Here at the Bravery Board, we've been talking a lot about how to take care of ourselves. Recently, the busy season of the holidays was on us and each of us, Jenn, Kate, Michelle, and Lindsay, had our own to-do list full of things for other people. While we wholeheartedly believe a healthy life includes selflessness and serving others, we also recognize a tendency to fill our lives to the point where we don't include taking care of ourselves! We've found that it's true: you can't take care of others well if you don't take care of yourself first. So we have put together a series of emails with helpful self-care tips and we want to send those out to you in February! We plan to send one email a week with several helpful tips - but we don't want to overwhelm our subscribers who prefer our usual as-needed approach to communication. If you would like to receive these once-a-week emails in the month of February, click the link below to sign up for the list.
Summer 2017 is drawing to a close, and so is our summer break. We've been on hiatus from Podcasting and hosting Gatherings while we recouped and refocused our energies to get things ready for the fall. With that has come some changes-- Madison Hedlund has decided to step down from her role, and we've added a new person! Who is that newbie, you ask? You'll have to wait to hear all about her until our first podcast comes out in a few weeks -- but you're going to be as impressed and fall in love with her as we have very quickly!
Until then, enjoy the last few days of pool time and longer days. We're excited for pumpkin spice everything, but relishing in those last days of warmth and popsicles.
TWO THOUSAND SIXTEEN has been a very productive year for all of us here at the Bravery Board. As in, very productive.
For a tiny recap (and I do mean tiny! There is no way to cover all the craziness this year has brought in a paragraph) -- In 2016 Madison started a flourishing new business as a life coach, (and has recently been nominated as Beautiful You's International Coach of the Year!) Kate became a mother to a beautiful baby boy, and I pursued my artwork like a madwoman and began writing and performing for my husband's TV show, The Mystery Hour. In the midst of all of that, we kept working our day jobs, maintained our relationships, and... AND... we launched The Bravery Board, this crazy thing that has been feeding us and keeping us moving in the direction of health and wellness and goodness that we all so desperately need and crave.
I think I can speak for all of us when I say... whew! There are feelings of gratefulness for how well received The Bravery Board has been in our community, validation that we have been on the right path, challenge as we look ahead to new opportunities and a need for balance, and a bit of downright exhaustion for pushing so hard through a season of getting things done and making dreams become realities. The thrill often outweighs the challenge, no doubt, but that doesn't mean we all aren't a bit tired.
To handle this whirlwind feeling and to lean into self-care, Madison, Kate, and I decided to take a couple of months off from podcasting and hosting Bravery Board gatherings. We've been mindful to spend time in reflection and thankfulness for what was accomplished in 2016, and to look ahead at new topics, speakers, and plans for the year to come. Slowly but surely, we are chasing our dreams and making them come alive, but I think we all recognized that we wouldn't be able to keep the pace toward our goals much longer if we didn't take a bit of a break.
The realization that slowing down is needed in order to be productive is a slightly new concept for me; one I continue to learn about and make mistakes with. My tendency is to run full-speed ahead until my body catches up with me, screaming to STOP, or SLOW DOWN, or to just DO SOMETHING OTHER THAN RUN! There was the time I was taking 20 hours of graduate school classes in one summer and started getting painful back spasms only to ignore them and land myself in surgery with a disc so herniated I couldn't walk. There was another time I went back to work after having a baby and flat out fell face-first into postpartum depression after trying so hard to be good at ALL OF IT rather than one thing at a time. And now there is this- a December with little travel, little to-do's to check off a list, no Bravery Board things to keep me busy, and I am wrestling with that familiar feeling of being a bit perturbed with myself for being lazy.
No. I have to tell myself "no" to that nagging anxiety almost daily. I remind myself there is a difference between lazy and rest. Lazy is allowing things to happen to you; watching as opportunities fly by. Lazy is asking other people to do your dirty work whether that's with meager responsibilities around the house or in life. Restfulness is different. Its NEEDED. There are rhythms in life that cannot be ignored and rest always comes into play. Summer leads to fall which leads to winter- a season of dormant darkness. Day always creeps into night where the hours of black seems to last longer than the daylight hours- (any mothers who have been through the first few weeks of breastfeeding an infant can attest to this). Periods of fast and furious working need moments of reflection and rest to be balanced and true. No one can shine their light all the time; they would burn out of precious fuel.
During the Winter months I struggle with this the most, reminding myself constantly that this too shall pass as I get anxious and annoyed with the lack of ability to go out and do things. As a child of sunlight and plants, I need to be able to roam free, lay in the grass and watch the clouds drift by, eat picnic lunches, and ride my bike through treelined neighborhoods. It sort of feels like its in my DNA- my dad is a huge outdoorsmen after all. Typically when Christmas comes and goes, I am left with a sense of melancholy- a reminder in the stillness that I am not living up to all the expectations I set for myself, a reminder that not all is being won and sometimes my body or the sun or the temperature set limits for a limitless mind.
But this year, as the Christmas season winds up and then back down again, I am challenging myself to be stick to this season of rest we have set for ourselves and to be mindful for the need to slow down and soak in the goodness of still quiet air. I've added many candles to my house, bottles of red wine, and cozy socks and blankets to help me transition to the restful cold. Creating simple routines also helps- Coffee in the morning and 20 minutes to read The New York Times has been the most recent ritual added to my delicate weekday mornings of half sleep and burdensome work. When it is still dawn outside and I am already in my office, this helps ease me into the day a bit. Healthy simplicities make the day brighter in the midst of rest and more open for fresh ideas.
This slower season is teaching me about the natural need for breaks so I can use them as points of rejuvenation rather than boredom or despair. Any season of little responsibility used to bring on feelings of panic because I would equate quiet with anxiety, but now I believe in the essentialness of taking breaks. Breaks are healthy. Breaks are normal. Breaks are needed. Breaks are the times I get some reading done, paint my nails, make tea, take cold walks with my sister-- all of the things I so often complain about not being able to do during times of pursuit and busyness. I am learning the lesson that all things have rhythms; that I have a rhythm and mine tends to slow me down with the cold. Without it I could not rev back up when the sun comes out and grow. I can't wait to start running again, no doubt-- to share new things and learn new things. I cannot wait for all that is in store for The Bravery Board in 2017 and beyond.
But for now, its time for some rest.
What does being your best have to do with compassion?
Before I knew how to love myself, treat my body well, and meet my emotional and friendship needs, I was a much more critical and judgemental person. I often felt bad for people (sympathy) and wanted to do good in the world (desire) but the action was not there. My heart was not in a place to give back.
What started as a journey through reading self-help books, going to counseling, and getting healthy, turned into a lifelong journey of wanting others to experience life as their fullest: which means not only mental health, but giving people access to the opportunity to grow, and all the needs that must be met before personal development can truly happen.
Being your best never ends with you, it affects your whole world.
Self-love and self-compassion
That's right, as the typical life coach of the group, I'm going to start with you. It is really hard to genuinely love others when you don't love yourself. It is hard to give freely when you're lacking. I used to be worried that if I focused so much on myself, I would become a self-absorbed person, but oddly enough, the more I know myself, love myself, and treat myself with kindness, my heart for others has changed as well. It has everything to do with understanding the needs of the human heart. When you begin to understand how important it is for your needs to be met, your eyes open to the needs of others.
My eyes were opened to the needs of humanity
As I mentioned, the more I saw myself as a human with needs, emotions, dreams, and wounds needing healing, the more I saw others in the same light. Things that once annoyed me about others became signs of their needs and pain. My privilege was revealed to me. The basic needs of others became more noticeable. To put it plainly, I became aware of the needs of others, because my focus wasn't on how my needs weren't met.
Education and an understanding heart
Putting myself in the way of new ideas, different opinions, and trying to understand people who were different than me was huge in my growth toward compassion. It has always been easy for me to have compassion for people just like me. But sitting and listening to people directly affected by the #blacklivesmatter movement, to people directly affected by government policy changes, even to friends who I don't share a similar past... once I opened myself up to understanding others who were not like me, my heart tore open like never before.
Live in Action
I try to live by the mantra, "love is an action," and to me, compassion is a position of the heart to genuine love for humanity. Opening your heart to others who are different than you, then choosing to live in a way which feels most authentic to you is a must. For me this has meant staying curious and open to learning, shopping ethically when I have the option, giving back to causes with my time and money, and choosing to engage with my everyday life more mindfully.
Starting with you never ends with you. Your life is a ripple effect. Your self-love will flow into others, and if channeled with love, will give you a life of compassion, not only towards yourself, but to humanity as a whole.
If love is an action, what are you moving towards?
Compassion Gathering This Saturday
You'll hear from motivational speaker & actress Collen Kirk plus our own Kate Alsup
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See you Saturday!
I travel a lot for work. I work as a motivational speaker in the education system. When I'm not in a school, I'm usually in an airport, on a plane, or in a shuttle bus, or I'm exploring a new city during my off-hours. And during my travels, when I intentionally stop and watch the world around me, beautiful things happen.
Take for example, the time I was in Chicago. In a crowd of tourists and pedestrians, I was standing quietly on the steps outside of the Art Institute when I saw a lonely homeless man sitting against a lamp post. True to Chi-town form, it was a windy, chilly day. Facing the elements, this man sat there in his tattered clothing looking cold and defeated. His cardboard sign was face down on the ground.
A feeling of sadness welled up inside of me, but I just stood there, an observer of his brokenness. Prior to that moment, I saw several other homeless folk around the city and didn't stop to notice them. But for some reason this guy caught my attention. Though I stood there staring, I did nothing to help him.
A few minutes later, a college student came walking down the sidewalk. He had a messenger bag slung across his chest, trendy zip-up jacket, dark denim, and sporty kicks. By purposeful strides, I assumed he was headed to class, but he did something strange. He stopped and noticed the homeless man too.
He then went over and knelt down in front of him. In one fluid motion he took off his jacket and wrapped it around the man. By now, several people were watching this beautiful expression of kindness take place. The man gratefully took the jacket and slipped his arms through the sleeves, no longer a victim to the cold.
The older gentleman stood up and embraced the college student in a warm hug. The crowd of people fell silent. It was as if the whole thing happened in slow motion. A wall of tears formed in my eyes and with one blink they all streamed down my face.
The college student went on his way having no idea the mark that his actions left on me. It serves as a reminder that compassion begs us to act.
That moment happened 12 years ago, but it is etched in my heart as though it were yesterday.
Our world is a broken one, indeed. It seems as though tragedy and heartache are just one headline away. But there is a living breathing compassion within each one of us. And sure, its amazing to see small acts of compassion unfold right in front of you, restoring new hope for a better and brighter humanity.
However, I don't want to just sit back, cross my fingers, and hope that someone else steps up to make a difference.
I want to get in the game.
How we respond to the needs of those around us will ultimately determine the kind of impact we leave on this world.
And maybe the first few steps toward the idea of a more compassionate world looks like this... living with an open heart; lead to act by that deep sense of empathy. Lending with an open hand, (clenching our fists limits how we can be used in this world), and leading with an open face, aka- smile. Though it can be but a simple gesture, it connects us with others and spreads joy.
Get in the game and perhaps another young bystander will be witness to your act and he or she will be inspired to get in the game as well.
Colleen Kirk is an activist, public speaker, model, and actress. She lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, and absolutely loves connecting with people. We met Colleen earlier in 2016 and fell in love with her spirit, enthusiasm, and love for others. We cannot wait to hear her speak about growing a capacity for compassion in our next Gathering!