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Posts Tagged ‘Vulnerability’

Am I Brave Enough to Be Me?

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

I am sitting on a cabin step in upstate New York with a woman from Vermont who I met less than 48 hours ago. We are both participants in the Camp Good Life Project (Camp GLP). It’s my third year at this summer camp for creative souls, entrepreneurs, and change-makers. It’s a weekend of wisdom, deep learning, creating, playing (color wars + dance parties), meditation, yoga classes, and an outrageous talent show. More than that, it’s a weekend of deep connections, soulful humanness, and joyful play.

As we sit eating our veggie pizza, we laugh about our experiences from the weekend. We talk about how we have witnessed being vulnerable, feeling safe, being connected to our core values, playing our hearts out, and experiencing deep love without judgment. When asked what her biggest lesson of the weekend has been, she looks me in the eye and says she is leaving with the question, “Am I brave enough to be me?” I exhale. My eyes fill with tears. Her eyes fill with tears. We just sit together and listen to the question without rushing to any outcome or answer.

BeBraveThe question of being brave enough to be me has been part of my meditation since leaving camp. Am I brave enough to be me? For three days at camp, the answer was a resounding yes. I felt brave enough to hug friends and strangers, to (belly) laugh, to cry with people I met for the first time, to dance and sing, to drum publicly at a bonfire, to make my own mala (prayer beads), to nap under a tree, to take long quiet walks, to watch birds and share the joy of it with campers, to listen and bear witness to stories about longing or grief or dreams, and to share my deep passions and fears.

The world has too much fear spreading and camp is a reminder that something else works – bravery. The kind of bravery that asks people to be themselves, to show up fully, and to tune into their heart and live from that place.

It takes great bravery to:

What all of these (and the many more) moments of bravery exemplified is the ability to fully show up – as is – just the way we are. It was the experience of being able to laugh and cry in the exact same breath. We can be brave and doing it afraid in the exact same moment. And we can do it together. This is what it means to connect deeply, live soulfully, and play joyfully.

Am I brave enough to be me? I take another exhale. I share with my new friend, “I needed a detox from snarkiness and cynicism.” It’s easy to be a critic; the real work is showing up and doing it afraid. Brave enough to me means fully living my values of generosity, connection, vulnerability, creativity, and spirituality.

And you? What comes up when you hear the question: Am I brave enough to be me?

This is dedicated to Jonathan and Stephanie Fields, the Camp GLP team and volunteers, all the campers and everyone living bravely.

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2013 Lessons of the Heart

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Back in January, I declared 2013 to be the year of “Daring Deeply.” In my post back in January 2013, I wrote:

My focus in 2013 will be about taking chances on outrageous (and unknown) invitations for new workshops and retreats and daring myself to put my heart-centered work out into the world in greater ways. My purpose is to dig deeper inside my heart so that I can take peaceful actions and dare greatly into vulnerability.

As I reflect back on 2013, I realize how much I have dared greatly. My year started with going through many medical tests and receiving a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. That certainly taught me how to dare deeply physically, mentally, and emotionally.  

Daring deeply required me to slow down and create more meditative practices. It taught me to advocate for myself. It invited me to live with vulnerability and wholeheartedness. It taught me to ask for help and receive. I am grateful for every lesson, every journey of my heart, every tear, every smile, every friendship, every laughter, and every moment that brought me closer to my wild cosmic heart.

2013 was a year to go inside more and live from my heart space. I stepped away from a long-time successful shamanic teaching practice. When I gave myself the space to let go, I discovered profound practices of the heart.

The biggest gift of 2013 was allowing serendipity to replace certainty.

I dared greatly and returned to Hawaii to facilitate an annual wild cosmic heart retreat. I met a group of amazing, courageous, and loving women who opened their hearts and trusted the sacred space we created. The group dared greatly too. And I was deeply honored to share the week with my sister, Mary Ann.

Thank you to everyone who shared themselves with me on my journey – whether you know it or not, you made a difference in my life. Everything became my teacher this year from my month long sabbatical, to birding, to the Pacific Ocean, to a new health condition, to new friendships and spiritual teachers, to Kadampa Meditation Center.

My willingness to put my heart-centered work out into the world opened up possibilities to teach in 2014 and beyond, including Hawaii, Colorado, the Virgin Islands, Canada, and even Cambodia.

It certainly was a year of Daring Deeply! Thank you for sharing it with me. I look forward to sharing more heart centered journeys together in 2014.


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A Wholehearted Journey to Hawaii

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Wild Cosmic Heart Fire

How do we return to our wild, untamed selves?

How can we slow down long enough to listen to our own heart?

How do we open up to vulnerability and trust we are always enough?

How can we give ourselves permission to be silly, to not know, to let our heart teach us, and to be ourselves without editing?

These are just some of the questions I will take a deep dive into during the upcoming Wild Cosmic Heart Retreat in Hawaii at Kalani Oceanside, November 3 – 9, 2013. I am thrilled to be joined by women all around the country and Canada who are willing to take dig deep inside their own wild cosmic heart.

Look for some great insights, stories, and photos when I return.

Until then, you are invited to ask yourself:
What is your heart saying now? And now? And now?

Keep asking. Keep listening. And enjoy every moment.

From my wild cosmic heart to yours…

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Stewardship Meets Serendipity

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Who would you be if you aligned your life with your soul? I ask this question almost daily. When making a decision, I often ask if it is aligned with my heart and soul.

PathwayAs I work with many entrepreneurs, healers, and coaches, I’ve seen how many breathe life into a business because they want to be of service, they see an opportunity, and they have knowledge and expertise in an area of need. The business starts to grow, and then one day the entrepreneur wakes up and asks, “Why am I doing this? And why don’t I love this work more?”

I have learned that just because you breathed an idea into the world and spent all your time and energy getting it to where it is, doesn’t mean you should continue investing in keeping it alive the rest of your life.

You change over time and so does your work. This is actually the greatest place to be in. This is the place where stewardship meets serendipity. There comes a point when being good at something might mean letting it go so you can make yourself available to something even better. There’s no shame in saying “things have changed” and “I have changed,” then taking the actions necessary to allow you the space to redirect your energy toward something more aligned with who you are, what you want out of life, and how you wish to contribute to the world.

I recently left a successful shamanic teaching practice. The last teaching practice I co-taught for the last seven years flourished. We had a vibrant community of students open to learning a healing path. I had great pride in teaching deep healing work. But there came a time when I stopped wanting to teach. I felt increasingly disconnected from the practices and teachings I’d co-created. The teachings and practices began to focus on only one healing modality. I was at a place in my life where I wanted the practices to be more expansive. I no longer wanted the teachings to focus on just the pain of the past. I wanted to build community around living with wholeheartedness. I have never believed there is one path to follow ─ rather I have experienced many modalities, methods, and paths that teach about wholeness.  

I found myself changing and wanting new practices to teach. I made the assumption everyone would want to learn new practices and healing modalities. I came to realize I was not the steward of this community anymore. So I stopped teaching the classes. I shared my healing practices with my last group of students in April, and walked away. It was time. And it was the right time ─ or I would have remained in an old pattern and not have allowed myself to be open to serendipity. It was the right decision for me and the students.

We get so wrapped up in finishing what we started, we forget to ask if the thing that led us is still the thing that brings us joy. Maybe what we started has evolved. Maybe we’ve evolved. Assumptions that drew us may now be wrong. And even though we’ve adapted to create a successful project or practice, that version is now stripped away from what drew us to the quest in the first place.

So, yes, maybe you gave birth to something powerful, something that matters to others. But does it still matter to you? Ask the question: “Is what I am doing aligned with my heart and soul?” Ask it at least once a year. And if the answer isn’t a resounding yes, then it is time to pause and listen and explore why. Then do what you need to do to get back to a yes. And that might mean walking away, letting go, letting someone else take over, or starting over.

But if you stay without joy, are you willing to risk not being open to what might be available?

Stewardship often means giving yourself space to do less and be more ─ and to come back to alignment. Sometimes the greatest stewardship can mean letting go and making ourselves available to what’s next. If we don’t leave space for a new possibility then we risk missing moments of serendipity.

Are you willing to give yourself space and be open to serendipity?

Serendipity has led me to discover profound practices of the heart, learning new meditations and mantras. My teaching practice has now expanded to include, Deep Listening, Vulnerability, Sacred Awakening, and Ceremonies of the Heart.  I will be teaching the Wild Cosmic Heart in Hawaii, Colorado and Costa Rica. I am learning to align my work with my heart and everything grows from there.

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At Home with My Emotions

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

I’m hyper-sensitive. I have come to discover that means I am an empath.

I feel other peoples’ pain as if it were my own, even if I don’t know them. My face loses all color and I turn “sheet-white” if I watch something devastating or really sad. I cry easily at Hallmark shows, Maxwell House Coffee commercials, or even melancholy song lyrics.

I have known this for many years and have been made fun of for it. People would say, “You’re too sensitive” or “Lighten up.” For a long time, I thought that it was a bad thing until I realized my sensitivity made me a better listener and a better visionary.

It’s been a huge asset as an entrepreneur, writer, leader and artist. I relate to people in ways other people are not able to do so. I often understand what they seek and aspire to. I relate to their emotions. It lets me work with clients on more of an emotional level. I see past the facades and can speak to, create, and offer inspiration for what really matters.

Being an empath has allowed me to take a deeper dive inside my own heart as well as have in-depth conversations with those around me. I am able to question more, probe deeper, and create space for expansion.

It’s also been hugely beneficial in allowing me to connect when I teach, present, and facilitate. My empathetic ways allow me to feel my way through conversations on an intuitive level. It allows me to really “see” people for who they truly are.

Of course, it is not always easy. When someone else is in pain, it can be hard to distance myself from it. I tend to take on too much of what and who is around me. I want to help other people — at times to the detriment of myself.  

So, how do I navigate in the world as an empath? I know I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole when I am feeling overwhelmed and I don’t want to push people away in order to not feel. I need to be able to engage and be present and let go in order to best serve.

For me, I do my best to balance the gifts of feeling deeply with the grace of letting go. I live with vulnerability and also have very clear boundaries.

I wouldn’t change being an empath for the world. I have come to accept that to feel is to be alive.

It’s the raw emotions that allow real meaning and connection to flow into creation and inspiration.

The challenge is to understand when to let it in and when to let go. And the challenge is also when to let in just enough to allow for deep connections, compassionate experiences and extraordinary creativity.

I’ve danced with this process of letting in and letting go for as long as I can remember. It has been a driving force for some intense journal writings, channeling messages, and connections with many mentors and spiritual teachers.

A few years ago when I started Toning the OM™, for an entirely different reason, I found something else that’s helps me process life as an empath — meditation and mindfulness.

It doesn’t mean I still don’t cry easily or close my eyes when something profound is happening. It means I can allow my emotions to flow rather than consume me. What it also does is allow me to understand when I’m being drawn in and then make a more conscious effort about whether I’m going to open to empathy or detach with love. And it reminds me to breathe and not get stuck in the shallowness within my own body.

Honestly, it is not easy and it takes work. There are days I am lousy at it. And I’m still learning just how important it is to stop and take slow, deep breaths. Having awareness of my breath and being mindful has made me more awake and alive in the world.

Being of service is an honor and privilege. Recognizing what emotions bring compassion and what emotions bring exhaustion have been part of my life-long journey. Identifying the waves of emotion as they rise, acknowledging them, and pausing to breathe has empowered me to lead and serve more humbly.

I’d love to know what your experiences have been with this.

What has your journey of the heart revealed about you?

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Book Review: The Power of Starting Something Stupid

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” Paulo Coelho, Author of the Alchemist

What if we realized that in order to accomplish our dreams, we will sometimes have to start something stupid?

After reading Richie Norton’s new book, The Power of Starting Something Stupid, I learned that the smartest people in the world don’t run away from stupid ideas; they lean into it. What if we let go of excuses and gave into our dreams?

If anyone has ever told you that your idea was crazy, then you would be in good company.  Richie Norton reminds us that many brilliant minds before us were labeled as crazy: Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Sara Blakeley, Ben Horowitz, Walt Disney and William Shakespeare.

In The Power of Starting Something Stupid, Richie Norton redefines stupid as the new smart and explains that life-changing ideas are often mislabeled stupid. What if the key to success, creativity, and joy in your life lives in the potential of your stupid ideas?

As Norton says, “Projects allow us to experiment and determine what works and what doesn’t. They allow us room to fail and modify our ideas to achieve eventual success.” The important thing is to make room for the experiment – the stupid idea.

Isn’t it better to look back years from now and not have regret for what we didn’t do? There will always be an excuse of why we didn’t start something. Norton points out the three most common excuses: the lack of time, the lack of education or experience and the lack of money. Even if we had all of these, there is still no guarantee that our idea will work. How liberating to just go ahead and live out our stupid idea!

This book is rich and inspiring. Norton shares a very personal story about how he came to live his stupid ideas. After great losses in his life, he learned from grief what he calls Gavin’s Law: Live to Start. Start to Live.

No more excuses. Start something stupid — the smartest thing you can do.

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Leaving My Nest

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

I’d rather live my dreams scared than look back and say I did nothing afraid. ~Mary Anne Flanagan

In Pema Chödrön’s book, The Places That Scare You, she writes about the experience of leaving the nest. In an excerpt from the book Pema Chödrön’s writes, “All too frequently we relate like timid birds who don’t dare to leave the nest. Here we sit in a nest that’s getting pretty smelly and that hasn’t served its function for a very long time. No one is arriving to feed us. No one is protecting us and keeping us warm. And yet we keep hoping mother bird will arrive.

We could do ourselves the ultimate favor and finally get out of that nest. That this takes courage is obvious. That we could use some helpful hints is also clear. We may doubt that we’re up to being a warrior-in-training. But we can ask ourselves this question: “Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly, or do I choose to live and die in fear?”

I sat in meditation to listen to the message of leaving the nest. This is what came:

Leave the nest of the past. Continue to remove the covering around your heart and fly farther out into the world. You have experienced tremendous heart expansion and have gifted it to others as well. You have chosen a path of self-love and awareness. Spread your wings to more people. Soar higher and trust that you have everything you need. Leave the nest – it’s time to leave the comfortable and fly into uncertainty. Continue to fly with vulnerability and engage the world with your whole heart – your wild, cosmic heart.


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Learning Hope

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

I woke up thinking about hope. I thought about areas of my life I am feeling hopeful. I was inspired by Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. In one of the chapters, Cultivating a Resilient Spirit, she writes about hopeful self-talk and the importance of remembering that even when things are difficult, it is important to remind ourselves that we can keep going. Brown writes, “We develop a hopeful mind-set when we understand that some worthy endeavors will be difficult and time consuming and not enjoyable at all. If we want to cultivate hopefulness, we have to be willing to be flexible and demonstrate perseverance.”

I looked up some of my favorite quotes on hope as a reminder of what is possible.

“Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops… at all.” ~Emily Dickinson

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.”  ~Anne Lamott

“Without hope the us’s give up. I know that you can’t live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you, and you have got to give them hope.” ~Harvey Milk

I am still learning and cultivating hope with each new personal and professional endeavor. What are your thoughts about hope?

{Photo taken by Mary Anne Flanagan}

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Be in the Arena and Dare Greatly

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

I came across the phrase Daring Greatly after listening to an interview about vulnerability with Brené Brown. The phrase comes from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, Citizenship in a Republic. This is the passage that made the speech famous:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly . . .”

When I read about daring greatly, I was blown away and began to ponder what vulnerability means to me. Vulnerability means getting into the arena, doing it afraid, doing it anyway – despite the critics. Unless you are in the arena in the world – in your work, your classroom, your stage, your art, your life – putting yourself out there, then your voice as a critic is meaningless. Being vulnerable means flopping and failing and rising up again and daring greatly.

I am discovering that the greatest act of courage is being seen – really being seen.

Dare to show up to life. Dare to be seen. Dare to be in the arena. Dare greatly.

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Come As You Are

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

JourneyIn a recent conversation with one of my closest friends, we spoke about what it means to show up with strength and vulnerability. In our desire to pay attention to our Happiness Projects, we developed our mantras and actions that deepen our awareness of our bliss. We have spent over a month developing our project and getting really clear about what we want. I shared that I wanted to have more clarity with how I express myself.

A teacher recently said in class, “Clarity brings confidence.” Amen! How can we bring clarity and the type of precision needed to really ask ourselves the deep questions that unearth our soul’s answers? How can we move with what is now and not live from the past? And how can we acknowledge ourselves with love and compassion as an every day practice? As soon as those questions went from my pen to paper, I turned to see Pema Chodron’s book, The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness, on my table. I opened to the following excerpt:

“Come as you are. The magic is being willing to open to that, being willing to be fully awake to that.”

“Inquisitiveness or curiosity involves being gentle, precise, and open­—actually being able to let go and open. Gentleness is a sense of goodheartedness toward ourselves. Precision is being able to see very clearly, not being afraid to see what’s really there, just as a scientist is not afraid to look into the microscope. Openness is being able to let go and to open.”

“Basically, making friends with yourself is making friends with all those people too, because when you come to have this kind of honesty, gentleness, and goodheartedness, combined with clarity about yourself, there’s no obstacle to feeling loving-kindness for others as well.”

How do you makes friends with yourself? Ask and then let go and let love lead you.

At the end of a meditation in a Yoga class, the following words came flooding in as I asked for clarity: “I will wait for you – always. In your time, I am here.”

Come as you are,
Mary Anne

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