Refilling the cup, so we have something to give

While you’ve surely been having fun toasting your friends’ nuptials this wedding season, if the champagne has started to lose a little of that fizz, and you’re lamenting the fact that you haven’t had a single weekend to yourself, now’s the time to throw a solo celebration.

 

Remember the Sex and the City episode where Carrie’s Manolos are stolen from a baby shower? She reacts by sending the hostess a voicemail: “I wanted to let you know that I’m getting married. To myself. I’m registered at Manolo Blahnik.”

 

Whether you’re single or married, the first person you should choose to celebrate is YOU.  Make a point to book a date with yourself. Here are 7 date ideas for what you can do:

 

1. Enjoy an outdoor concert.

 

Being outdoors and listening to live music is a great way to lift your spirits. For one, boogying to your favorite music can be a good form of exercise. Also, live music gives that uplifting, living-in-the-moment feeling that is good for both physical and emotional wellbeing. Take advantage of the warm days of the season, and catch a concert at your area amphitheater or local park. Just pack a simple picnic (wine, cheese, grapes, prosciutto, etc.) and a blanket, and commit to going no matter what.

 

2. Turn off your phone.

 

The average person checks their phone between 110-150 times a day. That’s a lot of energy and attention flitting back and forth, which can leave you feeling stressed and distracted.

 

Pick a day or a length of time and shut your phone off completely. If you can, leave it at home and go do something (Facebook and Instagram will still be there when you get back).

 

Look up! Take in the sights around you. Reacquaint yourself with your senses.

 

3. Take a dance class.

 

How many times have you heard a song on the radio and you started to dance around, only to realize you are stuck in traffic, behind the wheel of your car? A bit confining, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it feel great to get on the dance floor with other people enjoying the music around you?

 

But if you don’t have the desire to go to a bar or nightclub on your own, then take a dance class! You’ll benefit from learning some new moves and so much more, including:

 

Improved physical health

 

Dancing is a low -impact aerobic activity, good for your joints and cardiovascular system. It improves posture, flexibility, agility, balance and body alignment. It’s a great way to burn calories, stay fit and improve your coordination!

 

Improved mental health

 

Dancing integrates rational, emotional, kinesthetic and problem-solving skills, improving our overall mental processing. It’s memory with physical movement (better than doing a crossword puzzle or other sedentary memory tasks). The changes and patterns of dancing make our brains work more quickly.

 

Improved happiness

 

It’s a chance to meet new friends who share similar interests. It’s great for getting out of our head, playing, and bringing out the child and the lover in all of us. It’s a way for couples to flirt with each other and singles to meet new partners. Dancing spurs creativity, motivation and overall energy.

 

4. Book a photo shoot.

 

You should be proud of your inner and outer beauty. And who can bring out your beauty better than a talented portrait photographer? (Besides, it’s much more fun than a selfie.)

 

Maybe you want to update your professional headshot, or have photographic evidence of how hot your body looks — another Sex and the City reference.

 

A healthy dose of each “pride quality” listed, is actually necessary to embody a fulfilled sense of self —  as a woman, and as anybody.

 

5. Take a yoga class.

 

Yoga is an easy activity to do on your own, and so necessary for balancing our day-to-day stress. Cortisol and adrenalin are hormones that are released in the body as a result of stress. Sustained high levels of these “stress hormones” destroy healthy muscle and bone. Over a prolonged period, it can even lead to a host of diseases.

 

Yoga reduces cortisol and adrenalin levels by returning the body to a physically stress-free state, making it less susceptible to illness and more prone to resiliency and vitality. Yoga does not have to be pretzel poses. It includes a practice of centering, meditative grounding, deep breathing, and poses to help align your chakras.

 

When you practice yoga, your entire muscular system becomes stronger and more elastic and therefore, less susceptible to injury. Standing and balancing postures strengthen and lengthen the big muscle groups, and floor postures strengthen the muscles that support the spine and head.

 

As a physical therapist, I call it “cheap” physical therapy.

 

6. Enjoy sensual pleasures.

 

Turn on your favorite music, wear your favorite scent and lingerie, or put on a silly costume, get your hair done, and wear that red lipstick. Just turn off your judgmental mind for a few hours. What do you taste, hear, touch, see and smell?

 

Get present: A sensual person experiences each moment completely — and knows that a simple, fully present, deep inhale can evoke as much ecstasy as anything.

 

Find the sensual energy in everything: sipping champagne, tasting strawberries, touching yourself. No action is too small to ignite your senses and live out your inner diva.

 

7. Write your own happy ending.

 

Is your idea of “getting married” still influenced by the Disney princesses you watched as a kid? Why does every princess need to have a prince? Think you are not enough without one? Time to rethink! Women are warriors, lovers, mothers and sages. We can be the hero in our own story.

 

Create a vision board for what you want your life to look like and then start living it. single or married we can all take time to rejuvenate and relax to refill our cup, so we are better lovers of life!


 

Stephani Victor: Paralympic Champion and Fearless Warrior

stephanivictor.jpeg

Ever heard women called “the weaker sex”? Does anyone else out there think that sentiment is just plain ludicrous? We women create and run our own companies, make world-changing discoveries, carry and give birth to babies, and do it all in the face of constant discrimination. We strive and achieve and triumph in the face of huge challenges. Anyone who thinks women are weak and inferior clearly isn't paying attention!

 

A few months ago, I met a woman who is a shining example of how strong, brave, and determined women can be. Stephani Victor is an alpine skier, a Paralympic gold and silver medalist, an all-around incredible human being, and a fearless woman warrior. When she was just 26 years old and newly graduated from USC's film school, she was loading her car when catastrophe struck. An out-of-control car careened into her driveway and crushed her against her own vehicle. To save her life, doctors were forced to amputate both legs above the knee. Her life would never be the same.

 

As she ticked off the days and weeks in intensive care, Stephani began daydreaming about creating a documentary film to chronicle her recovery process. And she made that dream a reality; “The Lengths I Will Go” captures her endless hours of rehabilitation, 13 reconstructive surgeries, re-entry into society, and learning to walk on two prosthetic legs. Instead of simply recovering in private, she decided to use her experience to help inspire other amputees, to show anyone in recovery that they were so much stronger than they realized.

 

And Stephani's astonishing journey didn't stop there; Three years after the accident, she took her first adaptive skiing lesson.

 

“The seemingly insurmountable challenge of no longer having legs was so beyond my imagination that it forced me to fight to maintain my independence,” she says. “That fight began with a single pull-up in my hospital bed, and evolved into a relentless search for a sport I could dedicate myself to.”

 

After just a few life-changing lessons with the head coach of the Park City Disabled Ski Team, Marcel Kuonen, she was hooked. Skiing became her life and her passion. Not long after that, Stephani was asked to relocate to Utah, where she would train to compete in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Since then, she's won five Paralympic medals, four World Championship titles, and five Overall World Cup titles. Her dedication and success has inspired countless disabled athletes to persevere and chase their dreams.

 

“It wasn’t my plan to become a professional athlete,” she says. “It became my destiny. I push myself. I expect excellence and I do not shy away from discipline. I know first hand that this moment is the only one we truly have, and I am committed to making it count.”

 

Stephani first discovered her love for skiing at the National Ability Center (NAC), and she continues to work with this phenomenal facility. The NAC helps people of all abilities build self-esteem and confidence through sport and recreation. When someone has experienced physical injury, learning that they can still be strong and agile can be transformative, and the amazing people at the NAC know that. Their work helps hundreds of people tap their inner courage and embrace their inner athletes. My next book signing for Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife will be in Park City, and having made a connection with Stephani, I'll be donating author proceeds to the NAC!

Stephani may not be a warrior in the traditional sense; She doesn't charge into battle guns blazing, or  enter a boxing ring with fists flying. But she has fought and won important battles. She has faced down life without legs, and worked tirelessly to prove that she can still be a champion. She has dealt with an injury that would've forced many people to hide from public view, and chosen to share her story so that others may feel inspired and supported. She has seen her whole life change in a single moment, and fought to re-create it in new and better ways.

 

“The perfect alchemy of opportunity, will, love, and guidance brought me to the mountain,” she says. “In many ways, ski racing filled me with so much purpose, it saved my life by filling it with joy.”


I find her determination and spirit endlessly inspiring. I hope her story of dedication and determination inspire you to be brave and bold in your own life!

A Note of Gratitude on Our Best SPA Day Yet!

On April 30, I spent another inspiring, enlightening, and uplifting day with a group of wounded warriors' wives at the gorgeous Hotel del Coronado for SPA Day. Named for Support, Purpose, and Appreciation, this event for wives and caregivers is entering its eleventh year! More than 300 women apply for SPA Day, but at this time we are only able to accommodate thirty attendees. Everyone gets a spa treatment in the morning, then we gather for lunch by the pool. During this miniretreat, women share and connect with others who are experiencing parallel struggles. This sharing helps all of them build their coping skills and find useful resources.

 

SPA Day may have been my brainchild, but pulling it off is definitely a group effort! I had loads of help and support, and want to take a moment to send my heartfelt thanks to everyone who made this year's gathering so meaningful and special.

 

Huge thanks to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. This stellar organization is the preeminent foundation empowering, supporting, and honoring our nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers; the spouses, parents, family members, and friends who care for America’s wounded, ill, or injured veterans. 2017 was the first year that the Elizabeth Dole Foundation sponsored SPA Day, and I'm so grateful for their support! I hope this partnership will continue for many years to come.

 

My unending appreciation to the Hotel del Coronado, our amazing venue for the event. It was a year of firsts, as this was also the first year that the hotel generously donated all the food! Having seen the impact SPA Day has on its attendees, hotel management wanted to honor them with a five-star catered event. The appetizers and mimosas at the pool started the day off so elegantly, and serving a catered lunch on the lawn really brought the event to another level. And what a fantastic idea to include the wounded warriors in the celebration! Everyone loved the Spa Director, Holly’s talk and the hotel will definitely get repeat visits to the spa after treating them with with such personal kindness. So to everyone at the Hotel del Coronado: I truly appreciate you helping me help the wives of wounded warriors and their families. Collaborating with you is a dream, and every year you help make SPA Day even more spectacular. I’ll be sending you lots of photos and a formal thank-you note, but wanted to say a quick THANK YOU for your graciousness and generosity!

 

Many thanks to Southern Caregiver Resources Center and their program Operation Family Caregiver. OFC was developed by the Rosalynn Carter Institute to support military and veteran caregivers, an amazing organization that coaches the families and friends of newly returning service members and veterans to manage difficult transitions. Lorie Van Tilburg,  director at SCRC, was an amazing partner this year! She helped me handle the RSVPs, organize the day's events, and even attended to give us an inspirational talk about the strength it takes to ask for help. I'm so grateful to her valuable work in the community, and willingness to collaborate for the past four years. I couldn’t do this without her help.

 

Sincere thanks to the wives of wounded warriors who took a few hours out of their colossally busy lives caring for children and spouses to join me at SPA Day. I'm so glad you carved out time to allow others to nurture you with massage and listen to your incredible stories. I always envisioned SPA Day as a time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate, but I'm absolutely thrilled it has become an event that encourages bonding with other wives of wounded warriors, formation of informal support groups, and sharing of resources that help your families heal. Thank you for the tireless work you do to support your families, and for sharing your experiences so that others may learn and grow alongside you.

 

Finally, thanks to our wounded warriors who supported their wives in taking a day for healthy self care, and joined us after lunch for an afternoon to celebrate their marriages! We were so honored to meet these brave warriors and see firsthand the strong love these couple have for each other. This was the first time we invited the husbands along for the party, recognizing that couples who play together stay together! The hotel served snacks and craft beers while these brave men enjoyed themselves at the pool all afternoon. I was one of the last to leave as I felt so honored to meet our nation's heroes and hear their inspiring stories.

 

SPA Day is, hands down, one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my life. I’m so grateful that this unique event is growing as more organizations and generous individuals come on board to support it. By helping wounded warriors and their spouses, we help ourselves become more compassionate, more aware, and more connected to our fellow human beings. It may just look like a relaxing day of snacks and spa treatments, but it's so much more. SPA Day has become a platform for sharing, bonding, and nudging a brave group of caregivers along their healing journeys.

 

Thanks again to all who made this year's SPA Day spectacular!

 

Hugs,

Barb

 

Tell Your Story, Heal Yourself

Part 8: Moving Forward


 

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 final 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 exploring your story can help you release pain and find closure.

 

Getting “unstuck”

The events of our pasts can cement us in place. When we've been hurt or demoralized by painful experiences, we may use defense mechanisms and survival tactics to cope. But the true, deep healing can only begin once we've put in the time and energy to truly understand and process what happened. Storytelling is a simple and effective way to kick-start that deep healing. Looking back, teasing meaning from distressing events, exploring them honestly, and re-casting them in more positive terms can help us get “unstuck.” When we make peace with our pasts, only then can we move forward.

 

An essential element of moving forward is feeling empowered to make conscious choices. A troubling past can make us feel helpless and immobile. Releasing that past reminds us that we have control, and the choices we make guide our lives!

 

Exercise: Contemplating choice

This writing exercise explores the power of choice. Imagine you are standing at a crossroads, having arrived there on foot. You now have three options, and should explore them all before committing to one. So ...
 

  • Take a step back. What this would mean for your life? What would be good? Bad? Different? Write it all down.

  • Take a step forward. What does moving forward mean for your life? What would be good? Bad? Different? Write it down.

  • Finally, stay put exactly where you are. How does this manifest in your life? What would be good? Bad? Write it down.

 

Which of those three options felt right? Which one resonated, which path seemed the most natural or positive or exciting? Write about your choice, and explain why you made it.

 

Now imagine that you are nearing the end of your life. You have done all you wished to do, accomplished everything you'd hoped to achieve. Ask yourself:

 

  • How do I feel? Write it down, and be honest.

  • What was the happiest moment in my life? What person, experience, or accomplishment gave me the most satisfaction and contentment? Write this down as well.

  • Now imagine you have traveled back to your today-self. Can you identify what you most valued in your life? What brought you the most meaning and fulfillment? What choices did you make that shaped your life in positive ways?

 

Visualizing your possible future can help you lay the groundwork for things to come. All actions stem from choices, and the choices we make determine the paths our lives take. What choices can you make now to ensure a rewarding and positive future? You cannot control everything, which means that negatives will always work their way into your life. But envisioning yourself as the master of your own destiny makes it easier to manage those negatives when they arrive.

 

Ending a chapter

One way to make peace is to create closure. Once you've closed the door on a scarring experience, you're free to walk away and begin again. You're free to choose your next steps and shape your journey, actively and mindfully.

 

Through my own work, I've found that honest, open, exploratory writing can be a priceless tool for understanding ourselves, processing our experiences, and promoting real growth. If you've taken the time to do any of the exercises I've shared over the past weeks, I'm sure you've made tremendous strides on your own journey, too.


Hope you've enjoyed this series! And again, if you'd like to join me for the August retreat, apply here to join Hearts of Valor.

Tell Your Story, Heal Yourself Part 7: Moving Beyond Trauma

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 writing can be a powerful tool for healing past wounds.

 

Living with trauma

We tend to use the word “trauma” a bit lightly, referring to crummy days at the office or terrible first dates as traumatic experiences. But a true trauma is an event of such magnitude, horror, or duration that it overwhelms a person’s emotional and physical coping mechanisms. The resulting fear, discord, and stress can interfere with the person’s functioning on a day-to-day basis, so the human mind has evolved many clever ways of coping. It can cause fragmentation, a splitting of the essential self, that makes us feel empty and hollow. Trauma can also appear dormant, but still influence our emotional states and behaviors. Our minds may put distance between the traumatic event and our present-day selves, which protects our emotions from being constantly ravaged but also keeps us to feeling and experiencing life to its fullest.

 

To truly recover, we must find ways to acknowledge and process trauma. Often that means working with a professional therapist or counsellor, or through a structured recovery program. But confronting trauma bit by bit through writing and creative exploration can be an incredibly effective and rewarding way to ease the process forward. And sometimes our most traumatic experiences drive us to create the most beautiful art, forge the strongest relationships, and be our absolute bravest selves.

 

Exercise: Journaling to release inner pain

In a few sentences, describe a trauma from your own past. It might be something that a person actively did to you, a painful loss of a loved one, or an experience that frightened you deeply. Write about it factually, using descriptions that are as straightforward and detached as possible. (Don't worry about whether or not your memory qualifies as “true” trauma. This exercise can be used to jumpstart healing for almost any painful or upsetting experience.)

 

Now write about those same events from a different perspective: Cast yourself as the hero of the story, undergoing a trial and facing it bravely, and write in the first person. As the hero you are never daunted, seeing only the challenge ahead and focusing on how to overcome it. Reimagine and rework your memories.

 

Next, write the same story but from your soul's point of view and focus on the lessons you learned or insights you gained from what happened. You never need view trauma as inevitable, something you needed to experience in order to grow as a person. You also don't need to mentally transform it into a completely positive occurrence. But your trauma likely shaped and taught you in specific and valuable ways, despite how difficult and upsetting it was to live through. The soul dispassionately focuses on the long view and its own evolution. Consider this experience through that lens.

 

Finally—and this will be the most difficult portion of this journaling exercise—write about your traumatic experience from the point of view of the one you feel is to blame. Write everything from this person's perspective, and try not to insert your own feelings. You do not need to empathize or forgive, but do your best to understand and process. Creativity can be a bridge to healing, making it possible to heal painful rifts and once again become whole. But to do this, we must be willing to examine our experiences from all sides.

 

Work worth doing

Finding our way back from trauma is never easy. It takes real courage, hard work, and perseverance to make strides toward healing. But consider the alternative: Going through the motions of living, wondering why we feel nothing, losing touch with the sacredness of life. Facing those scarring memories will be a colossal undertaking, but one that can lead us toward brighter, better times. And coping with trauma through creative re-tellings of our stories is a gentle but constructive step we can take in our own time and on our own terms.


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

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)!