True Beauty Series: #1 "Burned"

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This is a love story.

More than ever, I know that my story has never been anything but a love story.

Talking about illness and past hurts is tricky territory — the human inclination is to look away or create distance, “Oh poor her, that is tragic.” Please save that kind of pity for something else. Because this story, my story, is every woman’s story to some degree.

I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t suffer at least a little bit in the present moment from upbringing, culture, ingrained patriarchy and misogyny, violence and/or trauma.

I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t secretly walk around with demons that haunt.

I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t in some way diminish her story or her incredible power in some way.

Not to say those women aren’t out there, because I’m sure they are. I understand that the women I circle with tend to be like the mythical Phoenix bird — rising from the ashes over and over again in a brilliant burst of light and transformation.

So, please remember, this is a love story. An ongoing story of repeatedly rising from the ashes of outdated, painful and downright violent ideas and behavior so I can freely do the work that I’m here to do and be the person I’m meant to be. My hope - always — is that you, too, will see your own strength in my words and rise from the ashes, blazing, for all the world to see.

Burned

I spent my childhood summers seeking an elusive state of "tan" and instead found myself burned, repeatedly and often. Recently I did the 23 and me DNA testing and literally, I'm 99% Northern European -- I was the poor kid that burnt (sometimes blistering) and then went from bright red, to an even paler shade of white with a few new freckles thrown in for effort. 

Why would I be so intent on being tan? Tan women were beautiful. Beloved. (Think: Farrah Faucet) It was also widely circulated among the women of my family that to be tan was to "look thinner": which was the ultimate desire of the women in my life. 

Never mind the intelligence, strength and love these women embodied -- they wanted to be thin. Never mind the incredible work they did in their communities — they wanted to be beautiful. To be cherished and loved. But when I was a kid, that definitely required thinness and a “hot bod”. And tan was part of the equation. 

I know. I know. It's heartbreaking. The ridiculous cages that women were put in, and continue to live in, make me weep for the world.

We are so much more than the cages of societal expectation. 

True Commitment

Tanning beds came to town when I was 15 and then, it was game on. I committed to my tan (often burning in the tanning beds as well) and stayed tan year-round for 3 or 4 years. I have pictures of me at 16-ish and I'm that weird orange-brown color that screams, "TANNING BED". 

Even at the very tannest my skin could ever be, I did not feel thinner or more lovable or even remotely good enough. I had been date raped around this time and, added to the developmental trauma of alcoholic (recently recovering) parents, the cruelty of "friends", and the raging misogynistic air that I lived and breathed in -- being tan could not cover, fix, or mend the confusion, anger, rage and grief that was burning inside of me. 

I felt ugly, broken and unlovable. I took up drinking. It was the most reasonable response. I have nothing but compassion for myself at that age and every age since. 

"You have melanoma"

When I was back in the U.S. this summer, I had a suspect spot on my chest biopsied, and thank goodness I did. I wasn't expecting it to be anything but maybe a dysplastic spot - a bullet dodged. However, it ended up being mildly invasive lentigo maligna melanoma, which, not surprising at all, is most likely to be found in people who experience frequent burns. 

Being burned is a thread that wove itself through much of my young life -- both literally and metaphorically. I spent a good deal of my 20's and 30's burning myself and letting myself get burned. Again, both literally and metaphorically (though no more tanning beds -- I was over that look.) hoping beyond hope to feel good enough for love, for appreciation, for worthiness.

The fact that I ended up with melanoma — wow. The scorched earth of my past concentrated in a burning spot on my chest, right over my heart. For me, it was an invitation to lean in, to take stock, to reflect on how being burned has shaped me, and my life,

Making Meaning in the Best Way

I believe in the power of making meaning in ways that empower. Making meaning in ways that call the Truth out into the open. Making meaning in ways that affirm the beauty that is in me, and you, and in the world, despite the challenges and really, maybe because of the tension between where we are and what we know is possible. 

At the junction between obstacles and possibilities, there is an evolutionary tension carrying tremendous creative power. Every challenge we navigate through creates us.
— Chameli Ardagh

When I spent time compassionately bringing presence to my body, and the spot where the melanoma was found, I surfaced a lot of anger. Anger at a culture that constantly picks at women's flaws. I felt bubbling rage at a culture that values women (STILL) more often by looks (including thinness) instead of by strength, intellect, heart, and our capacity to make powerful contributions to create a better, more vibrant, and beautiful world for everyone. Anger at the ways that I, and other women I know, still play small and hide because at a cellular level, there is a fear that we are too much or not enough. Still. 

I now carry a scar and it means many, many things to me. It means I had melanoma, yes, but at a deeper level my scar is a visible reminder of the years I spent in tanning beds, trying meet other people's standard of beauty, a reminder of how much I wanted to be loved. It is a visible reminder of the violent ways women are told or taught to go against our own true nature.

This scar, this melanoma, is the years I felt unworthy being myself in my own skin. It is the self-destructive behavior, the violence I perpetuated on my female body because it’s what I learned was expected from society and our culture. The ways I bent and molded myself to others' expectations and desires. 

What is truly infuriating is that these storylines are still so pervasive and that women are still in the grip of these stories at all. It makes me want to scream. And let's face it: we are the lucky ones. We are the women who have the luxury of doing the hard inner work and mustering the courage to question the powers that be with relative safety. We have the option of walking out of our self-imposed cages and standing up to the people who would put us in our place as women.  

#TRUEBEAUTY

I’m lovingly naming this scar #truebeauty because it reminds me of the beauty - the true beauty of stubborn strength, emotional intelligence, grit, unfailing truth and resilience that I dismissed as part of my problem into my early 30's (too much/not enough/definitely unlovable). At 47, I thankfully see and appreciate the truth, the beauty, the power of what I’ve lived through and chosen and learned -- all of this has shaped and molded the #truebeauty that is who I am, who I've always been. 

What makes women truly beautiful, what makes us know we belong and we matter is being who we are, with all of our heart, on purpose — showing the world exactly who we are with no apology. It is breathtaking to see women be completely and utterly themselves — and I’ve found personally that to aim for anything less that full authenticity is not only exhausting but bound for failure. Knowing this, living this, is everything.

To burn on purpose

I burn with the passion of my strength and conviction that women have so much to offer the world. I burn on purpose with a vision for a world where women are focused on, and appreciated for, their powerful contribution to the greater good. And my scar will remind me to keep that fire lit, it will help me remember the Truth. 

All of the trauma, all of the times I was burned by others, or I burned myself in the name of being loved -- it strengthened me, tempered me. I believe with all of my heart, as the quote says, that our challenges create us. We have the capacity to take what happens to and to let ourselves be transformed by the fire, to let it teach us who we are and what we are made of. To rise from the ashes more ourselves — that alone changes the landscape of the world we inhabit.

We don't always have a choice in the circumstances of our lives. Many times we don't. It's true. But we always have a choice to respond with strength, with dignity and to meet the fire with the best of what we've got in the moment. To let ourselves heal and feel the pain all the way through and then... we rise. This experience with melanoma has reminded me that women hold a power that we don't wield far often enough -- women carry tremendous strength, wisdom and truth in our experiences, in our very cells. 

My deepest wish is that you read this and recognize a small (or big) way that you might be holding yourself in check. Perhaps you are quieting your voice to be more soft, more acceptable. Hiding your light.

Please stop.

Never has the world needed women to stand up, to speak the truth, to show their strength, to burn with purpose and passion for the good of all. I know amazing women -- look, I know you, don't I? Today is not my day to die (thank goodness) nor is it yours. Burn on purpose. Burn with your passion.

This is a love story — it was never anything but a love story. A story of seeking and finding the unfailing love that burns in our hearts for our own liberation, for the healing of humanity, for the freedom of women who don't have a voice, and for the earth and the children. This is a love story fueled by fire — not through compliance and silence and demure femininity, but by letting ourself burn with the Truth and the beauty and the power that is at the very center of our being.

Blessings to you, my sister.

Now go, burn bright. 

xo.nona


A guide to craft your Sacred Practice

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Embody your Truth in the way that you practice. Get the guide to creating a unique-to-you, supportive daily practice 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 access to my monthly missives when you sign up below.

I would love to have you. xo

What do you need to say?

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You can listen to me read this post right here (holy moly, it's 14 minutes. Prepare yourself.)

Dear beautiful you.

This is dedicated to my daughter. To your daughter. To all the daughters. To all the women who are in the lives of younger women. To all of us who are raising our voices for a deeper, wider and truer conversation that opens up a different world. I dedicate this to you.

I've been grappling. Grappling with the imperative to "be what you speak and speak what you be", as my wise friend KJ said to me. As the kid who was scorned as the town crier, I've always been a person for whom truth is an imperative, but now I'm in a whole new place -- no holds barred, truth spoken with courage, love and an open heart.

It's been amazing. And terrifying. And so incredibly healing. 

I didn't even know there were so many ways I was still silencing myself, but I've recently been initiating conversations where I've said things that I've never dared to say. Not particularly brave things, but vulnerable things which for me makes these conversations Brave with a capital B. 

It's vital to honor the hurt.

When I first began practicing yoga back in the stone ages when mats only came in one color - a light-ish blue -- our teacher began with the yamas and niyamas. The first yama -- non-violence --pierced me deeply. I knew it was mine to work with. I had no idea how that one ideal, taken into my heart, would change my life. I also had no idea what I was getting into -- I didn't really understand the damage I was dealing with: the harm our culture does to women's Truth, the very real impact of the violence that I had experienced, and oh my lord let's not even get into the violence that I inflicted on myself for many years, in so many ways.  

I have a whole lot of history with my voice, as so many women do -- maybe all women. My particular story includes my truth not being welcome with the people I love. Having my heart and soul shut-down by people I cared for and by society at large. And truly, too many counts of being shamed, blamed and rejected because of saying what is true for me. I've never met a woman who has not experienced this to some degree. We share this legacy, sisters. 

Over the last six years, I have been actively tending the work of restoring (what I believe to be) a natural state of non-harming in how I speak to, and about, myself and consequently, to others. This has been a scary, heart-wrenching and deeply transformative process of tending and remembering mySelf by owning my truth and stepping into conversations that are tender, necessary and honest. 

All of this has brought me to a heartbreaking truth: time and time again, I witness women effectively perpetuating violence against themselves by diminishing, dismissing, devaluing and doubting themselves in one way or another. For some of you it may be how you devalue yourSelf and the vital nature of your work. For others, it may be denying your needs and being in a perpetual state of giving in relationships. For some it could be dismissing your needs and silencing yourself when you are hurt in relationships. 

No matter what it is, if you are anything like me or the women I regularly speak with, this pattern is part of how you operate to some degree or another. 

Let's bring some light to this subject.

I want to begin with this acknowledgement: it takes a tremendous amount of courage and presence to look at and change the way we speak to ourselves, advocate for ourselves, or speak about ourselves. In other words, even for the most talkative among us, it can be extremely daunting to step into vulnerability, to courageously decide to speak the whole truth. 

I will tell you, as excited as I've been about offering Say It! as part of The School of Sacred Practice, I've also been grappling with doubt and apathy, which I sat with long enough (uncomfortably, I might add) to surface that this was rooted in a diminishment of what I offer to the women I'm calling in, which goes back to the ways I was shamed for using my voice as a young person. I say this because it's important to me that you know I'm right here with you. I know how hard it is to say the challenging things out loud. I also know how transformative it is to brave those stormy seas of fear to Say It! even when your voice shakes.  

As hard as it is to open up our hearts and share the depths of our self-perpetuated suffering, it can be even harder to open up and share the luminous qualities and gifts that we have to share. Under the surface waves of the self-diminishment that I can so easily slip into is a larger truth  -- I am really grounded in a compassionate way of being that gives me a gift for holding welcoming, transformative space. I'm not going to qualify that statement at all -- it's true (but oh my god I want to).

Outside of the act of getting sober and committing to stop the legacy of addiction I inherited, this devotion to non-violent truth in all the ways, including how I speak to and about myself, is the most important work I've done. It's the most important foundational work I've done to help me speak true in sharing my work so it reaches the women who need it. It's the most important work I've done to foster more joyful intimacy with my husband. It's the most important work I've done to ensure that I'm the parent Clara needs. It's the most important work I've done as the basis of cultivating relationships with other women, and the world at large, that feels nourishing and honest. 

The journey of a lifetime.

I want to see women all over the world speak the truth to, and about, themselves -- because this is the basis for changing the world we live in, one open-hearted conversation at a time. Say It! may not change your life in three weeks, but it could change the trajectory of how you live your life. True story. 

So whether you want to join me and the amazing women who have already said yes to Say It!, these are the three explorations and practices of devotion that you can work with to move a little deeper into a non-harming, truth-rich relationship with your beautiful Self and consequently, the world. 

Say It! Invitation One: Do Unto YourSelf as You Would Have Others Do Unto You

One of the most profound (and tedious) practices that creates true magic over time is a devotion to being on your own side. For those of us that speak the language of self-doubt to ourselves, struggle to receive, or are inclined to think everyone is better than we are, this is an invitation to simply consider how you truly wish to be spoken to and treated (as in, write it down.) Do you speak to yourself the way you would speak to others? Begin there, with yourSelf. No exceptions, no excuses -- own it and act on it. Devote yourself to this. Be fiercely on your own side. Simple. Tedious. Effective. Do it.

Say It! Invitation Two: Trust the Strength of Vulnerability

Once you deepen in your capacity to be on your own side, it's easier to dig into the Truth - your deepest Truth. As you surface what is truly happening for you, your invitation is to consider (to just consider, mind you) letting others experience your fullness. What do you need to say? Because let me tell you sister -- really, this practice is all about noticing, and letting yourself have, all the feels about what has stood between you and yourSelf and speaking your truth. Expect tears and lots of clearing away when you choose vulnerability with yourself. This is uncomfortable, life-changing work. Be gentle with you and let yourself feel it all the way through. 

Say It! Invitation Three: Take it to the Streets

This is the beginning of something beautiful -- when we are so grounded in who we are and our truth that we can Say It! to those around us. In other words, the true measure of the intimacy we create with ourselves is the impact that it has on our relationship to life. To Say It! is to be in an ongoing unfolding of knowing your Truth and being fully in it for yourself, on your own behalf and also for the world around you. The invitation is to choose to speak True -- maybe that's how you market your work. Maybe it's in boundaries you set. Maybe it's how you ask for what you need or say what's true for you -- no matter what, this is the very stuff of living your Truth in ways that change you and the world. 

I believe in your Truth.

I believe every single voice is needed and necessary at this time. I believe knowing your wisdom and discerning your own heart's Truth is the only way to lead a life of joy and purpose. I in no way believe this means being nice and "not making waves" or conversely, vomiting anger, rage and shame onto others. I do believe this means unequivocally stopping the damn violence and practicing the kind of true sovereignty and compassion that spreads like wildfire through our collective consciousness and conversations. 

So tell me, sister, what do you need to say to, and about, yourSelf? Today, your invitation is to share one challenging and tender thing with another human (which can absolutely be me - I would be honored to witness you. Just click here - just between you and me!) and to claim and share one radiant gift that you've tucked away and hidden or diminished. Note how it feels, breathe with yourself, it's okay for it to feel scary and edgy. This is how we expand our capacity to Say It!, sister -- one step at a time.

I hope you'll take the journey with me.

xo.nona

Befriend Your Demons

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Do you prefer audio? Listen to this blog post here {10:01 minutes}: 

How do you face your demons?

This may seem like an odd question, but many women struggle to look directly at their own suffering - let alone get support or share what's happening in the realm of their darkest struggles out of fear or shame or, in the hope, perhaps, that if they ignore their demons they will disappear. Rest assured that without facing our demons directly, they will bring us to our knees, insisting on our attention in some form or fashion that we will not like. 

The devil and I. 

When I was 4 or 5 years old, I had just learned about the concept of God's enemy, the devil. Knowing that God is pure love, I reasoned that really, the devil was the one that I wanted to cozy up to. I remember distinctly that I had taken a decision to pray to the devil each day so he wouldn't tempt me or make me do bad things. 

I also remember distinctly that I was learning to tie my shoes at the time and, one morning, sitting on the stairs of our porch, I was chatting with the devil and tying my shoes. I got my shoes tied by myself for the first time (woo hoo) and, running off to play, my Grandmother asked me who I was talking to. I explained that, since God loves me and wants to take care of me, I had decided to get on the devil's good side -- I mean, why pray to God, when it's the devil who is going to lead me into evil?? 

My Grandmother nearly had a heart attack and told me in no uncertain terms to NOT pray to the devil, but instead to trust that praying to God was going to keep me safe. Even at the time, I remember being puzzled by this idea of ignoring a fundamental aspect of life (evil, darkness, temptation, etc) and relying on God to keep me safe. 

Though this is an adorable story it also points to an essential piece of my character that has heavily shaped my own life and shapes my coaching. As a woman and a coach in recovery from alcohol addiction, as a woman and a coach who has struggled with money and finances, as a woman and a coach who has dealt with trauma, depression and anxiety, hell, as a woman and a coach who has struggled with so many darn aspects of life I can say with a lot of certainty that befriending the demons we grapple with is a far more effective, and kinder approach than denial, fear or shame.

Courage to befriend your demons. 

Though I'm no longer a church-goer nor do I believe there is an entity called the devil, on a metaphorical level, my 4 year old self was right: understanding and befriending our demons is wise. And, whether women know it or not, they tend to arrive into my circle seeking support in facing, and embracing, their own demons. 

This sounds so hard. It sounds so horrible. It sounds so.... unfun, right? 

In moments, yes, of course it's hard. But mostly, it feels like freedom and joy to be fully present and not only face your demons, but to consciously work with your challenges. Because really, let's consider how much energy goes into denying something. Even when you might not be actively thinking about something that you struggle with, the fact is, that somewhere in the background: in your energy, in your beliefs, in your day to day actions, that particular demon is draining energy and shaping the trajectory of your life. 

To make the choice to befriend your demons and work with the truth of who you are is the easier choice. That is ground truth, no matter what the fallout may be because the easier choice is the choice that frees up your energy and aligns your actions with your deepest wisdom.  When you choose to befriend your demons you are saying yes to living truthfully and committing to living into the woman you are meant to be: joyful, free, fully alive and beautifully human. 

We are built to handle this exquisite range of experience. 

The Role of Sacred Practice in Befriending Your Demons

We are always practicing - however, Sacred Practice is on purpose, with an eye to conscious choice and transformation.

So, imagine if you will, an infinity loop (an endless figure eight flipped onto it's side) - my experience is that there are two kinds of Sacred practice: like an inhalation and an exhalation, like expansion and contraction - there are inward-facing practices and outward-facing practices and they not only work in tandem, but are amplified by one another. This is the nature of Sacred Practice.

On one side of the infinity loop, you have the exhalation, the contraction, the proverbial stillness of the winter: you have Inward facing Sacred Practices. These practices bring you into a state of intimacy with yourSelf: your pain, heartache, demons, yes, but also your divinity, your wisdom and your light - however, without welcoming and working with the darkness, you will deny yourself the incredible potency of your light. Your demons and your divinity go together and, to access your full wisdom and therefore, a life of meaning, you need both. Welcoming the entirety of yourself and your experience in this realm is the very basis of self-trust and wise action in your outward facing Sacred Practices. 

On the other side of the infinity loop, you have the inhalation, the expansion, the blooming and the growth of summer: outward facing Sacred Practices are the actions that you commit to with your spiritual resources: the rest you give your body, the way you tend your money, marketing your business consistently, cooking nourishing meals for yourself, speaking the truth with loved ones, sitting down to write on a regular basis... these outward facing Sacred Practices are shaped by the clarity we receive and the healing we do in our inward facing Sacred Practice. Outward-facing Sacred Practices, done in alignment with our inward facing Sacred Practices, shape and mold the trajectory of our lives no matter what our circumstances. 

Both types of practices are essential - they feed each other and make our lives, our work and our experience rich and meaningful as they teach us to trust ourselves and our capacity. 

This is the heart and soul of conscious transformation. 

We know it's working when we see the results of our healing (debt being paid off, financials up to date, we wake up rested, our right clients begin arriving, our relationships become richer and more satisfying) and sometimes we know our Sacred Practice is working because situations and ideas and relationships crumble as we come into integrity and alignment with our own deepest truth. It may not be easy, but it is the easiest choice. It is the life-giving choice. It is the path of growth and transformation. 

In a world that rests on the false promise of instant transformation and instant results, Sacred Practice offers a reliable way to be your own healer and guide as you keep showing up with fierce commitment for the woman you are, and for the woman you are becoming. 

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Tiny Magic: Befriend Your Demons

The School of Sacred Practice is open for registration. In the first intensive, Tend and Mend, we will be focusing on the outward-facing Sacred Practice of tending and mending money, which can be tricksy and challenging for women in business -- I find there is always an element of healing,clarity and wise action to address here, don't you? 

And so, whether your demons are money related or otherwise, tune in to this Tiny Magic: to Bless and Transform your Demons into allies and wisdom - this is energy medicine that is amplified when you listen with your full attention and an open heart. I love this for you, for all of us.

If this Tiny Magic Sacred Practice calls to you, join me and the incredible community of women that is gathering for the deep magic of transformation in The School of Sacred Practice. 

I would love to support you in 2018. 

xo.nona

 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash