Category Archives: balance

Letting Go for the NEW New Year

Did you know that the Romans celebrated their New Year on March 1?

Mars, the God of War, oversaw the start of their calendar. Makes sense, because ROMANS.

terminalis statue wikipedia

As part of their ritual, they celebrated Terminalis, the God of Borders, Transitions, and Neighbors

I came across these facts randomly several years ago, and had the bright idea to use a random holiday as an excuse for a party.

It was great in DC, so I repeated it in Portland, as a way to meet my neighbors in the rather cold, anonymous apartment complex where I live. It worked out okay a couple years ago, but was less pagan-ritual and more corporate-ice-breaker vibe…

cheesy corporate icebreaker trust fall

So this year, in line with my intention to be more open to the mysteries, I deliberately invoked the pagan side of the holiday in my invitation.

I invited people I thought would be into rational discussion of neighbors. Borders. What being a good neighbor meant. What having a border meant.

My definition of neighbor expanded to include those within a few miles, since the people I’d met two years ago had moved on. We talked about the definition of neighbor.


I got 4 No’s and 2 Yes’s and 5 Lack of Responses. Portland.

My two Yes’s showed up and we had baked goods, wine, tea, and enlivening, enheartening conversation. It was brilliant. More evidence that quality over quantity is what counts.

It also affirmed my intention to Let Go of the effects of my generosity this year. For 2017, one of my intentions is to offer what I can, without the expectation of returns. This means not holding onto disappointment when no one comes on an outing, not seething with resentment when someone says they’ll come then blithely doesn’t show, not refusing to offer my generosity because I don’t get the feeling I desire.

It’s hard, but I’m learning. And my two Yes’s helped that little monster in my brain relearn the importance of a few deep connections, rather than the buzz of a crowd or the validation of popularity.

What borders around you need tending? What neighbors could you invite to your (metaphorical) hearth?


Images via Wikipedia, Expert Beacon, and property of Margaret Pinard

Luminaries: Maisie

This is the third in a new series called Luminaries, about people I’ve met who are guided by their own inner light. I’ve been inspired by them and here relate some of the wisdom I’ve picked up from each one. See Interview 1 and 2.

feet in converse sneakers

Maisie’s A-Mais-ing Newsletter, The Barefaced Brief

What comes across when you meet Maisie is a zest for the life she’s living. She relishes her work, and continually commits to savoring the fact that she got herself to the place where she is: sole owner of a boutique writing studio with clients who are ready to push the envelope.

(Okay, enough with the foodie verbs)

Maisie is the brain and heart behind Audacious Muse Writing Studio (which has the awesome #amwriting hashtag in the url! bodacious). I sat down with her last month to talk about what makes her tick and how she pursues her own path.

First, what does she do?

In her own words, she “uses marketing juju to marry business and storytelling” so that the business client can get to “the big Why.” I didn’t know this when I met Maisie, but she chooses to work only with clients who are ready to go deep into work on themselves, which I thought was awesome and courageous! Imagine if we all challenged the people we worked with to get in touch with their feelings and motivations and passions?


Second, what has she learned? Several things, it turns out, that might help YOU.

Balance is a Myth

(We might differ on this one, but I like her argument)

Oh, my kingdom for some balance! How often have we heard people saying that they want more balance? Maisie says it’s a false idol. She works in spurts, either focusing on work or business growth, while maintaining daily goals of family time and reading time.

Her daily routine looks something like this:

  • Wake at 8 or 9
  • Work on personal writing material for first hour (no social media)
  • Work on client projects for next 8 hours
  • Break for dinner with family
  • Family time
  • Back to writing time

And she recently introduced a no-client-work-on-Wednesday rule, so she can work on fiction projects, the blog, or reading during that time.

I like the Wednesday idea for sure, but couldn’t keep up with her idea of a “spurt.” My idea of a spurt is 3 hours, max. After that, I need to switch gears and either change my location or change my task.

Which end of the spectrum do you fall on?


A Moment of Knowing

Maisie had a moment of clarity in which she knew what she was meant to do in this world (not to be grand about it, but YES). It happened during one of the workshops of WDS 2013, held by Pam Slim. While she was waiting for the speaker to start, she thought up the name of her company, Audacious Muse Writing Studio, and heard the words, “You are going to be a writer.”

She searched for the Godaddy domain registration right there on her phone, and bought it. Details like a safety net and the structure of her business would come later, but, by gosh, she had an address on the Net!

Just like she demands of her clients, Maisie had to ask herself some troubling questions in order to get to a safe place with the business. Battling demons of people-pleasing and perfectionism from childhood, she had to weigh the goal (writing badass content) against the cost (instability and insane hours).

She had to trust that she had what it takes to achieve her dream.

pema chodron quote we already have everything we need

Well, you may ask, how did she maintain this tiger-like focus on her dream through the weeks, months, years of school trips, parking permits, and grocery shopping? (She has a teenage son) She has three tools.

Set deadlines and stick to them. Maisie has the curse/superpower of always being aware of time. This motivated her to get good and fast at writing copy and brainstorming, which is essential when you are a starting-out freelancer.

Use the Pomodoro technique. A common technique for many writers, the Pomodoro technique uses a timer (preferably silent, not ticking) to remind you to stop working after 25 minutes, and take a switch-gears 5-minute break. Then you’re back on!

Know yourself and your habits/ limitations. Here we are in complete agreement! If you know you need to eat every 3-4 hours, take a break to make a nutritious snack. If you know you do tend to lose track of time, set that timer. If you can’t work with distractions, don’t try to be all hipster and work out of coffee shops!

hipster dudes working in a coffee shop

***Final caveat to this list: Always come back to being gentle with yourself, not just a taskmaster.

Avoid This

What does Maisie recommend avoiding? Three things:

Don’t work with people who you don’t respect. I.e. People who havent’ done the hard personal delving you have to know their values, but expect to connect with their own clients/customers on a deep level. Good luck with that.

Don’t be mainstream. As she says in her weekly email, you need to “be fearless in your weirdness.” She knew she’d managed to reach people on that deep level with her content when she got her first haters,  because it had elicited emotion. That means she took a risk and was vulnerable online. (Sound familiar?)

Don’t be held to others’ expectations. (That gets a Sing It, Sister!) Like when she got her first haters, Maisie had to cross a line in her thinking. When she would write something and a voice in her head would say, “What would Mom think if she read this?” she decided to tell that voice to shut up. She wan’t writing for her mother!

Recently, Maisie has even taken her own discoveries about how parenting styles and community values color what we think we should do with our talents, and started using that as a way to explore where her clients are coming from… fascinating, right?!

It all comes back to this: examine your own expectations. Do that deep work. Where are they coming from? If they come from fear, banish them like the Ghostbusters.

And if you find weirdness, let it out!


Images via Maisie, NextHipsterTrend, and Minta on Pinterest

Luminaries: Danielle

This is the second in a new series called Luminaries, about people I’ve met who are guided by their own inner light. I’ve been inspired by them and here relate some of the wisdom I’ve picked up from each one. See Interview 1.

danielle lefebvre whole bodhi consulting

Danielle Lefebvre

You know those fireballs of energy that you see in life? On a stage, on the track, at the podium? You can sense they have an inner fire burning, giving them energy to dazzle the rest of us with their words, or dance, or speed.

Danielle is a fireball. One that is balanced out with thoughtful discipline and cheery goodwill. I met her through her amazing vinyasa classes at Yoga Space NW in the summer of 2013, and count myself lucky to be still in her circle of influence. You may too, after reading!

I asked Danielle some pointed (i.e. nosey) questions about how she came to be such a sustained, balanced person, and some themes emerged from the experiences she related to me.

Constant Change

Whether it was a rut of routine exercise gigs or the destruction of a relationship, one thing that Danielle has been able to show again and again is that when you are presented with a wall, strength is finding a way around or through it.

It starts with accepting that your life is going to be a series of changes, and not fighting to get everything perfect and then relax. It continues with being aware of those changes as they come at you, and taking the time to adjust to them and make decisions based on love rather than fear.

For example, Danielle told me about a moment when she was feeling very unfulfilled, despite having a steady job, a new house, a caring boyfriend… it sounds perfect, right? But the feeling was there, and she had to pause and figure out why. She’d recently left Nike as a trainer and Pilates instructor to go into event planning, but realized her work in event planning was not filling her cup of happiness, as it were.

That missing feeling prompted a ‘cathartic meltdown,’ and after a lot of hard introspection, she knew she had something new to teach, and could return to the yoga/fitness world she’d left, with much more to offer. This happened a few years back, and I can see why it felt like one of the hardest lessons to learn. However, on the positive side, later iterations of the same lesson then become easier to recognize!

For me, my catharsis happened in DC after similar elements combined to make me feel like I was at a dead end: stagnant job, remnants of torn-down relationship, but hey! financially stable!

when your life begins bob moawad quote

And it was a light bulb moment: I’m responsible for this? I can make any choice I want? Well then let’s get this effing show on the road! And all the blips since then have been easier to weather, knowing that I’m doing this solopreneur thing because I love myself, and don’t want to be living someone else’s life.

Slow and Steady

captain picard make it so

While we might want to make changes, we often wish it was as easy as saying, “Make it so.” But it’s not. When we try to improve our lives by adding a daily habit or getting rid of one, there are slip-ups, excuses, and self-talk to battle against.

Danielle has found her own brand of ‘slow & steady’ that keeps her grounded and focused in her work and her life. It involves using carefully selected teachers in different parts of her life that help concentrate her effort to learn, for example in yoga, in yoga therapy, or in the personal therapy arena.

It also involves a specific time management strategy. I imagine there is a fancy term for this in the workout world, but essentially the technique is to “do a little bit of hard work at a time, then take a break.” That way, you’re challenging yourself to confront the new and scary, but also giving yourself breaks to the familiar so that you don’t burn out. Nothing wrong with that, as long as it’s getting you closer to your goal.

cycle of routine and excitement pinterest

I like this technique a lot.

Business Decision-Making is Never a Breeze

We talked a fair bit about the relationship between money and stress and decision-making. As solopreneurs whose service and/or product bears directly on our ability to pay the rent, there are a lot of emotions tied up in that analytical process. We may feel like we need to say yes to an offer of a side gig, when if we worked out the costs of gas and the stress of traffic, it’s a lose-lose situation. (Commuters on the West side of Portland may know what I’m talking about!)

It’s important to consider money, time effects, and one final factor: learning for value. This encompasses doing things that yield nothing tangible in the moment, but trusting that they may have results in the future. For me, this is another way of saying MARKETING (yes, I said it).

One of the things Danielle and I totally agreed on was that marketing for solopreneurs can get us all confused emotionally; we have to promote ourselves as our brand, but then not feel criticized when our efforts don’t gain as much traction as we want. I think the perfect answer here is measuring your impact by effort put in, not results coming out.

Know the difference between enjoyable and beneficial

When I asked about balance in her life, Danielle made an interesting distinction: enjoyable vs. beneficial. Amid all the earnest goal-setting, healthy eating, and exercise, we do need an opposite sort of activity, one that doesn’t require our brains to be ‘on’ in the same way, one that gives the Ego or the Driving voice inside a break.

We could do this by zoning out in a Netflix binge, but that would be enjoyable in the moment, not beneficial to our overall well-being. This is a line of demarcation that may take some getting used to, since we are so centered on our screens these days, but one that deserves attention. What can you think of that is a go-to activity for you, but might not be beneficial?

I am still pondering this one. I know that watching old movies from the library or Youtube videos of unavailable British comedy is one way I turn my brain off, but it feels like such a release!

Social media, I admit, is a slippery slope. I realize this every time I get on Facebook, only to look up 20 minutes later and think, “What did I get on here for?” So that one, I do monitor more closely these days. But the videos, when used judiciously… I’m not sure I would say they’re not beneficial. What do you think?

whole bodhi consulting danielle lefebvre yoga balance pose

Cultivate Your Own Community

In addition to the screen addiction, there are many other ‘modern society’ behaviors that may not be beneficial to you, and it’s your job to sniff those out. Know thyself, in order to figure out how you work best (#howiworkbest).

I asked about what parts of modern society Danielle chose to opt out of, and here was the list:

  • Facebook
  • iPad
  • Smartphone worship
  • News (in the form of an NPR alarm clock!)

Agreed! The sort of false connection you get when connecting via social media or on our smartphones is beneficial neither to us nor the world, so why do it? Rather, hunt for and find like-minded individuals who share your priority values, and build your tribe. Maybe even start an intentional community. That could be really beneficial, helping you live your life according to your examined values.

Do you have any questions for Danielle?

…Do you want to come take her class? Told you this would happen…


Images via Andion, Pinterest, and Whole Bodhi Consulting