I stumbled upon the every love and wise books of Jennifer louden one day in a book store as I suspect a lot of people find Jen in this manner. I go to the same section in the book store first every time. I don’t know if it was a new publication of her’s at the time or simply the right time for me to take in her words. I believe it was the later. I soaked in her words and signed up for her emails because I craved her words. I think I still crave them! Here today is the breath taking Jennifer Louden.
Jennifer Louden is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book. She’s the author of 7 additional books on well-being and whole living: The Couple’s Comfort Book, The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book, The Woman’s Retreat Book, Comfort Secrets for Busy Women (The Comfort Queen’s Guide to Life in hardcover), The Life Organizer, and A Year of Daily Joy. There are about million copies of her books in print in 9 languages.
Jennifer has spoken around the U.S., Canada and Europe, written a national magazine column for a Martha Stewart magazine, been profiled or quoted in dozens of major magazines, and appeared on hundreds of TV and radio shows, even on Oprah. Jennifer has been teaching retreats and leading workshops since 1992, and creating vibrant on-line communities and innovative learning experiences since 2000. She married her second husband at 50, and is the very proud mom of Lillian and very proud bonus mom to Aidan.
With your writing/art how do you live an integrated life? How can others?
When I was younger that question probably wouldn’t have made any sense to me at all. But now I would say that question is probably what shapes everything. I would use the word whole. How do I live a whole life? To me integrated and whole mean the same thing. Often I am feeling my way into self experience of a whole life. Rather than trying to think my way or plan my way into that experience. I think when I was younger I had a pie chart to balance all the appointments and things. Not that it wasn’t useful but for me it has become much more about what “feels” right, what “feels” possible. My mind has no limits as all of our minds have no limits. But our little human bodies do. To really respect our experience I practice what I call being in the gap.
A concrete example of this idea happened this morning, my niece and her family spontaneously came to visit for about an hour while on her spring break. I haven’t seen them in many, many years. I also knew I had been waiting months to get an appointment to see a dentist, this appointment was this morning cutting our visit short. So it was uncomfortable right? Because they could have stayed for 20 more minuets before they needed to leave for the ferry, but I needed to leave to take care of myself. Learning to be with and accept this discomfort is being in the gap. Welcome the discomfort. Know that my life isn’t this neat tidy thing, it never will be. Knowing that I am not doing anything wrong because of this, that is also apart of being in the gap.
It is mundane perhaps but learning to be in the gap is essential as a creative person. What you visualize or what you hear in your head often times looks different as it comes out. Learning to be in that gap with a lot of grace, mercy and curiosity then extending that to the whole of our lives experience. For me it looks like a lot of meeting, greeting, and welcoming what my thoughts and body sensations are. I like to think of my mind as a tennis ball machine, pop, pop, pop these thoughts and ideas fly out! It’s what it does. I don’t have to believe them or engage in all of them, I can relax in the gap.
A beautiful term came to me in yoga class this past winter. I heard it in my mind’s eye: “Grit without compassion is just grind.” Then I shortened it to “compassionate grit.” It’s this way of being so kind to ourselves like we would a dear friend but sticking with it. We stick with the art making. We stick with being in the gap.
How will you honor your moments today?
I honored the moment by looking into my nieces face whom I haven’t seen in fifteen years, taking in as much as I could in the hour and fifteen minutes we had together. I honor many of my moments with my beloved. My second love. Later in life love has a certain tenderness to it. There is so much honoring between us because we are so gleeful we found each other. In the morning the first thing we say to each other is I love you. There is the hugging and honoring even when my mind might be saying but you have a lot to do! Even my little dogs bring me into the present moment over and over again and I honor these creatures.
What does being BRAVE look like these days? What does it feel like?
I had a very rich experience in early spring at a meditation retreat that shifted things for me pretty profoundly for many weeks to follow. When I woke up on monday I had some anxiety and depression for the first time in months. I had been in a really good place before the retreat as well as many weeks following it. The meditation retreat showed me again what happiness looks like, wahhh this is amazing I thought. Then it shrunk and contracted quite a bit for me yesterday. So for me bravery meant not numbing out with sugar. It meant going to the meditation cushion anyway. It meant sharing those feelings with my husband. Being brave meant being honest as well as not ashamed or hiding there in that depressed place. Instead meeting it with honesty and continuing with my writing practice anyway.
Another example of bravery in my life right now is a writing project that is unlike anything I have ever work one previously. I think it might be sort of a memoir and there are many many pages spread across the floor at my feet right now. So being brave is not giving up on that project. It’s like the hydra monster seen in Heracles mythology, it’s got so many heads! What is this!? What am I doing? Saying no to the urge to make it tidy! Oh let’s just write a self help book, you can knock that out in no time! No… we’re not writing any more self help books, you did that and it was great but we’re so done!
What is pulling you forward? What is your motivation?
Is a great sense of devotion. Tapping into how life wants to live me. It’s still pretty tenuous for me. My modus operandi had been “make it so.” So grit your teeth! Get it done! Just being at the dentist my teeth were telling stories of all the years of teeth gritting. Trying to continually ask where does life want to live me? How can I be devoted to this pulse of life? Right now that feels really good.
Describe a time when you walked through the doors of passage?
So many times, in ways this is why I am writing this memoir. But I would say the most recent time was when falling in love with Bob my husband mere months after my first husband moved out. It was far too soon in terms of what I was ready for or what my daughter was ready for. That passage had many doors while we blended and created our family. The passage too of actually getting married, something we had sworn we were not going to do! You do that when your young, you don’t do that when your in your fifties! Then we were in Guatemala on a meditation retreat we broke silence and he asked me to marry him! WHAT!? Thats not apart of the plan! That was a HUGE passage for me, because I had to really choose; was I going to walk down the path that is so well worn of “I am not…” not really lovable… not truly seen… Or am I going to choose this other path of believing that he really did love me. It took me a week to say yes and when I finally did I yelled it across the hotel room!
Tell me about what you crave? What are you saying a big Holy YES to these days?
I crave this book as much as my heart pounds literally when I say this. I crave this deeper creative experience. Honestly what has been emerging in this work recently although I have always known it and yet not fully owned it is, a craving to lead woman into this same creative depth. That’s what I crave. The Holy YES is to that intersection between creative joy and spacious awareness.
How do you show up? Who are you becoming? or How do you rise up in your fullness?
I am becoming someone who doesn’t have to pretend. I would not have said years ago that I was someone who was pretending. If you had known me in my life then you would have thought now that’s somebody who speaks the truth. But there were many subtle ways in which I thought I needed to be somebody other than I was. Especially in my work, someone wiser or a better speller! I had such the impostor syndrome when I published my first book at 27 or 28. Even after so many years of teaching and speaking I would think how dare I be doing this!
What is so beautiful is when young wise woman claim their life experience for where they are. There is a humbleness in this claiming of what I know right now, right here! If you follow great thinkers they revise what they know and believe. We have this weird idea in our culture that your supposed to know it and stay the same. I love the Dalai Lama for he said “If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. ” I believe as he does in this openness to learning.
How has your experience as an writer/artist changed you? How can or does this experience help others?
Being a writer has really made me who I am. I am one of those kinds of people who doesn’t know what I know until I write about. I don’t think I would be sane or perhaps even alive without writing. I certainly don’t think I would understand what it’s like to have this mind and this body if I wasn’t writing about it. And reading I can’t imagine a life without reading! On the meditation retreat we don’t read, that was the hardest thing for me! Being able to be in someones else’s mind is beyond precious to me.
I hope my writing can help normalize. That’s the first word that comes to mind. I hope I can normalize life experiences for others.
The second word that comes to mind is transmission. A transmission of what else is possible.
What would you like everyone to know?
Self-improvement is often rooted in self-violence.
Swami said “But the real you is already perfect, already strong.”
We can take a look at our rough places, and our neurosis and our dents from a place of our innate, untaintable goodness. We welcome, meet and greet these pieces of us, the broken bits, like we would family. Letting that love bring about the healing changes, the awareness and the growth in our creativity that we are hungry for. Instead of that hierarchal, coming from the outside, someone else has the answer. I wish I had those years back when I thought someone else had the answer or that I thought I even needed one.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild precious life?
Love my people. Thats for sure. That feels very top of my list. This includes my mom, whom I am really proud to say I have learned to love her as she is on her way out with alzheimer’s.
Then what also feels important is to follow this urge, this yearning, this desire that right now leads into memoir writing and meditation. Following that urge to create and sharing that journey and depth with other woman is important.
*I see plenty of travel and fun and a lot of gratitude as well!
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