Tammy Strobel, Trust, and Simplicity

September 26, 2012

Rowdy Kittens Sketch

One of the most astonishing things about trust, to me, is how relevant it is to so many life arenas. Work, relationships, body image, food choices, environmental concerns, spirituality, time spent online – the list goes on and on!

So I’m delighted, today, to welcome my friend Tammy to this space to talk about the trust tending she’s done in recent years around stuff, and specifically around her moves to release as much of her stuff as possible as a way to free time, space, and resources for the things that truly make her happy.

Tammy’s newest book, You can buy happiness (and it’s cheap), just hit bookstores last week, and she joins us here to talk about what’s gone on in her heart and mind as she transitioned, with her husband Logan, from two cars, traditional housing, and a mound of debt to debt-free, carless living in a 128 square foot “tiny home” (read more about their story here).

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1. Can you talk about the emotions you’ve experienced through the different stages of your simplifying process? Sometimes just hearing someone speak honestly about such stages builds a sense of comfort and trust in those of us just embarking on a more radical paring-down process.

I experienced a wide range of emotions as I simplified my life. As we downsized, I felt scared, uncertain, excited, and happy. I believe all of these emotions are normal and come along with any kind of life change. With that being said, being aware of my emotions made simplifying my life a little easier. For example, when I felt scared or anxious I wrote in my journal and took photos. Both photography and journaling help me — and still help me — understand my emotions.

2. I’m curious about the less overt ways that your lifestyle has shaped your inner world. I’m wondering what your biggest fears were before simplifying your life and then, further, what your biggest fears are now.

When I began to simplify my life, I was fearful that my choices would not be tolerated by friends and family. Simplifying my life hasn’t erased my fears, but it’s helped me understand my emotions. For instance, we recently moved and not being accepted by our new community is something that scares me. And I think that’s normal. As humans, we want to be accepted by friends, family, and our larger community because we’re social creatures.

3. I think you’re so right! Is there a part of you that wishes, sometimes, that you were living more like everyone else? Or even activities (grocery shopping, hosting people, etc.) that leave you wistful about owning a car or having a bigger space? I’m so curious what the psychology is of tiny house life!

Living in a little house and not owning a car works for us 95% of the time. However, there are moments when I want a bigger house. For instance, when my mom visits it gets a little cramped in our tiny dwelling. We always have fun, but part of me wants to offer my mom more space and a private bathroom too. In the past, we’ve put her up at a bed and breakfast and that is a fun option. But I always love having my mom stay with us.

Overall, I love our little house. Sometimes we run into challenges but we also faced challenges when we had a larger dwelling (and a car) too. Whenever I feel the pull of wanting more, I try to practice gratitude. I’m grateful for what I have in this moment. I might not have an extra guest room, but I do have money and time to be generous in other ways.

4. What assumptions about happiness did you have as a new adult? What are your beliefs about it now?

In my early twenties, I thought happiness could be bought at the mall or by impressing my peers. Now, I believe happiness can be found in everyday experiences, through strong relationships and in small pleasures too. Happiness is many things, like practicing gratitude and reading comments on my blog.

5. Sometimes I feel like the internet is an enormous, gangly house, full of people and mounds and mounds of stuff. I feel overwhelmed and weighed down by it. Have you discovered connections between the simplifying you’ve done in your offline world and the way you engage your life online? I’m curious if you’ve found ways to be as spacious and simple online as you are in your physical space.

The online world is an amazing place, but it’s also very overwhelming. To maintain my values in the virtual world, I’ve adopted a few rules to simplify how I engage online, including:

  • I unplug for an hour or more everyday, which means I don’t check my email, blog comments, or social networks. I’ve also taken digital sabbaticals too.
  • I don’t “follow” or “friend” everyone online.
  • I only use social networks that bring me joy. Right now the social network that I use the most is Instagram.
  • I follow blogs, websites, and radio programs that bring joy to my life.
  • And last but not least, I don’t try to “keep up” anymore.

(Kristin’s note: Don’t you just breathe a lovely sigh after that list??)

6. What are a couple of approaches that we in this community might take as we read your book? – any suggestions?

Remember to take notes as your read the book. Whenever I read a book, I always write down quotes and tips for future reference. The act of writing tips down cements new ideas in my mind and makes it easier to adopt new habits too.

Also, as you’re reading the book talk to your friends and family about ideas that emerge. For example, if you’ve been thinking of going car-lite or doing the 100 Thing Challenge ask a friend to try the experiment with you. Doing activities with others is a great way to be accountable to yourself and your family. It’s so much fun working on micro-actions with others!

Thanks so much for being here, Tammy! I hope you’ll buy Tammy’s book and explore more of her life as a writer, photographer and tiny house enthusiast at her blog, RowdyKittens.com.

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Trust Habits, my 30-day trust UP, begins Monday. If following Tammy’s lead into meaningful change is something you’d like the courage and chutzpah to do – whether that change has to do with living more simply or not – join us!

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. And for a free book that introduces a core trust tending skill, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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Sensual Evolution with Ev’Yan Whitney

June 14, 2012

This is the fourth of a series on sensual evolution. The first three articles are here, here, and here.

One of the biggest turn-ons for me in this wide, wide world is the process of growth and discovery. In my life, in dear ones’ lives, in people I don’t even know: show me someone learning and my heart catches fire.

I was raised in environments where right and wrong were bedrock assumptions, and beliefs that humans hold the difference between being inside the fold of God’s pleasure and pride, and somewhere distastefully beyond it.

But the longer I live, and the more consciously I observe my process of growth and the growth of those around me, the more difficult it becomes to draw lines around right/wrong, in/out, sacred and profane.

The more the process of growth itself becomes the “in”, the Holy, and the more none of us appear to be beyond it.

In the last 16 months I’ve watched with wonder and delight as Ev’Yan Whitney launched her business and blog, Sex, Love, Liberation, and devoted herself to:

…help liberate you into audacious self-love, to inspire you to manifest your sexualities (making this so second nature that it’s as easy as breathing), & to encourage you to be a beautifully conscious creature — if only to teach myself the same lessons.

It’s that last bit that so lights me up.

Ev’Yan has evolved right in front of us: sharing her perspectives, then living consciously and with curiosity and intention to share with us, again and yet again, the changes she’s made to her earlier assumptions.

This is a woman who hasn’t arrived anywhere but into an ongoing process of growth.

So maybe you do or don’t see things like she does. Maybe you’re threatened by some of the positions she takes. And maybe you’re just plain curious about where her life will take her. Any and all of the above are fine!

But in every case, she is a model of an unstuck and unsticking human being, opening heart and mind repeatedly to what life and people and her own bodily sensations can teach her about being deeply, beautifully, consciously alive to love.

Who knows where this will lead? Thank heavens she’s devoted her life to showing us!

I asked her one, pointed question for her interview today, and hope you’ll take the time to read the articles linked to the answers that most call to you. Each one expands beautifully on the lessons listed below.

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You’ve devoted yourself for the last 16 months to mindful growth as a sexual/sensual being. Can you share with us some of your understandings/beliefs that have evolved in that time?

+ I’ve learned that monogamy isn’t imperative to all relationships & that jealousy can be optional.

+ I’ve learned that pornography is a complex, tricky subject, & that its presence & influence on the minds & sexualities of others will always be an issue — both in a positive & a negative way.

+ I’ve learned that self-love is more of a journey than a destination, & that it takes time (& patience to cultivate).

+ I’ve gained a new perspective on sexual orientation & gender; that it’s not black & white, but very grey & fluid.

+ I’ve seen my own marriage shift to more openness & less possession. I’m able to entertain the idea of polyamory without breaking into hives because I have a better understanding of what it means to be within an interdependent relationship.

+ I’ve learned that sex is meant to be easy.

+ I’ve learned to view my sexuality as a spiritual practice.

+ I have seen the power of other people’s stories & have learned that we’re all much more alike than we think.

+ I’ve learned (& am still learning) to love my body, my belly, my skin.

Thank you, Ev’Yan, for these gifts. I’m inspired deeply by your story!

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Ev`Yan Whitney is a sexual liberation artist for women who are hungry for shameless sensual expression. With honeyed prose, she instigates brazen discussions about sexuality at her digital sanctuary, sexloveliberation.com, which serves as a lifeboat for those craving connection to their inner desires. Join her tribe of sensualists by signing up to the Self-Love Letters. You can also follow her on Twitter: @ev_yan.

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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Sensual Evolution with Yollana Shore

June 13, 2012

Today, as we continue a week devoted to tending trust around sensual growth, we’re joined by Yollana Shore. Yollana is a heart-centered teacher and coach with Mark Silver’s Heart of Business; a healer and business owner at Soul Business; and an all-around beautiful, awakening soul (see bio below).

In addition to her other work, Yollana has spent the last five years thinking deeply, overtly, and with great heart about the “everything else” that is being attracted to people outside one’s committed relationship (read yesterday’s post for more on what “everything else” means).

We’ve ALL had these attractions if we’ve been in long-term relationships, but most of us don’t talk a lot about them or feel clear about how to navigate them healthfully (Michele touched briefly on this in Monday’s interview).

So I’m delighted to welcome Yollana here to share what she’s been learning, and grateful to her husband, too, for his significant role in Yollana’s ongoing evolution.

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1. Your perspective on monogamy and on navigating attractions to people outside a primary relationship strike me as profound. Are these issues you’ve been giving thought to for a long time?

Actually this is something I’ve been struggling with a long time. But perhaps I not consciously. It’s only in the last five years or so that I’ve really begun to pay conscious attention to it.

I was born in the tail end of an era of conscious exploration into sexuality and relationships. From the 50s when it was assumed that relationships were monogamous, to the 60′s where there was a revolution in sexual openness, and then the 70′s where some of the challenges of that openness were also being acknowledged… In a way, my parents personified these different approaches – one wanted to feel free to honour their feelings and attractions with other people. The other wanted the security and commitment of a monogamous relationship. By the time I was six month’s old, this apparent conflict was enough for them to choose not to be together.

So in that sense, this question is central to my life story…

2. Sexual attraction to people outside our committed relationships is part of the human experience. For those of us who want to maintain the integrity and monogamy of our committed relationships, this poses a challenge: what to do with these feelings! Can you talk briefly about assumptions you see made – by others, or by yourself – about what best to do with these attractions… and even assumptions about their true nature?

Well, as I said, this is something I struggled with a long time. From my first long-term relationship when I was 15, and again with my current partner (actually my second long-term relationship) before we were married. I don’t know if it’s to do with the way I’m wired or not, but when I meet someone new, I often find it easy to trust and be intimate with them straight away. This has been true for me with friends and colleagues as well as lovers.

Funny, I just saw this for the first time writing this – but maybe it was because I was six months old when my parents split up… Anyway, when I was younger, I used to have this pattern where after six months together with my partner I would just fall in love with someone else. And I would sleep with them. When I say “fall in love”…. I don’t think I ever planned a long-term or serious relationship. It tended to be “holiday romance” with someone who was travelling, or while I was travelling. Anyways, I would tell my partner. We would break up. I would promise never to do it again. We would get back together. And about six months to a year later I would do it again.

This pattern repeated itself a number of times and it was really, really painful for my first boyfriend, and later for Will, who is now my husband. Looking back at that time, I can see that there was a core assumption underlying my behaviour… I carried the assumption that my feelings – which felt so Spiritual, Right and True at the time – were like a divine decree from God, and I had to follow them. And, related to that, I think there was a belief that if I couldn’t act out the love I was feeling, I would be betraying myself. Painful as it was, it took a lot of living to become conscious of these assumptions, so I could start to find a different way of being with myself, my partner and my feelings.

I think when people are in a monogamous relationship and find themselves feeling attracted to other people, it can feel like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. For most people, there are two main options. And they both have tough consequences. Option one is to suppress the sexual or loving feelings you are having towards someone else. The problem with this is that suppressing any feelings disconnects you from your feeling centre and, in the case of sexual feelings, it particularly blocks the flow of your creativity, life force and love – not just to that person, but to yourself, your partner, and other areas of your life. Option two is to follow these feelings into having an affair – real or imagined – with the person you are attracted too. This gets painful and complicated for everyone.

3. You had an experience 5 years ago that changed your perspective on this “what to do with these feelings” question. Can you describe this experience and tell us what insights you gained from it?

Yes. This was a few years after marrying my husband, and nearly ten years into our partnership. Our daughter was two years old. I had finished with actually sleeping with other people that I was attracted too, but I hadn’t worked out what to productively do with my feelings yet. Then, luckily, I met someone :-)

I was at a week-long retreat, and during a chanting session, I had the odd experience of having something very similar to an orgasm, while sitting next to this person I hardly knew, and without any physical contact at all. Over the course of the week I was surprised to find myself thinking about this person more and more, and as the attraction grew stronger, I grew excited, confused and uncomfortable – all at once.

I remembered something that a spiritual teacher HWL Poonjaji had said about accessing pure awareness. He said “do not give rise to a thought, and do not try to stop one either.” When I paid close attention to the thoughts and fantasies that I was having about this person, I realised that, for the most part, I was not giving rise to these thoughts. Most of my conscious energy was spent worrying about how to stop them. So, as an experiment, I stopped worrying, and instead allowed all the “taboo” thoughts and feelings that I was having to come flooding. After a particularly intense period of this (about four hours I think), I found that what had begun as a feeling of sexual attraction, turned into something else entirely when I allowed it to be fully felt inside myself.

By following the thoughts and feelings underneath them, I experienced something that felt like Angel wings, which purified my body. I realised that there was a consciousness that I had carried in my womb and genitals – that I hadn’t even been conscious of – and it related to sexuality being dirty, unclean, unholy and forbidden. The full acceptance of these intense feelings cleared that consciousness for me. I had a deep feeling of purity, cleanliness and holiness about my whole body, including my sexual centres, and my sexuality.

This experience sealed my gratitude to, respect for, and friendship with the man who I had been attracted too. And it also facilitated a sexual healing that naturally allowed for more ease and flow in my sex life with my husband.

4. How did this experience shape your experience and perspective since then?

Since that first experience, I have experienced a few other attractions to people other than my husband. Each time, I have followed Papaji’s teaching, and tried to gift myself the full experience of the attraction, without making up too much of a story or drama about what that feeling of attraction means.

I have come to believe that sexual attraction is a form of soul communication. It is a way that our energetic body resonates with another person to signify that we have something to learn from them, and perhaps them from us as well. Often, because this attraction is felt in the heart and sexual centres, we interpret it as a sexual or romantic exchange. However, sex and romance can often complicate a deeper exchange that is possible, at a soul level…Especially if you are married to someone else!

At the core, attraction is an expression of love. My experiences have helped me to turn the tables on attraction. Instead of initiating a game of seeking love from another person, I now see attraction as a gift that allows me to claim the love that I feel for individuals and for the world. That love is a gift to me first. In most cases, I share it verbally with the person and tell them that I am feeling a lot of love for them. However, I also endeavour to make it clear that – to me – this love is a gift to me and hopefully to them. But it is not an obligation or contract or the beginning of an affair! Rather, it is a mystery that is unfolding. I choose to pay attention to it because my past experience has shown me that this is so worthwhile… Because this love helps me to know myself, and facilitates my own healing, growth and transformation.

5. I’m curious: How open have you been with your husband about these experiences? What have been the costs, as you see them, of this level of openness? And what have been the gains?

I have spoken about my experiences with both my husband, and each person I felt an attraction with… And I will be honest and say that it has been very hard at times.

I can also say that it is getting easier.

As far as I know, my experience, approach and motivations around how and why I express the feelings that I have are pretty unconventional. I have had to make paradigmatic shifts in my thinking to get here. And my husband has had to do the same, in order to understand where I am and trust me in this place.

At the core of our work together has been the issue of trust. Trust in ourselves, and each other, to be in integrity. Trust in the rightness and longevity of our relationship. And trust in the universe that if we each stay in integrity in ourselves, it is most likely that we will stay together… even if I am allowing a feeling of attraction to someone else to move through my body and being.

As with any challenges in our relationship, we have used the difficult parts to help us learn and grow, and ultimately they have helped us to deepen our trust in each other. This – willingness to work through the difficult things – is why I am lucky to be with my husband and it is at the core of what makes our marriage strong.

6. What advice would you have for people who are facing or about to face sexual attraction to someone other than the person they’re committed monogamously to?

Well, I think feeling sexual attraction and love towards other people is pretty normal and natural for many people. And… even if both you and your partner are aware of that, it can still be a shake-up to your relationship when it happens. Sexual feelings are powerful and even just feeling these feelings – whether you talk about them or not – can make your partner feel insecure and vulnerable.

Yet there are great gifts in honouring the feelings you have. And the greatest way that I have found to honour them is to claim the love that you feel, without expecting anything from anyone in return, and without necessarily acting them out, or making them mean anything about your relationship with your current partner or the other person.

Then the love that you feel for others – including your partner – can be a clearer mirror that reflects both the beauty and strength in you, as well as where you need to heal and grow in yourself.

Because of how deeply sensitive these issues are, how much vulnerability we have in these areas, it’s important to be very gentle with yourself, with your partner and really with everyone involved. But the key is to especially be gentle with yourself and your own vulnerability, as everything else will flow from that.

What comes to me is an image of a hummingbird extracting nectar from a delicate flower. Like that hummingbird, we have the capacity to experience great love, bliss, healing and nourishment when we drink from the nectar that is available in our love relationships. Yet that flower is also delicate. Like our hearts, and the hearts of the ones we love. So it is important to go gently, carefully and precisely to the heart of the flower.

…In the end, it is actually your own heart you are drinking from.

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Deep, deep bows to you, Yollana, and to your husband, for the profound ways you’ve gifted us here. Your openness and vulnerability give all of us that much more freedom to think consciously and talk openly about these issues that affect us all, but usually stay hidden in shadow.

And Readers: as with Michele Christensen in Monday’s interview, please feel free to ask Yollana questions in the comments. There is so much here to ponder!

Join us this Friday, too, as our evolution continues… Ev’Yan from Sex, Love, Liberation will be sharing lessons she’s learned since Sex, Love, Liberation began.

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Yollana loves nothing more than witnessing the mysterious way that each individual soul unfolds their own calling and expresses it in the world. She helps helping business owners uncover their unique soul calling and bring it forward in their business using a heart-centered approach to business marketing and development.

Meanwhile, following the call of her own soul, she is refocusing her online home to embrace the awareness that ‘soul calling’ is not just about business. It’s something that wants to be expressed in all areas of life – creatively, spiritually, in your parenting, relationships and sexuality… If you resonate, connect with her at Soul Business and stay tuned as her website emerges from its crysalis – with new tools, resources, and support to unfold your own soul calling.

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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Sensual Evolution with Michele Lisenbury Christensen

June 10, 2012

This week at Trust Tending we’ll be nourishing trust around sensual and sexual evolution – that process of coming more sensually alive: more sexually vibrant (whether we’re having sex or not), more able to experience and sink into pleasure, more capable of blessing and appreciating our bodies-as-they-are and the bodies of those we love.

Some of us carry enough shame, woundings, or plain old naivete when it comes to sensuality that trying to evolve on this front on purpose feels scary and intimidating.

Others of us feel ready to open up to such growth, but aren’t sure where in the world to begin.

And some of us just haven’t thought a whole lot about sensuousness, but have rich inner soil ready for enlivening sensual seeds to be planted.

No matter where you find yourself (amidst these groups or beyond), I hope this week’s images and interviews feed your trust and give you greater capacity to move through and beyond your sensual fears.

Your body, with its infinite capacity for pleasure and its rich connections with your spirit, is sacred, and, I trust deeply, connected to the health of us all.

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Today Michele Lisenbury Christensen joins us to talk about the sensual evolution that led her to envision and create The Hot Love Revolution – a movement and a business on a mission to “help happy, well-loved women save the world”.

In Michele’s own words from her site:

The Hot Love Revolution isn’t for everyone. It’s just for smart, soulful, couples who can take me up on this dare: pour your passion into your monogamous relationship, demand that it excite and nourish you as much as any affair or adventure, and let yourself be transformed by the process.


I discovered Hot Love Revolution early this year and got such a jolt of YES!!! when I read its I Believe page that I wanted to shout it from rooftops. IF YOU DO NOTHING ELSE, GO READ JUST THAT.

Michele is a potent force of trust-nourishment and I hope you’ll explore her site and soak in deeply what she shares below today.

Thanks so much for being here, Michele!…and thank you Kurt (Michele’s husband) for your huge role in this revolution, too!

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1. You write at The Hot Love Revolution about a significant change in trajectory that you and your husband made in your marriage a few years ago – a change in the direction of more passion, more spice, more deep fulfillment in your monogamy. What was your tipping point for that change? How did you come to take it so seriously? It seems much more common to feel the need for such a shift but never take a conscious plunge to make it happen.

More than a tipping point, I feel like we experienced a long process of the erosion of our capacity for denial.  For many years, we had this relationship that was sort of nice (and unlike some of the people who come to me who have super-polite, tepid relationships, ours had its share of nastiness, too) and felt rooted in a shared spirituality and a deep friendship, but that just didn’t have a deep passion.  I, more than he, knew I wanted that.  I’d bring it up, and  we’d “work on it” periodically and then go back to sleep.  We were in the pattern you’re referring to:  you want it, but you don’t do a lot to bring about the change.  And we don’t, because it really does upset the apple cart to start flying into your no-fly zones, personally or within a relationship.  You ARE entering the unknown.

But I think two things happened that helped us get critical mass after so many false starts on the intimacy front:  I saw friends our age who, like us, had kids, start getting divorced.  And along with my sadness for their families, I saw – this shocked me – my own envy.  To start over, to have hope for a life with sensuality and passion and intensity.  I saw that I wanted that at a bone-deep level.  But there in my bones, too, was my profound love for Kurt and my desire to have those things WITH HIM.  And we already had Cooper, and I very much want for him to be able to live with both of us as he grows.

TOTAL SIDEBAR:  I have to say as a child of divorce:  My experience is that happy parents – especially a happy mother – are far more important for a child than an intact family.  I believe mamas have to do what it takes to be happy.  AND I believe too many of us rush toward “being away from YOU (our current partner) is what will make me happy.”  I think we do better to go for what I call “The Break-Up Effect” — you remember how life-changing it was to end a relationship, earlier in life, right? — while staying IN our relationship, if we’re with a good person who we care about and who cares about us.

… That said, there I was:  craving heat, intensity, sensual self-expression.  Devoted to my family.  Wanting a new relationship, but wanting the same man I was already with.

The second thing that happened was that we discovered Orgasmic Meditation. It’s a practice that’s not sex and it’s not silent meditation in the traditional sense… It’s a stroking practice that has given me and Kurt a place to practice the way we want to be with each other and to take off the layers of frustration, resentment, avoidance, fear, overwhelm, and inertia that cloud most long-term sexual partnerships.  We continue to practice 3-4 times a week and it continues to unfold for us.

We’ve done so many good things for our love, but when I look at the ‘tipping point’ – what helped us do enough, consistently enough, to build the bonfire that warms us today?  It’s having a practice together.

2. What were some of the beliefs you had before that shift that have changed because of your conscious attention to the hotness of your marriage?

OLD BELIEF:   It’s disloyal to be attracted to other people.
NEW BELIEF:  It’s natural to be attracted to different qualities in different people.

You may choose to act on that attraction. I choose to bring those attractions back to my committed partnership and look at ways to be the woman I think those qualities in a man would help me be, and to ask Kurt to play with ways he can explore the qualities I saw, for himself.

OLD BELIEF:  Long-term relationship invariably suffers from entropy. Boredom and less-exciting sex is natural.
NEW BELIEF:  Dust and mold are natural.  Natural don’t gotta mean “normal” in my house!  We can have relationships that are new every day.

Excitement can build on variety and not-knowing (like it does at the beginning of a relationship) or upon familiarity and discovering new things with the same person.  That’s what we’re up to now.

OLD BELIEF:  There’s something egotistical, shallow, vapid about focusing on sex when you’re pushin’ 40 and a mom of littles like I am. Grow up!
NEW BELIEF:  Sensuality is a lifelong need for all of us.  And an orgasmic mama is a happy mama is a nourishing mama.

Our world needs a next generation raised by people who are vibrantly alive, who have really GONE FOR IT in their lives.  That’s what we’re trying to be for our kids:  devoted to them, but also to the highest vision of what we can create individually and as a couple.

3. Many of my readers, like you, are still in the thick of life with young kids. What have you learned about that particular season that might address some common fears and frustrations people have around being sexual beings and sexual partners in the midst of it?

Funny.  I was answering that last question without having read this one.  Glad it’s relevant for your readers (grin).  

Well, let me normalize the experience of having your libido utterly macerated by childbirth and parenting.  This year, even after a highly sensual pregnancy and lovely birth… Kurt and I were practicing together, but I was in NO WAY interested in intercourse for many weeks after I had Mira.  And that’s with the spotlight straight on that connection!  So I’ll start with that:  it’s normal.

Second, though: there’s a way to be really powerfully generous with your partner (as distinct from being resentfully or dutifully submissive) and engaging in play together that one of you might not be motivated for but that the other might NEED.  And finding that ability to want what you don’t crave is the key to not having long dry spells punctuated by disappointment, rejection, shame, and resentment.  Keep the sensuality flowing, even if it has to be in a new way.

I’ve learned that date night is key:  if we’re not talking and being together as grownups when we’re awake, we are going to fall asleep when we get to bed.  I’ve learned that bedtime, for mommies and daddies, is a rough time for sex. You’re so wiped!  So mid-day, or afternoon while the kids are with a sitter, or early morning… Just don’t give your sex the dregs of your energy, or it won’t get any energy at all!

And I’ve learned that a mama is a sexual being in a very different way than a maiden is, just a few months earlier.  Our bodies change, we’re sharing them with our fetus and then with our breastfeeding little person… It dramatically changes what we desire and how we want to share ourselves.  I’ve learned that staying connected to my partner requires staying in deep conversation with myself and with him about what I want now and what I’ve got to give and how we can explore this new terrain with curiosity and joy, rather than with fatigue and frustration.

4. For those of us inspired by your work and revolution but unsure where to start to join it and make shifts in our own romantic relationships, can you give us a couple suggestions?

My newsletter is the best place to start. It’ll get you new videos from me a couple of times a month, links to my newest blog posts, and early registration bonuses for upcoming programs for women and men.

And if you want to jump into something right away, the Hot Love Makeover is a 28-day program for women to unilaterally make-over the sensation and passion in their relationships and lives. It starts July 8th.

Thanks again for being here, Michele!

And readers: Got questions for Michele? She’s happy to answer them in comments below!

Michele Lisenbury Christensen reclaimed her marriage from the throes of mediocrity and, with her husband Kurt, created a turned-on partnership that nourishes both of them to be lively friends, parents (of a four year old boy and a newborn girl), artists, and activists. Michele helps other utterly human women, men, and couples create lasting love, sensuality, and adventure. A regular columnist for Elephant Journal, Michele’s other turn-ons include hydrangeas, yoga, and homemade chai tea. She beckons you at Hot Love Revolution.

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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Learning to live beyond fear: An interview with Susan Falcone

February 6, 2012

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I’m honored today to be featured at Susan Falcone’s Powering Possible. Susan is a life and business coach whose personal story inspires and amazes me, and whose current work is a powerful force of light in our world.

In this interview we talk about my biggest personal barrier and the moves I make to work through and beyond it. Click the image below to come see!

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Interview: Insights on depression

June 28, 2011

Bodies are mysterious things, aren’t they? Physical, but emotional and (many would argue) spiritual, too. So when we find ourselves depressed, what are we to make of it? Which of our parts is to blame?

My own experience with a years-long depression, conversations with depressed friends, readings, and now, through notes that many of you have sent, all have me convinced that there aren’t formulas. Bodies can malfunction and bring on depression. Bodies can function fantastically and bring on depression (hello, normal response to loss, trauma, and heartbreak!). And bodies can experience dysfunction on one level (physical, emotional, spiritual) that leads to dysfunction in others.

What can be said, I think, across the board, is that American culture doesn’t do very well with depression. We like to keep things light. So when people – women and men – struggle emotionally, we a) want them to stop as soon as possible and b) consider their struggle – whether physically or emotionally or spiritually rooted – reason for judgment.

In an effort to shift awareness on this topic that affects so many of us, and as a move to grow trust where fear and frustration and (self) condemnation flourish, I’ve asked four people who have suffered with and through depression to answer the following question:

As one who has suffered with and through depression, what words would you offer others suffering with it, too, and what advice would you offer those trying to love them well?

Not everything every one of these people says will apply to you and your situation. But I hope you’ll find amidst their words a helpful nugget or more to hold onto – whether you’re depressed now, or are loving someone who is.

Alana Sheeren believes in love, beauty and the transformative power of grief. She has spent the last year writing about her healing journey after the stillbirth of her son at Life After Benjamin. She holds a Master’s degree in clinical and community psychology, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre. She lives and writes by the ocean in Ventura, CA with her husband and daughter, two cats and a dog.

Alana’s Answer:

Quiet your mind and listen to your heart. Your thoughts might paralyze but your heart – that deep, wise, loving heart of yours – won’t steer you wrong. If it needs to break, let it break so it can heal. If it needs the scent of green grass and a summer breeze, step outside. If it needs to hold a child, or read a book, or hurl rocks into the ocean, honor its request. Turn your face in the direction of healing as though it were the sun. The power of your intention will start the process, though it might be years before it’s done.

Get help. Find a therapist, a yoga class, a meditation practice, a tree in the park where you see beauty and feel like there’s a chance you’ll survive. Stop listening to your mind and lean gently into your heart. Take responsibility for your life without beating yourself up. It’s okay to be where you are. It’s okay for you to want that to change.

Remember that no matter how you feel, you are not alone. Others have been there. Others are there now. There are gifts in the darkness, though they need light to be seen. By virtue of being born, you are a miracle. By virtue of being born, you deserve love and the experience of joy. Stop for a moment and take that in. You might not believe it. I know it to be true.

And if you love someone who is depressed, remember they are not broken and it is not your job to fix. Take care of yourself. Live your best life. Trust their journey and your own. Love yourself well too.

Dave Ursillo is a 25-year-old writer, blogger and life-explorer at DaveUrsillo.com. He teaches people how to ‘Lead Without Followers’ in any walk of life by nurturing a quiet and profound sense of personal leadership.


Dave’s Answer:

The best advice I can give to someone dealing with depression (either yourself or someone you love and care about) is the advice that I would have loved to hear while I was dealing with depression, myself.

Depression is not random, like a virus you might catch from someone else. Depression is caused by either outsides circumstances (in our lives) or internal circumstances (ie, becoming caught up in our heads, through the quietly entrapping epidemic of “egoic thinking” – see Eckart Tolle’s Power of Now).

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself that this depression is not random and does not exist because it simply wants to make me a horrible victim to the incredible burden of sadness, hopelessness and woe. Indeed, I would wish for someone to tell me what I myself have learned: that depression arises to compel us to change.

Esme Weijun Wang loves sentences. She makes her living, and puts together a life, that revolves around stringing them together. At present she lives in San Francisco, where she works on her award-winning novel-in-progress in a living room painted with a color called Grandma’s Sweater. You can find her at her website, writing about mental illness/health, compassion/care, and the art of fiction at EsmeWang.com.

Esme’s Answer:

If you have the resources — and for the purposes of this short response I’m thinking of financial resources, but a well-structured support system of friends and family is just as key — do not settle for inadequate medical care. Do not refuse it, if you can find it. And when you find that bedrock of care, utilize it to the fullest of your abilities.

I’ve suffered through countless mediocre therapists because I was too passive to express discontent, and too pessimistic to think that I could find a truly good one. I’ve kept psychiatrists that diagnosed me with personality disorders when I was too young to drive and too naive to know the impact such labels would have on my emotional development. I’ve resisted hospitalization because I didn’t want to miss school, and nearly died as a result.

Find help worth trusting. Then trust that help when you have it.

If you are the one who loves someone who suffers with a mood disorder, try to be patient. This is not easy. But in times of frustration, ask yourself: is this the illness, or is this the person whom I know that I love? Sometimes it’s hard to tell, and the line between the two is often blurred beyond recognition. Help him or her by seeing the aspects that are symptoms. See the potential for transience. Have hope.

Liv Lane is an artist, writer, radio host, and speaker dedicated to illuminating the magic in each day. Find Liv at her Choosing Beauty blog and on Twitter (@choosingbeauty).



Liv’s Answer:

Years ago, one of my closest friends got swallowed up by depression and I didn’t know it. Her home was a disaster, she became practically nocturnal, she no longer cared about our common interests and nothing seemed to make her feel better. I knew nothing about depression, so I grew frustrated and took it personally. I thought she was being dramatic and disrespectful.

Eventually, our friendship crumbled. In hindsight, I wish I’d stopped delivering candy and, instead, driven her to a therapist or found other resources to help her get better. That wasn’t something she was capable of doing at the time; depression sucks the life out of you and leaves you with no energy to help yourself.

I didn’t fully realize this until I went through it myself. With postpartum depression and PTSD after the birth of my first son in 2003, every task – from getting out of bed to changing my son’s diaper – felt like riding a bike through sand; it required so much energy and effort, yet felt completely pointless. I put on a happy face for others, but felt like a walking zombie. It took two years – and lots of encouragement from my family – to gather enough courage and energy to seek help. Thank God I did.

For those in the throes of depression, making a simple phone call can feel like climbing a mountain. If you notice drastic changes in a loved one, hold on tight and help them find the help they need.

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Bodies (description here). Click here to view and peruse past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Do you need your butt kicked?

May 18, 2011

Holding tension with yesterday’s post about NOT heaving Big Lessons onto anyone is today’s post about butt-kicking. I’m going to let the video speak for itself, but wanted to quickly introduce our conversation partners today. In order of appearance, they are:

  • Dyana Valentine: Dyana is a self-described professional instigator, based in Santa Monica, California. Her primary media include coaching and speaking, and just this month she launched a brand new business and show called Woke Up Knowing (you must check it out! I was soothed and inspired, both, by the very first show). Here blog and website are at www.dyanavalentine.com.
  • Andrea Scher: Andrea is a creative entrepreneur, writer and life coach living in Berkeley, California. Through her company, Superhero Designs, and her award-winning blog, Superhero Journal, Andrea inspires other creative souls to live authentic, colorful and extraordinary lives. Andrea also co-facilitates Mondo Beyondo, a transformative (for me and so many others!) online course designed to unlock and give flight to your dreams.

    Baby Nico: Andrea’s youngest son reveals his utter cuteness (again) in this cameo appearance. Heart-stopping raspberries not excluded.

  • Tammy Strobel: Tammy, of Portland, Oregon, is the author of Simply Car-free and Smalltopia. A leader and instigator in the simplicity revolution, she hosts a warm, inspiring community at her site, RowdyKittens. “Social change through simple living” is the (perfect, in my mind) tag line there.
  • Elese Coit: Elese is a transformational author, speaker, radio show host, and Master Transformative Coach. She specializes in training coaches and teaches classes in Peace of Mind and Wellbeing. Her international radio show, A New Way To Handle Absolutely Everything, airs each Friday (for those interested in growing trust, I highly recommend!). Learn more about Elese at www.elesecoit.com.

I hope you’ll consider yourself a person at this table, too! What do you think about butt-kicking? Have you had positive or negative experiences with it? Is there a helpful, trust-inducing place for it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

(Those reading via email, click here to view the video. My first experiment with animation opens it up – I hope you’ll stop by and see! :)

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Help (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Interview: 8 coaches you need to meet

April 25, 2011

As I thought about interviews for this month of starting new things, I realized there were two types of people from whom I really wanted to hear: those who have lots of experience starting new things, and those who *help* lots of people start new things. These aren’t always mutually exclusive, but treated in isolation, they give voice to different and enlightening sides of experience.

Last week we heard from 8 entrepreneurs, so today we’ll hear from 8 life coaches.

I’m thrilled to hear from these women! These are soulful, dynamic coaches whose work is transforming our world in significant ways. They all offer one-on-one coaching, in addition to the quality information, encouragements, classes, interviews, and advice they provide on the web.

If you’re dreaming about starting something new, or floundering a bit in any life arena, one of these women might be just the person to help shift your life season to spring.

Today, each of them (alphabetically below) answers the following question:

What key advice do you think people most need to hear and believe when they’re facing fear at the start of new things?

Bridget Pilloud is an intuitive, a spiritual mechanic and a life-shifter. She works with people all over the world to help them feel better and enact positive change in their lives. She can be found at bridgetpilloud.com and on Twitter. (Kristin’s note: Bridget offers a free guided meditation so relevant to this interview. It’s titled Working With Fear, and can be listened to here.)

Bridget’s Answer:

Fear at the start of a new thing is normal. Often, people think that if they are feeling fear at the start of a new thing, that something is wrong.

Fear is information, a sign that the new thing is important and that part of you is changing in response to the new thing. When a client of mine realizes this, it helps her honor what she is doing and to be aware of the changes within her.

The key advice that I give when someone is feeling fear is to feel that emotion without trying to fix it. To just let the feeling express itself. When you do this, your spirit is able to process the feeling, which enables you to understand it and to allow it to ebb out of you.

This makes space for you to move forward with the new thing.

What you might initially describe as fear is usually several emotions tangled together. When you feel it, and observe your feeling, you can start paying attention to the other emotions as well: emotions like excitement, anxiety and wonder. These feelings also form and inform your new thing.

Feel your feelings. Don’t try to think them. And Move Forward.

Britt Bravo Britt Bravo is a blogger, podcaster, and social media coach who believes using social media should be fun. She’s also a creative career consultant who loves to help people discover their joyful work, and make the time to do it. She loves to collage, bake cupcakes, write letters, interview big visionaries, and bring groups of people together, online and offline. You can learn more about her at brittbravo.com, and on her blog, her podcast, Twitter, and Facebook.

Britt’s Answer:

I’ve always wanted to grow tomatoes, but I’ve been afraid I’d kill them. Turns out my neighbor wanted to grow tomatoes too, so last weekend we went to the farmers’ market to buy some plants, and learn how to grow them. Your fears about starting something new may be related to a larger goal than growing tomatoes, but the same 5 tips apply:

1. Educate yourself

The woman we bought the plants from, as well as fellow customers, gave us all kinds of tips about which plants to buy, and how to take care of them.

2. Take small steps

I bought two tomato plants; my neighbor bought one. If they grow well, we’ll plant more.

3. Get a buddy

It was more fun learning about tomatoes with my neighbor than it would have been to do it alone. Plus, we can support each other as our tomatoes grow.

4. Accept that there will be the obstacles

When I checked in on my plants this morning, snails had already eaten a bunch of leaves. Now I need to go back to tip #1 and learn about snail prevention!

5. Embrace the process

Life’s too short to not take steps towards your dreams, even if it’s just to grow juicy, delicious, sun-ripened tomatoes (: There are no guarantees that you’ll achieve your goals, but you’ll definitely learn something about yourself in the process, so enjoy it. Have fun!

Chris Zydel, MA, founder of Creative Juices Arts, has over 32 years of experience as a compassionate and soulful creativity guide. Through her classes, workshops and training programs she has devoted herself to providing the support, guidance and inspiration that allows her many students to connect with the sacred force of creativity that lives inside of us all. Visit her website at creativejuicesarts.com

Chris’s Answer:

I think the main thing that people need to remember when they are feeling fear about beginning something new is that it is perfectly normal to feel that way. And even something that is to be expected. Taking steps towards what you’ve never done before always means you’re venturing into the unknown. And our little lizard brains don’t trust ANYTHING that is unfamiliar. Different is always perceived as dangerous.

What gets folks into trouble is thinking that the fear means something is really wrong. And that they should wait until they don’t feel the fear before they start the new thing. Which is never going to happen. If you wait to feel unafraid you won’t ever actually DO the things you want to accomplish or create. Fear is always related to taking action. It’s usually not too scary to spend time fantasizing about your project or making endless plans. But the fear arises when the rubber is about to meet the road. Fear is just part of the territory when you you are forging a new path. And at this point in my life, while I’m still not enlightened enough to completely welcome it, I’ve come to appreciate fear as an indicator that I’m on the right track.

Jamie Ridler is a creative living coach and the founder of Jamie Ridler Studios. From coaching to workshops, from podcasting to blogging, Jamie’s work helps women find the confidence and courage to discover and express their creative selves so they can be the star they are. Her offerings can be found at her website, openthedoor.ca, Twitter, Facebook, and her podcast series, Creative Living with Jamie.

Jamie’s Answer:

Hi, beautiful. Here you are, standing on the verge of something new, something that quite possibly could be amazing, life-changing even. It’s an adventure. That thump-thump-thump of your heart tells you so. And every adventure needs a hero, right? That’s you. Yes, you. You can do this.

See, here’s what I know. Your world expands each and every time you step into something new. And that alone is worth the risk. But there’s more. You’ll expand too. You’ll gain new skills, discover new strengths, find new guides, be amazed by new experiences, have new ideas, see new possibilities, discover new opportunities and yes, face new challenges.

But in that heart of yours is all the bravery you’ll ever need. And in your toolkit are rich resources that will help along the way. And when you step into this adventure, you’ll discover you’re more than you ever imagined. Trust yourself.

You can do this.

Kate Swoboda is a life coach, teacher, and writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She supports women from around the world in making powerful choices and rocking out their lives (side note: this involves a lot of courageous laughter, love, acceptance, and not taking ourselves too seriously). She’s the author of four e-programs and creator of the Courageous Play and Create Stillness retreats. When she’s not writing, coaching,or leading retreats in Italy and San Francisco, she can be found sipping chai in libraries, buffing up on her Italian, taking photographs, or getting all bendy-stretchy on the yoga mat. Learn more at yourcourageouslife.com, or check out courageousguides.com.

Kate’s Answer:

The fear of failure is what dominates so much of our thinking at the outset of any new venture—whether that venture is something tangible like weight loss or starting a business, or a life shift such as self-acceptance or having more patience with others. We worry that “we can’t really change; it won’t work out.” The most helpful thing one can do at that point is to drop down into presence and surrender to simply BEing their journey. It might work out according to some pre-determined plan, or it might not—either way, BE a being, and BE your journey. Surrender to the what-is-ness of your life, and be open to all that you might learn from simply BEing where you are, and there’s no way you can lose in the face of that. It’s freedom to surrender to BEing, which is practicing acceptance.

This is warrior work when fear is running the show. To do it, one needs to slow down and get present, so that they can notice when they’re slipping out of that acceptance and into attachment to a result. In the face of that, I advocate a lot of courage, breathing, and practicing stillness.

Kendra Thornbury helps soul-centered women & evolutionary leaders create spiritual and financial freedom so that they have a greater impact & make more money….all while being true to who they are! She provides proven methods and time-tested systems that empowers clients to translate their soul’s calling into a thriving business that makes a real difference in the world.

Known for her ability to blend spirituality with business and soul with money, Kendra E Thornbury, MA, is an internationally highly acclaimed coach, spiritual guide, speaker, facilitator, author, humanitarian and entrepreneur. Visit her at kendrathornbury.com.

Kendra’s Answer:

Congratulations! Something new is being born through you right now.

A dream.
A project.
A vision.
A business.
A new way of being.

The impulse of life is to grow!

Rather than stay in the tempting “safety” of the way things have been, you have courageously said yes to that next step, that new bud of life emerging in you.


And with this yes, you may notice some fear stirring.

What advice can I share about your fear?

1) Do not believe your fear.

Fears are just responses to thoughts. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is that they believe their fears. They think they are “true”.

Recognize that most fears are just fabrications of your mind based on past pain or future projections.

Take a few moment to identify what thoughts you have that lead to your fears. Then, consciously choose new and supportive thoughts to replace them.

2) Feel the fear.

Get comfortable with just feeling what is. Usually we run away from feelings. It doesn’t work!

So just feel. The irony is that when you really let yourself feel, the feelings change.

Expand your capacity to be with the fear. Breath. Just let it be. Watch how it shifts as you hold presence (rather than make it bad and resist it).

3) Keep going even with fear.

It’s so sad how people stop their dreams, their joy, their prosperity because they feel fear about that new next step.

They believe their fear is an indication that they “shouldn’t” move forward, or that they are not really prepared, or that there is too much threat in the change.

No! Do not let fear stop your life.

Recognize it’s there and just keep going. Let the impulse of life live.

Tara Gentile empowers artists of all sorts to produce and profit from their passion. She pushes past your comfort & convention to dig into your power of ease & independence. She can be found at taragentile.com. She is also the editor of Scoutie Girl, a daily digital zine where creatives connect, converse, and commune.


Tara’s Answer:

Successful, innovative people don’t start things thinking they’ve got it all figured out. In fact, they start things understanding that any expectations they have will likely be turned on end. Beginning new things can be scary but that sense of fear is only exaggerated by feeling like you actually need to know what you’re doing and what to expect.

Figuring it out as you go is liberating and often leads to better-than-imagined results!

The key piece of preparation you need is understanding the what & why of your desires – not the how.

Tara Sophia Mohr is a writer and coach. A regular contributor to Huffington Post, she writes the blog Wise Living. Click HERE to receive her free Goals Guide, “Turning Your Goals Upside Down and Inside Out (To Get What You Really Want).”


Tara’s Answer:

Remember that fear is, quite often, a signal that you are on a great track. It means you are stretching out of your comfort zone, risking failure or criticism. It means you are really doing something.

Remember that you are hardwired to have irrational fears. Over tens of thousands of years, our brains evolved to be highly sensitive to any possible danger, because in the wilderness, perceiving any possible threat was crucial for survival. Now hear you are, safe on your couch, and your brain’s danger alert system is misfiring all the time. Being aware of the biology and history at play in our fear can help us take it less seriously.

There are lots of simple tools for quieting fear. Use them. Three of my favorites are:

  • Follow your fear through to the endgame. Whatever worst-case scenario you are freaking out about, ask yourself, “If that happened, then what would I do? How would I cope?” You’ll find a surprising calm, and resourcefulness within when you follow your fears to the endgame.
  • Act! I love Angeles Arrien’s words, “action absorbs anxiety.” If needed, use supports like a buddy, a coach, a deadline, an incentive to get over fear paralysis and into action. Acting reduces fear.
  • Spiritual practice. Feeling loved reduces fear. Feeling strong reduces fear. Call upon a power greater than yourself, do lovingkindness meditation, pray, or do an activity like hiking or painting that connects you to love and strength.

My heart-felt thanks to all the interviewees! I come away from reading your thoughts feeling soothed and more courageous, both. Thank you for your nourishing words here, and for the work you do every day to help people live beyond fear. Our world is so much better for it!!

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is starting new things (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Interview: 8 entrepreneurs that rock my world

April 18, 2011

The theme this month at Trust Tending is starting new things (click here for a list of past and future themes) and today I’m delighted to introduce you to a few of the muses that have inspired and helped me in my own new endeavors. I’m doing this for two reasons:

1. I’d love for you to know about and be inspired by these people, too!

Each perspective here is unique, and offers challenges and encouragements different from the others and from my own. Last time I talked about finding balance between our masculine and feminine energies, and I find in this line-up a wonderful mix of both. The differences between my life approach and theirs have been important agitations in my quest to live in an ever more balanced, awake way, and our places of greatest resonance continue to be gusts of wind in my sails as I pursue my own dreams.
I believe in their work so much that I’d love to give some away! Comments on this post will be entered into a random drawing to win a product of your choice. Winner chooses from any of the linked products throughout this post (none of these are affiliate links – I simply want to share these people with you and am happily paying out of my pocket to do so!).

2. I want to dispel the myth that successful entrepreneurs aren’t real people with real fears and challenges to face.

Each person on this list faces fear and experiences places of vulnerability. Trust, for all of us, I think, is nourished as lines between “successful” and “unsuccessful” shift into planks on a boat we’re all on, called Being Human.

So today each of these 8 entrepreneurs (alphabetically below) answers the following question:

What is one of the major internal blocks that you face (or used to face) as you launch new projects, and how did/do you overcome it?


Chris Guillebeau is a writer, entrepreneur, and world traveler with the goal of visiting every country in the world (click here for his current count). He creates super practical guides and products for anyone interested in breaking out of the status quo to a) live the life they want to live and b) change the world for the better. I love that combination! ($58 versions of linked items eligible for give-away) He publishes the Art of Nonconformity blog at ChrisGuillebeau.com, and has recently published a book by that same name: The Art of Nonconformity: Set your own rules, live the life you want, and change the world.

Chris’s Answer:

Chris: Resistance… in many forms. I have a hard time figuring out the timeliness of things. Why now? Why is this important at this particular season? That’s the bad news… once I figure it out, everything else tends to click.

Me: And how do you go about figuring this timeliness out?

Chris: It helps for me to get started, to work out the end game and plan backwards, and to latch on to one key thing — a component of the offer or message that everything else builds around.

Hugh MacLeod is a cartoonist whose drawings on the backs of business cards transformed his life…and now transform tens of thousands of others’. Like Chris, he writes a lot about living outside of boxes and changing the world for good, and has published two books that communicate related ideas as only Hugh can: Ignore Everybody and Evil Plans. Hugh’s drawings were a huge inspiration for my own sketch-a-day practice, and I remain inspired and agitated (in a good way) by the ideas his images convey. Read his blog at gapingvoid.com and sign up for his free, daily cartoons here.

Hugh’s Answer:

People often get stuck when they start comparing themselves to others- when they spend too much time watching what other people think.

I was never particularly good at following other people’s paths, but it took me a while to realize, hey, that’s OK.

Like I said in Ignore Everybody:

One evening, after one false start too many, I just gave up. Sitting at a bar, feeling a bit burned out by work and life in general, I just started drawing on the back of business cards for no reason. I didn’t really need a reason. I just did it because it was there, because it amused me in a kind of random, arbitrary way.

Of course it was stupid. Of course it was uncommercial. Of course it wasn’t going to go anywhere. Of course it was a complete and utter waste of time. But in retrospect, it was this built-in futility that gave it its edge.

The biggest gift to humanity The West has made to this world, is the idea that everyone must find their own path. That’s what the ancient Greek mythology is all about. Ditto with Christianity, Star Wars and Rock & Roll.

Remember the power is within you.

Jen Lee is a Brooklyn-based writer, photographer and a regular performer in NYC’s storytelling scene. She leads workshops and retreats focusing on creative expression, and has recently launched a multimedia course titled Finding Your Voice. I had the great privilege of attending her Companions retreat in Brooklyn last year, and can vouch with heart-felt conviction for her powers as voice-finding and voice-healing guide. She blogs at JenLee.net, and her honest writings there about her inner world combined with the soul-shifting work she offers through teaching and storytelling have been sun and water and nourishment for the growth of my trust.

Jen’s Answer:

When I launch new projects, having to actually tell people about them and spread the word is my most dreaded task. It makes my stomach turn and my nerves really raw, and all I know to do is to keep the hot cocoa flowing and keep focusing on the gift the work will be to others. How happy they will be to discover it, how changed they could be on the other side. I reach out for support and encouragement, even though I can hardly bear to ask. And it really affects me–pretty sure I’m losing weight over this latest project’s promotion. Self-care, gentleness and rest are the best medicine I know. It takes a lot of love to be brave, and self-love surely counts.

Jennifer Louden is a best-selling author of six books with close to a million copies in print, a retreat creator, and Comfort Queen turned activity catalyst. She just launched a new project that I’m following with so much joy and inspiration, called The Savor & Serve Experiment, at jenniferlouden.com, where you can also sign up for her acclaimed Self-Trust course and learn more about her Savor & Serve Cafe, her support center for women to do what they love in service to the world (2 months on me if you’re the winner of the drawing and choose this as your prize!).

Jennifer’s Answer:

Only one block? I only get one? Why? I think two or three would be much better.

And there you have my lovely block, my dear old friend: choosing. Limits. Driving a stake into the ground and saying, “This is it. I dedicate my heart to this.” I love potential. I dig vision, the first flush, the rush. By the time I get to the launch? Getting a bit bored. After that? Yawn.

What’s a lover of more and new to do? Investigate my fears of staying put – tease out my stories. Embrace how I want to work – don’t make it wrong. Build a project-based business with support that allows something to run without me. Have friends who see me about to abandon horses mid-stream and say, “Stop it.” Do creative stuff just for the sake of creating. Charge more so I can pay people to do stuff I hate. Partner with great people who keep the whole process more yummy. Give myself lots of vacations and rest (boredom is sometimes exhaustion).

Most important of all: focus on serving something larger than myself.

Jonathan Fields is (in his words…) a giddy dad, husband, New Yorker, serial wellness-industry entrepreneur, author, recovering S.E.C./mega-firm hedge-fund lawyer, slightly-warped, unusually-stretchy, spiritually-inclined, obsessed with creation, small-biz and online marketing consultant and venture partner, book-marketer, professional speaker, copywriter, entrepreneur-coach, yoga-teacher, columnist, once-a-decade hook-rug savant, blogger and career renegade™…gone wild. In my words, he does many things unusually well, and spending any time at all at his blog, jonathanfields.com, will give you good things to think about and apply – not just to business, or entrepreneurship, or fitness, or spirituality, or life…but really all of the above!

Jonathan’s Answer:

First, the word “block” bugs me. Language matters and when you frame something as a block it gives it more “immovable” weight and creates a perception of an impass. So let’s change it to “challenge,” which is something you rise to, something that’s far more easily framed as an opportunity.

Okay, now what is one of my major challenges in starting something new? For me, it’ often deciding where to allocate my energies. I don’t have much trouble beginning new things and taking risks. I’ve launched, built, succeeded, crashed and burned and lived to tell enough times that I know I’ll be okay. But I also know anything worth doing will take away from other things worth doing, so deciding where to spend my energy is a big focus.

I run numbers, plan, assess leaps of faith, but in the end, the greatest adventures always have unknowns and you’ve got to learn to tap and trust your intuition when making the call. I also ask a simple question – “Will this opportunity allow me to spend the greatest amount of time absorbed in activities and relationships that fill me up, while surrounding myself with people I cannot get enough of, contributing to the world in a meaningful way and earning enough to live well in that world?”

Marianne Elliott is a change-maker, a human rights advocate, a yoga teacher and a writer. She is the creator of 30 Days of Yoga, an online course to establish a regular home practice of yoga and build a kinder relationship with your body. She is currently writing a memoir about her life as a UN peacekeeper in Afghanistan, and blogs thoughtfully and soulfully at marianne-elliott.com. Marianne’s writings and presence are, for me, a true trust serum.

Marianne’s Answer:

When I launch new things I face fear! Fear of failing, and equally fear of succeeding too much or attracting too much attention. Fear that I’m not actually good enough to do the things I’m trying to do.

I’ve thought a lot about how I work with fear and I keep coming back to Susan Jeffers line: ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’ It is simple, and over-used, but when you pay attention to what it says, it’s powerful.

1. Feel the fear

What doesn’t work for me is ignoring or denying my fears. I have to allow myself to feel the fear, soften towards it, meet it with compassionate clarity. And then…

2. Do it anyway

I love the simplicity of this. I’m not ‘overcoming my fear’, I’m just acting despite feeling fear. To find the courage to act even when I’m feeling fear, I connect.

I connect to people who support me. I connect to the energy and power available through my breath and body (hello yoga!). I connect to my sense of purpose, my reason for acting and I connect to the greater whole of which I am part.

Melody Ross is a free spirited visionary artist, product designer, and writer. After growing an international, multi-million dollar company from her kitchen table (chatterboxinc.com), Melody joined her sister, Kathy Wilkins, to found The Brave Girls Club, an online community of women from around the world who want to live the best, happiest, most productive and brave lives they possibly can. Whether or not you feel you’re brave, the Brave Girl’s Club is truly worth exploring – retreats, ecourses, and other products (including this soulful CD) – not excepting!

Melody’s Answer:

I have started enough things in life that I have fallen on my face plenty of times. I have also had some tremendous wins…and that is a blast!

I think when you have had a lot of what can be perceived as “failures” in your life, it can be both very good and very difficult. It is good because you know that you have failed before and lived through it, so if you fail again, you will live through it…just like before! It can be difficult because you remember the pain, and the weak part of yourself doesn’t want to feel that pain again.

So…how I overcome this is to remind myself that ANYONE who does big things in the world has a few “failures”…and that is where they learn what doesn’t work SO THAT they can learn what DOES work. It is part of the process.

And, if it is part of the process, it is necessary and good. So, if this time it is one of those “lessons”, I will learn wonderful things that I will able to use to get to my next win. And…I will be able to pass those lessons on to others so that they can avoid the pitfalls, and that is always a good thing too!”

Seth Godin has written thirteen books that have been translated into more than thirty languages. Every one has been a bestseller. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. I’m challenged by the many simple, profound, unconventional ideas he writes about at his blog, and by his persistent message to “ship it!” – get your ideas out into the world without bogging down incessantly. His official website is sethgodin.com

Seth’s Answer:

Seth: I think the biggest internal block (for most of us) is the rationalization that looks like fact but is actually fear. We seek out proof that our fear is justified.

Me: And your strategy for identifying and moving through that rationalization?

Seth: Saying it is the strategy.

My heart-felt thanks to all the interviewees – for your good words here, and for being the lights you are in our world! My life, and trust, are better for it!

To join the drawing for a free product of your choice (linked items throughout this post are all eligible), comment on this post by Tuesday, April 19th at 8pm PDT. I’ll announce the winner here shortly thereafter.


UPDATE: I just put all the comment #s in a hat and drew….#1! Congratulations, Lindsey! I’ll be in touch to find out which product you’d like as your gift.

Much warmth to all!!

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Interview: Carol Tatsumi

March 17, 2011

I am delighted to introduce you to Carol Tatsumi. Carol is the director at my kids’ cooperative preschool, and from our very first meeting I was drawn to and intrigued by her calming, heart-centered, stable presence – not a list of descriptors readily applied to most of us! Her connection with nature was apparent within minutes of that meeting, and now that I’ve read what she’s written here, I see how significantly that connection has shaped all the things I love about her.

I hope you find this interview as calming, hopeful, and trust-inducing as I find it to be, and all the more so, given the fear, dis-ease, and dis-trust that’s filling so many hearts as news from Japan continues to flow darkly. Consider your time with this, and the good things it does inside of you, a gift not only to yourself, but to our traumatized world.

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is nature. Click here for a description of the theme, and here for a working list of themes in months to come.


I’ve been fascinated by the connection I feel between you and the natural world, considering you were raised in such an urban environment and continue to live in one. Can you talk about the role that nature has played in your life, and how this has come about?

If I could consider times or places that formed my earliest relationships with the natural world, they were strolls when I was a little girl around the countryside in Wisconsin, with my mother. My mother grew up there, on a small family farm, and our trips ‘back home’ in the summer involved mostly time spent at a lake cabin, almost exclusively out of doors. On walks my mother would tell me about the trees and animals we would see; birds that were nesting, animals that were bustling around. Often she would share what she had learned from her own mother, who loved the natural world, and who was herself a fierce protector of critters around their home, from red ants to raccoons and bees to badgers. No natural phenomenon was considered a threat in these stories, nor in my upbringing. Bees could be trusted to leave you alone if you left them alone, snakes could be trusted to go about there own business, weeds could be hid in when escaping cousins on a mission; most things had a purpose and it was our business as humans to let them have at it, step in if they needed our help, and admire, sometimes from a distance.

Now, while those were some of the earliest memories, all my other memories of growing up are tied to nature: the Chinese Elms that grew in our yard, the tall weeds in the vacant lot that we hid in from boys, the lizards in the planter that someone said would turn into alligators, the pets that we had (not the guinea pigs-why oh why did we have guinea pigs), sitting on the front yard under the Eucalyptus trees watching neighborhood boys walk by, stepping on the acorns during 4th of July parties, getting stung by a bee in high school.

As an adult, when I visualize the place where I am exposed to “the natural world”, it really begins just beyond my own physical self. It is the world that I move through, and it exists in little pockets between buildings where a flowering plant is growing, it is the air that is above me, it is the puddles by my house that I can walk through during the rain, and it is other inhabitants of the planet, so it is not really a place I need to ‘go’ to, but it is in my day to day existence.

That said, there are places where I go that are exquisite examples of the natural world, where there is a very wonderful flow from one organic surface to another, from one clump of sage to a clump of poppies, to a patch of dirt disturbed only by a monarch butterfly and where this natural world is left unbroken by cement surfaces or synthetic materials. There are places locally that I love like George F Canyon Preserve up in Palos Verdes where weeds abound (weeds are my favorite things, especially after a rain, soaking your jeans as you walk through them).

When our family lived in the big cement city that is Manhattan, NY, and our daughter was about 9, she and I were struck by the lovely trees around the Natural History Museum, the tulips that popped up around midtown, and Central Park! While a highly structured and planned natural environment, in Central Park there were beautiful piles of leaves for her to jump in, squirrels running around, and red-tailed hawks flying overhead, our first cardinal in red plummage during winter. There seems like there is nothing to worry about in the moment, and you can get lost examining a little bud on a tree, or a patch of dirt. I have walked in Central Park at night, ridden a motorcycle through mountain passes, walked in the desert far from marked trails, and I trust. What are the alternatives?

Maybe related to the last question: What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned or continue to learn from the natural world?

Things take time. Things grow slowly, and sometimes you cannot imagine what they will turn into, you just have to (no amount of strength will stop these forces) let go and trust that they will turn out as they are intended. You are going to be constantly surprised when you are immersed in the natural world, and sometimes you have to get out of your car, and get on a motorcycle, or walk, or bike, or skip to see things and you most definitely have to sit quietly for a long time until you hear things. Walking with a very young child is the most amazing way to putter along at the speed of nature.

That said, nature needs lots of support, advocacy, and protection in order to do what it does. Earth Day is coming up April 22, 2011. I often have used it as a day to reconnect with the natural environment just outside my door. I have learned that it is never too late to give something back to nature that trusts us with this place called earth.

How has your sense of trust been nourished by your relationship with nature?

Nature just is, and will always be. It might be manipulated, and parts of it might be irreparably lost, and yet sometimes it finds small chinks and openings to trickle through and thrive, and it can be counted on to surprise and thrill you. You can prepare, prepare, prepare and things just happen; jewels emerge from the struggles and between the cracks. This trust pushes me, leads me to venture deeper into untamed wild places without disabling fear. There, I have seen bison poking their noses into our tent in Yellowstone, there have been black bears on our path when hiking in Idaho, there has been cancer in our family, and loss, and scary nights in Turkey (one scary night in 6 months of backpacking through Europe and Asia), and they made the trip wonderful, magical, meaningful because in trusting, I took the trip. In the moment these surprises can be startling, and can throw you off balance. They make you feel fresh and awake and make you slow down. They had a smell, a feeling, a sense to them that is not there when looking at the static moments of the day.

When you’re afraid, are there things in the natural world that you turn to for comfort? Can you tell us a story about a time when this helped?

Nature is restorative for me. When I am not feeling well, or tired, and am not sure how to get back to homeostasis, I turn to nature. I get out of the house, I walk and look at places that have not been adjusted, or trimmed, or pruned, places considered ‘virgin pieces of land’. Places that have been left in their natural state to spread out, to get a bit rangey, to grow weeds. There is a ‘story’ that I am interested in here, that does not seem as rich of a tale when the lawn is manicured, or clipped, or sprayed to deter weeds. I read once that being in nature is really valuable, but the most valuable type of nature were those wild spots, where people had not arranged things….and this is hard to find. There are big wild places: National Parks like Joshua Tree, just a few hours from LA, are like that. There are places you can find that have not been explored for a long time, or that have withstood the touch of time. You can park your car and walk out to the desert and camp.

I can find some surprises, too, that have been created by humans, but have been left to their own devices: at our school’s neighbor’s house there are rose bushes where the rose hips have formed after the blossoms have dried. In my neighborhood there are sunflowers who have begun to drop their seeds in interesting patters. The other day a large hawk flew over our school on its way to building a nest further down the street. Trust me, nature is just outside our bodies, just outside the car window.

Some of us live in urban environments and, apart from long drives to the mountains or the country, aren’t sure how to connect meaningfully with nature. Are there any tips you might share with us for finding and nurturing this connection right where we are?

Slow down, slow down, slow down. Look down, look up. Change the angle of your eye, scoot forward in your car seat and peer out the top of your windshield, get out of the car and get on a bike. Wonder a bit: what do the clouds look like today and how has the wind affected them, what is going on with the leaves on the trees by where I park my car at school. What is laying on the sidewalk, and growing between the cracks? Ask someone who loves nature to take you on a walk so you can feel and sense their trust and so you can see differently. See and listen how they talk about the leaves on a Black Willow, or a Eucalyptus. Remember that video about the basketball passes where you are asked to watch for one thing, and then asked if you saw the second thing? Sometimes we rely on our moms to point things out we didn’t see before, sometimes our friends, sometimes a nature guide. I love being surprised. Trust that you will be surprised.

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