Nothing Wrong With Being Empowered

When was the last time you felt empowered?

I have never been someone who enjoyed exercise. In school I hated gym class with a passion. After puberty I was never in any sports and let dance fade away until I was an adult. I have tried different techniques over the years to be in better shape.

And as someone who had a rocky relationship with exercise, it was hard for me to understand people who got addicted to it and really, truly enjoyed it. But then I found Zumba fitness, and I got a tiny glimpse into that world. I went to classes regularly, and then I started downloading the music and dancing to it in my kitchen. I understood a little better. It was hard for me to stand still when a Zumba song came on.

And then, one day, it happened. I was attending a Zumba fitness class, and we were doing a toning song to “Confident” by Demi Lovato. I liked the song all right. But I tend to grow to love a song more when I learn a dance to it. Everything about the song and the moves was uplifting. We used small free weights as we danced, building muscle. And at the climactic ending of the song, we did jumping jacks for about sixteen bars. The first few times I tried it I simply wanted to die. I didn’t think I would make it, but I kept pushing through. I kept hearing those words in my head, “What’s wrong with being...what’s wrong with being confident?” And then, this one day, not only did I push through the slog of my resistance. I sailed right through it into euphoria.

I felt invincible, untouchable. Confident. Empowered. I felt like I could have kept going. It was incredible. I have never had exercise make me feel that way in my entire life. It was always just something to be endured and survived. I never knew it could be fun, uplifting, or exhilarating. But I did know that I wanted to feel that way again.

The music in Zumba classes is my fuel. I may not love every song. But the fact that every beat has a move at once anchors and frees me. Every second has potential meaning. It’s all there for you, waiting to be unlocked. And what it can unleash in you is incredible. You will feel uplifted so that you don’t notice the slog, the sweat, the breathlessness. You can be carried along in a river of music until you reach the destination you are striving for. That can be weight loss. That can be mental clarity. That can be a simple break from your kids. It can be camaraderie. It can be improved fitness.

It can be empowerment. You can shove all of those doubts away and be encouraged to leave it all on the floor. It doesn’t matter if you can dance like a master. You are doing this for you, and you alone. All that matters is that you keep moving, and you will find yourself far away from where you started.

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Written by Rachel Mowbray.

*You can join Rachel, and experience the incredible fun and joy of a Zumba class, Wednesday evenings at Wild Woman Wellness Center. Head over to our classes page for more info. And, just in case you're feeling nervous, the first class is FREE!
 

Shadow Self

She's the side of you only a select few have seen. You keep her locked away until there is no other choice but to reluctantly crack the door from which she's trapped.. only to give her an Ounce of breathing room. Only an ounce...

 

...Each time you do this she uses all of her strength to break down the barricade you've built for her. Since you were a small child you have been taught she is not welcome. She has been given many labels: Dramatic. Intense. A bitch. CRAZY. Year after year, comment after comment, you build this wall around her and learn to be less. You've learned she is too much. Time after time, moment after stressful upheaval moment, she begs to be seen. She rattles the barricades you've put in place. Sometimes - when the moon is just right, when the light version of yourself becomes weak from holding all of the self abuse you've endured - she breaks free. She is but a rabid animal full of rage and betrayal. Fierceness and hunger for release takes over. She's Starving for realness.

When she is seen and out of her barricade the light version of yourself feels such a loss of control, and the same feelings take over. SHAME. How could this happen? How could I be so weak? Society carefully comes to assist you, locking her away once more. "You're okay" "Look on the bright side " "let's get you back to being happy" because she is foreign to them too. And her very existence validates what they've been hiding themselves. 

Then one day someone hears the rattling. They see the fear in your eyes as they look towards the locks and 2 x 4's you've placed. And they asked to see her. They begin moving each structure of false labeling you put on her. Each barricade you've nailed so tightly on slowly begins to dissipate. Fear becomes you. This goes against everything you've been taught.

 

You hear words foreign to you. "You are safe." " You are worthy of being seen." As you turn, eased by this nurturing language, you see the barricades are off. You turn in horror! This beautiful person will see her. Surely they will run, knowing what destruction she caused. How long will it take to put her back? But that shadow self steps forward. She steps from the wreckage of what you've built around her. That person guiding you through this process sees her as well. Staring in awe of her. Of you. The shadow self reaches out her hands. Slowly the barricades transmute into armor. The label of Dramatic transmutes into a gorgeous vulnerability. Intense - into fierce. Bitch-into focused power. Crazy - into a Queen in touch with her divine femininity, and ready to rule her own world.

You take her hand; seeing both sides of yourself you feel her power -the boundaries she sets in place, the shit she refuses to take, the doubt you once hid behind that she eradicates.

With time, and practice living hand-in-hand with your shadow self, you realize she is not so scary. The less restrictions you have on her the last destructive she becomes. She is your protector, your realness, your strength. You are her groundedness, her love, her light. Walking together as shadow and light you honor all of yourself. With no crippling façades you see the beauty in all of yourself. You are worthy, connected, authentic.

You are whole.

These two parts of yourself who were once very separate now dance and harmonious flow together, allowing a beautiful higher self to emerge. The Wild Goddess within you. And with the sacred union of both parts of self you create the highest levels of humbled worthiness.

And with that show the world how to love you. All of you.

 

Written by,
katie jolicoeur

Finding The Divine in the Earthly

When you're a doula, mentioning what you do for work is rarely simple. Of course, there are plenty of people who know just what a doula is, and those lovely folks are usually eager to tell you their birth stories, their spouses birth stories, or just any ol' birth story they can think of. I know I should be tired of the stories by now, but I love them.

   For a large number of people the initial response is, “You're a what?” Followed by explaining that you are not a midwife.  

  • No, I don't actually deliver the baby. I'm there for emotional support.
     
  • No, I don't coach like you see in the movies; I hate counting at births.  
     

   This is usually followed by the more fun part of the conversation, where they begin looking at you like you are completely insane, or as if you might hold the understanding of one of the great mysteries of the universe.

  • Isn't it gross? Isn't it scary? Isn't it stressful? How do you do it? Why do you do it?!

    I smile, usually delivering some cliché explanation of how beautiful it is, and that it is, typically, nothing like the movies. All of that is true, but like telling a woman who is 4 weeks pregnant for the first time that her life is about to change, it is only the very surface of the truth. The truth is, that birth is a lot of waiting, a lot of unknowns, and that I am a person who likes control working in a field where there is no such thing as control. The truth is that life on-call leaves much to be desired, and has trained me to live with a question-mark hanging over my head – eternally tethered to my phone. So why, oh why, do I do this work?

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   Birth is where I stopped grappling with the bigger questions of the universe, and learned to trust. I do not need to know exactly how things are unfolding to know my place. I do not need to know how dilated you are, mama. I just need to know how you are feeling, and what is helping you. Baby will come. I do not need to know how long it will be until baby arrives. I know my client can sleep if I keep pressure here, and place lavender over there. So, let her rest as long as she needs.  

   Birth is where I first understood that we are not meant to know everything, because that may be too much, but that we should always keep a keen curiosity and unabated desire to learn. It is where I may not know why this placenta is causing my client so much pain and refusing to come out, but I can see the longing in her eyes to feel peace and hold her baby, so I hold her hand instead. It is not knowing why another mother is holding such strict posture and staying quiet, but still being able to find the words to help her let go. It is where I do not understand why things are taking so long, where we try every trick in the book to get baby to descend, and he refuses. It is where my intution tells me his mother, so very committed to natural birth, is right when says 'not this time,' and requests intervention, only to find that the cord never would have reached

  The truth is that I do like control. I like to schedule. I like to plan. I like to know how A leads to B and that it always will. And all of that is exactly why I love birth. Because in birth A sometimes leads to B unless, this time, it doesn't. Because there is no control in birth, and I can let go. I know my clients wishes, I know how to help them get there, and I know that I trust the process. That is all I can, really, know. If I say “she's 8 centimeters and vocalizing well. I should be home before sunrise!” I will be home in two days. If I say “I just got home from her prenatal, but I think I'll head back to check on her.” The baby will arrive before I pull in the driveway. My truth, is that birth is where I find my faith; Whatever that may be.  

   It is incredibly hard to describe, but for someone who thrives on managing things, birth is where I trust. Where I feel strength born of calm. It is where I trust in the knowledge I have obsessively cultivated for the last six years, and do not need to be in control. It is the one aspect of my life where I go in with no preconceived notions, other than the paramount task of a good experience for my client and her family. For all of the vast myriad of possibilities I could encounter at any birth, the one thing I need to focus on is the experience of the ones who chose me to be there. For all that each experience is full of the unknown, it is a space in which I feel at home. It is my quiet.

 
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with love,
Amber

What Does Finding Your Tribe Look Like?

I find myself coming back to this photo and this deeply heartbreaking, uplifting, INTENSE night quite often. It looks so simple. Dim lighting and a slightly blurry shot mask loving faces streaked with residual tears of joy, laughter, and sorrow. I look at this photo and I see love, and hearts fearlessly breaking open.

What do you see? A tribe of women? A group of friends? A fiercely loving sisterhood? Another Facebook group? These things are all true in equal measure; yet none of them even begin to cover the truth.

I see warriors. I see survivors who still possess the fortitude to lift others up long after their own cups have run dry. I see young women, just emerging from girlhood, quietly scurrying into a room full of goddesses who adopt them as their own with no need for pretense or proving. They are loved, lifted, and cherished on the simple and profound merit of being there, and being themselves. I see friendships that may seem unlikely at first glance - until you see the way their souls mirror one another, and their laughter rings the same. I see mothers, grandmothers, and maidens who tend to others until they are bone weary and spent, yet they still mange to carry themselves with grace and tend to their sisters. I see a generation of babies who crawl happily from lap to lap, absentmindedly absorbing a lesson in loving with ferocious tenderness. I see a vast tapestry of religions, doctrines, upbringings, paths, and lifestyles, all choosing to believe in each other. 

If you are ready to find your tribe, join us.

With love,

Amber

Patience is a Virtue - Just Not Mine.

To bring about some positivity during this bleak time of year we (Carolyn and I) gave out journals at our last Red Tent. We have been posting gratitude journal prompts on our Facebook page every morning since. I created the prompts, and yet I shied away from Day 7...

 
 

My eyes. Easy enough. They're my generic answer to any question about favorite, or gratitude inducing, parts. Sometimes if I'm feeling extra plucky I might throw in a line about my uterus for its fairly kickass baby growing abilities.

When the day came to tackle this particular prompt I found my pen hovering uselessly over the page. I knew my answer was a copout. I knew that, despite my work helping other women to love their bodies, gratitude is often the last thing I feel for my own. I also knew that even with a recent burst of positive reinforcement that did help my confidence surge, the voice in the background was still the same. 

Patience is not my virtue. It never has been. This is caused entirely by a fear of future discomfort or disappointment. I have been known to irritate partners with my inability to let things cool, because I need to get past the painful part of a fight. Waiting on any sort of answer leaves me unable to eat or sleep. I would rather dive headlong into a new situation than risk sitting in uncertainty; It's better to fall on my face than wade around in the unknown for any amount of time. Because of this lovely trait anything health related - attempting to lose weight, build muscle, or just feel better - is torture. There is no quick fix. There is no way to know without weeks of effort if I will make any progress. 

Last night, after watching me exercise and hearing me run up and down the stairs for 20 minutes, my husband caught me standing in front of our mirror poking my belly with irritation and (surprise, surprise) impatience. 

He asked, "What in the hell are you doing?" I glared, then sighed.
"I don't know what else I can change. Nothing seems to be helping. Am I not exercising correctly? What could I possibly change in my diet?"
"You just had your third baby, and you weigh less than before you got pregnant. What are you talking about?"
"I don't look any different."
"You lost 5 pounds this month."
"I don't see it."
"The workout you just did was incredible. I can't even do that. You're getting so much stronger."
"I don't see it."
"You can run up and down at least 100 flights of stairs a day without even being sore any more. Your clothes are fitting differently. Look at your endurance!"
"But...I can't see it."
"Honey, please don't take this the wrong way, but I don't know if you ever will. That's my biggest fear."

"Clearly anything I like here is the result of that errant ray of sunlight."

"Clearly anything I like here is the result of that errant ray of sunlight."

We then went on to discuss that even at 20 pounds lighter, I was never quite satisfied. Even when I reached my goals for running and lifting, I have never quite felt like it was enough. When I occasionally take photos in the mirror, to attempt to see past the dysmorphia, I will attribute one I like to a good angle, or lighting. I am endlessly unforgiving with myself. He also pointed out (which incited more glaring on my part) that I would never speak to anyone in my tribe the way I speak to myself. Much to my annoyance, he was right. In the face of my own impatience I may be striving for a goal that I will never be able to enjoy. I must set aside my desire to rush things, and accept that there is actually no end in sight. Ever.

The first thing that has to change needs to be what I am aiming for. My goal of liking what I see may never happen. Even if it does, it is temporary. Nothing will ever stay the same forever, and if I base my contentment on a temporary result I will face this frustration again, and eventually forever. 

So, where to go from there?

In a previous post I mentioned changing my inner voice before walking into an event or class, and it has worked. Changing the one I deal with day in and day out is going to be harder, but needs to happen. The scale went into the trash, and will not be replaced. My goals now are going to be tangible, measurable, and gentle. If I find myself obsessing about them I am going to go against my very nature and let them go until their grasp on my thoughts has loosened. Inspirational body-lovin' quotes are going on the mirrors. I will begin recognizing and releasing the thoughts that say certain foods require punishment or sacrifice, and instead begin changing those thoughts to ask how they will make me feel. The most important, and almost definitely the most challenging, change will be to recognize the thoughts as they are creeping in and welcoming them with love. Yes, love. I will meditate nightly on what thoughts I may have witnessed, and show myself the same I would treat a friend. I will remember where those thoughts came from, how they were introduced before I was old enough to properly vet them, and show compassion to them - and ultimately myself. I will begin being more cognizant of the comfort I give others, and actually listening to it. 

 I felt I was in a pretty positive place when this journaling challenge began. I thought I was creating this activity for others. I am amazed to see how my tribe is my mirror, and I must learn to trust that reflection.

With love,
Amber

Growing with the Sun

The most powerful obstacle in my life has long been fear/self doubt/body image issues/imposter-syndrome and that nagging little voice in the back of my head that is so utterly convinced of my not-enoughness. All of my life I wanted to do things, but only did them safely from the background. I wanted to act, but always took small roles. I wanted to dance, but stayed in the small performances. The friendships and business partnerships I chose often landed me in the role of the waning moon next to their brilliant sunlight. No matter how much I was doing in the background, it was their personality that shown. I was never the one others were drawn to; Never the one anyone remembered. Even with Red Tents, I had begun intending to be a leader. I had wanted to lend my energy to this important circle in a greater capacity. I instead allowed myself to slip into a quieter role. It was no one's fault by my own. I liked this sheltered safety.  My partner now is a brilliant blazing ball of Sunlight, but she is also immensely supportive and has helped me to find my own light. I also now have a husband who believes in me without reservation, and is thrilled - not frightened by - my wild. They have made all the difference.

Yesterday I intended to further my releasing of these habits with the Solstice. I would gently open myself up to these changes by hosting a small ritual. I honestly thought it would be myself and one or two others. Okay. Small. I can do that. As unfamiliar faces begun streaming in the door I felt complete panic. I honestly considered saying "I'm sorry, I can't do this," and bailing. I didn't.

A dear friend, Emilia, just by being there and being herself, calmed me enough that I was able to muster the nerve to walk out and invite people in. I'm fairly certain my voice shook. I forgot half of what I meant to put into the meditation, and stumbled more than a few times. My lovely partner, Carolyn, saved me by keeping things going when my mind froze and went blank. But I got through. I felt ecstatic and relieved after. I was surprisingly willing to try again, and begun planning how I would do things differently, next time. This sounds like such a small task to many. It was monumental in my life. Stepping into a leadership role in a public way - leading others in something sacred - that impacted me instantly, and to my core.

Red Tent Gatherings, our incredible community, the center...it all feels SO magical. I'm working assiduously to change that inner-voice. It is slowly being replaced by one that sounds an awful lot like a pastor and starts most sentences with "girlfriend."

Wild Woman Wellness Center has blossomed into so much more than a business. it is my second home. It is my shelter. It is a place I can safely explore the versions of myself that I have always imagined, but been too afraid to give life to. It is a place where women I have never met in person bring gifts and offerings as thanks for the way it has changed their lives, even from afar. It is a place where others have experienced change and growth that I can take absolutely no credit for, but am deeply humbled to host.

If you are reading this, thank you for being a part of this community. I would love to read comments below of what you are releasing this year. 

With Love,
Amber