Mojo Monday ~ Change and Empowerment

Change.  It is in the air.   

It could be seeing the first green shoots of the daffodils poking up through the soil.  
It might have been the powerful university presentation given by an animal activist that I watched last weekend, calling for people to become aware of the cruelty that is being inflicted on living and breathing animals every single day.  

Then again, it could have been the documentary Half the Sky that I also watched last weekend.  A documentary based on the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by husband and wife journalists, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  Both are New York Time reporters and Pulitzer Prize winners. Their efforts bring to light the very real lives and plight of women and girls in countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Sierra Leone, India, Kenya, and Somaliland.  While the stories might often include very difficult issues like rape, violence, sex trafficking, slavery, abuse, genital mutilation and so on, both Nicholas and Sheryl find those who are working to change these things.  They look for the stories that while sometimes hard to hear, can also be incredibly inspiring when one witnesses that there are those determined to change things for the better.

There are also all the inauguration events this weekend happening in our country’s capitol.  A President who won his first election based on a platform promising change will again take his presidential vows.  Along with being aware of this Saturday being a National Day of Service, there is also the remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who will remembered in history as a remarkable agent of change.  
I know that my own heart can grow heavy when I hear of things like sex trafficking, senseless gun violence, horrific rapes and violence, abuse and neglect of children and the list goes on.  As a person who has an affinity for animals and who made the decision to eat vegan almost 5 years ago, I also feel for animals that are treated with unnecessary cruelty.  

Just the other day I also watched the trailer for the film Vanishing of the Bees, which is narrated by youthful actress Ellen Page.  Talk about a disturbing situation that could have dire consequences for the planet.  This of course leads to environmental concerns, global warming, genetically modified foods and the list goes on and on.  
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by it all?  

I know I have on many occasions.  

I think it is common to hear of these issues in the world and for some of us there is a desire to want to help to change things for the better.  We want to know how can we help?  How can we make a difference?

I also think that too often we really don’t know what we can do to help and we end up feeling helpless.  We might be unsure of how our abilities and skills could be put to use.  

The solution might be simpler than we imagine.  Consider this quote by inspirational Aung San Suu Kyi, “When you feel helpless, help someone.”  

The answer might be for us to simplify things at first.  The first step might be to take a look at our current life and identify what changes we could make in our own lives first that would empower us to more capably serve and help others.  

The first set of questions to ask are: What is your relationship with yourself?  Do you feel good?  Are you healthy?  Do you feel at peace within your own person?  Are there any issues going on with you that need to be addressed first?  Are there any addictions or unhealthy habits that have been adopted that you must face?  Are there wounds, even childhood ones, that need to be dealt with and hopefully healed for you to become your most empowered self?  Would counseling or therapy be a course of action to help you work through things?  

Perhaps leaning into one’s spiritual or religious practice is what one needs to get centered.  It might include a meditation practice, journal writing, creative expression, painting, writing prose or poetry, sculpting, or dancing.  All of these things that let you get in touch with your soul and that give you joy and instill in you a love of life, are those things that can increase your confidence and that feeling of empowerment needed to move your thoughts and wishes, and those desires to effect change, into action.  

Questions regarding where you are at on the spectrum of physical, mental and emotional wellness aren’t intended to make anyone feel less capable of helping others or making a difference in the world.  Yet when we are coming from a place of being centered and whole in ourselves that shines through.  How we are with ourselves, how we treat ourselves, affects how we in turn treat others, and is one of the most significant things we model in this world.  It it the thing that most influences our children and those who are in regular contact with us.  

Again as we return to the idea of keeping things simple.  When you consider all the ways there are and might be to make a difference and create change in the world, what is the first thing that comes to mind?   

Often the first thing that comes to mind is the thing that truly resonates with your inner spirit.  This might be something that will put into motion your sense of purpose or a feeling that you have a calling.  

Not everyone’s journey is going to include starting a non-profit to build schools for girls in Vietnam, a safe house in Cambodia for girls or a hospital in Africa.  The journey may involve volunteering at the local food shelter or animal shelter.  The journey might be a mom and dad raising their children to be compassionate, caring, kind and loving.  The journey might be lead a group of veterans with PTSD through a therapeutic drumming and painting playshop.  The journey might be to start a local meditation group.  The journey might be to use cloth bags at the grocery store, instead of plastic.  The journey might be to run for city council, mayor, the senate or even president.  The journey might be to write poetry.   The journey might be to take thought provoking photographs and share them with the world, as is the case with JR from France who shares his journey through a TED talk which you can watch here.  The journey might be calling, writing to and petitioning one’s civic leaders to make changes to gun laws.  The journey might be leading workshops, counseling others, or writing articles and books that inspire others to be their best selves,  who in turn do the same for others on their journey.  

Do you have an inkling right now of what your journey might be?

This can be both a deep and yet also freeing question to ponder.  Imagine that you have been agonizing over finding our big purpose on this planet and you suddenly realize your journey in giving back to others is through writing poetry, something that you love to do.  Or that your great gift to others is through how you love to cook and feed people really good food.  It could be that you have a gift for connecting people with other people and your role as a networker is so very valuable in bringing people together.

There are many ways one can make a difference.  None of us have to do it all.  None of us can do it all.  All we can do is our own part.  My wish is for us all to simply do our little part to make this a more compassionate, kind, caring and loving world.  As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

Want to know of ways you can take action in connection with the Half the Sky movement?  Visit this website to find out the many ways one can contribute ~ donate, volunteer, buy for good, advocate, become a campus ambassador, become a community ambassador, host or find a screening of Half the Sky, or share your story:

Here is a short video featuring actress America Ferrera as she talks about her participation in the Half the Sky documentary and her experience in India. 

Mojo Monday ~ Promise of Tomorrow

Courage doesn’t always roar
sometimes courage is the quiet voice 
at the end of the day saying,
“I will try again tomorrow.”
~ Mary Anne Radmacher

This has been one of my favorite quotes for many years.  Artist and writer Mary Anne Radmacher has inspired me for many years with her writing and her art.  Many of her books are included in my library of favorites.  Yet it is only recently that I picked up a copy of her book called Courage Doesn’t Always Roar.   I was incredibly moved and thrilled to read an expanded version of this very quote in this book.  I felt a bit stunned after taking it all in.

I also definitely appreciated this particular part in the introduction, 

“Courage is a paradox.  
Courage is the willingness to aspire, reach, 
and again believe in the promise of tomorrow.”

Hmmm…let those words linger promise of tomorrow.

Now let us journey together further into the exploration of courage with Mary Anne Radmacher….

Courage doesn’t always roar
sometimes courage is the quiet voice 
at the end of the day saying,
“I will try again tomorrow.”

It takes courage

to change your style,
your opinion,
the path you walk…
your hat!

It takes courage to let go
of the weighty parts of your past.

It takes courage
to find your own voice.

It takes courage
to reinvent joys,
to reinvent opportunities,
to reinvent dreams,
to reinvent connections…

to reinvent hopes
that you have set aside.

It takes courage
to recognize that rigid habit inhibits.

It takes courage to accept
that the way you “have always been”
does not determine the way you are.

It takes courage

to stand in a place
you didn’t know existed…
and learn from a view
you previously couldn’t imagine.

It takes courage to let go
of your assumptions
and fly your dreams as a 
soaring invitation to become
the best version of yourself.

It takes courage to stand for your convictions.
It takes courage to give up control.
And it takes courage to recognize you are perfect
just the way you are.

Change of any sort, requires courage…
Courage to write a new story of your life
with the pen of each day
…of every moment.

Tell yourself this little story when you need it – 

“I have the courage to stand
in whatever the weather brings…
and understand that everything is washable.
Everything is fixable,
and everything is replaceable
but my time and breath.”

The opportunity for greater courage
comes in the most ordinary moments.

Courage sings the praises
of the sturdy souls and says to them,
“Today I will borrow a little of your courage
and see what garden I can water 
with the healing of my tears;

and what growing things I can nurture

with the strength of my laughter.”

Courage is defined more by its contrasts 
than it sameness,
more by its risks
than its security.

Courage is content to make no excuses.

Courage, dressed in intentional change,
is the most ferocious response to fear.

Courage acts without regret.
Courage laughs right out loud.

Have the courage 
to walk out the door
and let possibilities discover you.

Have the courage 
to wander and parades will find you.


As you weigh the many possibilities of your day

measure your action with this question,
“How would I most like to remember this?”

Your chosen answer becomes
your natural action and
your unique opportunity 
for courage.

Perspective in the large.

Grace in the small.

An open hand.

A practiced pause.


Courage doesn’t always roar.

Mary Anne Radmacher has touched the hearts of tens and thousands with her popular cards, books, posters, journals, and gift books.  She conducts workshops and writing seminars on living a full, creative, and balanced life. 

She is the author of the following books:
Lean Forward into Your Life
Us: Celebrating the Power of Friendship
May You Walls Know Joy
Courage Doesn’t Always Roar
Live with Intention
Live Boldly

Please visit her website:

A new year is approaching.  

2013 will be here within a week.  

Surrender your fear.

Embrace change.

Center yourself.

Stay true to your voice.

What is it that you want in 2013?

Now is also a great time to write yourself a series of Permission Slips!  Be courageous.  Set yourself free to be you ~ and to do those things that make you happy…and then let the rest be.

 You can just let it be.

I looked back at a list of Permission Slips that I had written for myself as part of a Cosmic Cowgirl Sparking session.  I have the date down as December 22nd.  I was inspired again by what I had listed.  Here is that list:
I give myself permission to be different than I was 10 years ago.
I give myself permission to like and love who Michelle is today.
I give myself permission to not be perfect.
I give myself permission to love my imperfect and over-sized body.
I give myself permission to be content.
I give myself permission to be an imperfect parent and partner.
I give myself permission to lighten up.
I give myself permission to not get it all done.
I give myself permission to write without editing.
I give myself permission to relax and have fun.
I give myself permission to make mistakes AND NOT beat myself up about them.

What would you include on your Permission Slip list?

Mojo Monday ~ Kick Starts and New Eyes

The cover of my PaPaYa! “Voyage” journal

The past month had felt funky with a capital “F.”  One daughter came down with a really bad flu that had her down for a week.  Then her twin sister came down with the same flu and was also sick for a week.  I ran out of sick time and had to start chipping away at vacation time which is near and dear to my heart.  Wah!  My hubby had a short out of town trip camping with his students.  My 6 year old daughters had their 6th birthday and there was the party to plan for and a house and yard to prepare for guests.  The day after their successful party was Mother’s Day, but my hubby pinched a nerve in his back and a build up of stress found my own neck tweaked with strain and pain and a severe lack of energy.  My day job that I have been with for 8 years has grown more boring and unfulfilling, and while I still love the purpose of the work, I am weary of working in a cavernous lobby with no windows.  In the midst of all of this I had bone weary days.  Days where I felt so completely physically exhausted.  I also found myself not interested in writing or painting and when I arrived home all I wanted to do was veg out.  Then there were the old photos of myself and friends through the years I found myself flipping through the evening before the solar solstice, and I became sad and wistful when I viewed them because they seemed like they were from another lifetime.  I have been blessed in this life with an inordinate amount of vitality and energy, so it was the feeling so tired though that truly led me to realize that something had to change.  It all began by writing these words in my journal:

Changes need to take place.

Too tired.
Out of shape.
Not often happy.
43 years old.
Looked through old photos last night and saw a version of myself that was smiling a lot more.  Saw a happier version of me.  
Hard truths.
Brainstorm – what do I really want?  What do I want to do?  

Three Columns for Dreams and Goals
Health/Vitality: Food cleanse, Yoga/Pilates, Walking, Swimming (when pool reopens), Sleep/Rest, Hiking, Lighter, Greater Mobility/Flexibility, Less Screen Time
Life Plan: Writing, Art, Family, Community, Friendship
Happiness: Quality Family Time, Quality Hubby Time, Quality Me Time, Gardening, Creating, Painting, Writing, Reading, Community, Friendship, Women circle time, Swimming, Relaxation, Peaceful, Photography, More Outdoor/Nature Time

On the day of the eclipse I kicked started a shift.  I have been eating a plant based (vegan) diet already for 4 years, yet it is easy to slip into patterns of eating too many bread and cracker type food products.  I also live with a thin vegan hubby, who can eat anything he wants, including nightly treats and maintain his same weight, and my 6 year old twin daughters, who also seem to be able to eat the way he does and are doing just great.  I have suspected that my body was needing more nutrition, more real and hearty food, and much less of the empty fillers like crackers and bread that have infiltrated my regular diet.  I searched for some new vegan salad and smoothie recipes, adding detox to some of the searches and went shopping.  I also cleaned out the pantry and labeled anything not already labeled.  The extra treat was to lay down some new contact paper too.  

The goal is more positive physical energy.  Basically more “get up and go!”  This piece of the puzzle became more clear as I wrote these words about my new goals:

Focus on feeding yourself.  Focus on giving your body every good thing.  Focus on knowing that you deserve it. 
When we approach eating with a mentality of deprivation it not only feels punitive, it actually becomes a form of punishment.  It sets you up for a situation where if you eat something you have deemed forbidden you feel bad and guilty.  We focus on what we shouldn’t be eating. We may also be focusing on how we aren’t exercising.  If you are instead coming from a mind set that you want your body, mind and spirit to feel good and you know feeding it healthy and nutrition packed meals is what makes it feel good, then it comes from a positive place.
What else can you do to make your mind, body and spirit feel good? Consider all the pleasure possibilities.  How about giving yourself pedicures?  What about lying in the sun and stretching?  What about listening to your favorite music and moving your body to the rhythms? 
This is about feeling good.  It is about how you feel, not how you look.  There is an important distinction, because I am here to tell you that it is too easy to be dissatisfied with appearance.  We have to find the other ways to love ourselves.  

For over a week now I have been feeding myself nutritious packed meals called The Detox Salad, The Lightened Up Protein Goddess Bowl, The Back On Track Wheat Berry and Bean Salad, The High Protein Quinoa Almond Berry Salad, The Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Warm Salad, The Spring Detox Smoothie and a few other smoothie concoctions that utilize frozen fruit, soy vanilla protein powder and kale or spinach.  We have an amazing library of vegan cookbooks yet I did find many of these new and fabulous recipes on a web site called Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon.

As my lists for increased vitality included kicking up the physical movement up a few notches I have successfully been doing more stretching and have added in simple weight lifting and then some pilates videos.  I’ll also be adding in some “turbo jam” workouts for fun.  For a number of years I was a serious gym rat and worked out six to seven days a week with my daily workouts sometimes lasting two to three hours doing a combo cardio/weight lifting regime.  I remember everything I learned from the various trainers who coached me over years.  I just haven’t been putting my knowledge into practice for a great while.  

After a week of increased activity and eating nutritionally packed meals I am feeling less tired.  I am feeling less anxiety and less stress.  My screen time has been cut back some as well.  My goal is to spend more time in nature and also more time enjoying in person connections.  Here is a sweet little slide show of our family enjoying a picnic outdoors and the creatures we met on our walk afterwards.

This food cleanse has somehow also inspired me to do a sweep through the house to get rid of other unnecessary fluff, so to speak.  Some closets have been purged and the give-away pile is growing. Kitchen items like food processors, blenders and juicers have been moved to more easily accessible locations.  Things just seem to be getting more organized over all.  Think it might also have to do with some increased energy.

Is there anything in your life that you would like to kick start?

Is there anything you would like to change right now?

What in your life might need you to just look at it with new eyes?

Mojo Monday ~ Breaking Patterns

Many who find themselves drawn to the Cosmic Cowgirl tribe of women would probably shake their heads knowingly if I was to say that becoming a Cosmic Cowgirl tends to shift things in one’s life.   I have heard stories from various Cowgirls about the changes that occurred after becoming a member and taking courses, some of them huge, such as moving to a different state or country, leaving a dead end relationship, quitting jobs or retiring in order to pursue an artist life. 

The common thread I have pulled from their many stories is the courage and the bravery each of these women finally found deep in their souls to find their voice, pursue their dreams, to claim who they are and what they really want in life.  Sometimes the journey is not smooth or easy.  Change may challenge not only those taking action, but also those close to them as well.  Sometimes family and friends look on bewildered.  Sometimes they are fearful of the change.  Sometimes those who love us the best are not the most supportive traveling partners. 

If all goes well everyone adjusts.  If all goes well, when the chaos settles down, all those ties that bind will be strong and intact.

Here are some thoughtful words of wisdom about this very subject from author Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening.

Breaking Patterns
If I contradict myself, I contradict myself.  I contain multitudes. ~ Walt Whitman

“We create patterns that others depend on, and then the last thing we ever imagined happens; we grow and then to stay vital we must break the patterns we created.
There is no blame or fault in this.  It is commonplace in nature.  Watch the ocean and shore do their dance of buildup and crumble and you’ll see this happen daily.
We know we are close to this threshold when we hear someone say, ‘You’re not yourself,’ or ‘That was out of character for you.’  What is difficult at this juncture is to resist either complying with how others see us or withholding who we really are.

The challenge, which I don’t do well but stay committed to, is to say to those we love, ‘I am more than I have shown you and more than you are willing to see.  Let’s work our love and know each other more fully.”

  • This is an awareness meditation.  As you move through your interactions today, notice whether you arecomplying with how others see you or withholding who you are.
  •  After each interaction, simply breathe slowly once or twice and return to the fullness of who you are.

The reality is that things don’t always turn out as we think or hope they will.  Sometimes relationships do not survive change and growth.  Life continues on though.  Hopefully one finds peace in one’s heart for those things that may feel unresolved.  Forgiveness for one’s self is paramount and ideally forgiveness for others follows.  There is also a jewel of advice again from Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakeningregarding the role of compassion.

Feeling Beyond the Hurt

Withstanding the tension between opposites until we know it is ‘enough’ releases us from the swing between one extreme and the other. ~ Helen Luke

“Sometimes, when I think of my parents, who have hurt me, I am lulled by a wintering sky to feel for them, to try on their view, but in my empathy an old pattern kicks in and I start to lose the truth of my hurt, as if there’s only room of one set of feelings – theirs.
The struggle is a common one.  So often we feel for others and lose ourselves, or cut others off to preserve ourselves.  Like a radio that can only tune to one station at a time, it seems like only one side of things can be received, though all sides are broadcast.
But compassion is a deeper thing that waits beyond the tension of choosing sides.  Compassion, in practice, does not require us to give up the truth of what we feel or the truth of our reality.  Nor does it allow us to minimize the humanity of those who hurt us.  Rather, we are asked to know ourselves enough that we can stay open to the truth of others, even when their truth or their inability to live up to their truth has hurt us.
This does now remove the emotional facts of our lives, nor does it ask us to remain in a hurtful situation.  Rather, compassion asks that we open like mountains to the sky, like mountains that can withstand every kind of weather.”

  • Sit quietly and bring to mind someone you are at odds with.
  • Breathe deeply and allow the truth of your feelings, not just the truth of your position, to rise.
  • Breathe evenly and allow the other person’s feelings, not just their position to rise.
  • Let your breathing ease and tension in you that either undermines yourself or undermines this other.

What are your experiences with change and growth?

Has it had any impact on your relationships?

Have you ever complied or withheld your true self from others?

How have you held true to yourself?