Democratizing Ayurveda with Wellness Practitioner France Brunel

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Are you interested in learning more about Ayurveda, but feel like it's hard to integrate the ancient knowledge into your modern lifestyle? Ayurvedic teacher France Brunel started her wellness platform Yoom to help make Ayurveda's practices and philosophies more accessible to today's world. Her goal is to help democratize this healing tradition so that more people may benefit from its self-care wisdom.

In our conversation, we discuss: how the Ayurvedic framework can radically change your sense of self, simple ways to practice Ayurveda that don't take extra time and money, and why democratizing Ayurveda is so important for our collective well-being.

You can follow France's work here: 
https://www.liveyoom.com
@liveyoom (Instagram)

Wednesday Missive: Social Anxiety = Personal Growth Gold? (The Self-Care of Being in Community)

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Hello Darlings,

One of my earliest memories of a group social interaction gone awry happened when I was 7 years-old. It was the summer after my parents had gotten divorced and my mom had moved us to a new cul-de-sac street of suburban townhouses. I dealt with this transition by eating frozen pizzas while sitting in our cool basement watching “Sister Kate” and “Frugal Gourmet” reruns on Lifetime television. 

My mom, however, had another plan for me. She wanted me to make friends on our street. One afternoon, she told me to come upstairs because there was a group of girls my age playing outside. I don’t remember if I protested much, but I’m sure I wasn’t excited about the idea. Still, I followed her outside as she marched me toward three girls trying to set up a small tent on a patch of grass across the street. 

I remember that I let my mom do the talking. She told the girls that she used to be a Girl Scout and merrily hammered one of the tent posts into the ground. It was around this time that I got so uncomfortable that I burst into tears. My mother and the other girls stared at me as a few tears turned into uncontrollable sobbing. I didn’t stop crying until my mom walked me back to our townhouse. Once inside, I escaped again to our basement couch and began plotting out my afternoon television schedule. 

Sadly, this is not the last memory I have of a painful group interaction and the flood of emotions that came with it.  

Almost 15 years ago, I walked into a hotel conference room full of new Peace Corps pledges. Rather than be excited that these amazing people would eventually, with time and experience, become my new best friends, I focused on smoothing my new business casual outfit, drinking my coffee and flipping through paperwork. I had enough friends in my life, I told myself. I didn’t need anyone else. In reality, I didn’t want to go through the emotional effort of putting myself out there and possibly, getting rejected. 

Six years ago, I was invited by an old friend to a winter gathering of amazing women she knew in Palm Springs, CA. These were some of the smartest, funniest and most fashionable women I’d seen. The focus of our time together was to bask in a heated swimming pool, make group outings to nearby thrift stores and enjoy each other’s company.  Although I wanted to feel like I fit in with this group, I spent the majority of the weekend doubting the clothes I brought with me and feeling like I wasn’t funny enough to add a quip to the conversation. Really, I was afraid that I wasn’t cool enough to fit in with this crew, and didn’t want it to be proven right by saying something wrong. 

Four years ago, I walked into the first day of Integral Facilitation training (it was the first of three five-day intensives broken up over nine months). After hearing so much about the wonderful people that attended these seminars, I’d been expecting to feel a deep sense of belonging. Instead, I was gripped by the same desire to make myself as small as possible. Despite having lots of thoughts to share, I rarely raised my hand. When I was called up, I rushed through my words and turned red. At least by this point in my life, I could recognize the feeling for exactly what it was: just straight up fear. 

I wish I could say that with all the self-care development and personal work I’ve done over the years that I’ve figured out a way to best my ongoing social anxiety when walking into a new group situation. The truth is that I haven’t. I still get nervous when meeting new people and subsequently, upset with myself for getting nervous. The story I tell myself is that I should be over this by now—this only compounds my nerves, of course. 

(In Buddhism, this judgment of our self-judgment is called the “second arrow,” in that we further injure ourselves after the initial injury. We are taught that we have very little control over the first arrow,the initial emotional reaction. With practice, however, we do gain control over the second arrow as we learn to soften our judgments of our inevitable human imperfections.)

I suppose one way to deal with my anxiety is to never open myself up to new social situations, especially when I’m intimidated by the people who are involved (and thinking even more deeply, afraid that I’m not good enough to fit in). And yet, I persist. Despite knowing how hard it is for me, I keep searching for new groups to support me and help keep me growing. Over the past few years, I’ve gained community through 12-step programs, new mothers’ support groups and Jonah’s daycare community of parents. Each of these communities has fed me in important ways, and entering each one has been a challenge for me.

I used to think I was alone in feeling this kind of social anxiety. As I’ve gotten older and talked more openly with other people, I now know I’m not the only one who has a hard time opening up in new groups. Some of us deal with our anxiety by becoming more social, which probably makes them look more comfortable than they are, and some of us deal it with by retreating into shyness, which contains its own kind of challenge within our extrovert-revering culture. 

Perhaps the great irony of my life is that even though being in community is an ongoing struggle for me, I’ve based my wellness career in working with groups of women. I do this because of what I’ve learned through my own experiences with group interactions. I’ve come to understand that we can grow in amazing ways within groups not despite our fears of connection, but because of them. When we are willing to be seen by others, not just for our shiny, successful parts, but for the messier places where we struggle, we grow in exceptional ways. 

I like to think of a smaller community as a practice lab for learning to be ourselves in the world. Within a truly supportive group, we gain the courage to be ourselves, warts and all, and eventually to share our wholeness in bigger ways. During a moment in time when we are in desperate need of authenticity and empathy, engaging in this kind of transformative group work feels like service not just to ourselves, but to the world as a whole. 

Of course, we don’t have to find a formal support group in order to experience this kind of inter-relational growth. Recently, I encountered adrienne maree brown’s thoughts on “coevolution through friendship” in her delicious and revolutionary book “Emergent Strategy.” She shares her experience of growing through intentional friendship:

“I have been aware of the power of coevolution through friendship as I have been in what feels like a growth spurt. Babies do this, suddenly overnight become taller, fuller, using new words, more confident in their bodies and complex in their communications. It’s pretty incredible to watch--and to feel that the growth doesn't end even if it changes form. In this period, I have been supported, inspired, encouraged, and witnessed by a marvelous circle full of people in their own growth.” 

Despite having an uncomfortable time making friends, I’ve been lucky enough to be supported over the past decades by three strong circles of women from three different phrases of my life: high school, college and the Peace Corps. Although we don’t get together as often as we’d like these days, just knowing they are out there and ready to support me helps me make braver decisions in my life. 

In the same section, brown goes on to share about one tool of intentional growth within friendship (and I would argue, any growth-oriented community): vulnerability. She writes:  

“We reach out to each other and say things like ‘something incredible is happening,’ ‘I don’t know,’ ‘I fucked up,’ ‘I think I hurt someone,’ “I’m overwhelmed,’ ‘I’m terrified,’ ‘I think I’m hurting,’ ‘I’m lost,’ ‘Am I falling in/out of love?,’ ‘_______ happened, what should I do?,’ ‘I want something new/different/marvelous/dangerous/that feels essential to my soul--help!,’ and so on. We ask others to be mirrors for us at our most vulnerable places, so we can see what we are learning, see new possibilities in our lives.” 

Truly, I can’t say enough about the power of practicing vulnerability within groups of people who are strong enough in themselves to be vulnerable right back. Despite the discomfort of opening up and letting myself be seen, I’ve doggedly practiced this tool over the years, within old friendships and new groups, and grown into myself in such beautiful ways as a result. More than any morning routine or other lifestyle hack, learning to be wholly ourselves in community is the most important self-care tool that I know. 

With that, starting this week I’m opening up Generosity, my intimate, year-long support circle of amazing women, for new membership (and ending that open window on August 31st). This group of incredible spirits has spent the past two years sharing our stories in community, cheering each other on through the harder moments and really letting ourselves be supported. Together, we’ve experienced all kinds of birth—new jobs, new babies, new cities—and deaths—of loved ones, old relationships and dreams that were ready to be set down. We could not have done this alone.

Since almost everyone in our current Generosity groups wants to continue on for another year, I have very few open spaces. Maybe you’d like to fill one of them? If gaining this kind of group support and experiencing your own self-care growth spurt within community feels like the next right move for you, please fill out this interest survey and I'll contact you from there. 

Because, in the end, I’ve made it through each of those challenging group moments. As a child, I gained wonderful neighborhood friends whom I still keep in touch with today. Although we are dispersed around the world, my facilitation co-trainees continue to support and inspire me through our ongoing interactions. 

And on my second to last night in Palm Springs, while swimming alone under the giant Kuan Yin statue that guarded our pool, I experienced a moment of visceral self-acceptance. As I swam under the night sky, I realized that even if I was the most imperfect, least fashionable person in the world, I was still worthy of love. Even if I wasn’t funny at all, I could still like myself. 

Something changed in me during that moment. I realized that I could be my own friend, and only from that place could I let others in. Although this was a deeply personal realization, I don’t think I could have understood this without the backdrop awesome women and the intimacy of our experience together. From there, I got out of the pool, dried myself off, and enjoyed the hell out of the time I had left on that trip. 

With care,
Gracy

PS: If subjects like "Self-Care and Social Anxiety" and "Self-Care and Community" feel evocative to you, please check out my new book "selfcarefully." In it, I will teach you to use self-care as a lens to examine personal and societal struggles, as well as the tools to help you find joy within the challenges of life. Order your advanced copy here!

Wednesday Missive: What's So Hard About Doing Nothing?

Hello Darlings,

More than a decade ago, when I lived in the Andes while working for the Peace Corps, my Peruvian host family used to do something that completely unnerved me.Every day, after spending their mornings bustling through farm chores and cooking a huge lunch over wood fire, they would all sit in their open-air courtyard and DO NOTHING. 

And when I say do nothing, I mean do nothing. The static-y transistor radio would be in the background, but no one actively listened to it. People would say things now and then but they didn’t engage in any kind of ongoing conversation. Sometimes my host father would tenderly pick the gray hairs out of my host mother’s extraordinarily long hair, which always kind of melted my heart, but still, they weren’t really doing anything. 

(Just want to point out here that my Peruvian host family was completely abiding by the laws of nature as described by Ayurveda. Learn more about how we should be using our afternoons here. Hint: it's not about getting more done!)

I had arrived in Peru determined to immerse myself and try to live like the people around me.But even with this determination, I think I lasted about 20 minutes of my first afternoon of sitting with them. I sat quietly and swatted the many flies away. I commented on how hot the afternoon had become. Finally, I excused myself to go read a book. I simply couldn’t just sit there and do nothing. 

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about these strange afternoons during my two days a week caring for Jonah. Especially because during the intense heatwave of last week and a few afternoon thunderstorms we’ve had this summer, we can’t always get outside after his nap. The good news is that my toddler is mostly okay with this. He chooses to occupy himself by taking all the books off the shelf, rearranging his baby spoons, and gleefully emptying his basket of balls as many times as I regather them. 

I, on the other hand, have a very hard time with these aimless afternoons.I want to DO something! And when I can’t do anything, I want to check my email and/or social media feeds over and over in the hopes that something will entertain me or at least distract me from the ongoing nothingness of sitting around my living room on a Thursday afternoon. 

I could turn my discomfort in these situations into a problem with me and my inability to be present.However, I know I’m not the only one who has a hard time doing nothing.

I look out at our modern culture and I see the neverending pulls on our attention and how we collectively deal with it: overspending, overwatching, overscheduling, our dependence on our phones and allegiance to our emails, and our discomfort with ever having a pause in the flow of entertainment and information. 

We have an “addiction to excitement.”That’s a phrase I heard in the 12-step traditions that has helped give me vocabulary for where I see us struggling in our self-care and our lives. An addiction to excitement occurs when our early experiences of life are chaotic, disconnected, and fueled by anxiety. Although it doesn’t feel good, we become used to never-ending upset in our lives and actively seek out experiences that help us recreate this rush of brain chemicals. An addiction to excitement can help explain why our friends continue to date unreliable partners or move from one toxic work environment to another. 

(Personally, I know it was very hard for me to finally choose a partner who is stable and consistent because I was so addicted to the opposite. Thank you to everyone who helped me learn to finally commit to someone who is good for me.

Even if you had a super stable childhood experience, I think being raised in modern culture, especially in the United States (where I live), makes it almost impossible to avoid having some kind of addiction to excitement.Here in the United States, we are a nation built upon trauma after trauma as well as our denial that anything is wrong. Disconnection and anxiety are in the air we breathe and are now so fully manifested in our 24/7 media culture. Because it seems utterly normal, few of us stop to ever question whether our dedication to always tuning in is actually helping us or anything we care about. 

I recently listened to a great interview with artist and writer Jenny Odell about her book “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy.” In it, she talks about how our refusal to be swept away with the media-created issue of the day is a necessary step for returning to a grounded activism that creates real change. To do this, she proposes that we need to relearn how to give ourselves meaningful pauses, especially where we can connect with nature (she’s recently taken up birdwatching).

From an interview with her in The Guardian, Odell summarizes the importance of creating intentional space:  

Obviously "doing nothing" is not activism, but I hope the book helps clear the ground for activism. I looked at the formal quality of how people have organized [in the past] – these closed spaces where people come together and encounter one another in a fuller sense than one does online, and then strategizing in slightly larger meetings, and larger meetings. It wasn’t until I came across that pattern, as I was researching these movements, that I realized how much was at stake with the attention economy.

In a way it’s destroying the frameworks that we have traditionally used for organizing, and it’s destroying the contexts that allowed people to encounter ideas in a way that’s productive. In the Veronica Barassi essay that I cite, the activists she interviewed complained about the effects of social media on time. Like, not having the time to have conversations about ideas, and that anything you say online is immediately buried.

Activism takes time, and that time is getting taken away from us.

Kelly Barrett of the wonderful Om Weekly newsletter(and who is leading the retreatI mentioned above) recently wrote a post called the “Unexpected Anxiety of Free Time,” where she shares about the anxiety she experienced during a supposedly relaxing lake vacation.I really love what she wrote at the end of her post: 

And maybe...just maybe...it's because I was being reminded of all the parts of my identity that are not at all what I do...but are who I am. Like if the paychecks stopped tomorrow, and the Internet permanently broke, I would still be a friend. I would be someone who loves nature, a person who gets completely swept up in their thoughts, the one holding up the rear because I've stopped to look at something too long. I would have flat feet and bad ankles but a strong need to walk ev-ery-where. I'd still have trouble making eye contact in a room of acquaintances, but be completely at ease for hours in a one-on-one conversation with a stranger. I'd still write poems in my head while I'm on the toilet and forget them before I wash my hands. I'd still run when the urge hits, even though I'm horribly slow, pausing to look at flowers as an excuse to catch my breath.

***

By the end of my time in Peru, after I had become more seasoned to living at a slower pace, I could stay a little longer in that courtyard with my host family. I noticed that I didn’t need to make as much small talk as I tried to fill up the blank spaces. I could sit, look up at the mountains, and just appreciate being alive for a while. 

My increased ability to just be in the moment without doing was probably more of a victory than any project I signed my name on during my service. It’s also one of the skills I call upon when I’m on my third hour of sitting around with Jonah doing absolutely nothing of mention. 

It’s in these moments I remember that it’s very healthy to give myself a break from productivity.I’m modeling for him what I most think we need in the world right now: time to pause, time to recenter ourselves, and the space we need to look at the world again with new eyes. 

With care,
Gracy

Wednesday Missive: The Way Home to Ourselves

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Hello dears,

I’ve written this self-care newsletter for the past few years and received so much of your great feedback. (Thank you for every bit you’ve ever sent. It means the world to me!) Over time, I’ve noticed a few patterns in what you respond to the most and from that, I think I’ve come to understand a few things about our collective self-care blocks.

Here’s what I observe: So many of us are living these brilliant-seeming lives. We’re getting those promotions, taking dream bucket vacations, and finally getting our home decor game to the A+ level. For the most part, we’re good at having a goal and turning it into reality. On one level, we really believe in ourselves and our capacity. 

But the inside is a different story. Underneath the outer success, I think a lot of us are struggling in subtle, but important ways. We worry a lot about what other people think of us, have difficulty asking for what we want and need in our relationships, and still feel insecure about whether we’re making good use of our lives. We wish we could better understand the anxiety that still keeps showing up in our minds and bodies.

I really understand all of this because I spent most of my life living it out. On the surface, I always seemed okay. I made great grades throughout school, lived in South American for the Peace Corps, became a yoga teacher, and have pretty much always worked for myself. Whenever someone asked me how I was doing, it was easiest to talk about what was happening on the surface. “Things are going really well!,” I’d say. 

If I had chosen to tell what was happening on the inside during this time, it would have been messier. Any one of these statements would have probably been more true:

“I don’t feel at home in my body or comfortable with eating in general. Even though in theory I’m body positive, I really wish my thighs looked better in my yoga pants and I’m still beating myself up about the brownie I ate last night.” 

“I don’t know why finding a healthy relationship feels so hard. I keep thinking about this guy I’m kind of dating. Even though I think he’s a jerk, I’m really upset that he isn’t texting me back and I’m analyzing our last conversation over and over in my head even though I know that’s stupid.” 

“I don’t know why I can’t make my life work as well as my friends. My friends are moving up professional ladders and getting married and generally seem like they have it more together than me. I know it doesn’t help to compare, but I’m worried that I’ve gotten off track somehow and that I’m falling behind.” 

Yup, those were a lot of the thoughts that ran through my head throughout my 20’s and into my 30’s. I felt anxious more than I ever would have admitted to another person (lest my illusion of external success be shattered) and would get caught in these terrible bouts of FOMO for things both big and small. 

Keep in mind that for most of this time I was learning and teaching yoga to other people. I could talk an amazing game about seeing through the destructive ego and the benefits of spiritual empowerment. But inside, I still didn’t feel like I was walking my talk and I didn’t know what to do about that. 

Then, when I was 33, everything shifted in a big way. That was the year that I finally decided to learn more about Ayurveda. 

Every yoga teacher knows a little bit about Ayurveda. I knew enough to be fascinated and always sensed that learning more about Ayurveda would transform my life in some important way. So, I signed up for a nine-month long immersion. Just after making this commitment, my then-partner and I went through a big breakup. Because I didn’t know what else to do, I decided to just fling myself into practicing Ayurveda in my daily life. 

Thus, I started waking up early and sitting for meditation before the sun rose. For the first time in my years of teaching yoga, I developed a consistent morning home practice. I made more delicious home-cooked meals and naturally stopped snacking.  I began giving myself weekly oil massages to calm my nervous system. I stopped feeling so anxious and really began enjoying my life. 

I wouldn’t have had the words for it at the time, but this was the first time in my life that I was developing discipline. This wasn’t the discipline of pushing myself toward an outer life goal (I knew a lot about that already), but rather the discipline of making self-care a real priority. 

As I experienced the benefits of daily routine, called dinacharya in sanskrit, I noticed other parts of my life changing. I fully decluttered my living space (which to this day remains decluttered), signed up for an immersive training in Integral Facilitation, and began attending a 12-step program that helped me heal from the effects of growing up in an alcoholic household. Over time, I stopped tolerating any kind of abusive or self-destructive tendencies in relationships and faced the abandonment fears that were keeping me from committing myself to another person. (Oh, and I became a mother in the process of all this too!)

When I trace these life changes back, I always land in Ayurveda. Learning and practicing Ayurveda changed my life. As I’ve taught it to my clients, I’ve seen it transform so many other lives. The results are individual, but the overall effect is the same. Ayurveda seems to give us a pathway home to our truest selves. 

I want to recognize that Ayurveda is an ancient science that originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. You may ask yourself why one has to learn a self-care practice from a completely different time and culture. Isn’t there lots of great health research and self-care ideas coming from our modern culture? Haven’t we evolved over the past 5,000 years to find better ways to take care of ourselves?

I’ve asked myself this a lot and the answer I always come back to is how hard it is to practice authentic self-care within our modern consumerist culture. In our externally-focused society, so many of us have been indoctrinated to see ourselves and our self-care as a commodity. We’ve been taught to ignore our inner lives so that the outer can shine. I think it’s very, very hard to have an authentic spiritual life when the subtle or overt messaging has always told us that we need to fix ourselves and be more perfect. For me, learning self-care from a completely different time and culture was the key for me finally learning how to take care of myself. 

(If the idea of practicing self-care within a consumerist culture is interesting to you, please order my new book “selfcarefully.” I go much deeper into these topics and offer ideas for healing through cultural critique and subversive self-care.)

So for me, it’s been a true privilege to learn from Ayurveda’s wisdom and pass the message along to others. As I’ve taught other people and witnessed the power of practicing Ayurveda in community, I’ve recently come to believe that Ayurveda is not only a wonderful personal wellness practice, but it also contains the wisdom we need to practice real community care and save our world. 

This is where it gets really exciting! Over the past few months, I’ve been analyzing what I know of Ayurveda and what I think our society needs in order to create a real collective healing. I’ve found some really exciting connections and parallels that are giving me a lot of energy and hope. And I want to spread the message!

For this, I’ve decided to host a free class called “Getting Free with Ayurveda” on Friday, July 19th from 12 to 1pm EST. I’ll share specific Ayurveda tools that will create a change in your life immediately while cultivating the tools to create a greater liberation of well-being for all. 

If you’re interested, please sign up here.

(And yes, you’ll get the recording right after the call, so sign up even if you can’t be live!

I can’t wait to share more and move a few more steps along the path of taking our self-care beyond the self. Let’s be on the path together and help each other find the way home to ourselves. 

With care,
Gracy

Wednesday Missive: What Do We Do with Dread? A Self-Care Emotional Exploration (+ Membership is OPEN for the Beautiful Life Collective!)

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Hi Darlings,

Podcast Alert! This morning, I recorded a podcast on dysfunctional relationship patterns and how they relate to the larger political/social upset that’s happening in the world right now. I’ve been wanting to share on this topic for a while, but didn’t because I knew I would say it all imperfectly. And yet, here it is--warts and all--and I hope you enjoy! Also, listen soon because there’s a time-sensitive offer at the end!

And now, today…

This morning, I woke up today with a subtle feeling of dread. The dread felt heavy in my body and made getting out of bed more difficult. The dread also felt heavy in my mind. I’m normally pretty enthusiastic in the mornings (which can get annoying to the non-morning people in my life - Hi Micah!), but today I didn’t feel excited or motivated about the day ahead.

Over the past few years, as I’ve reduced my numbing behavior, I’ve gotten more curious about my emotions. Rather than deny them, especially the challenging ones, I try to feel all my feelings and understand what they’re trying to tell me. I trust them to be intelligent and to teach me more about myself.

I’ve learned that anger, when experienced consciously, connects me to my righteousness and need for boundaries. Grief opens up my heart to the pain of life, and right along with it, the transformative power of love and compassion. Guilt is a motivating dose of “get going!” energy that enables me to make a necessary change in my behavior.

But dread? When it showed up this morning, I realized that I didn’t understand what it was trying to tell me. And what better place to explore its message than with you incredible people!

From my emotional ponderings today, here is what I’ve gleaned:

  1. Dread shows up for me when I have to put myself out there in some way. For example, this week, along with my dear co-leaders Reba, Lindsey, and Elsa, I’m opening up the Beautiful Life Collective for new members. Although I believe so deeply in what the Collective offers the amazing women in our community and how their awesome self-care translates out as healing in our world, sharing our work publicly still feels like I am opening myself up to get hurt.

  2. I think I experience dread whenever I feel like I’m getting too big in my life. I never feel dread when I’m just going along with the status quo. Dread taps on my shoulder when I’m endeavoring to take up more space, say what I want more loudly, or just generally move my life to the next level. Sometimes this dread happens during genuinely exciting times (like expanding this brilliant self-care community!) and sometimes it happens during quiet, more necessary moments (like having a really hard conversation where I have to set some major boundaries and disappoint other people). This makes sense because despite their energetic difference, both of these moments mean I will be growing in new ways.

  3. Considering this, I think dread is a heavy form of fear, meant to slow me down and thus, protect me. In the past, it wasn’t safe for women to put themselves out in the world for their healing powers. In many parts of the world, including in the United States where I live, I still don’t think it’s safe for all women to fully take up space as themselves. Although many of us are working very hard to change it, we still live in a deeply patriarchal world. Our nervous system impulses are going to buzz when we enter the danger zone of going too far in our independence. Because, above all else, our nervous systems wants us to stay safe.

  4. Practicing self-care means I get to decide the best course of action based on the intelligence of my emotions. My self-care practices help me slow down my fear-based thinking and get a wider perspective on what’s actually happening in my life. This morning, I asked myself these questions: Will I really get hurt by putting myself out in the world by doing this promotion? (Probably not, but I might feel a little rejected if someone isn’t interested.) If I do feel the sting of rejection--which is completely built into living an awake life--do I have ways to care for myself? (Yes, absolutely.) And finally: Does enduring the discomfort of personal growth serve the larger values I have in this world? (100% yes! If I want our society to move with its growing pains and keep evolving, I must stay committed to my own personal practice of enduring discomfort so I can grow).

  5. Once I’ve learned more about dread for myself, I am more able to guide others when their feelings of dread are keeping them feeling small and bound into themselves.

This last point is what inspires me most. As I’ve peeled back the many layers of what it means to practice self-care, I always return to the concept of service. I so deeply believe that the reason we are here on earth is to be of service to each other.

I honestly don’t believe we are here to be of service so that we can prove we are good people by how selflessly we can take care of others. That line of altruism always ends up getting super dysfunctional and often hurts the people we are trying to help. Whenever we try to prove something about ourselves through a relationship, it never seems to end well.

Rather, I think service helps us to understand our inherent value as human beings. In order to truly be of service, we have to go through the hardest parts of life, including facing dread, guilt, grief, and shame. During these moments, we either learn to take care of ourselves more deeply or we get pretty lost in the process. If we emerge from these deep inner battles with an ability to respect ourselves through care, we honestly do have something of value to share with others.

Once we share our hard-earned care and grace with those who are ready to hear it, we can witness a real healing take place. We see that our struggles have not been in vain. Our transmuted pain, also known as wisdom, can make life a more gentle, beautiful experience for others.

This is why 12-step recovery preaches service in its final step. Once we have learned the grace of practicing self-care, we can help others. As we know we can help others, the “sh*tty voice in our head” gradually loses its power and we live on with authenticity and dignity.

Today, I’ve shared two main messages in this post: 1) Don’t let dread keep you playing small in your life because; 2) Facing your fears in the name of self-care will truly make you of service to others. These are deepest truths I know today.

If these truths resonate with you, I hope you’ll consider joining the Beautiful Life Collective! This is a community of amazing women who are working on these deeper layers of self-care together. We practice self-care so we can be of service to others.

We made this community because we were tired of feeling like our self-care had to be practiced in a bubble. We wanted a more critical conversation about the societal impacts of self-care and how our self-care can be translated into community care. We were hungry for the incredible magic that happens when women support each other in community. We were tired of going it alone.

Due to the deeper nature of our work, I only like to open for new members a couple times a year. After our doors close on Friday, June 21st at midnight EST, we can settle into our community and fire up the self-care work together. I hope you’ll be joining us before then!

Learn more about the Beautiful Life Collective here.

(Please note: We’ve created this community to be a more affordable personal coaching option. Still, if the price is not accessible to you and you deeply resonate with the self-care message we share, please let me know and we can discuss options.)

I hope you have a wonderful next couple of weeks. I’m here if you have any questions about anything.

Wishing you more and more of the transformative power of self-care in your lives!

With care,
Gracy

PS: Reading back through what I wrote here, I realize that dread might show up differently and mean different things for you. Please take whatever I shared that feels valuable and create your own meaning from the rest. I’d love to hear any insights you’d like to share with me!

Self-Care in Dysfunctional Relationships with Our Loved Ones and Donald Trump (Time sensitive podcast!)

Do you lose yourself easily in relationships? Do you have a hard time being okay when others aren't? Do you watch the news and often get lost in your rage about our current state of political affairs?

Join the club! So many of us are struggling with these incredibly challenging codependent/enmeshed dynamics in our personal relationships and beyond. These toxic forces can subtly and overtly disrupt our self-care and leave us feeling like we aren't worthy of caring for ourselves.

There is relief though! In this episode, I share the three self-care practices and perspectives that have helped me come into healthy relationship with the people in my life. I also offer the ways I create more internal serenity with the bigger political/societal forces at play, while not losing my focus on creating a more just, beautiful world for all. 

Understanding the connection between the personal and political is more important than ever. If you struggle with practicing self-care, it's important to understand how these damaging societal forces are inhibiting your well-being. If you are trying to make bigger change in the world, a practice of authentic self-care will ensure that you're not unconsciously furthering toxic dynamics in your activism. 

One of the most powerful ways to practice self-care is by joining a self-care community. For this, almost a year ago I created the Beautiful Life Collective, a community of amazing women practicing authentic self-care together. This is the self-care that changes lives and creates a true culture of self-care (the kind that spreads quickly to the other people in our lives and beyond!).

We are open for new members until Friday, June 21st until midnight EST! To learn more go here: https://gracy-s-school.thinkific.com/courses/thebeautifullifecollective

Please write me at gracy@selfcarewithgracy.com if you have any questions about joining! Looking forward to supporting your self-care! 

Wednesday Missive: Why Feminine Collaboration is so F-ing Hard! (And so worth it...)

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Hello Darlings,

I hope the past two weeks have gone swimmingly! Before we get into the juiciness of today’s post, I have a few exciting announcements:

I finally have enough space in my schedule for one-to-one coaching clients this summer!Working privately with me is an excellent way to experience tangible breakthroughs in your self-care and watch as every other aspect of your life gets better. (And the process is totally enjoyable!)

Here is what Nadine, a former private coaching client said about our work together:

“Working with Gracy one-on-one has been an invaluable investment in my personal growth. We covered a lot of ground together, and she opened up so much goodness and insight, and helped me establish self-care as a refuge and resource for daily life. I credit our work together for expanding my self worth enough to advocate for a 15% raise at work. And with her gentle and supportive guidance, I gave myself the space to ask some really big questions: What is my role here? What does it feel like to trust myself (and trust the universe) a little more? If, as Marianne Williamson says, a miracle is a shift in perception, then working with Gracy has led to so many miracles in my life. If you're feeling the tug, I highly recommend it!”

I’m looking for exactly three amazing clientswho are ready to invest in themselves, do the deeper work (with a lot of support from yours truly), and experience an upleveling in their self-care and lives. We will meet via video chat and phone, so you can live anywhere to work with me. Interested in hearing more? Hit “reply” to this email and I’ll send you the full details. This could change everything for the better!

Also, new podcast alerts:

  • I’m so honored to have been one of the first guests on the WOMEN don’t DO that Podcast. I talked to co-host Myrrandha Novak about getting stuck in our morning routines, the self-care of having difficult conversations, and why putting yourself first is the best way to help others. Check out our full episode here.

  • I also recorded a short podcast with my (now!) husband, Micah. In this episode, we chat about the intensity of our wedding, the realities of parenting a toddler, and how embracing the practicalities of life can be a transcendent experience. Listen to more here. 

And now, today…

You may already know that over the past few weeks, I’ve been promoting a self-care campaign called“Moving from Competition into Collaboration with the Amazing Women Around You.”In keeping with the theme, this campaign is actually a beautiful collaboration between me, Reba Thomas (sexuality educator), Lindsey Heddleston, (self-compassion guide), and Else Duré (equity warrior).

(These inspiring women are moving into leadership in the Beautiful LIfe Collective, a cooperative of amazing women who are examining the intersection of self-care and community care. Are you interested in learning more and receiving a sign-up discount when we open for new members in mid-June? Join the waitlist here and be the first to know!)

When our leadership team began brainstorming what we most wanted to share about the Collective’s work, this campaign just poured out of us.Throughout our many explorations of self-care, the electric energy of women coming together has been so powerful. Feminine collaboration has helped us heal as individuals and finally feel part of a supportive community.Further, we know that the power of this kind of collaboration is what will help us save our world during these chaotic times.

There it was! We wanted to teach women how to get through the blocks, sometimes subtle and sometimes overt, of collaborating with other women. We wanted to name the competition that has been breed into us as women and together, learn how to artfully disarm this toxic force.

We made a landing page for us, created a beautiful free collaboration guide, and planned an interactive webinar on IGTV for Saturday, June 15th from 10 to 11am ET. Women began signing up to hear more. We were in the flow state and it was feeling good!

Then, just at the peak of our excitement, my mindset began to change. First, a few doubts crept into my mind. I got a little worried about how we would share our leadership responsibilities. I was nervous about giving too much and having my generosity taken advantage of. I got afraid I would abuse my power in some way and hurt these people I care about. Mostly, I felt really scared that something would go wrong in our arrangement, the other women would get mad at me, and I would be abandoned in the process.

Looking back at my history, my fears make sense.I thought of every time I had been taken advantage of, hurt by, and excluded from other women. I also thought of the women I had taken advantage of, hurt, and excluded when I collaborated with them. Most painful of all, I remembered the couple friendships that couldn’t survive the challenges of female collaboration. I still miss them.

The scared voice in my head started shrieking that I had made a terrible mistake. I was meant to be a soloprenuer. Opening myself up was too dangerous. Staying in competition mode was the only way to be safe!

That’s when it hit me. As easy as it is to say that women should learn how to work together and the world will be saved, this shit is actually super hard.Even if a better world is shining like a beacon in the distance, the path to get to this oasis is a minefield of personal, intergenerational, and societal triggers. We have been hurt by other women and we have hurt other women and that pain needs to be recognized.

You may ask, at any point in these painful realizations did I want to give up on our new leadership team or stop sharing the path of collaboration as widely as possible? My answer is HELL NO!

This is because, despite the pain, every wonderful thing that has happened in my life has occurred because I dared to work with other women. My collaborations have helped me lead retreats as close as West Virginia and as far as Bali. Recently, I collaborated on writing a self-care book and due to the skillsets of the other women on our team, selfcarefully is more beautiful than I ever could have imagined!

More subtly, for years I collaborated with other women when I would call my dear friends crying about how much I wanted to be in a relationship. I collaborated when I received their gentle coaching and passionate belief that nothing was wrong with me. Had I thought I should keep my problems to myself, I never would have practiced the vulnerability that was necessary to actually open my heart to Micah.

More and more, I hear the heartening news of women collaborating with other women to tackle impossible-seeming social issues.Moms are uniting to stop gun violenceWomen are wearing shirts to normalize abortions. I just joined a hyperlocal women’s group in my neighborhood that focuses on mutual support and guilt-free activism.

I’m so inspired by the many effective collaborations that are keeping us all going during these trying times. To stop these creative upwellings just because we’re going to get triggered in the process doesn’t work for me. Rather, we have to learn to work together as women. Our hearts are calling for it and our world needs us to show up in our full power as women united.

And of course, I believe our individual self-care practices are an extremely important part of learning to collaborate with other women.

During those challenging moments of doubt, I was so grateful for my self-care.First, I had terminology to recognize that I was triggered and the perspective to understand that my feelings aren’t facts. I did a couple of tarot card readings that confirmed that: 1) Indeed, I was triggered; 2) Our collaboration still looked like it had a lot of fruitful energy to come. I could trust it and us.

Then, I did the brave act of reaching out to the other women in my collaboration and shared how I was feeling.As soon as I started typing my fears into the email, they seemed to lose their power. Breaking the competition-based thought loop that was running through my brain brought me back into my body and reminded me of our universal struggle in these places of fear.

Yes, I know I will not do this collaboration perfectly and I also know that I will probably get hurt and hurt others in the process. This is the eternal messiness of being in relationship. But I will also practice the self-care of learning from these hard spots and continuing to show up more tender and open-hearted and ready to engage.Because truly, collaboration is too important to put aside and too life-giving to ever think I could survive without it.

With care,
Gracy

PS - Does reading this missive validate your fears of collaborating with other women while also kindling your fire to move into deeper collaboration? Sign up for our free collaboration guide and hear our private conversations about the subject. We share so much about what has helped us collaborate in our lives. You’ll want to hear this!

Reflections on Getting Hitched with my Husband, Micah

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Woohoo, Micah and I got married! To celebrate (and process our immense wedding weekend), I invited my now-husband back on the podcast. During our conversation, we spoke about: why our wedding ceremony felt so intense, how we are practicing self-care while parenting a toddler, ways to embrace the mundane aspects of life as spiritually transcendent, and much more! Have a listen and see what self-care it sparks for you!