We sometimes think that we are alone with our story, but that is far from the truth. In fact, we can only really find our true story—so that we are telling stories about ourselves that support, instead of hurt us—with the help of others.
We might think that getting our story straight is no big deal, but in fact, it’s utterly crucial—and revolutionary.
Christianne Northrup, a pioneer in holistic medicine and in women’s empowerment and wellbeing, talks about the importance of story in her groundbreaking book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing, (While Northrup is talking specifically to women, I think her message is helpful for everyone, men and women alike.)
Northrup lists twelve steps for healing.
The first step is: Get Your Story/History Straight.
We might want to jump over our story/history. But we can only truly move forward in the direction we want to go in if we accept our reality, and ourselves, for who we are and where we have come from. Often this work is best when we do it with the support of others. We must learn to be our own best witness, but usually we can become our best witness, if we have the help of other loving witnesses first.
The second step is: Get Your Beliefs Straight.
Included in this section Northrup asks the question, Are you following your life’s purpose? and Do you regularly acknowledge your strengths, gifts, talents, and accomplishments? If you’re not, get the support you need to pursue your own fulfillment.
If you don’t get clear on our beliefs and your own source of strength and life force, your own health may suffer, because our life force is cut off if we are not living from our authentic center.
Sometimes we may think that following our purpose and our gifts is self indulgent—but if you have this belief, it may be time to change that. After all, our life strength is what keeps our energy flowing and our immune system working and allows us to help others.
To live fully is to inhabit our strength, our “courage,” the root of which comes from the French word “coeur,” or “heart.”
Happy 2017! May the year be full of good surprises!
In numerology (which I don’t usually pay much attention to, but this speaks to me), 2017 is a year of 10, or new beginning, and I’m feeling that.
I wrote a whole blog post about how important it is in this time of transition, when we’re moving into a very uncertain future with dangerous leaders coming into Washington, to step up into our stories and why I think that is a form of activism, and then at the end of the post I listed my upcoming workshops and classes.
But I realized I wasn’t really owning my own message; what I was really doing in that first post was trying to explain why I think the work that I’m doing is important and why I’m excited about it, but I wasn’t being up front about it. So let me try to say it straight out:
I love and believe in the work I’m doing helping people own their own stories and creativity. I keep telling people that the work I do, and the work I’m encouraging them to do is an act of love and also a form of activism.
But I’m coming to think that might be redundant because increasingly I see love itself as the greatest form of activism. By love I mean true love that allows us to honor the integrity of all life, starting with our own, which can sometimes be the hardest to really embrace in its integrity.
Time and again, I see that when people are able to embrace their whole stories, their whole selves, with all the good and the bad and the ugly, the ups and the downs, the vulnerability and the strengths, they have more love for themselves and more love to go around.
And the work that people need to do to embrace their whole stories is both relatively simple and strangely difficult to find in our world. Because in order to embrace our whole stories, we need to embrace our whole selves: we need to bring together our mind and our body; we need to make space for spirit; we need to connect the head and the heart. This is essential work, but in our largely fragmented world, it’s not always easy to find.
A year ago, I created an online course, Align Your Story, to do this integrative work. I brought together my “head” work as a writer and scholar with my heart and with my body. I brought together writing, yoga and meditation, three practices that have been deeply important to me, but that, for years, felt fragmented.
I poured decades of my studies and experience into the course: the literature that I love, teachings from Thich Nhat Hanh and Christianne Northrup, meditation and yoga teachings I recorded on video and audio.
I’ve run the course three times now and am running it again starting in mid-January.
Each time I offer the course it’s an act of faith: who will find out about it? Will anyone sign up? And each time I offer the course, I’m so pleasantly delighted by the amazing people who sign up, by their openness, wisdom, insights. And by the growth that I see them doing in and through Align Your Story.
The course is open to professional writers and yoga teachers and also people who have no experience with writing or yoga. It helps you get through blocks and write the work you want to write. It helps you set up home writing, yoga and meditation practices, and it meets you where you are so that you can step into your bigger voice and into your own next chapter.
I’d love it if you join me for our next session. And if you have friends who might be interested, please pass the information on to them.
I’ve recently redesigned the course page and I'm excited to share it with you here: http://www.nadiacolburn.com/alignyourstory.html
We will start the week of the inauguration. The course can help you find strength for the long term and will connect you with an amazing community of other people also committed to their growth, wholeness and voice.
This is what one student had to say about it:
From day one, Align Your Story is a thoughtful, engaging and inspiring series of modules that takes the writer on a deeply spiritual, soul-filling journey that has the potential to shift your life dramatically. The yoga and meditation exercises were an unexpected bonus and gave consciousness and clarity to each of the writing practices. I had never before written with so much freedom and personal insight as I did during Nadia’s course. –Karen Biscoe
These next four years are going to call upon us to be our strongest—and that is just on the national front. Who knows what other life journeys we will be confronted with, what twists and turns? To prepare ourselves and to meet the present moment, with whatever we find ourselves in the midst of, we need to get comfortable with ourselves, with our bodies, our spirits, our voices.
We all need to continue to call our representatives, to donate time and money, and to try to address deep structural change, environmental stewardship and to reach out across populations and communities. But nothing is more radical or more revolutionary than really listening to ourselves, really tuning into our bodies, our creativity, our wholeness and our connectedness.
I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science we could address those problems. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy… and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation.—Gus Speth
I invite you to join me on a journey to commit to your own voice and alignment in 2017 and to invite your friends to join, too!
If you’re free this Saturday, I’d also love to see you at 1:30 for a live Align Your Story yoga and writing workshop at Om Namo center in Cambridge. We’ll reconnect with ourselves and see if we can shift into some joyful energy together: http://omnamocenter.com/align-your-story/
I have a few spaces left, as well, for my in person writing classes, which meet at my house on Mondays.
And, of course, Align Your Story, the online course, begins again on January 16th, and this time I’m offering both a classic and a premium plan, to give you more personalized guidance and support as you move through the course. See more here: http://www.nadiacolburn.com/alignyourstory.html
Contact me with any questions and I’m happy to answer them.
In this unsettling time, I want to offer something to my community: how about we come together virtually and meditate and write?
I’m going to be offering a free session in real time next Tuesday from 11:45-12:30 EST.
Starting every fifteen minutes, I’ll read a short poem, lead a short meditation and give you ten minutes to write. This will be a time to feel our collective energy and to give time to ourselves, whatever we are feeling, wherever we are.
I’ll be starting a new poem/meditation every fifteen minutes. Come for part or all of the call.
If there is interest, I’ll offer this again in December, with some time for conversation at the end.
I know that as I’m still trying to take in the results of the election (this may be a long process), there are a few things that I am certain of:
1) the need to be engaged socially and politically for the long term
2) the need to continue to nourish and feed myself and my own internal peace
3) the need to reach out to community and others with love
4) the need to keep on practicing all of the above and with my personal practices
Meditating, listening to poetry and writing in community help me engage on all of these levels.
Here is Toni Morrison on the need for art in times like this: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
And I want to add that as we get to work, we continue to stay centered, connected to our own bodies and souls and capacity for love in the process.
Please feel free to invite friends to the call.
And if you can’t make the call, but are interested in coming to a call another time, please reach out to me and let me know and give me a sense of your schedule so I can try to include you.
How to call in: Dial-in Number:+1 (774) 220-4000
*6 mute yourself or mute your phone
On this difficult morning after the election, I want to reach out and send love.
I know many of us feel fear, grief, anger, disbelief.
I have felt very scared by the prospect of a Trump presidency—the kind of shaking in my bones fear of violence, mob rule, the overthrow of our civil society and the hard won progress we have made for minorities, women, the environment.
At the same time, this morning, I’m also flooded with a kind of love and clarity; the certainty that, to use Auden’s words from his poem September 1, 1939, “we must love one another.”
In the face of violence and hatred, we must show more love to our neighbors, to our families, to ourselves.
Now, when we are shaken, but when we are not necessarily in immediate danger, is the perfect time to practice love: we can remember to come into the now, to breathe, to look at this day that here in Cambridge is another perfect fall day. Find something beautiful and admire it. Appreciate a friend. Appreciate yourself; appreciate your body that can support you in this moment.
To appreciate these things is not spiritual avoidance. Instead it is spiritual nourishment; we are made stronger by connecting with the positive, because, after all, that is what we want to protect.
And we will need this nourishment: one thing that is clear about this election is that there is much work to do: We will need to come together in love and solidarity. We will need to raise our voices for what we believe in. We will need to come out of our own comfort zones and be the change we want to see in the world.
And we will need stamina to do this.
So I hope we can all give ourselves some time today and this week to connect with loved ones, to take breaks from the media and do some things that we love. I hope we can also give ourselves the freedom to feel our fear and anger and sadness and meet those feelings with gentleness. And as we’re doing this, we can commit to becoming more involved in the next weeks and months and years.
I’m going to be holding a pop-up meditation and writing workshop in the next weeks to respond to the election and to look together for what communal actions we can take.
For now, though, I want to send love. Because this is what I feel I need to receive at this moment. And I am sending these reminders that we can practice because I, too, need reminders; we can all send reminders to one another and be our beacons and supports.
This feels like a perfect time to practice metta. Metta is a prayer for protection happiness and ease, and I’ve added a prayer for radiance and expression. Metta starts with offering these conditions for oneself and then to one’s loved ones and gradually extends to the whole world. (Here, again is my metta meditation and accompanying writing prompts: http://www.nadiacolburn.com/welcome-and-meditation.html)
May we all be protected and safe
May we all be contented and pleased.
May all our physical bodies protect us with ease.
May all our lives unfold smoothly with ease.
May we all shine our lights, unobstructed, with ease.
with love and solidarity,
Emotional Healing & Mindful Writing Blog | Nadia Colburn
I blog about creativity, writing, yoga, meditation, justice, women, the environment and integrated well being for the individual and society.