off your phone, the TV, the internet and put down the book and have an experience. Go for a run or write something or, go ahead, eat a chili and see what happens.

I hear a lot from friends I’ve advised to try this to that ‘I just get bored.’ Understood, but if you’re just sitting there, staring at the wall, it’s really, really boring. To have a solitary experience you need to be actively experiencing something.

Here are my top tips for really being alone:

  1. I’m just going to put it out there- Masturbate. Too often as women we deny ourselves physical pleasure unless it is given by another party. Start here and see where it takes you. It’s not selfish nor is it ‘gross’ it’s a way to get to know your body as well as yourself as a vibrant sexual being.
  2. Meditate- Set aside just 15 minutes a day and see what happens when you are simply just being with yourself.
  3. Start with small social activities- Go for a meal by yourself in a totally new restaurant and try a new type of food. Or go shopping and resist the urge to seek approval for your purchases, trust yourself.
  4. Write- Spend some time writing by yourself and see what kind of characters or scenarios you can create, writing is a great way to connect to yourself.
  5. Travel- This one’s a big one for me, to truly get to know who you are as a person, go for a wander.

Doing any of those things by yourself is a great start to understanding who you are, as well as enjoying your own company. Too often today we rely on social media as a substitute for genuine human interaction and ignore the opportunity to further connect with ourselves by using that time more usefully and intentionally. I’m not saying ditch it all together, but if you find that you have free time in your day, try spending it with yourself instead of in front of a screen, there’s so much more to experience.

Maintaining closeness through distance

Date: June 1, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , ,

People often ask me what it’s like to be away from my husband for so long. And the truth is…it’s not like anything. It just is.

I can’t compare how our relationship works to anything. It’s not like I’m away at war or at sea. It’s nothing as romantic as that. I’m just away. He’s just away from me, right now. To have a partner like my husband is what I imagine it feels like to be independently wealthy; I never really worry about much and I always feel secure. And as much as I’d like to credit blind luck with this, it’s really nothing to do with luck and all to do with him.

Sometimes people don’t understand me. It’s been that way my whole life and it’s clearly my problem, and something I work on every day, though at times I forget, become complacent and hurt someone’s feelings. I probably hurt his feelings a lot, but I’d never know it. Because hurting sometimes is just a part of loving me and it’s certainly not nice or fair. It just is.

When I got offered this job I never considered that I wouldn’t do it. Happy people are the best people and if I went back to the job I had before this, I would be ok. We would be ok, but I wouldn’t be happy and that would impact our relationship. That’s not to say that every day is like my birthday now, but much more often there are candles to blow out.

I don’t call as much as I should. I separate my year into pieces and portion them out methodically like vegetables on a child’s plate. I know I have time with him and time without him and that’s just our life. I know I have a time where I will never get what I want to eat for breakfast and then for that I will be rewarded with anything I want after a few months. I always thought I had no patience. It turns out I do. It turns out I am a lot of things I thought I wasn’t and I do a lot of things I thought I couldn’t. With every discovery I am a different form of myself. No more, no less, just different but the same.

Ultimately showing yourself to someone is not a luxury afforded to all, and I know many who spend a great deal of time censoring themselves or polishing their corners until they bleed. I know people who bite their tongue so often it is now just a piece of meat in their mouth that they try to avoid. I used to bleed too, because the polishing never lasts and you have to keep at it. Eventually my corners would cut and I’d be back to where I started. I haven’t wasted time or energy on buffing my edges for many years, and though my flesh is not smooth and I do not feel particularly nice to the touch, I am very loved.

Mine and his story is not unique. We met and I loved him. He loved me back. Isn’t that how most love stories go? We rent a little flat and have no children. We have no pets and we have no plans. We are just navigating the changeable waters of intimacy, of companionship and of time. To say I love him never seems big enough, but it’s all the vocabulary I have.

So what’s it like to be away from my husband for months at a time? It’s not like anything. It just is.

Our Wardrobe Malfunction

Date: May 25, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , ,

I arrived back in Sri Lanka on Saturday morning, after fantastically rare, stress-free 19-hours of travel. This place has felt like a second home to me since I first came here to volunteer in 2013. It’s so nice to see that not much has changed and that the gentrification of Asia has been slow to reach these shores. The odd McDonald’s can be found, but the vast majority of the landscape is traditional and beautiful.

I find one of the most challenging things about working here isn’t the heat, the spicy food or even the occasional communication issue; it’s adhering to the conservative dress code that’s expected of those living and working in the local community. That’s not to say it’s a challenge adhering to it, it’s not that at all. It’s a challenge to actually be able to purchase appropriate clothing in western countries like the UK and USA to adequately prepare me and other women for our travels in countries where women are expected to dress modestly.

Grab a shirt from your wardrobe. No seriously, try it. Now put your hand inside it and hold it up to the light. Can you see through it? Of course you can. Western clothes are designed to be sexy, even if you were holding up a collared business shirt and not a burnout tee from Target, I bet you could see a lot more than you wanted to be on show round the office. We as women have had to adapt our wardrobe by adding layers or upping sizes to avoid being sexualized at every turn.

How about a pair of trousers, jeans or pants? How tight are they? Even if they’re not meant to be ‘skinny’ are they? I had to go up two sizes to get to a comfortable level of bagginess in the legs of my khakis; everything else was clinging like you would not believe and they were labeled as ‘loose fit.’

To those of you thinking…’just get stuff out there.’ Of course that’s possible, but I’m taller and bustier than the average woman in Sri Lanka, so the skirts are always a little short and the shirt buttons in my bust area are always pulling, threatening to pop off and take out someone’s eye. But that’s not the point, is it?

I should be able to walk into a clothing store in London and in Illinois and buy clothes that not skin tight or sheer. I should have the option of a low or high neckline and whether or not I’d like you to see my bra underneath. I can’t remember the time I last caught a glimpse of a man’s nipple through his shirt, but a woman’s bra? Every. Time.

We’ve seen this before with children’s clothing. This mom highlighted shorts for girls and shorts for boys were sold at drastically different lengths and there was absolutely nothing in between for anyone. From a young age we are sold the idea that shorter is better. That sheer is ‘sexy,’ but I’m just trying to work here and I don’t want to be sexy at work. Especially when the national team have managed to turn up to the meeting looking great and professional and we look like a Lady Gaga/Miley Cyrus tribute act.

I am working in 95 degree heat here and I want some nice clothes in some damn breathable fabrics, OK? I want chinos that don’t get stuck in my crotch from all the sweat and the too-tightness and I demand a collared shirt I don’t have to put another shirt on underneath of because: 95 degrees! Am I asking too much?

I think not. So here is my proposal to clothing companies everywhere- give us the choice. Let us choose how much of our bodies are put on show and give us the option to pick between the opaque and translucent. I want clothes that cover my body because I do not want to be sexualized or ogled at work. I want to do my job and I want my outfit to have no more or less bearing on what people are thinking about me than my male colleagues. How about that? How about a choice? I think it’s about time.

Body-Loving Burlesque

Date: May 19, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , ,

I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but burlesque really helped me to love and feel comfortable in my body. I’m in no way a professional, I’ve just got a few lessons under my garter belt and I can’t recommend it enough.

I was 18 when I was introduced to Burlesque. As a gangly teenager who was always on the stage performing in musical theatre shows, I was instantly intoxicated by the delicate femininity of the performers juxtaposed with the raw sensuality of the art form itself. From my second-row seat, I watched as woman after incredible woman took the stage and transformed it into a boudoir, a bus stop, a cake factory and more.

The great thing about Burlesque is that there are no rules. Purists might say that to be a true Burlesque dancer you need to remove a certain amount of clothing or include a few signature moves in your routine, like the Bump and Grind, but really, you can do whatever you want.

I’ve seen fire-eaters, mimes, gymnastics, fans and fireworks in routines before. I’ve watched, giddy and amazed as feathers flew, rhinestones glinted and sequins spun across the floor, unable to withstand the G-Force of the nipple-tassels they were once attached to as they twirled and blurred from the speed. Burlesque is pure fun and fantasy and what’s not to like about that?

It was at a friend’s bachelorette party when I first attempted this kind of performance for myself. When we arrived, after some awkward introductions and a few glasses of bubbly, a gorgeous and voluptuous redhead took us through the basics of walking, glove peeling and shimmying. In a dance studio covered with mirrors, you really couldn’t hide from yourself, so if you wanted to have fun, you had to watch yourself wobble.

We were a diverse group; most sizes, shapes and colours were represented and we made a pretty pathetic troupe. But man, did we laugh! After a short while it ceased to matter that most of us, including myself, had the grace of a drunken elephant. I felt graceful. I felt sexy.

There’s something about opera gloves and a feather boa that make a girl feel good, so good that I signed up for lessons that day and started the following week.

The first day of class was s bit unnerving. I’d had quite a bit of champagne at the bachelorette party, so turning up sober was a bit of a shock and I started to second-guess my decision. But once the rest of the women filed in and we got to know each other I was glad I came.

As before, we were quite a mixed bag. Single mums to pole dancers, lawyers to architects and everything in-between. We were bigger and smaller than each other, but no one seemed to be self-conscious. Our fantastic teacher took us through a series of moves and over the course of four weeks we’d learned a routine which culminated in all of us twirling our tassels as fast as we could.

To get bare-breasted in a room full of strangers was optional, but we were all up for it and all admiring each others’ tassels at close range. Feeling empowered through movement and character, even the shyest in the group was transformed into a little minx by the last class.

Even now I flirt with the idea of getting on an actual stage someday, in front of an audience who aren’t friends or fellow students. I choreograph routines in my head on my way to work most days, but have yet to really commit to the idea and give myself a name and a persona.

However, those classes gave me confidence in myself, in my body and I made some lifelong friends. I fully recommend trying this yourself. You’ve got nothing to lose (but a few pesky clothes) and everything to gain.

I’m sorry, mom

Date: May 14, 2015

posted by Lana Bos / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , , ,

 

I didn’t want to be what I saw in you;

Weak, sad, helpless.
Poor, addicted, a mess.

But I cried, mother, I really cried inside.

I thought I was strong, but my weakness was hiding in food.
I thought I was happy, but alcohol was controlling my mood.
I thought I was smart, but I didn’t feel understood.

I thought I was confident, but couldn’t leave home without facial foundation.
I thought I was free, but felt weak without validation.
I thought I was successful, but who was I lying to?
I was a slave to my wounds until I forgave you.

I stopped being a victim
when I started loving you.
When I saw your beauty
I saw mine too.
I am what I see in you.

And it doesn’t scare me anymore..

I rejected you for being weak,
but those we reject we need to love the most
or they become our emotional ghost.
I’ll love you from my side of the coast.

Because of you I became me.
And there is no one else I would rather be.

I love you, mom.

Simply changing the world

Date: May 3, 2015

posted by Brooks Haislip / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , , , , ,

My husband and I walk into a restaurant yesterday in beautiful downtown Asheville. As we approach our table, I notice a strong, fun, bonded group of women, collaborating and celebrating at the corner table next to us.

Their energy feels familiar to me. As I feel into them, I find myself smiling inside and out as I absorb this happy sight.

A download of my ‘woman tribe connections’ all around the world flashes across my awareness, and I give thanks for having these as pillars of support and love in my life. I pray for more of this…for all of us.

Sigh. Huge sigh of deep inner contentment moves through my whole body. Yes. Yes. Yes.

I re-focus my attention to my lovely husband immersed in our own sweet bubble of romance and yet we can’t help but be contagiously moved by what is happening right next to us between these 5 radiant women- waves of emotion, from deep concern and vulnerability to brainstorming a next possible career move to bursts of orgasmic laughter to silly and playful comments to moments of quiet space holding to pauses of deep breath and releasing- we allowed our romantic bubble to float on all the waves of this dynamic, womanly raw conversation, grinning with each other on this irresistible ride.

It was as if my heart was being swept into something divinely beautiful and divinely timed. A reminder that this kind of thing, this dream of mine of women collaborating like queens at the round table, feasting on our lives as a tribe, is happening- we are waking up to the necessity of it in our lives. This little girl’s dream is becoming more and more real in her life, in our lives!  And divinely timed indeed, within these big waves of these women’s I was riding, one very clear sentence made it into my ears and heart:

Stated by one of the women with a tone of disappointment, ‘I mean, I used to think I was going to change the world.’ (With sigh, head down)

Another woman’s response:
‘You are changing the world by being a good person, being dedicated to your family and your work.”
‘Yahoo’, I thought, ‘this life-affirming, loving, supportive, now hold on a second soul-sister you are already enough response is what I’m talking about. This is good stuff!’ Booyah!!!

And truly, and I was living proof in the moment, this woman was changing the world by simply being who she is- vulnerable, weak in a moment self, willing to share and open up to other women. She provided the opportunity for real connection, love and support at the table.

By each woman being who they already are at that little round table in the corner they re-lit a flame in me- we can change the world by keeping it simple and being good people on earth, and we already are doing it, in our little, yet massive ways- so, my dreams of being a mid-wife in Africa, launching a yoga teacher training program in impoverished communities world-wide, writing a manual for college students on how to live a radiant life and writing a book for all beings to live to their fullest potential, are still in my heart, and yet, right now is not the time for them, possibly parts and or some new formulation of them that I have yet to imagine, who knows?

Not me, and I don’t need to right now. You see, this doesn’t mean these things won’t happen someday, and it also doesn’t mean they won’t happen sooner than I ever could have imagined with a miraculous sense of ease. Right now, all that matters, is that I embrace myself and all women as enough already, and then we go and grow from there. And, this, this my sisters, is what is beyond amazing. This, dear queens at the round table, is what we are capable of, this is how we are changing the world.

We can choose to let our wildest dreams on how we want to change the world remain in our hearts and stoke our inner fire of passion and compassion for where we are right now in our lives and what we are doing on this very day, in my very own kitchen with the people I have chosen to be committed to, that need me now, and that I need too, or we can choose to see them as things we failed at, haven’t gotten to yet, are never gonna get to, blah blah blah- all ultimately self-sabatoging, unloving, degrading thoughts that for sure are not gonna fuel us in the life we are in right now in anyway at all.

I also have a choice to not beat myself up for not ‘succeeding’ at these, at least not yet; I have a choice to harness the energy that could have, would have, should have and pull it in with self-love and acceptance and reward myself for how I already have and am changing the world, starting with letting these women inspire me just by being who they already are. And then I take that spark and I write about it in this blog that I hope is read by thousands and sparks a reminder within their hearts to celebrate what we are already doing, rather than focusing on what we are not.

So, as I see it, it is time to buck up ladies, just as one woman did to another at the round table, and celebrate each other for who and what we already are- queens walking on earth, changing the world, one breath at a time, loving ourselves and each other exactly as we are right now. This is the beginning of an evolution for women- so, who’s in, who’s ready to join in on an evolution of already changing the world just by simply being you and loving yourself for how you already have and are changing the world?!?!!?!? Please, pretty please, say yes, because we all matter. 

 

The Power of “Just”

Date: April 27, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , ,

The word “just” is very small, but has a variety of meanings. Think about it, and just for fun see how many sentences you can come up with using the word “just” in as many different ways as possible. Here are some of mine:
 
1. I just bought a fabulous sweater.
2. I think he made a just decision.
3. She parked her car just within the lines.
4. I like to keep my room just so.
5. I was just trying to explain my side.
6. I’m just a mom.
 

I love language, and find it infinitely interesting that one word can mean so many different things, but the words we use so often become habit that we rarely dissect our own sentences to look at what we’re really saying. Twice this week I heard two people I care very much about describe themselves as “just _____” and it broke my heart.

 

When we use that word in reference to ourselves, we are diminishing our own importance, we are apologising for who we are and sadly, we do it all the time. My incredible friend who is doing a fantastic job as a single mom to three young children wrote on her Facebook page about how she was “just a waitress,” but how that job allows her to work the best hours to look after her family.

 

She is certainly not “just” anything and neither are you. Your job is what you do, not who you are. It is only one element that makes up the complicated entity that is you. We are the sum of all of our parts and none of us is ever one thing, as the word “just” implies.

 

So what would happen if we removed that “just,” If we felt secure enough in ourselves to say “I’m a waitress” and not fear the judgement of others? We should all be strong and proud of who we are, and though at times it can feel like we’re in competition with each other, we’re really not. There is no shame in living whatever life you find most fulfilling. You don’t need anyone’s approval and as soon as you embrace that idea, I know you’ll feel much more confident in yourself.

 

This week another wonderful friend of mine used sentence number 6 to describe herself and said she was “just a mom.” Being a mom is not “just” anything. I don’t even have kids and I understand that, but when I asked her why she identified as “just,” she said that she often felt inadequate in circles where everyone else was working full time. Our self-worth needs to come from other places besides our careers. Think of all the other things you do each day besides go to work. Think of all the other things you are.

 

We use this word all the time to undermine the importance of things and we aren’t even aware that we do it. I know that often when I get complimented on something I’m wearing I usually say something like, ‘thank you, it’s just from Express.’ See what that little word did? Let’s try it again- ‘thank you, it’s from Express.’ You see, two completely different responses based solely on one little word that changes the meaning of what I’m saying entirely.

 

How many of you do this too? The next time you’re tempted to describe something, especially yourself as “just” anything, try removing that tricky four-letter word and see what happens, not only to the sentence, but to your feelings.

 

Gifts in the Dark

Date: April 19, 2015

posted by Brooks Haislip / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , , , ,

As I gathered items to set up for a workshop I facilitated last week, I thought to myself, what do I want the centerpiece to be? Flowers? No. Feathers. No. Candles? No. Hmmmmm……?

“Dirt!” I heard from deep within. Of course!

You see, the overarching theme of the workshop was “the dark feminine.” So, I ended up taking a clear pot of dirt. Yep, just plain old, dark dirt. Simple and yet profound. Not the usual something beautiful for the space we may usually take for an event right? But, oh, so spot on for this evening.

As Barbara Brown Taylor says in her book Learning to Walk in the Dark, “Most people do not know what they mean by “darkness” except that they want to stay out of it.” Indeed.

Here was the first layer of responses to the opening question of the workshop when asked “What do you think of and feel when you hear the word “dark”?- “disconnected, scared, dishonest, unseen, sneaky, heavy, evil, sad, uncomfortable, lonely, unwanted, breathless and want to get out.”

Then what followed was, “affective/it is what it is, curious, seductive, and interesting.”  Note the subtle shift in responses from qualities that may typically be experienced as unattractive, in the first layer of responses, to ones of a more neutral tone.

At this point we paused and I asked the women to walk around the room, in absolute silence, and visit the 15-20 images of “dark” goddess cards that I had displayed around the room. This took about 5 minutes, we returned to the circle and continued to explore the original question of what we think of and feel when we hear the word “dark” and these were the responses- “quiet, powerful, calming, birth, nurturing, grounded, peaceful, reflective, wise, alive, receptive to change, bold, vast, brave and never-ending. Whoa! Quite a shift, and not only were the chosen words of a more life-affirming quality, the responses were also flowing out of these women with strength, ease, excitement, and even a tone of remembrance of these things within themselves as they are saying them out loud to the group. The magic had already begun!

You see, the “dark” is all of these layers of responses, the negative, the neutral and the life-affirming, and it is beyond ok. It’s actually great, if we let it be! I think one of the most humanly courageous things we can do is admit, to ourselves and out loud to others, that we are scared, uncomfortable, lonely and afraid of the “dark,” yes, perhaps the literal darkness, and especially the challenges, traumas, losses, full of despair, awfulness that is part of being human.

As I see it, once we can admit that, then we are moving towards allowing it to be so, and once we allow, there is a softening into the experience, a non-clinging to how we wish things would be otherwise, there is space, flow and connection…there is the opposite of avoiding. And then, rather than trying to exhaustingly move away from the truth, mask it, numb it out, and/or pretend it isn’t as bad as it is, then you have made the turn, you have chosen to be in relationship with the dark, to move toward Her, and She is part of the deepest core essence of you- this beautiful, deep darkness awaits you, loves you and is so on your side.

So, I offer to us all to move towards the dark in your life, in all ways. Although at first it may seem extremely unappealing to do so, it awaits you with open arms and in these arms is such beauty, wisdom, passion, and an infinite well of inner guidance and support. There is rich companionship that is the furthest thing from loneliness. There is home, parts of your own inner teacher that will never lead you in the wrong direction.

I will write more blogs in the future on the ‘How to’ deepen into intimate relationship with the dark, however, for now, watch your response to the “dark” things in your life (your limiting beliefs and stories, the challenging situations and people, the physical pain, the unknown)- what does your breath do, what are your thoughts about them, are you able to allow these things to be as a part of the greater whole without clinging to, avoiding them or changing them in anyway, can you be open to the gifts that may be being shown to you while in it verses only in hindsight, can you just be in it and be?

As Barbara Brown Taylor puts so simply, when referring to her parents and how they were to her when she was literally scared of the dark in her bedroom at night, “No one had ever taught me to talk back to the dark or even to breathe into it….there is no telling what I might have said if they asked me what color the monsters’ eyes were, or what the witches were planning to do to (with or for) me.”  So innocently she puts this, and, yet, there is a real truth to be honored here as women today- most of us were not taught the skills to approach and navigate the dark with trust, so be gentle with yourself along the way….baby steps and softness are key in this process.

For now, first thing every morning, sit for 5 minutes in the dark, literally, in total silence, and as you close your eyes, let your inner guide, all parts of Her, the dark, the light and everything in between, know that you want to be in deeper connection with Her guidance and are ready to trust the conversation…..breathe, stay open and listen. She is always with you.

 

For more on Brooks Haislip, please visit

www.brookshaislip.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelly Clarkson: Weight Idol

Date: April 13, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , ,

In 2002, I, along with millions of others world wide, tuned in to the first ever season of American Idol and watched Kelly Clarkson kill it week after week and eventually win. I was transfixed by her talent and since then I’ve always been a fan. I love how she can seamlessly transition from pop to blues to R&B and make every genre sound incredible.

Since her win, over a decade ago, Kelly has become a successful musician in her own right, releasing six albums and a seventh is on the way. A recent video of her covering Tracy Chapman’s ‘Give me one Reason’ went viral and reminded all of us yet again, why Kelly Clarkson’s career has endured after Idol, when so many others have not.

However, it wasn’t her music that was the topic of discussion recently on The Mike Gallagher Show, it was her weight. In this short recording you can hear two men, Chris Wallace and Gallagher discussing Wallace’s own weight issues, when suddenly, out of nowhere, he asks Gallagher, ‘have you seen Kelly Clarkson lately? Man has she blown up.’

These are two grown men, giggling like children about a woman’s weight. A woman, whose vocation has nothing to do with her BMI. A woman, who these two seemed to delight in publicly shaming for putting on weight, because how very dare she.

Gallagher tries to claw back the conversation by saying that ‘Kelly Clarkson’s got a lovely voice, but she could stay off the deep dish pizza for awhile.’ Burn. Who are these men sitting in judgement from their radio booth on high?

For me Kelly Clarkson has always been an inspiration body-wise, because like most other human women on the planet, her weight fluctuates and she doesn’t go into hiding because of it.

Incredible talents like Clarkson and Christina Aguilera have frequently come under fire about their weight ‘issues’ and what I respect about these two powerhouses is that they never apologise for the way they look. Clarkson has yet to dignify this incident with a response, which is spot on. She doesn’t need to. But recently on Ellen, Clarkson remarked, ‘I yo-yo. Sometimes I’m more fit and I get into kick-boxing hard core and then sometimes I don’t. And I’m like ‘I’d rather have wine!’

Yes, Kelly! Sometimes I just want wine too! Kelly’s body is hers and I’m so pleased that she hasn’t gratified these idiotic shamers by saying something self-deprecating. When are people like these two radio hosts going to get that other people’s bodies are not fair game to comment on?

In the recording you can hear one of the men say ‘she’s had a baby recently, but…’ but what, sir? Where were you going with that exactly? The very idea that these two men felt that it was appropriate to have this conversation on air is disturbing, and thankfully they have since apologised, but in my opinion, the damage has been done.

Clarkson is an incredible singer, so let’s focus on that. She’s also beautiful no matter what her size. Having fantastically talented women in the public eye, who represent different sizes and shapes should be celebrated, not criticised.

I for one, hope that Kelly Clarkson is at home tonight, curled up with her family, a deep dish pizza and some wine.

Connect With Your Wild Within

Date: April 12, 2015

posted by Brooks Haislip / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , , , , ,

Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book “Women Who Run With the Wolves” is my “bible.” Every time I pick it up  and read even a sentence, my body, mind, heart and soul feel a calling of yes, yes, yes, this is important, this voice must not be lost.

This voice is a voice that the planet is beginning to hear more again and, truthfully, quite desperately needs to do so. It is the voice of nature, of our innate wisdom, of our teacher within, of our deep inner-knowing, of truth and trust, of being in right direction, the voice of integrity, the voice of Grace, the voice of “the way.” It is the voice of knowing God/Goddess within and all around us and recognizing that in every being.

And, so how do we remember this voice within ourselves? How do we come home? How do we regain  this knowing within?

We must get back to our wild within.

While with a client this week I proposed the question “If you were going to invoke the spirit of an animal to be with you for this current challenge in your life, what would it be?” There was a pause and look on her face of “I have no idea at all” so, I then followed up with “Think of an animal you are comfortable with, inspired by, an animal you love.” She then said “bear.”

So, we have our session and I’m saying what I intend to be essences of the bear that would assist my client through this challenging situation, such as “fierce, claws out, removes barriers of fear, walks straight through the thorny bushes, letting nothing stop her from where she knows she must go, walks with a steadiness and grace for whatever may cross her path, elegance, wisdom, and so on.”

During our session I can see, feel, hear her embodying these qualities of the bear that I am mentioning and by the end she is sitting fierce, strong, and yet gentle with a deep peace, a deep calm on her face as if she is in touch with her deep knowing that all is well and will be as she navigates this challenge in her life. She is ready with her inward bear. Yay!

But here’s the kicker, the awesomeness that inspired this blog- after the formal closure of the session, she ‘confessed’ to me that she had originally imagines a teddy bear! She said, “Well, you did say something that I was comfortable with?!” Ha! I loved it- so authentic, for my client truly is the sweetest, most generous,cuddliest, honest, fuzzy people I know, a lot like a teddy bear. However, I also have always seen and knew it was time for her to call on her inner wild bear to step forward in her life for this next phase. And so we shared a laugh and a hug, and ultimately invited both bears to be with her, as how could we deny the teddy bear, right?!

And so she left, but something had been triggered in me-yes, the teddy bear awesomeness was that, and yet it sparked a moment of, “Whoa! We are so out of touch with these wild animals, their spirits, that are here to serve us, to teach us, to guide us, to love us.” We must get back in touch with these wild animals as they are gateways to the remembrance of our wildish nature within, which is the gateway to home in our hearts and souls, the dwelling place of the inner teacher that lies within each of us.

To share some exquisite words from my heroine:

“When women reassert their relationship with the wildish nature, they are gifted with a permanent and internal watcher, a knower, a visionary, an oracle, an inspiratrice, an intuitive, a maker, a creator, an inventor, and a listener who guide, suggest, and urge vibrant life in the inner and outer worlds.When women are close to this nature, the fact of that relationship glows through them. This wild teacher, wild mother, wild mentor supports their inner and outer lives, no matter what.” (Clarissa Pinkola Estes, from her book Women Who Run With the Wolves, p. 6)

She goes on, “So the word wild here is not used in its modern pejorative sense, meaning out of control, but in its original sense, which means to live a natural life, one in which the criatura, creature, has innate integrity and healthy boundaries.” (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

And, particularly about bears she says, “The bear is associated with many huntress Goddesses. These Goddesses bestowed upon women the power of tracking, knowing, “digging out” the psychic aspects of all things. To the Japanese, the bear is a symbol of loyalty, wisdom, and strength. In northern Japan, the bear is one who can talk to God directly and bring messages back for humans….In the psyche the bear can be understood as the ability to regulate one’s life. especially one’s feeling life. Bearish power is the ability to move in cycles, be fully alert, or quiet down into a hibernate sleep…One can protect one’s territory, make one’s boundaries clear, shake the sky if need be, yet be available, accessible, engendering all at the same time.” (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

So, I am not necessarily recommending going to befriend a bear in the woods in hopes of a fairy tale ending as the image above may invite our imaginations to do; but I am saying befriend the wild bear, wolf, hawk, songbird, shark, ladybug, spider, snake, elephant, turtle or whatever wild animal essences you connect with within yourself, and befriend them with great intimacy, deep trust, endless exploration and undeniable presence and connection. See the trees, plants, and flowers, listen to the birds, the wind and the water, touch the rocks, moss and sand, smell the air, rain and must, taste the herbs, the liquid and the salty and sweet. Connect. Dedicate five minutes a day to intimate observation of nature, even if it is staring at a plant inside your tiny condo in a big city. And make being in nature a priority in your life, even if it requires a lot of effort.

See where the wild guides you within yourself, trust the guidance, become familiar with it, share about these experiences so we open and also deepen this kind of conversation, not just within but also with community. Sit with this voice in your heart and listen- she is always with you.

And, yes this may be uncomfortable, so have your teddy bear nearby, perhaps literally or even the imaginative version, and also the teddy bears in your life that are your friends, your tribe, your people, the ones that, like my client, will comfort and hold and support you with all their fuzziness the whole way through. The world, is calling for you to know your teacher within and know your wild.

 

 

 

 

Tell me “The Truth”

Date: April 10, 2015

posted by Donna Barker / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m in a rut. I’m worried that when I pull myself out, I might sashay left when the direction I need to go is right. I’m scared because I’ve made that mistake before.

In 1999, I attended a leadership workshop, facilitated by Robert Gass. For most of the five days, I felt like a fraud. I was no leader, at least not compared to the other people in the room with me. They were (and most still are) serious, world-class environmentalists and social justice advocates.

There I’d sat, at the back of the room for four days, shrinking to avoid being noticed as the interloper I knew I was, when Robert described The Truth Exercise. As with all of the work we did together, Robert demonstrated how to proceed with one participant ‘guinea pig’.

I literally jumped out of my seat and ran to the front of the room. God knows why or how, but I knew that I needed an expert to draw the truth from me. What happened over the next five minutes changed my life forever. It went something like this:

Robert: “Donna, tell me the truth.”

Me: “I feel like a fraud. I shouldn’t be here.”

Robert: “Donna, tell me the truth.”

Me: “I don’t know what’s wrong. I should be happy but I’m not.”

Imagine five minutes of Robert asking the same question over and over and over and me saying something that is true, but not, “The Truth,” until –

Robert: “Donna, tell me the truth.”

Me: “I love my job, but I dread going to the office. I love my husband, but I love being on the road for work more. Vancouver is my home, but it’s killing my soul.”

Robert: “Donna, tell me the truth.”

Me, breaking down and feeling the truth: “I need to quit my job, get out of my marriage, and leave Vancouver.”

Ouch.

I didn’t tell my husband about any of this, so three weeks later when I asked for a demotion at work, he was surprised. Three months following that, when I came home, having quit altogether, he was outright shocked.

The bigger shock took a few more years. That occurred when I encouraged him to have an affair since I felt so guilty for not having any interest in sex. I didn’t really want my marriage to end, though. I just wanted to not feel the responsibility for his happiness since I wasn’t even able to find my own. He accepted my proposition and fell in love with the first woman he slept with, just weeks after that conversation. He left me for her. (A decade later, they’re still together.)

Two truths now fulfilled, I wasn’t any happier. In fact, being a self-employed, single mom at 39-years-old was about the least happy situation I could imagine for myself.

The third truth took another couple of years to figure out. Meeting my second husband did it. He lived (and now we live) in a tiny village an hour outside of Vancouver. A village with a community that feels like living with a big extended family who love you even when you’re being a jerk, show up at the party without food to put on the table, and fart in yoga class.

It was that third truth that was actually at the core of what was missing in my life all along: being part of a community where I felt like I was good enough, just as I am.

And, looking back, I’m sure I was  good enough in the job I left (since I felt like a fraud) and in the marriage I ruined (since I felt like a bad wife). I was neither a fraud nor a bad wife. What I was, was unclear on what I wanted and needed.

And here I am again — nine years into a wonderful relationship with an amazing man who lets me be me even on the days that my insane side consumes any and all semblance of sanity — searching.

But for what? What is the elusive core desired feeling that I’m trying to find?

A month ago, I did a weekend workshop with Nicole Broekling, a fantastic facilitator who helps women figure out just this very thing. What I learned about myself scares me. But I think in a good way.

When Nicole asked, How do you want to feel?, an image immediately popped into my head. I want to feel like the glowing women in tampon commercials who dive into the pool of warm water with absolute confidence that they are in full control of their lives.

The word that encapsulated that image started as “freedom.”

But when I tried on, “I want to feel free” it didn’t feel right. Freedom suggests that I’m trapped, which I most definitely am not.

“Unchained” popped into my head. But what am I chained to?, I wondered. Nothing. Being chained felt so negative. Not right either.

My core desired feeling, I determined, is “bungee cord.” I want to feel anchored to my place and people, but have the ability to bounce away and explore the world; to fly, exhilarated, trusting that my anchor is strong enough to bring me home safely.

This is my truth at 49-years-old. And it scares the heck out of me. I was terrified to tell my husband, but determined not to repeat the mistake of keeping such a secret. When I shared these thoughts, he admitted that they scare him, too.

Bouncing into the unknown is scary. Bouncing without your life partner, because that’s what you need, is even scarier. So many “what ifs?”.

So this week, I celebrated telling the truth.

Now it’s your turn…

Dear reader, Tell me the truth.

How do you want to feel? And, what will it take to make that happen?


Donna Barker is the author of Mother Teresa’s Advice for Jilted Lovers, a quirky women’s fiction murder mystery (www.adviceforjiltedlovers.com) and the founder of MemWow! Special event memoirs that make you say, “Wow!” (www.memwow.com). Donna lives in an old mining village in British Columbia, Canada (which is why she spells funny), has been a volunteer firefighter since 2010, and a bacon-loving “vegetarian” for almost thirty years.

Breaking the Shame Cycle

Date: April 6, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: 2 Comments / Tags: , , ,

When I was at summer camp, at the age of 12, I started my period and it was pretty hellish. Having no parent around for counsel, I nervously stuffed my underwear with toilet paper in the tight confines of the port-a-potty and shuffled to the nurse’s office, embarrassed and in pain.

 

Once there, a lovely, plump woman smiled at me and handed over what looked like a small cushion, complete with buttons and ushered me into the bathroom. Having no idea how to fasten it properly, I just pulled my underwear up as high as I could to stop the pad from falling out. Panties on chest, I waddled back to my tent, with my vintage pad held tentatively in place.

 

For the next 14 days, away from home and terribly uncomfortable, I bled heavily and relentlessly, and at the time, it was the worst thing that ever happened to me.

 

I was diagnosed with Endometriosis shortly after arriving back home from camp and my long and complicated relationship with my period began. I was put on birth control at 12, which I bled right through, so was switched to the Depo-Provera shot from just 13-years-old.

 

Every month for a solid week, there was a battle between the length of my classes at school and the absorbency of the giant pads in my pants, which made me a full inch taller when seated. Daring to get up to go to the bathroom mid-class often meant daring to reveal the stain on my seat and to risk being laughed out of the room.

 

I bled so much and so quickly I fainted in the halls and needed to take iron tablets for Anemia. Not a pair of my panties was left unmarked and slowly, my wardrobe became as black as a French mime’s. It’s an understatement to say that my period was a source of anxiety for me growing up.

 

Now, some 22 years later, my period and I have become good friends. She doesn’t hang about for 14 days anymore and she actually arrives near the date she’s expected. Things have calmed down in my uterus and I no longer get the debilitating cramps and nausea. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I enjoy having my period, but I no longer despise it.

 

The reason I’ve been reflecting so deeply on my own menstrual story is because this week, artist Rupi Kaur uploaded some photos she was doing for a university project to Instagram which caused quite a stir and got me thinking. Her photo series; aptly titled: ‘Period’ was a collection of faceless women dealing with the trials and tribulations of menstruation.

 

Kaur’s contentious photo, as shown above, is a young woman in bed who has suffered a bit of a leakage onto her sweatpants and her sheets. When I first saw this photo, I felt a pang of sympathy. The way the photo is shot it could be any of us, and I have been the woman in that photo so many times.

 

The photo invoked an emotional reaction in me, as it did many others, but Instagram’s reaction was to remove it from their site, thus causing a poignant debate about what we, as a society feel comfortable looking at.

 

Women have periods. Everyone knows this, whether you get taught about it in school or not, it’s a universal truth that women bleed once a month. So what is it about knowing this that’s fine, but seeing it that’s not?

 

There is still a universal shame surrounding the topic of menstruation and especially, around women who are at present, menstruating. We pass sanitary products to each other like we’re doing a drug deal, we avert eye contact when a male clerk scans our tampons, we hide our stained underwear in a separate drawer and if we are in pain, we hide it and endure silently, out of fear we’ll be judged as weak because of our cycle.

 

Why? Why are we worried about offending people with this very real, very natural thing that our body does each month?

 

Instagram has, since the internet controversy, allowed Kaur’s photos to remain on their site, but the question remains as to why they were taken down in the first place. What is so shocking or offensive about a bit of period blood when we’re bombarded with images of violence and gore each day?

 

I personally just use Instagram to follow celebrity cats, but in between snaps of my furry internet friends, I’ve seen plenty of questionable content, from people self harming to hyper-sexualisation of young women that don’t look of age to me. These photos are alarming, not the photo of the girl with the stained sheets.

 

Rumi reminds us: ‘i bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. my womb is home to the divine. a source of life for our species. whether i choose to create or not. but very few times it is seen that way.(sic)’ I think she’s very right.

 

The institutionalised fear and shame that women feel about having their period needs to stop. I applaud women like Kaur, who are bringing periods out of the shadows and into the light. Periods are real, they happen and they aren’t altogether pleasant.

 

The fact that someone posted a photo of a fully-clothed woman with a bit of blood between her legs should not be news. Our discomfort over that image has revealed a much larger problem, and that is our discomfort about menstruation.

 

Instead of controversy, I’d have liked this photo to cause a conversation. Hopefully with more women like Kaur leading the way, a more mature dialog can begin, so that for that one week each month, we don’t have to feel shame or worry unnecessarily about our bodies, because let’s be honest, things are hard enough.

 

“Atta Girl!” Finding success in setbacks

Date: April 3, 2015

posted by Donna Barker / Comments: 5 Comments / Tags: , , , , ,

When was the last time you gave yourself a high-five? Looked in the mirror, smiled large and belted out, “Atta Girl!” What? You’ve never done this? It’s high time you started!

I belong to the best writers’ group in British Columbia. Once a month, twenty to thirty of us meet, eat and learn from each other and guest speakers. Sitting with two dozen women who share my dream of becoming a published author (or, for the already-published, a bestselling author) is energizing, enlightening, confidence-building… it’s just a whole lot of wonderful.

And because we only meet once a month, our group has created several sub-groups that “meet” by email or phone – some daily, some weekly, some on an as-needed basis. I belong to every single sub-group but I have two favourites. My “Atta Girl!” team is top of the list.

An “Atta Girl!” team, the way we define it, is a pair or group of three people who phone each other once a week at a scheduled time for a very brief and focused call.

This is the way the calls go:

Me: “Hi Ange. You’ll never guess what I did this week… I sent an email to Louise Penny, the New York Times bestselling author, and asked if she’d read my manuscript.”

Ange: “That’s so brave! Atta Girl, Donna!”

Me: “I Know! It was the scariest and best thing I did all week.”

Ange: “Well, I entered a contest –

Me (interrupting): “Atta Girl!”

Ange: “And…I asked my brother and my husband to read my new manuscript.”

Me: “Oh my God… I’ve still not been able to do that. Atta Girl, Ange! You rock!”

Then we hang up and carry on with our evenings, feeling the power of the “Atta Girl!” we’ve just received.

In thinking about celebrating life’s little moments, I’m surprised it took me two weeks to connect my writers’ group to my new commitment to honour the day-to-day sacred.

At our monthly meetings we’re invited to self-report on our authorly accomplishments since the last time we met. We get a chocolate and a round of applause for placing in or winning a contest, for sending our manuscripts to agents, or for landing a deal with a publisher.

But, we also get chocolate and cheers for telling the group that we didn’t final in a contest, got agent rejections, or were dropped by a publisher, since even our disappointments and bad news required us to take big, brave steps toward our goals.

And those steps into the unknown — or worse, steps straight into the high likelihood of a rejection — can be scary. “Atta Girl!” rearranges our thinking: the scared becomes sacred when acknowledged as such.

The rejections are not seen as failure or steps backward; they’re seen as steps forward. Every novel, short story, poem or blog post we write is movement in a generally positive direction, even if we decide to never share them. For aspiring authors, the very act of committing to put our butts in chairs and fingers on keyboards, when we could be playing solitaire or dusting, is worthy of applause.

Of course, this action can be anything you need it to be, to reflect your own dreams:

  • For aspiring award-winning cake bakers, wrapping fondant around a chocolate slab instead of watching reality cake-bake TV… Atta Girl!
  • For aspiring top-selling crafters, having your hands busy with fiddly things instead of watching other crafter’s Instructables and comparing your work to theirs… Atta Girl!
  • For aspiring emergency medical responders, watching videos of car crash rescues when the cute kitten videos are just a click away… Serious Atta Girl! admiration.

Recognition from peers, who know exactly how hard it can be to keep working on a dream that in all likelihood will take years and years before we’re declared “an overnight success” – if success is ever achieved – is critical to keeping the faith.

So, if you don’t have an “Atta Girl!” team — just one other person who understands how hard it is to keep working toward your big goal — why not create one now?

Then tweet it out to us @Women_Enough with the hashtag #AttaGirl so we can all give you a virtual high five!

** **

Last week I mentioned that Crayola Crayon Day was this week, and that I’d celebrate the day by stepping WAY outside my comfort zone to not only draw something but post it. That’s what the picture above is — a double celebration of my “Atta Girl!” pals and crayon day.

I also promised a haiku to celebrate April being international Poetry Month:

We blossom or shrink
In light shone and accepted
“Atta Girl!” Believe.

So, how do you celebrate moments that don’t give you the results you want, but are proof that you’re being brave and taking steps to accomplish your big life dreams?

Please share your Atta Girl! actions in the comments or on Twitter. They’ll give new ideas to women who are trying to figure out how to celebrate their own day-to-day sacred moments.


Donna Barker is the author of Mother Teresa’s Advice for Jilted Lovers, a quirky women’s fiction murder mystery (www.adviceforjiltedlovers.com) and the founder of MemWow! Special event memoirs that make you say, “Wow!” (www.memwow.com). Donna lives in an old mining village in British Columbia, Canada (which is why she spells funny), has been a volunteer firefighter since 2010, and a bacon-loving “vegetarian” for almost thirty years.

 

Your Dreams Are Only a Belief Away

Date: April 3, 2015

posted by Rebecca Mckown / Comments: No Comments / Tags: There is no tags

I am going to tell you something you may not know or believe…

 

If you really want something you can have it, free for the taking.

 

We live in a world where struggle is normal. We have been conditioned to believe that if we want something we have to struggle to get it or just not have it at all. This isn’t the case at all.

 

You can have the life of your dreams if that is what you desire. You don’t have to think small either with what you want.

 

Desire, both the whispers and the shouts, is the map we have been given to find the only life worth living.

-John Eldridge

 

Acknowledging your wants and desires is the the first step. Admit to having desires. Let it be known to yourself and the world what your desires are. Don’t hide behind fear, just state it.

 

Next is Belief. Believe in your right and ability to have your desires fulfilled. If you don’t believe it is possible you are giving a message to the Universe and to yourself that you don’t deserve that which you want.

 

Work. You need to work toward your desired goals. If you want to get out of your mundane 9 to 5 job but don’t make attempts at exploring new possibilities or avenues toward a new job then it wont work. You need to align your thoughts and actions with your desires. No sitting around waiting for change without making movement toward change.

 

Patience. This is a tough one. Sometimes when we want something we want it now and if we don’t get it right away we see it as impossible or too much work. Keep up the above work and be patient. Allow the birth of your desires to manifest.

 

Letting go of specified outcomes. Sometimes we get things in ways we didn’t envision and so we miss them. Don’t have any preconceived notion on how your desire will be delivered. Be open with all possibilities and keep your eyes and heart open.


You can have everything your heart desires. Know your worthy of all of it and revel in the beauty of your desires.

Written by Rebecca Mckown

 

Rebecca Mckown is a transformational coach, writer, creator, yogi, gardener, herbalist in training, chicken rancher, green juicer, lover of life, intuitive and kick ass spiritualist. She helps people navigate their lives in a spiritual, loving and authentic way. She can be found on her website, rebmckown.com, on FB, Instagram and Twitter.

You can - until you believe you can’t

Date: March 31, 2015

posted by Christine Vida / Comments: No Comments / Tags: There is no tags

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t-you’re right.” ― Henry Ford

My life was one big story of I can’t, Not Good Enough, and I’ll Never Succeed.  Being a single mom at 19 with no college degree, it seemed that the odds were stacked against me.  And the icing on the cake was the voice in my head that played like a broken record telling me I was not good enough.  Kind of a blanket statement for life, huh?

One thing I did have was faith.  And Intent.  I used to write down what I wanted (practiced Law of Attraction before I knew it was a real thing).  I never knew how I would do something, but I just put it out there to the universe what I wanted.  And like magic, it happened.

I attracted a career in technology, starting at the bottom, and working myself up to various positions and roles, going from 30K a year, to making over six figures years later in an executive position.  Each role I wanted, I would right down and life would deliver the opportunity.

The thing is though, I thought all of it was luck or because of my faith.  I still gave no credit to me, the girl who obviously was still not good enough.

One day when I was working with a mentor and discussing my business ideas and all of my self doubts that I couldn’t bring value to the world, couldn’t compete with all the others out there and that I didn’t know how I would do it, she stopped me and asked, “Did you know how you would do any of the other things you did in your life?”

She said, “C’mon, look at all you have accomplished without knowing how you were going to do it.  Give yourself some credit!”

I stopped and looked back at my life, and I realized that I never knew I could do any of it.  Not only that, I was almost sure I wouldn’t be able to do it.  But each time, I proved the voice in my head wrong.

So here I was again, at the point of stopping before I even started, because the voice in my head was loudly saying I couldn’t do it, and I was believing the voice again, even though I had all the evidence to prove otherwise.

This was a huge turning point for me.  It was a big aha, that even after almost a decade of doing the inner work, I still didn’t see how much this voice had a hold over what I wanted to do in my life.  It was about to sabotage my dream of sharing my message with the world, and living my passion.

I finally saw that my life wasn’t just a result of luck or law of attraction, but of me, showing up in my life and making it happen.  I had to give myself credit in what I accomplished, and have faith in me, that I could do anything I wanted.  In fact, I had done it.

“It always seems impossible until it is done.” - Nelson Mandela

How many times have you wanted to do something, felt inspired, and then the little (or loud) voice in your head crept in and told you you couldn’t?  How many times has it taken the wind right out of your sails and left you feeling incapable of achieving your dreams?  How many times have you listened to your head over your heart?

We all do it, and most of the time don’t even realize it.  But the voice in our heads is just the story that has kept us safe.  Even if safe means miserable.  It keeps the world known, and doesn’t take risks because anything unknown is too scary.  Anything unknown could hurt us.

Or so it says.

On thing is for sure, the voice in our heads, as well meaning as it may or may not be, is just not the truth.

It is just a thought, and it is not true unless you believe it.  Once you believe a thought, it becomes reality for you.  You can, until you believe you can’t.

If you look at your own life, many of the things you have done didn’t come with an instruction manual.  You jumped into life and figured it out.

When there is a will, there is a way. If your heart truly wants something, and you continue to take action, you will make it happen.

It is time to take your faith out of the voice in your head that is full of limitations, and put that faith back into yourself.  Give yourself credit for all you have done in your life, and continue to follow your heart to make your dreams a reality.

And when the voice in your head begins to share it’s opinion of smallness and limitation, thank it for sharing and trying to protect you, but let it know YOU got this.  

Because when you believe in yourself, anything is possible.

A Closer Look at Street Harassment

Date: March 30, 2015

posted by Lee / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , ,

Street harassment is a global problem. In every city I’ve lived in, and most I’ve travelled to, I’ve been subjected to cat calling, inappropriate touching and public masturbation and sadly, my experiences are not unique. Every woman I know has a story and many of my male friends too. I want to have a look at some of the myths surrounding street harassment and what we can do as a community to be more aware of not only this kind of disturbing behavior, but the ideas behind the behavior so we can work to eradicate it.

 

1. If a stranger speaks to you on the street, they are harassing you.

 

This is not true. If someone says ‘good morning’ to you on the street, this is not harassment. If someone says ‘hello’ to you on the street, you are not a victim. We need to stop looking for reasons to be afraid of one another. Sometimes folks are just being friendly and there is nothing wrong with that. We live in a world so dominated by virtual contact that a genuine human interaction can seem intimidating, and that’s really depressing. Let’s break the cycle. Say good morning back and make your mama proud!

 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen this video of the woman walking through New York for 10 hours. Now watch it again and see if you can tell the difference between people being friendly and people being predatory.

 

When you are a victim of harassment, you know it. The hairs on the back of your neck stand up, you involuntarily ball up your fists and you disappear inside yourself a little. When someone swerves into your path for no reason or someone puts their face really close to yours and tell you to ‘smile,’ that is harassment; when someone makes a comment to you as they pass by about your body like ‘I wouldn’t say no,’ then you are a victim.

 

Common courtesy and threat should not be confused and too often they are, thus forcing us into a constant sate of high alert. And let’s be honest, that guy who owns the bakery and says ‘hi’ to you in the morning is not trying to scare you, plus he’s ancient, so you could totally take him in a fight.

 

2. Only women are victims of street harassment.

 

Yes, it is far more common for a woman to be the victim of this kind of abuse, but it happens to men too, and often, we don’t take it seriously.

As in the above video, Dennis Cee was recently trying to expose the frequency in which street harassment happens in New York, but this time to highlight the difficulties gay men face.

Not actually being homosexual himself, Dennis disguised himself in the traditional attire of the gays- a comically tight t-shirt and teste-crushing orange pants. He then topped off his look with a little bag from every gay man’s favorite shop; Victoria’s Secret and took to the streets. I jest, because although the good intention was there, the execution was truly terrible.

However, one thing that this video did successfully was shine a big, bright light on how women are street harassers too. At the 25 and the 45 second marks, women invaded Dennis’ personal space and made comments about his appearance and his comically tiny bag. Then shockingly, at 57 seconds, two young women put their hands on his body, and said something to him as he walks away. That is not OK and we need to start recognizing that the issue of street harassment is not a gendered one.

 

3. Street harassment is a compliment.

 

No. A strange man on the street ogling your breasts and telling you that ‘you’d get it’ is not paying you a compliment. He is not trying to make you feel good. He is doing the exact opposite of complimenting you, because compliments are empowering and street harassment is intimidating.

 

Let’s not pretend that this kind of harassment has much to do with you at all. Similar to rape not being about sex, street harassment isn’t about flattery. Both forms of assault are about power and control. To insinuate that victims should somehow be grateful for the attention is completely insulting.

 

So what can we do?

 

1. Stop the double standard- I know I’ve been to a few bachelorette parties that got out of hand, and I’m sure our lascivious, disruptive behavior was intimidating to the men around us. Don’t be part of the problem. A woman touching a man without permission or speaking to him inappropriately should be no different than if the roles were reversed.

 

2. Make eye contact- In my experience, if you feel threatened, looking at the individual’s face can often make them think twice before speaking and force them to look away. Hiding and making yourself small is what they want. Stand tall and look them in the eye.

 

3. Practice kindness- try interacting with people on the street in a meaningful way. It may seem strange, but the more you welcome interactions from strangers, the less you fear them. Say ‘hello’ to people you see in the morning, you’ll be amazed what it does for your confidence and it might just improve their day.

 

4. Fight it- There are some amazing charities like Hollaback who through campaigning and activism are making a difference and bringing street harassment to the forefront of the political agenda. Whether it’s on the picket line or simply wearing a t-shirt to raise awareness, get involved and let’s work for change together.

 

I wish that we had the ability to force all harassers to unknowingly hit on their moms in disguise, like in this fantastic Everlast Campaign. But that’s not real life, so in the meantime keep fighting the fight against street harassment in your neighborhood. Let’s all work hard in our corners of the world to keep each other safe.

 

What You Owe Yourself

Date: March 29, 2015

posted by Shona Marie / Comments: 4 Comments / Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

As a little girl I always dreamed of finding my Knight in Shining Armor, my Prince Charming. Somebody to come in, save me from my life, and sweep me off my feet. But you know what? I don’t need rescuing. I don’t need to be with a man to have worth.

Don’t get me wrong; I have lived an interesting life, most of which I was caring for myself financially. In fact in my quest for True Love, I often was taking care of everyone else too. I thought if I was desired, or felt needed then I was valued. If somebody had told me there was a difference all those years ago what a difference it would have made!

Through trial and tribulation, I learned to navigate the desire and get to the value. My bullshit radar is finely tuned. Yet, in the name of Love I often find myself choosing to believe another’s words over my own intuition.

Self-doubt is a mother…

It’s so scary to listen to your gut when your ears and heart long for such pretty words and a sense of security. But, you are a divine, powerful, amazing woman. And you know as much as I do how strong that “inner knowing” really is.

I thought I found my knight in shining armor to ride off into the sunset with. He has definitely shown me the way, changed my life for the better in many, many, ways. But I was still depending on him to add value to my life, to pull me up on his valiant stead and “rescue” me from…what? Life? Responsibility? Myself? Memories?

I have put so much owness on him, allowing myself to shrink back and find comfort in not taking control of the Power inside me. Like many women, I tried to mold myself into what I thought he wanted and stopped being the woman I actually am under it all, the woman he fell for to begin with

But then the epiphany came.

I can get up on that horse and ride too.

I don’t need to be straddling him holding on for dear life.

The armor fits me even better.

Nobody owes me a life. Nobody owes me something better because of all the dirt thrown on me in the past. No. He doesn’t owe me a better life. You don’t owe me a better life.

I owe myself one.

And you do too.

It’s not on anyone else to make our dreams come true. To make us feel the things we long to feel. Only when you recognize your own light can you attract the light in others. It starts with you. And me. Being our own knights and allowing our inner selves to shine through.

Stop putting yourself in a corner. Stop putting everyone else’s needs before your own. Don’t die inside of yourself waiting for somebody to save you. Save yourself. Be brave. Only give from your overflow.

You owe it to yourself.

The Sacred and Scared Woman Embodied

Date: March 29, 2015

posted by Brooks Haislip / Comments: No Comments / Tags: , , , , ,

A term I created, aspire to everyday and revolve a lot of my work around is “sacred woman embodied,” as I am committed to showing up in my life as such. Just the other day, I was attempting to write ‘sacred’ and I accidentally wrote ‘scared’. First thought- “Oops” and I scratched through it and re-wrote it the “correct” way- sacred- yes, that is what I wanted to talk about in my workshop, not scared. Who wants to talk about “scared woman embodied”?!

Second thought- “Wait a sec, pause, now hold on a minute, over-correcting, trying to get it right, more comfortable talking about the sweet things in life, I don’t want to make people too uncomfortable self, this is an amazing moment- slow down, listen.”

Third thought- “This is a sign, this is a huge something, wake up, pay attention, do something with this!”

Yes, yes, yes- of course, “Sacred” and “scared” are not so different, not just in the literalness of the letters that formulate them, but much more. They actually often live very close to one another, even within one another, they often, co-exist. This is what I was meant to share with the group. It is time for our fears to be embraced more, on the edges of and within the sacred too. It is time for the “sacred and scared woman embodied” to be brought forward. It is time we talk about all parts of Her, within us.

Let’s think about this. No, actually, let’s feel it. What do you feel in these situations in your life- difficult conversations with your best soulsister, being alone in nature in an intense situation, breaking out of a relationship, setting boundaries with a co-worker, being intimate in bed with another for the first time, or back in bed with your partner since you birthed a child, launching a new business, brand, website, design line, book, the thought of your beloved partner, child or pet dying, or when you’ve just yelled at someone you care for deeply in your life and you wonder if you have damaged them for life?

Perhaps on the surface, we lean more towards nervous, intimidated, uncertain, terrified, disconnected, alone, dispensable, uncomfortable and/or self-conscious with these ideas- all words that fit more with the energy of ‘scared.” And, yet, I would also say that the sacred can be very present in each of these- soul growth from intimate conversation, freedom from speaking your truth and making life changes to follow it, the vulnerability and trust placed in bed with another human being, the courage and sense of accomplishment upon launching a new creation, the remembrance of cherishing every moment with your most loved ones in life as if it may be your last, and the recognition on the other side of knowing that you are human and will make mistakes is a Divine force at play, loving us along the way, no matter what. These, to me, are qualities of “sacred.”

Ok, what do you feel in these situations in your life- watching a sunset in a quiet, beautiful place in nature, praying in a chapel, taking a walk on the beach with your beloved in deep soul conversation, making a snow angel with your child with snowflakes falling in your mouth, making love with someone you are completely comfortable with in bed or laughing so hard with a girlfriend that you can’t help but cry at the same time.

Perhaps on the surface, we lean more towards peaceful, connected, in good company, timeless, comfortable, and/or ecstatic with these ideas- all words that fit more with the energy of ‘sacred’. And, yet, I would also say that for me, as I can feel these moments beginning to dissolve, or once they have come to the end, or even right smack in the middle of the fullness of them, hesitation, holding back, and fear, at times, come back in, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, but on some level I get scared that things may never be that good again, I start to cling desperately because I don’t want them to end, or I may start to wonder how I got this card and feel guilty for having it so good myself while others don’t. These, to me, are qualities of “scared.”

And so, it seems to me that often, not always, sacred and scared are part of the same ride.  When they are separate, allow it to be so, but when they are not, admit it and know that, this co-existence of sacred and scared, is an amazing human experience not to be denied. I am ready for this ride of sacred and scared, as this feels like an authentic embodiment of all parts of myself. Often the most courageous thing we can do as women is to admit when we are scared, share this with each other and hold each other in the space of it all, and that then, right then, is where we have just created more sacred. And so, I now proudly claim to be a “sacred, scared, and sometimes both at once woman embodied,” and that feels like Truth.

 

 

No Earth-shattering “Kaboom!”

Date: March 27, 2015

posted by Donna Barker / Comments: 2 Comments / Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ever since committing to celebrate life’s small accomplishments, I’ve suffered from an ear worm: I can’t get the chorus of Kool and the Gang’s Celebration out of my head.

(Please, I beg you to listen to the song so the worm can find a new, more appreciative home.)

I mentioned AJ Jacobs last week. Aside from loving his writing, I admire the guy for his ability to stick with a research topic and writing theme for an entire year. I’m one week into this gonzo journalist project and already wondering how quickly I’ll be able to say, “Yup, got the whole celebration thing nailed. Onto the next challenge.”

Not to suggest I’m a quitter, but I do tend to have a short attention span.

And, worse, I’m not any good at focusing on myself. I think this is a common trait among women – we’re hard-wired to be helpful to others, to focus on the needs of the people we love, not on ourselves.

So after three days of looking for reasons to celebrate my own actions and finding none, I looked to the world around me for a reason to put on a pointy, paper hat and blow a horn.

I found that reason on Monday, March 23 – Near Miss Day. Apparently, on this day in 1989, a large asteroid missed the Earth by just 500,000 miles. How does one celebrate the day that the Earth did not go “Kaboom!”?

If you’re me, you vacuum. And clean the kitchen. You do two loads of laundry. You make dinner. And you end your day with a yoga class.

It’s not that these Near Miss Day celebration activities were out-of-the-norm for me. No. These are things I do each and every week. Usually several times. But the difference this past Monday was that with the image of a blown-up world in my mind (and me, blown-up at 23) I was able to look at the cat fur and dishes and dirty clothes and be grateful that I have the opportunity to clean-up after the pets and people I share my life with.

It was a little bit mind-bending, imagining that for the sake of a half-million miles in an infinitely large universe, I might have been annihilated before I’d even graduated from university, ever fallen in love, had a child, written a book, or done a single downward dog.

I may not go so far as to say that it was a profound experience, but it certainly changed my perspective about my day-to-day chores while I was doing them. And that’s a good thing. We’re told to approach every task we do with love, but honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever figure out how to feel love when I’m swishing a toilet bowl. (If you’ve got that one dialed in, please let me know.)

In the coming week, I’ll try to hold on to this attitude of gratitude towards the dust bunnies and sock bombs. And, I’m going to add a new celebration to my week, which, I invite – nay! I implore – you to celebrate with me!

Dig out that old box of crayons that’s pushed to the back of your junk drawer and draw a picture of what celebration means to you because this week we get to celebrate Crayola Crayon Day (officially, March 31)!

Personally, I have zero artistic talent so to participate in this special day I’ll have to psyche myself up. But I will step out of my comfort zone and draw something that looks like celebration to me. And, perhaps, if I’m brave, I’ll post it as the image to go along with my update next week… it sure would be nice to have your picture to post, too! (Hint, hint).

And then, on one of the first days of April, we should celebrate Poetry Month. You could read your favourite poem to your favourite person. Or, you could buy a new book of poetry to support a local or new poet. Or, you could write a poem and post it in the comments. Myself, I’ll see how I feel on April 1st and 2nd, but I suspect I’ll be writing a haiku, because really, who doesn’t adore a good haiku?

Have a fantastic week, celebrating whatever brings you joy. I look forward to seeing your crayon drawings and/or reading your poems in the comments!

PS – If you happen to be reading after the last week of March, you can still join the party. Late-comers are always welcome!


Donna Barker is the author of Mother Teresa’s Advice for Jilted Lovers, a quirky women’s fiction murder mystery (www.adviceforjiltedlovers.com) and the founder of MemWow! Special event memoirs that make you say, “Wow!” (www.memwow.com). Donna lives in an old mining village in British Columbia, Canada (which is why she spells funny), has been a volunteer firefighter since 2010, and a bacon-loving “vegetarian” for almost thirty years.