Do You Want to Be a Conscious Parent?

Do You Want to Be a Conscious Parent?

Sometimes we carry ghosts around as grownups. The way our mother spoke. The way our father neglected. Enter your own kids and there’s nothing you want more than for your children to know peace where you experienced pain or upset. And even if your own childhood was somewhat even, you still wonder why you yell or become exasperated.  You still wish you could give your kids more patience, more love, instead of being triggered. Early this fall, I began talking to different parenting experts about what makes some parents able to stay connected to their kids, while other parents stay stuck in the cycle of losing it, feeling bad, compensating, etc. Each person spoke to a particular mindset–the kind of gentle perspective that made space for acknowledging when you’re getting triggered and also keeping the channels of communication open. They called this mindset Conscious Parenting. Since informal conversation has always been one of our favorite ways to connect at Hopeful World, we decided to host a series of kitchen table conversations to delve deeper into this topic, and the result is a beautiful audio series full of stories, laughter, honest confession, hope and practical tips for staying connected to your kids, even when you feel like you’re at your wit’s end. If you’re a parent who wants to do better and is tired of feeling guilty for losing your temper or overpowering your kids, this series is for you. You’ll hear from Dr. Shefali of Oprah fame, on why choosing to parent consciously can change your whole life. You’ll hear from Teresa Brett, social change activist and seasoned mom, on how a tiny shift in perspective can let in so much more compassion. I talked to Bhagavan Bauer of Joy-filled Parenting on how you can start being conscious in any moment, even if you’re a dad who may have not always been parented like this before. I also talked to the hilarious and wise Jennifer Day, founder of Applied Emotional Mastery, on how humor and play can help you address the darker sides of your child’s personality. Rebecca Thompson and I talked about how the brain works in breakdowns and how you can get back on track so fast with one conscious shift. And last but not least, I spoke with Cathy Williams, matriarch and wise elder, about her legacy of love in her own multi-generational family, where conscious parenting was not just a strategy for better behavior, but a way of life. Right now we are offering this instant downloadable audio series for $47. You receive an introductory talk from me along with six recorded conversations to help you find your way. As an expression of our gratitude this holiday season, we are offering this series for $27 when you use the discount code 154FA now through 12/4. You can go straight to the registration page here, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, Jen Lemen, your host and co-founder of Hopeful World, at help@hopefulworld.org. I am honored to bring this series to you with the help of my dear friend and co-collaborator Melissa Rivera. Our dream is that thousands of parents will take this gentle introduction and receive the support and encouragement they need to connect with their kids in a meaningful and effective way, triggers and all.

In Case You’re Tired of Feeling Low About Mother’s Day

In Case You’re Tired of Feeling Low About Mother’s Day

Here we are. Again.

Eating our Mother’s Day brunches. Browsing last minute grocery store cards. Wondering how we got here, back again to this holiday that dredges up so much and leaves us too often more curious than satisfied about why the whole thing is just so hard.

Maybe it’s hard because you’re old enough now to understand you can’t really be okay without your mother.

Maybe it’s hard because letting go of mother also meant letting go of a certain kind of dream of a life, of a world, of a partner, of a child where you could actually feel like yourself. Where you could know, really know, that the way you are is actually completely fine, everyone else’s opinion be damned.

Maybe it’s hard because not having that love won’t do anymore and living like it doesn’t matter, this long line of mothers and grandmothers behind you, holding you, supporting you, guiding you, will not do, not for one more day.

Not one more second.

Because the truth is you need her.
Because the truth is you want her.
Because the truth is she’s the only one who knows you in some strange and sometimes horrible way. And when you’re disconnected, you can never feel at ease with just how amazing and powerful you really are.

Because this is what the mother does. Or what we all know somehow in our bones she is supposed to do. She is supposed to be here. To validate. To understand. To guide. To insist. To cover. To dream. To reveal. To see. To love. To be everything and nothing at all, without saying a word.

In times past, this desire carried with it so much pain, because human mothers, whether they are us or we are waiting for them, have been disconnected from the mother line from before we were even born. In times past, we didn’t stand a chance. And they didn’t either. We were all, each one of us, adrift and unattached, the cord free floating in some kind of endless space. And the world we have created reflected back to us that lostness.

But I am here to tell you today, dear soul, that that world, the one that kept you unattached from that primal essential memory of being held by something so constant and greater than yourself is passing.

It is passing and in its place a new very ancient possibility is being born.

A possibility that can only emerge out of so much collective anguish over losing the link to the only thing that ever gave us any hope of ever having a deeply connected, deeply loving, deeply true way of feeling like we belong.

A possibility that can only be born out of the mess of so much ego and hierarchy and power and money gone mad.

A possibility that can only be born out of a planet that is fading for the sorrow of being so neglected, so exploited, so used for anything and everything but a sustainable, gentle, kind stewardship of love.

This grief you feel? It is not yours only. It is in the eyes of so many women and men everyday who exchange energy, even at a glance. You are not the only one.

It is a sign, in fact, of a new day, a new dawn, a new era, where the only way to return you to the Mother is to create a world where she would feel at home. Where the way she shares, the way she cooperates, the way she insists on collaboration and working it out, the way she holds space for everyone to feel part of a family is the way the world actually has to work. Or it will not survive.

A world where our shared longing must be reflected in our infrastructure, in our economies, in our cultures, in our families, in our world.

This path to this world is written on the palms of our hands. It is written on the inside of our hearts. It is our oldest memory and in it is in our collective power now to turn our tears into a fierce and persistent cry for a different way.

Consider these words from our friend and ally Marques Anderson:

We have tried our own way to figure out how to survive, even though the answers were always with us. There quietly nestled in the beginning, lay the ancient wisdom of birth. As we are delivered into this new world, we will never forget; but rather remember our purpose and our mission to live and thrive, to create and manifest greatness into the world. Where freedom is not auto corrected by how much money or status you carry, but how deep your truth resonates with the source. Even though the world has gone through so much hurt and pain, we are still being nurtured to dream and live lives full of growth and hope. We have been given the opportunity to create a new world and a new way of being, moving into a life infused with shared values, common courtesies and collective expansion. All this can be found in the eyes and heart of the Mother, for she is the nurturer of spirits and dreams.

Think of this today, when you have no words. Think of this when you have no hope. Inside this hopelessness, a bright and beautiful hope is being born, the kind that can only be birthed out of sorrow. The kind that can only push forward because you gave up so long ago on being surprised.

Your Mother is coming. She is almost here. And she will arrive because you dreamed her. Because you finally decided these tears were enough and that there must be now, some other, some strange and beautiful, old familiar way to the beginning we all can share.

With so much hope and love,
Jen

P.S. We are excited to travel to San Francisco this next week to the SHARE Conference sponsored by Peers.org and SOCAP to discuss the sharing economy and a more hopeful world. We’re even more excited to be traveling with the award-winning creators of The Light of Human Kindness Project, Patience Salgado and Hamilton Glass as well as Marques Anderson of the WE Foundation and Kelly Bean of African Road.

If you’d like to support our efforts, please join the Kindness Revolution here or write to me.

Feelings Schmeelings: A Beginner’s Guide

Feel it, people.

Whatever it is that’s brewing under there. Today is the day.

So whatdya got?

Joy? Frustration? Rage?
Happiness? Hope? Bliss?

The ability to feel is one of our greatest assets but it’s also the very thing that almost immediately goes under siege when anything at all happens that jolts us out of our skin. Pain, of any kind at all, emotional, physical, psychic, completely jacks with our internal safety system. Too many days of not knowing what to do with those moments and before you know it, you’re just not aware of feeling that much anymore. You just start thinking things about how you might be feeling, but you don’t really know anymore.

I mean, at all.

Everything gets a little numb. And so, on a day, like Valentine’s Day when you are bombarded with emotion of every single artificial variety, you can just kind of go blank.

What is all the fuss about? What is going on? And all of it feels kind of silly. Or worse, maybe even a little dumb.

Let’s be real here. Valentine’s Day is totally made up. It doesn’t actually mean anything, and if you don’t like it, that’s totally fine. OR if you LOVE it, like I do, and have already listened to fourteen 80’s love songs, that’s fine, too.

But what’s not fine is all the numbness and not caringness because there’s just no room to even try to feel anything you’re actually feeling anymore. Not even the tiniest shred of sensation, because you really don’t do that anymore. Because most of the time, all any of us end up doing whatever is we think we’re supposed to be doing and just going through the motions.

I’d like to propose three things this Valentine’s Day.
1. How you feel matters.

2. You deserve to know what that feeling is exactly.

3. You’re really going to be okay if you actually feel it. I swear. I promise.

I say all this as someone who says “It’s fine” at least five time a day, during the times especially, when something in particular is NOT fine.

I say this as someone who has inconvenient feelings at time, like the rush of love when everyone else is being measured and calm.

I say this as someone who has locked many a door and cried in the bathroom because crying at the dinner table would have been so strange and impossible to explain.

I say this as someone who feels bored and listless and numb until I realize it’s really something more like disappointed, hopeless or grief.

Today, I invite you on this day of demand when you are required to feel so many feelings, to simply and honestly, feel your own. The ones that are truly there, not the ones everyone else wants you to have. And if this is tricky for you, as it sometimes is for me, I recommend lying down on your bed or getting comfortable in a chair and going over your whole body in your mind, like you would with a newborn baby, and asking each part what it’s feeling right now, and wait, yes wait, for the honest, inevitable answer.

Will you try it?

With a heart full of joy and gratitude for you,

Jen

P.S. Are you in the complete opposite situation today? Flooded with feelings you just don’t know what to do with? We are joining forces today with The Light of Human Kindness project and sending funny/heartfelt songs to anyone who is having a crappy day and can’t wait till the holiday is over. Just text us at (804) 921-5705 or (804) 426-2357.

P.P.S. Want to be happy? I’m crushing over this french philosopher monk today. Come join me.

P.P.P.S. As always, doors are wide open for Your Emotional Wisdom today, if you want to learn more about being with your feelings in a safe, empowering, beautiful way.

 

Sick of Pretending?

Sick of Pretending?

I’m sitting here in my messy office, wondering if I should watch Fight Club or Chocolat. Do you know these films?

Both tell stories of creative destruction for the sake of necessary and complete renewal.
One from a decidedly male perspective, the other from one of pure feminine seduction.

I vacillate between both approaches and question my sanity when it seems that destruction of any kind is called for. Get upset, lose your cool, say something’s not right, not clear, not working or not okay and you run the risk of a kind of backlash that can simmer on silently, violently even, for days.

Just ask anyone who’s ever had an opinion about how to load the dishwasher.
Or do anything in particular at all.

Do you get me?

I want to go on record today that a certain kind of destruction is needed in our world today and for far too long really nice, gentle spirited, silently seething people like you and me are the ones who need to get after it.

And not for the sake of better dish loading or towel folding, or even better performance at work or better relationships with various people we are supposed to get along with, but for something that actually matters.

Our daughters, for example. Our sons.

Our souls while we’re at it. Let’s get serious.

Right now there’s a particular kind of strength that is still pulsing underground, yet to see the light of day. It is of the earth, it is messy, it is primal, it is raw.

It’s the thing that moves you into swift and decisive action when your kid starts a fever in the middle of the night.

It’s the thing that makes you say, Here’s exactly what you need to do when your friend/kid/family member calls in an honest-to-goodness full blown crisis.

It’s the thing that turns you on when you see a woman stand up for something she believes in or when an older couple moves like magic on a dance floor.

It’s the thing that makes you roll your partner over in the middle of the night.

It’s what makes you fly off the handle and give the person who crossed the line a well-needed piece of your mind.

It is your fire.

It is your conviction.

It is your all-wise, unapologetic, defiant knowing.

The part of you that you submerge in conversations about trash and schedules and dishwasher loading. The part of you that you couch in “Well, this is one way to look at it” and “Let me know what works for you.” It is the part of you that does the silent scream before you go into meetings, cub scouts or book club. It is the part of you that cries in the shower or has total meltdowns over stupid things like eating on the couch or kids having too much fun in the back of the car.

It is the part of you that has been called overly emotional, intense, hung-up, wound-up, uptight. The part that you keep well sealed in a tight drum in the very center of your core, in your private parts, the ones that no one ever, ever touches quite quite right.

It is the part of you that wishes you could throw down in moods and outbursts and stony silences the way others in your life do. It is the part of you that is sick of waiting for the real, raw, alive part of any person you desperately love to show up.

Are you still with me?

We keep our silence and keep our distances because we fear what will come unraveled or exposed if we truly say what we see. But today I’m here to say that that not saying is not worth the price we are paying, even to one another. We are swallowing our wisdom down like poison. We are transmuting our magic into forms that make sense in a linear, rational, play-it-safe world, but that discount, diminish and disappoint the parts of us, the animal part of us, that knows there’s a more natural, more intuitive, more vibrant way to live.

I know this is like opening Pandora’s box. I do.

I know this is asking for a machete, when we’ve all spent so much time doing everything with preschool scissors.

But I ask you, dear friends, aren’t you tired of pretending you don’t know how to use a knife? Aren’t you sick of cutting and pasting when your razor sharp eyes can sometimes actually see, actually feel, the wisest, most beautiful and most elegant way to machete a path through the brush? When you already know deep down that path is the only way to a real world of emotional truth and safety? For women and men.

Hit reply and tell me about it. I’m right here.

With love and fire and a sword in my hand,
Jen

P.S. Join us, won’t you, for Your Emotional Wisdom! Learn the comfort of feeling your emotions and letting them have their way under the wise and strong command of your amazing, loving heart. Read more about the class here. Register today here. Class starts Monday, March 3!

P.P.S. Check out this video by friend and teacher Sera Beak.

The Mother to Heal All Wounds

The Mother to Heal All Wounds

I’ve been down deep in a cave, hiding out from the whirl and sheer velocity of a brand new year, a brand new season. In years past it seemed like there were so few people in the world debating their word for the year, deciding on their intentions, filling their hearts, their souls, their minds with as much spirit and soul as is shining in the world these days.

Times are changing.
Can you feel it?

I’m in this space of needing rest, needing quiet, needing privacy. Wanting the intimacy of knowing looks, gentle hugs and the companionship of long walks, no words. These are not things you can get on the internet, no matter what your word is. These are things we must experience in our real lives, in our real relationships, in the real eyes of the ones whose eyes meet ours when we wake in the morning. In the gesture of those who turn away when we wish so badly they would lean in.

It’s a point that must be made.
This medium, these letters, these classes, these videos, these Facebook statuses…they might be our lifelines, our medicine, our vitamins, but they are not our salvation.

The only thing that saves is the warmth, the connection, the strength, the wisdom, the fearless courage of Mother, that sense of being in the world that reminds us we can risk, we can try, we can rest, we can cease from all our striving and be found once again at home in the place where we first started.

This is horrible news, I know.
Whether your mother was an angel or a devil.
Whether you are the mother now with such an impossible task to even begin to try to do for another.

How could anyone ever give us all of what we ever needed?
Isn’t it too much to ask?
Isn’t it better to just move on? Do the best you can? Forget it ever happened?

I wish I could say yes to these questions. It would make everything so much easier.

But the truth is that without the Mother there is no home for our weary hearts.
Without Mother there is no confidence in our first tentative steps.
Without Mother there is no joy in our silent quiet triumphs.

And so without saying, even as we gently release our human mothers be the mothers they are and not the Mother To Heal All Wounds, we go on our quiet secret searches for the rest and reassurance we need. And in so many ways we find her. In the feel of the brush against the canvas, in the coziness of a freshly made bed or in the excitement we feel when a song or a dance or a story makes us feel like something amazing and bigger than us really can happen after all. We see glimpses of her in art, we feel the magic of her in our bodies, alive and awakened to longing, the same way we did as fresh born babies rooting for the breast.

She is bigger than us. And so tiny.
Hidden in everything intricate and beautiful, juicy and alive.
She is underneath the surface, down deep in the earth where we don’t feel silly to sway or open our eyes to the rising moon, the setting sun. Where we feel so free to just be ourselves.

This year in Hopeful World, my dream is to honor her and to be close to her and to find all the ways I have pretended she hardly ever mattered.

To seek her out like a precious ring, rife with memory and meaning, that is hidden somewhere in the house, that time you decided to put it someplace “safe”.
To look under all the rugs and behind all the curtains and in the basement and in the attic and all those other places in life or society, civilization or history, that you place things you can’t deal with right now, because they are too messy or simply don’t yet have their proper place.

This journey, I can see so far, will mean a lot more writing for me. More travel. More love. More rest. More tenderness. More honesty. More quiet. More fun. And even though I know deep down it’s a journey I have to take on my own, as always, I never really want to do anything like this without a tribe, without a family to come home to, without a community of people who care about these things, too.

So if you’ll have me this year, I hope to share some quiet hours in the real-world with you. In simple gatherings of heart and soul where we don’t have to say too much, but just looking in each other’s eyes is so much more than enough.

I want this, and I want you to hear, while I’m being quiet, words and wisdom from so many more of the people who are home to me, the ones who embody Mother in ways that give me confidence, freedom, acceptance, challenge and grace.

Some of these people are my sisters, some are my dearest friends. Some are men, actually, who have somehow managed to hold the feminine in their spirits without altering in any way their kingly masculine souls. Others are real mothers of the most divine proportions. All are so honestly on their own journeys and feel like I do, that no one of us has the corner on anything, we are so solidly in this thing together.

To do this, we might need to actually come see you–I have my eye on a handful of US cities right now–to either drink tea, go on a long walk or enjoy a deep conversation about the way things can be. How does this sound?

So write to us, will you? Let us know where you live, and what kind of gathering might be a beacon and a light of your own hopeful world journey back to Mother. Tell me what you wish I would say if I wrote for days and days and if you feel called in your heart, tell me that I can do this, because the time for real in-the-world, bodies and soul connection, feels like NOW to me, and I want to do my part. I don’t want to miss it.

With so much love,
Jen

If Your Parents Don’t Get You: An Experiment

Some of you are going into a warzone today. Others a wasteland.
For many it will be more like an arcade where all the games are fixed and the outcomes already determined. A few of you will feel like you won the lottery. At least one of you will declare and then recant 364 days later: We are never coming here again.

No matter what your situation, I’d like to throw out the idea that this holiday can be different than any of your other holidays, and not because your family suddenly realized who you are and has decided to embrace you fully, but because you yourself are not the same person you were last Thanksgiving, and that simple fact has the power to change everything about today and then some.

Take a minute if you can to really register that fact.
You are not the same. Your heart is a little bit more worn. Your mind is a little bit more open. You know things about yourself you didn’t know before. You broke through some patterns that were difficult to see for so, so long. And in the places where you are spectacularly stuck, you know it now. You see blocks where there are actually blocks. And that’s huge.

Today when you sit down at that table, remind yourself. I’m not the same. I’m changing.

So many times when we’re growing and working through our stuff, we use this fact to alienate us from those we love. We see our parents as fixed points on a horizon, never moving, never changing. We see ourselves as ships moving farther and faster past them, while they wave (or turn their backs) from the shore.

But the truth is they’re changing, too. They’re getting older. They’re getting more sure about their stories. They’re making the decision on one level or another to embrace the life they made, crappy decisions and all. And as much as we hate that, because we’re still hoping for them to change and be the people who can love us the way that we think we need to be loved, the truth is, as we get older, we’ll do that same thing, too.

And that thing will steady us and stabilize us and help us get ready to let go and be part of history and not the center of the story anymore. For all their flaws and shortcomings and all of ours, we are part of them. We came from their line, their lineage. They have imprinted on us their dreams and their griefs and we bear them now, for better or for worse.

Today when you sit down at the table, consider this. These people will someday no longer sit here. They will reach a point where their time on this earth will end. They will not be here to be the walls we push up against, the people we seek to surpass or the ones whose choices define our own.

You owe no one anything for this fact. But we owe it to ourselves to feel whatever we feel on these difficult days and to find compassion for how complicated it is for us to be sons and daughters to mothers and fathers who are so far from perfect. We owe it to ourselves to remember how much we don’t know and how far we’ve come and how far yet we have to go, until we ourselves are old and sitting across the table looking at people we in our own hapless ways loved, and realize we won’t always sit here at this table, too.

Thank you for reading these messages. I have a candle lit on my windowsill this morning, as I write, for you. That you will be fully present today with the truth and wonder of this wicked and wild thing we call family, and that you will know you are beloved, without anyone else having to say it’s true.

With so much love,
Jen

P.S. Come dance with me and Melissa if you’re really feeling the holiday blues or just know you need to move. It won’t cost you a fortune and it’s going to be so good to let ourselves have something emancipating for the holiday season. Sign up is here.

P.P.S. I’m checking email at least once today, so feel free to hit reply and blurt out the whole story if you need an SOS or a witness. I’m happy to be here for you.

* * *

Remember that none of the material provided by Hopeful World is intended to take the place of firsthand support, evaluation, and advice from trained medical and mental health professionals.

What Happens When It Storms

What Happens When It Storms

Today is not just another day for someone living in the central islands of the Philippines. Instead, it’s another day that a mother waits in desperation for news of a missing a child or another watches helplessly on while her hungry baby gives up crying for nourishment.

On my Facebook stream, my schoolmates and family are volunteering for the relief operations, sharing details of where and how to send money or how to help distribute food. What combination of fate and series of random choices landed me in this place of comfort and ease, while others struggle through such a tragedy.

On the other side of the planet, I wake up in my cozy bed, walk around the block with my dog, and check FB for news from home. It would be easy for me to shut out the images of whole towns washed away, 2,000 feared dead, people looting just to survive.

Really, tragedies are happening all the time. There’s a war in Syria. Human trafficking is taking place right now in all corners of the world. And yeah, the black rhino is officially extinct. I wish such things didn’t affect me and that I could just whine mindlessly about the leak in my ceiling or about getting a speeding ticket or some such stupid snapshot of my life in the Midwest. But it does.

I’m missing the village of my family right now. Some of you might remember that I grew up in the Philippines and that most of my family still lives there. That’s me in the picture with my grandfather.

When I was a girl, during the annual monsoon season, the rains would come. Inevitably, the electricity would go out. My grandmother would have checked the reserves to make sure we had enough rice and canned goods, batteries and candles because there was sure to be flooding, stranded cars and people, and shortages of food.

But the storms also meant we would emerge from our separate rooms and gather together in the dining room and tell stories by candlelight. We would share and laugh and laugh, even as the storm raged around us. In times of tragedy, in the path of destruction, sometimes togetherness is all we have.

Where I am right now, there is no storm forcing us together and we are all living in our separate lives in our separate homes. The way we can feel so disconnected from each other can cause me to despair. I just know that there are hundreds of other people just like me sitting in their own little (or big) houses feeling isolated and alone in our little (or big) tragedies. What if we were to imagine ourselves together for just one moment, all gathered around a big table, with only our stories to sustain us? What kind of strength and hope can we glean from such togetherness?

Grateful for your presence,
Ria

p.s. It’s so hard to know what to do in these situations. It’s so easy to feel helpless over here, listening to all the stories of bureaucracy and corruption in Typhoon Yolanda aid distribution. But when I listen to my heart, it tells me that I have to help anyway, and allow things to unfold the way they will. If you feel the same and want to join me, I’m using the Philippine Red Cross.

Mutual Weirdness and Other Love Stories

Mutual Weirdness and Other Love Stories

I can’t stop watching this video.
If I didn’t know these two personally, I would not believe they could possibly be this honest, this sweet or this devoted, but they are. So much, so ridiculously much.

I met Scott (the World Guinness Book record holder for wearing a nametag the most days in a row — 11 years and counting) in St. Louis through Ria and then later Brittany when together they moved to New York City to make their dreams come true. I spent time with them in New York every so often, listening to their stories, hearing their hopes and watching, oh-so-carefully as they made the gentle (but dramatic transition) from caring more about the beauty of the “we” than any other success they might have imagined as separate entities.

In September, they married. (Our first Hopeful Wedding!) And I was lucky enough to be their witness first at the New York City courthouse and then a week later as their officiant at a small ceremony in St. Louis. I was excited and honored but also a little nervous. When you do your entire life in your pajamas and have basically one uniform with two not-so-slight variations (jeans/dress, bangles/beads, cowboy boots) to wear everywhere else, I always panic going into more traditional social settings. Combine that with the fact that I make a living out of having profound and deep, meaningful conversations with people (and am consequently a horrible chit-chatter — the fodder of weddings, office parties and baby showers everywhere), I was a little worried.

But Scott and Brittany were so clear. Please just come as yourself. Wear your cowboy boots, your bangles and your beads. You being you is an expression of who we are, too. And we are more than happy for everyone to see you, exactly as you always are.

It was one of the most genuine gestures of acceptance I’ve ever received.

Mostly, I think, because the pain of falling outside the lines is so great. It’s not easy to let your rough edges show, and harder still when you struggle with the social skills to hide them like everyone else. Having that exposure, the kind you can’t manage for the public, is humbling and sometimes embarrassing, but it’s also a strange gift. You have to be yourself. You don’t really have a choice. Pulling off all the other options doesn’t come without extreme contortions or massive effort.

This is who you are, come hell or highwater. This is it.

I’m oh-so-slowly making peace with that weirdness in myself, and am deeply thankful for the people I know who are gently making their rough edges known, one creative, brave act at a time. It’s one thing if being yourself makes you a natural fit for traditional or conventional frameworks. It’s another thing entirely if it makes you unusual, strange or a little bit off the beaten path. You have to be okay with not always fitting in, and you have to hold out hope for the kind of radical acceptance or “mutual weirdness” Brittany so wisely calls love.

This space that Brittany and Scott are holding… this space that says you don’t have to be ashamed to be your own wild, weird, alien amazing self, and that you can be completely accepted and even adored, in your most true natural state, is here for you today.

It really is.

And I’m standing in that space, and I hope if you need to, you will stand here with me, too.

With so much love,
Jen

P.S. So honored and happy today to share with you our very first Hopeful Mix made by request by our friend Shannon, a dear ally of Hopeful World and a frequent flyer in our classes. We hope you’ll enjoy her unique expression of hope and that it brings you so much joy and light!

P.P.S. If you missed our pay-what-you-can offer, it’s not too late to join us for The Story of You. There’s magic that happens when you make room for a new story of you. Will you join us? Class starts Monday.

In Case You’re Really Hoping Things Can Change

In Case You’re Really Hoping Things Can Change

Go ahead fill in the blank.

Oh, in my family, everyone thinks I’m _______________________ , but I don’t really see myself that way.
Yeah, I never got to do _______________________ . I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for me.
Things could be different for me, but this relationship with my (mom/dad/husband/wife/boss/friend) means I really can’t __________________________.
Here’s the thing, life doesn’t just work like that. Not everyone can _____________________.
If only my (mom/dad/husband/kid/wife/friend/co-worker) would stop treating me like __________________________, things would get so much better around here.

Sentences like these make up the story of our lives, and these stories shape up, direct us and convince us of what’s possible for us. They also teach us what can never be ours.

When Ria first started developing The Story of You, I was very much on this page. I was recovering from a divorce and a very intense period in my life where I had decided to put my own responsibilities on hold in order to help someone else who I thought really needed a miracle. The problem was, once I did my part to help the miracle happen, my life was in shambles. Everyone around me could see the disaster coming from miles away, I’m sure, but to me, I felt embarrassed by my mistakes and extremely limited because of the decisions I had made.

Everything felt fixed, and I was sure my work now was to accept things as they were instead of leaning into any kind of hope or change.

Ria uncovered tons of research for The Story of You, which involved talking to people who had spent years examining how the brain holds stories and how the soul interprets them. Her data seriously challenged my doom and gloom assumptions. I was convinced that I had to embrace the pain, go deeper, try harder, but from everything she was learning, that was not the case.

What I did need was a chance to loosen my white knuckle grip on my story, which I was holding like some precious ancient infallible religious text. I needed some way to let in a more hopeful point of view, and one that wasn’t just positive mumbo-jumbo, pie-in-the-sky. I needed balance in my story and the willingness to entertain the possibility that the story of me could be a blessing and not necessarily a curse, because of all my crappy choices.

And the research said I could actually have that. I could have balance. I could have hope. I could have a framework that opened up the future and gave me new options for a hopeful future.

Getting this through my head was NOT easy, which is probably one of the reasons why The Story of You is so good today. Ria had to keep coming up with more and more playful, fun, creative options to shake up my psyche. And the kind that wouldn’t shut me down or scare me, so the change in perspective could come naturally, with the kind of ease that made me more malleable, and less invested in my suffocating narrative.

This is truly a foundational, life-changing class for Hopeful World. And as time goes on, we can really see that the approach presented here, really does help you soften into the kind of shifts that change you forever.

For the next 24 hours, we’re doing an experiment. We are waiving the fixed pricing (the class usually goes for $197) and inviting anyone who feels drawn to this course to pay whatever they would like. If that feels too fuzzy, you can think of it in increments of 25 between $25 and $250, with permission to pay just $2 if that’s what you know is an honest contribution right now. (Yes, we’ve been there, too!)

Our hope is that by doing this experiment we will throw open the floodgates…to our community, to our classes and to our hearts. We are delighted by the story we’re holding for ourselves in all of this which is that we are cared for, we are seen and we are blessed. And so are you.

Will you join us? For The Story of YOU? Pay-what-you-can registration is here.

With so much joy and love,
Jen and Ria

P.S. Want to learn more about what we do? Visit us at hopefulworld.org/join.

Light the Darkness

Light the Darkness

I was nursing my baby, standing in the kitchen, watching the little television a neighbor had lent me to get through the early days of life with a newborn and an undiagnosed case of postpartum depression. I don’t remember much other than feeling completely flattened listening to hour after hour of coverage, including the distressed voice of a soon-to-be mother of twins ask a newscaster if he could find her husband who worked in the Twin Towers, because she really needed him home. She really couldn’t be without him.
I stood at the kitchen counter and wept.

Today my baby is a middle schooler and my then husband is gone, off to a new chapter, doing the best he can with his new life as I try my hardest with mine.

The new president who won an election on the premise of hope, is arguing for the authority to start something that looks remarkably like a war, and mothers all around the world nurse their newborn babies, listen to the news and hope against hope for their husbands to come home, even when bad goes to worse.

Everything changes, I said foolishly once. Nothing stays the same.

Only when it doesn’t. Only when we get caught up in a loop that looks and feels exactly like a pattern, a pattern that must be broken before we run the grooves too deep in our minds and start to think things can never ever change.

I want to tell you today, that things do change.

Even the most difficult, most painful, most heart-wrenching things.

The kind of things that leave you in a state of terror in your bed at night.

The kind of things that make you feel tiny and small and incapable of taking care of anyone else, let alone yourself.

I know this because I have seen it with my own eyes.

I know it because when faced with a choice to make things different for one another, so often there are moments of magic where we set aside our restraints, our limitations, our preferences and choose, even out of our own lack, to make things different for someone else.

This is the heart of kindness. And when we stay open and tender to that possibility, we embody the essence of hope.

Today, in honor of September 11, I’d like to invite you to visit The Light of Human Kindness Project, an online experience and interactive mural in Richmond, Virginia. Hopeful World is a proud sponsor of the mural and played an integral part of the hopeful story the wall tells. The wall is a work of art, but more importantly it is an invitation to the Kindness Revolution as each light on the wall will only be illuminated in real time when someone like you shares hope in a dark place. You can read more about the wall (which goes live tonight!) here.

And if you’re reading today, thinking, I cannot possibly do anything for anyone else, then I invite you to sink into some serious self-renewal with me. It’s okay, to be the baby that needs to be carried for a while. It’s really okay to need the care of a divine and indefatigable mother.

All my love,
Jen

P.S. If you’re feeling blue today, send a message to help(@)hopefulworld.org. I’d love to hear how you’re feeling on this day in particular, where you were on September 11, and what it was that helped you then (and now) hold on to hope.

photo credit: Aimee T. McNamee Photography