Good Exploring, Little One

FullSizeRender

I’m well into My Year of Creative Living and, at this point, I’m appreciating (and sometimes begrudging) more and more the crazy, surprising and delightful ride that creativity is taking me on.

For example, what started as a simple goal (Write A Book) back in January spurred me to enrol in an online blogging course in the spring; hire a writing coach in early summer; and, travel 2 1/2 hrs north to Georgian Bay for a five-day writing retreat, from which I’ve just returned.

With all this, I’m definitely still on the path to writing a book, but my “Writing Life” has broken open and here I sit with all these words in me, all these stories to tell, and what seems like not enough time and space to get it all out.

Side note: my two new mantras right now are: “Be Patient And Be Willing To Pass Up Good For Great” and “Progress Is Progress“.

The writing retreat, in particular, cracked me wide open. Something about being in the most beautiful setting imaginable (Georgian Bay, I <heart> you), in two small, quintessentially- Canadian cottages, surrounded by 12 other crazy-freaking-amazing writers has given me a brand new set of lenses through which to see the world.

Everything I look at appears to me as a touching and story-filled photograph now. Words seem delicious and rich enough to eat. On the drive home, I realized that Writing and I are now in a serious, committed relationship (the best kind of relationship too… the one that keeps me both grounded AND sky-bound). Like all good and evolving relationships, I know I’m in for some tumultuous times. But I’m ready for the ride.

One of the most vulnerable stages of the writing process is sharing our work with the world. Good thing I’ve had lots of practice with vulnerability and putting my shit out there! With that in mind, I want to share three things I wrote at the retreat.

The first is a quick ditty, based on the photograph above. And it goes like this:

I want writing to feel just like this little baby who is exploring and looking with fresh eyes at everything around her, with no concept of what being messy even means. This little one has no judgement of herself. And she is loved simply for existing. She follows her heart and her curiosity without any preconceived notions of reward or consequence.

She isn’t scolded for getting dirt on her bottom or tracking mess into the house. Instead she is praised and held and celebrated.

“What a curious little explorer you are,” they say.

“Look at what you uncovered, clever little girl,” they say.

“What have discovered today?” they ask.

With a chuckle and a coo, they brush the dirt and mess off her hands, legs and feet. No harm, no foul.

Good exploring, little one.

 

The second is a poem I wrote:

Sisterhood

precious wind

of sincere love

roots me

and I rise high.

 

Lastly, a Haiku I wrote:

Dandelions

First bouquet for mom

So proud to be the giver

Promptly thrown in trash

 

What kind of creativity are you exploring these days? Are you in a serious, committed relationship with painting, sculpting, knitting, wood carving, square dancing, jewellery making, cake decorating, comedy, poetry or some other lovely creative pursuit? If yes, please share it with me here or on my FB Page so I don’t feel so alone in putting my work out into the world! If you’re not ready to share, tell me where you are in your relationship… just starting, deep in the trenches or perhaps just flirting from afar?

 

 

Walking Bravely and In Great Happiness

IMG_1197

As you may know, I declared this My Year of Creative Living. So far, I’ve taught myself to play the ukulele; took a tap dance class; spent a weekend dabbling in abstract painting; and, participated in a three-week blogging course.

What I’ve learned so far from these activities: creativity is the core of feeling really alive. I’m never so giddy, conflicted, anxious, thrilled or joyful than when I’m in creative mode. It’s a definite high, folks… I highly recommend it.

My current endeavour is… writing a book (ahh!). I’ve hired an amazing writing coach to guide me through this process and keep me accountable to the task (which is worth its weight in gold), and I feel like I’m diving into my most personal, meaningful creative pursuit yet. Its exhilarating and terrifying at once, which is the very definition of entering “the arena” of vulnerability, as Brené Brown calls it.

I was listening to Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey speak about creativity in their latest meditation challenge podcast, and their explanation of creativity hit me on a whole new level:

“Creativity is the root of our biological existence.”

Our bodies – each and every cell – are constantly evolving and responding to brand new conditions. Chopra defines creative living as bringing freshness and renewal to each day, each circumstance. In this light, it’s easy to see that we are all – by our very biology – creative beings and the tired notion of creativity belonging only to artists and writers swiftly abates.

Creativity lives in our divine freedom to choose our response to any given moment.  The ability, however, to bring the freshness and renewal of creativity to each moment is, you guessed it, a practice.

The practices of letting go of comparison, staying present and cultivating your awareness for what’s true for you in this moment (and not what your long-standing, self-limiting stories tell you) nurture your creative life. And it nurtures what you are likely seeking for yourself: to feel alive, to feel worthwhile and to feel so very you as much as possible in your life.

I invite you to rebrand yourself as a creative being, starting today. I mean, you already are a creative being… and now you have the choice to start seeing yourself this way and living your life from this perspective.

What would it be like to approach your job, your marriage, your parenting and your personal growth as a “creative type”. As an artist, even? As someone who walks “bravely and in great happiness”, as so beautifully said by artist Robert Henri?

It is, after all, in your nature – in your very cells – to do it.

 

Kick-ass Author #5 Who Writes About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Is Not Brené Brown)

IMG_1230

As I’ve put together this short list of kick-ass writers over the last several weeks, I know I’m leaving out countless other amazing authors whose books also pick up on the powerful themes of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living. In fact, I could probably make writing about other people’s books a full-time blogging job. I’m an unabashed devotee of books that inspire and nudge people to look inward and move forward. And I love connecting people to books.

But alas, this time around I’m committed to five recommendations only. So here’s the last in my series on Authors Who Write About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Are Not Brené Brown):

 

Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

This book is for you if: You feel you have something inside you that needs to get “out there” but don’t know where or are too scared to start; you have silenced or hidden your inner artist ever since that elementary school art teacher told you, “you’re not doing it right”; you are trying to solve a problem or express an emotion or amplify your life and think creativity might be the way forward. 

If you are thinking, “I’m not creative, this book is not for me” then you need to read this book. If you’re thinking, “I’m too busy with serious ‘real-life’ stuff to concern myself with creativity” then get yourself to a book store pronto and buy this book.

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert takes a stand for all of us to live a creative life: To live a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear. She explains that creative living is what separates a mundane existence from “an amplified existence” (don’t you love that?) Creative living – in all its manifestations – is for all of us. Do you see how you need to read this book?

Big Magic is a great read, presented in nice, easily-digestable chapter “nuggets” that speak to overcoming the fear of stepping into the creative arena. Her book invites you to find all your “not enough” gremlins, look ’em square in the eye and then promptly kick them to the backseat.

 

She is like the friend who tells you, “My wish for you is that you don’t take too long to get over your fear and do what you really love to do.”

 

Gilbert challenges you to question all the stories you tell yourself about the way things are, nudging you to find a different, better and more daring story to tell. She speaks to self-care and compassion, giving yourself permission, and the occasional, much-needed smack upside the head (e.g. “Fear is boring.”)

What I love the most is Gilbert’s voice in this book: it feels like you’re sitting down with your best friend over a coffee/glass of wine, and she’s telling you the things you need to hear about expressing your creative self. She is like the friend who tells you,  “My wish for you is that you don’t take too long to get over your fear and do what you really love to do.”

As an added bonus, Gilbert launched her podcast, Magic Lessons, to continue exploring her ideas from Big Magic. It’s really worth a listen, especially Episode 12 which features an interview with Brené Brown herself!

Now, if you really want to get serious about exploring your creativity, check out my awesome friend and coaching colleague, Allyson Woodrooffe. Allyson helps people find their voice and live their truth through creative expression, and she is definitely someone you want alongside your journey to find your creative self.

To wrap up, let me say that I would love to hear about your favourite reads that touch on the themes of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living. Send me your list on my Facebook Page.

And if you end up reading any of the five writers/books I’ve suggested over the past few weeks, please post a comment below or to my Facebook Page to let me know what you thought of it!

 

Kick-ass Author #4 Who Writes About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Is Not Brené Brown)

IMG_1230

My next pick for Kick-ass Author is a bit of an outlier and not necessarily an obvious recommendation for someone interested in reading more on shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living, but it’s a plum!

I’ll start with a confession: I am a woman who, until this year, put her head in the sand when it came to all things financial. I had never once filed my own taxes. I could hardly tell you my bank balance on any given day. Amounts owing on credit cards were always fuzzy. I would be lost to tell you the general comings and goings of money in my life.

Turns out, of course, that my issues with money have little to do with money itself. Yup, you guessed it: it’s deeply rooted in shame, identity, scarcity and vulnerability. And, as I have been learning, this is an area that is deeply linked to personal feminine power. Surprisingly, it’s a shame trigger for so many women, whether they are high-earners or just making ends meet.

So, this is the brilliant book that has helped me face my fears and finally embrace my financial responsibility and personal power:

Barbara Stanny, Sacred Success: A Course In Financial Miracles

This book is for you if: You are looking to step into your personal version of greatness while taking charge of your financial well-being

This beautiful book hits on some pretty strong and universal shame and vulnerability themes that keep women playing small, pleasing others and giving their power (and financial freedom) away.

Barbara Stanny has written several books for women on finances, but Sacred Success is special among them. In Sacred Success, Stanny borrowed from the classic, A Course In Miracles, and wove its powerful lessons throughout, hitting on this critical message: for women, financial success is a Rite of Passage into our personal power. The book cover summarizes it perfectly:

“Instead of pushing women to pursue financial success in the traditional fashion, Sacred Success seeks to redefine power from a feminine perspective…You can be financially successful without sacrificing your soul or compromising your values.”

The links to Brené Brown‘s  work may not be as obvious in this book, but they are there. Stanny speaks about the ideal identities we strive for (by pleasing, perfecting and pretending), our shame triggers around scarcity and money that were planted in childhood, the importance of creating our own rules about money, and the courage it takes to look your financial situation square in the eye and say, “I’m in charge.”

Sacred Success is all about living authentically, claiming our personal power as women, and stepping into our own personal version of greatness. And, of course, getting our financial house in order once and for all!

I’m a big fan of this book, and wanted to include it in this list to show just how far reaching and insidious shame is in controlling our lives, and how the concepts of vulnerability and living authentically fit into the realm of financial success.

I’m making this book required reading for my daughter once she’s launched out into the world and finds herself searching for her own personal version of greatness.

Are you going to add this book to your summer reading list? Tell me! Leave a message below or post to my FB page!

 

Kick-ass Author #3 Who Writes About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Is Not Brené Brown)

IMG_1230

Participants often come to my Daring Way™ and Rising Strong workshops because they have read Brené Brown’s books and get the concepts of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living on an intellectual level, but struggle to deepen that learning and “get it down” into their hearts and souls.

Enter my next recommended author: His poetry and prose take the same messages around shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living and deliver them straight to your heart.

Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening: Having The Life you Want By Being Present To The Life You Have

This book is for you if: You are a poet or poetry-lover; love to read inspiring text; like to read just a little snippet of something wonderful each day;  are enduring or have survived illness, trauma and life’s other hard-knocks.

Mark Nepo is a poet and his writing is simply gorgeous. The Book of Awakening provides short passages to be read daily, over the course of a year. They are his thoughts and stories on compassion, vulnerability, scarcity, fear, pain, risk, courage, and living fully and authentically.

Here’s how I think about the two authors: Reading Brené Brown’s books are like going to a university class on vulnerability and wholehearted living with one of those professors you love because she’s so good at explaining her work in a real way, with wit and brilliance.

Reading Mark Nepo is like returning home from that university class, pouring yourself a cup of hot tea and sitting with your wise, old neighbour as he tells you lyrical, soulful stories that weave in vulnerability and wholeheartedness in a way that you didn’t even know you were getting schooled. You feel changed just by having listened to him.

Here’s a passage from Nepo on vulnerability that I love:

“No bird can fly without opening its wings,

and no one can love without exposing their heart.

It is perhaps the oldest of inner laws, as inescapable as gravity. There is no chance of lifting into any space larger than yourself without revealing the parts you hold closest to your chest.”

Another of my favourite passages in The Book of Awakening speaks to self-compassion, which I consider to be one of the cornerstones of Brené Brown’s work. In my workshops, the concept of self-compassion is a difficult one for a lot of people to embrace, as they see it as self-indulgent, selfish and being in direct contradiction to how they were brought up (i.e. to put others first).

At these moments in the workshops, I will often read aloud these words from Mark Nepo:

“In deep and lasting ways, when we heal ourselves, we heal the world. For as the body is only as healthy as its individuals cells, the world is only as healthy as its individual souls.”

Sigh. Picture a room full of people nodding their heads, getting the concept of self-compassion in a whole new way, straight to their hearts and souls.

If you’re a Mark Nepo fan, let me know your favourite passage from The Book of Awakening, or let me know which of his books you’d recommend. Post it below or on my Facebook Page.

Happy reading!

 

Five Kick-ass Authors Who Write About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Are Not Brené Brown)

IMG_1230

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love me my Brené Brown.

From that first TED talk, I was smitten. My admiration grew deeper as I read each of her groundbreaking books. And of course my commitment was sealed when I flew to San Antonio two years ago to become a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator.

Can you blame me? The woman has become a leading voice in the growing global conversation about the power of shame and the practice of vulnerability to create a “wholehearted” life.

However, there are definitely other voices out there contributing to the shame-resilience conversation: Remarkable writers who bring their own unique lens, language and practices to the themes of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living.

Looking for a fresh perspective on the topic? Look no further! Over the next five weeks, I’m going to introduce you to five kick-ass authors whose books need to be on your bookshelf. Get ready to build your summer reading list!

I begin with…

Tara Brach, Ph.D.,  Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

This book is for you if: You’re into meditation, mindfulness, and the teachings and practices of Buddhism 

To me, Tara Brach is the Buddhist-Buddy of Brené Brown. I absolutely adore the writing of Tara Brach, and feel that her books bring a sacredness and spirituality to shame-resilience work that Brené’s books don’t quite capture.

In Radical Acceptance, Brach calls shame the “trance of unworthiness” and explains that, “trapped in this trance, we are unable to perceive the truth of who we really are.” The book touches on perfectionism, numbing, self-criticism, scarcity and fear… and then beautifully describes the path to freedom from these sufferings.

 

“Brach writes with such warmth and clarity that

you’ll feel like she’s your own personal Buddhist teacher

guiding you to self-love and acceptance.”

 

What I especially love about Radical Acceptance are the meditation exercises Brach has sprinkled throughout the book, offering these as practices to build shame-resilience. They are beautifully written and easy to follow, even if you don’t practice meditation.

Tara Brach writes with such warmth and clarity that you’ll feel like she’s your own personal Buddhist teacher guiding you to self-love and acceptance. And, if you fall in love with her writing, you can also follow Tara Brach’s work through weekly podcasts that feature her speaking to large groups and leading meditations.

Interesting tid-bit: Radical Acceptance was published in 2003, a full four years before Dr. Brown published her first book on shame (I Thought It Was Just Me)!

 

Have you read Radical Acceptance? Love it or not-so-much? Tell me what you think of it in the comments section below or on my Facebook Page. Or, if you plan to read it, remember to come back to my Facebook Page when you’re done to tell me what you thought of it. Happy reading!

 

 

The Work/Life Lab, Week #41: Amendsmaking

looking_over_london

Welcome to The Work/Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #41 – Amendsmaking

Ok, we’re all coming off the high of turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and giving thanks, yes? (For those international readers, we Canadians just celebrated our Thanksgiving.)

Gratitude is a powerful practice, and I’ve written about it in a previous post. I consider it a key mindfulness practice for living a wholehearted life in that has the power to slow us down (in all our busyness), bring us into the present moment (when our heads are so often regretting the past or fretting the future) and soften us up in a warm blanket of abundance (when those daily doses of scarcity messages can leave us feeling cold and alone). My family practices gratitude every night at dinner by going around the table and sharing with each other at least one gratitude we have for that day. In short, I love the power of a good gratitude, and a full weekend of it? Well, that’s just as delicious as the turkey dinner itself.

But today’s post is not about giving thanks. My husband and I were joking yesterday morning that in addition to a day to give thanks, we should also have a non-secular holiday focused on the practice of making amends. As  a kind of bookend to Thanksgiving… it would be called Amendsmaking. A weekend to make amends for the stuff we’ve screwed up over the year.

Big stuff, little stuff, honest mistakes and deliberate fuck-ups… we are imperfect humans and we screw up all the time. So just like there is always lots to be thankful for, there is always lots to be sorry for.

This week’s experiment in the Work/Life Lab is about deliberately and thoughtfully making amends over something you did or said that undermined your connection with someone. Whether it was just a minor screw-up or a big betrayal, think about someone in your life with whom your relationship has suffered a hit. Maybe it’s the fact that you haven’t done anything to nurture your connection in a long time (don’t we all have someone in our life that we’ve let fall by the wayside?); maybe it’s an awkward misunderstanding that keeps simmering under the surface of your interactions; maybe it’s even something unknown to you, but you just know your relationship isn’t what it used to be.

The idea here is to take deliberate action to rebuild a connection that has been weakened by something you said or did, or failed to say or do. And it goes something like this,

“Hey, I want to circle back with you on something I said/did (or haven’t said/done) and want to know how I can make amends. Your friendship/relationship/partnership means a lot to me and I want to make sure we keep our connection strong. Can we talk about it?”

Are you freaked out yet? Amendsmaking is a lot harder than thanksgiving. It will require you to be vulnerable, and that can be scary. Guaranteed, though, that the person with whom you are making amends will see you as brave and strong, or at the very least will be touched by you reaching out. And hey, if it was easy, then it wouldn’t really count as an experiment in the Work/Life Lab, right?

If this experiment seems too emotionally risky for you this week, then please just pick something small to address with someone. Perhaps just sending an email or picking up the phone to someone you haven’t spoken with in a while is enough for now. The key to making this experiment worthwhile is to express some regret for your action or non action, because it is in these moments of really opening up to vulnerability that you build stronger connections with someone.

So if you’re calling a long-lost friend, then the sentiment to express is, “Your friendship means a lot to me, and even though I can fall back on an excuse of being busy or living far from you, the truth is I value my connection to you and I am truly sorry for not being in touch sooner.” You get my drift, right? This is about practicing vulnerability and making amends for the purpose of building connections. It’s not about ignoring the issues around your relationships and just hoping that the act of talking to them negates your wrongdoings.

Good luck with this experiment, and remember that it is about healing, vulnerability, connection… all the good stuff in life! I would love to hear how this experiment goes for you. Please, please, please leave a comment here or on my Facebook Page.

P.S. If you are a subscriber to Sabrina Guerin Coaching or you enjoy reading these posts, I have a favour to ask: please pass this post or a link to my blog page to just one person you know who you think might be interested in my writing. In fact, it can be a great way to open your Amendsmaking with someone, as in “I read this post about making amends – here’s the link – and I want to try out this experiment with you!”  It would be a huge act of Thanksgiving  😉 if you would encourage a friend, colleague or family member to subscribe to my mail list or like my Facebook Page.