Tag Archives: empowerment

How Do We Move Forward When Life Pushes Us Back

Enter to win my Haven Montana Bundle of Love!

IMG_0039“I am shedding old patterns and moving forward in my life.”  That has been my mantra during hard times– when I feel powerless and afraid and alone.  It’s a call to action and it works.  But there was a day when I could barely imagine making this claim.  I felt like I was going to lose everything—my kids’ and my stability, in house, finances, and emotional security. I lay in bed, trying to find my mantra.  It felt like a ruse.  How was I going to move forward in my life?  How?

What do I know how to do that can help us stay secure? What do I know how to do, no matter what?  Write.  How have I made it through crisis?  By writing. What is the most powerful tool I know to utilize during hard times:  writing.  Who needs this?  Everybody. Who feels confident in this?  Hardly anyone.

So I put it on Facebook.  “Anybody want to come on a writing retreat with me in Montana?” In two hours, 24 people signed up, and Haven Writing Retreats was born. Did I keep my house?  Yes.  Did my kids maintain their security in home and mother?  Yes.  Do I feel proud…well…yes.  I do.  I feel like life kicked my ass and I kicked back, in the words of my new friend Amy Scher.

IMG_0043 I was recently asked to connect with a Millennial by the Fierce Fifty Revolution group to Bridge the Gap between my generation and theirs. It made me smile. I am a connector, a bridge builder, and have rarely seen age as an obstacle in my life. I certainly don’t now.  I’m a writer and a retreat leader.  I don’t have to deal with image or wrinkles, or techno abilities getting in the way of what I do for a living. The older I get, the better I am at what I do, because I’ve lived through more obstacles, and stretched myself to grow as a result of treading their waters.  Sometimes well. Sometimes not.  So when I was paired with Amy Scher, I was thrilled.  This is a woman who shares the same philosophy.  She takes life’s challenges, and becomes wiser for having lived them.  She turns that wisdom into service to others through her books, online classes and much more.  We got on the phone as strangers and a few hours later, were in a major love fest.  If we’d recorded our conversation, it would have been podcast-worthy.  So we decided to ask each other four powerful questions about our relationship with moving through obstacles—when life almost halted us.  I came up with four which she answered here, and she came up with four that I answered over on her blog. Please enjoy!  There is sure to be something in both of our questions and answers that goes straight to your heart.IMG_0044

Here is her wisdom:  (Head on over to her blog to see my answers to her questions)

Amy’s inspirational story, down-to-earth approach to self-healing, and accessible teaching style has been well received by a variety of audiences including the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford University. She teaches her approach through her How To Heal Yourself online course and speaks at conferences and healing retreats nationwide. Most importantly, Amy lives by her self-created motto: “When life kicks your ass, kick-back.”
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1- What does a meltdown feel like for you when you’re in it? Is there calm in the eye of it, or is it always chaos? Do you think that it’s possible to learn from it while we’re in it? Or only in hindsight?

What does a meltdown feel like to me? Oh boy. Well, I’ve looked in the mirror a time or two and can definitely tell you what it looks like: like a complete mess of snot and mascara. Hmm, I’ve never thought much about what it feels like, but I think it’s comparable to a drunken stupor; where everything that’s going wrong in life suddenly becomes disproportionately magnified and dramatic. And while I’m not a frequent drinker, I can definitely still attest to what that feels like. Ha. Everything is kind of spinning and I know that I’m making this big dramatic scene, even if just in front of myself, yet the part of me that’s keenly aware of it can still do nothing to tame it.

I do think it’s possible to learn from a meltdown while we’re in it, but maybe only as much as to learn that we have to surrender to it in order to survive it. For me, the real learning and growing comes once I’ve moved even just a few inches beyond it and my sanity has started to flow back. But I actually think the meltdown phase is always part of the expanding process. Meltdowns need to happen for new perspective and energy to be born in order to help us move forward. Looking back, the times in my life that I was most emotionally stoic was when I was most stuck.


2- To get unstuck, I often say: “I am shedding old patterns and moving forward in my life.” You are a master at moving forward in yours. How, specifically, have you shed old patterns in thought, heart, and action in your life so that you have become the woman you are today?

I feel like my brain has always gotten me into more messes than out of them. So for me, I’ve needed to dive really deep to clear old ingrained patterns. I usually can’t talk myself into much sense. And I’d been to years of therapy by the time I was an adult, which didn’t seem to be what I needed either. Beginning in my early 20s, I became chronically ill with Lyme disease, which lasted an entire decade. It was the hardest time in my life, but it taught me a lot about myself, including how I was holding onto so much emotional baggage. Letting go of the old turned out to be the key to my physical healing. What worked for me was accessing my emotions and releasing them through energy work. First, I discovered and used Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which was a big shifter for me. Over time, I also created some of my own techniques. One of my favorites is called The Sweep, which is basically a script that you repeat to “sweep” away old beliefs from the subconscious mind (examples: “I’m not good enough” and “nothing ever works out for me”). I even wrote a book on my approach, which includes everything I did to heal myself when nothing else worked. (link here)
3- How do you know you have moved forward in your life? Can you walk us through what it looks like to be in a healthy, functioning place in your life?

I know I’ve moved forward because I’m nicer to myself. I sometimes eat too much pizza and lose complete zen-like perspective. And I’m fine with that. I’m more myself than I ever allowed myself to be, and for me, that’s the ultimate sweet spot in life. There is an ease that comes with finally giving up the pattern of fighting with yourself. I mean, I’m a Virgo, so I’ll always probably lean toward unrealistic perfectionist tendencies (like keeping a very orderly house and writing impeccable first drafts of my books). But becoming the true me was the crux of my healing. Still now, having been completely health for almost ten years, I try my best just to stay out of my own way and let myself live freely.

4- How would you define “okay?” Eating, exercising, a calm mind? Or is “okay” an illusion? In other words, is the Meltdown always with us, teaching us (or maybe haunting us), or are we every truly liberated from it?

My favorite quote is Pema Chödrön’s, “None of us is okay and all of us are fine.” This says it all for me. I think being okay means accepting that sometimes we’re just not okay. Not at all. But that it’s all fine anyway. Trying to manage every aspect and emotion of our lives is what gets us in trouble. Every hard time in life or meltdown is just a season that will pass. Except for when we hold on so tight to the emotions and expectations that it can’t go anywhere. That’s when we know that there’s more work to do to get to the “okay.” It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

BIO: Amy B. Scher is an L.A-based author, energy therapist, and leading voice in mind-body healing.
Amy uses energy therapy techniques to help those experiencing emotional or physical challenges to heal permanently and completely. After years of struggling from a life-threatening illness herself, she discovered answers to the important question: Why do some people heal from emotional and physical issues, while others don’t? After healing herself when no one else could, Amy is now an internationally sought-after practitioner helping others turn inward for healing.

She has been featured in major publications including CNN, The Huffington Post, Curve magazine, Elephant Journal, OM Times, Cosmopolitan magazine, Psych Central, the San Francisco Book Review, and was named one of Advocate’s “40 Under 40″ for 2013.

Amy’s most recent book, How To Heal Yourself When No One Else Can (Llewellyn Worldwide January 2016), is a step-by-step total approach to mind, body and spirit healing. Her work has also been featured in Elizabeth Gilbert’s anthology, Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It (Riverhead Books March 29, 2016). To learn more about Amy, go to Amy Scher.  To read her book go here!

 

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Haven Health Series #2

May this next recipe bring you tranquility, self-care, and a yummy elixir to inspire.

We have just a few more spaces left on our 2016 Haven Writing Retreat calendar!

September 21-25 (full)
October 5-9 (full)

October 19-23 (a few spaces left!!!)

To schedule a phone call to learn more about the retreat, go to the Contact Us button here.

It’s time to end the tortured artist paradigm.  I’m on a mission to change that into the empowered artist’s reality!  I think that art, namely writing since that’s my medium, should be up there with diet and exercise in the realm of preventative wellness.  We all need healthy access to our self-expression and our artists show us the way.  We simply can’t have our artists sick and tortured any more.  We need them.  Artists are not looking at the world in ways that pit one against another.  We don’t look at the world in opposition, victory or loss.  We look at the world for what it is and depict it as truthfully as we can.  And in-so-doing, we hope to build bridges.  We hope to do as many South Africans have learned and find Umbuntu—love and compassion for all people.

Self-care:  That word scares me.  Maybe it scares you too.  It sounds hard.  It doesn’t have to be.  I invite us to start with some simple things.  Like a walk in the woods.  Like homemade bone soup that’s been simmering on the stove for twelve hours.  Like Epsom salt baths with eucalyptus and a Mexican cocoa candle.  Like essential oils of clary sage, frankincense, and wild orange by your bed.  Like Arnica salve, infused from the forest floor.  Like early mornings in bed with your journal.  And some very excellent beverages along the way that are as healing as they are delicious:  like ginger tea, like guava kombucha, like rooibos muddled with mint over ice.

Sure, maybe one day we can be Jesus in the desert, or Mandela in the prison cell, and strip ourselves of all earthly delights in order to truly swallow ourselves whole.  But for now, let’s be kind to ourselves, and meet ourselves with love, compassion, forgiveness, and little rituals that go a long way.

To read more from last week’s installment, click here:

For two weeks Haven Blog will feature custom drinks that you can make at home.  They are designed by master mixologist, Meagan Schmoll of Whitefish, Montana, to help your state of being in the way that you so desire.  And they are alcohol free.  Enjoy!  yrs.  Laura

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Drink #2: TRANQUILITY…

“The Pali Noun”  *served hot

2 oz Chamomile Lavender *Strong Tea*

1/2 a spoonful of Blackstrap Molasses

Orange Pigtail created with a channel knife or a twist expressed and curled into a tea cup.

 

Start the Kettle…

Create an orange pigtail or a twist and express it over your tea cup, allowing the oils to coat the inside.

ThePauliNoun_2

Add a half a spoon of Blackstrap Molasses

Place 3 chamomile lavender tea bags in.

Once the kettle is boiling pour roughly 8 oz 

Stir so the molasses blends with the tea

Sip and let the tranquility seep into your bones with the Pali Noun.

ThePauliNoun_3

Photo credits: Katy Bell

Drink credits:  Meagan Schmoll

Instagram @katybellkaty @lmschmoll #RaskolDrink #embellishpictures

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The Haven Health Series

downloaddownload (2)We have just a few more spaces left on our 2016 Haven Writing Retreat calendar!

September 21-25 (one space left)
October 5-9 (spaces left)
October 19-23 (spaces left)

To schedule a phone call to learn more about the retreat, go to the Contact Us button here.

There was a time when the tortured artist life looked highly appealing to me.  It all began with an intense aversion to balls.  I wasn’t interested in balls on any level and every institution of my life worshiped them.  Balls brought with them competition.  I was too sensitive for competition.  Too many hurt feelings.  Too much pressure and fabricated adversity.  Life was full of enough strife—why create more?  I wanted connection and togetherness.  I always wondered how an orb, like the moon, like the sun and the planets, when dropped into human hands, turns so immediately into opposition, clash, winning and losing.  So I hid in the Art Room.

The Art Room was full of exotic things like nude figure drawings pinned haphazardly to the bulletin board like it was no big deal, like there was no dress code, like you could say the word Sex and no one would notice.  And all those older girls with the long hair and tapestry skirts.  And the smell of batik wax.  And the endless possibility of paint and an empty palette, and wet clay on a wheel.  I claimed the Art Room as my home as a young girl, and in many ways, have never left.

The Art Room for me, is a moveable feast.  In every rental I had over the years, I covered the walls with art and every horizontal surface with things from nature—bones, antlers, feathers, rocks, shells, bee hives, coral.  When I finally built a home, it was a farmhouse full of small rooms.  I wanted to be like Anais Nin—a different color for every room, a different mood as you wandered the house for inspiration.  Even on the road, even in a chain hotel, I lay my journal next to my bed, a small candle, some essential oils, a heart-shaped stone.  On a recent trip to Portland a friend announced to her husband, “This woman travels with Frankincense!” And that was in Portland.

I do this because I am a deeply sensitive human being.  I didn’t understand it until my forties.  I didn’t understand why people were always telling me I was too emotional, too sensitive.  Couldn’t take a joke.  Cried too easily.  I started to notice that I’d often laugh before the punchline.  I started to take stock at how regularly I hear, “How did you know I was going to say that?”  I’m not one to label myself, so I won’t try here.  I’m just sensitive, that’s all.  And sometimes being sensitive can make the world too hard to bear.  Such is the gift and all-too-often, the plight of the artist.

Enter:  the tortured artist paradigm.  I’m on a mission to change that into the empowered artist’s reality!  I think that art, namely writing since that’s my medium, should be up there with diet and exercise in the realm of preventative wellness.  We all need healthy access to our self-expression and our artists show us the way.  We simply can’t have our artists sick and tortured any more.  We need them.  Artists are not looking at the world in ways that pit one against another.  We don’t look at the world in opposition, victory or loss.  We look at the world for what it is and depict it as truthfully as we can.  And in-so-doing, we hope to build bridges.  We hope to do as many South Africans have learned and find Umbuntu—love and compassion for all people.

This may shock you:
Beethoven reportedly drank wine about as often as he wrote music.  Stephen King doesn’t remember writing Cujo.  Even Maya Angelou loved her sherry.  Among the many other artists who have used drugs, alcohol or other substances are Aldous Huxley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Edgar Allen Poe, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Allen Ginsberg, Marguerite Duras, composer Modest Musorgski, Elizabeth Bishop, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, William Faulkner, Oscar Wilde, Anne Sexton, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote.

They all were quite likely deeply sensitive people who didn’t know how to handle all that they perceived.  So they went into F**k It mode.  I know F**k It mode well.  People don’t have a lot of tolerance for it.  They think it’s an affront on them.  They think it’s a lack of self-control.  They think that it’s weak.  When in reality, it is an inability to know what to do with all those feelings.  All that empathy.  Booze and drugs stop the empathy.  At least that’s the illusion.  Because the truth is, I’ve never cried harder than when I’ve had too much to drink.  Those have been my personal darkest nights of the soul.

And it’s not just artists.  It’s anyone who feels deeply, as a rule.

So if we’re empowering ourselves as the deeply feeling people that we are, what if we were to look at it like when we are feeling, without blocking that flow, we are strong!  We are complete!  Those feelings can’t take us down!  It’s the fear of them which is the problem.  And an altered mind doesn’t give us all the fortification we need to fight the fear.  Or, as I like to think instead, to love that fear into submission.

So how do we break old behavioral patterns, how do we train ourselves out of old thought patterns which find us in a place of suffering, woe, and even self-harm, self-loathing, or even self-violence?  My way is gentle and luxuriant.  Yes, it has to do with the awareness that we even have these patterns in the first place.  But why not meet ourselves in this place with radical self-care in the most loving and gentle way…and easy?

Self-care.  That word scares me.  Maybe it scares you too.  It sounds hard.  It doesn’t have to be.  I invite us to start with some simple things.  Like a walk in the woods.  Like homemade bone soup that’s been simmering on the stove for twelve hours.  Like Epsom salt baths with eucalyptus and a Mexican cocoa candle.  Like essential oils of clary sage, frankincense, and wild orange by your bed.  Like Arnica salve, infused from the forest floor.  Like early mornings in bed with your journal.  And some very excellent beverages along the way that are as healing as they are delicious:  like ginger tea, like guava kombucha, like rooibos muddled with mint over ice.

Sure, maybe one day we can be Jesus in the desert, or Mandela in the prison cell, and strip ourselves of all earthly delights in order to truly swallow ourselves whole.  But for now, let’s be kind to ourselves, and meet ourselves with love, compassion, forgiveness, and little rituals that go a long way.

For two weeks Haven Blog will feature custom drinks that you can make at home.  They are designed by master mixologist, Meagan Schmoll of Whitefish, Montana, to help your state of being in the way that you so desire.  And they are alcohol free.  Enjoy!  yrs.  Laura

OldLetter_002

Drink #1:  CALM…

“The Old Letter” 

2 oz Rooibos *Strong Tea*

1 oz *Honey pumpkin*

1 oz Almond Milk (unsweetened)

1 pinch kosher salt

10 Basil Leaves

 

*Strong Tea*

3 tea bags or 9 grams of Darjeeling Tea 

8 oz Boiling water

Let steep for 20 Minutes

Remove Tea and let cool

*Honey Pumpkin*

Equal Parts Clover Honey & Canned Pumpkin

Mix until it becomes a smooth puree.

Muddle Basil and Honey Pumpkin in a mixing glass

When muddling firmly press, but try not to tear the leaves of the basil this will add the essence of basil but not the bitterness from the leaves Tannins.

Add remaining ingredients and Ice

Place shaker tin on top of pint glass giving it a firm tap.

Turn it over so the tin is in your bottom hand and the pint glass is in your top hand.

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Strain from the pint glass into a Tea Cup of your Choice.

Pick out a basil sprig with enough of the stem so it can sit in the teacup. Lightly slap it against your hand to releases the basil aroma then place it on the side of the tea cup, leaves over the edge, as if it is sitting in a tub or spa soaking in the sun

Sip and enjoy the calming effects of the Old Letter. 

 

Photo credits: Katy Bell

Drink credits:  Meagan Schmoll

Instagram @katybellkaty @lmschmoll #RaskolDrink #embellishpictures

Facebook: Katy Bronwyn Bell, Raskol Drink, Meagan Schmoll

 

 

 

 

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If you have said, “I am not Creative,” Read This!

CoverHaven Writing Retreat schedule 2015 (you do not need to be a writer to come– just a seeker…)

June 3-7 (only a few spots left!!!)
June 17-21 (full)

Now Booking:
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25

“Everyone is an artist, and our materials are all about us. To use them, you must see them, and to see them, you must accept that they exist.”  — Bill Kenower

People tell me all the time, “I’m not creative.”  This is simply not true.  We are all creative.  We choose the clothes we put on, the way our living room looks, the words that come out of our mouth.  Usually this is a reaction, sometimes a violent one, to something that someone told us along the way.  “You’re a jock.”  “You’re a brain.”  “You’re artsy.”  Which is to say, that for the most part, we filled in the blank with: “I’m this, not that.”  While this may be true of some things, it is not true about creativity.  Everything we do, no matter what we’re good at or what roles we have chosen in life, EVERYTHING requires creativity.

Not a believer?  Usually it’s because we run into these roadblocks:

  • We think we need to seem smart, or smarter
  • We think we are not original enough
  • We think we need to belong to some sort of method or way or institution for validation
  • We think that we need to have certain accolades
  • We think that someone already did it better than we ever could
  • We think we are just plain not enough

In his wonderful book, “Write Within Yourself:  An Author’s Companion, my friend, the author, speaker, and founder of Author Magazine, Bill Kenower, wrote a wonderful chapter about this topic which helps us see our way through these roadblocks.  He helps us see that we don’t need to try so hard to tap into our creative flow.  It’s right there where we live.  In the way our heart beats, in the way we breathe, in the way we cry and laugh and dance.class

It’s the same thing I tell my Haven Writing Retreat attendees over and over again:  go where you feel most natural, where you feel most at ease.  It does not have to be hard.  That’s not to say that the subject isn’t difficult to face or the details aren’t hard to extract or develop.  It’s that the theme and the attraction to it must be honest and charged with something that comes from deep inside you, something that is already flowing.  You just need to accept it and enter into that flow.  It is in this natural state that you become hungry for what makes your creativity unique, and without-a-doubt:  ENOUGH.

Excerpt from the book:  “Write Within Yourself:  An Author’s Companion” by William Kenower1275_10151421704756266_1852761235_n

WHERE YOU ARE

Though it can seem strangely counterintuitive, the quickest way to change something is to first accept it. Or to put it another way, no matter where you may think you want to be, you are where you are.

For instance, there was a low time in my life when nothing interesting or satisfying seemed to be happening. This puzzled me. I felt capable; I felt curious; I felt creative; I felt ambitious—and yet, nothing seemed to happen.  All was rejection and disappointment.  During this period, I spent a lot of time living in my imagination. In my imagination, things were happening. In my imagination, I was having all kinds of marvelous success, meeting all kinds of interesting people, going to all kinds of interesting places.writers_writing_2

I suppose I can’t be blamed for retreating into my imagination. I was a writer, after all, and by necessity I spent a lot of time there. I learned to create interesting worlds in my imagination, so why not visit one such world if my world seemed less than interesting? It was a pleasant way to pass the time until things in my real world got interesting.

And then one day I was taking a walk, swimming as always in my imaginary waters, when something—literally—stopped me. Here I was making, and making, and making this happy imaginary world for myself that was really not making me any happier at all. It only made me happy as long as I hid there. I stood where I was, and I asked this question, “What could you make with this world?”10430493_10152074148911266_2767363178567064548_n

And as I asked this question, the world around me changed. I saw it all—the bushes, the pond, the birds—as clay. All of it was material. What could I make with where I actually was? Why not start there and see where it goes?

laughThis is why every spiritual doctrine in history teaches acceptance. Acceptance is not passive. Acceptance is not capitulation. Acceptance is an understanding that to create, no matter what you want, you must begin by working with what you have, with where you are. If you resist where you are, you only create an imaginary world where you are not where you are. Everyone is an artist, and our materials are all about us. To use them, you must see them, and to see them, you must accept that they exist.

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Writing Retreat Permission

Tuck into the snowy world of Montana…and WRITE!

What would it be to take a stand for yourself?  And what would that look like on the page?  You know.  Here is something that might help you feel embraced:

Whether you have decided to join me for one of my upcoming writing retreats in Montana, are on the fence, or have decided that this is not the right year or season for you…I wanted to share this letter I wrote to a young writer this morning who is considering attending my retreat.  But she is scared.  Perhaps it’s about being vulnerable in a group of people, scared of the remoteness of Montana, scared to face herself on the page, even though writing is something that is dear to her and has been since she was a little girl.  In an effort to catapult her past her fears, I told her that it was when I started doing writing retreats that my entire writing life changed.  She asked me why.  Here is part of my answer.  I hope it speaks to you. 

First a word from a former retreater:

“My time in Montana was the most empowering and uplifting experience of my life and has helped my writing in ways awesome and profound.  Laura is a master at bringing out your voice, and the sisterhood that is created in the process is incomparable. GO! GO! If you have any inkling that this might be what you need, you are correct– it is JUST what you need…”

Here’s the letter:

So…why did retreats change my life as a writer…  Well, I was in my twenties, living a life that was so different from the one in which I’d been raised.  I was out of my comfort zone, on purpose.  I’d left the east coast where most of my friends were climbing the corporate ladder.  I’d turned down a job opportunity at a major advertising agency in Chicago.  I’d even deferred from a creative writing program in SF where I had been planning to get my MFA.  I was living in Seattle where I knew no one.  I was waitressing.  I was a nanny.  I was living in a tiny house on an alley.  My parents were concerned.  My friends were confused.  I didn’t have a car—rode my bike everywhere.  And I wrote.  Writing had always been my lifeline.  But it had always been quite private—lonely even.  Those early novels I wrote were not just exercises in learning—they were how I processed who I was becoming.  The problem was, I wanted to be a published author more than anything in the world and it wasn’t happening.

Flathead Valley from Whitefish Mountain Resort

I had read Natalie Goldberg’s book “Writing Down the Bones” when I lived in Boston, and happened to see that she was speaking in Seattle.  That book had been so helpful to me, and I longed to have writer kindreds and to share in her methods which involved group work.  So I went to see her and that night joined a writing group of total strangers that still exists to this day.  They are my writer sisters, even though we live very different lives in very different parts of the US.  We so loved the power of a group of writers that we started doing weekend retreats together which still occur annually.  The writing life, plainly put, is deeply solitary.  It doesn’t have to be.  It can be shared, and that’s what retreats do.  It is so important to be witnessed in what you do on the page, in a safe and nurturing environment.  That is what I provide on my retreats.

I have designed a three day workshop which helps people go places they might not go on their own in their writing, and find out where their blocks are, hopefully causing breakthroughs.  These exercises work no matter where you are in your writing journey.  Some women who come on my retreats have finished books.  Some have only written their Christmas letter.  Some have never written anything since school days.  It doesn’t matter.  You can engage in these writing exercises within the context of a work-in-progress, or simply as inspiring ways for self-expression.  And I promise to keep things safe and nurturing, while still offering opportunities for helpful feedback.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

One of the things I care most about is helping to shift the tortured artist paradigm, to the empowered artist.  To that end, I’ve shaped the retreat days so that we have an intensive morning class, then free time for a few hours after lunch to be in our bodies in beautiful Montana (yoga, guided outdoor snow-shoeing hikes, and equine therapy).  People can choose to sign up for these activities, which are meant to mirror the writing work we did that morning, or spend that time writing or relaxing.  Our evenings begin with a social hour that I host, move into dinner, and then to the fireplace in the lodge where we share readings.  Some people bring work that they’ve written previously.  Other people read from something they’ve written that day.  And others might share writing that they love from other authors.  This is your chance to get feedback on your terms, while the morning classes are structured for expression without as much feedback (part of what frees the muse and keeps you feeling safe to just go where you need to go on the page).

It is such an honor to guide these retreats and to watch people bloom, get unstuck, move through blocks, have breakthroughs, and mostly to see what happens when a group of women take a stand for their self-expression in the woods of Montana.  The experience is profound.  I would love to see you here in February.

Here is a blog post I wrote about it with photos:

http://lauramunson.com/retreats.php

If you are interested, email me at Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com.  There is still space available but it’s filling up fast…

Whitefish Mountain Resort

FYI:  Whitefish Mountain Resort is a world class mountain, and Glacier National Park is just 20 miles away so consider taking a  vacation afterward…

yrs.

Laura

 

 

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Are You Wanting to Start a Business? Here’s some inspiration…

When people advertise on my blog, I like to champion them, especially when they have created something powerful from pain.  I’d like to introduce you to Renee at Monogram Mama who will be advertising at These Here Hills.  Click on her great ad (right side bar) and go check her out.  What a great example of reinvention.  I am inspired.

I grew up terribly terribly preppy– pink monogrammed sweaters, monogrammed towels, gave monogrammed boxers to my high school boyfriend– heck my mother’s CAR is monogrammed…  And so Monogram Mama feels like an old friend.  Here’s to some shopping therapy.  To all of you who want to start a business but it seems too daunting…here’s her story.   May it inspire you to live your dreams and dream your life:

 

LM:  How did the idea for your business hatch?  What made you go from hatch to fledge?

MM: In the Summer of 2011 my husband decided he wanted a divorce.  I had not worked full time in 10 years because I have been raising four daughters.  Honestly, I was so frightened that I would not be able to support my children.  I read
your book and became inspired.  I took a hard look at my life and what dreams I had been pushing to the side.  One of those was to own a business and the other was to live at the beach.  But how was I going to do it?  For over four months I researched existing businesses to buy and I came upon a company that sold retail websites.   I had an idea to create my own and I hired them to create the site and teach me the ropes. I love monograms!  So, Monogram Mama was born and I am very proud of what I have created. And this month I am moving to the coast.  I finally can see the light at the end of the tunnel of my heart healing and my soul at peace.

LM:  What inspires you?

MM: Hands down my daughters are my inspiration every day.  There have been days that I have been crying so hard that I didn’t think I could take another breath but then I think of them and I push forward.  They look up to me and they believe in me.  All five of us realize that this is my time to soar and succeed.  I want to teach them to believe in their dreams and make them happen.

LM:  Did you experience any negative self-talk around creating your business? If so, how did you move through it?

MM: Every day!  In those first months after my husband left I didn’t think I was capable of even boiling water!  But I began to journal and I would print inspirational quotes and put them on the wall in front of my computer.  My girls also continued to
push me forward if I started doubting myself.  We are definitley a house full of strong women!

LM:  What is your vision for your business?

MM:  I want Monogram Mama to be one of the Top 3 monogramming sites in the country.  I plan for it to support me and my children and allow me to begin fulfilling my dreams of traveling to Africa and India.

LM:  Do you have a mission statement? If so, what is it? If not, what would it be?

MM:  I don’t have a mission statement.  What makes my site different from the others is the fact that it’s personal.  I want the customers to know “Mama”.  I hand pick each item on the site, I respond personally to any questions and I blog about other ways to bring a monogram into your life.  I don’t want to lose that personal touch.

LM:  What advice would you give other people who want to create something but are stuck?

MM:  The biggest thing I believe we all need to do in our lives is to listen to our inner voice. For years, I was ignoring mine and it was trying to tell me my life was out of balance.  It has not been easy to be still and listen.  Honestly, listening has changed my life.

LM:  What has been the best part of starting your own business?

MM: Meeting all of the amazing women! The company that built my site is owned by a woman who is not only smart but very strong.  She has built her company from the ground up, employs only incredible women and is a breast cancer survivor!  Also, the majority of the merchandise that I carry is created by women.  It has been a blessing getting to know them and their stories.  I appreciate each day being surrounded by them and learning from them.

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Create Your Life

There are the people who think about creating brilliance…and those that actually DO IT! Be a DOER! Feast your eyes and soul on this!

 

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I’d love to speak in your neck of the woods!

Sooo…some shameless self-promotion:  if your business, school, social group, club, library etc. is looking for a speaker who is all about empowerment…pick me!  Here’s the scoop:   http://www.apbspeakers.com/speaker/laura-munson

LAURA MUNSON

A writer for over 20 years, Laura Munson is the author of theNew York Times and international best-selling memoir, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness. Passionate about “finding the intersection of heart and mind and craft on the page,” Munson shares a story that explores marital crisis and imparts a message of empowerment, the importance of living in the present, and the necessity of claiming responsibility for one’s own happiness – no matter what is going on in life.

It all began when Munson penned an essay, “Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear,” for the “Modern Love” column of The New York Times in 2009. Stunned by the firestorm reaction she received, Munson emerged as the face behind an essay that ignited dinner talk, office chat, and book groups around the globe. A short version of a memoir she had written during a rough time in her marriage, the essay touched people with its powerful honesty. And they wanted more. After having written for two decades, having completed 14 novels, and having endured countless rejections, Munson had a book deal within 48 hours.  Her memoir has been published in nine countries.

Munson’s work has appeared in the New York Times ”Modern Love” column, the New York Times Magazine ”Lives” column, O. MagazineWoman’s DayRedbook, Good Housekeeping, More magazine, Shambhala Sun, The Sun, and Big Sky Journal, as well as on HuffingtonPost.com and through many other media outlets. She has been on two national book tours with appearances on Good Morning America, The Early Show, London’s This Morning, Australia’s Sunrise, various NPR stations, and many other television and radio shows, including Dr. Christiane Northrup’s Hay House radio program.

TOPICS

How to Turn Crisis Into Personal Freedom

How to Get What You Want by Getting Out of Your Own Way

The Power of Story in Times of Crisis

Please call 800.225.4575 or contact The American Program Bureau for more information on this speaker’s speech topics.

REQUEST MORE INFO

MY SPEAKER LIST     MAKE A REQUEST
 Laura Munson
Questions about booking?
617.614.1600
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A video from my screened porch to wherever you are.


VIDEO
I have heard from so many of you as my book is now published in nine countries. And I hear over and over, “When I was reading your book, I felt like I was sitting on your screened porch with you, having a cup of tea. I feel like we’re friends.” So I made this video. This is for you. This is what I’ve been up to in the last few years. These are some of my audiences and some of my speaking topics. You have all inspired me. Thank you.
yrs. Laura
Here is the youtube video. Please enjoy and share:
VIDEO

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Perspective: Pass The Salt

As seen on Sarah Brokaw’s blog.  If you haven’t read her book  Fortytude  go get it! 

In the face of adversity, people throw this phrase around:  That which does not kill you makes you stronger.  It’s supposed to be one of empowerment.  But to me, it’s not empowering at all.  It’s a hopeless helpless statement, as if we have to go to the edge in order to grow.  Sure, sometimes that’s how it works– this beautiful and heartbreaking thing called life.  The edge is a very real and sometimes dark place.  And coming back from it, whether physically or emotionally, can be vastly powerful.  For the purpose of this essay, however, I’d like to depart from the topic of physical pain, and focus on emotional pain.  Because in the realm of emotions, I think we need some serious tweaking.  We have cultivated a society that is all-too-often propelled by victim/victor thinking.  I’d like that to change.  This is a war we don’t need to wage.  We can actually find peace in emotional pain.  Because emotions are our choice.  It’s all about awareness and re-training your mind. 

How?  Let’s start here:  Language.  I’ve been paying attention to the way we speak as a collective We, and I’ve noticed some dangerous trends.  We often mince the physical with the emotional.  I think it confuses us and sends negative, disempowering messages to our entire being when we do so.  Your back isn’t “killing” you.  It might be in pain.  But it’s not “killing” you unless you have a very real disease, and that’s a different subject altogether.  Your husband didn’t “make” (physical) you mad (emotional).  Your sister didn’t “make” you sad.  Your mother-in-law didn’t “make” you feel guilty.  Again, cruel actions are real, and emotional pain is real too, but it’s how we engage someone’s actions—how we relate with them, that determines our emotional state.  The responsibility is ours.  No one else’s.  If someone punches you in the face and you get a bloody nose, that’s another story.  You are a victim of that thrown blow.  But emotionally, it’s different.

I invite you to re-read the above quote and ask yourself, again in the realm of emotions:  Can a heart really break?  Does pain really kill?  Can anything really “make” a person emotionally grow?    

So much emotional pain comes from words.  In the moment someone throws us a verbal blow, we have a choice.  Sometimes that blow is so unbelievably cruel that we feel it has lodged in our emotional world without our permission.  But that’s actually not possible.  We have, sometimes at the speed of light, chosen to give it the power to hurt us.  And that’s the moment at which I’d like to see us pause.  Become aware of what’s going on.  Aware of our choices.  What’s at stake.  What’s worth our anger, our tears, our hatred, our guilt.  We think there’s a bridge there that we have to cross.  There isn’t and we don’t.  I can’t say this enough:  We choose our emotions, good, bad, ugly.  And so often we choose to be emotional victims. 

But here’s the thing:  I don’t believe there really is such a thing as an emotional victim.  (This is where some of you might be considering sending me some big bad “love” letters.  Don’t.  Send yourself a real love letter instead.  And in it, ask yourself if you want to be free.  Or if you have grown used to certain bondage…)

Let’s define “victim.”  My dictionaries use these definitions, in addition to human sacrifice (which might actually be the most relevant definition):  A person or living creature destroyed by, or suffering grievous injury from another, from fortune or from accident; an unfortunate person who suffers from some adverse circumstance.

In other words, a victim is someone who suffers incontrollable consequence because of someone or something else.  But there is a giant hole in these definitions.  Emotionally, HOW does that suffering occur?  And is it so given

This exercise might help.  Imagine the last time someone said something hurtful to you and your response was one of emotional pain.  Imagine if that person had said, Pass the salt instead.  How does that feel?  Less threatening?  Are you less triggered?  Now imagine that you’ve prepared a lovely meal that took you hours and into which you put all your culinary expertise.  And a beloved family member, without even tasting the food, says, Pass the salt.  Now that Pass the salt could be taken as an insult.  You aren’t a sufficient cook.  You’ve been slighted, underestimated, judged.  You are less than.  And there you are:  at the bridge.  You do not have to cross it.  You can simply pass the salt.  Or not.  Maybe that person just really likes salt.  It’s really none of your business.  It’s a free country.

Now…I’m not saying to suppress your emotions or to hold your tongue.  Of course there are times to let those words come careening at you over the bridge and to react to them in high emotional candor…but still, you are in control of what that looks like, feels like.  You can still take your pause no matter how fast those words (or actions) are coming at you, and decide to invite them into your emotional state—to choose to attach meaning to them and thereby react.  But remember, you have options.  No one can choose them for you. 

AND, this may come as good news to you:  emotional hurt doesn’t need to look like a tantrum.  You can sometimes just say, “Ouch.”  And what happens, in that case?  In my experience, the words or actions go running back over the bridge, or jump in the river and float away.  Let them run around somewhere else other than in your being.  They can just be words or actions even if they are cruel ones.  You do not have to take them personally.  Even when they’re meant personally.

I fought this awareness for a long time.  I wanted to believe that someone could emotionally hurt me.  I was used to walking around with my finger out, placing blame, rather than making the daunting decision to take responsibility for my emotions.  Emotional suffering had become my normal.  I chose to play victim all too often.  And I was sick of it. 

I realized, quite suddenly in a therapist’s office, that I was choosing to emotionally suffer at the flung words and actions of people.  I was choosing to let things outside my control determine my emotional state.  I was choosing to suffer.  So I started changing the way I related with emotionally painful moments.  When I met with those hard moments, rather than play victim, I’d ask myself powerful questions– Did I want that sadness?  Did I want that anger?  Sometimes the answer was, yes.  But if so, I wanted to powerfully choose that yes.  I wanted to be in charge of how I translated painful emotional experiences.  And statements like That which does not kill you makes you stronger didn’t help one bit.  I think a far more helpful statement came from Eleanor Roosevelt:  No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.  We are in charge of our emotions.  Period.

I’ve been going around the country talking about this at conventions, universities, reading series, wellness centers, etc. because I wrote a book called This Is Not The Story You Think It Is:  A Season of Unlikely Happiness (Amy Einhorn/Putnam).  It’s been published in nine countries, so I do interviews all over the world, and I’ve come to see that there are many many people out there who don’t want to receive this message.  It means they’d have to get out of blame, out of victor/victim thinking…and into personal responsibility.  They’d have to tell themselves a new story about where their power really lies.  They resist, complain, deny, and make ferocious overtures in the comments section of websites…and sometimes I even get a personal “love” letter.  (see above).  Why is this so?  I’ve thought about this long and hard.  Here’s where I’ve landed:  They get to be right.  It’s an I told you so reaction that supports a story they told themselves long ago.  “See the world stinks.  See, I’ll never get that job, or that relationship, or that break.”  That is bondage.  I’m not interested in bondage.  I’m interested in freedom.  Are you?

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