Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hop, skip and jump through change. My interview with Jill Badonsky, author of Awe-Manac.

I had been searching for a coaching training program for a long time when I came across Jill Badonsky’s website. I was in the midst of my own major life transition, dropping my MFA program after leaving my marketing career behind. Now what? I had always wanted to coach others. But I needed to learn to coach myself first. When I spoke to Jill over the phone, I knew she understood exactly what we all go through when we’re trying to make any type of change—even if it’s writing that great children’s book that’s been living inside of you since you were six. You want to do it, but somehow you end up watching Project Runway instead.

I signed up for Jill’s Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching program and learned to overcome the overwhelming feelings that kept blocking me. Just like me, Jill is a corporate drop-out, and she’s now a successful author, coach and artist. During my training, I got to read her first book, The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard). Now she’s just completed her second—The Awe-Manac, A Daily Dose of Wonder. And she’s taken the time to answer some of my questions about it. Both of Jill’s books are fun, inspiring and give us simple tools that help us adopt more nurturing, compassionate and playful ways to handle whatever we’re facing—because that’s really the only way to keep hopping excitedly through change, make the jump over to the other side and continue skipping happily along.

Interview with Jill

Rita: One of my favorite quotes in your book is by Mark Twain: “Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.” So many of us don’t allow ourselves to play and, all of a sudden, our creative projects, and life itself, become way too serious. Did you always find it easy to connect with your child self and if not, what was that process like for you and how did it affect your creativity?

Jill: That's one of my favorite quotes too!
Playing has always been easy for me as a result of a screwed up childhood where my parents forgot I was there so I just decided to vanish into a world of my own making. I just recently came out of it with a harsh awakening at age 49 but by then the whole style of play, fun, and not getting too serious about ANYTHING was already installed. I have to thank my talented and negligent parents for this gift. It has served me in many ways namely my life is fun most of the time despite what's happening around me… except for those occasional inconvenient things like grieving, taxes, and keeping track of my keys.

I needed to make both of my books fun in order for me to write them. All my programs, services and publications have an element of humor which I believe contributes to their effectiveness.

I included a tool called KidStuff in the Kaizen-Muse creativity coaching curriculum I teach… which you just became certified in, because it's so important to our success in the creative process.

Rita: The Awe-Manac is so playful and fun, yet so powerful in its undertaking. By encouraging us to celebrate the things we’re not normally conditioned to celebrate, it helps us shift our thinking from those negative voices we all hear to gratitude, creativity, lightness and laughter. What inspired you to write this book?

Jill: Thank you! I was inspired by having the need to shift my thinking from the negative voices we all hear to gratitude, creativity, lightness and laughter … I wrote the book for myself as I slipped into a rough time in my life, knowing that I'm not so special that what would help me wouldn't help others as well.

Plus it was a hell of a lot of fun doing the research, inventing the potions, creating illustrations and basing it on a take-off of The Farmer's Almanac. It became a festive game of filling in the blanks once I had the structure.

Rita: How do you think the Awe-Manac can help people who are going through life transition or change?

Jill: Life transition and change are times of overwhelm where we can easily lose sight of the joy there is in small moments because we are caught up in stress. Having only a page to read daily breaks down a program of inspiration in doable doses that can over time keep someone grounded in a clear and relaxing place. The prompts and quotes suggest lightness of thought and I know that's what I need during life transitions.

Rita: What things did you do or say to yourself that helped you the most when you were transitioning from your corporate career to a creative life?

Jill: Great question.

  1. "Thanks for sharing but I'm doing this anyway," (said to voices of fear that were there daily for a few years)
  2. I never want to work for someone else again (said in a stubborn voice like a bratty child).
  3. I just looked at the small step in front of me and trusted that if I completed it, my intuition would lead me to the next step. That said, I needed to learn that the process is so not linear and to accept and welcome detours, lapses, bridge trolls, flying monkeys, dead-ends masquerading as opportunities and eventual, thorough-ways filled with the blessings inherent in taking risks in the name of a higher purpose.
Rita: I know you believe there is a strong connection between spirituality and creativity. Can you explain your thoughts on this?

Jill: To me: being a creator, listening to and expressing an inner call from a higher purpose, using some of the talents with which I was born, being immersed in a process that results in me being a better person, and sharing inspiration, humor, and wisdom are all both spiritual and creative.

Thank you Jill!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Expose your belly even if, even when…

I find those little dogs with the loud barks to be really funny. Every time I see one, I’m tempted to say, “Dude, the bark isn’t working for you. You’re still little.” So of course I loved the story that Rama Berch, founder of Svaroopa yoga, told a room full of yogis one weekend. Whenever her poodle saw people walking on the sidewalk in front of Rama’s house, the dog ran out to them, and instead of barking, she lay down and exposed her belly. “No one could ever resist giving her exactly what she wanted. Old and young, men and women would stop to scratch that belly.”

The story reminded me of one of my coaching clients, who recently let go of her bark in favor of exposing her belly. When I first met Anna, she said she felt paralyzed and overwhelmed. She’d created a wonderful non-profit but didn’t know how to take it or herself to the next level—the work ahead was daunting. And the fear of disappointing those who relied on her prevented Anna from taking the actions needed to grow the organization beyond a one-woman show. “I feel like I’m running in place,” she told me on our introductory call. “I don’t feel like the organization can function without me, and I’m just one person doing it all. That’s just not enough.” Her voice tense and her speech rapid, I could almost hear the anxiety marching back and forth in her head.

More than anything, Anna wanted to develop the resources and platform needed to realize the vision for her non-profit: creating a healing place for the community. But Anna was also terrified of anyone seeing her as less than perfect and fully competent at all times. She had imprisoned herself in the image of strength she had created, and the amount of pressure was paralyzing.

On our third session together, Anna blew me away. She had started to open up and rely on others. During the time we worked together, Anna was invited to present two grant proposals. Instead of writing the same type of grant proposal she was used to presenting, she decided to start from scratch, asking her board members for input. “It was liberating and powerful,” she said, “to invite others in.”

For her second grant, the sponsoring foundation invited non-profit participants to meet with its executives and openly discuss proposals face-to-face, in order to increase the likelihood of acceptance. Nobody signed up, except Anna. “For the first time in my life,” she told me the day before her meeting, “I’m going in there without my perfect grant proposal already written. Instead, I’m going to ask questions on how to do this the best way for my organization.”

So what transpired between coaching sessions one and three? Anna had been working on shifting her thinking to begin honoring and valuing herself and all that she’d been able to accomplish. From that new place of self-worth, she was able to put her ego aside for the sake of her bigger vision to help others. “I decided I didn’t want to run a personality-driven organization. I started acting in the best interest of the people I serve by being honest about what I can do and what I need help with. And I’m letting people know that I’m only one person, instead of letting them think that I’m running a huge organization.” Anna now sounded confident and relaxed as she described her work.

I was awed, inspired and energized by Anna’s change. Because I knew that what I had witnessed was human potential at its best. Despite our full-grown human bodies, many of us tend to behave as if we are five-inch-tall yappy dogs. And I know that at times I can be the smallest and yappiest of them all. Because we feel so small in a big, scary world, we use an insistent bark as our shield. The bark is the familiar ego, and too many of us get stuck living from there. Rather than making us look big and strong, it keeps us from letting go and allowing our creative projects, visions and dreams to unfold.

Anna and I haven’t had our last session together yet, but I did get an email saying that the grant meeting was “AWESOME.” I tend to believe that this is just the first of many wonderful moments and milestones. The more honest and open we are about who we really are and what we’re trying to do, the more things we wish for come easily and happily along. And the greater peace we feel inside. Thank you, Anna, for proving that the best things happen to us when we expose our bellies to other six-foot humans…even when we may feel five inches tall inside.