The Collision of Food, Faith, and the Feminine

I am a woman, 39 years old, from very white ancestry, who inherited a level of educational and economical privilege.

Twenty years ago I faced the first major challenge and failure in my life. My body was not performing the way I wanted it to. It did not look good enough and would not run fast enough. My response was to control it. Force it to do what I wanted it and needed it to do. I did that by over-exercising and restricting my calorie intake.

Maybe 10% off me at the time knew this wasn’t a great idea. The other 90% of me thought this was the best idea ever. I had a solution to a problem. I would be making things ‘right’. I would be guaranteeing my success and my safety.

You may read this and think, ‘wo-man, you were nuts.’ There might be some truth to that. And also understand that it made complete sense to me.

Not only because I had aced my AP Calculus classes and the logical theorem of Eat Less + Run More = Less Body Mass = Less Weight to Carry = Faster Performance.

But also because, in a way, I was carrying out the version of faith I was schooled in, just instead of applying it to my spiritual life, I projected it onto my physical body too.

The belief that my body was not performing good enough? A complete parallel to the mantra, “For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God .” My body not only proved that statement to be true, it was the perfect scapegoat for the alternative that was too painful to accept.

I could handle the idea that my body was falling short; I mean, I saw the cellulite too. And as much as I was disgusted with those bumpy divots on my thighs, making my thighs and my body the culprit of my imperfection was an easier pill to swallow than the one that said I, ME, my whole being, including my soul, had fallen short and was rotten to its core. I mean, where do you go from there?

The response? Control. Exert force onto this faulty machine. Punish the body with exercise. Deprive its nourishment and experience of pleasure by restricting food.

This approach was way too familiar. My church culture was a big fan of spankings when kids screwed up. When you were too old for spankings, your sin made its way onto the grapevine aka prayer chain, so that everyone could gossip/pray about how you were backsliding.

And deprivation? So many cultural norms of the day were classified as secular, and therefore evil. No listening to the radio (unless it was Christian radio). No movies rated PG-13 or worse. Dancing or wine at weddings? Forget it, you shouldn’t even get married if you thought this was OK. Sports were questionable. Even excelling at academics somehow seemed wrong, because schools were secular too, especially if they taught evolution or sex-ed. And for sure, there was no sex.

This version of faith is not really faith at all. I know that now. At the time though, it was all I knew; a very clear and stringent path to solving the problem of sin, making myself right with God, and guaranteeing a place in heaven. The Christian version of success and safety.

My response to my body, was the spitting image of how I was taught to respond to the world. It’s just than instead of the world being the enemy, this time the enemy was a rather critical part of me.

And then there’s this.

I was a female. Which meant my body was somehow a representation of sin. Forget the cellulite and the extra weight that slowed me down on the track. My body was sexual. Feminine. Sacrilege.

I had curves that tempted men, legs that could seduce. I was a walking, living, breathing temptress.

AND if I fucked up, had sex, and got pregnant, there was no way to hide that most shameful sin.

So what now? Apply the default version of faith.

Attempt to control my urges. Punish myself if I gave in. Deprive myself of anything that might bring sexual nourishment or pleasure.

And because when you are coming of age, your sexuality and your gender are so closely linked, as I learned to fear my sexuality, I also learned to fear my femininity.

I thought it was better to be a man. Men could run faster. They were muscular and didn’t have cellulite. They couldn’t get pregnant. And they were the ones who made the rules. They decided if what you were doing was right or wrong. They dished out the spankings. They stood in front of the pulpit declaring if this movie was clean-enough to watch or if that politician was Christian-enough to vote for. They were the ones that sat with you once your hormones started raging and offered you a chastity ring. They were the ones who reminded you that if you signed your sexuality over to God and then broke that covenant, you were fucked.

I did my best to be ‘the man’. Get my body as ripped as possible. Get a job where I could wear the suit. Excel at Excel spreadsheets. Analyze the answers. Rely on the logic.

While the suits were sexy, and I donned them along with kitten heels to work for a rather femininely branded luxury jewellery company, I was more often than not embodying the masculine, just with a vagina and breasts.

I never identified as male or a man, but the things that I valued were what are typically categorized as ‘masculine’ energy. I idolized physical strength over emotional strength, straight edges over curves, sweat over sweet, ‘with it’ over wild, functional over form (except when it came to my body; then they were both critical), and doing, building, achieving, over any kind of being.

I had both male and female bosses. The male ones I could trust. The female ones I kept at arm’s length; too much risk of emotional craziness, cliques, and irrational thinking. Even though growing up it was the male presence that exerted its control onto and around me, by adopting the very thing I learned from them, I figured I could become them. That would keep me safe, and then one day, maybe I could even be in charge.

Fast-forward the story and here’s the deal. It wasn’t mastering the masculine that saved me. It was falling in love with the feminine. The very part of me I had disowned; including my feminine body.

I am not here to make men, male, or the masculine wrong, or women, female and the feminine right. I do not want to perpetuate the binary, polarizing, black and white thinking that I was taught under the guise of ‘faith’.

What feels most important here to say is, I have a strong feminine essence; not only in my body but also in my soul. This part of me was never nurtured. I thought it was wrong. I tried to disconnect from it. That did me very little favours. And until I was able to reclaim this part of me, my life wasn’t close to where I knew it could be.

Maybe it’s the same for you.

Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

The version of God that reminds me of spilt milk

There is another version of God that I’ve gotten to know. This God does not have a form. It is not a he or a she. It’s just there, like a wave of music as it swims around the room. A vibration that exists because it can’t not.

This version of God is like a web. A series of intersecting moments and places and times that hold everything together.

This God is present even when you forget to be. It seeps into the spaces inbetween. To the spaces that sometimes feel like huge crevices, but then somehow there is a bridge, a way out, through or over, that you hadn’t seen at first.

This God is a shapeshifter. One day it’s a baby’s gurgle, another day the bass line of some really good beats. A leaf floating in the wind. The smile on a stranger’s face. Uncontained, you can find this God anywhere.

This God doesn’t fit in a box. Try to name it and it finds another name. Try to describe it and it takes on a new sensation. It’s like air. You can’t capture it; only breathe it.

This God is color, sound, scent, and texture. It’s what you feel, what you see. It’s the thing that helps you make sense of this world; understand the ‘same same but different’ of you and me.

It is all around. Even when you can’t see it, It is there. Sometimes you forget to look, you forget to notice. And then the bird flies into your house. The friend calls. The youtube video that changes the trajectory of your life finds itself into your ‘watch next’ feed.

It moves in places we never thought was possible. It is beyond neuroscience, astrophysics, and even quantum physics. For sure it has Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and DC beat. It is beyond our understanding, and it thinks it’s hysterical we think we’ve nailed it.

And so it laughs, it chuckles, and smiles at our tenacity, determination, and fortitude to figure this all out. “We got it!”, we shout out. And then, whoosh, curve ball coming right your way.

This God knows how to have a good time. It parties like it’s still 1999. It reminds us to keep life light. It spills the milk.

This God, It is the spilt milk.

 

The version of God that got shoved down my throat

There was a version of god that got shoved down my throat. He was a he. A very big he. Strong, muscular, like one of those super heroes that can wreak havoc with one gust of his breath. He carried those pitch-fork like three-pronged spears on the end of a long stick. He could point down from heaven and strike lightning with just the flex of his finger. His eyes were dark black pools of nothingness that reflected a roaring fire within. He wore a crown of thorns on his head. He was half robed, like a Greek or Roman emperor; the robe stopping above the knee, revealing the might and power of his thighs and calves. He wore sandals, strapped onto feet that created earthquakes when he walked.

He spoke, we trembled.

He took a step, we froze.

He breathed, we disintegrated into nothingness.

This god you did not mess with. Not even a little bit.

You bowed, you submitted, you emptied your pockets. Your keys, your cell phone, your money, even the tiny balls of lint. You came clean because if he found out and you hadn’t told him first, all hell broke loose.

You handed everything over. Your emotions, your body, your thoughts, especially your ability to think for yourself. You gave it all away, because he supposedly owned it anyway.

You begged. You crawled on your hands and knees, clawing at the dust, pulling out your hair, wailing with remorse for all the ways you fucked it up. Crying out for forgiveness, mercy, a pardon, to let you off the hook just this one more time.

You held your hands high above your head, wrists overlapping, your chin dropping to your chest, gaze lowered, the quintessential posture of guilt and shame. Pre-empting the verdict that you are nothing. You screwed it up. You failed. You backslid. You looked in the wrong direction. Thought an unclean thought. Smiled at the devil.

Your crime? Being you. The verdict? Eternal condemnation to hell.

There was nothing you could do to change this.

Except one thing.

Believe.

Believe the unbelievable.

It didn’t matter if it made sense or not. Don’t forget, faith is believing in that which can’t be seen.

It’s called blind faith on purpose.

Just say Yes, without really knowing what you’re saying Yes to.

Say No to drugs and Yes to Jesus.

It was really that simple.

Drink the kool-aid and ye shall be saved.

Swallow the pill whole, and thou shalt be whole.

It was as if my head was held back, my hair tied in a tight gasp around the wrists of the deacons and pastors. My body frozen by the onlooking gaze of the women wearing ankle length skirts, covering their slips, covering their white cotton undergarments, protecting their purity.

They thought I was the witch, yet their condescending trance-like stares kept me firmly in place.

As I was fed.

God.

Poured and shoved down my throat.

Like medicine. It was supposed to be good for me, but tasted so god-damn awful.

I swallowed.

Because that’s what you do. Because, ‘maybe it’s me that’s the crazy one here’. Because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to breathe.

My dutiful act of accepting Jesus into my heart complete, I am released. Free to carry on waving the flag, convert the masses, pretend that this is all OK.

This version of god dissolves into my bloodstream. Like a fluorescent dye, a marker so I will be known in the kingdom. And so the night patrol can find me and reign me back in if I try to escape after curfew.

It runs through my veins, and then settles in in my core, pooling in my gut, hardening into a lump of lead.

Like a sucker punch. Except I’ve been hit from the inside out.

And that’s when I want to vomit. Get this thing out of me. It is not of me. It is not me. And yet it lives inside me.

This poison that I have been forced to swallow, consuming my being.

Help! How do I cleanse myself now? What do I do when the very thing that is supposed to wash me white as snow has colored me black.

How do I go back? How do I return to a place of choice? How do I remember how to use my voice?

They tried to control me with the brute force of god. Guess what? I can control even harder.

I can swallow this god, just as you like, and then throw him back up.

You thought you had me wrapped around your little finger. And yet there I was, a rebel disguised as you. A wolf clothed in sheep’s clothing. I needed you to accept me, let me break bread with you. I needed you to guarantee I had a ticket to heaven, until I could get there on my own.

If you really knew me, saw me as I am, you would run, scared, frightened. But you knew that. So you frightened me instead.

I drunk what you offered, and became drunk.

I can see clearly now.

You don’t own God. You can’t force god on me. I’m not swallowing what doesn’t taste good anymore.

Photo by Samuel Dixon on Unsplash

How to embody soulful feminine leadership

I’m sitting in my friend’s gorgeous apartment overlooking South London on a Friday night. My body is exhausted from a full day of embodiment work with two amazing women. My heart is full from witnessing the fullest expression of themselves.

Doing this work I get confronted. I ask other people to connect to the voice of their soul; the deepest part of themselves, and allow for that part to be expressed. Not just through dance, or through what might feel like bizarre ways of howling, moaning, or happy baby-ing across the floor. That is all just a practice for the real thing.

The real thing called life. For when you feel the tug to do something that might seem just a little bit out there.

Set up a sober rave for ex-clubbers who are ‘too old’ for the club scene yet crave a release and a high without the high. Tell your story in the shape of a book that might just light a fire on the hearts of other women who have struggled with their relationship with food, are questioning their faith, and been shamed about their bodies and their femininity. Have a baby.

These are just a few examples where I still haven’t fully embodied the whispers of my soul. This is why I get confronted.

The nudges come, and then what?

Option A: brainstorm, mind-map, project plan, and execute.

Option B: slow-down, tune-in, tap into your senses, and listen for the inner guidance to direct your steps.

I’ve lived out Option A for most of my life and career. It worked. And then it didn’t.

It worked when I was surrounded by other humans who also relied on their brains to set the strategic vision of the organization, had clear metrics and targets to try to meet, and had a team to help execute.

It also worked because the things I was trying to create were not a part of me. They were policies and programs that I thought would create operational efficiencies for the organization. Yes the ideas came to me and through me; but they were not from me.

To put it simply: my heart wasn’t in it.

Once I started to listen to my heart and prioritize the things that I cared about, Option A didn’t work anymore. It burned me out and left me broke. It was too linear. Too exacting. Too disconnected from what I was experiencing in the present moment.

On Monday I’d map it all out and plan what was going to be said and when and where. By the time it came to say it or share it, pfffftht; it fell flat on its face. There was no life in it anymore; just a robotic execution of what I thought was a good idea a few days ago.

I kept running out of steam. It was painful to live through; probably as much as it was to watch.

Option B works different. You still show up, day in and day out, but instead of micro-managing yourself, you let your Self shine through. I didn’t sit down with a plan to write this today. I was going to write about my body (because that was on the list), but when I was still long enough and quiet long enough, this came out instead.

Option B doesn’t always have a rhyme or reason to it. In the middle of things you think you’re a little crazy, shifting from one thing to another. But then at some point you look back and notice a beautiful tapestry has been woven. Instead of following the pre-determined pattern, you stay true to what is most you. Each stitch is carefully curated, breathed into life because you can’t not; not because you thought you had too.

Option B feels like it takes longer. If the shortest distance between me and my soul expression is a straight line, Option B seems to have missed that memo.

Option B presents more risk; more uncertainty, more unknown, more of the ‘not sure this actually gonna work’, because there is no tried and tested method that you’re following.

As I’ve tested out Option B, sometimes it feels good and it gets the results I want and I think, ‘OK, I can do this.’ Other times it feels like I’ve completely lost balance. I imagine it’s like surfing.

Right now it feels like I’m riding the wave. Things feel OK. There’s just enough certainty to balance on. A container of: write every day, dive deeper into the trauma resolution side of embodiment (because you can’t have one without the other), heal your heart so you can love your husband fully. For this season, I’m trying to let that be enough.

It’s not rocket science. I’m not going to win some award for it. And it feels like I’m moving at a snail’s pace.

I’m sure at some point it will feel like I’ve gotten swallowed up by the wave, with everything coming crashing down around me. (And when I say ‘everything’, what I really mean is, one day I will wake up feeling like a failure and doubting myself, most likely triggered because I didn’t like the number in my bank account. It used to be the number on the bathroom scale that did this to me. I guess I will be grateful I’ve moved on.)

When this happens, I usually panic, trying to find the proverbial surfboard to hold on to. I think this surfboard will save me because it tells me all the things I could and should be doing to make sure I don’t fall over again.

Maybe next time I won’t panic. Maybe next time I’ll remember that if I just let my body relax a little bit, get a little bit softer, I’ll actually rise to the surface of the water and, get this: maybe even float. Whoah.

And then maybe once you’re floating, you remember you’ve got arms and legs that help you swim.

Maybe once you start swimming, you let yourself enjoy the feeling of the water rushing over your body, the sunlight reflecting off the water’s surface, creating a beautiful array of colors.

Maybe once you actually start enjoying your surroundings, you actually become content with where you’re at, instead of feeling like you need to rush off and get to the shore.

Maybe once the contentment comes, my soul will finally trust me enough to speak louder than a whisper. Maybe that’s when we get to do this thing together.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

One way to tell if your ‘No’ is your fear or your Truth

I am feeling deeply for all those who are saying, “I can’t.”

I can’t tolerate this relationship anymore, I can’t fix this, I can’t accept the way things are being done, I can’t.

I can’t is your ‘No’. Finding the courage to hear your own boundary is a huge win. It’s a place that so many of us never get to. We’re still finding ways of trying to turn things into the shape of a ‘Yes’, and so we never hear the ‘No’ that stays hidden below.

Earlier this year I spoke my ‘No’ into a situation where I usually do that exact thing I just described. I was so beat from bending myself into a shape that wasn’t me. So drained from the energy of trying to change the other person into what I needed them to be. It was exhausting, and when I had nothing left, there was the ‘No’.

My next reaction was to get the hell out of dodge. Once the Truth of the ‘No’ hit me, a part of me was like, ‘What the hell are we still hanging around here for? Let’s get to a safe place where we don’t have to deal with this anymore.’

I wanted to run away to a place where I wouldn’t be confronted with situations that I would need to say ‘No’ too. I just didn’t have the energy.

I was ‘flighting’; my word for the hard-wired fear reaction that is intended to keep us safe. Another option would be to ‘fight’. Which might look like argue my case, prove that I’m right, get them to back down and change their mind.

Since both of these options evolved as ways to protect ourselves, at first they seem perfectly normal and justified. However, when you take a step back, their true colors can be revealed; true colors of trauma-response.

Without getting into the ins and outs of trauma, I will try to simplify things.

Fear reactions can look like fight (move towards the threat), flight (move away from the threat), or freeze (don’t move at all and hope the threat doesn’t notice you.

In the wild, this is a really healthy response to keep yourself alive.

In our daily lives, we find ourselves in situations that may or may not be life threatening. In the non-life threatening situations, the fear response may still happen because we feel an emotional threat, which feels just as dangerous to us as a physical threat. Situations that feel like an emotional threat often feel like life or death when they are triggering or repeating a situation from earlier in our life when we first felt the emotional pain.

For example, maybe as a child a parent left us; either physically or emotionally. We felt abandoned. So now as an adult, any time someone doesn’t meet our need, say what they said they would do, or some other human glitch, our abandonment fear gets triggered.

Option 1: Fight: Go towards the person and try to convince them why they should stay, because you’re so amazing etc.

Option 2: Flight: Go away from the person and leave them first, don’t return their calls, etc.

Option 3: Freeze: Do nothing. Become frozen in a pool of anxiety and shameful unworthiness, where you can’t even really function in the rest of your life.

I’ve done all these things at different points of my life in different relationships, and it’s not so much the action that is the thing to try to change, but the driving force underneath it.

Choices made out of fear don’t get you anywhere different from where you are. All that happens is you keep playing out the same scenario over and over again because that’s all your nervous system knows how to do. You think you’re keeping yourself safe, and at first you probably are, or at least were. Later on, you’re doing more harm than good because you’re unknowingly stuck in a trauma vortex.

Here’s the one thing that breaks the spell: Love.

I know that’s way too oversimplified. It’s also true.

Love is what overcomes Fear. Love is what helps you take one baby step at a time out of the loop of trying to control a situation (fight), trying to avoid a situation (flight), or totally numbing out (freeze).

When I’m saying Love, I don’t mean sitting around singing Kumbaya. It takes many shapes and forms, including the bravery of engaging support, the acceptance of where things are, the permission to feel like shit, the kindness of slowing things down so your nervous system can re-regulate and catch up with you.

There are so many options when it comes to Love. And truthbomb: they are not always easy. Sometimes it is easier to stay stuck in Fear than to learn to Love.

Especially if you think the end result of the situation might end being the same. Maybe whether or not you choose Fear or Love, you still end up leaving the marriage. So why go through all the growing pains of learning to Love?

The difference is, with Love, it feels like Flow. It feels like Flow because you’re stepping into the greater Flow and letting life unfold organically and naturally, vs forcing a knee jerk reaction that circumvents the full evolution of You.

Love may still lead you to separation, or some other kind of death. And that will still feel painful. It also tends to bring a flavour of peace.

Below is a reflective practice I have used for a number of years that helps to figure out what is your fear reaction, and where is the Love. Try it for yourself the next time you come to a place of ‘I can’t’, and aren’t sure what to do next.

  1. What is your Desired Outcome for the situation? Eg I want him to stop doing xyz because I can’t take it anymore.
  2. Should check-in: What is the core belief or expectation you have about this situation? Eg I should have said something; it’s up to me to fix this.
  3. Inner Critic check-in: How are you judging/criticizing yourself or the other? Eg It’s my fault because…. It’s his fault because…
  4. Fear check-in: What are you most afraid will happen? Eg I made the wrong choice. I’ll keep making the wrong choice.
  5. How am I Trying to change the situation? Where am I trying to prove, fix, rescue, keep up a facade?
  6. How am I Hiding from my truth to save the situation? What am I not saying, running away from, avoiding?
  7. Truthbomb: What is actually True for me right now? Eg I’m exhausted, fed up, feel hopeless, angry, etc
  8. Next Right Move: What’s the most loving thing I could do right now? Eg Take a nap, call a friend, cry my eyes out, etc

Until your next right move is ‘Leave’ consider that the impulse to leave might just be a default fear response to run away and keep yourself safe. Totally valid and also it’s not the real you.

Until your next right move is ‘Go to therapy’, consider that the impulse to fix this and prove that you’re right, is another way of keeping yourself safe. Also valid, and not the whole you.

Until your next right move is, ‘Curl up in bed and read a good book’, consider that the impulse to distract yourself and avoid dealing with the situation could be your version of ‘freeze’. Legit, and it’s also as if you were playing dead.

Find your Truth. Find the Love. Those two will lead you home.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Looking at embodiment through the sign of the cross

My heart wants to tell you about all the books I’ve been reading and podcasts I’ve been listening to lately that are bang on, affirming what feels like a wide open path to walk forward into. My head wants to analyze what they are saying; connect the dots for myself as a way to process what I read and heard.

It’s making for boring writing and reading. At least tonight.

Tell me how you feel, not what you think. That’s what turns me on.

I don’t want more information, I want transformation. I want the feeling that comes when a part of me is changing and growing.

I have been changing and growing a lot this year. Sometimes I think I have to be careful I don’t get addicted to growth. I want to make sure I can be content with where I am without feeling the sense of urgency to be somewhere ‘better’.

It’s a balancing act. Accepting what is and also seeking Excellence. It’s another crosshairs on a pendulum of opposites.

Nourish and Pleasure was the first cross hairs I came across.

Too much Nourish = Restriction.

Too much Pleasure = Indulgence.

But where Nourish + Pleasure meet = Sustainable Sweet Spot.

Too much Acceptance = Indifference. Too much Excellence = Perfection. The intersection of accepting what is and also allowing for things to evolve is a beautiful thing.

I try to avoid extremes in my life, yet get stuck there all the time. Even in writing this post, it’s clear I’m valuing heart over head, transformation over information. It’s easy to make one right and one wrong.

Thing is we need both. Transformation is hard to come by if you don’t have information challenging your current position.

Feelings are great, and you also need your brain to find a way to articulate them and communicate with others.

The challenge is in finding the crosshairs where seemingly opposites meet.

Nourish & Pleasure. Acceptance & Excellence. Humility & Confidence. Head and Heart. Knowledge and Intuition. Masculine & Feminine. The Seen and Unseen.

This is a healthy version of embodiment. 

I’m slightly chuckling to myself right now, aware that I’m talking about cross hairs, which (duh) make the shape of the cross.

What if this is what the symbol of the cross has been pointing to all along?

A meeting point between what feels like polar opposites. 

Above and Below. Left & Right.

Heaven and Earth. The Beginning and the End.

Spirit and Matter. Alpha and Omega.

The unification of what feels like separation, into wholeness. 

Embodiment.

Photo by Monty Allen on Unsplash

What it takes to let your money start working for you

 

I started reading a book over the weekend that is just slightly blowing my mind. It’s a money book, which to be honest I’m surprised I’m that jazzed about. I eat up any book that tells a good story about emotional or spiritual growth, and although I’ve read a few money related books that have that softer edge to them, any hard-core money book that starts talking about stocks and bonds, and words like yields and p/e and my eyes usually glaze over.

This one’s different though. It’s called ‘How to Own the World’ by Andrew Craig, which didn’t do itself any favors before I started reading; it sounded kinda arrogant to me. It was an obligatory read to pacify my husband (and for the ‘I told you so.’, when I thought I’d go back to him with why I should stick to my self-help world.)

I’m only a few chapters in, and if I had to retitle the book, it would be something like this: ‘Why letting go and stop earning money is the smartest move you can make.’

The author is trying to educate the general population about the potential income opportunity from wise investments. He writes about ‘letting your money work for you’, and living off the interest. I’ve heard this before and it always felt pie in the sky, and out of my reach. Good for all the ‘rich’ people, but not for me.

This time my reaction was different. For the first time ever in my life, I got it. I felt it. The ball dropped.

For all my hustle, and energy I spend trying to earn money, I could use that (or actually less) time and energy to wisely invest my money, and my money would work for me. In other words, if I learned how to let my money generate more money, I would start receiving money by doing nada.

Now, here’s the catch. When you first read those last 5 words, what’s your immediate reaction? (Here’s where all my self-help books are starting to pay off.)

Here was mine:

I can’t do that, that’s lazy.”

I don’t think I’m the only one out there who has this story ingrained in my DNA. Whether it sounds like ‘lazy’, or, “No way! I have to work hard to earn money!”, my guess is somewhere in you there is a story of ‘not enough’ that translates into running yourself into the ground in order to earn your keep (and also might limit  your investments to savings accounts, your company’s pension, and any tax-free retirement vehicles).

I’m making this bold assumption because this has been my story.

Living with a belief that says, “You aren’t good enough and don’t deserve to receive the things you need, want, and desire, so you better hurry up and prove your worth in order to ensure you’ll be taken care of in life.”

I have tried to prove my worth by making my body smaller, running faster and performing better as an athlete, working longer hours as an employee, and similarly, offering more time for less money as a coach.

I hustled for my worth due to a deep rooted subconscious belief that no matter what I did and how hard I tried, I was going to get it wrong. So to save my ass (most likely from hell), I better hurry up and try to do loads, do it right, and keep everyone happy while doing it.

That broken belief has left my broke.

While employed, it served me just fine, or so I thought. I made enough money to rent decent apartments in Manhattan and London, while still doing all those basic low-risk ‘smart’ money things like putting money in savings, pensions, company stock, and retirement plans. Since it all came out of my paycheck before hitting my bank account, I never felt the pain of having to make the choice of lowering my immediate take-home pay for a future pay-out. I defaulted to the status quo money choices that everyone was doing. I wasn’t brave enough to take a risk and put together a portfolio of investments that could potentially supplement my income in the present, not just the future.

What I’ve learned about investments in the past few years while seeking investors for my and my husband’s start-up, is that investments with higher returns (aka the ones that make more money) have a greater risk of failure. This is why investors want to see a probable outcome of a higher percentage back on their initial investment.

I have never been able to think about investing the hard-earned money I made in anything riskier than company stock because the thought of losing any of that money was too scary. Partly because of my fear of ‘losing money’ and having a negative cash flow, but more so than that, the biggest fear I was trying to avoid was that I already was a failure. Logically, if I lost the very thing that I worked so hard to gain in order to prove that I wasn’t a failure (ie money), then I wouldn’t just be losing money, I’d be losing face.

I’d be proving to myself and the world that my worst fear was true: I really was a worthless piece of human.

Ouch. You can see why I not only did everything in my power to earn money, but also to hold on to it once I got it.

This past year I’ve done some intense inner healing work with the support of Nadia Munla, and guess what the #1 thing we’ve been working on is? Receptivity.

Yup, the complete opposite of earning.

Receptivity is opening yourself up to let the things, mostly one form of Love or another, come to you. Instead of you working really hard to fill your own basket, you let Love fill it up for you. There is very little to do. For sure you’re not hustling for your worth.

Instead you’re sitting in a place of peace, knowing deep down that you are enough as you are. There’s nothing you can do to alter the value of your worthiness. All you have to do is accept that you are whole and worthy, and receive it; allow that worthiness to fill you. Embody it.

While there is very little ‘to do’ in order to receive your worth, let me tell you, it is one the hardest friggin things I have ever tried to do.

There is so much risk.

What if the world stops turning? What if all the potential clients [who aren’t lining up to begin with] don’t line up outside the door? What if nobody comes to the event [that isn’t filling up even with all the hurry and flurry]? What if my laundry doesn’t get done? What if my grass stops growing? What if I turn into a complete blob of an amoeba and forget how to breathe?

Very high stakes here.

For the past 11 months I have been doing my best to let go of trying to prove myself. I’ve stopped doing things like posting on social media, which was just perpetuating my need to be busy and feel useful. I put a pause on working with clients because I was needing them to prove to the world I really was a coach (See! I have clients!). The only thing I did keep doing was dance; because #truthbomb, I really just do that selfishly for me 🙂

It’s been an ego-crush of a year that has made me want to crawl into a hole and die many times over.

However, after 11 months, I am finally rejoicing because I can tell I have learned how to receive. Or at least tasted it for long enough to recognize the aroma of a possibility to receive.

It came in the most unexpected form of being psyched about learning how to invest in the stock market and understand for once the difference between a commodity, equity, bonds, and what the hell an EBITDA is.

Why? Because the author of the book made it so loud and clear (or for the first time in my life, my ears could actually hear) that the world of investing your money (not just saving it) presents an opportunity where you can receive, not earn, money, by doing nothing except being the worthy human that you are (and clicking a few buttons on your mouse, or tapping your phone a few times.)

This feels revolutionary. Here’s my translation of how this works.

Saving money: Holding on to it in a safe place where it doesn’t really grow in value other than some token respect as it ages over time. It doesn’t look that different when you take it out of the bank then when you put it in, other than some minor weight gain because it hasn’t got a lot of exercise. When you save money, you pretty much have the certainty that it’s going to look very similar to itself over time. £25K might turn into £28K, a slight increase that isn’t something you’d write home about, but it helps you sleep at night because you know it’s still there. This keeps the scarcity monsters at bay. The ones trying to convince you that one day you’re going to be broke (because you’re broken). Which means for a hot minute you can breathe (because you’ve got money in the bank; see? not broken), until they show up again, this time trying to convince you that the savings you’re holding on to, isn’t enough. Solution? Get out there and bust your ass even harder so you can stash more cash.

Investing money: Letting go of the money that you earn, so the money can keep doing good in the world. With this approach, the money begins to enjoy its life. It tends to do more cool things than if it were sitting in a bank growing old and putting on weight. It starts to change its shape in significant ways. Sometimes you don’t recognize it, it looks so different to when you last saw it, and sometimes it’s so happy with itself, it clones itself. Which means now you’ve got two piles of money for the price of one, each doing their own cool things in the world. In gratitude for letting the money ‘be free to be me’, it starts to send you gifts. At first the gifts don’t seem significant, but then once its new shape takes form, you end up getting gifts in multiples of what you initially set free. This is when you realize you yourself have achieved freedom. By setting the money free in the first place, you end up receiving the money back, and here’s the catch: You’re not doing anything for that money to come to you. After that initial choice to let go, your only job is to receive.

In this scenario, you are now ‘free to be me’ too. You can go paint a painting without worrying if it’s going to sell for enough to pay the electric bill. You can feed the homeless without resenting that they don’t have cash to pay your mortgage. You can offer your healing to the world without needing your rates to define your worth, and without outpricing those in need.

This might seem outrageous, even scandalous. It does to me too. I’m not quite sure how the world would work if we all just invested our money to a level where we could live off the interest. Who would be doing all the work to make the investments maintain and grow their value? I’m not an economist and I don’t have that answer.

And what about when the above scenario doesn’t work that way and your investment actually loses value? I haven’t quite worked that out yet either, other than sometimes life throws you lemons so you can make lemonade. (And the author makes a case that if you take the time to educate yourself, which apparently takes as much brain power as learning to drive a car, and don’t just follow the status quo, you can avoid investments that are overinflated and keep a general upward growth curve in what you receive.)

While I am not here to give you any investment advice, what does makes sense to me is that trying to control the outcome of your bank account by holding on to each penny for fear of losing it all, and worse, for fear of devaluing your own worth as defined by the value of your bank account, does not work.

My own bank statements are proof.

I also know this because of what happened when I applied this same approach to my body, trying to control my body by regulating how many calories went into it, for fear of my worth being measured by weight. The result was disorder, chaos, and crazy-making.

It wasn’t until I let go of what the number on the scale was, that I began to love myself for who I am, not what I look like. The same principle is necessary to detach your worth from your bank account, and from what you think it takes to fill your bank account; your hustle.

I totally hear you when you say, “But how can I let go of making money!!!??? Who and how will the bills get paid????”

I haven’t read the exact plot of your storyline, so I can’t answer that.

I can share with you that 18 months ago, my husband got a pay rise from zero, to a number that more than covered our expenses and was more than I had made in the last 3-4 years. I was involved in the negotiation of his income since it was part of a company buy-out deal related to the business we set up together.

Get this: I almost undercut his salary by three grand a year because of that wounded part of me that didn’t think I/we were worthy enough to receive the higher number.

That is bat shit crazy if you ask me.

The money was staring me on a platter, saying, “Please, will you take me home with you?” I didn’t have a thing to do other than say Yes. I didn’t have to work longer hours, or get more done. It wasn’t even MY JOB!!!! All I had to do was say ‘Yes’, get out of the way, and let it flow into our bank account. And I stared it in the face and almost said No.

I am starting to believe that the greatest kind of wealth is not measured by the number of zeroes at the end and the digit at the beginning. The greatest wealth is the kind where you are letting money be another way you let yourself be loved. Call it God, or Source, or Love itself, loving you through money.

18 months ago was the start of me receiving love in the shape of money, and here’s what I found:

Until you receive your own worth, you can’t truly receive money. Money might come your way, or you might earn it in exchange for all your hard work, but if you are still holding on to it, and telling yourself you need to keep ‘doing more’ to earn it, it’s not wealth, because you are not free.

Once you let go of the money; let go of having it, or of you being the one to earn it, AND you can still know you are loved, whole, complete, and enough, then you are free. And so is the money. It is free to flow in any direction, including towards you.

These past 11 months I have earned less than I did at a summer internship when I was 19. I thought I was the bees knees then; wearing a suit and bringing home a paycheck.

If I had known that 15-20 years later I would go through a time of earning less than I did as a 19 year-old, I would have held onto that money even tighter than I did. I would have tried to prevent myself from ever experiencing the pain of actually losing it all.

But sometimes you have to live out the experience that you’ve been afraid would happen all along. You have to face your worst fears, and then realize that you haven’t died. You’re still living and breathing, even if you’re only functioning at amoeba type levels.

Sometimes it’s only from this place that you can heal your wounds. When you have nothing left to rest your laurels on, and you realize you are still being taken care of; that you are still loved.

Sometimes it’s only from that place where there is nothing you can do to earn the love, where you finally put your hands up, surrender, and receive it instead.

And that’s when life actually starts to get easy; when you start to let it work for you.

Photo by Christian Dubovan on Unsplash

How Embodied Feminine Leadership = Just Be You

“Embody your Feminine Leadership”. This is the title I gave to an upcoming event, and you know when you see something and think, ‘Yeah that sounds good and all’, but you actually have no idea what that means? I feel like that’s kinda the case here. So I will attempt to explain.

Let’s start with Leadership. What’s the first thing that comes to mind for you?

For me it’s authority; the person in charge or at the top of the hierarchical pyramid. There’s an assumption that people following you, like in Peter Pan, singing ‘We’re following the leader, wherever he may go’. There is an expectation that the leader has the answers, and the followers give the leader the permission to exert those answers onto them. Which is a sign there’s an exchange of power, with the leader holding all the cards.

When that collection of power starts to feel good, there can be a desire for those in a leadership position to hold onto that power. Even if a person didn’t start off wanting to control, it usually ends up happening because their identity as a leader is depending on it.

This is not the type of leadership I am encouraging you to embody, although, if you’re like me, it might come natural to you. When that’s what you’ve been surrounded with your whole life, and you’ve been taught to be a good student, you learn really quickly that this is the way you’re supposed to be.

I’d like to offer you another version of Leadership.

In this picture, the individual is forging a path, regardless of whether or not others are following them. Since they have never gone down this path before, they know it would be foolish to think they have all the answers. So they seek out timeless wisdom to act as a guide.

They follow their instincts without others giving them the title or label of “Leader”. In doing so, they claim their own power without extracting the power of others. Since their permission for power comes from within, there is no fear of losing it. It was there all the time, which means it’s not going anywhere, and since it wasn’t given to them by somebody else, no one can take it away. Which means there is no need to control circumstances in order to keep their power. Their power is not circumstantial, it is a choice of whether or not they accept it.

This version of leadership can happen in any setting since it is not relying on other people to ‘be on board’. A mother can be a leader as she searches for an educational setting that will nurture her child’s specific needs. A father can be a leader as he innovates a way to grow low-cost high-yield produce for his family and community.

Any individual creating something new is a leader; whether that creation serves a practical, expressive, or communal purpose. If the new thing challenges an old way of doing things; even something as simple as upcycling the pallette that would normally be thrown away; that is an example of leadership, because you are setting an example that others can choose to follow or not.

I spot this version of leadership in both hidden and obvious places; from friends who might not even identify with the word leader, to people I’ve never met who you might already call a leader because of the size of their social media ‘following’. Yet it’s not the number of ‘Likes’ that makes me count them as a leader; it’s the substance, depth, and fact they are doing things on their terms, not just going along with the status quo.

This version of leadership can be lonely, despaing on some days, and friggin hard on others. It’s also what I believe will help save our collective humanity.

Let’s move on to Feminine. This one can feel like a loaded gun in a post ‘me-too’ world and the rising up of so many pro-women (and anti-men) voices. It’s all too easy to start comparing feminine to masculine and go down a road that makes one out to be better than the other. That’s not what I’m trying to do here.

I chose the word feminine because the second version of leadership above, lives outside of structure. There is no hierarchy, organizational chart, or cubical walls to contain it within. Even if it’s occurring within a group of people that refer to themselves as a team or organization, the energy itself that is fueling the action is not goal-oriented, needing to solve problems, or maintain order; which are typically referred to as healthy masculine traits.

The energy invites the opposite: disruption and chaos. This uncontained energy is typically referred to as healthy feminine traits, and is equally as necessary as maintaining order. To innovate, create, and evolve, there needs to be a willingness to let go of, if not destroy the old. The ensuing chaos might feel uncomfortable at first since there is no certain place to plant the flag, however, it’s in that chaos where everything is thrown up in the air and lands in a new order.

So, so far we’ve got ‘feminine’ and ‘leadership’ covered. Putting them together, we’ve got: Feminine leadership: To forge a path regardless of whether others are following, for no other reason other than you told yourself you’re allowed to, and where the path might end up leading you to create something new.

That actually sounds ballsy to me. Not what our culture normally associates with ‘feminine’.

It’s not only the feminine that’s ballsy though. When you are willing to die, to yourself or a physical death, for the sake of achieving a goal and maintaining peace and order, that’s pretty friggin ballsy too.

I really want to be clear that neither energetically feminine nor masculine fuelled leadership is better than the other. They serve different purposes. Unfortunately for us, we’ve been sold the first version of leadership I described, which isn’t healthy for anyone. It’s time we find another way.

Soulful. That’s a word I’ll throw into the mix that takes us out of a binary and divisive thinking, yet sums up what I’m trying to get at.

My definition of soulful leadership is when a person is listening to a voice within them that is not always logical and doesn’t always follow a plan (call that intuition), and the action they are taking is for a purpose greater than them. It’s not just about achieving for the sake of individual or collective success; the motive is a desire for things like growth, efficiency, resourcefulness, healing, restoration, justice and here’s a good one: joy. This means that typical measures of success don’t cut it. I mean, how do you know if you’ve created or facilitated enough Joy? Instagram likes can’t measure that.

This is how you know the leadership is soulful; it’s being fueled by something that can’t be measured. It’s being fueled by love, and the end goal becomes sort of expression of Love; the very thing that fueled it. It’s a circular, not linear, flow.

Now on to Embodied: This is even more amorphous. The way I see it, there’s different layers to embodiment. It can happen with your thoughts, emotions, physicality, and with your soul. I don’t feel like unpacking all of that right now, so let’s jump to the part that feels most important: the embodiment of your soul.

This layer of embodiment assumes there’s a piece of you that’s not of you; ie a piece of you that came from a Whole that is greater than you. Which makes you a piece of a bigger puzzle. That piece of you that belongs to the puzzle, call it your soul. (Or consciousness, or higher self. Depending on where you landed on this earth, you might have another name for it.)

Embodiment in this context includes the marrying of your soul to your body; when the part of you that can’t be seen or touched is realized and expressed in physical form. Some people call this incarnation.

Personally, I find it really hard to let this happen fully. I’m scared of totally letting go of the reigns and let all my little soul inklings manifest through me. How would I make money? Afford a house? Pay the bills? And have all my other practical needs met if I let the part of me that I can’t see, touch, or feel, be in charge? At least I can see my brain on a catscan if I really wanted to.

Then there’s the emotional risk of letting this mystical part of you lead. What will people think of me if I chuck it all in and travel around living with indigenous cultures for months at a time? What if I make the first phone call to see what it would take to pull together a sober rave, and then it never happens and the idea is a complete flop? How can I trust that my soul is going to guide me to a place of guaranteed success?

You can’t.

And when you try to let your soul start to lead and you’re still operating in that first form of leadership that assumes top-down decisions, it’s really hard to let your soul be on top (especially when your brain is already situated there.)

Which is why it’s really helpful to approach this from the second form of leadership. In that scenario, everyone’s got a voice at the table. Your soul, your brain, your body. They sit in circle, and get to duke it out and come to a consensus, without a power trip.

And there’s your embodiment. The alignment between all parts of you.

Allowing your soul to express itself through your body, with your mind on board, that your purpose here is to let Love flow through you. Do that while you’re creating something new that’s never been done before, and you’ve got embodied feminine leadership.

To simplify that: Let yourself be who you are.

A combo of spirit and matter, a vessel for Love, and a unique expression of that Love that has never lived this life before.

And that’s how Embodied Feminine Leadership = Just Be You.

Photo by Priyanka Arora on Unsplash

For when you think you screwed it up; How you can’t do it wrong

It’s funny how your shit follows you. Today I found myself reliving a scenario from 8 years ago when I got slammed for what I thought was doing the right thing, and I was told it wasn’t good enough.

I had overheard at a dinner party that there was a misprint of some PR merchandise that was going to be released to the public at a big event. The merchandise had been commissioned in NY, the event in London, and it was being discussed as an example as to why regionalization in the organization was so important.

A few days later, I shared the conversation with my boss’s boss’s boss expecting a thank you for the report back. Instead I got put in a corner.

Did I not see how catastrophic this was? A misprint being shown to the public? This was unacceptable. How come I didn’t say something sooner!?

I was slightly baffled. My role had nothing to do with the event or mistake, and the situation was above my pay grade. Plus, I did say something. I was telling her, right then and there.

After the initial shock faded, I could see her perspective. My response was reflective of a disempowering hierarchical cultural norm that basically said, ‘If it’s not in your job description, you can’t do anything about it.’ Her perspective was different… we are all in this together. You see something, you say something.

Ok cool, got it.

Today I was in a similar situation, totally different context. I was having the same reaction my boss’s’ boss’s boss had, “This is a mistake! Catastrophic! Can’t happen!” And a knee-jerk reaction to fix the situation.

Except 8 years later, I’m more attuned to my need to fix and control. I recognize it as a symptom of fear. I try to practice, ‘It’s OK to Let Go’, and not need things to be perfect. 

At the same time, I’m an advocate for speaking up when no one else is, using your voice and expressing your truth; ie if you see something, say something.

I was torn. Do I say something or not? If I don’t say something, will this be the demise of something great? If I do say something, will I just become known as the un-evolved control-freak?

I decided to take a shower; because that seems to always solve everything.

And of course, that’s when I realized I was afraid of reliving the same blow-back from the situation 8 years ago. My panic this time round to fix and control was part of a survival tactic…. ‘Hurry up and say something to show you are brave enough so they can’t shame you for staying silent.’

That didn’t feel 100% good though; it wasn’t my whole truth, and there was more fear. Fear that I would somehow be made wrong for butting my nose in where it wasn’t invited.

It felt like whether or not I said anything, I was screwed.

And then the ball dropped. This wasn’t even about using my voice. This was about my fear of being wrong. A default assumption of shame that says, no matter what I choose to do, I will be wrong.

It was this fear that was keeping me vacillating back and forth between the two options. I wanted to just stay still and hope to wait it out without anyone noticing I had some thing to say.  Except my conscious knew I had something to say and was urging me to do so. But since there was no clear safe way out, my thoughts just ended up running on a loop.

This is a type of trauma response; a mental ‘freeze’ response when you can’t find a way out; a safe 3rd option.

The trauma in this case might not seem like anything dramatic; worst case scenario I’d be told off, made to be wrong, and I’d feel a bit of shame. But it’s the shame that can be traumatic; a deep seeded unshakeable belief that when you are wrong, you are no longer worthy of having a voice, of being alive. You’re no longer worthy of love. It’s like and emotional and spiritual death.

Thankfully today I was able to find a 3rd option; a way out. I sensed I didn’t have the whole picture, and that I could keep silent and it was going to be ok. I also deep down knew that if I did say something, the others involved would appreciate my concern. And if I told them how I was really feeling, they would probably help me grow through this experience. A combination of Truth and Love.

That’s what helps the fear calm down.

My shower was an act of love; recognizing I needed space and meeting my own need.

So was allowing myself to voice my concern and speak my truth.

As was letting it all go after that and continuing on with my day without getting fixated on the worst case scenario, and instead envisioning the best case scenario.

It’s taken years to get to this place; where I can feel the fear and not be captive to it. Where my nervous system is resourced enough that it can bounce back to a stable place on its own.

It’s taken many, many truth and love-filled steps to get here. A call to the therapist, slowing down the pace of my work, lots of walks in the trees, a bookcase full of journals, and lots of other forms of self-care and support.

If you’re reading this and can relate to that feeling of ‘Aaaaaahhhh! I’m screwed no matter what I do!’, combined with the tightening up of your body and your mind running on a loop, it’s OK. And it’s gonna be OK.

Find some loving action to plant your feet into. Find someone that you can trust to speak your truth to, where you feel safe to use your voice.

And it’s ok to ask for help. There is no shame in that. You can’t do asking for help wrong. Even if the other person tries to make you wrong.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Proof the 3rd Option Works

It’s 9:37pm and I really don’t feel like writing. I want to curl up in bed with my new book. I want to indulge in someone else’s creation instead of sit down and create something new of my own.

I almost bailed on this writing date. I almost let myself off the hook. ‘You did do some writing today. You wrote another draft of your Pause retreat offering. You worked on website copy.’

But that’s not the same as a writing date; of sitting down with a blank piece of paper without intention and letting it be filled with some Big Truth.

So I made a deal. 10 minutes. That’s all you have to do. 10 minutes instead of the full hour it normally takes you to write out a complete start-finish piece. Just see what comes in 10 minutes.

I’ve never done this before, and I have no idea where I will end up.

I used to be a very all or nothing kinda gal. Say for instance when it came to going for a run, if I wasn’t going to go for the full 6 miles, why do any at all? 4 or 5 didn’t cut it, and for sure 10 minutes of running wasn’t worth tying up my shoe laces.

I had the same mentality with food. I either stuck to the diet for the week, or I blew it up with one bite of a potato chip.

I was very hard on myself. So much so I’ve had an allergic reaction to anything that looks remotely similar to consistency, discipline, or sticking to the plan. It’s felt too much like the addiction. The need to run the whole 6 miles, or go the whole week without messing up the eating plan, or else my whole world fell apart.

The old me would’ve forced myself to write for the whole hour. I’m not sure where that expectation even came from, the same way I’m not sure where the idea that anything under a 6 mile run wasn’t worth it.

So while this 10 minute writing stint might not seem that monumental to you, it’s actually quite significant to me. It’s the in between space of not throwing in the towel completely and saying fuck it to the plan, and it’s not pushing myself past more than what I actually have the capacity to do right now.

My whole self is craving a good cwtch up and read. Yet following that pleasure without completing the commitment I made to myself would be indulgent. Likewise denying myself that pleasure would be too harsh and restrictive.

So today’s writing is living proof that the 3rd option works. The sweet spot where nourishment meets pleasure. You choose what allows you to say Yes all around.

Yes to the promise to yourself that you made last week, and Yes to staying present to your immediate need. Yes to the growth that comes with discipline, and Yes to the repair that comes with rest.

Balance people, balance.

And all that in 16 minutes.

Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash