From the Sounds of Silence to Perpetual Motion

Just a few snaps since the beginning of the year...

And it’s time to write. And write. And write. This is a long one for a lot has happened in the last five months...

I’m sitting at a writer’s retreat house in the Eastern Sierras right now and finally putting “pen to paper” after a few long and transformative months. A couple months back, I was invited to stay here to photograph for the retreat’s marketing materials. Even after making a huge life decision to move out of the Bay Area and with the move scheduled for a couple of weeks from now, I decided it was important for Brennan and I to go on this little trip. Given our ten year wedding anniversary is June 3rd and we'll be unpacking and living in a trailer for our anniversary, we also decided to celebrate our ten years together here in this spectacular place. I also went forward with a previously planned trip to Mercey Hot Springs with friends (and a couple of blissful days alone with Brennan). What I’ve discovered in the last few months has been life-changing and I want it to be a part of what’s taught at The Healing Farm and The Healing Farm | Retreats in addition to the nutrition and exercise components.

Something I’ve learned through meditation (and lots of self-exploration) is to not let my emotions and ego rule my life and decision-making and to also go a little more with the flow rather than letting situations, planning and fear rule my life and schedule; something my new “boss” echoed when I was racing around trying to make a big decision and freaking out a bit a few weeks ago. Made me feel like where I was headed was in the right direction (thanks, Steven).

My “boss” you ask? For someone who’s been self-employed and has started two businesses, this is pretty freaky to say! So let me explain what has happened since my last heart-wrenching blog entry!

THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE

My 50th year ended with some major challenges (see my previous blog post for more details). I was writing a business plan for The Healing Farm and had planned for a big women’s retreat to keep the business moving in a direction which would give me more experience and more visibility for The Healing Farm | Retreats. I was keeping my head above water until Mayacamas Ranch (the retreat property at which I was to hold my last retreat) burned down. It was three weeks before my 51st birthday, the end of the wedding photography season and I was in the intense Renaissance business plan writing program twice a week. Try finishing a business plan while trying to resuscitate the women’s retreat and also go away for the holidays. Not an easy end to the year.

2018 rolled in with the month of January:

  • Making the decision not to move forward with rescheduling the retreat since I couldn’t find a location that I truly felt could accommodate my specifications and having to let my retreat team and guests know of this decision
  • Starting to try to work out the financial losses with Mayacamas Ranch (huge!)
  • Finishing the business plan + graduation

Thankfully I had all of my photo projects behind me, I split the “best business plan” award at graduation and presumably had a “plan” for moving forward with The Healing Farm business - after all that’s what a business plan is for! I should have been rearing to go to start working toward making 2018 the year I took a leap of faith forward with The Healing Farm business! But one gorgeous Saturday, I went to a shoreline cleanup event with the Trident Project which is a non-profit a business friend started to build awareness about pollution in our oceans.

Something happened that morning as I realized the enormity of the planet’s peril. I spent an hour working on about a six square foot patch on the East Bay shoreline. Picking up tiny pieces of plastic, styrofoam, hypodermic needles, plastic straws, plastic portable flossing devices (I’m all for flossing, but let’s get rid of those things. They are EVERYWHERE), plastic caps, etc. This didn’t even include all the micro-fibers which is what my friend who is in the sailing clothing business wants to build awareness about. I had about a ¼ mile, maybe ½ mile walk to get back to my car and I couldn’t move beyond a snail’s pace. I got home and slept for two hours and when I woke up I just couldn’t get my energy back. And the next day was the same. And the next day was the same. I entered into what I might now call a depression and deep exhaustion. I was:

  • Exhausted from running one business while starting another
  • Exhausted emotionally from the devastating wildfires which even affected my business in a big way and so many others who lost lives and homes.
  • Exhausted financially
  • Exhausted worrying about the future of this planet
  • Exhausted by our political climate and situation
  • Exhausted from writing a 45 page business plan complete with two years of financials (something is is not in my natural tool house)
  • Exhausted trying to change my life
  • Exhausted from perimenopause
  • Exhausted from my mid-life crisis which is in about year 7 (yes, really!)
  • Exhausted worrying about family illness

I just couldn’t get motivated. So I didn’t. I decided to let myself rest as long as I needed. I guess you could say I took a sabbatical. I’m sure to most people this sounds like a luxury and I admit I’m lucky to be self-employed. It was a huge financial risk and setback, but I strongly believe this kind of time of reflection should be available to all of us. It’s a crime that our workforce encourages long hours and constant work and it’s a disservice to all Americans that the majority are underpaid and overworked with only 1-3 weeks of vacation for the typical person. I’ve thought about a lot of big issues during this time of reflection and sabbatical and feel strongly that it shouldn’t be a luxury for just a few.

So this is what I did:

  • I slept as long as I liked
  • I took the time to pray on my knees
  • I took the time for longer meditations
  • I took the time to not only read Jett Psaris’ book “Hidden Blessings” (about midlife crisis), but also to do every exercise in the book and wrote them down in a journal
  • I took the time to hike
  • I only answered essential emails to keep my businesses running on pilot light
  • But mostly, I just took time to be with myself, in my house and let my mind run free

And here's what happened from my time of silence:

INTO (almost) PERPETUAL MOTION

I found the time to help care for a dying friend and her children - something that has had a profound effect on my life. I had the honor of taking her to Ocean Beach for what turned out to be her last time.

I was re-contacted by a friend who in the spring of 2017 asked if I would be interested in helping to develop a 50 acre organic farm in the Sierra Foothills.

Just as I was finishing the “Hidden Blessings” book, I was contacted by a woman who was interested in talking about partnering on a retreat property in Idaho. It wasn’t the right fit/place or timing, but she sent me a message the week I finished Jett’s book. Knowing I was wrestling with some big decisions and emotions, there was a new moon that coming Friday and with a new moon (she told me) it’s a good time to contemplate big decisions so she suggested I take some time that Friday to reflect on a big decision. Sounded a little woo woo to me and then I read one of the last exercises in Jett’s book which suggested a “meditation” in nature. More of a walking meditation. A time to go out into nature and connect in a profound way to the universe and myself. More woo woo, but I thought the coincidence was just too big. Friday came and I announced to Brennan that I was going to pack a small daypack and go to our local regional park and spend the day. I planned on hiking a three mile loop and brought food, a little pot vape pipe (yes, it’s legal now in CA!) a blanket and a backpacking chair and I had the most blissful day of reflection I’ve ever had. It took me seven hours to do that loop. I stopped and communed with nature. I felt the sun on my face. I laughed and I cried. I slept and I hiked. I had a vision of wanting more security in my life and that I wanted to be cared for and then I realized I’m cared for in an incredibly deep emotional way by my husband which matters the most (to me). I realized that although I knew we needed to move out of the Bay Area I wasn’t interested in moving outside of my beloved West Coast (unless it’s back to the Midwest with my family) and I realized I still wanted to pursue The Healing Farm, but that maybe I needed to take a different path to get there. That few hours of bliss lifted me out of that depression and malaise just enough that I could see the point of light and plan the next tiny steps to get fully beyond that dark place. The pot helped too.

And then more and more profound things started to happen.

I opened my mind up to exploring the offer in the Sierra Foothills further and took baby steps to take a realistic look at what it would be like to move and the opportunity the experience offered to help develop a small retreat property on an organic farm. Wasn’t that what I wanted The Healing Farm to be on a larger scale anyway? Brennan and I went for a night. Then we went for a whole week, then I typed up a proposal and went back a couple more times on my own and slowly it started to occur to me that it was the absolute right next step to take. I could spearhead a retreat property development at very low risk to myself and at the same time take a baby step out of the Bay Area which allows me to finish out my 2018 wedding photography season and still see my friends and family in the Bay Area which made the idea of a move not so heart-wrenching. And so it happened and we started making plans for a move at the end of May. I started working part-time for the farm a few weeks ago and love every minute of it. Every time I go to the farm for a night, I don’t want to leave. The air is clear. I can collect fresh eggs from the henhouse. I can eat all the organic produce I can get my hands on. I can envision a retreat property and hosting my own healing retreats once it’s finished (or rustic retreats while it’s in development). I can live with a little community of people who care about the land and what we eat and how to live their lives mindfully. If I hadn’t given myself that time to relax and reflect, I’m not sure I would have been ready to take such a big leap and despite the fact that we’re going to move into a 26’ trailer and will have to walk outside to get to a shower and a toilet, I’m learning to embrace living so minimally for a little while. We’ll have nature and an organic farm, two mountain rivers and three warm and sunny seasons to live outdoors. It’s going to be a challenge. For sure. BUT I’ve built up my energy reserves in the last few months and am truly ready to jump in and give this next step my all. Check out Stone’s Throw Farm CA. This will be my new home.

Embracing what came my way without fear and without judgement on myself for making what seemed to be extravagant decisions given my work and financial situation was also part of this time of reflection. After I had my “visionquest” day as I’m now calling it, situations that just seemed right started to come my way and I started embracing what felt right despite that I was feeling a little fearful:

I serendipitously realized that Jett Psaris, the author of that profound book on midlife crisis that I can’t shut up about was doing a workshop at Esalen Institute. I’d been wanting to go to Esalen for many years since it’s been an inspiration for The Healing Farm and I’ve never been! I tried to get a “sleeping bag” space, but they were sold out, so I booked a shared room and contacted a friend and Healing Farm client who I know also got a lot out of the “Hidden Blessings” book. She had recently moved to the East Coast, but she happened to be coming to the Bay Area for some meetings and we roomed together. It was a great experience. I fell in love with Esalen and really loved the workshop and listening to others who were also trying to change their lives in their midlife transition, plus I got to bond with this very special woman who was my roommate and who made some of her own big decisions that weekend. A new deep friendship (thanks, Rae!)!

I had also been wanting to experience 1440 Mutiversity - the new retreat center development in the Santa Cruz mountains. My fave publication “Conscious Company” was holding a “World Changing Women’s Summit” there and damnit! I really want to be a World Changing Woman. I couldn’t really afford it, so I reached out to see if there was a volunteer opportunity or a scholarship (something I never would have thought to do in the past since I would have thought I wasn’t worthy). We worked it out and I was so on fire and inspired by the women at this conference that it also turned out to be somewhat of a life-changing experience. I stayed at the last minute on property in one of the “bunk bed” rooms. Although 1440 is NOTHING like I envision for The Healing Farm property, it was good to get a feel for a large and new property, their programs, their food AND their accommodations.

Brennan and I have been rocking our house as we get closer to moving. We’ve loved living in our little neighborhood and house in Oakland and although I’m sad to leave, I realized I’m ready for this big shift. We’ve made the time to enjoy our last couple of months and I’ve become inspired by a whole new side of myself and my relationship which I’ve been hinting at for several months. Sex is a big part of my life and relationship and I’ve realized how important release is and I have ideas percolating for sharing this side of myself and my relationship as a future part of the retreat business so stay tuned!

I’ve made time to book some weddings, shoot and deliver some gorgeous photos to happy clients, write a mini-business plan (and had fun doing it) for Stone’s Throw Farm’s event arm of the business. I’ve held the hand of someone within the last week of her life, who was younger than me and had so much more of her life to live and have been further inspired to build The Healing Farm to try to prevent so many deaths of those far too young. I happened to be driving up to Mt. Shasta to photograph a small retreat property  (Hestia Magic  - my photos not up yet!) on the day of my friend’s death and I felt like I was channelling her spirit as I sang and cried and then I realized she had just climbed Mt. Shasta two years ago for breast cancer awareness. More seemingly perfect timing. Brennan and I made time for that little trip to Mercey Hot Springs and this current trip to the Eastern Sierras.

I feel like my wings are opening up and I’m finally embracing who I am at my core. I don’t know where this current road will take me, but am pretty sure it’s a leap of faith on the right path for who I am. Taking the time to let myself feel exhausted and depressed ultimately has helped me work to the next level of my journey and I’m slowly getting my energy back and more and more excited about the work ahead.

I visited a friend from my very first business class yesterday. In the second class of the program, she and I met a few times to be part of each other’s business start-up support system. She was tired of the rat race of the Bay Area and wanted to get out of the construction business which is something she’d always done just because it was just what she ended up doing, but she wanted something more. She wanted to follow a dream of opening up a coffee shop. Fast forward three years and I drank the most lovely cup of coffee you’ll get on this side of the Sierras at her Pupfish Cafe coffee shop in Bishop, CA. She took a huge leap of faith and left the Bay Area and a relationship to follow her dream in a place where she never imagined she would live. She looked happy and relaxed. She’s running her small coffee shop, laughed at the fact that she’s living in a trailer community with mostly retired people (we compared notes about our trailers), hikes and has developed friendships out here. I asked her how much she works and she said 50 hours a week (not bad for owning and running a business). I asked her if she likes it and she said it’s the best thing she’s ever done. She was proud of her offerings and her employees and for now is content with where she’s at.

Janette and Pupfish Cafe, Steven and Bryanna and the folks at Stone’s Throw Farm, Jett Psaris and the awesome women at the Conscious Company Women’s Summit, Sydney of Ocean’s SF, Belinda and Hestia Magic, all of my friends and family who have been supportive of my crazy dream, the brave souls who wrote business plans last fall taking two classes per week while working full time, brave Jill who fought so hard to fight her cancer but said she was “ready to leave her body” a few days before she died, the woman in Idaho who is trying to follow her dream, and the people who continue to reach out to me to ask when I’m going to host my next retreat or “where is The Healing Farm property”, I say this: Thank you. Continue to follow your dreams. Find out who you really are. Let go of fear and influence and just be. Maybe, just maybe you’ll find your way, get your energy back and have a more hopeful outlook for your life and your very short time on this beautiful planet. My biggest hope is that everything that I do in the next few years will lead to The Healing Farm property where I can share my dreams and life with you.

Reach for the stars because we are (as Carl Sagan says) all made of star stuff.

On month five and two weeks out from a major move and feeling incredibly creative and beautiful. I should listen to myself more often.....

Wild Willy's Hot Springs in the Eastern Sierra - taken the week I wrote this post and yes, I'm naked and covered in mud. LIVE A LITTLE!

Why I’m So Inspired and Happy to Announce The Healing Farm’s Next Immersion Retreat - The 3rd Act: Renewing Your Purpose and Passion Mid-Life

A couple of close friends, when viewing my “manifestation board” (detail above, plus read about this project here), asked why there was an illustration representing a girl in a bathing suit and cap coming out of a pool. It’s true, I am not a swimmer. I’m not a swimmer, but as I’ve gotten older, floating and spending time in, and under, water has become one of my favorite things to do on vacation. I just LOVE being in water. Especially warm water! In my 50th year, I want to learn how to swim. How to REALLY swim.

I was inspired last year by a two-time Healing Farm retreat participant who was embracing her 50th year by doing something either that she never tried before, or just something she loved, each month of her 50th year. She called the year her “jubilee adventures” and I was honored that two of her months during her jubilee adventures included THF retreats! You can read about her experience at the very challenging solo Joshua Tree retreat on my blog. Given my 50th year was fast approaching I was completely inspired by Stephanie to do my own sort of jubilee adventure year.

I turned 50 last November 2nd. Given how challenging the final half of my 40th decade was, I was fearful of 50 and not feeling so celebratory. Despite that, I threw myself a big open house 50th birthday party in a lovely location on the coast of California. I served healthy food, kicked it off with a little yoga session, encouraged my guests to wander and hike the property, and then danced until we had to leave. It wasn’t entirely perfect or what I had envisioned, but learning to let go of expectations has been part of the process I’ve been working through in the past 4-5 years; as I’ve explored how to transition out of my old career and into the new one, as well as how to heal my body and mind from the inside out. I was determined to learn to let go of expectations. It’s a challenge the German in me has faced all of my life. I’m a planner and I like efficiency, but to a fault. Through meditation (just ten minutes a few days per week), I’ve learned to not be so hard on myself and others when things don’t go quite as my idealistic vision has planned. It’s a good thing I figured that out because one of things I’ve read over and over about entrepreneurs is that you need to learn to accept unexpected change, learn how to adapt quickly, and to roll with the punches (not stress about the inevitable ups-and-downs of big change).

I was proud of myself for embracing my birthday party as it unfolded and realized the imperfection of it was the perfect kick-off to my 50th year. I started to open my mind to thinking about how I wanted to continue to embrace it. I’m going through huge changes physically (I’m now one month away from FINALLY being in full menopause) and I’m on the cusp of either making a go of The Healing Farm business that I’ve been working so hard to start for the past two years or letting it go if it proves too much stress for this time in my life. I’m also understanding and feeling I’m on the final leg of my physical healing journey too. All this makes it fitting that in my 50th year jubilee, I didn’t want to plan for what I wanted to accomplish. I thought I would just wait to see what popped up and inspired me.

Not long after my birthday, I walked in the door to my house and found my husband practicing his drumming rudiments. I’m always impressed that he can sit for an hour and practice the same beats over and over again. He’s been doing this for years and it has contributed to his discipline about a lot of things. Even though I recognize that he and I are very different (I’ll never be a perfectionist and I kind of despise “practicing” anything), I wanted to pick something in my 50th year to practice and really learn. I thought briefly of surfing because I know it’s physically GREAT for the body and it’s also meditative but decided it wasn’t realistic. Paying for lessons (not cheap) and driving to the ocean a few times a week was not practical - and I’m all about practical. Then I thought about swimming. It’s a bit more practical, I love the water, it’s good exercise, AND it’s meditative. Voila! I had found my 50th year goal and have been taking private and group swim lessons on and off since January. It’s really hard, but I’m proud of myself for sticking with it and love looking at my manifestation board and seeing that darling woman getting out of the pool in her yellow bathing suit and cap (yellow is definitely the color of my energy AND has always been my favorite color).

I’ve done several other things so far in my 50th year to challenge myself (solo travel and camping, plus writing more!) and to continue to embrace the change I want to make in my life so that I feel like I can leave a legacy behind. I want to feel like I’ve done something to contribute to helping this world, the people in it and our planet in any small way that I can. I want to continue to explore this fascinating path of “finding myself” so I can reach for a higher purpose in my life, become a practical wellness practitioner in my own general way and inspire others on their paths to practical wellness too.

It’s fitting then that the next multi-day retreat for The Healing Farm will be with Patricia Cavanaugh and Ellie Klevins of The 3rd Act. They will lead a workshop taking participants through much of what I’ve explored on my own for the last 4-5 years to get to the place of profound growth I’m in now. You can read more about the retreat on The Healing Farm’s site and I’ll also be posting a short Q&A with Ellie and Patricia on the blog so you can get a better idea of the work we’ll be doing at the retreat. I’ll also be welcoming three-time THF retreat participant, Catie Fitzgerald. With her brand-new MS in nutrition and her 20+ years of financial consulting, Catie will be covering how to transition your body and finances (I’ll be paying especially close attention to the finance portion of this retreat!) into mid and later life.

The final day of the retreat just happened to land on my 51st birthday (the retreat dates were the only dates still available this year at Mayacamas Ranch). At first I was a little bummed to “work” on my birthday; but then I let go of all of my past birthday expectations and embraced the fact that wrapping up this retreat with a group of women with whom I’ve just shared a potentially profound experience couldn’t be a more fitting end to my 50th year jubilee of unplanned exploration and learning! It actually couldn’t be more perfect and if for some reason it isn’t, I’m ok with that too!

I hope to see you in the fall and PS - that picture of me (going gray!) was taken not long after my 50th by my friend Laura Turbow who does lovely boudoir photo sessions of all women, but especially women in their "3rd act"!

 The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness!

Opportunities Gained Oh So Briefly and Lost. Recognizing the Impermanence of our Fleeting Emotions.

My husband and I watched with fascination a couple of weeks ago the incredible rise and fall of Milo Yiannopoulos. If you were reading the news a few weeks ago, he's the sensationalist ultra-conservative writer/speaker who was supposed to speak at UC Berkeley only to be cancelled due to a peaceful protest by UC Berkeley students being disrupted by a few anarchists. It all created a hoopla (rightfully so) about free speech and open communication on campuses across the US, but took an ugly turn by our current president when he threatened to pull federal funding to the University. The result is that Mr. Yiannopoulos, who was hardly a household name before the controversy, catapulted to fame. Within days, he was getting major press and as a result, major speaking engagements. With fame (or a controversial figure) comes lots of people digging into the past. It's the nature of our current (and damaging) 24 hour news cycle. Within what may have been as little as 48 hours, Mr. Yiannopoulos' reputation came tumbling down from revelations of past controversial remarks. It was an amazingly quick rise and fall and it made my husband and I talk of what he must have been feeling throughout this brief, but highly emotional time. From what must have been an ultimate high of becoming so famous and sought out to everything crashing down, to what must have been an ultimate emotional low in his life (he lost his speaking engagements, his book deal AND his job within 24 hours).

Why am I bringing this up? As I read more about meditation to try to understand my OWN emotional highs and lows while growing this business, I'm trying to grasp the understanding that our emotions, although sometimes palpably and physically real to us, are really meaningless. If you come to understand that your core being and consciousness never fluctuates from before you are born to the minute you die (and maybe beyond with the transfer of energy) you begin to understand that it doesn't really make sense to dwell in your emotions - whether high or low. This is NOT easy.

The other day, I met with a property owner whom I’ve admired for years. She and her husband have built an incredible business and property in a rural location and are working hard to build the business into the ultimate lifestyle they want for their future. This is also my concept behind The Healing Farm property. It would be my home. It would be my family and it would be my plan for retirement.

When I met with the property owner we knew we wanted to discuss the possibility of holding a THF retreat on the property, but we also knew we were both open to other possible working relationships. It came to light that a position which would fit a lot of my skills was opening up and it dawned on me that it might be the perfect transition out of photography and into the retreat/property management business. For a little less than 24 hours we were bouncing back and forth with emails about the possibility of me taking on the job. I discussed it with Brennan (my husband) and he was game. I became more and more excited as the evening and the e-mails progressed. My emotional excitement became palpable. I woke up four times during the night both elated and panicked about the possibility of such great change and opportunity. The next morning, I think the emotions transferred more to self-doubt and panic. Could I really handle the job and was I really the right fit for them? I exchanged a few more detailed e-mails about the job description and setting up a second visit to the property and continued to grow more excited and more panicky. Then I got the devastating e-mail that I was not a good fit. It was gracious and kind and true and it plummeted me to depths of self-doubt and fear that I hadn't experienced since I ran my first multi-day retreat. I found all this out while care-taking a sick friend's kids and had to hold in my emotions until I got to my car. I cried all the way home. And then I cried some more when I told Brennan the news and I cried some more when I went to sleep and I cried some more when I woke up and some more when I brewed the coffee.

And then a funny thing happened. I usually make coffee-brewing time my morning meditation time so I went to meditate. I came out of meditation with the realization that what's done is done, I am who I am and if the job didn't work out then it probably wasn't a good fit. The property owners recognized and weighed the risks of my relative inexperience and my long-term commitment. I realized I should do the same. I still felt like crap and was exhausted from the emotion, but I remembered the meditation book "The Untethered Soul" talking about the problem we all have with dwelling on emotions that can come and go as fleetingly as any thought.

I think the strongest analogy I read in the book was this: Say you are dating someone and really, really starting to like them and then suddenly you don't hear from them for a few days. They aren't answering or returning your calls. You start to panic. You start to wonder what you did wrong. You start to obsess about it and start beating yourself up about it (because it must have been something you did. Maybe you had bad breath, or said something dumb). This leads to feeling down about yourself which then leads to feeling borderline depressed and physically exhausted. Maybe even tears and loss of sleep. Suddenly this person calls and apologizes for being MIA. They had some good reason or another (family emergency?) for not being able to get back to you and they want to know if you're available to see them tonight because they really missed you and would love your company. You hang up the phone and suddenly your exhaustion is lifted and you're jumping up and down all over the living room.

How does our emotion change so quickly? Because everything is impermanent. Emotions ebb and flow at any whim, but if you learn to look deep enough into yourself and your consciousness, you can learn to tap into a part of you that never wavers. You are who you are. You are always there. Same as ever. Peaceful and calm very deep within and you can learn to tap into that at any time. This is what I realized I did when I meditated this morning. I have two lottery tickets sitting on the table and I guarantee if I had checked those tickets last night and found out I was a winner or if my husband told me he sold his screenplay or any other number of things that would have given me relief from the financial burden of starting a new company, my spirits would have lifted immediately. I needed to look deeper into what was causing my incredible emotional low and it was financial insecurity. But from what I've read through interviews with tons of entrepreneurs it’s that you have to be able to take risks. Both financial and emotional and recognize how much you are able to handle. If it's not for you. It's not for you. You are who you are. There will always be emotional highs and lows and you need to recognize them, acknowledge them and then let them go. If you can't, then you need to find a different path. You're on the wrong one!

Two additional things happened during this tumultuous 24 hours. Right before I went to bed the night of the tentative job offer, I picked up a book to read to try to make my flying high with emotion self try to relax a little. The book was recommended by a dear friend who is an amazing "doer" and entrepreneur. It's called "The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion" by Elle Luna. I wouldn't be surprised if this book skyrocketed to the NYT best-seller list as the latest-greatest self-help book and with good reason. It's a fun read and well done. What I wanted to happen when I opened it up to read that night was that I would miraculously be on a page that somehow "told" me I was considering the right path with this job opportunity, but instead, this was the last paragraph on the page I opened to:

"But what you don't want is to take a job that was intended to pay the bills and suddenly, you don't have time to explore your passion, you're too tired to step into that which you were put on this earth to do. And if, for some awful reason, you forget that money is a game, a make-believe concept that some people invented, you could be led back into the complex layered world of Should. And here, the loss isn't a financial one. You are the cost. Is it worth it?"

Guess what I did when I read that? I quickly closed the book and put it to the side. It seemed to be a direct message that was the exact opposite of what I wanted to hear and then the next day unfolded in what was probably the absolute right way for my future as devastating as it was initially.

The second thing that happened was this morning after I meditated. I was still pretty down from the rejection but when I went to get my coffee, my laptop and phone, I suddenly starting to feel like the owners of the property had just done me a huge favor. I turned my phone on and a few text messages came up. One of them was from a daily affirmation service. I'm not really one for daily affirmations other than reading what's on my tea bag tabs while I wait for the water to boil, but a friend who knows how I struggle with the great changes I'm going through to switch careers and start a new business told me about it so I decided to give it a try. The message that was sent yesterday (the day of the big rejection) that I was too emotional and busy to read was this: "Craving acceptance is human, but the 'validation trap' can trip us up. You are not for everyone, Julie; find relief in that today".

If only I wasn't so wrapped up in my emotions to read that yesterday. I'm not sure it would have stopped the tears. Sometimes you just have to let them fly, but I'm glad I read it today. Today I went from waking up feeling like I never wanted to get up again, to writing this blog post and going swimming this afternoon (a skill I'm determined to learn during this 50th year of my life). I made a reservation at an airbnb outside of Anza Borrego Park for next week so I can see the desert wildflowers on my way down to my southern California photo shoots (something I've wanted to do ever since moving to CA).  While staying down there, I also plan on getting caught up on reading, exploring a deeper meditation practice, hiking long days and trying my hand at writing my memoirs which is another project for my 50th year. I was really looking forward to this time alone before considering taking the job that so suddenly came up and was planning on dropping it all to stay and start the job, but now I'm realizing it's something I need and want to do and it's something much more important to me than money or opportunity. It's a time I've set aside to continue to learn and grow and to reach deep inside myself to get more in touch with the me in me.

Yes, money is important to survive, but Brennan and I have learned to live on very little. Do I want to be more financially secure? Absolutely. But Brennan and I are both on such a great path of discovery that it may be worth the temporary insecurity. I’m willing to watch my emotional highs and lows from an increasingly detached position and place of deep peace and see what happens. Either the world will open up to us and help us navigate to our true callings or we'll end up "living in a van down by the river:" (SNL)... Really. I may be ok with either one!

How Can You Break the Glass Ceiling if You Don't Reach for the Stars?: Creating a "Manifestation" Board

Julie's Manifestation Board for Life and The Healing Farm

Julie's Manifestation Board for Life and The Healing Farm

I was hiking recently when the title of this blog post came to me. I'm sure it's been said a hundred times (or maybe a thousand) by others way before I came up with it, but it struck me as profound. Especially for the midlife process I'm currently experiencing. 

As I was hiking I was thinking about the audacity of parts of my manifestation board. Here I was awed by nature on my hike and thinking of great things other's have done with their careers and lives in the past and I suddenly felt a wave of guilt and a sense of "who do I think I am?" go over me. I thought of some of the things I had put on my board including:

  • "Gamechangers 500"
  • "Corner Office" by Adam Bryant
  • "Conscious Company"
  • "Guru"

I mean, really. Who do I think I am? Sometimes I fantasize about being interviewed for the regular "Corner Office" interview in the Sunday New York Times. As the founder and CEO of The Healing Farm I would talk about inspiring others with average means and education to aspire to become extraordinary human beings and to reach for bigger dreams than you can imagine. When I read "Conscious Company" magazine, I can't help but think that if I realize my true dream of The Healing Farm, THF will most certainly be featured as a prime example of the "conscious company" of the future. A "For Benefit" company that invests back into itself, its team and its community championing fair business practices and acting as a model for the future of affordable and practical wellness around the country. An example of healthcare of the future! And of course, as The Healing Farm expands and THF outposts pop up throughout the country in places like appalachia, the deep south and middle America where we're not just preaching natural preventative wellness to the choir, but we're also providing employment opportunities to those communities most hurt by lost manufacturing jobs and the crippling effects of addiction (big breath and run-on sentence), how could it not make the "Gamechangers 500" list? Gamechangers 500 by the way is like a new kind of Fortune 500 list for companies that are NOT profit-driven. Companies that top this year's list: 

I really want The Healing Farm to make this list as a leader in the future of sustainable, affordable and practical healthcare. 

WOW. As I said, pretty audacious. Especially for a midwestern girl of average (to below average) means with an education in fine art and a very average record of self employment!

But also on that manifestation board, I have included words like:

  • Inspire
  • For People and Planet
  • Gratitude
  • Confidence
  • Together
  • Thin

I feel like these words represent who I am already and who I strive to be on a more practical and short-term level. A little more modesty represented here.

The manifestation board came out of a group activity at the last Healing Farm retreat. I wanted to have an art meditation session on the retreat agenda because I was inspired by a guest at my last multi-day retreat who wanted to share her art meditation practice with others. I was inspired after the last retreat to create some art in nature so I wanted to share the practice with the guests at this new retreat. It was a few weeks before the retreat that someone mentioned doing a "manifestation board" and that within a year, two of the most important things on her board were coming to be (a husband and a child). It's now over two years since she completed her board and she said she has never been happier.

This inspired me to suggest that guests bring magazines to contribute during the art meditation just in case someone wanted to do one of these boards. I could not believe the excitement and turnout over this project. It was so inspiring to see my guests quietly going about searching for words and pictures that might represent what they envision for their lives in the future. What a perfect project at a women's health retreat that focussed on midlife transitions. I didn't have time to do a board of my own at the retreat since I was facilitating, but took a much needed week off at home after the retreat and on inauguration day 2017 after a long walk in my neighborhood I got out my materials and began. What I created was so personal and inspiring to me it was overwhelming. What a hopeful thing to do on a day I felt was a little scary for the future.

What is represented on the board is my hope for myself, my marriage and my husband but overwhelmingly my hopes for The Healing Farm. It's representative of something that I can't let go. No matter how scared I am. No matter my lack of confidence. My perceived lack of education and smarts. My lack of experience and financing. It's something that's burning inside of me. It's the passion, the healing, the realization and the "best self" that I've been working on bringing out and discovering for the past five years. It's the emerging butterfly represented. It's the eagle that is the future me. It's my hopes for my future, the future of wellness and the future of the world. It represents peace, growth, joy, connecting to better self, for people and planet, quality time and gratitude. It is my future.

It's audacious, but as I realized on my solo hike the other day: If I don't reach for the stars, how can I ever break that glass ceiling for myself and others? The day after I made my board I decided at the last minute to participate in the women's march in Oakland. I happened to have materials left over from the manifestation board project but had no idea what I wanted my first "activist" sign to read. I remembered that one phrase I had included on my board the day before was: "Women Can Transform the World". I changed it to "Women Will Transform the World". Added some peace signs, a heart, a smiley face and the colors of the chakras (something else I'm learning about recently) and off I went to march for women, for equality, for hope in the future and for peace.

I'm reaching for the stars in my midlife renaissance and I want to inspire others to do the same. I want to discover my true potential. I know it's there somewhere underneath all that fear and lack of confidence. It's slowly emerging. The butterfly is emerging and the eagle waits in the wings.

Photos are from: Demonstration day, hike that inspired the glass ceiling quote, manifestation board making at The Healing Farm retreat and some pics from the urban Oakland hike I did on inauguration day 2017 which was also the day I made my "manifestation board". I can't recommend this project enough.

You can also read about a THF retreat client's experience making her board at the retreat: 

The Healing Farm. Cultivating Practical Wellness.

 

 

"Not too Hippie Dippy" but Offering Meditation and Yoga at the THF Retreats? Disconnect or Smart?

When I first started dreaming of The Healing Farm retreat property and wellness ranch concept I always said that I wanted to offer "tasteful and affordable" retreats. Not too high-end where they become unaffordable to most people, but I also wanted to build a property that is lovely and austere offering programs that aren't too "hippie dippy" and intimidating. I've been told that using the term "hippie dippy" might insult some people. It's kind of like referring to myself as being "efficient" because of the German in me. I can say it because I'm German! And I feel like I can poke fun of the hippie dippy culture because - well - I'm a little hippie dippy myself!

I've not been to Spirit Rock Meditation Center mostly because I've not had a meditation practice in the past (pretty good reason), but even as I've started dipping my toe into meditation, I figured I would be intimidated and not feel like I belong because I don't have a long history of meditation in my life or even at this point a deep and regular practice. But as I've moved in the past couple of years into starting this new business called The Healing Farm and The Healing Farm | Retreats, I've also been introduced to the challenges of midlife and peri-menopause. As I mentioned in my post about turing 50, this is not an easy time to be making big changes!

As I was approaching my last multi-day retreat; planning/facilitating, putting myself out there and doing something I've never done before, I was met with some great challenges. Two things happened during this time:

1) I had a photo assignment at Rancho La Puerta (I photograph there once a year or so for their marketing materials) and brought my cousin Annie as my guest. Annie has a regular meditation practice and while we were there I decided I should check out RLP's introduction to meditation. One of my fave instructors (JayDee!) was teaching that day and he taught me some very important lessons about meditation:

  • That there will ALWAYS be thoughts moving in and out of your brain. It's constant, but what we're trying to do with meditation is learn to look at those thoughts in a detached way without judgement, without letting our emotions get in the way and simply observing them and then letting them go. This made me feel like I wasn't failing every time I've tried meditating in the past. It's normal to continue to have thoughts pass through your mind when you're meditating and that simply learning to let them go by returning to your breath (or chant or prayer or whatever you decide to use) is the key to living more in the present and not allowing your thoughts to consume you.
  • He admitted straight away that he's a type A personality (and if you've ever met JayDee you could figure that out in an instant) and that if he can teach himself to meditate and to have a regular practice, just about anyone can! Although I'm not a type A personality (far from it) this also made me feel a bit less intimidated about the fact that I felt like I couldn't control the constant flow of thoughts in my head.
  • He taught us tricks to bring your mind back into the present and to the breath. One of the practices that I still use regularly is counting to ten (repeating the number with both your in breath and your out breath). This practice helps me so much as my mind drifts to realize that maybe I'm at 11 and oh! that means my mind has drifted and I need to come back to my breath and my one through ten numbers).

2) At the end of our week together at Rancho La Puerta, Annie and I went to the "Oak Tree" space and meditated together for twenty minutes. It was such a lovely experience and such a nice way to end our week together. Annie then sent me a book that I have found incredibly helpful in teaching myself meditation: Thich Nhat Hanh's "The Miracle of Mindfulness" (an introduction to the practice of meditation). This book was key in starting my practice. Another book that has helped me get a little further into my practice is Pema Chodron's "When Things Fall Apart".

I still consider myself a "beginner" in my practice since I really only meditate 10 minutes a day (15 if I add in my deep breathing practice) and usually only about four days a week. This is fine for me right now and even with that tiny bit of practice, very early on I realized that when I woke up during the night in a panic (this was a combination of peri-menopause and planning that first big retreat) I could calm myself down and soothe myself back into sleep by practicing my one to ten counting meditation. It was amazing to me how quickly this worked for me and I still do it every time I wake up in the night. Panic is not part of my nights anymore because I now know how to tame my thoughts, put them aside and not let them consume me.

So to celebrate the end of my wedding photography season, also a private (me only!) celebration of turing 50 AND as a start to visiting retreat centers as I dive into learning more about existing retreat centers and various programs out there, I decided to be brave and signed up for a one day women's retreat at Spirit Rock. It was called "Women, Wisdom and Meditation" and our leader was Grace Fisher. One of the first things Grace said to us was that she was attending a retreat at Spirit Rock last year and she felt a sense of not "belonging". She then told us that this was despite the fact that she has been teaching at Spirit Rock for 17 years! For someone who was at her first retreat at Spirit Rock and who was feeling like a little bit of a "meditation impostor" this shocked me but as I continued to listen to her talk, I realized that many women feel this sense of not belonging and thus we started our retreat day understanding that we all belong. As human beings living on this earth and in this universe we are ALL connected and we should ALL feel like we belong. 

I've recognized that meditation and prayer have been practiced for more than a couple of millennia for good reason. It calms us. It reminds us that there is something greater than all the thousands of thoughts that go through our heads constantly and that we really ARE all connected on this earth and in this universe. Meditation isn't just for the hippie dippie and prayer isn't just for the practicing religious. They both can be a great source of calm and comfort in lives that aren't perfect, that include lots of stress, emotion and difficult times. Therefore, I decided in planning this upcoming multi-day retreat that including meditation, both guided and long "sits" would be an important addition to the program. In navigating this midlife transition not only do we need to learn how to manage our physical self but we also need to learn how to manage our emotional self too.

In my next post, I'll be introducing the yoga instructor (Amanda Crutcher!) who will be joining us for the upcoming Women's Health Retreat which will feature lectures by Dr. Amy Nett, M.D. (one of Chris Kresser's first clinicians). Dr. Nett will teach us natural and functional medicine practices for navigating mid-life and menopause. We will also be hearing from Coach Emily Boorstein on navigating the emotional side (I just bought Emily's mother's book at Spirit Rock: "It's Easier Than You Think" by Sylvia Boorstein) and I will talk a little bit more in the next post about how we will build meditation into this retreat. I hope you will join us in January!

MOO Blog Post - TEDx Talk About Finding the Work You Love

I was so pleased to see that the affordable printing site MOO posted this article on their blog. Not only was I inspired by this article and Scott Dinsmore's TEDx talk, I'm also always impressed with businesses that have a mission of offering a good service at an affordable price. It goes way back to Martha Stewart heralding the idea of bringing good design to the masses. Whether you love her or not, she purposely catered to a non-luxury market. She knew there was a middle market that had good taste and didn't want to go broke pursuing lovely things! 

I want The Healing Farm to be the Martha Stewart or MOO of the spa and retreat industry. I have my Week-long Paleo Reset Retreat at Mayacamas Ranch advertised as "A spa-like vacation without the spa prices". That is the business model I'm striving for with The Healing Farm and I was inspired by Scott's TEDx talk because I have been working so hard toward "Living my Legend". I am absolutely taking a huge risk switching careers at the age of almost 50, but not only can I not physically do what I do currently anymore, but I've had this nagging feeling I'm supposed to do more! I want to provide people with practical and affordable solutions for their long-term wellness and I've worked hard the last few years, doing all the things Scott talks about in his talk to get to the place I'm at now. Will I fail? Will I succeed? I don't know, but I was inspired to hear Scott say "Learn your own impossible." Sometimes I think what I'm trying to do is impossible for me. But to Scott's point in his talk, as I say to myself "How can I do this?" I'm also finding myself saying "How can I not?".

I read online when I was researching for this post that Scott was tragically killed this past fall while hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro with his wife. You know, you always hear the saying: If you died tomorrow are you happy with your life today?  I'm sure Scott never imagined he would die at the age of 33. But dang. It looks like he would have emphatically said YES to that question right before he died. It's such a strong message to us all to strive to do what you believe in. Imagine the impossible and maybe you too can change a life or two - or millions. 

I love this quote Scott ends his talk with:

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.” ― Mahatma Gandhi.

I might be in the "ignore" phase right now, but I hope to build The Healing Farm one day to bring practical, affordable wellness to the masses in beautiful places around the country and perhaps the world. Impossible? Only if that's what I believe.

 

Ready? Set? Launch!

 

So incredibly excited (and nervous!) to officially launch The Healing Farm website TODAY!!!

It's been a HUGE learning curve to launch a new business unrelated to photography, but after five months and many times said in the last four weeks "It is my goal to launch this week!" here I am ready to send out my launch e-mail by end of day today. Wow. 

It's been incredibly important to me to keep up with my life-work balance while I transition to my new business and it's been hard to do in the past few weeks. I've been running my photography business, writing, shooting and editing to create The Healing Farm site and learning more and more about the retreat industry at the same time. Plus my dear brother-in-law and new sister-in-law got married on the 16th and I photographed two weddings this past weekend. Although I was tempted to work on my launch yesterday, I took a much needed day off instead!

It was also important to me to start my launch day with my normal routine which is ten minute meditation, coffee, news and catching up with e-mails, then my very important NYT Scientific Seven Minute Workout and stretch session followed by my daily smoothie (see this post for the recipe). Still a bit worn out from my two wedding shoots, so the day started a little later than normal, but it is so important to me to keep up with my normal routine. I've got to remember to KEEP THE STRESS LEVEL DOWN!!! These are all important lessons I hope the Healing Farm will eventually teach many people throughout many years.

So much help and advice from friends has been given along along the way to this launch.

Thank you to these very important people:

My dear husband who has been living with my up-and downs as I've navigated through this process.

My family who always supports me no matter what I do.

My dear friends who are also always encouraging and there for me.

My informal group of advisors who have been gracious in responding to my requests for advice in their area of expertise.

and I specifically  want to thank:

Pamela Hawley of Universal Giving who was the instructor of the "Introduction to Entrepreneurship" class in the UC Berkeley Extension program  I've been attending - and yes! that's me in the picture on the righthand side of the page - the model student -ha!. I hope to do a blog post today specifically on the UC Berkeley Extension program and how I practiced being bold when asking Pamela for a mentoring session. She not only offered one session, but continues to mentor me through this launch process. She has been KEY in helping me to gain confidence and in offering much need guidance. I hope to also launch a personal journal of the building of my business process today at birthingabusiness.com.

Thanks also to the folks at the San Francisco Small Business Administration and especially the SCORE program at which I signed up for free mentoring with two angel investors who are patiently waiting for me to launch my website so we can continue our mentoring sessions as I move into phase one of The Healing Farm business concept.

Also so important in helping me out the last few months:

My dear friend Laurel Segel of KS Creative who has been helping me build The Healing Farm brand and who has patiently been helping me build a template site even though her specialty is custom website design! 

Ryan of DepthxHeight who has helped Laurel and I navigate the programming quarks involved in customizing a squarespace template site!

My good friend Mark who got me started in the process of applying for my trademark and the folks at The Law offices of Christopher Day who continued with me through the process. Also Caryn Glasser, Examining Attorney at The United States Patent and Trademark Office who granted me final approval on the trademark.

Chris Kresser who I'm very excited to have on-board as my keynote speaker for the first large-scale retreat at Mayacamas Ranch, his nutritionist Kelsey Marksteiner of Healthy Gut, Healthy Life who will be onsite at the Mayacamas Ranch retreat for the whole week to offer two lectures and private consultations, my two yoga instructors: Patti Cocciolo of The Goodness Blog and Erin Cookston and to all of the other people in the works to participate in what will be such a fun and informative retreat.

and of course, last but not least the incredibly nice and patient team at Mayacamas Ranch which is the lovely site of the "Paleo Reset" Retreat.

Part of what I wrote about The Healing Farm's mission is to help "average people of average means" become extraordinary human beings. It's what I'm striving for myself which is why I want to document this process of changing my own life and hope to start a sister blog called "birthing a business". Odd name, I know, but stay tuned to find out why!

Whew! So here we go. Ready? Set? Launch!

The Healing Farm Retreats: Paleo Reset at Mayacamas Ranch, April 17-24, 2016

Mayacamas Ranch will be the gorgeous setting of the first large-scale retreat offered by The Healing Farm {Retreats}. I am more than thrilled that functional medicine practitioner Chris Kresser will be our keynote speaker and we will feature the first seven days of a paleo “reset” as featured in Chris’ New York Times best selling book: “The Paleo Cure”.

Nestled in the Mayacamas mountains just outside of CalistogaMayacamas Ranch will be the perfect setting for this affordable holistic wellness retreat. On the property our participants will enjoy organic and grass-fed meals and snacks, holistic health and nutrition lectures, an organic garden tour, cooking demonstrations, daily hikes and yoga, plenty of electronics-free relaxation and pool time and optional add-ons like a field trip to a local grass-fed cattle ranch, massage and acupuncture treatments.

Although I would hope that participants will want to immerse themselves in the calm and relaxation of our retreat and stay put most of the week, the area surrounding Mayacamas Ranch is world class Napa Valley! With the sweet town of St. Helena, warm spring pools and mud baths in nearby Calistogaand loads of additional options for hiking there will be plenty of extra curricular activities to explore.

A few shots from Mayacamas Ranch in the wintertime:

The Healing Farm Retreats Website Coming Soon

I’m so excited to finally be working on The Healing Farm’s official website! Stay tuned and in about a month I will officially start booking the first Healing Farm large-scale retreat featuring the holistic healing practices of functional medicine practitioner Chris Kresser, New York Times best selling author of “The Paleo Cure”.

The Healing Farm Stinson Beach Mini-Retreat a Success!

Excited to share some photos from The Healing Farm Stinson Beach mini-retreat! We had a gorgeous day and I’d say the highlight for me was doing yoga in the fresh ocean air and listening to the waves crash on the beach while in our final meditation as the sun set and the almost full moon rose. What a way to end the day!

Creating and holding this retreat and bringing together practitioners and attendees to learn simple yet effective holistic healing practices makes me long for the day when I can open my dream retreat center. One of tasteful, yet affordable style and holistic wellness practices reaching out to people of all income levels! One step at a time!

Sara starting the morning with a water view!

Cooking demo gone awry when the oven didn’t work! Roasting the chicken on the grill for the stock worked just fine!

Beautiful, gorgeous chock full of nutrients stock simmering on the cooktop! Stock recipe from the files of functional medicine practitioner, Chris Kresser

Everyone went home with a jar.

The borscht (made with the stock) ready to be blended (recipe also from the files of Chris Kresser).

Lunch was a gorgeous bowl of beet soup and a chicken salad. Both great options for cooking with the stock and leftover roasted chicken.

A participant soaking up her vitamin D (sunshine!)

Sara Rankin of Alma Acupuncture lecturing on acupuncture 101!

Participants discussing Sara’s lecture while waiting for their turn for acupuncture.

Sara brought tuning forks! Who knew vibration also gets the Qi moving!

Patti of The Goodness blog beginning our yoga session on the deck.

We were so fortunate to have such a gorgeous setting.

I was impressed Patti could balance on a floating dock! Not hard lying down, but for the rest of the time? Wow!

Patti displays her southern heritage.

and the moon rises over the Mt. Tam foothills to end our day.

Thank you to my participants for attending The Healing Farm Stinson Beach Mini-Retreat! Stay tuned for an announcement regarding the first large scale Healing Farm retreat and the introduction of my new website and brand!