December 26, 2011

When women sign up to attend one of my Retreatshops they are asked this (familiar) question: “What are you TRULY hungry for?” It has been surprising to see how many – so very many – have said CONNECTION.

And that is right, isn’t it? Connection is what we are all hungry for. Connection to our community. Connection our the land. Connection to ourselves. To our hungers. Often, most of all, we hunger for a meaningful connection to spirit.

Jennifer Wells-McCullough is the medicine we need to address our deep disconnection. She is a woman, mother, writer, and coach who knows deeply what it means and feels like to be in connection….and to be disconnected. She meets people wherever they are and shepherds them, as she says, to ‘live from’ their ‘soul’.

I hope you’ll savor every word of what she shares in this final Well-Fed Woman interview of the year – it’s totally delicious. In addition to being a wonderful spiritual coach, Jennifer is a talented writer to boot. I hope you’ll follow along with what she’s sharing with the world as she’s a point for all of us to find connection.

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Jennifer, what are you TRULY hungry for?

Silence balanced by the good kind of noise that comes with monthly bursts of creativity, spending time with my ten year old son (e.g., long walks, being taught how to draw unicorns, dancing around the room), and doing my work in the world. I’m hungry for opportunities to help others remember who they really are and assisting others in being who they are in a world that isn’t always supportive of this. And stories about life. Writing them, reading them, listening to them.

What’s a craving that you previously denied that you now happily satisfy? How has this impacted you?

I previously denied my desire to live life as a spiritual being versus someone with a long list of shoulds, feelings of not being good enough, and fears. I barely made space for my abilities, gifts, and talents. I silenced the truest part of myself again and again. One day that kind of living almost cost me my life and I had to make a choice. I am so grateful I chose to live soul first and to have found the support I need to help me do so. It has meant more laughter, more love, a new business, open doors, more ease, more flow, and more opportunities to help others do the same. These changes can be found in every single area of my life. I now live from a place that knows I am deeply and unconditionally loved, larger and stronger than I may appear physically, and here to help others find their way back to and live their lives from the essence of who they are.

What are you a conduit for? What comes through with ease, meaning, and spark?

I’m a conduit for deep listening, unconditional love, and the ability to see the Divine in another human being. Along with this comes the way it feels to be able to hold space for another person – their stories, their writing, their fear, their essence. This is something I enjoy so much. It nourishes me.

Favorite bite in recent memory?

Food: Graeter’s pumpkin ice cream.

A non-food favorite bite – I recently traveled for twelve hours to hear someone speak (car, airport seats, plane, car). I wanted to see this person so much, but the uncomfortable seating and heavy luggage had resulted in an aching back. During the traveling, I’d been imagining how wonderful it would be if I could have circles drawn on my back. This is something my mother or grandmother would do and it totally relaxes me. After the event was over, I stood in line on my way out and the person beside me asked where I was from. I named my city and must have looked either stressed or exhausted or both. She reached out to me, gently placed her fingers on my back, and drew circles as she smiled and asked, “And all of the traveling was worth it, wasn’t it?” (it was).

To get more Jennifer in your ‘diet’ visit her coaching website, blog, and follow her on Twitter.

December 12, 2011

Some Like It Cold

As a coach, this is the time of year my clients start to fret about the upcoming holidays. And I can relate. I’ve had my share of Thanksgiving dinners where the tension in the air was harder to cut than the turkey. I’ve had more white winter family gatherings where one or more people were crying or not speaking to another.

So where do we get tripped up? What are these pitfalls? Here are five that I see a lot and each of us has the power to shift away from these and towards a more joyful holiday.

#1 We look for happiness from outside ourselves

If your holiday is only a success if {insert family member name} does or doesn’t {insert behavior} then you’re already set up for disappointment and resistance to the present moment. Others will do as they do and our power reigns only over our own personal domain. This is good news – trust me – because it means your free. You only have to worry about you and that’s more than enough for most of us. Be intentional about where your happiness is coming from.

#2 We forget that it’s a vacation

If you’re an American who’s lucky enough to still have a job, then chances are you are only allotted meager crumbs of vacation days each year. It’s common to spend our precious vacation week or two on these end of year holidays. That said, we don’t often use that time as it’s intended for — to recharge, to rest, to assume various positions of leisure. Plan now. Say no. Be intentional about getting an actual vacation.

#3 We make it about things that aren’t meaningful

Gifts. Portraits. Parties. Shoulds. Shouldn’ts. Know where you get your deeper meaning from. Know what makes a holiday well spent. Know that if you had to give up every single thing that didn’t really matter what you’d need left over to have a meaningful holiday. I doubt it could be wrapped up with a bow or RSVPd to. Be intentional about making this holiday meaningful.

#4 We expect unrealistic things from ourselves

A 6 course meal for 16. Gifts for all 8 cousins. A red-eye flight on the holiday’s eve. Getting through this season without eating sugar. Thank you letters in the mail the week after the holiday. Where are you setting the bar for yourself? Where are you making yourself the martyr? Be intentional about being human and owning that you’re enough without that extra long jump.

#5 We plan all the magic and wonder out of it

A party at 5 and another at 7. Rigidly sticking to traditions that you’ve outgrown. Firm ‘no’s and haphazard ‘yes’s without checking in with your heart. Be intentional about leaving room for the dance of life, for the wonder that can’t be scheduled, and for the beauty that comes when the branch bends.

 

December 8, 2011

What I’m sharing today is my framework for moving towards a life rooted in love with yourself.

When I reflect on my own journey from self-loathing (step zero) to true self-love, these are the stages I passed through. These are the steps I work with my clients to take. You can’t leap from Step One to Three. And it takes great patience at each point.

And, no matter what step you’re on, self-judgement will always rear it’s head. These steps are not permanent locations, but rather home-bases. They are where you return to, somewhat effortlessly, when you become aware of unkind and unfriendly thoughts or behaviors from you – towards you.

Think about what it feels like and what it means to make peace with something.

Acceptance. Tolerance. Not trying to change. Not necessarily preferring. A cease-fire.

Think about what it feels like and what it means to make friends with something.

Kindness. Affection. On the same team. Got your back. Buddies. Laughter. On the same side.

Now, think about what it feels like and what it means to make love with something.

Intensity. Deep affection. Pleasure. Delight. Intimate knowing. Union. Flow. Natural.

There is a total absence of being threatened here. There is the full body knowing that coming together, unifying, connecting, sharing, and giving unconditionally is right. There is no ‘other’ here.

You are in relationship with yourself. The most important relationship you will ever have.

What step are you on? How do you know? How could you move towards friendship or love?

 

November 30, 2011

The Well-Fed Woman interview series could never be complete without talking to Brene Brown the trailblazing, shame-busting, proudly imperfect researcher and writer. It’s an honor to share her wisdom with you today. If you haven’t heard of Brene or read her books, consider this introduction a gift.

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Brene, what are you truly hungry for?

Solitude and contemplation are essential for my wellbeing. Most people find it hard to believe that I’m an introvert and a very private person. I enjoy talking about my work with 5000 people, but on a day to day basis,I’m starving for time to think. I’m a contemplative walker – which is like a walking meditation, but more thinking and less meditating. It’s how I sort out my life and my research. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m nuts. I walk through our neighborhood in deep thought, often talking to myself (with my hands). If a really significant idea emerges or I figure out the perfect language to describe a research finding, I often just stop and work it out in my head. I’m probably even rubbing my forehead and pacing. I’ve also been known to stop walking and sprint back to my house.

What’s a craving that you previously denied that you know happily satisfy? How has this impacted you?

I have two cravings that I once denied but I’m now embracing: sleep and play. I never really thought about either one of them until I did the research on Wholeheartedness and wrote “The Gifts of Imperfection.” Sleep and play emerged as critically important pieces of living and loving with our whole hearts. When it comes to sleep, I have some gremlins around being lazy. People who know me often think, “Are you kidding?” I do work hard, but that doesn’t always silence those deep shame triggers. Today I nap if I feel tired and I get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep every night. Sleep debt is the devil and I’m pretty sure most of the world walks around tired and pissed off.

As far as play goes, that one was much harder. For me, I had to do some work around the combination of gremlins about being silly and self-indulgent and the vulnerability of letting loose.  Again, it was the research that really helped me understand the importance of play in our lives. Dr. Stuart Brown writes that one property of play is “time spent without purpose.” I used to call that an anxiety attack. Now I get it. I’ve started playing more and it’s been such a gift to me and to my family. I feel better, I’m more creative, and I love the new feeling of getting lost in something for the sake of getting lost.

What are you a conduit for? What comes through with ease, meaning, and spark?

I’m really good at observing human nature, seeing subtle connections between our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, and naming those experiences. It’s my superpower and I get to do it for a living – that’s a gift. I love what I do. It makes me come alive.

Favorite bite in recent memory?

I’ve got a new egg poacher that my 6-year old son calls the egg poach-in-a-tor (too much Phineas and Ferb). I’m hooked on poached eggs with truffle salt right now. It’s delicious.

To get more Brene Brown in your ‘diet’, visit her website and follow her on Twitter @brenebrown.
November 18, 2011

In preparation for my 2012 Well-Fed Woman Mini-Retreatshop tour I’ve been mining the road of life that’s brought me here. I’ve been talking to friends about what they remember. I’ve been listening to Gail Larsen’s amazing Transformational Speaking, and I dug out a sizable box of old journals and have been reading through them. There’s a lot of beauty and sadness on these pages. There is also this poem. It appears to have been written in early February 2006. I don’t recall what it was about but rereading it moved me. It’s kind of like seeing yourself in a video doing things you have no recollection doing and yet you can’t refute that it’s you on the screen. Here are my words, new to you and to me…

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When we meet
after years
ours will be beautiful
richDance we will
between the nervous unknown
the vastness we’ll unveil
and then like sinking into
wet sand we’ll slip into
the knowing
the cellular awareness that
all our toils had purpose
wisdom designed to merge

When we meet
we’ll both stop to look back
 over our shoulder
 smiling in the distance we’ll
breathe easy at the far off mountain ranges we’ve summited

When we meet
it will be a being – not a
performance

We’ll be
over runny eggs and toast

We’ll be deep in the Sunday papers

We’ll be whole and shameless —
both fully aware of our lovability – and ability to love

Smiling at the perfection –
the amazing flawlessness of our total being of
imperfection.

When we meet
ours will be beautiful.

posted in wisdom: poetry
November 10, 2011

Sandra Milo

I care. I care about you.

I care about you being at ease in your own skin as you walk towards the kitchen, your closet, your office, your yoga mat, your first date, or the podium.

I care about you being so at ease inside your self that you’re available to life. inherent in which is service.

I care about you coming to know yourself not only as friend rather than foe, but as lover.

I care about you fully expressing your unique wave in this divine ocean we’re a part of.

I care about your knowing that you are just like me and I am just like you. In fact, we are the same.

I care about you swimming with the tide of your precious life. down stream. turned by rapids. in flow. towards your own estuary of creativity.

I care about you looking first towards yourself for that which you look upon another to provide.

I care about where you source your power and whether it’s sustainable or inspiring to you.

I care about you knowing that love is always in the room.

I care about you knowing that if you never leave yourself, you need never fear being alone.

I care about you cashing in your permission slips. they are already signed by virtue of your sovereignty.

I care about you knowing your truest hungers and heeding them as north stars. walking towards. looking up. walking towards. looking up.

I care about you. I care.

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November 7, 2011

You know what? I turn prospective clients down. I do it all the time actually. I simply don’t want to spend the months, days, and hours working with someone when I know in my heart we’re not a fit. It’s never personal. It’s just a gut knowing. For that matter, clients turn me down too. It’s part of the process and I totally trust it.

When I turn a client down I try to send them off with a list of my most trusted coaching colleagues to help them on their way. Amy Kessel is top of that list. She is wise. She is warm. She is deep.

I love how Amy prefers to say that she “helps people to unfurl” instead of she “coaches people.” So true.

If you’ve ever had the sense when reading something or talking with someone that they are right there with you, in it, along side you — that’s Amy. She’s in it with you (and me). She makes me question my own unfurling and who I’m becoming. Amy makes me more engaged in my own life and ultimately a more Well-Fed Woman.

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Amy, What are you TRULY hungry for?

Solitude.  My kids are 7 and 10, and for the first time in a decade I have my days to myself.  I realize I need empty hours and white space to replenish what I have (joyfully) given away in mothering.  Now that my children are in school, I want to stretch out into the hours that used to be carved into small and unsatisfying chunks.  I find myself reclaiming bits of myself, and reconnecting to my own form of creativity.  It took solitude for me to realize I was hungry for more of the same.

What’s a craving that you previously denied that you now happily satisfy? How has this impacted you?

Embarking on something new without knowing how to “do it right”.  Amen.

I recently started running.  It began as a favor to my son, who wanted to get in shape for soccer season.  I have never, ever owned a pair of running shoes.  On top of that, I have held a personal belief that goes something like: you’re a dancer, not an athlete. And your 45-year-old body can’t handle the strain of running. Plus, you don’t know how the experts do it.

Like many of my coaching clients, I tend toward over-preparation; I accumulate degrees and other forms of assurance before I attempt to fly.  But all along, I have craved spontaneity.  Creative license.  Freedom from external sanctioning, and reliance on my own inner compass.  Becoming an expert on my own terms, not someone else’s.

So I’m satisfying this craving by busting my own myths, like the one about running.  I’m finding that without following someone else’s advice, I’m able to run farther and farther.  And I love it.  When I get home after a morning run, I’m grateful for the aliveness I have tapped into and full of awe that I have accomplished something in an entirely new way; without training manuals, demerits or awards.  What a precious gift.

What are you a conduit for? What comes through with ease, meaning, and spark?

I’m a conduit for deep, profound connection.  The kind that leaves both of us cherishing what we have rediscovered in ourselves through coming together.  And the soul-satisfied exhale that follows this connection.

When I connect with someone, I find the pathway that invites us to dive deep, to that place where we see and are seen.  I’m fascinated by what dances just below the surface, and endlessly charmed by the process of bringing it out.  And while the flow of the conversation brings along momentum and clarity, it’s the pause I await.  That pause that contains within it the truth we’re each seeking.  I think it’s the reason we all want to connect.

Favorite bite in recent memory?

Mmm, I can taste it now.  Still-warm blackberry jam on thick sourdough toast.  I live on a little Pacific Northwest island that’s overrun with blackberry brambles, and while we resent them most of the year, come early fall we greedily snatch up their bounty.  Our family picked a bucketful one sunny afternoon, and I turned it into a pot of jam we devoured in a flash.  I ate mine on the back porch, in a patch of dappled sunshine.

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Other wonderful Well-Fed Woman interviews…

Lori Race

Tara Austen Weaver

Joy Tanksley

Tara Sophia Mohr

October 31, 2011
Mary Mac Dahlke’s Mary and Molly

Allergies. Rheumatoid Arthritis. Lupus. Crohn’s Disease. Eczema. Type 1 Diabetes.

Do you or someone you know have one of these conditions?

Mostly likely yes. Those of us in the developed world are plagued by autoimmune diseases, which each of these are. Autoimmune diseases occur when our own immune system fails to recognize a part of our own tissues or cells as part of us, and instead sees it as a foreign enemy. Attacking.

These are cases of mistaken identity.

We become our own enemy when in reality, we’re not.

I wonder though why we don’t have a classification for emotional autoimmune disorders? I’ve rarely met a human being who didn’t suffer emotionally from confusing themselves with the enemy, and following suit with attack.

Both physical and emotional autoimmune diseases are equally misguided attempts to protect ourselves. Our immune system thinks it’s helping.

Emotionally speaking, we so often think that if we shame ourselves, judge our hungers, and self-loathe that we’re making ourselves somehow better or safer.

We speak to ourselves with disparagement because we want to be loved or just liked.

We mistrust our hungers because we fear that feeding them will make us unlovable or judged by others.

We all have our own best interest at heart it’s just that our emotional immune system too often gets confused and thinks that we are the enemy of our self.

I may not be a doctor and I don’t know much about treating Lupus or Crohn’s Disease, but I do know a few tricks to get you on the road to recovery from an emotional autoimmune disease.

1. You must know that you are not the enemy. Take this as fact, even when reality appears different as these diseases effect our vision sometimes.

2. Know that any internal voice that is not kind, loving, or compassionate towards yourself is not speaking the truth.

3. Know that when you emotionally attack yourself your deeper intentions are good. You want the best for yourself, you want to be loved and somewhere along the way various sorts of self-attacks appeared the path to get there. They aren’t.

4. Healing depends 100% on your willingness to practice non-judgemental self-observation. You must notice your attacks, however subtle or seemingly harmless, and practice ending them. Notice. Let go. Make peace. Notice. Let go. Make peace. Mess-up. Start again. Notice. Let go. Make peace.

5. You must own your power for bringing this peace to your internal world. You must own your ability to decollapse yourself from this made up enemy. You already have everything you need to heal.

Peace.

October 22, 2011
Do ever have moments when the breadth of all that you don’t know overwhelms you?

Like the first time you got behind the wheel of a car.
Like you’re first week at a new job.
Like when you attempt to use Photoshop for the first time, or try to understand a complex global issue, or find out your parent has cancer.

Holy sh*t, right?

It’s uncomfortable. Sometimes we want to quit. Sometimes we don’t want to own up to our big dreams (or hungers) if it means we have to own up to all that we don’t know. Often we want to just hire an expert. We want so badly to be the expert – right now.

In the 1970’s Noel Burch, of Gordon Training International, developed The 4 Stages of Competence, a fantastic map and model to help see us through not knowing. I apply this model not only to learning how to do something, but also to understanding concepts and topical information. The model goes like this:

Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetency
This is when you’re totally unaware of what you don’t know.
Example: A 5 year old and driving a car. The child has no idea what it doesn’t know.

Stage 2: Conscious Incompetency
This is when you’re aware of all that you don’t know. (This is the stage I’m talking about)
For example: A 16 year old the first time they try to learn to drive a car. It’s crystal clear to them, all that they don’t know.

Stage 3: Conscious Competency
This is when you can do it or know it, but you’re fully aware of doing it or knowing it.
For example: A 16 year old, a month into driving a car for the first time. They can do it, but they are hyper aware of every gear shift, turn signal, and glance in the rear-view mirror.

Stage 4: Unconscious Competency
This is when you can do it without thinking about it.
For example: Anyone who’s been driving a car regularly for more than a year. It’s unconscious and they are totally capable.

Stage 2 is where I see us so often get stuck and give up. We’re afraid of getting it wrong, making mistakes, appearing stupid. We’d rather only do what comes easy. We’d rather turn a blind eye to what’s confusing. We’d rather pay someone to tell us the answer. We’d rather know it all this instant.

But it doesn’t work that way.

We have to start by knowing that we simply don’t know.
Only through staying with it – the curiosity, the dream, the desire to be competent and understand better. Only by being a student. Only by having patience do we wake up one day and know.

Not knowing is not the end point, if you don’t let it be.
Not knowing is just a step on the road to knowing more.

October 12, 2011

Kelly Wainwright, of Messy Monkey Arts, is a flashmob on legs. She simply bursts with creativity, joy, and a little rebelliousness. She’s gotten Desmond Tutu to jump on a bed. This photo was part of her Play, Jump, Eat project a photo series that blends beauty, joy, juxtaposition, play, and abundance…with proceeds going to charity. She’s a wild and wonderful woman…and yeah, well-fed too.

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Kelly, what are you TRULY hungry for?

I am hungry to take the biggest bite out of life & savor it in the most satisfying & fulfilling way that means for me.  I believe we all have our particular passions for a reason.  Not only do they end up edifying ourselves once lived out, but undeniably many of those around us. That said,  I want to dance.  often!  I want to play music & sing.  I want to live on the beach.  I want to Love & adore my babies.  I want to live out every whimsical, colorful, artful fantasy in my head as largely as possible, no matter how large the scale or seemingly “ridiculous” the notion.  And, I want it to FLOW.

What’s a craving that you previously denied that you now happily satisfy? How has this impacted you?

Not apologizing for my somewhat “wacky” requests…knowing I need to go at it boldly.  And, the more straight-forward I ask, the easier it seems it is for everyone involved to participate & help “well-grease” the machine, the dance, the FLOW.

What are you a conduit for? What comes through with ease, meaning, and spark?

Spontaneity,  large-scale visions, seeing/remembering the bigger picture, & lightly encouraging people to take the risks they know they so desperately want to take anyway

Favorite bite in recent memory?

it’s a toss-up between:
:: taking a literal bite out of my fat baby’s giant thigh ;),
:: living on the beach with dolphins in my backyard in Cape Town; the sun & moon basking in my face
&/or
:: living out & making very real my dream project: PlayJumpEat in South Africa  (ps – which I am currently looking for funding to carry forth in the US of A!, “Americana”-style)
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