Category Archives: Courage

Mojo Monday ~ The Beauty In Making Mistakes

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If you are familiar with author Oriah Mountain Dreamer you might be surprised to learn that once upon a time she doubted if she would ever become a published writer.  This is the woman who wrote the piece called The Invitation, that later became a book by the same title.  Oriah shares in her book What We Ache For: Creativity and the Unfolding of Your Soul the story of attending a writing workshop, and how after having her writing torn to pieces over the course of several days, and hearing how few people will ever succeed at writing, left the workshop feeling deflated and almost convinced she should throw in the towel.  Yet writing called to her soul and she picked herself back up and continued to follow that calling.  

It was her determination and an internal pull to continue to write that propelled her forward.    She explains in her book What We Ache For how a writer will write, a dancer will dance, an artist will paint or sculpt, the musician will make compose, the photographer will take photos and so on.  They will do these things over and over again.  Here is how she expands on the subject:

“Sometimes we use the same stories and images, sounds and movements.  Sometimes we work on the same themes using different stories and images, sounds and movements.  Sometimes we create the unexpected and never repeated.  Sometimes we create between interviews and publicity tours.  More often we create between dental appointments and taking our children to hockey practice.  But we do our creative work.  It’s how we learn how to do the creative work.  And sometimes we become tired and discouraged. Sometimes we do not want to see the same image  emerge on the canvas, find the same theme surface in the story we are writing.  Sometimes we are afraid we will never be able to write or paint or compose or dance or film the wholeness or beauty or truth we ache to produce.  And in these moments we take ourselves out into the world and let our sexuality, our love of the sensual beauty of this physical life, and our spirituality, our experiences of the truth we ache for, find us and rekindle our passion to create.  We let the dance between the world and our imaginations move us.  And we begin again, painting or writing or composing moving or photographing or filming.  It’s how we dip down into that well of creative potential and weave a story or create an image or find just a single phrase of melody that takes the breath away. It’s how we pray, how we participate in in life.  Over and over again.”

Oriah also recounts a great story about John Cougar Mellencamp.  She shares how she heard him being interviewed on the radio and described what she heard this way:

“Mellencamp said that people generally fail in creative endeavors because they assume that great artists produce great works of art from the moment they begin.  He postulated that for every masterpiece Renoir produced he has painted dozens if not hundreds of paintings that were just not very good.  As a composer, Mellencamp had realized that he had to be willing to compose literally thousands of bad songs, songs that were hardly worth singing and certainly not worth recording, if he wanted to write one great song.  Mellencamp pointed out that when an artist puts his or her work out into the world it appears to emerge fully formed.  Those who received the completed work, the piece deemed worthy of sharing, hav eno idea how long a process was involved, how many previous incarnations hit the trash can or were painted or recorded over.”

Oriah shares that we have to be willing to keep at it, to learn from the doing.  If we want to learn how to write or paint or do any form of creative work, we have to be willing to do it over and over and over again, even if the results are not what we want.  Oriah shares how she was at first horrified when a respected writer advised her at workshop to lower her standards.  She shares that while for a perfectionist this is tough, it is necessary advice, because “Nothing stops the creative flow and obstructs the only path to learning to create – repeated trial and error – like being wedded to doing it perfectly…and nothing frees up the flow, opens the door to the learning that can come only with repeated experience, like lowering your standards, giving yourself permission to write the worst possible drivel that has ever hit the page.”

Lastly Oriah also shares this piece of wisdom that was told to her years ago in a dream.  An old man who she had seen in her dreams for many years smiled and said to her, “Do not confuse what you do with who you are, Oriah.  You are not a writer, although you may at times write.  You are life unfolding in human form, an awareness within which writing, along with many other things –eating, sleeping, making love, walking in the sun, feeling sad or glad –arise.  There is no writer, only writing.”  She says that this dream led her to this revelation:

“This idea frees us from the sometimes oppressive notion that we make the creative work happen.  The human neurological system and awareness is but one of the places where creative work arise and through which it happens.  Thinking of it this way, we can let the creative work be whatever it is.  We can arrive at our desks or studios, our journals or easels or keyboards or cameras, excited to see what might happen and content to let it be what it is, to repeat the process over and over.  This perspective can keep us from viewing creative work as a means to an end, as something with a hope-for outcome, and help us see it rather as an end in itself.”  


Here are some questions to consider:

Today I am will to do __________________________ badly.

Today I will lower my standards in how I….

I do ______________ badly, but I do it because….


Prior to beginning this post I decided I would create a 2013 word art piece.  I committed to just whipping it out and then posting it, no matter what I thought of it when I finished.  I toast to us all trying new things, making mistakes, creating for the sake of creating, accepting imperfection, loving the process and the journey, rather than just the end products.

My words for 2013 are Wonder, Wow, Love, Health, Grace, Peace, Breath, Action, Courage and Mystery.

What words might you want to claim and hold close this year?

Mojo Monday ~ Promise of Tomorrow

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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.

Courage.

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.

A YES!

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: http://www.maryanneradmacher.net/



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 ~ Fierce Women

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Fierce Women

Some years ago at a work training about self defense for women, the instructor asked the group what they would do if they were attacked.  A couple of the women in the room, shook their heads and audibly said things like “I don’t think so” and “He’d get a face full of my fists,” but more comments were about screaming for help.  The instructor listened to these comments and then said “Now what if you had your children with you and this person was going to attack you and your children?”  My, oh my, the room erupted in a cacophony of women stating very firmly what they would do to protect their children. When they quieted down, the instructor then asked “Why would you scream for help and not take any actions to defend yourself if it was just you, and yet fight to the death to defend your children?”  


Now of course it is hard to really know how we will react in such an extreme, adrenaline rush of a situation where we actually believe our life is being threatened, but it was a fascinating question.  Why would some women turn into a big mean mama bear to protect their children, yet not do the same to protect themselves?


Personally, I am a peace loving person.  I don’t support war.  I cannot watch flagrantly gorey and violent movies.  Just watching pretend situations where people are cruel, hurtful or inflicting pain on other people disturbs me.  I also don’t think that revenge or retribution is productive, but rather only leads to more human misery.  When I read stories of people who rise above and forgive others I am deeply moved.  (You can find some amazing stories of forgiveness on the web site called The Forgiveness ProjectHowever, if you give me a scenario where someone is intending to inflict violence upon a loved one, I know without a doubt, that I would turn into a fierce fighting warrior.  I have had a few experiences in my life where I acted to protect others, without even considering the consequences.  My instinctual nature was that strong.  

Juana Galan, fighter in the Peninsular War in Spain 

There is something fierce about a painting of a woman holding a club.  The story about the woman featured in this painting is also quite dramatic.  Juana Galan is her name and here is a version of Juana’s story as reported by Wikipedia: “At twenty years old, she was considered the best informed woman of the village, because she worked in a strategic location, the first tavern in the village.  On June 6, 1808, in the battle in Valdepeñas against Napoleon‘s troops, there was a lack of sufficient men to defend the village, so she encouraged women to go out and fight. The other women poured hot water through the windows and boiling hot oil on the road, while Galán was armed with a baton. She took to the street to fight against the French cavalry. Through this battle, the French army abandoned the province of La Mancha and was delayed at the Battle of Bailén, which ended in victory for the Spaniards.”


My friend Susan Apolonio shared this painting and a brief introduction to Juana’s story.  Susan had gone on a little road trip with me and my sister Wendy and during our adventure she also met one of my sister Cosmic Cowgirls, Ti Klingler.  Ti regaled us with the amazing experiences she had been having in courses she is taking with Mama Gena and her School of Womanly Arts.  When Susan sent me this image she shared that there was something in the eyes that reminded her of Ti and that I could pass it along to her.  After forwarding it to Ti, who I might add, works as a church secretary, yet is also adorned with body art and has the sassy Cosmic Cowgirl handle “Sugar Bitch,” responded that she actually keeps a baseball bat behind her desk and calls it the security system.  


This story and the image led me to reflect on our identities and how we are more than what meets the eye.  It is both an exciting prospect and yet can also be disconcerting.  In the “disconcerting and disturbing” column you might find the example of the neighbor being interviewed by a camera crew because the house next door was discovered to have harbored a serial killer or a gangster.  The neighbor shakes his or her head in disbelief and stammers, “But he was such a quiet and pleasant man.”  In the “exciting and interesting to discover” column you perhaps learn that a mother that you befriended on your children’s kindergarten trip is also a novelist and that you share many fun interests in common.  


People who know me are shocked to hear my story of how at the age of ten years old I watched as a man walked up to my father at an outdoor wedding and proceeded to punch him in the face with a fistful of quarters.  A brawl broke out and in the midst of seeing my father covered in blood and fighting to defend himself, I then spotted an older brother of mine about to be attacked and have his broken leg kicked by someone.  I  blacked out and went on the attack myself and punched the adult male who was about to injure my brother.  I punched him so hard in the face with my hand that was encased in a very hard cast, (I happened to have a broken hand), that I not only knocked him down, but also broke his nose.  Who knows what might have happened to me if other adults hadn’t some to my defense when the guy got up back up holding his nose, but threatening to harm me.  Later on I had no recollection of my actions and only knew what happened from stories of my fierce defensive reaction.    


Later in my teen years my dad confronted two teenagers trying to break into my sister’s car at about 4 am.  The two young men were mouthy but took off.  They returned though in about 10 minutes with a larger group from an all-night party.  My dad, not one to take lip from some teens, went back outside to talk to them.  What he didn’t realize at the time was that some of them were hiding bats and pipes behind their backs.  I looked out the window, took inventory of the situation, and yelled for my mom and sister to call 911 and grabbed our well-trained doberman pinscher and headed out the door to back my father up.  Our fierce dog immediately had an impact.  Most of the teens backed up and made comments about the dog who was snarling and barking at them.  I could also tell they were having second thoughts about their actions when I started commenting that I recognized some of them from my high school.  I really don’t know what would have happened if my dad had remained outside by himself.  He could have been beaten, or worse.  Fortunately, some of the teens were probably already nervous about the situation, and between the threat of the dog and being told the police were on the way they all departed.  About a month later though we learned that the ring leader of the group in front of our house had been arrested for murder. 

My last tale of fierceness occurred when the abusive ex-boyfriend of a roommate came to our house.  He had actually come into the house and was upstairs.  He became verbally abusive to another roommate and I thought he was going to hit her.  Without thinking I threw my arm in front of the roommate to protect her and closed the gap between the abusive boyfriend and myself, so that I was in his face and poking my finger into his chest.  I was livid and I backed him down the staircase, my finger continuing to hit him in the chest as I told him in a loud and threatening voice to get the fuck out of my house.  I think he was in shock at having a woman be so aggressive with him that he started blabbering about it being his ex-girlfriends house too and that he was there to see her.   I told him that she only rented a room, and that I and my parents owned the house and that he needed to get the fuck off my property right then and there.  As he backed out the front door and down the porch steps and tossed out a few more expletives and yelled that was  never, never return to my house again.  Later on after the adrenaline had worn off, and we had reported the incident to the police, I shivered and considered what could have happened.   In the heat of the moment though my fierce warrior self had risen to the occasion.  


There is both darkness and light in all of us humans.  We can be complex creatures and our emotions sometimes get the best of us.  I know from experience that when push comes to shove I too have the ability to be a bad ass.  I prefer the peaceful path and using reason and understanding to deal with situations.  I certainly hope that I am never again put in the position where I have to physically defend myself or a loved one.  Yet I must admit that I stand a little taller knowing I didn’t play the victim role and that when necessary I stood my ground and called upon my inner fierceness.


There are other times, much less dangerous, where I have also felt fierce.  I definitely felt fierce when I went skydiving.  There have been times when playing sports that I have felt tough and strong.  Sometimes I equate my resilience through difficult personal challenges with an inner fierceness too.  

I find stories of fierce women to be inspiring.  In college one of the papers I loved researching and writing was about Native American women warriors.  When I heard stories about Cosmic Cowgirl and artist Sue Hoya Sellars and how she rode a motorcycle through the streets of San Franciso decades ago I was incredibly impressed by her fierceness.  How about women like Amelia Earhart who dared to do things no other woman had ever done before?  


Consider ways to get in touch with your own inner fierceness.  What might you dare to do that scares you a little, or a lot?


What are some ways your fierceness has expressed itself?


Have you ever had to stand your ground in a difficult situation or confrontation?  How did you handle it?


Come on, tell the truth, are you a bad ass?


What is the most fierce thing you could think of doing right now?



Mojo Monday ~ Living Is the Original Art

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Do you ever feel weighed down by the pressure you put on yourself to achieve, to live your purpose, to be successful, to be Legendary, to change the world for the better, to help stop global warming and to do your part towards creating world peace?  There are times when I get tired just thinking about it all, let alone trying to do it all.
I have held a life time dream of being a writer.  I was one of those students that actually enjoyed writing research papers.  I could get lost in the racks at the library for hours and hours.  In high school and college I had opportunities to share my writing.  Once I left college though all of my writing took place in private journals.  My dreams of pursuing a career in writing were set aside and I the reality is that I let fear hold my dreams at bay for too many years. 
I am now in a place where after gathering up my courage to pursue my writing dreams I have a blog, I write a column for the Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine and I write Mojo posts for the Cosmic Cowgirl member site.  My brave steps also led me to dust off a manuscript I began over a decade ago.  I now know that my life experiences in the past decade will make it possible for me to write an even better book.  I have had a couple of strategizing sessions with a successful writer and I joined a small writing group for six months that is also being facilitated by the same writer.    I am attempting to stick to a writing schedule three nights a week. 
It isn’t always easy though.  Last October was a busy month, and I often let my schedule slip through the cracks and fall to the bottom of my priorities.  Then in December as the holidays came upon us my writing again dwindled.  In the beginning of January my husband and I decided to tackle a home improvement project.  More of my time went to removing wallpaper and painting than to my writing.  Honestly I was thrilled to be working on this project.  I love decorating and freshening up our living space is making me one happy camper. 
What I have struggled with is reaching moments where I am not enjoying my life because I am feeling so pressured to get things done.  In the back of my mind the guilt is building because I haven’t done enough work on my book.  Yet there is also the reality that I am a mom to two young children and I work full time.  It is important to me that I connect with my children, connect with my husband, stay in touch with friends and family, work and keep up the house.   It is also important to me that I write.  I want to fulfill my dream of completing this book.  However, if I don’t get to the writing because I am tired from all the other demands it weighs on me, sometimes in an unhealthy way because I my inaction transforms into guilt and anxiety.  Occasionally I even wonder what it would be like if I just lived my life and didn’t put all this pressure on myself. 
Then I recently read a passage by Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have that touched upon this very conflict so perfectly.
It is called An Invitationand begins this way:
 “Yours is to live it, not to reveal it.” – Helen Luke
“Helen Luke was a very wise woman, deeply grounded in the life of the spirit.  I knew Helen during the last two years of her life.  During that time she was a mentor to me.  These words are from our last conversation.  They troubled me, for I have spent my life becoming a writer, thinking that my job has been just that – to reveal what is essential and hidden.
In the time since Helen died, I’ve come to understand her last instruction as an invitation to shed any grand purpose, no matter how devoted we may be to what we are doing.  She wasn’t telling me to stop writing, but to stop striving to be important.  She was inviting me to stop recording the poetry of life and to enter the poetry of life.
This lesson applies to us all.  If we devote ourselves to the life at hand, the rest will follow.  For life, it seems, reveals itself through those willing to live.  Anything else, no matter how beautiful, is just advertising.
This took me many years to learn and accept.  Having begun innocently enough, there arose separations, and now I know that health resides in restoring direct experience.  Thus, having struggled to do what has never been done, I discovered that living is the original art.”
  • Center yourself and think of your life as a story not yet written.
  • Breathe slowly, and relieve yourself of the responsibility to record your own story.
  • Breathe deeply, and imagine your path as the patch of sky a bird flies through.
  • Now just breathe and fly. Enter your day, and breathe and live.
Did this essay speak to you?  What did you get out of it?
I took from it a message to relax and live life first and allow my very life to be my original work of art.  I don’t want to just give up on my dream.  I am staying steadfast in the desire to finish my book, as that is a project dear to my heart. Yet I know that the writing process will be better if I relax and enjoy the process, instead of piling on the pressure and guilt when I don’t live up to the expectations I set for myself. 
Is there anything you would do differently if you took the approach that living is the original work of art?