At some point in your life, you’re going to need somebody, to stand by you …

This year, I am letting aspects of my Self that I have nurtured and protected in private, emerge into the ‘light of day’. I thought I’d been living open all along, but through some of the Self-work I’ve been doing, I now realize that I have spent too many years to count engineering smallness in my life, seeing myself through the eyes of others and hiding the aspects of me of which I decided to be embarrassed and even ashamed. Activities that fed my Soul I squeezed into my life where I could ~ in the times when I was alone or where others were occupied and not likely to need me for anything.

I’ve committed to doing things differently in 2016 and gifted myself with a registration to Brene Brown’s Living Brave class. I’m one week in and I’ve already unearthed fears that have sent me into a dark night of the soul.

There are stories in our silences.
The things that don’t get said speak louder than we ever dream they can.
They echo through the space between,
the place I long to be,
and this never-ending empty where I am.”
~ Don Aker, The Space Between

I watched snow gently falling this morning while drinking coffee and being Still. It struck me how very like snowflakes we all are; each of us unique each of us beautiful, each of us with something special to contribute to the larger whole. And what I’m realizing now, after decades of ‘solitude by design’, is that the wonder that is within me may actually be diminished as a result of my protecting it from exposure. The parts of my Self that I hold sacred and try so hard to keep from snuffing out, my creativity, imagination, sense of humour, spiritual practice and quirky way of seeing the world around me could very well be on life support, needing more than just me breathing life into them.

This year, I am taking the chance that what makes me, ‘Me’ may actually be magnified and more meaningful if expressed ‘out loud’, in the open.

All I could think about was … how much it costs any of us to show others who we really are.”
~ Don Aker, The Space Between

Finding a community of kindred spirits helps to put doubt and fear into context. I have experienced the wonders of online communities in the past. Many years ago, I entered a community called PNN (the Watercooler for Women) as a result of a job that was posted for a blogger/writer. The posting may have been a lure to draw traffic to the site, but what a gift it turned out to be. Women from around the world created their own space within the site and the connection we made, the support and inspiration that was shared, the genuine friendships that developed, helped each one of us to grow confidence in, and a greater appreciation for, ourselves. Though the site no longer exists, we all remain connected in a private Facebook group and the compassion, support and encouragement shared there fills my heart while cracking it wide open.

Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it, there is suffering.”
~ Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

I was blessed¬† to curate such a community last year with my friend Kim Manley Ort. We introduced an online workshop on the platform of our combined and blended gifts called Once Upon a Time: Photographs Have Stories to Tell. We limited registration to 25 participants to ensure everyone would benefit from the rich and inspiring community we suspected would form without feeling ‘lost in a crowd’.

Over the course of 12 weeks, participants discovered aspects of themselves that they hadn’t previously had the opportunity with which to experiment. Others stepped into their Courage and, within the safe, supportive, encouraging environment this community offered, allowed themselves to unfold their gifts and perspectives in beautiful ways.

This was a humbling experience for Kim and I; participants learned to value aspects of themselves that they had either hidden from others, or that they hadn’t even known existed. They each found their ‘voice’, or a respect and reverence for their work, and the gift of knowing that together, we all helped each other grow in confidence as a result of the kindness, acceptance and support shared and the environment of trust that made it feel safe for all of us to show up and be seen.

You need someone to talk to … That is why you’re here. You need someone to know what you are. Who you are.”
~ Don Aker, The Space Between

Kim and I are hosting this workshop again, it begins on February 1, 2016. We have made changes to the content and its flow as a result of the feedback we received last year. I will be showing up as a Braver version of myself and look forward to experiencing the inspiration and wonder that will emerge within the community that is forming.

I am grateful for, and have benefited from, the value that online communities offer; I’ve participated in a few: PNN, Soul Callers, #Quest2016 and each has helped me in my journey to create myself into the best version of me that I can be, ever-evolving, ever reverent, ever grateful. (Though I still have ‘miles to go before I sleep.’)

Once Upon a Time: Photographs Have Stories to Tell is a safe space to awaken, or re-connect with, who you are, at essence while growing confidence in being that person in your everyday life. Photographs and Visual Journalling techniques and exercises allow us to see themes and information that mean something different for each of us while providing opportunities for conversation and connection with each other. We choose our levels of participation and are wholly accepted as we are.

For many, this process is about more than photographs and stories; it is a path to Self and the experience that we are all like snowflakes, each of us unique, each of us beautiful, each of us with something special to contribute to the larger whole – both online and ‘in real life.’

Workshop details for Once Upon a Time: Photographs Have Stories To Tell can be found here. Registration is open for 25 participants and there is still space available if this may be something you feel called to explore further.


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