Jesica Hanley Vega

Sing Your Song

Cocktail Chatter: The Introverts Edition

Thanks to this “Glory of Amlwch” bush, I shifted from anxiety to peace in a matter of seconds.

If you’re like me, when you look out on a sea of strangers – shaking hands, making cocktail chatter, and exchanging cards – you break into a cold sweat. Almost four years ago, I fled the stresses and social intensity of life in Los Angeles for a simpler existence on the shores of Puget Sound.

It suits me in the Pacific Northwest, and living so closely to the natural world has instilled a confidence and sense of self that eluded me for many years. Living here, I’ve also rediscovered the desire to inspire others that once led me to be a filmmaker. But isolation has also distanced me from my peers, and the desire to close that gap inspired my pilgrimage to The Hive.

Closing that gap was both easier and more challenging than I’d expected. It may not be necessary to say, but I am extremely introverted. I feel comfortable with animals, plants, intimate exchanges and meaningful conversation, but don’t fare as well with the kind of small talk necessary at a conference or crowded party. So there I was, in this environment of openness and excitement, knowing I was among the very people I wanted to talk to…and yet often feeling incapable of establishing the connections I sought. But here’s what I realized…

You ARE your contribution. When I remembered how much I care about the world and my commitment to connecting people to themselves and their planet, my interactions were intimate and meaningful, despite the flurry of small talk all around us.

Most people want to be recognized for who they really are and, while there were people with whom I didn’t connect, more often than not – through my commitment – I was able to find a common humanity with people even if we lacked common experience, background or age.

Check in with something that grounds youI’ve been photographing the natural world since I arrived in Washington and nothing soothes my nervous system like being up close and personal with living things. At my most anxious moments, if I could find a blooming thing with which to check in, I was fine. Ultimately, my social courage over the weekend was a testament to the wonders of getting grounded For me the source is flowers, but no matter your method, it’s worth embracing: not just in crowds, but in any stressful circumstance.

In closing, if you also find yourself in a cold sweat when you look out on a sea of strange faces, and prefer almost anything to shaking hands and making cocktail chatter, remember two things: you are a contribution and what is eternal, real and true can be the magic elixir when it comes to introducing yourself. Because, even if you’re an introvert, the next hand you shake may be the one that transforms your world.


coffee pot
For a long time, espresso has meant home to me. At least for the time being, something else will have to do.

A few weeks prior to heading to San Francisco, I wasn’t feeling my best physically. I was suffering from body aches, my energy levels were erratic, and my appetite wasn’t good. Making my bed more comfortable helped, but I thought I might feel even better if I improved my diet and eliminated coffee

After the initial withdrawal wore off, my energy levels and mood quickly  improved  and my thinking got more clear. I considered the experiment a success and decided to keep going.

And then one day, stuck with nothing to do while my husband discussed alignment with a mechanic at a used tire shop I took a walk. Even before I set out, I knew that if I walked far enough, I would pass Bluebeard Cafe: where I’ve made many pit stops to make a bad day better, where I’ve brought visiting guests to show off my adopted hometown and where they serve the best espresso in Tacoma, 

Even before I could see it, I felt my body pulled towards the familiar entrance. Conditioned to know that pleasure and relief were on the way, my physical excitement mounted and I started to wonder why I’d quit drinking coffee in the first place.

Espresso; it was a bright spot in a bad day, a boring day, an exhausting day or a good day. It  was a guaranteed pleasure, my one daily indulgence and part of my heritage.

But rather than going in, I kept on walking and instead stepped into a healthy tea and herb shop where I found a book called Rumi’s Four Essential Practices. One of those essential practices, I discovered, is fasting.

I’ve never been a dieter and, though I am a spiritual practitioner, I’d never taken on fasting as a spiritual discipline. And yet, without realizing it, in addition to improving my physical condition, my new diet had actually been giving me the opportunity to deepen my relationship to self.

I brought the book with me to San Francisco and was glad I did when the first thing I found upon checking into my room was a gleaming Nespresso maker. In addition to providing an exciting opportunity to join a community of impassioned and accomplished leaders, my weekend at The Hive was clearly going to be a continual challenge to my resolve.

But I kept in mind these words from Rumi, which were a constant reminder that my commitment to hearing my soul was stronger than my commitment to having a buzz.

yesterday you filled your stomach 
with all kinds of bread and foods
you became so sluggish 
so sleepy

what comes of such indulgence?
either recklessness
or the need to go to the toilet

sounds of moans and mourning
come from the soul while fasting
but the only sound that comes after a meal
is a low-pitched rumble from the rear end

so friend
if you want to hear what the soul has to say
then skip the meal;
it you want to hear from the other end
then bring the bowl closer to you


The view from my room at Cavallo Point Lodge. If it wasn’t for the fog, beyond the eucalyptus, you’d see the Golden Gate Bridge.

One of the hardest parts of preparing for The Hive Global Leaders Program this week was getting over the idea that I didn’t belong.

Once the initial euphoria of anticipation passed and I took a look at who my fellow Hivers  were, a shock of “I’m out of my league” shuddered through me and I closed my laptop lid.

As much as our hearts may dream of expanding our horizons and recreating ourselves in the model of who we are inside, our egos and identities want to keep us safe. There’s a  reason why we lead the lives we do and why so many dreams go unfulfilled. When we step into the unknown and out of the comfort zone of familiarity, a lot of uncomfortable emotions arise. And it’s a lot easier, and a lot safer, to avoid such raw feelings of uncertainty. It’s a lot easier to postpone something until we feel more ready, accomplished or prepared.

But there’s nothing like jumping in.

So I did. And with the loving support of friends and colleagues, I got over myself and started considering that I belong. Because I say I do. Because I know there’s a place for connection, communion and awareness in all spheres of life, and I want to bring those things to global leaders, just like I’ve been bringing them to my friends and clients all along.

I belong here because I see a need and I want to fill it: with insights, support and everything else I bring when I show up. I’m not like the other entrepreneurs, techies and leaders whom I’m meeting (most of them at least) and that’s okay. In fact, that’s exactly why I need to be here.

Finding The Soul Behind Your Walls

IMG_9700In the space between sleep and wake this morning, I was inspired by some thoughts about contemplation, subjectivity and the human necessity for physical and symbolic structures to represent the ineffable. Because that’s what I like to think about when I’m waking up.

It got me writing as soon as I got up, and then browsing through the internets, where I found this wonderful review of Parker J. Palmer’s book “A Hidden Wholeness” on

Wikipedia lists Parker J. Palmer as an author, educator and activist. He’s also a Quaker and a wise voice to which I return again and again.

The physical structure which he uses to describe what keeps us from our true selves is the wall. And this is what he has to say about it: Here is the ultimate irony of the divided life: live behind a wall long enough, and the true self you tried to hide from the world disappears from your own view. The wall itself and the wall outside it become all that you know. Eventually, you even forget that the wall is there. And that hidden behind it is someone called “you.”

When we talk about things which are subjective – how we feel, what we sense – language immediately becomes a challenge. That is why these things are the domain of art and poetry: how else can we capture such elusive sensations than through symbol and suggestion?

In our rational world, what is subjective is assumed to be the unreliable inferior to its more scientific counterpart, the objective. And yet, as Parker makes clear, when we address our subjective selves, we can find who we really are.

The next questions become: how important is it to discover who we really are and are we willing to give up objectivity to find out?

Why Spiritual Activism

IMG_7283It sells nothing. It has no agenda but to give voice to those values which otherwise go unexpressed in the public discourse: values like peace, justice and sustainability.

Unfortunately, as the term “sustainability” has become synonymous with a specific business driven agenda, it’s easy to forget what it’s really about: the capacity of human beings to sustain our presence on this planet.

At a time when resources seemed infinite, sustainability was not an issue in our world. It’s only recently that we’ve seen the vast consequences of the West’s shift towards corporate capitalism, industrialization and technology.

But if things changed so quickly once, they can change again.

There are certainly nefarious individuals among us who would have you believe that greed, violence and injustice are the cornerstones and final words regarding human interaction. In believing that dark vision of human nature, you do their work for them. They would not have you believe in things like peace, cooperation or even an equitable democracy. Instead they wish you only to think the worst of each other and yourselves.

Religious forces ask you to believe in your unworthiness. Capitalist forces ask you to believe in your poverty. Media forces ask you to believe in your helplessness and ugliness. Pharmaceutical forces ask you to believe in your illness. So called educational forces ask you to believe in your children’s disabilities, and political forces ask you to believe in the most pernicious things of all: your separation from other human beings and the world around you. These are the values to which we are exposed everyday. These are the values of every advertising and political campaign, and they play on the assumption that you are inadequate.

As a Spiritual Activist, I only ask that you dare believe in your best, in the power of your voice, in the power of harmony to seek itself and the power of human beings to come together peacefully to create solutions for a better world.

Don’t bother  sharing this message with the ignorant, the angry or the willfully indifferent. I don’t speak for them, I speak for you: the caring but overwhelmed, the loving but discouraged, the peaceful but afraid.

I speak in order that you find your own voice, your own courage and your own sense of purpose. I speak to let you know that you are not alone and to remind you that when you give in to cynicism and pessimism, you give in to those forces which seek to make you powerless by turning your own mind against you.

As Margaret Mead once famously said: never doubt that a small group of committed individuals has the power to change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.

More Thoughts on Fundraising and The Hive

IMG_1006 (2)Earlier this month I began a GoFundMe campaign to raise $2000 for a leadership conference in San Francisco called The Hive. So far, the campaign has received $1300 from 23 people – in a variety of amounts between $10 and $250 – and I appreciate every last bit of it.

In addition to allowing me to attend the event, the experience of requesting financial support has also pushed me to articulate what I do, what I stand for and how I see my purpose in the world. If you’re curious about any of it – especially if you’re on the fence about whether to contribute – please read on…

For almost a decade, I’ve read people’s cards and offered the guidance, support and space they’ve needed to connect with their own internal wisdom and make the most powerful choices possible. Out of our work together, my clients have frequently experienced a sense of inner peace, connection and stability that so many people long for in our busy world.

In more recent years, I’ve facilitated a rag tag group of spiritual seekers in the Tacoma area: supporting them to find the wisdom and power in their own diverse spiritual experiences, and creating the rare opportunity to share their most private spiritual experiences and questions in an environment of safety and acceptance.

I’ve enjoyed both tremendously, learning a great deal not only from my work with others but from my private spiritual practices as well. More than anything, I’ve learned firsthand the power that authentic connections – to one’s own heart and the hearts of others – have to alter perspectives on our own lives and the world around us.

At a time when problems can seem overwhelming and out of control, I’ve witnessed the capacity of such connections to create clarity and power where before there was only stress and overwhelm. And I am clear that, if such clarity and power is possible in individuals facing personal difficulties, it is possible for a world facing the kinds of dangers that threaten the existence of us all.

My intention in attending The Hive is to discover new ways of making my insights and skills valuable on a greater scale, and to join a global community of leaders also committed to creating a better world.

I’m clear that so much of what I’ve already learned is thanks to the generous trust my clients and my community has put in my wisdom and insight. And I’m clear that, at this point, I’m moving forward because of that same trust.

Thank you so much to everyone who has helped me along the way and thank you in advance for generously supporting this next step,

Yours, Jesi

A Garden Of One’s Own


This quote from Ram Dass expresses how the body, mind and spirit must all be nurtured in order to create optimal circumstancesnot only for ourselves, but for those around us.

My understanding of the way a child grows is that you create the garden, you don’t grow the flower. You can merely fertilize the earth and keep it soft and moist, and then the flower grows as best it can. It’s an interesting one, because people get guilty that they’re not doing enough about their children, and they tend to get caught in this sort of predicament.

You don’t change your wife or your child. You just keep working on yourself until you are such a clean mirror reflection, such a supportive rock of love for all those beings that everybody is free to give up their stuff when they want to give it up – your wife, her anxiety; your child, that habit. You keep creating a space in which people can grow when they’re ready to grow. – RAM DASS


IMG_8741In the last few months, there have been times when I wasn’t sure I could keep up with what was on my plate.

It can feel like a bit of a conundrum to advocate for mindfulness and spirituality while, at the same time, hustling to meet deadlines, write blog posts, create promotional materials and lead events.

And yet, I also feel that if I wasn’t confronted with these challenges of contemporary life, much of what I say would lose its relevance. It’s easy to remain mindful and connected when watching ocean waves or blissed out on retreat, but it’s another thing to remain centered when you have three things to complete in time for the arrival of a rambunctious six year old who will burst in at 2:45, drop his stuff in the middle of the floor, run to the bathroom and then immediately request a snack.

A monastery this ain’t.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As much as there have been times when I’ve longed for the monastic life – to be left alone with spirit, silent in my cell  – my calling, at least for the foreseeable future, is clearly in the world. And my mission, at least in part, is to share with others – regardless of circumstances, status or income – how to live squarely in this world while honoring our spirits at the same time.

We are all of flesh and we are all spiritual beings. To deny ourselves either the pleasures or responsibilities of either would do ourselves a great disservice. I am the last to advocate for an entirely materialistic existence, but I am also the last to ignore the demands of this earthly plane.

We can all awaken – and when we do, we should awaken not only to the fact that we are all eternal and spiritual, but also to the privilege that we have bodies and with these bodies, have business to attend to. Otherwise, I believe, we wouldn’t be here in the first place.

So I continue to breath in – taking in the gifts of spirit, wisdom and healing that are all around me – and I continue to breathe out – sharing my trials, my challenges and my own wisdom with the world. And the beat goes on.

Experiencing “Retreats With Heart” on Friday, April 17

Stephanie, me and Margo
Stephanie, me and Margo

When Stephanie Fisher first asked if I’d be interested in leading a retreat with her, I couldn’t have been more excited. Ever since I worked at The Omega Holistic Studies Institute in upstate New York, leading workshops and retreats had been a dream of mine. Then, when she introduced me to Margo Wade Walsh and her beautiful home in Gig Harbor, the dream got even better.

In addition to weekend workshop/retreats, this month we will be launching the first of a four-part series called Enlighten Up. Each of these daylong events will examine two principles of living a peaceful, joyous life and explore various practices to get you there: including journal writing, art, movement, mindfulness and affirmation. And, as always, a delicious and healthy lunch will be served.

If this sounds good, on Friday April 17 at 7:15 p.m., you’ll have the opportunity to experience some of it for yourself during my FREE one-hour introduction to Retreats With Heart at Good Karma Center For Joy in Tacoma.

It’s one thing to read about what we do or see one of our fliers. It’s another thing to spend some time with us in person and get a feel for what it’s really like to work on opening your heart to a greater experience of joy, peace and connection.

Retreats With Heart was founded to serve women and men who seek to be more connected with themselves and others. Whatever your background or faith, we know that the pressures of daily life take their toll on everyone. We also know how valuable it is to slow down, take a look at how you’re living and, where necessary, make new choices that are more in alignment with what you really want.

With decades of experience between us, Stephanie, Margo and I are devoted to sharing our love and wisdom with the world and doing our part to making it one where all people can lead lives of the greatest power, joy and contribution. If this sounds like something you’d like to experience, come check us out.

  • When: Friday, April 17 at 7:15 p.m.
  • Where: Good Karma Center For Joy, 711 Saint Helens, Tacoma
  • RSVP or Questions:

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