I have such a wonderful treat for you today (and throughout the month of January!).
As I wrote in my last essay “Setting an Intention of Excellence” : “My word this year is: excellence. Excellence as in optimal energy on all levels. Excellence as in integrity, honor, quality and truth…no holds barred. Focusing my awareness on living my purpose in life and investing energy only that which is spirit enlivening and life enriching while I release all else. I am also exploring the ideas of commitment and routine and stability within my practice of unfolding. These are all feelings from my heart space–how does excellence feel to me, where shall I let it guide me, how will it manifest within my creative expressions?”
It is my pleasure to share with you this month a series of interviews with a few people who inspire me to “be excellent”: play big, explore, and experiment.
Today, I am delighted– thrilled beyond words!– to share energetic space with Tara Sophia Mohr.
Tara is a writer, coach, and personal growth teacher. She’s the creator of the global Playing Big leadership program for women and the author of Your Other Names: Poems for Wise Living. Tara has been featured on The Today Show, Forbes Woman and numerous media outlets, and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. Tara lives in San Francisco, California with her husband, and enjoys poetry, modern dance,
cooking for friends, and walking by the bay.
J: I recently took a huge professional risk. Rather than rebuild upon something that I had outgrown, I chose to close my previous site and create this new one. However, my own initial doubts were affirmed with the negative opinion from another and I came very close to giving up on the creation of this site. With your words and experiences about “playing big” running through my mind, I chose to ignore that negative opinion, instead honoring my own truth and my heart expressions. The result is that I have been a participant in magnificent collaborations while creating a vibrant “Facets” community. As I continue to “play big” your voice magnifies my own. Thank you. It is an honor to share energy with you here!
The wisdom and clarity that you reflect through your work allowed me to consider options I might not have otherwise. I wonder, when you are creating and doubt surfaces, what resources do you rely upon as you continue to create? And, if I may ask, what would you consider is the source of your power?
T: Wow. Big, rich question!
I believe that we are all channels for an incredible power – power that longs to create, to connect, to build, to love. We can each do things that keep the channel clear, so that the power flows through. For me, the activities that help keep the channel clear are sleep, writing, movement, honest conversation, fresh air, processing my emotions, and having “white space” time in my calendar. Those things help the power flow through. But the power itself is that generative life force we are all granted with. If you aren’t feeling that power – that’s totally okay. We all have periods in life when we get disconnected from it. That means it’s just time to start doing some of the practices that help open it – journaling, physical movement, creating art, and giving to others are all good places to start.
J: Your “Playing Big” course offers many tools to allow women to not only access their voice, but to listen to and create from that voice. May you share a bit about that course with us?
T: I’d love to. I believe that, in order to be brought into greater balance, greater sanity, greater sustainability, the world needs women’s voices. I believe that we are finally at a point where women in the developed world have the liberty to step forward and contribute their gifts to the world, but that most of us are playing small.
My Playing Big program is a six month journey for women who want to play bigger: greater impact, more bold action, less fear – in their work. The program shares the tools that have been most helpful in my own journey to playing bigger, and in the lives of the women I work with. All of that together enables women to start playing bigger. So far, over 100 women have participated in the program. The next session starts in late January 2012.
J: I am captivated by the fusion of your gentle manner, caring soul, and your quietly powerful voice. In a world where “fierce” and “loud” is equated with power, you model for women that one may be gentle, yet heard; one may be kind and create in big ways. May you share with us a little about your philosophy; how did you find your voice and how did this fusion came to be?
T: That’s a beautiful compliment, thank you.
I have a revulsion to what feels like the “yelling” that is happening everywhere, particularly in the media and in advertising. I feel saddened by the way people build themselves up by putting others down. I feel alienated by the notion of power as power over others. I’m interested in power to do good, to bring light into the world. I’m interested self-expression, in sharing my ideas with the world, but I want to do that through creations that enrich the world and that take hold not because they are scary or sensationalistic or addictive, but because they comfort and heal, and most of all, because they resonate with the truth of people’s own life experience.
As to your question about how I found my voice, I found my voice through writing. Writing everyday over these past few years, I’ve discovered what I wanted to say. I’d say to each person out there: if you have a longing to paint, paint. To write, write. To teach, teach. Start doing the practice now, and you’ll figure out as you do it what your messages really are. You don’t have to know that in advance to start. And you don’t even have to know what your message is to communicate it – quite often people’s message is who they are – and it will come through loud and clear to the world whether you can articulate it formally or not!
J: You capture this fusion so well within your newly released book: “Your Other Names”–which include 26 of your original poems and gorgeous photography from three women. May you share a little about your vision for this book? And, in what ways do you hope it is received..in other words, how would you like us, the reader, to use what is presented through this beautiful heartfelt gift?
T: Last spring I was giving a talk about creating white space in your life – creating empty, open downtime. We talked about why white space was so important, we did some workshop-type exercises, we had some group discussion. At the end of the evening, to close the session, I read one of my poems.
I could palpably feel the energy in the room change. It was as if the conversation shifted from our heads to something deep within our bellies. I looked around the room and saw many eyes filled with tears. I realized that those final three minutes of the evening had greater impact than the ninety minutes that came before.
From that point on, I became more interested in using my poetry as a tool for personal growth work, as a way to help people remember their own sacredness.
I think that we all get lost from ourselves in the hectic whirlwind of the world. We forget the shining sacredness of life, and we forget about the peace we can find within. The poems and blessings provide a quick, practical way – a two or three minute way – to reconnect to peace. I call this the “two-inch shift” it’s the little internal shift we can make in where we are coming from, internally, that makes all the difference in how we feel and how we act.
J: Within the description for this book you mention: “We all need ways to return, to find center again, to tap into a sense of peace.” Within your life, how do you find your center, what brings you peace?
T: I have my “variety pack” of practices that do this, and I think each person needs to discover their own. For me, it’s writing, reading spiritual literature, conversations with kindred spirits, meditation, music, beauty, and — this is a new one—dogs!
J: In your about page you mention that the article “10 Rules for Brilliant Women” was picked up by “Huffington Post”..kind of your foot in the door..(I think it is a must read, please click the title to access this powerful article). How did you conceive this article? And what was your initial reaction to the reception of this article?
T: Yes, the article as originally published at Huffington Post and got a huge reaction – tens of thousands of women sharing it. Later it ran at More Magazine.com and this fall, I spoke about the article as a guest on The Today Show. A year and a half later, every day, there are still new people tweeting the article, sharing it on Facebook, or reprinting it at their blogs – it just keeps spreading. That’s how you know something’s authentically struck a chord!
More recently, I wrote a short workbook based on the 10 Rules, which is designed to help women start living the 10 Rules in their everyday lives. People can sign up to receive it for free at my site.
At the time that I wrote the article, I was coaching a number of interesting, creative women who I saw as absolutely brilliant. These women had important ideas to share in their companies, their industries, or communities. And yet, they couldn’t see their own brilliance.
In them, I recognized myself, and so many brilliant women friends and colleagues I’d had over the years, all of us in some way holding back on really believing in and acting on our unique ideas.
I sat down to write and thought, if I could take these women and look them in the eye and say, “Honey, this is what I want you to know about yourself!” this is what I would say. That was how the ten rules were born. My unconscious must have been working on them for a while because they poured out and about twenty minutes later, the article was done.
The article was so honest and so close to my own lived experience that as I contemplated publishing it, I felt terrified. Pumping heart, sweaty palms terrified. I’ve come to know that this is the sign of a good piece: it’s unique enough to make you worry that no one will get it or that or everyone will hate it or that you’ll embarrass yourself horribly. In other words, it’s not a “safe” piece.
J: As we look forward to this new year, what projects are you currently working on/what may we expect from you in the new year?
T: Getting ready for the next session of Playing Big, which begins on January 26th.
Sharing my poetry in the world in many different ways.
Giving a keynote talk at the American Association of University Women (AAUW) conference.
I’ll also be doing more video this year, which I’m really excited about. I have a couple exciting media appearances coming up (I’ll post about them on my site when they are happening!). I really do love being on camera and I can’t wait to do more.
J: Thank you for sharing your beautiful spirit! In closing, is there anything you would like us to know about you, your vision, your voice?
T: Well, more than that, there’s something I’d like the reader to know about themselves and their creative pursuits. This is from the Your Other Names book.
Your gifts are shy,
and stand behind you, like a child
peeking out from mommy’s leg.
But you already know that.
You’ve seen it a thousand times
as you tucked and buried them
wondering what was wrong with you
It wasn’t you. Gifts are bashful.
Most live hidden, and
die in alleys or crumble into broken stones.
What to do?
How to entice them to open the door
and step out?
A mad love for the thing itself
is the best remedy that’s been discovered
a love so wild you are willing to step
into the middle of a circle and dance.
You won’t know if the witnesses around you
are the neighbors
or the world
or just the critics from within
but you’ll go there
for the feeling of your foot sanding the floor,
for the flight in your chest when you jump.
That’s the best prescription:
a kind of foolery, a mad love.
But what if the fear has won out, you ask?
First, sink down to the floor and kiss
Fall like someone has just
popped the balloon of you.
Then hug yourself into stillness.
Know that, sweetie, it will be alright.
Next build a fort in your bedroom,
a soft and covered spaced.
Pitch blankets, prop pillows
bring a firefly inside for light.
Then take it out, whatever it is
your flute or your pen or your clay,
and say your prayer of thank you
for this everything: vessel for your thoughts,
ceaseless companion, adventure-bringer, peace song.
Then take the question, Is it good or not?
and send it to the river to fish.
Let it catch you dinner while you work.
You are not making to be good.
You are making because
it is the great romance of your life.
Then make something. A little thing.
Look at how it loves you
how it woke up the earth to you
and gave you the life-heart back
how, because you are doing it,
the days are growing long again, as in childhood,
as if time is being given back to you
as you learn how your soul wants to use it.
– Tara Sophia Mohr
Tara has so generously gifted this site with a copy of her newly released book of poems “Your Other Names”. Each reader who leaves a comment with your fill in the blank answer to this statement will be entered into a drawing. The drawing will be held on Sunday, January 8, 2012 at 9pm (PST).
Imagine you are looking back at the end of 2012 on the year that just passed. What would you like to be able to say about this, “Because the world needs my service, in 2012, I….”
Thank you, Tara! Thank you, dear reader! *Excellent* indeed:)
Much peace and abundant love,
Reminder: Experiment. Explore. Experience.
**Thank you, dear readers, for leaving such wonderful, inspiring comments! Thank you for “playing big ” with your vision and your service! The winner of the random drawing is: shannon. **