True to my heart

I had an amazing phone session the other day with Natalie yesterday and I am sharing a few pieces of gold from it with the intention that it may inspire even one person toward connection. 

  1. Feeling before action. When triggered give yourself all the necessary time to feel all the way through them. No blame, no story.
  2. Take action (emails, new rules, plans of any kind) only when feeling in the “green zone” (hopeful, happy, calm, etc.)
  3. When kids buck against the device rules, give them empathy. Don't guilt them for not wanting to move away from the device. Continue to empathize through their reactions (boredom, anger, resentment)
  4. When in your upper brain, choose to trust. Invest in your relationships and trust that everything will work out even when/if there are stumbles.

Natalie and I are the co-creators of MOTHER, which launches for its 3rd annual run on May 1. It's an incredible experience and I'm so honored to hold the space with Natalie as we delve into the magic potion of connection—something that Natalie has taught me so much about.

Basically, I got tired of seeing people speak about parenting from a perspective of “how to get your kids to be this way or that way.” The language and approach didn’t align with what I believed in and I was longing for something else. When I met Natalie, I was so deeply relieved to receive her teachings, her knowledge, her support, and her incredible empathy and compassion skills. As I moved through my coaching sessions with her I kept feeling how much I wanted to share this with every woman and every mother I knew. That’s how MOTHER was born. This experience was too good for me not to share.

Life is hard being a woman and a mother. Having a big, full and beautiful life is not always easy, but with the tools in MOTHER and from Natalie, I believe the shift to connection is the balm for so much of it, from getting out the door on time to dealing with tantrums and teenage drama. Connection can heal a marriage, soothe a tiny soul, create room for a new way with your mother, your father and your best friend. In fact, this course isn’t just for mothers—many other women have found the teachings to be useful for other relationships as well. This course is true to my heart and I offer it with the grandest wish for you to learn these tools so that you can feel more love and peace in your live with the people who are closest to you.

If you'd like to join us, please do. Click here to learn more or to register. 

With love,
Carrie-Anne

mother testimonial 2
mother testimonial 1

The humble work of parenting

Parenting is humbling work. As soon as you feel like you've got it figured it out, it changes and humbles you a wee bit more. What I know today is that being pulled to my comfy bed to read Harry Potter is the most epic night I can think of—the feel of my littlest in the crook of my left arm, and  the smell of the peppermint oil she douses her hair with (because of the rumor that lice is going around and she hears that they do not like peppermint oil … it's worked so far, thanks Living Libations).

There is so much monotony in parenting, and so many pieces of pure gold layered and sprinkled and tossed in between. There are moments now when I look deep inside of myself and ask, what do I need to change? Rather than asking what does my child need to change? This is growth for me, and it’s the growth that I'm into, the kind that feels good. It's my fire that I light in the morning and the evening that sustains me and reminds me that nourishment is right here in the moments of everyday. That warmth starts inside, and if my kids remember me as someone who warmed them up when times were tough, well then I figure I have succeeded.

Carrie-Anne Parenting

That being said, I bow to all of you who are caring for others and doing the work of supporting and nurturing. The world needs us. I am so grateful to not be living in fantasy of how things should be and I’m grateful to be okay with feeling stuff. I know that there's a time for everything, and sometimes we need to take a day to just be in what we are feeling. This gives perspective, clarity, and sweet lessons. Here are a few of mine:

  1. I need nature.
  2. I love these 4 humans in my home deeper than anything.
  3. Staying in bed really is pretty sweet.
  4. Asking for guidance is imperative, and if I'm open, answers come swiftly.
  5. Making valentines with littles is super labor-intensive but so worth it.
  6. Connection to self, to family, to life, and to humanity is everything to me.
  7. Feelings are an indication that something needs my attention (thanks Natalie).
  8. A cup of tea from my hubby still makes me feel like a queen.
  9. Diffusing oils and rubbing them all over my achey full moon headache makes me happy.
  10. No one has it all figured out, but if I keep my heart open and my head up I always find my way.

What are yours?

Love,
Carrie-Anne

p.s. Join me and Natalie for our 3rd annual MOTHER course that begins May 1. It is truly not to be missed. Click the button on my sidebar, or just click here for more information

Annapurna Woman Emily O'Keeffe

Our Portrait of the Annapurna Woman is an ongoing series featuring divine women who embody the nurturing spirit of the annapurna life. Today we are excited to welcome creator and entrepreneur Emily O’Keeffe.

How do you start your day?

I always wake up at least an hour before my children and come downstairs to snuggle with our dog. Next comes the ritual of a cup of black coffee and with mug in hand I enjoy the quiet, dark house - it is exquisite. This is my much needed moment to be awake and quiet. No music, no talking, no asking or answering questions. Then I hand sew a shirt collar. Since beginning my clothing company this past year, I now take a bit of this precious morning time to complete the detailing around the collar of a shirt. It is a ritual that centers me to the day ahead in a calm and focused way.

What do you do when you are overwhelmed or stressed?

For years when I have felt overwhelmed or stressed, I simply went faster…the more I had on my plate the quicker I would move. There was a period, when I broke a wine glass every week in the kitchen. Did I slow down? Nope. After repeatedly cleaning up the mess, I went to IKEA and bought cheap stemware. The universe was certainly trying to teach me something, but I was not able to learn. Then a couple of years ago, in the same week that my husband quit his job, we sold our house, and were preparing to travel around the world with our kids, I found out that I had breast cancer. That certainly slowed me down pretty fast. After the mastectomy, while I was recovering, I attempted to go about business as usual, but ended up exhausted and depleted, and came very close to a complete breakdown. This felt like the lowest moment of my life. I had always held tightly to the notion that movement in any direction- even if it is the wrong direction- is better than being stagnant. And then I was brought to this sudden halt. It required me to change my approach and although it was a painful lesson, I am much better for it. Now when I am overwhelmed or stressed, I first recognize how I am feeling. I know that the feeling will pass. And I take myself on a long hike with my dog. I don’t try to ‘do’ anything when I feel this way, I just try to ‘be’.

What gives you the feeling of true bliss within?

This is a very good question and I am having a hard time pinpointing my answer! Bliss is a word that has such a wonderful quality of being both happy and energizing. Let me just say that one of the ways I feel this most acutely is when I encounter the true creative spirit in other people. When I am shown a window into another’s creative process – what moves them and inspires them. This energy radiates outwards and everyone around can feel it. It is about true creative connectivity – bliss!

Emily Okeefe

What are you currently reading?

The Wander Society, by Keri Smith. This book was just given to me by a friend that I often refer to as my muse. She inspires me and encourages me to live my own life. It is a quick read that I keep returning to for wisdom. Here is an excerpt: “In joining the Wander Society, you are embarking on a hero’s quest. The quest is not so much about where you wander, but rather your readiness to create your own path, to let go of what society has told you you’re supposed to be.”

What are you listening to right now?

The soft rain falling on the deck outside my studio. It is truly magic to my ears. As a California native, I grew up through several droughts including this current one and I have always cherished the rain soaked earth and the excuse to spend a minute inside. And then on the flip side, I am listening to the musical Popeye! My children were given a record player for Christmas and also the old records from my childhood. They have taken to the Popeye musical…”I yam what I yam what I yam what I yam”. Popeye’s declaration of self. I wonder what he is trying to tell me?

What does nourishment look like to you?

I stopped by a friend’s house to say a quick hello yesterday. I had not had lunch. She had warm broth on the stove and offered me a bowl. We had 30 minutes to be present and connect with each other while drinking soup. I was filled to the brim when I left with love and warmth! True nourishment.

How do you make space for play?

I seek out fun and am always happy to try new things! We have recently moved to Los Angeles and live close to the beach. After school, I pick up the kids and we head out with our boogie boards. At first they were the only ones with the boogie boards and then I realized that I was missing out. Easily fixed! We are all out in the waves now.

What are some favorite mantras you cling to?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I have always wanted to live a life of great adventure—of change and expansion. I once heard that many people have about nine different “careers” over a lifetime and this is something that gave me courage to start a new pursuit. I spoke with my eighty-four year old father about this recently and we counted up his professions- sure enough he is on number nine… an artist, at last! I am working on number four with my women’s apparel company, Aplombis. It took me a long time to give myself the permission to pursue this new passion and now I feel so excited to be learning and discovering a whole new world.

Please share some words of wisdom you've learned as a direct result of soulful and embodied living.

I have learned that the universe only hands you difficulties in order to teach and expand your soul. I have begun to understand how hard times are actually a blessing as they give me a chance to grow. When these challenging times are re-framed as a chance to expand your soul, then I no longer feel that the hardships are too much - but rather they are an opportunity to transform! Experience has taught me to trust in the unknown journey of life and where it may lead.


emily-okeeffe.jpeg

Emily Pringle O’Keeffe was born and raised in Northern California, but has lived and worked in many cities including, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and London. It was while in graduate school at the Architectural Association in London that her life took one of its first major detours. Up until this point, she was always on a well defined path, one upon which she knew exactly where she was going. Since the age of sixteen, she wanted to be an architect. She pursed this dream with complete conviction until she met an irresistible Irishman in line at a bad Indian take-out and within two years was no longer working as an architect but was now a wife and mother. They moved from London to San Francisco where they raised their two children for ten years, until last year when they suddenly moved to Los Angeles.

This marked another dramatic shift in direction, as they found themselves in a new city where they happened to know no-one! Although not easy, this new city and routine allowed for space to start to pursuing Emily's passion for designing and making women’s clothing.

She began to realize that even though life is demanding, if we wear something that helps us project our inner confidence the world responds to this confidence. After many failed attempts, the design for her first shirt was realized, like many things in life, by accident. She made the shirt for herself in many fabrics and styles- but always with a large distinct collar. Something about the shirt made people notice and it felt so genuine to receive those compliments, knowing that the image people responded to reflected her true self.  She is awed by the power that clothing has over how we see ourselves and how the world sees us, for good and for bad.  She wear this shirt with aplomb and it has brought about a positive change in how she presents herself to the world. This is the feeling and energy that she wants to share with other women, so that they can go out into the world in pursuit of all of their amazing dreams and passions.

She launched APLOMBIS on December 10th, 2016. You can find out more on her website and follow her on Instagram  and on Facebook

The Fix: Lessons in Parenting

My daughter went on a sleepover last night.

She’s eight, but it’s still a big deal. She has only experienced a handful, and once she even bailed out in the middle of the night and walked the two dark, frozen blocks home by herself. The transition from awake to asleep is a big one for her, so no one is nonchalant about sleepovers around here. She packs special stuffed animal friends, her water bottle, a shirt that smells like me – all the sacred voodoo objects necessary to get her through. On our end we check the clock, we check the phone, not relaxing until late into the night when, if we haven’t heard, we can assume she made it over that threshold into sleep.

But my ringer was turned off.

At eleven I noticed two missed calls and an hour-old text on my phone: This is echo. I love you and miss you. Will you call me.

My stomach dropped to my toes. Adrenalin jacked through my body.

I called my mom, Echo’s sleepover date, and discovered that Echo had fallen asleep, cell phone in hand, waiting for my call. I wanted to die. I know I am a good mother, but I didn’t feel like one. In order to dodge my plummeting state of emotion I rationalized: She was just calling for comfort, not for me to come pick her up, so that’s good. She probably fell asleep right after the call and didn’t even notice my lack of response. But how often does rationalization help with feelings? Never.

I was consumed with Guilt and cried. Next came Fear and I cried. Next came Sadness and I cried over that too. As I got into bed I felt Mad, as well, hotly declaring NO MORE SLEEPOVERS!

I had arrived at The Fix.

The Fix – the relentless eddy that parents find themselves in again and again. Faced with emotions that are uncomfortable – hello guilt, fear, and sadness you terrible trio! – we look to control circumstances instead. We do this for ourselves and we do it, rampantly, for our children. I don’t want my daughter to suffer, and my psyche, battling the dreaded trio of shitty emotions clutches at the idea of simply outlawing any scenario in which she might struggle. In this case, I was willing to utterly ban sleepovers in order to find relief.  

But here’s the thing: suffering is inevitable.

Many of us are actually killing ourselves in order to pad our children’s existence, spare them tears and discomfort, and of course spare ourselves the tears and discomfort we feel at their discomfort.  We don’t want them to want for anything, so we overspend and overwork in order to buy the accoutrements of contemporary childhood. We don’t want them to fall behind so we overschedule - adding tutors, activities, and sports to an already dense schedule. We don’t want them to be lonely so we work part-time as playdate planners, running the race of social politics in order to secure friends for our children.

And when they still cry? We are resentful. We feel like failures. And we cast about for something in the moment – a distraction, a punishment, or a new plan, in order to make the suffering stop.

But it doesn’t work. No matter how hard you try, you can’t design, bribe, or control your way out of your feelings, and you can’t pad the existence of your child in order to prevent them from having a rough time. The full spectrum of emotion is always at hand.

Just the other day I realized with a sickening dread that it is very likely that I will lose my beloved old canine companion Henry and both of my grandmothers within the same year. I am going to watch as both of my parents lose their mothers. I am on the brink of deep sorrow.

Yesterday, at my daughter’s Girl Scout meeting I scanned the room and noticed that at least half of the girls are just months away from drastic change. I can see the signs of puberty emerging. Soon they will notice their bodies and form opinions, soon they will be ravaged by hormones. I already saw a couple scowls. They are on the brink of intense emotions, about to be swept away into a world far less simple and welcoming.

We can’t do anything about this. Grandmas die, dogs die, bodies change, hearts break, nights are scary and long. And in between those big things are all of life’s little unpleasantries – popped balloons, dropped ice creams, lost blankies, perceived slights, stolen bikes, and skinned knees. We cannot spare anyone emotional discomfort, or guarantee physical safety and happiness. We can’t make our kids happy, we can’t even make them not unhappy. The only thing that we can do is secure their emotional safety.

It’s all we’ve got.

We can teach them how to be upset. We can help them to stop thrashing in their discomfort, looking for others to blame, looking for The Fix. We can be a big soft safety net for their emotions, holding them, making space for all the ugly to pour out. Via our connection we can communicate safe space for full expression, and only then, by the magic of empathy, will the dark feelings lessen their grip and better feelings take their place.

The Fix last night would have been a late-night drive where I barged into my mom’s quiet house and scooped my girl into my arms and ended the sleepover. It would also include more rules, like NO SLEEPOVERS, or earlier sleepover bedtimes, or no sugar at sleepovers, anything I could come up with to narrow the opportunity for upset.

The Emotional Fix is far easier and much more effective at actually alleviating suffering. It would simply have been a sweet call and a chance to offer empathy: You’re having a hard time? Darn. That’s rough huh? You really want to be asleep already… You really want the sleepover to work out, but just can’t seem to get your eyes to close huh? Shoot. That’s not how you wanted this to go…  

Unfortunately, this is the opportunity I missed last night when my stupid ringer was turned off. Fortunately, due to the years and years we diligently knitted that giant emotional safety net, my daughter’s brain is actually equipped with thousands of healthy neural pathways that now aide her in her own emotional processing. At 6am I got a return text to the one I had sent even though she was asleep, the one assuring her of my love and explaining why I hadn’t heard her call:

It is ok. I know you love me. I fell asleep!

She made it across the threshold, both emotionally and physically. Her circumstances weren’t ideal but she moved through her emotions and came out, bright and shining on the other side.

Every time I fix the situation for her she is denied the chance to move through her feelings in a healthy, helpful way - the manner that will reinforce those neural pathways that serve her when I’m not there, when she faces all of those challenges of the human existence on her own. And every time I try The Fix in order to help me feel better, not only do I have to put out great effort with little to no effect, I also deny myself the health and wellness that comes from actively processing my feelings instead.

I would have preferred to be at the other end of the telephone line that night, because, although she did emerge victorious, that is my most crucial job, to be the cushy emotional safety net, a place for her to lay down her feelings and find non-judgment and love. I can’t fix the world for her, but I can catch her when she stumbles. I can help her find her feet again.

My phone’s ringer will remain on for the rest of my life, I swear.


Natalie Christensen

Natalie Christensen

WRITER & PARENTING MENTOR

Natalie Christensen is a writer, illustrator, and mother living in Missoula, Montana. She is co-creator of Feeleez, a line of tools that support the emotional development of children. She offers life + parenting coaching and on most days can be found on the banks of the Clark Fork river with her family and her dog.

LOVE NATALIE AND WANT TO READ MORE?

Click here to explore her work on Annapurna Living.

CONNECT WITH NATALIE—

 Website | Feeleez | Instagram

What I Know About Money

Growing up in my middle-class, secure home I never thought a lot about money. I knew how much candy I could get at the 7-eleven for a dollar. I knew it was important not to waste money by letting the water run too long, or leaving the lights on in rooms where we weren’t.
— Natalie Christensen
Photo courtesy Unsplash

Photo courtesy Unsplash

by Natalie Christensen

Finances? I’m still figuring this one out...

I stared at this blank page for twenty minutes before even typing that last sentence.

Here is what I know for sure:

  1. Money is made and money is spent and sometimes one action occurs more than the other.
  2. There is abundance everywhere. We are rich—sometimes in money, always in smiles and art, in cuddles and good books, in intelligent conversation and passion. When I live in abundant space, money pours in with little effort.
  3. There is want. Grey, stark moments filter in—times when the numbers don’t add up; times when despair and anger rear their heads, barking and blaming this creature called money.

Number 1 is easy. This is what a financial planner will tell you is the “answer:” make more money than you spend. Save. Invest wisely.

Number 2 is where we’d all like to live. We’d like to make this our permanent address. Number 2 is true. Our best selves live here. Gratitude lives here. Peace lives here.

Number 3 is, well… also true. Crap!

In between those basic tenants is everything else, all the stuff I don’t know for sure.

What I Know About Money by Natalie Christensen
Later, when I began earning my own money and supporting myself, it felt like a novel game. “Look at me, I’m paying rent!” “Look at me, I’m doing price-comparison shopping!” It felt good. It felt grown up. I liked that.

Growing up in my middle-class, secure home I never thought a lot about money. I knew how much candy I could get at the 7-eleven for a dollar. I knew it was important not to waste money by letting the water run too long, or leaving the lights on in rooms where we weren’t. I knew it was good to have money but I also couldn’t exactly fathom the experience of not having enough.

Later, when I began earning my own money and supporting myself, it felt like a novel game. “Look at me, I’m paying rent!” “Look at me, I’m doing price-comparison shopping!” It felt good. It felt grown up. I liked that.

My story about money was shifting. Quickly I had associated adulthood with earning. I suppose that isn’t a bad thing and in many respects, quite accurate, but you know how an unconscious mind can just run away with a good storyline? Years later I realized that my definition of adulthood had adjusted itself to include “struggling for money.” I felt really grown up when I had to make “tough life decisions” about how to make money stretch. This idea had wormed it’s way in and subconsciously, out of a desire to be an adult (who doesn’t want to be an adult?) I was patting myself on the back every time I made due with less money than I needed. As one might guess, this is not the best equation for financial abundance.

There is always more to the story of money because our emotions and identity and busy little unconscious minds are wrapped around every single cent. If I am subconsciously choosing between adulthood and abundance, yet I value adulthood (and all that I associate with it—independence, responsibility) more than I value material abundance, you can imagine what my bank balance might look like.

Maybe tenant Number 4 is this:

4. Until you untangle your identity/story from money, it’s all very hard and confusing.

Seriously, I have QuickBooks, my numbers balance, but finding a way to feel like I’m an adult without struggling to make ends meet does more for my bottom line than any official financial planning. Convincing my subconscious that I can be well off—heck, even fantastically wealthy —without trading any shred of “grown-upness” isn’t easy, but it’s one of my most important tasks.

When I realize we are out of some ingredients I immediately blame Money and jump right into a Number 3 state of mind, right down a rabbit hole of worry and anger. Scarcity.

This is the kind of clarity I have when sitting down and analyzing, when laying it out on a piece of paper in neat organized tenants. The rest of the time I am living life—making dinner, answering questions from children, working, exercising, making appointments, reading stories, grocery shopping, paying bills—and the money stuff gets fuzzy again.

If I am triggered, I jump to Number 3. I’m irritated because I have to pee and dinner is running late and the girls are fighting over a Lego figurine. When I realize we are out of some ingredients I immediately blame Money and jump right into a Number 3 state of mind, right down a rabbit hole of worry and anger. Scarcity.

If I am fully grounded, a Number 2 state of mind is easy. The girls are running though the grass blowing bubbles, I have a delicious plan for dinner, my hair smells clean and I feel content. Abundance.

Same bank balance, same expenses, different states of emotion.

Maybe tenant Number 5 is this:

5. Your emotional state can inspire you to feel rich or poor.

Money requires higher brain function. Not only for the math involved, but also for the emotional intelligence required to determine where our money story is getting in the way, and the self-awareness necessary to identify when our feelings are inviting a sense of poverty.

Money also inspires brain shutdown. The emotions involved with having enough, having too much, using it the right way, whether or not we’ll have some later—fear, worry, anxiety—are the precise emotional states that cause our brains to snap shut, leaving us in a dark world of fright and panic.

No wonder money gets fuzzy.

I think it’s best, at this point, to just give myself a big hug. I need it after wrestling through these thoughts. (By the way, empathy is the best way out of the lower brain region.)

I think it’s best, at this point, to just give myself a big hug. I need it after wrestling through these thoughts.

For now, this is what I know about money:

  1. Money is math; some comes in, some goes out.
  2. There is great abundance and to feel this makes more money.
  3. There is great need and to feel this is scary and hindering.
  4. There is more to the story and to pull the pieces apart is to see more clearly the foundations of your account balance.
  5. Money is emotional, both requiring great emotional intelligence to handle it well and potentially creating emotional upheaval at every turn.

I’m feeling my way along, taking notes, hoping to find a place of ease and comfort, learning to live mostly in the abundant state of mind. It isn’t easy (there are too many layers for that), but it feels comforting to type it all out and peer into the complex shadows. I see that it isn’t just fuzzy numbers, complicated math that I can’t get my head around. It’s deep and twisted and mercurial. It’s personal and it’s temperamental.

No wonder I don’t have it all figured out! I can give myself permission to not know all the parts of a convoluted entity. You can too.


Natalie Christensen

About Natalie Christensen

“Parenting with Empathy.”

Natalie Christensen is a writer, illustrator, and mother living in Missoula, Montana. She is co-creator of Feeleez, a line of tools that support the emotional development of children. She offers life + parenting coaching and on most days can be found on the banks of the Clark Fork river with her family and her dog. 

Connect with Natalie—
Feelez | Talk Feeleez | Portfolio | Instagram


MOTHER begins May 1 with Carrie-Anne Moss and Natalie Christensen. Join us!