Tell Your Story, Heal Yourself

Part 6: Revealing Your Personal Myth

Many women have asked me to write their stories after reading my memoir, Unbridled, and Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife. Writing these books taught me the healing power of storytelling. While it is sometimes challenging to be honest and raw about aspects of our journey, the more we open up the better we can see our lives from a different perspective and make clearer decisions going forward. Putting our experiences into words transforms and heals.

With that in mind, here's the fifth post in my series on the power of storytelling.  Every journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. Let’s begin writing the stories of our lives whether we publish them or not. In August, I'll be leading a writing workshop for the wives of wounded warriors in partnership with Hearts of Valor, and will dig even deeper into these themes! If you're interested in attending, you can apply here to join Hearts of Valor.

But for now, let's talk about the power of allowing your personal myth to unfold.

History is power

Many people fret over “dwelling in the past,” and understandably so. If you're constantly looking back, it's hard to see what's ahead of you, impossible to make meaningful progress on your future goals. But the past shouldn't be ignored or disdained! After all, our memories give meaning to the lives we live. Moments that transformed us, people who changed us, experiences that shaped us are among our greatest resources in our journey towards self-knowledge.

Here is a strong (but upsetting) personal example:

Driving across the Coronado Bridge, I saw a man jump to his death.

It was a beautiful May afternoon in San Diego, at around one-thirty. As I drove onto the bridge, I began releasing my morning’s stress and started thinking about the things I would do when I got home. Suddenly, the car in front of me came to an abrupt halt. The driver-side door opened and a good-looking, well-dressed man in his late twenties got out. He was physically fit and had the grace of an athlete. As he turned to face me, my curiosity changed into surprise and then to stomach-turning horror as he quickly moved to the edge of the lane, stepped over the knee-high barrier, and fell backward off the bridge.

No hesitation. No ambivalence. He was there one moment, and the next he was gone. I fumbled for my phone and dialed 911, but it was already too late. There was nothing to do but wait for the police to come.

I later learned that he was a a combat-injured veteran. He went over the side as if it were a military maneuver, which he might have imagined it was. His last mission.

After that day on the bridge, I knew I had to get more involved. My work as a physical therapist had connected me with many other men and women who had returned from combat injured, just as he had. But I wanted to do more, and I did: My book, Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife, was the result of the research and writing I did after that day.

The memory is still one the strongest I have. It's a jarring and disturbing one, but also a transformative scene from the depths of my psyche. It's a scene from my past that continues to shape my future, even many years later.

Memories are incredibly powerful. Unfortunately they often appear to us as disjointed fragments instead of a linear, easy-to-follow story. The bits and pieces may seem confusing at first, but if you take the time to work with them, they can lead you on a journey into the deepest layers of your psyche.

Exercise: Authoring your personal myth

One way to understand your past and make sense of your memories is to draw parallels with myths, fairy tales, or classic stories. Casting yourself as the hero in a familiar tale can shed new light on events from your past.

As you think about your own personal myth, explore your core values and write in a voice that emphasizes your passions and beliefs. Think about the major events of your life. Which story or myth are you playing out? Is there a mythological character or fairy tale icon that you identify with? Don't limit yourself to the classic Greeks and Romans, think about Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, the Peter Pan, even Wonder Woman or Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Whose story echoes your own? How and why?

Start by briefly describing the basics of the mythic storyline, then explain the aspects of your life that connect you to it. Once you begin exploring your personal ties to the myth, try to write in the first person. (“I” statements instead of “she” statements.) This will make that connection feel even stronger. Don't worry about length or format, just write whatever comes for as long as it takes.

If you need a jumping off point, try something like, “I remember being ___ years old, there was a time when I ...” Don't worry if there are aspects of the mythical tale that don't fit with your own experiences. Focus on where there is overlap, and the big themes that resonate with you.

Reflections of you

A myth or fairytale that speaks to you can become a metaphor for your own life's journey. By examining the lessons mythic characters learn, you may finally see important lessons that you also need to learn. It's complex and cloudy work, but important. The way back to self-understanding is not an easy journey, but it's well worth making.

Can't wait to share more on the power of storytelling with you next week!

Tell Your Story, Heal Yourself

Part 5: Collaborating With Your Spirit Guides

 

 

Many women have asked me to write their stories after reading my memoir, Unbridled, and Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife. Writing these books taught me the healing power of storytelling. While it is sometimes challenging to be honest and raw about aspects of our journey, the more we open up the better we can see our lives from a different perspective and make clearer decisions going forward. Putting our experiences into words transforms and heals.

 

With that in mind, here's the fifth post in my series on the power of storytelling.  Every journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. Let’s begin writing the stories of our lives whether we publish them or not. In August, I'll be leading a writing workshop for the wives of wounded warriors in partnership with Hearts of Valor, and will dig even deeper into these themes! If you're interested in attending, you can apply here to join Hearts of Valor.

 

But for now, let's talk about how your spirit guide can be instrumental in tapping your authentic, personal story.

 

What are spirit guides?

Are there people, figures, or animals who return to you again and again in dreams? Or have you ever seen a fleeting shadow or felt a presence while walking in or communing with nature? In all likelihood, you were being visited by your spirit guide during these times. Various cultures define the spirit guide differently, but the essence is this: Spirit guides are ancient, ancestral, ethereal beings assigned to us at birth who gently guide us through our life events. Even if you've never seen or communicated directly with them, they've been there all along, watching over you and keeping you on the right path.

 

With a little work and concentration, you can open the lines of communication with your guide. Doing so can be incredibly rewarding, since it gives you access to some of your own deepest desires and puts you in touch with hidden aspects of your inner self. Your spirit guide can help you understand and tell your story with clarity and eloquence, if you let them.

 

Exercise: Creating a dialogue with your spirit guide

In all likelihood, your spirit guide has already appeared to you in some form. Think back on your most vivid dreams, on chance meetings with unusual people or wild animals, on images that float into your mind while you meditate. 

 

If nothing specific comes to mind, take a few moments to meditate now. Hold your own ancestry in your mind. Think about where your family came from, the tribes or ancient lands your ancestors inhabited. Find or draw maps of these lands, their ancient symbols, their languages and native animals. Picture yourself walking the landscape. Whoever you encounter there, greet them warmly for they are your guide. They may appear as a person, an animal, a cloud, a light, or an energetic feeling. Be open and accepting of whatever appears to you.

 

Now that you can visualize yourself with your guide, start by writing about how it feels to be in their presence. How does your body feel? What emotions dominate your state of mind? Are you more invigorated or relaxed? Do you feel inquisitive or satisfied?

 

Next, open a dialogue. Stand before your spirit guide and ask:

 

  • What message do you carry?
  • What lesson dominates my life?
  • How does the world see me?
  • What is my purpose?
  • How can I be my most authentic self?

 

The answers may come as images or phrases. Write down anything that comes to your mind, using the automatic writing techniques we explored in part 4. If you don't feel the flow, don't get discouraged. Thank your guide, end the session, and try again another day. It may take time to build the conduit you need to hear and understand what you're being told.

 

Let your intuition guide you

It can feel strange and disorienting to converse with spirit guides, but doing so can be incredibly rewarding. Your guide knows you on the soul level, and can help you understand yourself in deep, meaningful ways.

 

Also be aware that the form your guide takes is significant. Often, your guide will appear as a symbolic image that reflects what you and your life are about. That metaphor can be your mirror, showing you the unexplored regions of your essential identity. Being brave and open through these deep inner explorations will help you understand and tell your story truly and fearlessly.

 

And if you are the wife of a wounded warrior yourself and would like to share your story in person with other spouses, I would love for you to apply here to attend SPA Day in April! By opening up to others you will heal yourself, connect with others to feel less alone, and help those around you begin the healing process.

 

Can't wait to share more on the power of storytelling with you next week!

Tell Your Story, Heal Yourself

Part 4: Connecting to Your Inner Self Through Writing

 

 

Many women have asked me to write their stories after reading my memoir, Unbridled, and Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife. Writing these books taught me the healing power of storytelling. While it is sometimes challenging to be honest and raw about aspects of our journey, the more we open up the better we can see our lives from a different perspective and make clearer decisions going forward. Putting our experiences into words transforms and heals.

 

With that in mind, here's the fourth post in my series on the power of storytelling.  Every journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. Let’s begin writing the stories of our lives whether we publish them or not. In August, I'll be leading a writing workshop for the wives of wounded warriors in partnership with Hearts of Valor, and will dig even deeper into these themes! If you're interested in attending, you can apply here to join Hearts of Valor.

 

But for now, let's talk about the power of automatic writing and how it can help us understand our own psyches.

 

A different kind of journaling

So much of our formal education focuses on writing the “right” way. From a young age, we're taught spelling and grammar, then sentence format and paragraph structure. We're given strict parameters and told to wedge our writing into them.

 

Journaling can feel less rigid. With no assigned topics or grades to be earned, we feel freer to express our innermost feelings and yearnings. But even keeping a traditional journal may be a bit confining. Once we've learned the “rules” of writing, it can feel strange and unnatural to break them. So we journal using many of the same constructs we apply to formal writing assignments.

 

To truly tap your inner voice, try automatic writing or stream-of-consciousness writing. This means literally writing whatever words flow into your mind, with no judgment and no editing. It can feel odd at first and you will definitely end up with some passages full of gibberish! But only by giving your mind and soul totally free reign will you be able to access the deepest, most well-hidden aspects of your true self.

 

Journaling exercise: Free your writing mind

Set aside a solid chunk of time—at least an hour—and situate yourself in a quiet, calming spot. Get your journal and pen, and breathe deeply before you begin.

 

If your mind begins to rev up all on its own, follow its lead. Write down every thought, word, and sentence fragment that floats into your head. Do it all fluidly and never judge what is coming out. In fact, try not to analyze at all. Just let the words flow onto the page. You can read them over later.

 

If you need some prompts, here are a few probing questions that can help you learn more about your inner life and hidden desires:

 

  • Write about the moment you knew something important had ended.
  • Write about a gift you gave to someone which was not appreciated.
  • Write about your ideal day.
  • Write about a vivid sexual memory.
  • Write about being sick in bed.
  • Write about a selfish fear.
  • Write about an old dream.
  • Write about where you would travel to today if you could.
  • Write about your values.
  • Write about something you are no longer sure of.
  • Write about something you wish you could still do.
  • Write about homesickness.
  • Write about confusion, and how it feels in your body.
  • Write about satisfaction, and how it feels in your body.
  • Write about the person you hope to become.

 

Get Started on Your Writing Journey with These 4 Steps

Do you ever feel like professional writers belong to a secret club? Some of them certainly seem to think that writing is a difficult and arduous process, and that only a select few people can really do it. It's as if they think, “If you aren't going to be a Writer with a capital W, don't even bother.”

I'm here to tell you that's total B.S.!

Everyone has a story inside her, and everyone has the tools to tell it. The real challenge is taking those first daunting steps, beginning the journey toward writing your story in a way that feels authentic to you. I think of it like an adventure at sea: All the packing and planning and preparation in the world won't give you the courage to step aboard. And, more importantly, once you DO step aboard, everything that follows will feel easy and natural and exciting.

If you're almost ready to begin your own writing journey but aren't quite sure how to kick it off, here are four simple steps to get you started!

STEP 1: Get specific about what you want to write. You wouldn't step aboard a boat without knowing it's final destination, right? Along the same lines, you probably don't want to dive into a writing project without knowing what you want to say. Give it some serious thought, journal for a few days, and kick around as many ideas as you'd like. Then ask yourself, “What do I really want to share?” Will it be nonfiction, fiction, memoir? If it's a personal topic, how deep do you want to dig into it?

In my first book, Unbridled, I wanted to write about a cheater and liar, but also about what it felt like to break out of a confined life. I needed to share my transformation, the steps that led to an unfettered, free, honest life. When I began mulling my second book, I realized I wanted to write other women’s stories, to tell the stories of wives of wounded warriors. I wanted to do more, I wanted what I wrote to matter in the grand scheme of things. I wanted to contribute, to feel connected to a larger purpose. 

If you have multiple ideas, list out one to four different topics that appeal to you. Then make pro and con lists for all of them to narrow down your choices.

STEP 2: Accept the authenticity of your topic. Defining what you want to write is challenging, but embracing your topic as worthy can be even harder. Once you've settled on your subject, it's essential that you both accept it as something authentic and valuable, and accept yourself as the person to explore it. Are there any thoughts or obstacles stopping you from feeling worthy and deserving of writing successfully? What can you do to clear those obstacles from your path? 

STEP 3: Pick a working title. Before a ship can be launched from port, it needs a name. When a vessel changes hands its name may change, but all ships—small and large—are named before they set out on the high seas. 
Choosing a title sets the tone for your own writing journey. Again, that title may change as the story unfolds, but choosing a working title lends a feeling of formality and commitment to your project. Make it official: Pick a title.

STEP 4: Commit to action. This will likely be the toughest part: Stepping aboard and trusting that the journey will be worthwhile. But you must find a way to take that first brave step, and then follow it up with more and more steps. Find the time to write. Start that blog you've been dreaming about. Quit making excuses. Begin journaling. Sign up for that creative writing class. Commit.

I won't lie: This will be hard work. But it pays off and is very necessary. Put in the sweat and effort to keep your writing journey rolling. 

Make writing part of your daily or weekly routine. Put it on your calendar, add it to the schedule in your mobile phone. Chunk out two hours each week, or 15 minutes each day, whatever works for your lifestyle. But don't tell yourself, “I don't have time to write.” If you have time to watch TV or poke around Facebook or get in long text conversations with your girlfriends, you have time to write. Carve it out. Make it a priority. Make an itinerary and a map for your journey and stick to them.

And when you get tired or frustrated and think of quitting, do a cost-benefit analysis. What do you gain and what do you lose if you decide to continue with this project? What do you gain and lose if you abandon it? What's the price you're willing to pay to see this through?

Above all, write like you mean it. Take your life and vision for yourself seriously. If you aren't yet ready to stand at the helm of the ship, at least be a co-pilot in the story that is unfolding for you. If you’re too afraid to get onto the high seas, you'll never know true adventure. Nothing will change if you don’t change. Get that ship out of port, allow the trip to begin! You will be challenged and you will take risks out there, but how you handle the journey is what makes it transformative. 

They say every great journey begins with a single step. If you've been hesitating for too long—waiting for just the right time to take that step and come aboard—I hope this will be the nudge you need. Whether you realize it or not, you are the hero of your own tale. And that tale deserves to be told.

Be the one to tell it.

Caring for Our Fellow Women

Join Barbara McNally in partnership with Kate Spade New York

“Caring for Our Fellow Women”

A Morning of Sweets, Prizes & Book Signing!

Sunday, March 19th

11:00 a.m.

Kate Spade New York

Fashion Valley Mall, 7007 Friars Road, San Diego

Active Military & Wives Receive a 15% Discount on Any Purchases
&
Bring a Purchased Copy of Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife for a Chance to Win a Free “Babe” handbag (retail value $298.00)!

Tell Your Story, Heal Yourself Part 3: Creating the Space for Your Story

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Many women have asked me to write their stories after reading my memoir, Unbridled, and Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife. Writing these books taught me the healing power of storytelling. While it is sometimes challenging to be honest and raw about aspects of our journey, the more we open up the better we can see our lives from a different perspective and make clearer decisions going forward. Putting our experiences into words transforms and heals.

With that in mind, I'm launching this series of posts on the power of storytelling.  Every journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. Let’s begin writing the stories of our lives whether we publish them or not. In August, I'll be leading a writing workshop for the wives of wounded warriors in partnership with Hearts of Valor, and will dig even deeper into these themes! If you're interested in attending, you can apply here to join Hearts of Valor.

But for now, let's talk about how to create the space in your mind and life that will allow creativity to flow in.

 

Creativity through stillness

If you walked through a mall or school or coffee shop or park, how many people would you see who are doing nothing? Staring into space, contemplating their tea, or gazing at the clouds? With the proliferation of mobile devices and a culture that increasingly encourages us to do something — anything! — every moment of every day, we are conditioned to keep our brains constantly active. My guess is that you wouldn't see a single person on your walk who wasn't absorbed in reading or typing something.

But if we want to allow our creativity to grow and blossom, if we want our inner selves to step forward and speak, we need pockets of stillness. We need quiet time without distraction or activity, meditative moments in which we let our rational mind sleep and invite our creative mind to awaken.

We also need to allow our minds to wander without judgment. Especially when we're returning to stillness after a long time away, it can be tempting to censor or evaluate all of the untethered thoughts that flow in. It's so easy to impose learned meaning and interpretations on the images and ideas that enter the stillness … but giving them time and space to settle is essential.

Here are some mediation and journaling exercises that will help you reacquaint yourself with stillness.

 

Meditation and journaling exercise 1: The language of imagery

Get your journal and pen and set them to the side. Sit or lie down and focus on the sound of your breathing. Concentrate on being in your body, think about relaxing each limb from your head to your toes, bit by bit.

Allow your mind to free-associate. In all likelihood, you will be visited by a stream of images. Some will be memories, some will be fantasies, some will be things you can't explain. Let them all flow through you unimpeded.

 

When one that feels particularly emotional or significant arrives, try to linger there. Let it unfold, explore it as deeply as you can. Then open your eyes, grab your journal, and write as much as you can remember. If you feel moved to do so, continue the action where your mind paused it. Write fluidly and without judging yourself. Don't worry about spelling or grammar or even if what you're writing makes sense. Just let it flow from imagination to paper.

 

Journaling exercise 2: Becoming a conduit

Pick a topic, scene, or story that you'd like to write and hold it in your mind. Then release it and make yourself present in your body for a few long moments. Close your eyes, breathe, let your mind wander. Then pick up your pen and begin writing whatever comes out, whether its related to your original topic or not.

By doing this, you are channeling more than creating; You are letting your subconscious do the driving. The words and images that flood your mind may seem unrelated to your pre-selected idea, but if you let them come naturally you're likely to see deep connections forming. Creativity does not travel in straight lines. It flourishes in the undefined spaces in between.

 

Journaling exercise 3: Tapping memories

Find a photograph of family members, a past lover, or a treasured memory. Gaze at the image in quiet contemplation, allowing your mind to drift into the past. Close your eyes and try to remember the smells, textures, and sounds from this scene. Write everything you recall and feel, focusing specifically on the emotions that return to you. Let go of your busy mind, sink down into your body, and allow the image to work on you.

 

Meditation and journaling exercise 4: Encountering your deepest desires

Close your eyes and concentrate on the rhythm of your breathing. As you exhale, think or say aloud, “I release all fear of this inner journey.” Repeat this thought on the next two exhalations. Once you feel grounded, begin the next phase of this meditation.

Imagine yourself on a long and winding path. Perhaps it flows through the woods or across the mountains, in a place you know well or one you've never seen before. Travel the path in peace until you reach a large metal gate, sturdily locked and wound through with vines. Reach into your pocket and you will find a key, also metal, sturdy, and heavy. Insert the key in the gate's lock, turn it, and watch as the gate swings open. Breathe again, and release your fears. Walk through the gate.

Inside, you'll find a garden brimming with vibrant plants and flowers. Imagine the garden's layout and design in a way that feels welcoming to you; Perhaps it's an Asian garden with still pools and flowing bamboo, or a rambly English garden filled of bright blossoms.

Now imagine a house within the garden. This house holds your dreams, so create it as a place that is beautiful and comfortable to you. You approach the door and find it locked, but again find the necessary key in your pocket. Unlock the door, and enter.

Stand inside the house and breathe into the feeling of having come home. Find a spot, your favorite spot in the house, to settle and imagine a physical manifestation of your soul in the room with you. Many people envision an animal or bird, but you might see a flower or jewel or other precious object. Sit with your soul for a few moments and commune. Then ask it, gently, “What do you want most of all?”

Don't expect a simple or singular answer, but instead open a dialogue. What you hear and learn will not be the only or final answer for all time, simply the one your soul offers to you today.

Open your eyes, and write down anything that floods into your mind and heart. It often works best to begin by writing the question, “What do you want most of all?” Then write everything that comes to your mind, without thinking or judgment.

 

Re-learn trust

Many of us turn to meaningless busy-ness because we don't feel comfortable letting our minds wander. We fear what might emerge if we allow formlessness to take over. But re-learning to trust ourselves and our imaginations is essential to unlocking our deepest desires and essential stories. I hope some of these exercises help you begin to rebuild that trust yourself.

And if you are the wife of a wounded warrior yourself and would like to share your story in person with other spouses, I would love for you to apply here to attend SPA Day in April! By opening up to others you will heal yourself, connect with others to feel less alone, and help those around you begin the healing process.

 

Can't wait to share more on the power of storytelling with you next week!

Tell Your Story, Heal Yourself Part 2

Embracing Both Light and Dark

Many women have asked me to write their stories after reading my memoir, Unbridled, and Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife. Writing these books taught me the healing power of storytelling. While it is sometimes challenging to be honest and raw about aspects of our journey, the more we open up the better we can see our lives from a different perspective and make clearer decisions going forward. Putting our experiences into words transforms and heals.

With that in mind, I'm launching this series of posts on the power of storytelling.  Every journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. Let’s begin writing the stories of our lives whether we publish them or not. In August, I'll be leading a writing workshop for the wives of wounded warriors in partnership with Hearts of Valor, and will dig even deeper into these themes! If you're interested in attending, you can apply here to join Hearts of Valor.

But for now, let's talk about the importance of embracing your shadow self as you explore your story.

Without darkness, how would we see the stars?

Some of the strongest forces in our lives push us toward goodness, being good, striving to be full of light and hope and positivity. We hear these messages from our parents, our teachers, spiritual leaders, writers and philosophers. And of course striving to be optimistic, kind, forgiving, and selfless is admirable and important.

But we all have a shadow side, an inner darkness. And denying its existence is just as unhealthy as allowing it to rule us every hour of every day. 

Leading a healthy, fulfilling emotional life isn't about forcing happiness. It's about finding balance between joy and sadness, peace and anger, light and dark.

My own fascination with archetypes is what drove me to name my foundation for four powerful ideals that reside within every woman: Mother, Lover, Warrior, Sage. Renowned psychologist Carl Jung's fascination with archetypes drove his entire body of work, much of which encouraged people to explore and embrace their shadow selves. He believed that every person is a synthesis of contradictory attitudes, that we all possess opposing traits and the tension between them is what causes us to act. Many of us know our own faults, the parts of our personality that seem negative, even destructive. But without those traits, we would not be ourselves.

Jung once said he thought his worst trait was obstinacy, but acknowledged that without that trait, he would never have achieved so much. His stubbornness made him relentless, ambitious, curious, and driven—all things that helped him become successful.

As you begin to tell your own story, consider your shadow self. Remember that negative traits can have positive outcomes, and that your supposed “faults” are essential to your true self. Let's look at some journaling and meditation exercises that can help you re-cast your own inner darkness.

Journaling exercise 1: Balancing the negative

Make a list of your own personality traits that feel negative. Focus on the ones that you believe are keeping you from achieving your full potential or blossoming into your true self.

Then go down the list and identify which traits are driven by logic, which ones are driven by fear, and which ones might be a bit of both.

The purpose of this exercise is to understand what is keeping you from your true purpose. To name it, claim it, and find ways to move forward mindfully. Perhaps your need for stability is preventing you from chasing a creative dream, or your feelings of inadequacy are hold you back from becoming a bold leader. You won't achieve those goals by eradicating the darkness. Your challenge is to integrate the two selves, find ways to turn those “weaknesses” into strengths. It's the opposing pull between the two selves—the stability-lover and the creative, the timid one and the leader—that gives you the momentum to act. In fact, without the traits that appear to be “holding you back,” you might not be capable of identifying why a certain goal is so important to you.

How can you leverage those “negatives”? How can you tap into the internal tension between light and dark to propel yourself forward? Write down any thoughts or ideas that come to mind.

Journaling exercise 2: Giving voice to your inner desires

Change can be frightening, but without it we stagnate. And your inner self knows this, and has been nudging you toward change, whether you realize it or not. Take a few moments to center yourself in a still, calm place, then answer these questions:

  1. What tiny hints or quiet voices have been reaching you from your own unconscious mind? What are they saying? What changes do they want you to make?
  2. Has this happened in the past? What happened when you ignored these internal signals?
  3. Are you living the life that is right for you? Or are you living a life that someone else imagined for you that fails to sync with your own soul's purpose?

When we feel we aren't living our true life, we often cast about for someone to blame. Parents and spouses are easy targets, since their needs and desires have such immense impact on our own. Their voices may shout down our own inner voices, and cause us to be delayed on our journey. But delay and abandonment are not the same thing. If you've been paused because of other voices, other desires, remember that you can begin your journey again as soon as those voices hush and you feel ready to continue.

Journaling exercise 3: Reasons and fears

Write down something you've desired or dreamed of doing for a long time, but have hesitated to really pursue. Underneath this, make two headings: Legitimate reason, and Fear speaking. Consider your reasons for inaction, and be honest about which falls into which category.

You may find that some of your reasons are linked to other people in your life, that you've not taken action because you worried that doing so would hurt someone you love. It's true that following our inner guides may hurt those close to us, at least temporarily. But it's much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, and most families have an easy time forgiving happy, fulfilled human beings. When we walk our walk, the Universe supports us … and in the end, so do our loved ones. Even if they misunderstand or resist at the start.

It's a trap to let that fear of hurting others stop us. When we fall into that trap, we fool ourselves into believing that other people are standing in our way. The truth is, with rare exceptions, the only person to blame for not living our bliss or listening to our inner voice is ourselves.

Mediation exercise 4: Seeing your shadow self

Create a visualization of your own dark side. Pick something resonant and conceptual; an animal, bird, archetype, or object that resonates with you.

Face your shadow form in whatever shape it takes. Try to become comfortable with its presence. Then ask the question, “What is the shadow side of my soul?” Write this question down, then write absolutely anything that comes to your mind immediately afterwards. Don't judge yourself, just let the words come.

When you've finished, read over your messages from your dark self. Say aloud, “I accept this part of myself without judgment. Though I choose to stand in the light, I will listen to the voice of my shadow and learn.”

Your shadow is you

Remember that the darkness within you is as essential to your story as the light. Ignore the shadow, and it will start coming out sideways. You're better off to look it in the face, accept its role in your journey, and make peace with the natural conflicts within.

And if you are the wife of a wounded warrior yourself and would like to share your story in person with other spouses, I would love for you to apply here to attend SPA Day in April! By opening up to others you will heal yourself, connect with others to feel less alone, and help those around you begin the healing process.

Can't wait to share more on the power of storytelling with you next week!

Tell Your Story, Heal Yourself Part 1

Asking Ourselves Important Questions

Many women have asked me to write their stories after reading my memoir, Unbridled, and Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife. Writing these books taught me the healing power of storytelling. While it is sometimes challenging to be honest and raw about aspects of our journey, the more we open up the better we can see our lives from a different perspective and make clearer decisions going forward. Putting our experiences into words transforms and heals.

With that in mind, I'm launching this series of posts on the power of storytelling.  Every journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. Let’s begin writing the stories of our lives whether we publish them or not. In August, I'll be leading a writing workshop for the wives of wounded warriors in partnership with Hearts of Valor, and will dig even deeper into these themes! If you're interested in attending, you can apply here to join Hearts of Valor.

But for now, let's talk about storytelling as a tool for reconnecting with ourselves.

Exploring your inner past

Sharing our stories is vital to our healing processes. When we write, we show ourselves compassion.  Navigating the events of our past can help us access own inner Sage. Our inner wisdom, our intuition, what some call the voice of God.

Journaling requires more of us than just talking and thinking. Writing forces us to access different parts of our mind and opens up other realms within our psyche. Write drunk and edit sober! Meaning, write first uninhibited and don’t worry about the finished product. For some, the final transformative step in recovering from or understanding the past  is to edit on a computer and publish their work, but just journaling is transformative, too, and the first step toward publishing. Write truthfully and fully, but with great compassion. 

Telling your story, sharing your struggles and triumphs, is one of the most powerful actions a person can take. Casting yourself as the hero in your own tale, seeing your journey on the larger stage of the world, and recognizing your power to create change helps you cultivate empathy and perspective. And when you won't or can't tell your story, you can end up feeling trapped, alone, lost, and constantly wondering what's missing from your life. Telling your story to just one person will connect you out of your isolation and will heal other people realizing they are not alone.

So what's the first step in writing your story?  Mindful journaling.

Journaling exercise 1: What do you want?

Before you can undertake mindful journaling in earnest, you need to unlock your goals. Writing uninhibited about anything that comes to mind can be very freeing, but healing requires more focus. So ask yourself:

  1. What do I want?
  2. Can I admit this is what I want? Most of us feel guilty saying what we want or don’t even take the time to ask ourselves this question.  Can we give ourselves permission to ask for what we want and own it?
  3. What are my options? How can I move toward getting what I want?

Be honest and open as you answer these questions. You don't ever need to show your answers to anyone!

Journaling exercise 2: Changing vocabulary

Think back to a specific event in your past that was disturbing or difficult. Now make a two-columned list and label one column “Negative” and the other “Positive.” Under the first, make a list of negative words or feelings you are holding onto about this event and would like to release. Under the second, either try to capture the flip side of the negative word (instead of “frustrating,” try “challenging”) or just add a gentler, more positive word or emotion you'd like to associate with this experience instead.

We can do this in one of two ways.

  1. When you encounter a trigger and would ordinarily think, “I feel frustrated, pissed, angry” try removing yourself a little. Say, “Frustration is there” instead.
  2. When your “frustration” trigger comes up, think back to the flip-side version of “frustration” that you listed in your Positive column. (Challenging.)

These changes sound small, but they can have an astonishing impact!

Journaling exercise 3: Perspective and the active narrator

Consider a troubling event from your past. When you re-visit this episode, and feel the emotions associated with it, does it feel like something that is being done TO you? Step back, breathe, and re-envision it. Write a new version of this story from your past. You can do this in one of two ways:
Create some distance by writing the story as yourself today. When you summon the memory, you drop yourself back into a younger self. Instead be the current version of you, and write about the event as someone who has a different perspective, more knowledge, and the emotional support to cope with whatever happened back then.
Allow yourself to fictionalize the episode. Make yourself an active narrator, or even better a hero. Write a version of this story where you take control, shift the power dynamic, and create a more satisfying ending. Think this is lying? Well, the way we remember past events may be more influential and important than the events themselves. And in some cases, completely rewriting those events can help us heal.

Attitude and control

The events of your past are in the past, and you cannot change them. You can rewrite them, shift your perspective, and do your best to heal, but you cannot fully erase them. And you shouldn't want to. Instead, focus your energy on what you CAN control: changing your attitude toward them. These mindful journaling exercises will help you do just that.

If you are the wife of a wounded warrior yourself and would like to share your story in person with other spouses, I would love for you to apply here to attend SPA Day in April! By opening up to others you will heal yourself, connect with others to feel less alone, and help those around you begin the healing process.

Can't wait to share more on the power of storytelling with you next week!

Join Me at Kate Spade for Self-care, Sweets, and a Book Signing!

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, which means many of us are busily plotting ways to express our love to spouses, lovers, and family members. Hope you've got a fun and romantic Valentine's (or Galentine's!) Day planned!

But as you're splurging on chocolates, bouquets and champagne, I hope you'll remember the importance of self-love and self-care, too. Feeling loved by others is an unparalleled joy, and loving others is one of the best ways to ensure a rich, full life … but so many of us forget to direct some of that TLC toward ourselves. If your tank is empty, you can't go the extra mile for loved-ones, so always remember to be kind and gentle to yourself.

With that in mind, I'm thrilled to be partnering with Kate Spade for a special event in March! See details below:

Join Barbara for a Celebration of Self-care!
Sunday, March 19, 2017
11 a.m.
Kate Spade New York
Fashion Valley Mall, 7007 Friars Road, San Diego, CA 92108

Copies of my book won’t be available at the event, but if you purchase from Amazon and bring in your copy, I'd be delighted to sign it for you. We'll have some sweet treats, chat about the importance of self-care, and shop the gorgeous spring collection together. 

Military personnel and military wives will receive a 15% discount on any purchases with valid ID and everyone who brings a purchased book will have the chance to enter a drawing for a FREE handbag. How could you pass that up?!

I'm so excited for this event because it gives me the chance to connect with you fantastic readers in-person and hear your stories. Plus, unlike some of my other speaking engagements, I'm hoping this Kate Spade event will bring together wives of wounded warriors, caregivers of all kinds, and non-caregivers who want to support and encourage women doing this important and under-appreciated work. I can't wait to have you all in one place for great conversation!

Please join me for this unique event, bring your book to be signed, and bring your thoughts to share. I can't wait to meet you and learn about your own unique journey. We'll have a belated Galentine's Day together, complete with treats, laughs, and seriously stylish accessories!