October 30, 2013

21.lessons

Stargazer

As of this week I will have taught 21 Well-Fed Woman Retreatshops.

I will have traveled, roughly, 38,445 miles over two years.

Holy Wow.

When I set out to circle with women, sharing what I know, I never ever thought I would travel so far, meet so many amazing people, or learn so much.

At the end of a journey like this I suppose it custom to check in and see what you learned.

Here are 21 lessons, one for each Retreatshop. Some are good to know for everyone, some are good if you want to travel and/or teach for work, and others are just for me to remember if I ever do it again.

1. The first time is never your best.

Poor Austin, Texas. I delivered a good experience. But there was simply no way to know how to do this until I did it. Austin was my very first stop and thanks to those Texas guinea pigs, I learned a lot. Things only got better – a lot better – from there. The lesson? You have to rip the band-aid at some point. All the preparation in the world can’t prepare you for the real thing.

2. Tears are a sign of impact.  

I joke that I judge my success of a Retreatshop based on how many people cry. My track record is pretty impressive. Except for New York City. Those women wouldn’t crack even if we watched Beaches together while cutting onions. Nevertheless, have tissues ready. The truth is, you can’t really judge weather someone is having a positive experience of your event, but if they are crying, chances are you’re having an impact and impact is what I go for every time.

3. We need to hear each others stories.

The personal stories I shared, on most days, took the air right out of the room. Each person listening finding their own common thread in the weaving of my life and then invited out to share the things we too often keep in the back of the closet. It’s the kindred hearts, communicated through stories shared, that have stuck with me more than anything.

4. People are kind.

There are countless people who graciously opened their homes to me, fed me, picked me up from airports and dropped me off, and spent their precious hours helping to bring it all together. Most of these people I had never met before the day I descended on their city. I suppose I knew that people were kind before I did this, but the knowledge feels solid today, like a newly laid floor beneath me.

5. We are all the same.

It’s true. You + Me? Same cloth, cut up.

6. Sometimes the magic just isn’t there.

I didn’t hit it out of the park in all 21 cities. Why? Because sometimes the magic isn’t there. I can feel awesome. Be prepared and loose. Have enthusiastic attendees. Great weather and amazing food. And for whatever reason the vibration never elevated to a hum. Thankfully this was the rare exception, but it’s good to remember.

7. If you invite your mother, don’t sit opposite her.

Love my mom. Seriously. She is the very best. BUT…putting her in a chair opposite me doing my big thing. Not a great idea. I found myself analyzing her face the whole time (Was she liking it? Did she agree with my version of events?) and finally interrupting my talk to say “What is that face?!” only to be told “This is my face.” We all had a good laugh, but lesson learned.

8. Conference room lighting is the worst. 

Avoid it at all cost.

9. Support independent caterers where possible.

In most of the cities this year I sought out small, independent caterers for our lunch. Every time they were reliable, enthusiastic about accommodating special dietary needs, prompt, affordable, and delicious. Special shout outs to Soulshine Kitchen in Andover, Mass.

10. Have an ice breaker with heart. 

It might seem cheesy to start with an ice breaker, but it also works. When women come to gather for the kind of deep work that I facilitate they come with nerves. They fear the unknown of the day and are aware we’re likely going to dig into some pretty sticky topics. So, I start each Retreatshop asking everyone to share their favorite kind of pie. Immediately everyone goes to a happy place and common bonds start to form over shared favorites and sweet memories. For the record, my favorite is raspberry pie, double all-butter crust, with ice cream. Pie is holy.

11. Newsflash: Not everyone likes pie.

Every city had one person who didn’t like pie. I can’t explain this.

12. If you can have a dog in attendance, do.

Nothing makes vulnerability go down easier than a warm, soft pup curled up on your lap.

13. Invest in a suitcase you love.

The best money I spent, hands down. Thank you REI for making the 22″ Tech Beast. As I said, I traveled nearly 40,000 miles. Today, this suitcase looks good as new. I rarely checked it because it fit in the overhead compartment. I could lift it easily thanks to the many handles. It looks professional and fit everything I needed. So grateful.

14. Prepare.

While I couldn’t prepare for everything that was to cross my path on this journey, I did my best. I invested in the Transformation Speaking Immersion with Gail Larsen in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Cost a lot more than the suitcase. Also worth every penny.

15. Get credit cards that earn you miles.

Fact: most of my airfare was paid for simply because I had the right credit card.

 16. Be selfish.

If I wasn’t out on the road teaching for myself, at least a little bit, I would have burnt out fast. If I had traveled that far and worked that hard out of pure altruism I would be a flat pancake right now. But I’m not. I feel pretty great. I did this to feed myself. I did this because I want to live as a Well-Fed Woman and I was hungry to sit with other women. I was hungry, so I set off to feed myself. Because each Retreatshop fed me (not just the attendees) I had fuel to keep going and arrived at the end so very satiated.

17. In person relationships trump internet relationships every time.

18. Don’t lie to the Canadian Border Police. 

If you’re there for work, tell them. Trust me.

Canadians are nice people, unless they are border police and you lie to them.

19. Soul work takes time.

The first year I ran Retreatshops they were three hours in length. This is because a) I didn’t know what would work and b) I didn’t want to coordinate lunch.

The second year they were full day experiences. This worked MUCH better. Soul work takes time.

20.  Presence. Curiosity. Love.

This is the invocation I did before each gathering. The three things I called into me. The three friends who supported me every time. They made all the difference.

21. The work I do is amazing.

It feels amazing for me and amazing for the women I work with.

It’s impactful. It’s imperfect. It’s authentic. It’s clear. It’s creative. It’s important. It’s totally unique.

I can say all of this wholeheartedly because unlike the day before I taught in Austin, Texas, today…I  know. I’ve tested myself. I’ve seen the impact first hand.

I’ve gone into the arena, as Brene would say.

Here’s to the next 40,000 miles wherever they take me, even if it’s just a lot of trips to my kitchen table to sit, in my pajamas with a cup of tea, and write to you.

 

May 4, 2013

why_our_voice_matters

I took April off of work.

I went to meet my nephew in Germany and on April 17th, 36 hours after my pain landed back on U.S. soil, I had my tonsils removed. No surprise, it’s been painful to talk.

During the recovery I learned to communicate with made up hand signs, scribbles on paper, and flash cards I’d prepared that said things like “Pain!” and “Thank you!”

Now May has rolled around, the pain has faded and speaking has becoming more effortless.

Eating with abandon has come back too. Hallelujah!

But my life isn’t just about speaking to my loved ones or being able to talk to the check out clerk at the grocery store.

I teach. I write. I communicate as part of my sacred vocation.

Being away last month and getting out of practice ‘speaking’ to you has left me feeling rusty. I could hear that all too common voice that says “What do you have to say that’s original? Look, there are all these other people saying the same thing as you. What makes you think anyone wants to hear your version? No one even noticed you were gone.”

In my experience, most of us know what this is like, even if we don’t have a blog and or teach in a classroom.

It’s simply not always easy to feel into the importance or worthiness of our voice.

Here is the perspective I use respond to these questioning voices:

I’ve read just about every book there is on the topic of eating disorders and making peace with our body and food. Seriously. I have.

Many of them say the same things and yet, for no logical or specific reason, only a few have really spoken to me. It’s not that they were better written, it’s simply that I needed to hear the information from one author and could not from another.

Have you had this experience? Two books that say the same thing and only one speaks to you?

Or a friend raves about a book that changed her life but it falls flat for you.

Perhaps there is a blogger out there that ‘everyone’ raves about but who’s voice does not connect with you.

Maybe you’ve had a group of people in your life each give you the same advice, but it was one single person who was able to get through to you.

It’s not logical and I don’t need to understand why this is the way things are.

I simply know that each voice matters and that my voice is the voice that will connect with someone out there when others do not.

This is true for your voice too. Whether it’s a book you want to write, a speech you want to give, or a truth you want to share with your best friend – it matters that YOU share it.

Your voice is like your thumbprint. It has a uniqueness that no one can match and it has the power to carry healing, change, and beauty into a world that needs these them.

Our voice won’t be heard by all. It won’t even be received positively all the time. It will rarely, if ever, be perfect.

I simply ask myself, what if Geneen Roth had never written Women, Food, & God because she thought that most of the content had already been written about by others? What if Brene Brown didn’t give her initial TedX talk because she thought to herself “Would anyone care if I didn’t show up?”

This perspective is what allows me to, often without finesse, begin to speak, teach, and write again. This is what allows me to hush those fearful voices. I have a deep faith that some people need to hear the wisdom I share from my voice in order for it to have an impact.

I have faith the same is true for you. 

December 1, 2012

As you may know, I’m a student of Wayne Muller. His book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives was a total game-changer for me. In fact, I kept my own non-traditional sabbath for several years inspired by Muller’s words. This practice still influences how I live my daily life and my work in the world. You don’t need to be religious to benefit from this profound book–I’m not.

Muller has a fantastic new book out: A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough. Doesn’t the title just make you happy?! I wanted to share this excerpt from the book with you because it so wonderfully sums up why I coach and what I love about coaching.

“So in order to live well from the inside out, to listen for the right choices and the firmly and courageously act on them we simply cannot do this alone….

Because we are not taught or supported to live in this way, rarely educated or encouraged to listen and act from our own inner wisdom, never told how to follow the firm but invisible thread of the next right thing through the world, we will always need the support of good, honest friends.

We are called to be strong companions and clear mirrors with one another, to seek those who reflect with compassion and a keen eye how we are doing, whether we seem centered or off course, grounded or flailing.

As in all sacred, life giving practices that require a deep and confident faith in ourselves, we need the nourishing company of others to create the circle needed for growth, freedom, and healing.”

– Wayne Muller, A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough

September 25, 2012

I’m sick as a dog today. Wicked sore throat. Fever last night.

But the worst part isn’t how I feel, it’s that I had to reschedule my four clients today because I’m in no shape to coach.

I love coaching. I love my clients. I love my coaching colleagues. Waking up everyday that I get to do this work is the biggest blessing I’ve known.

While the coaching industry goes through a sort of boom, it’s common for people to think that becoming a successful coach is easy. It’s not. There are reasons that those of us who are making a real living and having real impact are doing it.

If you want to be a life coach or you are a life coach but you’re struggling, check out The Coaching Blueprint a wonderful program from my colleague and friend Kate Swoboda. You might know her as Kate Courageous – a moniker she embodies. It’s one of the few programs out there I fully endorse. It really is a product that over-delivers. I wonder where I’d be today if I’d had it when I started out.

Kate is wise, dedicated, and uber-engaged. She’s also one of my favorite well-fed women.

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Kate, what are you TRULY hungry for?

Authentic connection. For me, that means the type of connection where people really show who they are, even their rough edges, because that’s the truest gift of connection–being held exactly for who we are, where we are, as we are. I’m hungry for being seen in that space, too–for surrounding myself with the people who wouldn’t let one bad day or experience define me in their minds. I’m hungry for compassion and ferocious love of the highest order.

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

I have become a total hugger and a crier. I used to be one of those people who felt awkward around hugging. Now I’m like, “Can I GIVE YOU A HUG?” I also used to be one of those people who was so embarrassed by my crying that I’d get that terrible choked-up sensation in my throat to keep the tears from pouring forth. Now I’m fairly open about letting them flow.

The internal critic I had around those two would tell me that both hugging and crying were “Sappy.” BUT–the simple acts of opening to physical affection with others, and the vulnerability of being transparent when something tugs at my heart strings, has opened me up to so much love that I now trust the impulse. I understand now that being unwilling to hug and cry are walls that we erect between ourselves–we think we have to know someone “really well” to do those things.

Hogwash! Next time you see me at a conference, ask me for a hug (especially if you’re having a bad day, because my hugs are AWESOME). Cry with me and beside me, as needed.

What are you a conduit for?

Courage, especially of the truth-telling variety. I’m a conduit for working with fear differently, for re-defining your relationship with fear rather than trying to bat fear away.

I’m a big proponent of people having the lives they want to have. It’s that simple. If you’re my friend and you’re talking about something you want and how it would never happen, expect the next two words out of my mouth to be, “Why not?” And if you tell me a bunch of reasons why not, I’ll probably then say, “I totally hear you. But still–why not? Surely there’s a way. How can I help?”

Favorite bite in recent memory?

Oh, god–can’t do just a bite–it’s gotta be an experience. The two-taco plate with avocado added and cilantro-jalapeno sauce at Cafe Zazzle in Petaluma, followed by the gluten-free fig cake for dessert at Wild Goat Bistro, followed by a walk and lots of laughter and conversation with my gorgeous man along the Petaluma River. We do this a few times a month. It’s nourishment inside and out.

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Thanks Kate! To learn about what all she’s up to check out her wonderful website Your Courageous Life and if you’re interested in The Coaching Blueprint, I can’t recommend it enough. 

 

February 8, 2012

Laura Simms, the radiant coach and writer behind Create as Folk, has a lot of what the world needs right now. When you traverse her words, both written and shared on camera, you can tell you’re privy to the wisdom of someone who cares deeply about being of service and does so authentically.

Another reason Laura lights me up is that she also took a left turn in her career (her from acting, me from food and events) and dove heart first into coaching, still allowing her previous life to inform and improve her current endeavors. I love seeing how her experience in acting shapes her work online and with her clients, just like I love to see how my years in the food world only enhances my business today.

My advise: embrace left turns.

In her own words, Laura says “A fulfilling career is important, but it’s not the only thing that counts in creating as folk. When you create as folk, you cultivate the life & work meant just for you. I’m into confronting deep desires, honoring possibility, taking risks, and doing all of the above with a sense of humor. Preferably a quirky one.”

Are you in love yet? So, no she’s not just a career coach, she’s the epitome of a wonderful life coach.

Yep, Laura is an über well-fed woman, living her life wide and deep with a big invitation for all of us to play out loud, laugh, and live on purpose. { I’m so excited to meet her in person when I’m in LA for the final Retreatshop! }

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Laura, what are you TRULY hungry for?

One of the most satisfying things that I do is get together with playmates from grad school and do physical theatre work. We do a lot of improvised movement, and when we’re all in the zone, it’s peaceful and exhilarating at the same time. It’s unspoken connection, it’s sweat, it’s group mind, it’s telling stories, it’s being finely attuned and having a broad awareness; it’s knowing what’s going on on the other side of the room without looking. To me, that is magic.

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

To hole up in my nest during the dark winter months. What can I say, I’m a true critter. When the sun goes down, I want to be tucked away. In the winter in Southern California, that means about 5 pm. For the last several years I tried to force myself to go out and be social and productive on winter nights, but it just felt awful. This year I decided to listen to my natural rhythms and do what my critter self wants. I was able to accept and appreciate this yearning instead of feeling broken. The more I’m able to work with what I’ve got, instead of trying to change it, the better I feel.

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

Play. Sometimes silly, frivolous play. Sometimes in a deeper sense: curiosity, taking risks, exploring. I think this is truly at the heart of my coaching work. Even when we’re doing something very serious, there’s still space for light and tender play. When working with clients, I see my role as helping them “get down to you.” To hit the bedrock of their true desires and gifts, and then figure out how to let their work or business be a reflection of that. That feels like play to me.

Favorite bite in recent memory?

My mother-in-law is an amazing Italian cook. Of all things, her homemade pizza is on my personal 7 Wonders of the World list. Dough made from scratch, light brushing of olive oil, fresh toppings in unexpected combinations, and all cooked on a pizza stone over the grill. It’s an experience.

Hi, I'm Rachel

I am a life coach and fierce advocate for women feeding their truest hungers. I'm also a curator of inspiration and this is where I share the wisdom I've gained, words that trigger deep reflection, and resources to help you live your most well-fed life. Feast onward.

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