Living and Breathing Hope

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I wanted to feel better, that’s all.

That’s all, and it’s everything, isn’t it? For as long as I could remember, I longed for experiences of myself, and of life, that felt different.

I wanted to feel better (safe, secure, at ease) in my skin.

I wanted to break the legacy of addiction and violence in my family.

I wanted to be a good enough mother.

I wanted to feel safe inside of relationships with other people.

I wanted to feel alive, not slightly distanced from myself and life. Hell, I wanted to be able to feel, not freeze.

I wanted to know how to feel joy.

I wanted to trust myself, and life.

I wanted to make a meaningful contribution through my work.

I wanted to feel the wholeness that I knew, without a doubt, was at the core of my being.

This, and more, is my life today.

When I talk about trauma, I get excited — why? Because what I know is that surfacing, and bringing light, to the effects of trauma is not about giving up or being a victim — it takes incredible strength and vulnerability to open to the truth and own it. Ultimately, naming and healing trauma is about living, and breathing, hope.

No one talks about how the long-term effects of trauma can linger and prevent women from shining light in the world and making a powerful contribution. But it does — it’s at the heart of so much suffering and pain for women who long to do meaningful, life-changing work. However, as Dr. Dan Siegel says, “We have to name it to tame it.”

We are at a point in our collective story that we are really ready recognize the impact that trauma has had on us individually and as a society. It wasn’t until a wise therapist I hired in my 20’s named trauma as the root cause of what was keeping me from what I wanted, that I felt truly empowered to heal. It wasn’t until I named trauma as having an impact on my work that I was able to unravel the residual effects of said trauma and truly begin doing the work I know I’m here to do.

Naming our trauma is an act of living and breathing hope.

For anyone who knows me, you know I am a perpetual optimist. I believe in myself, I believe in the goodness of humanity. I believe in our capacity to heal and to rise and to create in powerful, meaningful ways. Inside of my optimism is also a deep understanding that to be the women we are here to be, we must have the courage to turn and face our demons. To reach the full expansion of our light, we must be at ease in the dark. We must be willing to do the hard work of healing — not fixing, but healing.

And, when I say healing, I mean being truthful with a capital T and in that truth, being exquisitely kind to oneself in embracing the full catastrophe of being a fragile, and strong, human (not indulgent, not destructive, but truly kind and loving in a fiercely protective way). I mean doing the hard work of knowing yourself and what you need. I mean honoring the evolution of being who you are in every moment. I mean healing as continuing to be honest in the ways you show up for you, your life, and your work. 

The only way out is through

I say this all. the. time. To my daughter, when she is struggling with a tough math problem or a challenging issue with friends. To my clients, who are struggling and want to get to the good stuff NOW, thankyouverymuch. I say it to myself when I am really wishing for things to be easier. The only way out is through. To stay with ourselves is the deepest healing. It is the path to hope.

The long-arm of trauma for many women in business is the confounding barrier it creates that says, “Go no further or you will be hurt — or worse.” It is terrifying. It makes no sense. It is the tender edge, it is the place where fear is amplified beyond what seems normal. It is the space where women often turn back, giving into the overwhelming sense that they simply cannot go any further.

At the same time, we are told in personal development to JUST DO IT. That it’s simply outdated beliefs that need to be addressed or fear or karmic energy patterns or whatever. This isn’t bad information. It can be all those things AND, if (as a woman who is experiencing the residual effects of trauma) you are unable to get over it, or think a new thought, or heal the karmic pattern or take a different action — shame ensues — often unintentionally adding a new layer of traumatic impact, unconsciously affirming that moving forward is too dangerous.

Let’s Take a Different Approach

Right now, The Trauma Sensitive Business is open for registration (through January 31st). Whether you feel called to the program or not, I’m interested in seeing us, collectively, bring light to the impact trauma has on so many of us working in the personal development arena.

Not every woman who has experienced trauma experiences long-term effects, however, it is worth it to stay curious and ask the question — do you believe that trauma is playing a part in how you (or your clients) are, or aren’t, living life? Building a business of meaning?

If the answer is yes, I invite you to use these questions as a place to begin and, as an important consideration if you have clients who seem unable to move in the direction of their dreams. Consider that it isn’t a personal failing, but instead the wisdom of the trauma-body keeping your clients (or you) safe.

What will it take to create a sense of safety? Establishing a sense of safety and presence is vital for women who have experienced trauma. Running a business will, at least for the first few years, be activating a sense of being in danger — it brings up fear of failure, financial concerns, it amplifies any wounding we have around using our voice. The opportunities to feel terrified are vast and endless. So creating a sense of safety, grounding and being present to what is happening right here and right now is incredibly important. Routines and practices of self-care are not a “nice to have” they are necessary for women who have experienced trauma to be able to feel good and thrive. Cultivating safe relationships in which to be supported in expressing what is true is paramount. Devising consistent and stable systems and foundations will help to soothe the frayed nervous system.

How can I be unfailingly on the side of non-harming? To push yourself, or a client, beyond the comfort zone when trauma is a factor is, simply put, harmful. Moving more slowly, and with incredible compassion for the trauma that might be activated, is the fastest way forward. This includes monitoring internal language and the way that we speak to, and about, ourselves (or watching for dismissive or harsh words in your clients about themselves). Moving at your own pace, or the pace of your client, may seem incredibly ineffective by societal standards. However, the pace that society moves at and insists on is inherently traumatic for most people already. For those who have body psyches that respond with fear more readily — move slower than slow. Not only is it affirming to acknowledge the impact of trauma with kindness, but it’s healing, and it creates a foundation of strength, authority and success to move at a deliberately slow pace.

What strengths can I draw on? I suspect that one reason it’s so difficult to talk about trauma, is that it goes against what I call our cowboy conditioning — that stiff upper lip, “I’m fine”, boot-strapping, mentality. I get it. However, what I know for sure is that every woman who has experienced trauma is incredibly strong and has amazing internal resources that are moving in the direction of safety, healing and vibrancy. It is so important to remember the strength that you possess and the innate instinct for healing that you have shown throughout your life. So it’s possible to talk about the impact of trauma, and at the same time acknowledge your strength — not just acknowledge it, but call on it. To recognize and honor the strength you possess and to build on it, to utilize that strength as you move forward in new ways.

You are invited: live and breath hope, sister.

I’m not a therapist and I don’t play one on TV, but I am committed to making a meaningful contribution to creating the world I wish to live in. Naming, and working intentionally, with our individual and collective trauma is a pathway to living and breathing hope. I want to live in a world where more people are celebrating the strength of living in post-traumatic growth. I want to live in a world where our organizations (micro, small and large) aren’t being impacted by hidden trauma. But mostly, what I want is for you to shine. For you to feel empowered to move forward at your own pace, into the fullness of who you are — beyond the trauma.

Join me, and a beautiful circle of women for The Trauma-Sensitive Business

I would love to support you in your own vision of living and breathing hope, my sister.

xo.nona

Tend Your Energy First

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“Before helping others, put on your oxygen mask.”

How often do we hear this common flight instruction tossed around as a metaphor? We nod and agree, and then often, go back to throwing ourselves under the bus. So, let’s be honest: this instruction is hard in the day to day doing.

It’s no simple thing.

When I said goodbye to corporate accounting many years ago, I left behind 80 hour work weeks, crushing deadlines and painful posturing.

The last year I worked in a corporate setting full-time, I consciously decided to bring some balance back into my life. I stopped bringing my computer home on the weekends or weekday evenings. I took a lunch break away from my desk. I worked out in the company gym regularly (and it was nearly always deserted). Most important, I stopped reacting to the false sense of urgency that kept everyone amped up and on edge and started asking clarifying questions about priorities before automatically signing up for a project or a deadline.

It wasn’t a popular choice. Without buying into the crazed pace and the hyper-busy party line of my company, I ended up shut out of decision-making and I was treated decidedly differently. It was painful. I felt caught between a rock and a hard place: I knew that working at that pace was not sustainable (or healthy), nor did I believe people were actually doing their best work and yet, it was the norm and the culture. However, if I didn’t buy into it, I was no longer part of the winning team.

I had to choose, and, as hard as it was, I chose me.

Fast-forward through leaving corporate accounting, the joy (and stress) of getting married, becoming a yoga teacher, having a baby, then choosing to pursue a career as a coach. When I started my coaching business, I found myself creating the same kind of hectic pace for my own business that I had experienced during my corporate career. Granted, I was doing work I felt called to, but still, I created an untenable work environment for myself.

When I realized what I had done, I was puzzled. And curious.

I can point to any number of facets of our culture, my past, and unhelpful beliefs that ensured that I would recreate this framework for my own business: an unconscious coupling of “busy” and “money”, a deep feeling of scarcity and a need to overwork to feel (barely) equal, a truly driven work ethic passed down by many generations, the culture that I was educated in, and work environments that push on people in such a way that we believe we must keep going no matter what the cost to us personally.

The fact is, I, like many others, unconsciously agree to these terms and conditions believing we have no choice. We blatantly disregard the consequences this type of behavior wreaks not only on our lives, but society at large. To do it differently requires courage to challenge the status quo and culturally swim upstream.

Different choices are the path to new outcomes.

Only you know what it would mean for you to shift the paradigm and tend your energy, first. But discovering your Truth (and the subsequent actions) begins with two questions:

Who do you want to be?

How do you want to move through your life? 

I, for one, am in it for the long-game. I want to move with deliberate presence through my days and my world. This means I prioritize tending my energy first every day. I sleep 8 hours per night. I exercise most days and I focus on quality food that makes my body feel clear and alive. I often take a quick nap in the afternoons. I don’t drink alcohol or use other substances as substitutes for real rest. I spend time outdoors. I journal daily to gather my thoughts. I minimize social media time and I take time to do things that light me up: yoga, meditation, dance, and definitely talking with plants and animals. I take time away with my family regularly to recharge and reconnect. 

Not only do these elements of tending my energy bring me joy, but I am more efficient, engaged and inspired when I am in a groove with my nourishing practices. Honestly, I get more of the right things done and I’m better in every way. I am more discerning. I am more empathetic, more loving and more connected to my own wisdom. 

It used to bother me that I felt present and filled up while others were complain/bragging (you know what I mean) about how busy and tired they were. It doesn’t bother me anymore. I don’t want to live my life in a constant state of being behind: being in that draggy state of tired and wired is the ultimate embodiment of scarcity mind-set. 

Choose you, today and every day.

Make no mistake, sister. Tending your energy changes the game on every level. It is an affirmation of your commitment to receive nourishment and to move into the world from a place of overflow.

Tending your energy first allows you to be at your best. To be a force of good in the world from a place of abundance. If you need it, you have my full permission to offer yourself the depth and breadth of support that will nourish you, and leave you full. 

Now, will you give yourself permission to choose you and prioritize tending your energy first?

xo.nona

Let Yourself Be Held

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We begin December 20th.

Join a sweet sisterhood of support to root into the element of earth. Find stillness, find steady footing and stability under your feet. You will be invited to slow down and focus on restoration, letting yourSelf slow down and be blessedly grounded.

Let yourself be HELD by the earth, by energy medicine, by story and practice, by a sisterhood of like-minded women and invitations to grounding rituals.

I would love to support you in 2019.

Belonging

This is the second post in a series of posts about my experience being diagnosed, and treated for, melanoma. Did you miss the first post?

Read it here.

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Baggage, History and Beliefs

A few years ago I took my daughter, Clara, on a month-long road trip across the western United States. When we got to Yellowstone, there were people lined up to rent bear spray.

Bear spray. Huh.

Here is what I thought, “I trust the bears more than I trust you. I know what to expect from wild animals. You humans? Not so much.”

I, like many of my fellow humans carry personal and societal trauma. Certainly I’ve grown exponentially from the challenges I’ve faced, and still, the trauma I’ve experienced informs how I move through the world.

Though I still carry what I’ve experienced, I no longer suffer as a result of the intended (and unintended) emotional and physical harm that I’ve experienced. Yet, my healing continues to be an evolution and one I’m committed to not only for myself, but for my daughter and for the future of peace and prosperity I envision for all.

So when I’m faced with something in my current realm that surfaces something old, I turn and I face it as honestly as I can.

To belong

Humans have a deep need to belong: to ourselves, to the earth, to our fellow humans. We are wired for connection. One of the biggest struggles I’ve had in relationship to the trauma I’ve experienced is a sense that I don’t belong.

Many years ago, I named my desire to belong — when I spoke that intention aloud to my coach at the time, I could feel it’s power. I knew it would be an intention that would be working in me, and on me, for a long time. That has proven to be true.

First, I tenderly learned to belong to myself. To live in my body, to feel at home in my own skin. To experience the grace of trusting myself and claiming my personal authority.

I then felt a deep desire to belong to the earth. I relearned my connection to the earth herself, rekindling a sweet relationship and a trust with the earth, and non-human nature.

From there, my gaze naturally turned to my fellow humans — the ultimate place to belong, right? To your own species. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to belong to the greater sea of humanity.

Then, earlier this year, I read a beautiful book by Toko-Pa Turner, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home. I decided I was ready. Ready to lean in and claim my place.

My first teacher entered stage left.

Stranger in a Strange Land.

Diagnosed with melanoma in the U.S., I came home to Zambia knowing I would be traveling to South Africa for treatment. For a variety of reasons, we decided that I would go by myself to Johannesburg. Preparations were made.

I reached out to many people I am acquainted with through coaching asking questions and seeking advice. Even though I had insisted on going by myself, secretly I was feeling tender, scared and alone.

As I got closer to the day of departure, there was an enormous outpouring of love, care and support — mostly from people I know only via my husband or through Facebook. There was the family that invited me to visit with them the weekend I would be alone in Johannesburg before treatment. There was the embassy community in Pretoria that offered phones, transportation, visits at the hospital, and other practical support. There were the coaches I know that offered their love, advice and connections with unfathomable generosity.

Feeling alone is not unusual for me. It fits with my story of not belonging. However the deluge of love, support, and care was upturning my comforting (but painful) mantle of aloneness.

So here’s how it went down:

Overwhelm. Delighted gratitude. Anxiety. Fear. Wonder. Tears. Peace.

Rinse and repeat.

One night, I confessed my fear to my husband: I was deeply afraid that if these people knew me, they would never be so kind. In the darkest recesses of my psyche, I was sure that when these people would meet me, they would be sorry that they reached out with such kindness.

Because people don’t like me. Because I don’t belong.

Such old conditioning. Such old fear. My dear husband held me and reminded me how much he loves me (and even likes me) and how many people absolutely love me and like me and even treasure me.

He’s a good one.

I choose authenticity.

In Toko-Pa’s book, there were two parts that burned themselves into my soul — one, she talked about walking away before other’s can reject you and how this hurts others (the people who want to belong to you) as well as you. I could see and feel viscerally not only how much I’ve done this, but how much I wanted to do this in the face of all the kindness that was coming my way. I didn’t want to open up or share my heart because I was so sure people would reject me.

The second element of her book that shook me and turned me upside down was her assertion that if you want to belong somewhere, you belong there. End of story.

Over the years of tending my own healing and learning to show up as myself (or feeling like I can’t and suffering through being fake) is that there is no real sense of belonging if I can’t be who I really am. It’s simply not worth it to pretend to be anything other that myself. I have learned to do just that confidently in my work and with my beloveds and my closest friends, but my visceral fear of doing this in the wider world with people who may or may not be “my people” has kept me isolated in many instances.

In this way, not only have I guaranteed I feel a lack of belonging but I’ve also potentially cut myself, and others, off from connection and relationship by presuming I wouldn’t belong. I realized there were ways this was impacting not only me personally, but the ways I reach out to share my work and serve the world. It split me open to see it.

So with a deep breath and a tender heart, I chose something different. I flew to South Africa with the intention of staying open. I committed to being fully myself. I decided to affirm my belonging in each instance, until it became clear that was not the case.

The Miracle of Belonging.

I am not sure I’ve ever felt so safe, so loved, and so held as I did when in South Africa. I didn’t have a single moment where I felt compelled to be anything other than who I am. I paid close attention to what was happening when I was with others: I genuinely enjoyed the people I was with and I dare say, they enjoyed me.

I belong. I want to belong. This feels like a miracle. And in my belonging, through connection to people who were once strangers, I feel a sense of kinship with my fellow humans I’m not sure I’ve ever felt. And not just a kinship, but a deeper call to see an end to the causes and conditions of all kinds of violence that lead to suffering. And let’s be clear: being told, or feeling like, we don’t belong is an act of violence against our very nature as humans.

Belonging is your birthright.

I share this with you because too many women (like me) didn’t fit with their families, peers or communities when growing up. Too many women I know have suffered emotional and/or physical violence that disconnected them from their place in the world. Too many women I know dare not speak the truth for fear of being rejected, or worse.

I get it. Deeply and personally.

I’m here to tell you that belonging is your birthright. Your family, your community, your workplace and the world need you to claim your place.

Without a sense of belonging, it’s too easy to hide. To walk away. To tell yourself that your voice doesn’t matter. To see the places where you are still told you don’t belong, to shrug, and give up. To focus only on the people to whom you really don’t WANT to belong and walk away.

There are always going to be people and places where we don’t belong. I’m not insisting that we subject ourselves to rejection and violence intentionally. But now, when the dysfunction and the divisions in our country and the world feels so vast, it’s that much more important to claim our place and rise up to share a vision of healing, grace, peace and prosperity for all.

I matter. You matter. Your experience, shared, matters. Your rage, your pain, your light — all of you matters deeply. We matter more than we could ever imagine. We belong.

On every level, from the personal to the societal, when you choose to belong, you change. The people around you change. To belong is to be at home in your own skin, in the world at large, and among your fellow humans. To belong is to know that the world needs the authentic fullness of who you are.

Your place at the table of belonging.

It is in your decision to claim your place that you become part of the conversations that shape our individual and collective futures. It is in your belonging that you feel compelled to offer your Truth, your gifts and your talents in bold service to the world you wish to inhabit. It is in your belonging that you meet and mix and mingle with the hearts and minds of other humans who are also learning to belong to the world in richer, sweeter ways.

This is how we craft a new world that celebrates truth, kindness, dignity and personal authority.

May you feel the sweet truth of your belonging resonate deep in your bones.

May you experience the impact that cultivating belonging will have in your life, in your work and in the world.

May you know the healing power of being received and celebrated for all that you are at the table of belonging, my sister.

Meet me there - I’m saving you a seat.

xo.nona

Image credit; Tim Marshall on Unspash


Belong first to Yourself

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You are invited to craft a sacred practice that deeply nourishes you, and your sense of belonging to yourself. Get the guide to creating a unique-to-you, daily practice of devotion that supports you in being the woman you are, the woman you are becoming. 

You will receive a playbook with everything you need to get started, plus you will receive my monthly missives when you sign up below.

I would love to have you. xo