In 2013, I took part in a fire ceremony conducted by Marcela Lobos (picture above is me with Marcela), a Chilean Shaman, that changed my life.
It was a cool September morning at the Omega Institute. Down by the lake, a fire had been started and we were instructed to find a stick.
Marcela, dressed in a colorful sarape and a beaded headband, told us that we were to choose something that we did not want to take home with us. It could be unforgiveness, resentment, anger, ties to an old relationship, etc.
We were then instructed to breathe onto the stick to symbolically transfer that which was to be left behind into the stick. Then, one at a time, we were to step up, kneel down and place our stick into the fire.
But there was one more thing we had to do.
When one knelt down at the fire, another of us was to come up and stand behind her to cover her back. This was a form of protection, because our sister, kneeling at the fire, was in a vulnerable position.
When I heard this, I began to weep as I suddenly realized that I had never felt like anyone had my back.
Standing there with tears streaming down my face, I knew this was something I needed to change.
The part of my soul that was weeping longed for authentic human connection, with myself as well as others. But that was impossible because of the wall I had up. I needed to know that I was ok and that someone was on my side.
When I was younger, I had trusted only to get stabbed in the back. I had been hurt and betrayed so I had chosen not to be vulnerable with the people in my life. Up came the wall.
I realized vulnerability was not only what would bring down this wall I had built, it was the key to learning how to trust and to living a happier life.
Vulnerability takes practice. It is uncomfortable, it can be messy. And I often don’t get it right. I learned that it is not good to be vulnerable with just anyone. I can count on one hand the people with whom I can be completely vulnerable.
Practicing vulnerability has deepened my relationships and brought a level of joy I haven’t felt before.
I have learned that life is more fun and less stressful when we can just be who we are and trust that we have people in our life who have our back.
I am not a feminist. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and came to believe that a feminist was an angry, bra-burning woman who hated men.
I love men. Some of my favorite people in the world are men; my husband, son, dad and brothers are at the top of the list. So I decided long ago that I was not a feminist.
But what is feminism really?
The definition is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”
This brings me to Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech. She said:
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!”
Feminism is not about women being angry and demanding our due.
Patricia Arquette is talking about advocating for ourselves just as vigorously as we do for our loved ones and the causes that we feel so passionately about. It is about us knowing our worth and working toward receiving the same treatment and pay as men.
We have, for too long, gone quietly about our business take caring of everyone else, giving ourselves what’s left, only to find there is nothing left.
It is time to stop being stingy with our compassion and acceptance when it comes to ourselves.
We must give ourselves permission to ask for what we want but first we must know what we want.
It is time we speak up and let our voices be heard without judging ourselves as arrogant or self-centered.
It is time we help lift each other up and stop calling women who assert themselves a bitch.
Go for that thing that may seem out of reach. Celebrate yourself if you get it. Heap yourself with the same compassion you give others if you don’t. Then go out and try again.
If we live our lives modeling feminism then not only will our daughters learn to do the same but our sons will grow up to be feminists too. We owe it to ourselves to do this, we owe it to future generations.
Recently our son noticed how his sister loved to play music on her smartphone but had a very cheap speaker. The sound quality wasn’t all that good but we never heard her complain about it.
Our daughter’s birthday was coming so he decided he would get her a new, better quality wireless speaker even though she had not asked for it.
When she opened the gift, she let out a squeal of delight. She was completely surprised because, although she wanted a new speaker, she had not asked for it.
Her delight was magnified because her brother was paying attention to what she liked (her music) and what she needed (a new speaker).
I think there would be less ugliness in the world if we simply paid attention.
I believe most people want to know they matter and what they have to say matters. We have a tendency to be so caught up in ourselves that we forget to pay attention to what’s going on around us.
When we aren’t paying attention, our children can think we don’t care, our spouses feel neglected, even the people we meet in the street can be left feeling that we are cold and detached.
My grandfather taught me what a gift it was to pay attention. Everyone agreed he was a great guy. When asked why, they would say that he made them feel special. All he did was pay attention.
When I was talking to my grandfather, it seemed like we were the only two people in the world. He would listen attentively and ask questions that pertained to what I was saying. He made whomever he was speaking to feel special because he payed attention.
I have also had the experience of people who talk incessantly and are not the least bit interested in what I have to say. Whether it’s true or not, I am left with the feeling that they really don’t care about me.
As a volunteer for Step By Step (a non-profit organization that provides empowering workshops for women who are, have been or are at risk of being incarcerated), I have had the privilege to work with veteran workshop facilitator Sally Kohler. Sally writes and facilitates the workshops for both women in jail and for when they come out.
Sally pays attention to the women who sit in her workshop. She is accepting and listens intently therefore many of them feel seen and heard for the first time in their lives.
Because Sally pays attention, these women begin to feel worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.
I have witnessed people transform their lives simply because someone took the time to pay attention to them.
The great thing about paying attention is that you can begin now and it doesn’t cost you anything. I suggest you begin by paying attention to yourself.
Pay attention to the thoughts you have about yourself. If you wouldn’t say those things to your children or your best friend then why are you letting them clutter your mind. Pay attention and let them go.
By paying attention to what and, more importantly, who is in front of us, we affirm that they matter. That simple act serves to bring more love, understanding and peace to our world.
You’ve heard of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? All I can say is it must have been a man who thought this up because no woman in her right mind would ever say anything so stupid.
I agree that the Golden Rule is positive in most situations. In dealing with the people I encounter, I try to be calm, polite and kind. All traits I appreciate in others when interacting with me.
However, recently I took issue with my husband treating ME as HE would want to be treated. Specifically when it came to my birthday.
When my husband and kid’s birthdays roll around, I try very hard to give them a special day. When the kids were younger, we had parties. Now that they’re older, they choose between dinner at their favorite restaurant or dinner at home with me making whatever they choose. And the same goes for my husband.
With my birthday so close to Christmas, it has always seemed to get lost. With all the hoopla over the holidays, everyone is too tired and partied out to have yet another party, including myself. As an adult, I have learned to accept this. Or so I thought.
This year, I felt resentful as I thought about my upcoming birthday. When I looked to see what the cause was, I realized the past few years, my birthday dinner consisted of takeout pizza. I love pizza, don’t get me wrong, but on my birthday?!
When I thought about how my husband wanted to spend his birthdays recently, I noticed he doesn’t care to make a big deal out of it. I realized he was treating my birthday the same way. He didn’t understand that I wanted something more than takeout food.
I knew I needed to have a conversation telling him that I did not want to be treated like he wants to be treated. I wanted to be treated the way I want.
All that meant was either choosing to go out for dinner or having him cook dinner at home, NO TAKEOUT!
In case you’re wondering, he cooked our family a delicious meal of artichokes french, jambalaya and tiramisu. My favorite foods with my favorite people! It was the best birthday ever because I felt heard and honored! Not only by the people I love but by myself as well. (And it was extra special because my husband doesn’t often cook.)
Where are you expecting your partner to treat you as you treat them? A hint: Start by looking at where you’re feeling resentful. Speak up and practice asking to be treated the way you want.
Remember the Golden Rule of Relationships: Do unto your partner as you would have them do unto you, unless they tell you otherwise.
In a recent conversation with business women, we examined, at a networking event, how to deal with someone who is only looking to sell and has no real interest in anyone else.
The following suggested replies were offered:
• Tell the person you need to talk to someone on the other side of the room and you’ll catch them later.
• Excuse yourself for a personal need.
• Tell the person you don’t want to monopolize their time, suggesting you re-connect at another time to continue the conversation.
I suggested answering honestly. Tell the person you are not a potential client but would be happy to keep them in mind if you come across someone who might seek their services.
Wanting to be “nice” came up next. According to clinical psychologist George Simon, “Nice people tend to let things slide because they don’t want to seem harsh, but as the saying goes: Give people an inch, and they’ll take a mile.” Be “nice” and you resent the person for having to endure a coffee meeting or hoping they will stop contacting you.
The true definition of nice is pleasant, good natured and kind. For many, “nice” has become a strategy to be liked, avoiding conflict. That makes it more about us than the other person.
Learn a new way of being. Pay attention to your own behavior. Notice when you’re being honest and when you’re not. Recognize that it is possible to be polite, respectful and honest. By doing this, we honor the other person and empower ourselves.
It can be uncomfortable when we begin to practice being honest. Start being honest with those whom you are comfortable, for example your spouse, your friends or a trusted co-worker. As your comfort increases, extend the practice to people with whom honesty is more challenging.
This was published in the Democrat and Chronicle on October 28, 2014. The Women at Work column is written by members of the Rochester Women’s Network (rwn.org).
I am participating in a blog hop this week. The theme is “Why I Write”. At the end of this, you will find other women business owners who are also participating.
I came out of childhood thinking that who I was was not ok.
I was thin as a child but I thought I was fat. At least that’s what my brothers and kids at school said.
When I was 10, I had a teacher who chided us for answering a question wrong by laughing and saying sarcastically, “My, isn’t that a gem of wisdom.” I felt average at best.
I learned to stay quiet and invisible so as not to subject myself to humiliation, ridicule or abuse.
Dr. Brené Brown’s research revealed that vulnerability is the only road that leads to living a whole-hearted life.
You mean the only way I can be joyous and fulfilled is to be vulnerable? This does not compute! And you can’t make me!
The child in me is still afraid of not getting it right and being made fun of or ticking someone off and being punished.
I can choose not to coach, not to write and live a quiet life of desperate agony. This I know all too well.
But there comes a time when the pain of not speaking up is stronger than the risk of being vulnerable.
I now consciously choose to be authentic and vulnerable and risk putting myself out there. I choose to write because I am tired of being afraid of being hurt and hiding who I am.
Because of the work I’ve done on myself, I now have the privilege of teaching others how to overcome their fear of vulnerability. Through my work as a coach, I help others shed their limiting beliefs and step into their authenticity.
Each successive blog post I’ve written has gotten more and more vulnerable for me. I try not to compare myself to other bloggers, coaches or anyone who may seem more vulnerable than I. (Iyanla Vanzant says that when we compare ourselves to someone else it is a form of violence against oneself.)
So why do I write? I write to face my fear of not being being liked, being wrong and upsetting people. I write so that others who feel the same way don’t have to feel alone anymore.
I write to be seen and heard. I write because I have to.
Below are the names of the women participating in the blog hop. I hope you will take the time to check out their blogs.
Joleene Moody is a client closing expert, business coach and speaker. She helps women entrepreneurs significantly increase their income by finding or creating speaking engagements — and then converting attendees to high paying clients.
I was diagnosed with shingles around Thanksgiving. While the blisters have long since gone, it is taking longer for the pain to completely dissipate. My doctor informed me that I could have residual pain for up to a year. (For more information about shingles go to http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/shingles/shingles-topic-overview)
While I would not wish this illness on anyone, it brought some lessons that have been life changing.
Because I had shingles over the holidays, I told myself that I would hunker down and take good care of myself. My plan was that when the first week in January came, I would get back to work and my normal routine. However, my body had something else in mind.
I found that even though the pain had lessened and I was able to take less pain medication, my stamina was low. I was fatigued by 3pm and even if I took a nap, I was exhausted by 7pm.
I was frustrated and wondered what was wrong with me. After all, I “should” be better by now because I had taken good care of myself. Right?
My mind was full of useless internal (and some external) whining. I was thinking about how this wasn’t fair… I was afraid because I needed to get back to work because money doesn’t grow on trees… I began thinking that my family probably thinks I’m a slacker and I just need to suck it up…yada, yada, yada…
Suddenly I could hear Eckhart Tolle’s words ringing in my ears. What if I totally accepted how I felt each moment, no stories, no pity party, no internal dialogue? What if there was no place I needed to be? What if I was exactly where I “should” be?
For that day, I decided to clear my head of all the “shoulds” and judgments. I simply did what I could and what felt right.
And here’s what happened, I connected with a colleague and a friend on the phone, created a good portion of a workshop, ate a delicious and nourishing breakfast and lunch, washed, folded and put away a load of laundry, dusted and vacuumed the living room, showered and wrote this.
As soon as the pressure to be somewhere else was gone, I was free to be exactly where I was. I realized that a lot of my fatigue was caused by me not accepting how I was feeling.
I also realized this is how I do life, I fight it. I worry about what others think. I’m always trying to figure out what will make those around me happy. I battle between what I want to do and what I feel I “should” do. It’s a constant fight, no wonder I’m tired.
By accepting what is, there is nothing to push against. And by listening to my own inner wisdom, I empower myself and rely less on the approval of others. As a consequence, it frees up a lot of mental and physical energy.
Needless to say, this feels great. And this way of being has to be more conducive to healing.
It’s clear this is something that’s simple and powerful but not always easy. And I will continue to practice.