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Archive for the ‘Inspirational Women’ Category

Jenn SavageJenn Savage, founder of A Heart Centered Life, is a Master Sufi teacher and healer.  She is passionate about helping women heal, and open their hearts more deeply to the realities of the Divine.  She is soulful and wise, and carries and aura of peace that is transmitted to her students and clients. Jenn holds healing circles where women can gather, grow, and heal spiritually. She is most excited about her work that helps women identify and move away from negative voices and stories of the past, so they are more able to access the Truth that lies at the center of their hearts.

She began her own personal healing journey at 17, when she was struggling to overcome depression, an eating disorder, and the effect addiction was having on her life.   At 19, she packed her little red car and headed south, to California, to start a new life.   Shortly after arriving in the Bay Area, she read The Tao of Pooh, and The Peaceful Warrior, which resonated deeply with her, and helped her to know at a very deep level that there was more to her than a physical body, and the symptoms that plagued her.

In 1996, she attended East West College of Healing Arts whereshe studied massage and continued her healing.  It was during this time that she awoke more deeply to her purpose as she learned about body-mind medicine and the power of holistic healing.  Her quest continued over the next 3 years as she traveled the U.S. and studied with spiritual teachers from all over the world.  In 1999, she met Sidi al Jamal, the Guide of the Shadhuli Sufi tradition, from the Mount of Olives in the holy city of Jerusalem, and she knew then her searching was over – She had found her spiritual home and the path she would follow.  Sidi carried the deep love and containment she had been searching for, and it has been through these teachings that she has been able to heal, and completely transform her broken heart.
Jenn is a gifted, insightful, merciful healer and is thankful for the opportunity to offer these sacred and ancient teachings to others who are ready to take the next step in their healing.  When she isn’t helping others, Jenn can be found roaming around local farmer’s markets, or chasing her 18 month old son around the neighborhood.

Jenn will be starting an 8 week Tending the Garden of Your Heart series on January 2, 2010.   The group will meet weekly in Portland from 930 am -11am.  The program cost is $199.00.  Early bird registration by December 15, is only $149.00.  Mention Flourish and receive an addition $20.00 discount.  She recently participated as a facilitator of a beautiful and insightful meditation process using clay at our Flourish Life on Purpose Retreat.  It was a life changing experience for several attendees.

Jenn’s website, http://www.AHeartCenteredLife.com, is currently under construction, but she can be reached via email at Jenn@AHeartCenteredLife.com, or by phone: 650.430.4115.

Wanting to know a little bit more about this wonderful woman, we asked Jenn a few fun questions.  Here’s what she had to say…

Who is your hero?
Women around the world who spend every day gaging their worth against negative images and social mores that devalue, exploit, or repress the feminine, are my heroes.  It is an honor to be part of a tribe that holds the key to creation and carry such deep and holy wisdom.
What is your favorite quote?
“When you find the Love, you find yourself…”
-Sidi al Jamal
If you were a pair of shoes, what kind would you be, and why?
I would be a favorite pair of slippers – One’s you can’t wait to slip into.  They are cozy, keep you warm, and bring comfort after a long day.   They are soft, with memory foam insoles, and a solid sole that supports you, and allows you the freedom to travel out in the world while wearing them.
What keeps you flourishing?
My own personal healing and spiritual awakening, the joy I get from witnessing my 18 month old discover and learn about the world around him, the support of my loving, patient, gentle and understanding husband, the connections I have with my women friends, anything that has to do with sustainability and doing our part to make as little of an impact on the world as possible, good food, travel, and helping others Remember how holy and sacred they really are!
I can’t wait to…
Finish my book, and take the teachings that are in my heart and soul out into the world!   I long for the day when I can reach a broader audience and participate in women returning to, and owning how beautiful and sacred they are.

Thank you Jenn!

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iStock_000000219521Medium
Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach is a wonderful book I’ve had for many years and I still take if off the shelf every now and then because there are so many beautiful kernels of wisdom and inspiration.   Just this week, I picked it up and  randomly opened it to the page for February 12 … Once Upon a Time You Trusted Yourself. I was so touched all over again that I wanted to share this idea with you.

“Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live.”
– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

“Today, try to find a picture of yourself when you were about ten … travel back in time … age ten was probably the last time you trusted your instincts … Try to contact the girl you once were.  She’s all grown up now.  She’s your authentic self and she’s waiting to remind you how beautiful, accomplished and extraordinary you really are.”

In preparing for our upcoming Life on Purpose Retreat our team was looking for just the right image of a woman filled with purpose and inspiration.   It wasn’t as easy as it should have been, but we finally chose this beautiful photograph.  We felt the power and saw the beauty.   Looking closer, we realized it wasn’t a woman, but a girl.  At that age when we were still so sure of our own power, before we gave it away or hid it.   At Flourish we’re out to reclaim that power for ourselves once again.  Fearless, feisty, fabulous, flourishing.  Come join us!

“Perhaps loving something is the only starting place there is for making your life your own.”  Alice Koller

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Flourish serves up inspiration in many forms but this UTube video is the ultimate.  If this amazing woman doesn’t get you up

salsa grandma

salsa grandma

and moving…well maybe your butt has been secretly glued to the couch.  It is never too late…you are not too old.  Most of us may not be able to dance as elegantly and beautifully as this amazing woman, but I believe that we all have a little music within us.  So, give it a try when no one else is looking.  Turn up the music and shake it – just a little.   How good does that feel?   Our bodies were meant to move.

Put your dancing shoes on and get going!  It’s Salsa time.

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Nothing is more inspiring that when you hear a story about a woman with a brilliant idea and the vision and courage to bring it into the world.
circus

Jenn Cohen is one of those women.  She discovered the healing power of circus when she was just 13, while on a family vacation at Club Med and she’ll tell you that it changed her life.  Jenn has been involved in circus performing in one way or another for 20 years and it’s taken her all over the world.  She also just completed a Master degree in process oriented psychology.  And, she’s only 33 years old!  By combining her passion, a unique set of skills and a deep desire to make a difference, Jenn created The Circus Project initially as part of her Master’s thesis, but she says she has found her true calling.

Jen knew that the skills and self discovery gained through circus performance, could enable homeless and at-risk your to develop stronger physical and emotional integrity.  The Circus Project was born from Jenn’s inspiration, vision and much hard work and it is making a difference in the lives of many young people in Portland.

Last weekend, we had the honor to attend “Animare”, a Circus Project production and an outstanding display of talent, hard work and breathtaking aerial artistry performed by Jenn’s graduating students.  What a brilliant reminder that one person truly can make a difference in the lives of many.

If you’re ever secretly dreamed about running away to join the circus, here’s your chance…The Circus Project offers a variety of classes for “the rest of us” – that’s everyone from 1 – 99!   It brings new meaning to the term flying high.

Learn all about Jenn Cohen and The Circus Project.





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deandra-retouched-whimsyDeandra is a role model for flourishing women!   She’s an amazing creative spirit with a courageous heart and a wicked sense of humor who celebrates life and lives it fully each and every day.  We asked her to share just a few of the more interesting moments of her life so far and here’s what she told us…

I’ve sold lingerie, worked a suicide hotline, was a barmaid at a Renaissance festival, read tarot cards and performed as a belly dancer. I have also been a wife, mother, feminist, artist, minister, writer, ritualist, teacher—the list just keeps growing! I follow my passions and have become a collector of experiences. I’ve never been content to let life come to me…maybe because I’m impatient, or maybe because I’m a bit of a control freak.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer helped bring this pattern into sharp relief. Prior to the diagnosis I thought I was searching for something in particular…and after the diagnosis, I realized that I was just searching. I like the act of exploring…I like my passions and they don’t have to “be productive” or have a point. I can just enjoy them.

Giving myself the freedom to play and to follow my interests has led me to reimagine both my life and my work. My current list of things that tickle my fancy include being a part of Pink Phoenix dragon boat team, organizing the super cool annual Clan Mothers Retreat on Halloween weekend, becoming a filmmaker, anything to do with PhotoShop, and the color pink. You might think I would be tired of pink considering it’s association with breast cancer, but in fact, I actually like pink more since my diagnosis. I’m working on a photography project about the color pink…can’t wait to see what I come up with! Check out my blog to see some of the projects I’ve been working on…http://dillydally.demicaro.com.

My new business, Butterfly Underground, is still underground so to speak. In a few months you will be able to see it take flight. Stay tuned!

Who is my hero? I have to admit that I adore Nancy Drew and Wonder Woman! If I could be an Amazon Princess (with cool go-go boots) and a popular detective, I would be ecstatic!

What is my favorite quote? I love quotes and picking just one is practically impossible. The one that makes me laugh is “The difference between ‘involvement’ and ‘commitment’ is like an eggs-and-ham breakfast: the chicken was ‘involved’ but the pig was ‘committed’.”

What keeps you flourishing? Taking time in between projects to rest and renew. I tend to keep busy, so I greatly enjoy curling up with a book and a cup of tea and just relaxing.

If I were a pair of shoes… I would be a pair of Candies (fabulous heels that I wore in high school). They were made of wood candies-shoes and leather, substantial and yet sexy. And they made the greatest tapping noise when walking!

I can’t wait to… I can’t wait to launch the Betty Society, a not-so secret, secret society that I created 6 years ago and now want to take public (sort of!) It makes me giggle, and that’s enough for me.

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A dear friend sent me this article the other day and even though I’m sure I read it several years ago when it was first published in O Magazine, this beautiful piece written by the wonderful author Anne Lamott, came to me just when I needed to read it again. (In the month of yet another birthday).   For all of us who have seen the back side of 40 or even 50 or 60, it is a well worth another read.   Enjoy and take heart!

true bathing beauties

true bathing beauties

An Homage to Age and Femininity by Anne Lamott (from O Magazine)

I was at a wedding Saturday with a lot of women in their 20s and 30s in sexy dresses, their youthful skin aglow.  And even though I was 30 or 40 years older, a little worse for wear, a little tired and overwhelmed by the loud music, I was smiling.  I smiled with a secret Cheshire-cat
smile of pleasure and relief in being older.  I would not give you back a year of life lived.  Age has given me what I was looking for my entire life – it gave me me.  It provided the time and experience and failures and triumphs and friends who helped me step into the shape that had been waiting for me all my life.

I fit into me now – mostly.  I have an organic life finally, not the one people imagined for me or tried to get me to have or the life someone else might celebrate as a successful one – I have the life I dreamed of.  I have become the woman I hardly dared imagine I could be.

There are parts I don’t love – until a few years ago, I had no idea that you could get cellulite on your stomach – but I not only get along with me most of the time now, I am militantly and maternally on my own side.

Left to my own devices, would I trade this for firm thighs, fewer wrinkles, a better memory?  On some days.  That’s why it’s such a blessing I’m not left to my own devices. Because the truth is I have amazing friends to whom  I can turn.  I have a cool kid, a sweet boyfriend, darling pets.  I’ve learned to pay attention to life, and to listen.  I’d give up all this for a flatter belly?  Are you crazy?

I still have terrible moments when I despair about my body.  But they are just moments – I used to have years when I believed I would be more beautiful if I jiggled less; if all parts of my body stopped moving when I did.  But I believe two things now that I didn’t at 30. When we get to heaven, we will discover that the appearance of our butts and skin was 127th on the list of what mattered on this earth.

And I know the truth that l am not going to live forever, and this has set me free.  Eleven years ago, when my friend Pammy was dying at the age of 37 we went shopping at Macy’s.  She was in a wheelchair, with a wig and three weeks to live. I tried on a short dress and came out to model it for Pammy.

I asked if she thought it made me look big in the thighs, and she said, so kindly, “Annie, You just don’t have that kind of time.”  I live by this story.

I am thrilled-ish for every gray hair and achy muscle, because of all the friends who didn’t make it, who died too young of AIDS and breast cancer. And -what other people think of me and how l am living my life. I give these things the big shrug.  Mostly. Or at least eventually. It’s a huge relief.

I became more successful in my mid-40s, but this pales compared to the other gifts of this decade – how kind to myself I have become, what a wonderful, tender wife I am to myself, what a loving companion.  I get myself tubs of hot salty water at the end of the day in which to soak my tired feet.

I run interference for myself when I am working, like the wife of a great artist would: “No, I’m sorry, she can’t come. She’s working hard these days and needs a lot of downtime.” I live by the truth that “No” is a complete sentence.  I rest as a spiritual act.

I have grown up enough to develop radical acceptance.  I insist on the right to swim in warm water at every opportunity, no matter how cold, no matter how young and gorgeous the other people on the beach are.  I don’t think that if I live to be 80 I’ll wish I’d spent more hours in the gym or kept my house a lot cleaner.  I think I’m going to wish I had swum more unashamedly, made more mistakes, spaced out more, rested.

On the day I die, I want to have had dessert.  So this informs how l live now.

I have survived so much loss, as all of us have by now – my parents, dear
friends, my pets.  Rubble is the ground on which our deepest friendships are built.  If you haven’t already, you will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken; and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of a beloved person.

But this is also the good news.  They live forever, in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather is cold – but you learn to dance with the limp. You dance to the absurdities of life; you dance to the minuet of old friendships. I danced alone for a couple of years, and came to believe I might not ever have a passionate romantic relationship – might end up alone!  I’d been so terrified of this my whole life.

But I’d rather never be in a couple or never get laid again than to be in a toxic relationship.  I spent a few years celibate. It was lovely, and it was sometimes lonely.  I had surrendered; I’d run out of bullets. But I learned to be the person I wished I’d meet – at which point I found a kind, artistic, handsome man. We have been together 20 months now.  When we get out of bed, we hold our lower backs, like Walter Brennan, and we smile.

Younger women worry that their memories will begin to go.  And you know what? They will. Menopause has not increased my focus and retention as much I as I’d been hoping. But a lot is better off missed. A lot is better not gotten around to.  I know many of the women at the wedding fear getting older, and I wish I could gather them together again and give them my word of honor that every one of my friends loves being older, loves being in her 50s, 60s, 70s.  My Aunt Gertrude is 85 and leaves us behind in the dust when we hike.

Look, my feet hurt some mornings, and my body is less forgiving when I exercise more than I’m used to.  But I love my life more, and me more.  I’m so much juicier.  And, like that old saying goes, it’s not that I think less of myself, but that I think of myself less often. And that feels like heaven to me.

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marian

Marion

An artist, teacher, public speaker and ceremonial priestess, Marian’s passion and mission is to change the way we face death.  She is the founder of a unique and timely new business , A Fine Farewell, that produces beautiful handmade burial and cremation shrouds.

We were truly fascinated by her story and knew you would be too, so we convinced Marian to take a little time out of her busy schedule to sit down and share her journey with us.   Here’s her amazing story in her own words…

“Once, in my twenties, a friend said ‘what if you could live your life in 10 year increments?’   We all thought about that for a while, wondering how it would work, what we’d have to give up, what we’d gain.  It was a ‘romantic’ idea in my twenties, but I was happily partnered with a small child and didn’t see how it would be applicable to me.  (The friend who’d originally posed the idea had neither partner nor children).    Still the idea stayed in my mind.    Fast forward to me now, at 55.  While it hasn’t been exactly  ten year increments,  I have, in fact, had a few different ‘career changes’ since then.

At 19, after Catholic grade school, high school and catholic college, I took a giant “left turn”, picked up a hitchhiker (I’d NEVER done that before!) and fell in love.   I quit school -and my plans to transfer and get a degree in drama, (hah! ‘drama’ was when I told my parents!’).  I moved into a hippie commune with my love.   I got pregnant, had my daughter at home, immersed myself in the studies of parenting, metaphysics, art, wicca, macrobiotics, herbal remedies, transactional analysis, natural foods cooking and general ‘groovitudinous’ living.

I had a great run with that but it fell apart in 1990-91.  Leaving my marriage, and moving to a small rural women’s community was a pretty big shift.  But there was an inner voice prompting this – a voice which I have come to recognize and trust.  (in retrospect, it was that same one that shifted me to the side of the road to pick up that hitchhiking hippie)  It always asks me to do things I can barely even think of, much less speak, but it’s quietly persistent and when I follow it, the world opens up in ways I couldn’t imagine.   (this does not preclude the 4:00 a.m. terror visitations….but I’ve learned to ride them out.)    My daughter decided to stay with her dad.   That was hard to ride out but it was the best option, given all the factors at the time.  It was a culturally ‘unsanctioned’ choice.  More lessons…and we got through our rough patch.   My 33 year old daughter and I have a wonderful relationship now.

After living at the women’s community, founding a Women’s Temple and running seasonal ceremonial events, that voice began to whisper again.  I couldn’t believe what it was saying.  “Move across the country, find a new home.”   “Get out of here!” was my response. But it was persistent.  And after several months, things at the community came undone and I could see it was time to go.

My two month trip across the country turned into a 10 month camping odyssey!   I learned that magic happens when I give up some of my agenda.  I also discovered, to my delight, that people really do want to be friendly, to be helpful, to assist a traveler along her way.   I landed in Ashland, Oregon and stayed for a time, fell in love and out of it, traveled to England for a long meditation retreat, and stayed on to work in the meditation center.  Then I got the idea to move to a community in Italy.   It was an artistic and spiritual community near the Italian Alps.   I spent a total of 7 months there, immersed in a ‘nucleo’ (family unit) with 9 others, 8 of whom  spoke little or no English.  (immersion language training!)  But no matter how I tried to shift the path I’d come to know— my wiccan/goddess/earth-based path — to fit into their teachings, ultimately it just wasn’t right for me.

Returning from this voyage, in 2001, I was exposed to the idea of “Natural Death Care” and the resonance I felt with these ideas led me to begin designing burial and cremation shrouds.   It’s been a long and meandering path but things are coming together nicely now, as the culture finally embraces the ‘green movement’.    I moved to Portland and am part of an awesome women’s entrepreneurial organization, The Savvy Collaborative, which has made all the difference in helping my business to grow.  I’m taking on more challenges with an art installation called “Over My Dead Body…Opening the Portal” (www.milepostfive.com) and an upcoming class called “Over My Dead Body…Creating a Sacred Burial Garment” .   Yes, I think you could say I’m “Flourishing”.   Writing about it helps me to stop and appreciate where I’ve been.”

We were dying to see what Marian’s thoughts were on our five famous questions.  Here’s what she had to say…

Who is your hero? My Hero…hmmm.   I have “serial heroes”.   Heroes  of the moment.   I’m inspired by people all the time and carry someone’s quote or actions in my mind for a period of time, emulating them.  So let’s see , who’s “up” right now?  I think it’s my friend ross.  (spelled  all in lower case)   She inspires me for her absolute commitment to trusting and following her heart… which has led her all over the world!  Also I admire her relentless intention to ‘find the gift’ in each situation.  She’s a great companion on the path, and a good support in remembering the power of words, reminding me to let go of old habits of diminishing speech and use my words to create my experience.  When we talk, I always come away feeling blessed!

What is your favorite quote? This changes over time, too, but a ‘repeater’ these last several months is: “Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.”   It’s from a poem called ‘The Mad Farmer Liberation Front’ by Wendell Berry.   I think I like most its implication of choice– the idea that one can choose to “BE” joyful.  And at the same time, it’s also like being given permission.  You know sometimes you get ‘down’ and then it’s hard to get back ‘up’ because it’s like ‘betraying’ your downer!  We get attached to the apparent ‘truth’ of our discouraging thoughts!  (aren’t we precious??)  This quote ‘busts’ that and says, “well ok, even if things are ‘as bad as all that’ – you still get to go ahead and be joyful! “

What keeps you flourishing? Dance!!!  Dance!!!   Connection with others (on or off the dance floor).   Making art for no reason.  And lastly, the fact that I am old enough to see that people can, and often do change.  Even the most stubborn situations or habits in my very own life have actually shifted with my own diligent attention.  This is huge, really.  This is something I just couldn’t know without being as old as I am.  So I am valuing myself at 55, for being 55…for the perspective it brings.  And did I say DANCE!

If you were a pair of shoes, what kind would you be and why? Shoes….hmmmm….  I always wear such dang sensible shoes…but  I’d love to be (and wear) a pair of handmade funky high heels…the kind with the heel not too high or too ‘skinny’.  Asymmetrically styled, two toned green and purple leather with an ankle strap.  And they’d be so comfortable that I could dance all night in ‘em.   Yeah…that’s it.

I can’t wait to… do more teaching and public speaking.  And to get my new class filled and begun!  It’s called “Over My Dead Body…Creating a sacred burial garment” !!    Starts Sept 3 runs for 8 weeks.    I also can’t wait ‘til we ALL can lighten up about Death!

Thanks Marian, we know you will “knock em dead” with all your creative endeavors!  If you would like more information about Marian’s upcoming workshop Over My Dead Body, creating a sacred burial garment, you may reach her at afinefarewell@yahoo.com or find more information on her website www.afinefarewell.com

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