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  1. Flights booked!

    There is something so exciting about booking flights.  I have booked hundreds over the years, but I always get a thrill from seeing the destination spelt out on my ticket. It is like an invitation to adventure. And we are going on a seriously big adventure. We have booked our flights to Japan for the end of March.  Not sure how long we will be away – it might be six months, it might be eight or nine.  All I know is that it is going to be so special, and I cannot wait!

    What adventures are you planning in 2012?

    ***

    Or if you fancy an adventure of the creative kind in 2012, how about this?

  2. *shared stories* (43): Arina Isaacson and Kimberly Riggins

    sharedstories***

    Today’s fascinating *shared stories* come from former clown and master storyteller Arina Isaacson and body image expert Kimberly Riggins

    ***

    Arina Isaacson

    I am 10 years old. I am sitting in the beautiful old opera house in the classic western mountain mining town of Central City Colorado watching my, first ever, live theater production. The Miracle Worker with Patty Duke and Ann Bancroft is the inspiring story of Helen Keller, born deaf and blind and how she first learned to express herself through non-verbal communication. My child heart is beating wildly and the hairs on my arm are standing in thunderous applause. Little did I know that the magic of this moment would define my life’s work, insisting that I follow my heart and do what I love.

    Mimi-the-Clown 

    ACT I

     In 1970 I received my Master’s degree in Communication and became a teacher of deaf children. At this time my best friend suggested that I take a mime class to enhance my teaching and my love of gestural language. I called my mother and I said, “Guess what? I’m going to become a clown.” There was dead silence on the other end of the phone. “You’re going to become a what? A clown? You just got a Master’s degree –Wherever did you get that idea?”

    All I can tell you is that something very strong grabbed hold of my heart when I started doing mime, clown and improvisation work. I came alive and had to follow this tug wherever it was going to take me.

     

    Buba-the-Magician 

    ACT II

    I quit my job, sold all my belongings, packed my Chevy and moved to San Francisco to follow my heart’s calling and pursue creativity. For the next 20 years I immersed myself in theatrical clown work, sacred puppetry and visual art. I found ways to combine my creative work with my love of teaching and began to experience the power of visualizing my dreams and healing my deepest wounds. The sacred art pieces that I created held the energy of my dreams. My inner landscape helped form sacred artifacts—mythic performing dolls; fetishes, charms, amulets, and shadow boxes. Each piece represented a different intention or prayer. 

    The Devouring Tree Mother 

    You see, by the time I turned 35 years old, I had lost my parents and grandparents to cancer; endured a hysterectomy, dashing my hopes of ever becoming pregnant and, survived a brutal rape by a stranger breaking into my home. Early on, I realized that I could view these challenging moments as opportunities to become empowered rather than victimized. And so, adversity has been one of my greatest teachers. It has provided me with the chance to get to know myself. The constant theme in my life has been the path of the artist. By consciously experiencing, working with, and expressing my inner and outer obstacles, I have been able to find my authentic voice, to unleash my passion and use it to cultivate wholeness and creativity. Adversity has been my inspiration for following my heart and doing what I most love to do. My commitment to pursue the creative path guided me toward building confidence and authenticity.

     I used my own suffering to heal and make other people laugh at the same time. This unique approach to creating personal clown characters enabled me to explore the place of vulnerability where the funniest and most touching clown persona reside. I developed a process of creating clown characters based on externalizing my inner world. Clowning gave me ways to express hopes, fears, heal my grief and hidden craziness by forming a clown character. 

    I created five characters over a period of 20 years, based on my natural inclinations of movement, voice, gestured habits, inner feelings, and stories. Each season of my life, a new character would emerge.

    Baby Fatty

    Boo-lu was my first character. She was a feisty single mother who traveled with five white baby dolls with red noses, all named Baby Kaka. Each vignette told a story about the love/hate relationship between the mother and her babies. Then came Mimi the Clown. Me! Me! She was based on my tendency to be a narcissist. Mimi made a lot of mistakes as a way to deal with my perfectionism. She would say, “Oh, you’re right, you’re right,” you’re right”, you’re right!” “How do you know? How do you know” How do you know?” Baby Fatty helped me come to terms with my body image and food issues.

    In my early 50’s, Ms. Lotta Bucks appeared to help me face my fears of growing older. She was an expert in cultivating “inner beauty” and counseled women about retirement. She taught them how to invest their “socks in the sock market and wash them grow!” And, finally, out popped Mrs. Milton, whose favorite advice is, “Just remember, dearie, it only matters what other people think!”

    The treasured Clown School of San Francisco, which I founded, became home to people from all walks of life who wanted to explore and tell their unique life stories by creating personal clown characters. Computer programmers from Silicon Valley, priests and nuns from the theological seminaries, CEOs, business professionals, emergency room doctors, and criminal lawyers all converged at the Clown School to tell their stories, find their voice and experience their joie de vivre. 

    Moona-the-Wise-Owl-Woman 

    ACT III

    Next, I came to understand that self-awareness and telling one’s compelling life stories, are the key to becoming an authentic and powerful person.  I wanted to take the essence of the clown – the aliveness, the vitality of that unique voice further out into the marketplace.  Joining with colleagues, in a theater-based communication training called ‘Active Communicating’ (www.corporatescenes.com) we focused on finding and expressing one’s authentic presence, voice and compelling leadership journey stories. For the past 20 years I have been  traveling the world helping leaders learn the skill set to inspire, motivate, influence and connect with any audience. 

    The River of life

    ACT IV

    Over time I came to painting, spirit journals, and vision storyboards. The River of Life has become a central exercise in my story-telling curriculum.  By creating a River of Life, one is able to clearly track the richness of his/her life experience and draw from those experiences to tell stories of courage, triumph, risk, struggle, values, adventure, mistakes made and lessons learned.  My life stories provide the context for my experiences and through them, I am able to find the inspiration to make an impact on the world.

    The ability to create and tell certain kinds of stories is not only a useful tool, but an essential prerequisite to finding my original voice.  These stories have provided visual maps and images for conveying who I am, the authentic moments of where I came from and who has mentored and inspired me along the way.

    My 40 year creative journey has been about the healing aspects of art, ritual and theater. The thread that has traveled through each act is creativity and communication. It is and has been my greatest joy to first find my authentic voice and then to inspire others to open to their full self expression.  This process has helped wake me up to life! My art work is the deepest manifestation of my gratitude for the gift of living a meaningful life and doing what I love every step of the way.  Thank you for allowing me to share my journey with you.

    The Beloved

    [All images courtesy of Arina Isaacson. Arina will be sharing her insight into storytelling in Hello Soul Hello Business in January.  To find out more about Arina visit her website or her art site]

    ***

    Kimberly Riggins

     

    I truly believe we all have a choice how we show up in the world. How we wake up in the morning, how we go about our day, who we interact with, how we handle our emotions and where we put our energy.  Regardless of our circumstances, we all have the ability to choose.

    Doing what you love is also a choice. A conscious choice to do something that brings you joy, inspiration and fulfillment, regardless of what other people may think.

    I most certainly do what I love.

    But it wasn’t always that way. I used to think I needed to conform to societal standards of what is proper, how to speak, how to look, what to do with my life.

    Standing at a crossroads in my own life, staring down the path of least resistance or the path of an unknown adventure, I chose the latter.

    I must say, choosing adventure which includes being authentically myself has been the best decision I have ever made.

    Today, I get to empower and inspire other women to stop conforming. To stand up for themselves. To live an authentic, beautiful, passionate life. I show them how they can fall head over heels in love with their own bodies, regardless of its shape or size. I teach them how to wrangle their negative thoughts that are just keeping them stuck and most importantly, I unveil a world that includes pleasure and lots of it!

    I couldn’t ask for a better way to spend my time.

    Believe me, my journey to get to this place was a bumpy one. I had to endure a lot of pain to get myself to this place. A rape, an eating disorder, depression, a crumbling relationship and a financial failure…all situations and circumstances that have the potential to break a person.

    Rather than play the victim and let these issues consume me, I tried to find the lesson I was supposed to learn with each event. It wasn’t easy. There were a number of times I wanted to throw in the towel. Just give up!

    But something deep inside me kept me going. It took years for me to realize that it was my innate strength that kept me afloat. That strength lives in all of us. Sometimes, it helps to have someone else help us pull it out.

    Moving forward, my life is full of exciting things. My first book, “Love Your Naked Ass” will soon be published, I have an amazing new program coming out, I am rebuilding my relationship, and I am creating a new financial plan.

    Looking back, if I had to do everything all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. Because I love who I am today and without those life experiences, I wouldn’t be me!

    [Images courtesy of Kimberly Riggins. Kimberly is Founder and Creator of The Art of Eating Chocolate Naked is a Body Image Expert, Self-Talk Warrior and Transformational Catalyst who inspires and empowers women to love and accept themselves just as they are. Find out more about her on her website.]

    ***

    See here for more inspiring *shared stories*

    ***

  3. Merry Christmas!

     

    Wishing you and your family a warm and cosy very merry Christmas!

  4. Kissin’ under the mistletoe

    One of my favourite traditions of Christmas is kissing under the mistletoe!  I had to share this picture with you – this is enough mistletoe for a whole lot of kissin’!

    Happy Christmas Eve!

  5. Camera suggestions please!

    I am thinking about treating myself to a new camera before I head off on my big Japan adventure.  I already have an Olympus E-500 Digital SLR and am looking for something considerably better. I don’t mind spending a fair bit if it is going to take great pictures and last me a while.  Nikon? Canon? Olympus again? I really want to be able to take good close up pictures as well as good pictures at night. 

    Any suggestions (including for lenses) very welcome!

  6. Christmassy craftiness

    I love being surrounded by stuff like this (and having an excuse to buy it!)

    What lovely crafty bits and pieces are you using for your present wrapping this year?

  7. Where did all the time go?

     

    Can you believe it is nearly Christmas?  Seriously, where did all the time go?  This whole year has flown, but these past few weeks in particular have been a complete blur.  I think that is one of the things I am most looking forward to about 2012, and our big adventure in Japan – just slowing down, breathing deeply, soaking up everything around me, not running at 100 miles an hour as I seem to have been doing for the past couple of months. And I’m going to try to start with Christmas…

    There are good things about a wild ride – the adrenaline, the excitement and the fact that you make really good progress at something – but as I start to think about my word for next year, things like ‘slow’, ‘relax’, ‘breathe’, ‘observe’ and ‘nurture’ are swirling around in my head…

    ***

  8. Christmas shopping

    In all the hustle and bustle it is easy to forget to look up when Christmas shopping, but if you do stop and look up in Leeds city centre you get a real treat. 

    The Christmas decorations in the Victoria Quarter are stunning – sparkly and gorgeous but still in keeping with the traditional architecture. 

    And they feel so Christmassy!

    What are the decorations like in your town?

  9. *shared stories* (42): Danielle Diamond and Beth Cougler Blom

    sharedstories***

    Today’s *shared stories* come from Danielle Diamond and Beth Cougler Blom

    ***

    Danielle Diamond

    I strive to inspire people to live healthier lives both physically and mentally through Yoga, meditation, and a healthy diet,  because I have experienced firsthand the profound positive change it can bring to not only your body, but the amount of happiness you feel on a daily basis- and isn’t that what we all ultimately want- to be happy?

    For me, doing what you love can be broken down to the simple act of waking up everyday and feeling inspired by the work that you do.  To be excited about the opportunities in front of you; to enjoy the company of the people you engage with throughout the day, and to picture yourself in some way continuing this work for many years to come and still smiling; that’s what doing what you love means to me.

     

    I realized that I needed to change my career when I stopping skipping to work everyday while at MTV. All I ever wanted since the first time I watched them play “Video Killed A Radiostar,” was to work there- but after many years of producing concert shows that I loved, I was being asked to produce reality TV. I felt really crappy about creating this genre of television as well as watching it, and I didn’t want to be a part of the machine that was churning it out. I had begun a love affair with yoga, so I decided I would again turn to something I loved; something that could add to people’s lives in a positive way, instead of making them feel good because of other people’s misfortunes.

    I happened to leave MTV when I was 8 months pregnant with my first son, but I continued taking weekly yoga classes at a studio I found nearby. By the time my second son was 9 months old, the studio I frequented was beginning a 9-month training program. The teacher I studied under recommended I look into the program, so I decided to sign up. I wound up not only deepening my practice, but my also my relationships with my family, my friends, and ultimately myself.  As soon as I graduated I was offered teaching positions at two local studios; then after teaching for 8 years I developed my new Xen Strength Yoga program, which combines a challenging vinyasa flow sequence with weights.

    I am extremely grateful that I’ve been lucky so far in building my yoga career. I am fortunate to work at a few great studios, with owners who really care about teaching students how to take their yoga off the mat as well as just a great way to stretch.  I think the real work is just beginning as I try to build my brand and reach a broader audience. However, I can already see that ramping up my work schedule has made me prioritize the importance of spending quality time with my children- I never want to let that be sacrificed for my career.

    I really try to look forward and not dwell on what I could have done better in the past, because I could make a mile-long list. However, I do wish I had known about web marketing and blogging 8 years ago when I started teaching and people were just beginning to blog. Now the marketplace is flooded, but I really hope to create a niche with my Xen Strength brand. I also wish I knew the importance of learning how to run the “business” side of a business instead of just being concerned with the creative and “fun” aspects of it. I could have saved myself a ton of time and money- but I have learned from my mistakes and hope to make fewer of them in the future.

     

    My dream now is to turn Xen Strength into the next big fitness brand, similar to Zumba. Not only do I have my yoga with weights program and DVD, but I am also creating a teacher training program and writing a book with Dr. Barry Sears of The Zone Diet fame. I would also love to speak about my wellness journey to young women who may be going down the same dark road I once was on, and prepare them with tools on how to navigate self-doubt and body image issues, and increase their self-confidence.  

    [All images courtesy of Danielle Diamond, creator of Xen Strength Yoga.   To find out more about Danielle visit her website]

    ***

    Beth Cougler Blom

    I know I’m doing what I love when I really enjoy going to work and the hours fly by when I’m there. It’s always been very important to me to do work that aligns with my values and I believe wholeheartedly in what I do. It’s probably why I ended up working at a volunteer centre here in Victoria, BC, Canada – it’s very easy for me to go around the community and speak about how important it is to volunteer. I’m still passionate about it after being there for five years – a record for me in terms of job longevity!

    People always tell me that they can tell I’m passionate about what I do just by the look on my face when I talk about it. That is the greatest compliment to me, and a sure sign that I am on the right track with my career.

    I never want to have the kind of job again that I dread going to every Sunday night, thinking about the next morning. I really think we all deserve a lot more than that.

    I don’t know if there will ever be “one thing” that I want to do, as I have many things that I love doing. And I need a lot of variety in what I do or I get bored. J Right now I love organizing events, connecting with people, developing and facilitating workshops, speaking in the community, and promoting issues and causes that I believe in. I feel pretty lucky to be doing all this, yet I know my future probably holds other types of work in it as well. I just don’t know what they all will be yet!

    For me, though, teaching/training has always been an interest and then a love. I wanted to be a high school teacher like my parents when I started university but eventually I found my way to adult education instead. I think the principles of adult education actually fit better with how I think education should be “done”, that is, recognizing that everyone in the classroom has some knowledge to contribute, not just the teacher. I find that concept very freeing as a facilitator: that I don’t have to have all the answers. In fact, it’s more interesting and rich when I don’t because it allows others in the room to share their experience. I always learn something myself when I facilitate workshops – I love that!

    Last year I did a self-imposed retreat and I read back years’ worth of journals. I discovered that I had written – eight years before – 23 points of what I needed in my future work. I was incredibly surprised to realize that I had 22 of them in my current job! That really struck me about the power of positive intention … I put it out there to the universe what I wanted, and eventually I got it.

    I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and so in the past few months I’ve started a business on the side of my day job. It is doing workshop facilitation and motivational speaking around the themes of “do what you love”, “love where you work” and “work effectively.” I have a number of passion areas of that I am exploring and facilitating workshops around underneath those themes. It’s exciting to put myself out there under my own name, yet also a bit scary. I guess my big dream is that I become fabulously successful and people will pay big bucks to contract me as a facilitator! And of course, that I am in heaven doing it. I’d love someone to call and say, “I was wondering if we could fly you to facilitate a workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico…” I’d be there in a second!

    If I could ask one thing of the universe I would ask for it to always give me the confidence and courage I need to keep putting myself out there and taking risks to do what I love. It takes a lot of guts to follow your dreams, and I find that a lot of fears bubble to the surface that I have to keep setting aside. I am very lucky to receive support from my friends and family to follow my dreams, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a little cosmic assistance as well!

    I think I spent a lot of my twenties thinking that I had to be older than I was to do what I really wanted to do. I didn’t think people would take me seriously as a facilitator or trainer because I wasn’t old enough. Silly me…what a waste of time! In my mid-30s I had a baby and I think I gained more confidence at the same time. I finally woke up and realized that I wasn’t the youngest one in the office anymore, that I am really good at what I do, and that I can do so much more! I could spend time now getting after myself for taking so long to gain the confidence I needed to grow in new directions, but I am instead spending more time reveling in being the age I am now. And like the butterfly in the photo here, drinking life’s nectar and enjoying spreading my wings.

    [Images courtesy of Beth Cougler Blom. Find out more about Beth on her blog or connect on Twitter (@BethCouglerBlom) or Facebook]

    ***

    See here for more inspiring *shared stories*

    ***

  10. Taking snapshots

    It has been a while since I took photos of random things around me. At the beginning of the year I spent hours snapping away, taking pictures of nature, signs, the sky, my feet – all sorts of things. But recently I have been working so hard, and been so attached to my desk, that I have ignored my beloved camera.  I also find myself more likely to pick up my camera when the sun is out and nature is bursting with life, but this weekend I am making myself get out and explore, and seek out pieces of beauty in the cold, dark winter landscape.

    How about you? Have taken many photos recently, just for fun?

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