January 7, 2014

It’s an unexpected contradiction that after a month of making over my home – purging, deep cleaning, organizing, painting, new furniture – that the theme for January would appear to be: messy.

Now messy isn’t my word for the year, I’ll get to that in a minute, but it does feel like the word for right now. In order to find my groove I need to splash a little in the mud. I need to play a little more. Write more shitty first drafts. Dance a bit more awkwardly.

This morning my boyfriend told me he dreamt that I was standing naked in a house and all the walls disappeared and I was just standing there naked. The house was on a busy street and everyone could see me. In his dream I wasn’t concerned, embarrassed, or rushing to cover up. While there won’t be any nude photos to kick of the year, I like the sentiment of this vision: get more naked.

We’re all so practiced at wearing masked. We know how to please people, wow to show them what they want to see and hide what we fear might bring rejection. Your good at it. I’m good at it. I’m also good at taking off the masks. It’s a practice.

And it’s through this practice that I’ve come to know that bearing oneself just a bit more isn’t something we master. New masks are always itching to be put on. It’s just too easy to edit what’s real out of the picture. Yet when we do this–when I do this–what follows is always a longing to be seen, connected, heard, and free.

So in the spirit of taking off the mask and getting messy I’m ready to share my word for the year. It seemed fitting then to make an honest, unpolished, unrehearsed, unscripted, make-up free-in-my-pajamas-while-having-the-flu video.

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. 

January 1, 2012

Fidelity Composition 1

I’m not afraid to die.

I hear it’s in the top 10 most common fears people have.

And it’s not one of mine.

This is not to say I want to die or look forward to the day. There is much more unfolding to do. There are questions in my heart that still desire answers or release. There are further reaches of my wing span that I’d like to discover.

Simply put though the unknown arrival of the end of my life brings me little unease.

I’m crazy proud of the life I have lived to this point.

I’ve courageously lept more times than I can count. I’ve made deep relationships rooted in vulnerability, a curiosity for life, and pleasure. I’ve made meaningful art. I have healed the wounds of my childhood and mended the relationships with those I hold most dear.

I feel profoundly aligned in my work and with those I care about. I have spoken my truth and walked my talk. I have cuddled with many a bearded dog and eaten my way across Italy. I’ve found room in my heart for more than just me, in fact for many many others.

I live deeply held in divine presence. I have released myself from most the shackles of living for others, grasping for control, and letting fear run my life. And I have space in my life to dance with my ego and inquire into my rough edges.

So I hope you can understand that if I were to die tomorrow, I would say a prayer to the world (especially to women) to wake up and I would go in love, profound gratitude, and peace.

As I’m not even 30 years old, and I have so much more life in me, I hope that day doesn’t come until I have given all that I have been tasked to give and learned to love to the fullest. And that’s not now.

But what if it came sooner?

What if death came in 2012?

I’m using this question to fuel me in taking new leaps, in teaching now, in speaking up, in gifting my story, in being of service, in showing up, in doing what requires a deep breath and prayer, in living this year as if it was my last.

This is how I want to live all of my life.
This is how I hope most of us would live our lives.

For me, this doesn’t mean bungee jumping or draining my saving account so I can fly off to some tropical spa.

This means that the moments upon moments that make up my life are meant to be lived alive, intentionally, deliciously, and infused with as much love, thankfulness, and compassion as I can connect to.

What would this mean for you? If 2012 were your final year on earth, how would you live? Where would you take your life? What would you let go of? What would you add?

May we all tap into the courage needed to rise up and live our lives fully.

Note: Buddhist teacher Steven Levine has written wonderful book on this topic as spiritual practice called A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last.

 

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.

September 26, 2011

Michele is a woman who radiates so brightly that the sterile 1’s and 0’s of the interwebs fail to diffuse her light. I stumbled upon her through her partnership with Jen Louden and their widely praised Teach Now e-course and am so happy that I did.

Through her own site, Working with Power, Michele describes herself the following way: “I bring infectious joy. Incisive intelligence. Broadband spiritual connection. A luscious, sensual presence. I’m soulful but irreverent. A gregarious introvert. And a discipline-free yogini.” Um, can we be best friends?

I wanted to include Michele in the Well-Fed Woman tribe because I believe so strongly in the work she is doing in the world. Through her coaching practice Michele guides women to live rich, delicious, pleasure-filled, and powerful lives. Through Teach Now she is sharing her teachers brain trust earned over many years of teaching coaching, yoga, and spiritually-based business building. As I’ve said before, this is the course that will have me front row and center.

*Teach Now closes registration this Wednesday at midnight PST and I’m giving away one free pass for the deluxe guided adventure level to the person who leaves the best comment about teaching and being well-fed.

::::::::::::

Michele, what are you TRULY hungry for?

I’ve run around this question so many ways in my life… Mistaken answers I’ve fervently believed have included: Coffee Haagen-Dazs.  My husband Kurt to truly (really, dammit!) love me.  Standing ovations at speaking engagements.  Yipes, though.  Hoovering those things up time and again, I realized I was trying to fill something that was more fear than hunger, more existential than circumstantial.  Now, I enjoy flavors, but hunger for nourishment.  I savor Kurt’s love (more real than I used to acknowledge) AND the bittersweet ache of the imperfection of human love.  And I see ego snacks for what they are.

These days, I’m aware I’m hungry for the belly laughs Kurt and our 3 year old Cooper share at story time.  I’m truly hungry to BE HERE for my experiences: “good,” “bad,” or just du jour.  I notice it’s more the presence I’m hungry for than the particular taste of the experience itself.  Motherhood (including a miscarriage that broke my heart) have taught me that.  I savor the losses, even, because they let me dig my toes into the humus of what it is to be human. I’m hungry for sensation, for experience.

And I’m hungry to write.  To chronicle those experiences in the voice given only to me.  I’m seeing the self-denial and violence inherent in my neglect to give myself enough time to write.  When I don’t write, I’m emotionally and spiritually constipated.  It’s exhausting.  And when I DO write, it feeds me, as well as others.

Those are my true hungers now.

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

Beauty.  I used to fancy myself oh-so-pragmatic… about my own appearance, especially.  I had real disdain for “flurf.”  Had somethin’ to prove.  Now, I devote time and resources to having easy-to-care-for hair, nails, clothes, shoes (shoes!) and accessories that make me feel delicious inside and out.  I realize I am easily a blessing to others when I take pleasure in my own beauty.  A nourished woman nourishes with her presence.  It used to seem superficial to me – perhaps even evil (remember the witch in Sleeping Beauty?) to gain delight from one’s “fairness.”  Now that I see that everyone’s got the beauty (our greatest differences are in how much we enjoy it), I have a sense that our beauty is part of the grand design:  reveling in our own capacity to feel good in our own skin is a part of how we receive, give, and contain love, enlightenment, and power.

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

Metaphor and other curlicues of language.  J’adore mental imagery and I can feel and see what’s inside other people.  So when I’m listening to someone’s situation, I’ll often say “It’s like…” and they’ll report that the metaphor that came was utterly perfect for reasons I could not possibly have known.  I love that!  Someone recently told me I have a way of delivering divine wisdom pre-digested for the masses.  I dunno, but I sure do love and find it simple to say big, real, important junk in a way so’s folk can understand it and ground it down into their lives.

Favorite bite in recent memory?

I gotta go literal here:  We were at Cafe Juanita, near Seattle, for my birthday on August 18.  I had this bite of Seared Foie Gras with Bing Cherries, Candied Ginger and Cacao Nib.  ‘Nother thing I wouldn’t have known I’d love.  The salty-fatty-crunchy-sweet-sour-bitter explosion in my mouth was a full-body delight.  A delight compounded by the fun of sharing that dish and about 10 others with Kurt and five other people I love.  Scrumptious!

To get more Michele in your life visit her website Working with Power or follow her on Twitter @lisenbury.

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May 13, 2011

To forge our lives into works of art, to master the craft of living, to work patiently with the force of life, and to become ourselves in action requires courage and genuine commitment. It is both an inner commitment–to accept who we are and what we stand for–and an outer one–to take that into the marketplace. In short, we are challenged to make our lives into statements of that which we believe in. This sounds like a tall order, and it is. To touch our authenticity we will have to walk through the fires of ordeal not once but many times. But gold is borne of this fire. Our work in this world is the way in which the base elements are transformed.

So start with an hour. Move to a day. Go for a lifetime.

: From Rick Jarrow’s Creating the Work You Love: Courage, Commitment, and Career

April 17, 2011

{One of my favorite pathfinders, Julia Child}

It’s true — there is so much I can’t do for my coaching clients.

I can’t give them courage (oh, but I wish I could).

I can’t make them ready to unfold or guarantee that if they take leap they won’t twist an ankle (I trust them to do it all in their own time).

I can’t instill in them a solid knowing that they are lovable, good, or crazy amazing powerhouses (though I try).

And I can’t paint the ground under their feet so it reads:

You are standing exactly where you are supposed to be standing, you are not too late, or too early, and if you’re wondering where to go next, go steadfastly towards the spark or just sit quietly

(though I am seriously considering getting some sidewalk chalk).

But one of the many things I can do is share my story with them, where it’s useful, and I can point them to my guides, who’ve helped to blaze trails for me.

I know from personal experience how catalyzing it can be to know that someone has gone before you and not only survived, but kicked ass. Pathfinders don’t even have to travel the same path (in fact they can’t) to give us a powerful idea of how to go forth. Stories of how others navigated the river rapids of their life is sometimes just enough of a map to get us going in the right direction.

I’m calling on you to help me gather a few such stories to for one of my incredible clients, whom I’ll call Love.

Generally speaking, Love wants desperately to change something in her life, but doing so may rock the boat and bring disagreement/disappointment from her family. She wants to find the courage to take the leap in the face of a paralyzing fear of causing an earthquake in her otherwise peaceful life.

Do you know of a story somewhere that tells of someone who did this? Someone who leaped in the face of fear of making others unhappy so that they themselves could live?

Perhaps it’s your own story, or a favorite book, radio interview, or blog post.

Please share your recommendations for these stories and any names of people who have blazed a trail for you in the comments below.

With gratitude + awe,

Rachel

April 1, 2011

Somewhere, right now,

there is a future student of yours

traveling their own path.

They will arrive at the place you are now

at the same time you arrive ready to guide them.

ready to teach them.

How do you need to live

so as to be of service

to them

when they arrive?

What will you tell them

when they get here?