Stop Fixing Yourself! Embracing Paradox in Your Path to Wholeness

Stop Fixing Yourself! Embracing Paradox in Your Path to Wholeness

When I was working in publishing, we had a name for the January publishing season: New Year, New You. We would publish books that focused on fresh starts for healing and change.

I am not against change — our evolution gives our lives meaning and direction — but I do object to this idea that we need to be better. Because doing so suggests that we are somehow inherently broken.

Countless times in my life, I have pulled at my imaginary blazer, straightened my spine, and fueled a new perspective with resolve and will, going to war with myself in the name of change.

I have willed myself to wake up at 5 a.m. for Crossfit classes, bit my tongue to combat my impulsive reactions with my spouse, resolved to juice every morning, journaled, set intentions, wrote my goals on cards, cut out sugar, and so much more in the name of being a better version of myself.

All of my undesired repetitive behaviors became public enemy no. 1 on my hit list for change.

But what was “change” exactly?

180 degrees from where I was. The opposite of what I was doing. An about-face. For so many years, change meant turning my back on pain, or that which I didn’t want, and moving toward a (perceived) more desirable state or circumstance.

But it was more than that. I wanted to feel more in control of how I was showing up and I wanted to feel 100 percent authentically whole.

Sounds reasonable, right? Don’t we all want to feel whole? Wait…what does that really mean, anyway?

World-renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung focused his life’s work on the personal quest for wholeness.

One of his most famous ideas was that wholeness comes from the conjunction of opposites.

In essence, he wasn’t interested in what the opposites have in common — he was interested in polarity and giving birth to a third entity: experience and perspective. A way of being that does not swing from one end to the other (nor is it a blend of the two opposing elements) but is an emergence of a totally new expression of ourselves, a unique presence that can only be birthed through the navigating of paradox in our lives.

 

What is wholeness?

 

What did Jung mean by wholeness?

He was referring to creating a more cohesive connection between our unconscious and our conscious awareness.

So we are not ruled by the unconscious, we have more harmony with the collective unconscious, and we become more creatively in control of how we express ourselves in the world.

In essence, so we’re less reactive and more creative.

Real change is achieved — not by solving problems — but through navigating the paradox in our lives, thereby giving rise to a new version of ourselves that continues to evolve, continues to emerge and reinvent itself.

The more we bravely face paradox as an opportunity for wholeness, the more real and lasting change we will bring about in ourselves – and the world!

Polarized either/or thinking narrows our focus and leaves little room for innovative and creative thinking.

The process of navigating paradoxes encourages a “yes, and” approach that recognizes the value of each side and also the possibility of what Jung refers to as the “third way” – and maybe even a fourth or fifth way! (Can you think of a few places in society that could use a little “third way” right now?)

 

Four Wholeness Half-Truths

 

Shifting our thought patterns and rewiring our processes isn’t easy.

We’ve been living in a matrix of either/or thinking for not only our own lives but through the collective consciousness and hardwiring of our ancestors.

Either/or paradoxical thinking isn’t all wrong, either. Most of the time it’s only partially wrong (or right). The good news is that all we need to do to escape these wholeness half-truths is to examine them — and put them through the process of exploration, reinvention, and curiosity.

Half-Truth #1: Wholeness Means Perfections

We become whole through the process of bringing awareness and self-compassion to the tensions of opposites in our lives.

I want to be present for my family but I also want to grow my business, which will take me away from my family.

Turning our attention toward these unconscious influences and how these influences drive our conscious decisions are what make us whole — not the “fixing” of them.

By simply getting curious about these tensions and learning how to understand how they live and express in our lives, we naturally give birth to a new perspective, a new relationship, a new feeling about ourselves — and the tensions.

Half-Truth #2: Trade-Offs Are Unavoidable

Wow, this is a big one. How many times have you heard the phrase, “You can have it all, just not at once”?

Trade-offs are another way of pitting opposite desires against one another, making us feel trapped and exhausted.

When we try to connect our conscious experience with our subconscious patterning and tendencies, we become incredibly creative. We start to recognize the limiting behaviors and beliefs that keep us from the power of creative choice. Only then can we fully start creating the life we want.

It takes practice. But through contemplating the seemingly opposite energies of a “trade-off,” more choices become available to us.

When we stop seeing situations as “either/or” tradeoffs, we open our eyes to new ways. Suddenly, the list of items on the menu is long. We’re not only ordering from just a seasonal tasting menu; we can ask the kitchen to make us anything we want.

We have more opportunities for a third or fourth or fifth way to emerge (or more!). We feel more like we are participating in our lives rather than being pushed and pulled by events or limitations.

It’s the search for the pot of gold that is the real reward — not the gold itself.

Half-Truth #3: Wholeness is a Mental Concept

Many of us are working hard for an improved experience this year. Both 2020 and 2021 didn’t live up to our expectations. So how can we make 2022 better? How can we “fix” this year before it takes off?

When we stop trying to “fix ourselves” and we lean into what is true for us in any given paradox, we get information in return.

We feel resonance and emotions. We hear things differently.

With more curiosity and attention to language, our intuition (or our “gut instincts”) provide more information about a situation than we could ever glean from critical thinking alone.

We don’t resolve paradoxes; we simply multiply our available choices and perspectives.

We develop a deeper understanding of what we want and how we can connect the subconscious with the conscious minds.

Wholeness is a mental concept — and it’s also a feeling of awareness.

Half-Truth #4: Wholeness Makes us Holy

Life will dish up many paradoxes in our lifetime.

We can expect to get better at navigating these tensions in our lives by having a better connection between our conscious awareness and our subconscious mind.

But if you emerge from one paradox with a new perspective, your work is far from done.

You don’t go to heaven, you don’t get a graduation degree, you don’t become “suddenly” enlightened (though maybe you do become more enlightened).

What you get are skills.

Probably the most important skill you can ask for in this life is the skill to find a way forward. No matter what the obstacle. No matter how many failures you’ve encountered. No matter what your past. The skill of optimism, resilience, and ultimate creativity.

The more we embrace paradoxes, the more tolerant we become of contrast in our lives.

Challenges become growth opportunities that will evolve us in ways we could not have imagined.

So let’s reframe our challenges as paradoxes. Let’s shift the focus from how we don’t measure up to increasing our choices. Let’s stop reaching for that “one true thing” and instead invite curiosity to take its place.

This is how we become whole in the only eyes that matter — our own.

 

From Internal Flame to Emerging FIRE

 

It feels as though we’ve made up for the glacial pace of 2020 with this year passing by in the blink of an eye!

My instinct this time of year is to slow things down, to enjoy the deep dive of the darker days and go inward, to surrender fully into stillness…aaaaah.

And yet this year the world seems to be swirling with aliveness, with the coming emergence of the light in a way I have not felt since the beginning of the pandemic.

Are you feeling this too?

[SPOILER ALERT: Changes, Reinvention and BIG Emergence coming your way soon!]

From Internal Flame to Emerging FIRE

In the Northern Hemisphere, today is the shortest day of the year – the day when our access to the Sun’s power is at its lowest.

According to Rudolf Steiner, this is the opportunity for us to turn inward, to draw power from our own light. In Waldorf education, one of the many creations of Steiner, the children walk a large spiral, in the dark, to a lone candle in the middle, where they light their candle and walk back out through the spiral, but this time with their light to guide them. It’s so tender to see their nervous little faces as they walk to the light, only to walk back out with an energy of triumph!

Do not underestimate this light within you, even though it may seem so very small and distant at times.

In the long nights of winter, the strength of our internal light is enough to navigate even the darkest of times — like the effects of a loooong pandemic!

This tiny flame is the fire-starter that will set your emerging journey ablaze.

And while the novel coronavirus has taken so much from us, it did offer us something in return.

Before 2020, it felt like we were on autopilot. Floating through our lives, striving for the next thing. The next promotion. The next speaking gig. The next relationship. The things that would — should — make us happy in the long run.

But what I learned in the past few years is that the answers aren’t outside of us. We don’t need to go on a solo trip around the world to find ourselves (and believe me, I have a dream!).

As much as we love Elizabeth Gilbert (and we do!), we can’t Eat Pray Love our way out of the world’s pain and suffering. Everything we need to be happy and fulfilled, we can find within ourselves.

This pandemic has given us the ability (and time!) to turn ourselves inward. Which inevitably ends up turning us back outward. When we do the work to connect to ourselves and fill our cups through self-care and rest, we are then able to move this energy outward and use it to nurture our relationships.

And to do the work that really matters. In a way that works for US.

Last year, we were stretched and stretched and stretched all year long. We learned just how resilient we are.

This year? We ride the fire.

Together.

I’m so grateful for you, the Emerging Women tribe. I’m grateful for the relationships we’ve forged throughout the years and for our shared humanity.

However you celebrate this time of year may you feel the love that surrounds you.

Big Love to the Women That Went First

Women

From 2020 to 2021, we’ve seen a lot of ‘firsts’ for women.

First female vice president, first female secretary of treasury, and several ‘first’ female CEOs of major national brands, including the first black female Fortune 500 CEO (that would be Rosalind Brewer, former COO of Starbucks and now CEO of Walgreens).

We also saw a record number of women voted into political positions around the U.S.

I’d like to take a moment to thank a few women who have risen to inspire the world, so that future generations don’t need to think twice about whether they can do something because the role models will already be established.

She looks like me, will be the norm, not the exception in the future because there will be plenty of women in politics, science, finance, business, and entertainment — thanks to the women on this list.

1. Swati Mohan

Swati Mohan was the Indian-American aerospace engineer behind the scenes of the Perseverance Rover on Mars.

And while this should be big news (huge!), it feels like her role as Guidance and Controls Operations Lead wasn’t as highly publicized as it should have been.

Nearly 60 years after three brilliant mathematicians, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson helped NASA launch astronaut John Glenn (the first person to orbit the earth) into the atmosphere in 1962, women are still ‘Hidden Figures’ in the U.S. space program.

But thanks to Mohan, Johnson, Vaughan, Jackson and so many others, women now not only have a seat at NASA — we’re also in charge of the controls, too.

Photo Credit: NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Janet Yellen2. Janet Yellen

On January 26, Janet Yellen was sworn in as the first female U.S. secretary of the treasury. Already, Yellen has hit the ground running.

This year doesn’t mark her first ‘first’ either: from 2014 to 2018, she served as the 15th chair of the Federal Reserve.

She was appointed to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in 1994 and was named Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers in 1997. I have a feeling that Janet is going to show us the money in a new way through a lens of compassion and wisdom.

Photo Credit: SammyWaffle!, CC BY-SA 4.0

Amanda Gorman3. Amanda Gorman

At the age of 22, Amanda Gorman was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate (not just the first female youth poet laureate, the first-ever ever!) and is the youngest inaugural poet in the U.S.

She kind of ‘stole’ the 2021 inauguration with her poem, “The Hill We Climb”. Her words inspired us without sugar-coating our experience nor our history. Nor did it ignore the work we must continue to do to fight for democracy and equality.

Her performance was so talked-about that she didn’t just nearly upstage the president and vice president — but she also somehow managed to upstage J. Lo and Lady Gaga! More AG, please!

Photo Credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Washington D.C, United States, CC BY 2.0

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala4. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the first female finance minister of Nigeria was named Forbes’ African Person of the Year 2020.

On March 1, she was named director-general of the World Trade Organization. She is both the first woman and the first African to hold this title.

Bringing more women into leading trade and business for the world? Now that is going to bring change!

Photo Credit: International Monetary Fund (photographer uncredited), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Jill Biden5. Jill Biden

The First Lady has started her term with so much energy, compassion, and empathy. Her commitment to education is just what we need to see in our leadership right now.

And can we talk about her inauguration dress?

(No, we wouldn’t be talking about a man’s inauguration outfit, but would a man even think to wear a cashmere coat embroidered with every state flower?)

We at EW can’t wait to see this dress in person someday in the (hopefully) near future at the National Museum of American History exhibit.

Photo Credit: The White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Kamala Harris6. Kamala Harris

I couldn’t even think of a list of women that inspire me without Kamala Harris on it. Our first female, first black, first Asian-American vice president!

She’s officially the highest-ranking woman in government.

And this isn’t even her first ‘first’, either. She was the second black female and the first South Asian-American senator. She also served as San Francisco’s and California’s district attorney.

Kamala is bringing it, people – cannot wait to watch her leadership transform our nation.

Photo Credit: United States Senate, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Shonda Rhimes7. Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes is not only the highest-paid showrunner in Hollywood, but she’s also one of the first showrunners to land an exclusive deal with Netflix. And I for one am so glad she did.

Bridgerton, anyone? WOW. What it means to reinterpret our past through this lens of diversity (not to mention the Billy Elish classical dance music) is just so, so creative!

It’s so beautiful how the show normalizes equity and inclusion, making stepping into these themes so much easier in the present, and for the future.

Photo Credit: Greg Hernandez from California, CA, USA, CC BY 2.0

Jacinda Ardern8. Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern is easily one of my favorite female politicians (not to mention leaders). She became the New Zealand House of Representatives’ youngest member at the age of 28 and the country’s youngest in more than one-and-a-half centuries!

But what has impressed me most over the course of the past year is her (and New Zealand’s) response to COVID-19. The country was able to control the virus with a death toll of only 25 people.

New Zealand was largely free of the virus for the majority of 2020, thanks to Ardern’s leadership.

Photo Credit: Governor-General of New Zealand, CC BY-SA 4.0

Ava DuVernay9. Ava DuVernay

In addition to the long list of TV shows and movies she’s directed and produced, Ava DuVernay has been a leader in both the black rights and women’s rights movements.

After speaking on diversity panels, telling industry leaders how to close inequality gaps, she decided to simply show them how to do it. And so she created a platform to help close that gap called ARRAY, a grassroots distribution, arts, and advocacy collective focused on films by people of color and women.

Photo Credit: MTV International, CC BY 3.0

Directors and producers can no longer cry, “I don’t know how to diversify my project,” because they now have a platform of diverse talent that they can now pull from.

Join me in celebrating these women (and all the other women that have had to ‘go first’ and bust holes in glass ceilings) not just for the month of March — but all year long.

Empathy Moves Mountains: The First Step in Creating the World We Want to Live In

white privilege

When people we love, our communities, and the entire world are at their most vulnerable, my first impulse is to jump to “fix-it” mode. Yet recently I have realized that this can be a diversion, a way to avoid the real work of fixing — feeling.

With the world crying out for change, it’s a time to act, to lead with our voices, but it’s also a time to follow…and to feel.

‘Feeling it’ is a critical step in the process of healing trauma, grief, anxiety, negative thinking patterns, collective anger, and other painful experiences that seem to be on rotation these days.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, I was too busy to pay attention to my feelings. Busy pivoting my business. Busy juggling fractions and grammar and homeschooling. Busy making sure my kids weren’t spending all day living in 50 different Minecraft realms.

And when I had a second to breathe, I was inhaling the scent of what was on everyone else’s limited menu of COVID feelings: fear, anxiety, grief.

Still, I soldiered on, stuffing those feelings aside. I needed to get through. We all did. There was too much to worry about to pay attention to everything.

Then, Ahmaud Arbery, Christian Cooper, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brook, and so many others. And the 1,298 black U.S. citizens shot by the police in the past year — the ones whose deaths went unnoticed because body cams had been turned off and good samaritans weren’t nearby with their phones ready and waiting.

Not to mention the fact that people of color are dying of COVID at a rate of 3.57 times more than white people. According to the CDC:

“Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native persons have a rate approximately five times that of non-Hispanic white persons, non-Hispanic black persons have a rate approximately five times that of non-Hispanic white persons, Hispanic or Latino persons have a rate approximately four times that of non-Hispanic white persons.”

With all of this coming at me at once, I broke. I crossed a threshold. In my confusion and the chaos around me, with the graphic media in front of me and when I could not look away, I fell apart. All of a sudden, I couldn’t think straight for the rage in my heart. I felt like I was going to be sick and that feeling of nausea is still with me.

Author Glennon Doyle said at an Emerging Women Live event:

Glennon Doyle
Glennon Doyle & Chantal Pierrat at Emerging Women Live

“Show me what breaks your heart and I will tell you your purpose.” (Do you not freaking love this?)

What I realized is that what breaks my heart is abuse of power and the suppression of personal freedom. What breaks my heart is when people are subjugated, unable to speak freely, and prevented from fully actualizing the truth of who they are.

Think of all the unexpressed potential that gets buried with these restricted souls!

This breaks my heart, and this is why I have dedicated my life to increasing women’s leadership, helping women be seen and heard, and creating a new paradigm for power that is sourced from our shared humanity.

When the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum, we hosted co-founder Alicia Garza as a speaker at our national conference Emerging Women Live in 2017.

I remember digging into my own privilege and biases at that time, feeling overwhelmed by the issue and desperate to train myself ‘out of my white eyes’ — desperate to fix myself and find solutions to the racial tensions I was feeling in the women’s movement.

Then one of our African-American speakers, Promise Phelon, said to me, “Things will change when white people get as angry as black people are.”

Promise Phelon
Promise Phelon, Emerging Women Live

I did not understand this at the time. I thought, but I don’t feel angry.

As a Women’s Studies major, I consciously decided that I was not going to be an ‘angry’ feminist. Those women were too much, too confronting, they made me feel… uncomfortable.

Yes, I wanted change, but only acceptable change, change that was approved by those in power. I chose to fight for change while playing by the rules.

But being able to choose when to “fit in” and when to go against the grain is in itself a privilege. One that is not afforded to black women of color.

In our patriarchal system, we can see white privilege showing up in so many places, and we also see the privilege of the masculine. In our dominant culture, we over-privilege the mind, the rational, the measurable, the controllable, and we demonize the unknown, the mysterious. Anything that falls under the category of unpredictable or anecdotal, such as the more nuanced world of the emotions, the heart.

We demonize emotions, especially the messy ones. We reward actions, especially ones that can be categorized under ‘advance and conquer’. We climb upward and onward without knowing why we want the promotion or what we would even buy with a six-figure salary. And the real rewards — emotional intelligence and personal development — become consolation prizes.

As a white woman I learned early on that emotions were dangerous, something to hide, something to apologize for, and to keep tidy. And as a spiritual devotee, I learned to detach from my emotions, to distrust them, to rise above them as the truly enlightened did, not muck around in such gross and relative states of consciousness.

But again, I was always afforded the choice to control my emotional footprint as a white woman.

Conversely, the angry black woman stereotype haunts black women of color every day, regardless of their level of expression. Just ask Michelle Obama, Serena Williams, and Shonda Rhimes.

Enter: fix-it mode. My sleeves rolled up, I told myself: I am doing something. Isn’t that more important than getting angry?

For six years, I was dedicated to using the Emerging Women Live platform to amplify this conversation, to filling our presenters’ list with diverse speakers, to making certain that I did not accidentally misstep as I hosted the stage for 550 women navigating this complex issue of race and what it means to be inclusive — me, a white woman with untrained privileged eyes and a whole lot more questions than answers.

Looking back I see my efforts as the white savior mode at its best. If we fix the pain we caused, the pain we’ve profited off and ignored for centuries, we don’t need to sit with the uncomfortable-ness of our own negligence, indifference, and white guilt.

The truth is, I have been living from the neck up, so focused on solving problems that I missed the opportunity to try to understand the pain of my black brothers and sisters. More to the point, I chose not to feel.

Daniel Goldman, the emotional intelligence pioneer, has said, “In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels. These two fundamentally different ways of knowing interact to construct our mental life.”

So now I am in the messiness of my feeling mind. The pain is real but I also feel a strong love from seeing and connecting with so many people — people like you — who are also FEELING IT. I don’t want to rush out of this.

It’s our feelings — our heartbreak, our anger, our desires, our shared hope — that will catalyze our mind to create the solutions we need. Our swollen heads and egos have held the reigns of power for far too long; it’s our hearts that will drive us to a better world.

In her iconic civil rights song, I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to Be Free, Nina Simone sings:

Nina Simone
Photo Credit: Roland Godefroy/Wikimedia

I wish you could know what it means to be me
Then you’d see and agree that every man should be free
I wish I could give like I’m longing to give
I wish I could live like I’m longing to live
I wish I could do all the things I can do

If we skip this feeling stage, both the recognition and the expression of our own feelings — as well as being curious about our fellow human beings — we might as well put lipstick on a pig.

Actions without true, authentic empathy behind them will not eradicate the long-ingrained, systemic abuse of power built on the back of out-of-balance masculine energy and white privilege. So keep the connection, lean into the heartbreak, and find your purpose in this conversation. It’s not going away anytime soon. And we have mountains to move.

PS: If you are a woman of color and have something relevant to share with our Emerging Women audience, I invite you to reach out to us so we can get you scheduled for a spot on our platform. We could share the mic — or just give you the damn mic. Use us…please.

PSS: If you are a woman of color coach with corporate or executive experience, and you are looking for more work, please reach out so we can interview you for a Power Circle facilitator role in our ongoing corporate women’s leadership programs.

Grassroots, Love, and Activism: 3 Videos to Inspire

When we feel the call to stand, when we know we must act, it helps to draw inspiration from the trailblazers.

Eve Ensler, Marianne Williamson, and Dr. Jane Goodall, each an EWLive alumna, spring to mind as women who live in the arena, speaking their truth and fighting for what is right.

Our partners at Gaia have shared 3 videos from these pioneers to invigorate us as we come together and work for equality, justice, and understanding at this historical moment in time. Let them fire you up – the world needs you now!

Eve Ensler

“I myself believe in building grassroots revolutions and grassroots energies that can begin to build and amass power and take things over.” – Eve Ensler

Marianne Williamson

“When you say ‘I am love…’ you are shifting your self-perception from the body identification to spirit identification, and that is the journey of enlightenment.” – Marianne Williamson

Jane Goodall

“If we are the most intellectual creature that’s ever walked on the planet, how come we are destroying that planet? We must learn to live in peace and harmony. We all have to get involved.” – Jane Goodall

How are you getting involved? Who inspires you?

5 Valuable Business Insights via Alaskan Backroads Biking Trip

Do lessons learned outdoors apply to the office setting? For Kate Purmal they do. And with over 15 years of experience as CEO, COO and CFO, and a stellar record both as a business advisor and consultant for Moonshot launches, we’re all ears when she’s sharing advice.

Stoke the campfires of inspiration with Kate Purmal’s pedal-powered business insights below, and be sure to listen to her Grace & Fire podcast for more game-changing ways to catalyze your business (and mindset).

I just returned from a six-day bike trip in Alaska with the active travel company Backroads. The trip was superb. Jaw-dropping natural beauty, fantastic food, unbelievable guides, great equipment and routes, 17 new friends from the US and Brazil, and a lot of rain.

As the trip finished I found myself wishing we had just a few more days on the bikes, a completely unexpected outcome given that I had just covered 275 miles in the saddle.

Several insights came to me as I rode through Alaska’s magnificent mountains and valleys. Here they are, with my take on how they relate to business – and life.

Insight #1: When it gets tough, the only way out is through. Refocus on what’s good and working rather than resisting what’s not. 

The second day of our ride through the Matanuska Valley started in a complete deluge. After an hour, it was clear to me that despite my hope and optimism, the rain was not going to let up. By this time my feet were soaking wet and the rest of me was soggy at best, though I was reasonably warm — at least until we turned onto the Glenn Highway to ride along the Matanuska River when the headwinds hit. Here I was riding through some of the most magnificent places in the world, and all I could focus on were my soaking wet and numb feet, freezing cold hands, painful sit bones, and aching legs as I struggled to ride slightly uphill in a cold and forceful headwind.

Kate Purmal in the Alaskan Backroads

In need of renewed energy, I stopped to take a break and have a snack. In the stillness I found my way through. I was completely alone along this wide, majestic river. No cars, no people, nothing but fast moving water, sky, trees and mountains. The Matanuska wove a disorganized braided course through the grey silt riverbed. The first of the birch trees had started to change color, their bright yellow and orange leaves screaming against a backdrop of grey and green. This was why I had journeyed to Alaska.

When I got back on my bike, I committed myself to remain focused on the beauty and not the rain, and tuned my ears to listen for the sounds of water, wind and birds. Though I was still soaked through and exhausted, I had managed to discover the joy and wonder of the raw grace of the landscape, even in the driving rain. The next 20 miles were just as miserable, but I had stopped resisting the rain and wind, and instead started to enjoy the ride.

In business we often hit long and difficult periods that seem fraught with obstacles and challenges. It’s easy to be disheartened by the arduous struggle of the present situation. While breakdowns and setbacks are discouraging, if you stop to take a break, you can remind yourself of what’s working, what’s already been accomplished, and the purpose that’s fueling your commitment. This creates a shift from resisting what’s happening in the moment to instead experiencing the goodness that comes as you and your team work together to find your way through.

Insight #2: Recognize, celebrate and be inspired by the heroic efforts of those around you.

Our longest ride was on day four and it provided the opportunity for intrepid bikers to test their mettle on a “century ride” of more than 100 miles. My appetite for a long ride was not that great, so I set my sights on riding two of the four segments for a total of just over 50 miles.

At the starting point of the second segment, where my ride began, Emily rode in just as I was finishing my bike adjustments and getting set to take off. Emily doesn’t own a road bike. She takes spin classes to stay in shape – and she is in great shape – but that’s not the same as road biking shape. Emily came to Alaska on a mission – she had committed to ride every segment – a total of 336 miles in five days. She had ridden 88 miles the previous day, and despite the cold and rain that greeted us that morning, she was committed to riding the 107 miles that awaited her, and she brought it.

As I rode off I couldn’t stop thinking about Emily’s determination, and how despite the fact that she was often the last one to reach the checkpoints and finish the ride, she just kept on going. Emily was solid in her commitment to finish despite moments where she wanted to give up. It was Emily’s grit I borrowed when I made the decision to get back on my bike to ride the 88 mile option and finish not two, but three segments of the ride, including the most difficult segment with a 2,000+ foot elevation gain on the climb up Thompson Pass. This was by far the best day of biking for me. It was a breakthrough, and it shifted my perspective on what I could accomplish on a bike. And it was all inspired by Emily’s heroism.

In any difficult project, when breakdowns happen and breakthroughs are discovered, heroes emerge. These acts of heroism, when made visible, serve to inspire others on the team and build momentum for the project. When the project gets tough and your enthusiasm wanes, it’s a great opportunity to look around and discover a hero among the ranks, and take the time to acknowledge and celebrate his or her contribution.

Insight #3: When you think you’re at or near the top, you’re probably not. Pace yourself.

Just before setting off on my climb up Thompson Pass, our guides told me about the route. They told me the steepest part of the climb was at the end, and it was a series of three stair steps – steep climbs followed by a relatively flat section leading to the next climb. I failed to pay attention when they told me the mile mark to watch for signaling the beginning of the series, nor did I know the exact mile mark of the summit. So I was left to rely on visual clues to determine when I was getting close to the end of my climb. Bad idea.

I went over what I thought was two sets of stair steps and had the third in sight. But as I got near the top of the third, I could see ahead that the climbing wasn’t yet done. Not even close. I knew then that I needed to climb without knowing which hill was the real summit, and as such, pace myself to be ready in case new hills emerged. Setting into a comfortable pace made all the difference. And I did eventually reach the top, though probably after three or four more sections of what I thought would surely lead to the summit.

I’ve had similar experiences in business. For example, when my team and I set our sights on the launch of a new product, we assume that as soon as we reach that milestone we’ll be able to catch our breath and coast downhill for awhile. In reality, the launch of a new product sets into motion a whole series of new challenges and milestones, new routes to climb. It’s critical to recognize and prepare people for this inevitability, and help create the right pace for the project – one that is aggressive yet can be sustained to reach the big milestone, still leaving everyone on the team with enough in reserve to summit a few more hills when they appear. A completion event can be tremendously useful for this. When you’ve hit a milestone, celebrate it and have everyone on the team recount the accomplishments and successes along the way. This can help to re-energize the team so they’re ready for the next challenge.

Insight #4: Refuel before you need it so you don’t bonk.

It took me several days to correlate the precipitous drop in energy that seemed to happen about two hours into a ride with a lack of glucose. Duh! This, by the way, comes without warning. You don’t feel hungry or thirsty – there is nothing to trigger your instincts to give your body fuel. All you know is that suddenly it’s REALLY hard to ride the bike, even harder if you’re climbing hills. What was fun a few miles back becomes instantly grueling. My solution was to stop and refuel on a regular schedule whether I wanted to or not – about every 90 minutes. That kept me out of the bonk zone.

One of the most persistent complaints I hear from the executive clients I work with – and one of the biggest challenges I faced as an executive – is the sheer volume of work and meetings. Executives work all day and go from meeting to meeting, often failing to eat lunch or even use the bathroom. One suggestion I make is to schedule meetings in 25 or 50 minute increments vs. the usual 30 or 60 minutes. That way they have time built into every hour to grab some food, stretch their legs, or take a bio break. And sometimes they even have time to make an urgent phone call or respond to a quick email. This lowers their stress, keeps them more engaged in their work, and leaves them with more energy when they go home to their families.

Insight #5: The best part is not always what’s best.

On the first day, there was an optional 4.5 mile climb from a turnaround point at Hatcher Pass up to Independence Mine, a ride with a punishing 11 percent grade. For those who rose to the challenge, the promised payoff was an exhilarating 4.5 mile ride back down the hill. Sounds perfect, right? Not so fast.

I chose not to make the extra climb. But those who did were not greeted with exhilaration. Instead, the descent was steep and harrowing, and the riders were wet from the rain and without sufficient clothing, leaving most of them freezing on the way down. Hardly the reward they anticipated.

How many times have you toiled to achieve something remarkable, only to find that the experience was not what you expected? Yet another reminder that it is, in fact, the journey that is the reward.


kate

Kate Purmal is a pathological optimist and accomplished visionary who brings out the brilliance in leaders and their teams. She has over 15 years of experience working as a CEO, COO and CFO to start-ups and privately held technology and life sciences companies. Kate previously served as a Senior Vice President at SanDisk and was on Palm Inc.’s founding management team. Kate regularly works with executives, leaders and their teams to initiate game-changing initiatives by launching Moonshots. She is co-author of The Moonshot Effect, Disrupting Business as Usual. Visit our website at www.themoonshoteffect.com

Could Women Overturn Traditional Labor Roles?

A 21st century woman who’s looking for a lucrative and in-demand field in which to start a career—or a business—may want to consider the skilled trades. While women have not traditionally filled job roles like electrician, carpenter, welder, or HVAC technician, they may find it easier these days to break in and find success than in the past due to shortages of skilled labor and greater emphasis on workplace diversity. Plus, many women could find benefits to working in the trades compared to traditionally female-dominated fields.

Skilled Labor Shortage

Over recent decades, graduating high school seniors have been steered toward pursuing a college degree rather than vocational training. Popular opinions regarding education and professional success have influenced this push. As a result, there are fewer young people trained to take up skilled trade positions for those who are retiring. One piece of proof for this trend is that the number of unemployed construction workers fell by 1.1 million in the four years before 2014 according to Associated General Contractors of America. Another statistic indicative of a move toward a skilled labor shortage is the fact that 35 percent of 112 economists surveyed in 2015 by the National Association for Business Economics reported skilled labor shortages.

Workplace Diversity

At the same time that the skilled trade labor shortage is developing, businesses are becoming more and more eager to build a diverse workforce. Diversity in the workplace is not just about ethnic or racial diversity, but also about gender diversity. This means that women nowadays may find that it is easier for them to land a job in the skilled trades since an increasing number of employers are eager to diversify their teams.

Advantages of Skilled Trades

Among the advantages that working in the skilled trades might be expected to bring to female workers are higher salaries, more affordable educational requirements, and higher job demand, as this graphic below highlights. Equally enticing are the entrepreneurial opportunities available in the skilled trades: the construction industry has the second highest rate of self-employment of all major industries. More women-owned businesses could prove beneficial and inspirational for all women!

Check out this beautiful infographic to learn more about all that the trades have to offer women:

Tribal Alliance: The Antidote to Adversity

women together in strength by Suhyeon ChoiAt the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit, the Dalai Lama predicted that Western women will save the world.  At the time, I believed that he was speaking about the impressive panel of female attendees, including three Nobel peace laureates, the Irish president, humanitarians, filmmakers—acclaimed peacemakers.  But through my work with Threads Worldwide and Emerging Women, our women Artisan Partners in developing countries, our Fair Trade Partners in the US, and the countless trailblazing women I have met on my journey, I have come to realize that the possibility he was talking about was me. He was talking about them. He was talking about you.

So I invite you to join me in this world-changing movement. I urge you to enlist in the tribe of empowered women who are making a difference, one dollar at a time, one necklace at time, one kneecap-to-kneecap conversation at time. Join us in creating a world that is fair, that is founded in compassion, that sees beyond gender, race, religion, and the depths of one’s pocket.

Surrounding yourself with Sisterhood = HOPE

Our vision has the power to equalize, and is built upon the notion that a seven-year-old Cambodian girl, sold into the sex trade, has the same amount to offer as a Fortune 500 CEO. She is equally worthy of love and joy and belonging.  She is equally deserving of the opportunity to contribute to her family, her community, and to help create a better world. That is her universal right. And it belongs to all of us.

This past weekend, surrounded by revolutionary women at our Threads Worldwide annual conference, I felt a gap close that had been welling over the past few months, blackened by mass shootings, suicide bombers, venomous political posts and mean-spirited debate. I felt hope. HOPE!

I understood, down to my core, that there is a way through. A way of being, of working together, of lifting one another up.

As women, we are inherently collaborative, compassionate, intuitive, and empathetic. We lead with our hearts and envision ourselves as part of the whole. These values—that I believe will save the world—have been undermined and devalued over the course of history. For our entire history, women across the globe have been told that our superpowers have no place in business, no place in politics, no place in any position of power.

Well, I say enough! THIS is our time. Our time to come together. Our time to live from a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity. Our time to walk our talk. Our time to lend a hand to someone who is struggling. Our time to fight injustice, to transcend senseless violence, greed, war, and the “us versus them” mentality that is pervasive and toxic.

Ways to stay hopeful in this troubled environment:

  1. Surround yourself with powerful sisters
  2. Face the challenging times by keeping the discussion going with others
  3. Turn conversations into actions that ripple into the community

There IS a way through. But it starts with you and me recognizing that we are all in this together. Let’s bring our tribes together with the understanding that our vision is only the beginning—that it is our alliance that will bring about change, much more effectively than our independent efforts.

We can do this. We really can. Let’s save the world. Are you in?


kara wiegandKara Wiegand has over 12 years experience in the non-profit sector with a focus on business development, sponsorship, accounting and finance. In 2011 she launched her own successful business, Threads Worldwide, which connects women in developing countries who make beautiful jewelry with women in the US who are interested in making money while making a difference in the lives of others. Kara believes in women supporting women to raise our collective voice and better our global community and standards of living.

5 Principles of Being True from Tami Simon

After decades of interviewing gurus for her multimedia publishing company Sounds True, Tami Simon has picked up the mic to share some insights of her own. Her new audiobook, Being True: What Matters Most in Work, Life & Love, brims with 30 years of wisdom gleaned both from spiritual leaders and her own personal journey inward.

At Emerging Women’s Power Night Boulder, Tami let us in on the “5 Principles of Being True” she outlines in her book. We were captivated by her grace, humor and wit, and transfixed by her fresh perspective on living the truth of who you are. Read on to see why…

1. Recognize that each of us has never been here before

We are all unprecedented, and it’s important to acknowledge that. Referring to us all as “exploding mysteries,” Tami says it’s crucial to realize that no one can actually tell you how to be true. This means a lot coming from someone who’s questioned all the major players in the spiritual wisdom game. No one has the unique formula for your truth except you.

2. Spend time in a place where there are no reference points

We love this about Tami Simon. If you’ve listened to her Grace & Fire podcast, you know that Tami believes in The Mystery, and encourages us to spend time there. “Stop avoiding the void,” she says, and hang out in a space where there are no thoughts or images to rest upon. Why? Because it allows for unique transmissions that will leave you saying “Who the heck knew that?” Give the universe a chance to speak to you to find answers no guru can give.

3. Find directionality through natural inspiration

Tami is quick to point out that the inspirations you receive are often not glamorous, but a “Who knows?” attitude will give the phenomenal world a chance to play its hand. If you want to discover your Sacred Function, the universe is available to guide you towards it, as long as you’re willing to hang out in the unknown and be breathed by it.

4. Be brave and follow what’s needed

Choose “The Path of No Embarrassment.” We do not have to be embarrassed about who we are or whatever conditions we might find ourselves in. If acting on transmissions from the Mystery causes some awkward moments, at least we brought forth our love as best as we knew how. “That’s good!” says Tami, which brings us to…

5. Believe in your basic goodness

Pure goodness, Tami says, is bringing forth our gifts in service to others. You’ve got to believe that no matter what, your heart is filled with goodness. When you focus on that, you are filled with an unconditional confidence in goodness, and can act on your inspirations knowing they come from love.

Tami closed the brilliant Power Night evening with a blessing that reflected these 5 Principles of Being True up perfectly, and we’d like to share it with you here:

“May our Sacred Functions come wildly alive. May you touch gazillions of people. May you shine your light without embarrassment.”

To get in on more high-caliber inspiration like this, join us at Emerging Women Live 2017, featuring Elizabeth Gilbert, Esther Perel, Dominique Christina, Sera Beak, and more, October 5-8 in Denver, CO.

The Importance of Sex for Women

Throughout my years of working with women, there is a conversation that I have over and over. The specific details vary, but the bottom line is that an enormous number of women have lost their desire for physical intimacy. We are too tired, too busy, too angry at our partners—at the end of the day, the last thing we want is to let someone into our bodies. For many women, sex has become another thing on the To Do List—an obligation, a favor. What is most surprising and disheartening about this pervasive attitude is the idea that sex is not important for women. Culturally, we give our brothers permission to want sex, to claim its importance, but we don’t do the same for our sisters.

There are many things that shape our sexuality without us even realizing it—the way our parents expressed affection with each other when we were young, and the way nudity was treated in the household. What about our relationships with our fathers and brothers? Did you hear comments about being so pretty your father would need a gun when boys started to want to date you? What does that say about sexual desire in general and how does it affect us to be told we are vulnerable and need one man to protect us from another one? Much has been written about how the media shapes our feelings about ourselves—the advertising industry portrays women in a very specific way. What if we fall outside the range of what we hear is HOT? From booty-licious to thigh-gap, we have many criteria of desirability by which to judge ourselves.

From the time we are young girls, we receive a constant stream of mixed messages about our sexuality. With all noise interfering, it’s nearly impossible to cultivate a healthy relationship with a very tender part of ourselves. We are given little context for our identities as sexual creatures. And yet, it is exactly this expression that spawns life and sustains humanity—lest we forget, the survival of the species depends on women wanting to have sex.

There is scientific evidence of the physiological benefits of sex for women. Engaging in sex regularly has the following effects:

  1. Increases DHEA—Hormone that boosts immune system. Produces healthier skin, and decreases depression.
  2. Increases Oxytocin—Hormone that causes the release of endorphins, a natural opiate that relieves pain.
  3. Reduces Cortisol—Sex reduces stress, and thereby reduces cortisol levels which means more balanced blood sugar, blood pressure, and lower acidity in the abdomen.
  4. Increases Immunoglobulin A—Antibody which boosts immunity. Women who have sex twice a week have 30% higher level of immunoglobulin A.
  5. Some studies even show evidence that the increased blood flow and muscular contractions that occurs with regular penetration and orgasm promotes the structural health of a woman’s pelvic floor.

Though the facts are compelling, ironically the very nature of looking to science to prove we should be having sex is an obvious symptom of the reason why we are not having it. We are so caught up in a world that worships the masculine, that we have neglected the feminine. The most powerful evidence that sex is important for women is arrived at intuitively.

As women, we play many roles: partners, wives, daughters, bosses, employees, mothers. We deliver, nurture, manage, and please. We are accomplished jugglers, master manifestors; we make things happen. The bi-product of navigating our hyper-connected, multi-tasking lives with poise and grace is the suppression of raw emotion. To perform these many roles effectively, we contain, conform, and control our feelings, our words, our behavior. As a matter of survival we adapt to a culture that values our rational minds. In the process we become alienated from our innate, intuitive nature, often feeling unseen, unappreciated, and misunderstood. When we lose our sense of self in this way, we suffer in our relationships. We get angry; and we shut down. Our confidence takes a hit, along with our self-esteem, self-care, and our precious sex lives—the very thing that should be our source of power.

We can measure hormones and proteins in our bodies in connection with sexual activity, but what is even more powerful is the energetic, psychological, and spiritual benefits of sex as a form of creative self-expression.

There is a fire that burns inside each one of us. It is the flame of passion, of desire. It glows, it roars, it’s wild in nature. It is our birthright. This fire is our feminine essence. It is the stuff that is uniquely ours, that gives us eyes in the back of our heads, that makes our hearts twinge when a loved one thousands of miles away is hurting, it’s our spidey sense, the way we can heal with a hug, our ability to feel when a decision is the right one.

When we step away from our contained, controlled lives, and soften into the expansive formlessness of sexual arousal, we create a space for the feminine to rise; we stoke the fire. Passion is a necessary nutrient, desire, an essential ingredient. To pretend otherwise is to deny ourselves—and the world—a vital part of who we are, and how we can serve. Whether we are in the kitchen, the boardroom, the yoga studio, or the bedroom, our practiced access to our feminine fire is a source of vitality for ourselves, and in turn for our families, communities, and organizations.

So if you feel like the only reason to have sex is out of obligation to your partner, consider this: It’s not about getting someone else off, it’s about turning ourselves on, so that we can light up the world.

PS:It might be helpful to know, self-pleasuring counts!

On Being Unstoppable

stop

Last week, I visited the webpage of a coaching school someone I know is considering. On the school’s homepage, a graduate of the program boasted that the school’s methodology had enabled her to teach her clients to be “unstoppable.” And that stopped me, right in my tracks.

The nature of being human is that we are eminently stoppable. Our very biology gives us natural limits to how hard we can push. We need to breathe, to drink, eat, and sleep. We crave touch, the sun, fresh air, and communication. Our bodies are covered in a soft flesh–relatively defenseless with no claws or sharp teeth. We bleed and heal. Our reproductive cycle gives us utterly helpless young, demanding that we stop and take notice and care for these vulnerable creatures. And, of course, we die–the ultimate full stop. Death comes for us all with no regard for how hard we try to push it back. To be human is to be stoppable.

And yet we seek to be unstoppable.

Life should be able to stop us. If not for beauty, then for heartbreak. If not for the joy of seeing a tree’s stark branches waving against a gray winter sky, then for the horror of seeing people starving to death in our own rich cities or drowning to death on the shores of Europe. If not for the pleasure of a beloved piece of music, then for the despair of another mass shooting. If not for the happiness on face of a dear friend or family member, then for the agony present  when they suffer or when we let them down. Let life be present to us. Let it stop us.

To be unstoppable is to be blind to what is happening all around us. To be unstoppable is to refuse to notice the effect that progress–at any cost–might have on our relationships, our bodies, and our spiritual life. To be unstoppable is to deny our own biology. To deny our hearts and the beautiful web of relationships that surround us.

Sometimes the world demands a response. And sometimes the only response is to pause. To be stricken. To be soft. To take a moment to laugh, or to cry, or to hold someone’s hand. A moment of noticing how angry we are, or how sad, or how–this is the really hard one–how numb we’ve become.  And cultivating the ability to be stopped takes deep work.

It requires relational sensitivity to know when our families, colleagues, and friends need us to downshift and approach them in a new, more attentive way. It requires somatic wisdom to be able to sense our energy status and get a clear reading on what our bodies need. It takes emotional awareness to stay present in strong emotions while also noticing the emotional states of others. And, finally, the ability to stop often takes great bravery as it will likely be questioned by those who would not dare question the cultural value of being unstoppable.

In my coaching practice, I do not seek to teach clients to be unstoppable because I believe it is deeply problematic, even dangerous. What happens when you teach your client to be unstoppable, and their family and friends need them to stop because they have been neglecting their relational responsibilities? What happens when you have an entire culture of unstoppable people, and the culture next door needs them to stop because they are encroaching on ancestral lands? What happens when you have an entire planet of unstoppable people, and the environment is begging them to stop because species are going extinct and the land is being polluted?

Can you see where being unstoppable can lead? Do you see where it has already led?

Instead, I believe that we must learn to listen to the call of the world, our loved ones, and our bodies, to stop. In the coaching relationship, the relationship of mutual trust and mutual respect creates a strong container where clients can examine the habitual responses they have always relied on. Over time, they becomes more able to recognize the habitual turning away that has become so pandemic in modern society. They learn to cultivate a new response. This takes the learning of new skills and competencies; patience, compassion, resilience, discernment, the ability to self-observe (to name a few). I’ve seen clients, over time, become more resilient and able to stand in deep witness to their own emotional experience; to be stopped by the world, to be touched by it. They have the freedom to experience their reaction without being overwhelmed by it. This allows them the opportunity to make choices that they were unable to make before.

Today, let a small part of yourself be broken by this heartbreaking and fragile world. What might it mean to open yourself up enough for that to occur? What meaning might leak into your life if you dared? Stop, and and you might find out.



Jessica Minah is the Director of Enrollment and a Graduate of New Ventures West. Jessica’s presence, curiosity and wisdom—not to mention her previous experience as an award-winning radio producer and sales account manager—make her a natural fit for the role of guiding would-be coaches into the fold. She was certified as an Integral Coach® in 2014 and works with clients around the US. She lives in Baltimore with her husband Greg and brightens our San Francisco headquarters with her regular visits.

Azure Antoinette: Pulse

What a gift to be in the presence of an artist who can put the weight of our collective sadness, shame, hope and love into words for us, so that we may both process the trauma and do everything in our personal power to make the world a more empathetic place for those who are bravely living the truth of who they are.

At Emerging Women’s Power Night Boulder, in support of Emerging Women Live, Azure Antoinette screened a video that left no room for doubt why she’s been dubbed “the Maya Angelou of the Millennial Generation.”

Her deep compassion for those affected as a result of the senseless violence at Pulse Nightclub on 6/11/16, a tragedy that left the nation stunned, resonated through the hall with the power that only poetry can.

Azure Antoinette is a luminous example of how vulnerability, courage and open-hearted honesty not only elevates the self, but everyone we touch. Thank you, Azure, for being a part of Emerging Women.