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Jesica Hanley Vega

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courage

Cocktail Chatter: The Introverts Edition

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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.

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.

Do You Want To Evolve?

IMG_0964The field of coaching, guidance and personal development is a crowded one, full of promises and potential miracles. I get it. The best way to sell anything is to make it seem like an easy path to everything that people want.

But I’ve never been a fan of easy.

Rather than offering silver bullets, my work is about discovering and surpassing your own inner limits. It’s about distinguishing what holds you back and daring to go beyond it. It’s about recognizing some of your most deeply held beliefs and questioning whether they still serve you. It’s about discovering where you’re weak and choosing to become strong.

Doing readings with my clients enables me to address what lies beyond the surface of their stories and their circumstances. Recommending practices to my clients enables them to develop new habits that will help them see beyond as well. Loving my clients enables them to embrace those valuable parts of themselves they once relegated to the shadows.

I love tough, tenacious people. I love people who are so in love with something, so committed to it, that they are willing to let me be the grim reaper cutting down the limitations to which they are attached.

Clearly, my work is not for everybody.

But if you want to evolve, if you see a great reason to do so, a great purpose that will only be fulfilled once you are willing to look at yourself straight and give up your identity in favor of your soul, it may be for you.

Let me help you be the person you know you are inside.

Why Open Your Heart?

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Nothing has convinced me more of the value of our work than the impact it has already had on my life.

Recently, Margo, Stephanie and I have been asking each other the same questions, and guiding each other through the same processes, we will offer participants during our upcoming retreat.

I’ve looked at my own experiences of fear versus love. I’ve asked myself “Who am I that is not my fears or my ego?” And I’ve discovered how following my heart opens up vistas and possibilities unimaginable to my mind.

Doing these practices with such gifted women has altered my understanding of the work I do and the difference it can make. It has also revealed to me how dramatically I cut myself off from relationships and possibilities when I let my mind do all my thinking for me.

One evening, in the midst of this process, I opened up to my husband in a way I rarely have. I’m 45 and, I told him, I’m noticing myself age. In our culture, there’s very little to “look forward to” as a woman who is not youthful, thin or sexy. And yet, I said, I feel these very things approaching: as if the woman I have been is going to be replaced by someone I don’t yet know.

It was surprising enough that I shared these thoughts. But what was even more surprising was how much more authentic and real he became in the following days. As if my own opened heart made it easier for him to explore his own.

It’s not always true that the people in our lives follow our lead as we grow and expand. But by taking the first steps, at least we give them the opportunity. By taking the risk to open our own hearts, we can show others the way and create a ripple effect that touches the entire world.

If that’s not a good enough reason to open your heart, I don’t know what is.

We have two spaces left for next week’s retreat. Is it your time to Come Home To Your Heart? Register online now or email jesicadavis@retreatswithheart.com for more information.

You CAN Make A Difference

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No being is too small. No effort is too insignificant.

Recently I realized that, though I once believed I couldn’t make a difference, that time had passed.

It was a remarkable milestone for someone who grew up with a litany of reasons why I couldn’t make the impact I longed to make.

The process of giving up those reasons was a long one but I encourage anyone who recognizes such barriers in their life to make the effort to let them go.

Here is a list of the reasons I had for being powerless:

  • I am too spiritual and don’t fit in.
  • I am too sensitive and introverted.
  • Nobody listens to me.
  • I don’t have enough money.
  • The world is a bad place and will never change.
  • My opponents are too powerful.
  • Other people are too selfish and don’t care.
  • Not everyone agrees with me and I don’t have the facts.
  • I lack credibility because I’m not successful enough.
  • I have to put my family first.

Do any of these sound familiar or remind you of your own?

If so, write about them, talk about them, ceremonially purge yourself of them. Do whatever you can to let go of the limitations that stop you. And when one limitation arises to take the place of another, do it again. The reasons are not infinite and, one day, with patience and persistence they will be gone.

5 Lessons From Speaking Up

There's much growth to be found by digging in the shadows
Some things grow in sun. Some grow in dark.

Last week’s Facebook post about rape (reprinted here) garnered a lot of comments, most of them favorable and many from women familiar with experiences of abuse and intimidation.

But it inspired some push-back as well. As I should have remembered, not everyone supports survivors of abuse coming forth with their stories and, in fact, some are immediately suspicious when a woman says something that may “take a good man down.”

Just thinking about these comments still makes my heart pound and my adrenaline rush. I do NOT like expressing anger in public and I do NOT like debate – and yet certain criticisms tempted me to both and left me feeling  torn between wanting to destroy my opponents and wanting to change their minds. Getting so worked up, I also feared losing control over my worst impulses and revealing a side of myself that I didn’t want people to see.

And yet, as I step further into leadership and self-expression, I will inevitably confront further criticism and disagreement,  some of which – like last week’s – will come from people I know. And I may feel angry.

So I had to do some hard thinking this week and learn myself a few lessons about bearing the brunt of other people’s disagreement:

  • Being questioned or criticized, and feeling angry about it, doesn’t make me wrong, stupid or powerless.
  • On occasion, it’s appropriate to block someone from Facebook. It doesn’t mean I can’t tolerate other opinions or am a bad person. It simply reflects a commitment to the kinds of conversations I value.
  • I can feel angry and still remember my higher intentions. While it’s easy  for me to get triggered into a debate and want to win it, my higher purpose is never to be right. My higher purpose is to create a space in which others are safe to express their highest selves, share their truths and discover authentic power.
  • I can separate myself from the cause of my anger, i.e. the person who criticized me. Ultimately, what someone says is more about them than anything else. Whether they’re trying to shut me down, disprove what I’m saying or just being a jerk, I don’t have to take it personally. I can just let it (and them) go.
  • I’d rather make a difference in the lives of people I care about than waste my  limited energy trying to change the minds of people who don’t like what I have to say.

The fear of criticism causes many people to step back from their own best selves. Don’t let it stop you. Much of my work is dedicated to supporting others in doing what is risky to their sense of security and stability but which nevertheless offers them the most vitality and power.

There is life in speaking out, whether it’s against injustice or for something you believe. But if it was easy, everybody would do it. Your voice is needed and your voice is important. Be brave. Speak up and don’t let the F’ers get you down.

What’s In Your Closet?

Even the smallest things can leave me in awe.
Even the smallest things can leave me in awe.

My first-ever Mastermind Call has been going for almost two months and, despite a few anxiety attacks along the way, I’m thrilled with it.

Before each weekly call, I do a reading to get a sense of where everyone is at and where we need to focus our conversation. This week the theme was honesty, so I posed the questions: What are you hiding from yourself or others? and What would be possible if you came clean?

What I heard inspired me; I am regularly in awe of the courage and depth demonstrated by our little tribe and today was no different.

But then it was my turn. What had I been hiding  – and would I be willing to share it with people who look to me for leadership and wisdom? I wanted to share, but I hesitated: Would it make me look bad to admit I’m as susceptible to concealment and fear as they are? Would it diminish my role as facilitator and guide?

Brene Brown writes that vulnerability is the soul of leadership, so I stepped into the arena.

I am in love with God, I said, and I want God’s light to shine so brightly through me that other people fall in love with God as well.

Not the “God” that’s “out there,” mind you.  Not the  Human-Like God of punitive laws, damning judgments and religious wars. But the energy and light inside each one of us, that some don’t even call “God” but which they may call Source, Spirit, Purpose, Creativity, Unity, Unconditional Love  or, as Yoda put it, the The Force.

I love this —- that I call “God” and I have created a life around my devotion to it. But I hesitate to call myself – or my work – “spiritual.” Where there are words, there are prior associations, and nothing “God” has ever touched on earth has gone untainted by humanity’s tragic limitations on understanding and imagination. I haven’t wanted to be misunderstood, criticized or invalidated so I have kept my experiences to myself and remained in the closet.

But whether I call it something as lofty as God-the-Beloved or as secular and humanist as awe, I see and feel it everywhere and speak about it almost nowhere.

A friend reading a recent post asked me to describe a dimension of my sensitivity that I have re-framed from weakness into strength. This would be it.

Falling into trance-like states of awe doesn’t work in the dog-eat-dog world of busyness, competition and deadlines. And no matter how I tried, in my previous career I could never stop myself from becoming transfixed by a blade of grass, the nap on a shag carpet or the soul of another human being. I even cursed my “distractability” and untameable adoration of creation as the “thing” that stopped me from succeeding in life.

But now I celebrate it as one of my greatest gifts.

And, through my work as a guide and teacher, I seek to foster environments in which others have access and permission to experience such wonder in their own lives as well. By coming clean, risking being misunderstood and stepping into the arena with courage and depth, perhaps something entirely new is now possible for me and my world.  I can’t say, but it sure beats hiding my light.

What are you hiding?

And what would happen if you let the cat out of the bag?

What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do Next? Keep Going

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What Makes Mrs. Incredible So Incredible? Her Ability To Stretch Herself

On the one hand, things have rarely been better.

Recently I’ve made numerous personal and professional breakthroughs, while my kids have continued to grow and develop in their own unique ways.

On the other hand, this has also been one of the most challenging periods I can remember – distinguishing what to keep and what to give up as I move from one stage of life to the next. After all, when it comes to any transformation -spiritual, professional or otherwise – reassessment is a necessity.  

So lately, what fascinates me is not what my clients need to do, but what prevents them from doing it.

More often than not, the existent fear or belief that blocks us from realizing our dreams – and reaching for unknown heights – can be much more persuasive than the dream that is not yet realized. And the pain – and grief – that accompany letting go of what we have in favor of what we want can make any trade-off seem dangerously speculative.

The world – and especially the web – are full of people telling you how easy it is to transform your life in 3, 10 or 12 easy steps. But the truth is that authentic transformation is arduous and constant. It requires commitment, perseverance and courage. And while, at times, it may be simple, at other times, even the simplest seeming principle can turn out to be unexpectedly complex.

I am, therefore, not here to tell anyone that it’s a no-brainer to achieve the life of your dreams, triple your income or meet your soul mate. 

But I am here to tell you to keep going: that there is a process underway and that we can’t always understand it as it unfolds.

I am here to be an ally, a willing companion, and an example: to share my own experiences as a reminder that, at times, we may be stretched far beyond our comfort zones in the journey towards becoming the people we feel – in our hearts and in our souls – that we are meant to be.

I am here to say, when in doubt, keep going. 

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