dance

013 | Uninhibited Leadership & the Queen Archetype with Ashley Burnett

 

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Last week I sat down with another Rising Woman Leader,  Ashley Burnett, to talk about her journey to uninhibited leadership.  

One of the things I love about Ashley is that she can have a fierce get-stuff-done attitude at the same time as embracing everyone around her with so much love. 

I've been honored to get to know her over the past few months since she moved from SF to the countryside in Petaluma, CA and I can't wait for you to get to know her through today's show!

"Dance is my lifeline."

Here's what you'll find in today's episode:

  • How Ashley healed a Gallbladder disease through diet change and embracing her emotional landscape
  • How to release our attachments when manifesting new visionary ideas and desires
  • How dance and movement has informed Ashley's life and work
  • What is uninhibited leadership? How to fully embrace yourself and your ideas.
  • The meditation Ashley uses on a daily basis
  • The archetype of the Queen - what it is and how you can use it to build more self-confidence and self-love
  • Unleashing your voice 
  • Ashley's upcoming UNLEASH retreat happening in Sonoma County September 21 - 25, 2016.  It looks absolutely AMAZING...so be sure to check it out.

I would LOVE to hear what insights you gained from the episode and how you will use the archetype of the QUEEN to live and love more fully in your life. Let me know in the comments below...

With love, 
Meredith

Women’s leadership coach, professional dancer, speaker, retreat facilitator and creative muse, Ashley Burnett is dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs heighten their visibility, embody their missions, deepen their facilitation & leadership skills, and speak up for their life's work with confidence. She's been teaching and leading groups for over 15 years and running her own business for 13. Ashley has facilitated hundreds of classes, workshops, events and retreats, and has led thousands of women from over 60 different countries in building their businesses and expanding their leadership. She lives in San Francisco Bay Area Wine Country with her husband David, and has the pleasure of running her retreats and workshops at her workshop space on 22 acres of expansive land. Visit www.strongbodylove.com to learn more about her work.

 

Read the Transcript:

Meredith Rom:

Welcome to the Rising Women Leaders Podcast. We are a sisterhood of women stepping into courage, self-love, and feminine leadership. I'm your host, Meredith Rom, and here I'll be sharing personal insights as well as interviews with inspiring leaders and entrepreneurs, so you can create more daily magic in your life and also grow your business without losing sight of spiritual values as a rising woman leader.

 

If you like this podcast, use our hashtag #RisingWomenLeaders, follow me on Instagram @meredithrom, and sign up for email updates at risingwomenleaders.com. You'll receive all the new and inspiring content, including insights I only share on email. Now get cozy with a cup of tea, light a candle, and grab a journal to listen to this week's magical radio podcast.

 

Hey, everyone. I have an awesome podcast to share with you today from Ashley Burnett. This episode is full with wisdom about being a visionary person, the archetype of the Queen, and how you can use that in your life, as well as how to let go of inhibitions that may be holding you back from showing up as your fullest self in the world.

 

I have a couple of announcements before we dive in. The first is that I'm really proud to share that I have recently completed writing a book. It's all about synchronicity, self-love, and my travels through India. This whole project began about five years ago, when a very influential man in my life handed me this beautiful, hand-woven notebook when I was in India. He said, "Meredith, you're going to write a book one day. I got this for you to start."

 

At first I didn't believe him, and I thought the idea was impossible, but then the more and more that I traveled and I met spiritual teachers and I learned how to really listen to my intuition then I started having these magical situations and occurrences where I just was showing up at the right place at the right time. The more it became clear to me that even if it felt impossible, I just needed to start writing down these stories and ideas.

 

I began writing, but there actually came a time a couple years ago when it just felt too hard and I stopped altogether. I needed to put my energy into finding a stable home, starting my career. I just put the whole project aside. It sat on my desktop for almost three years. It wasn't until I had this dream one night, when in the dream I opened this drawer and inside there is this book. I'm flipping through the pages of the book. There's a beautiful image on the cover, and I realized it was a story of a woman's travels. I thought, "Oh, my God. This was the book that I was supposed to write. I gave that up."

 

When I woke up the next morning, I knew that I needed to complete that project. I had no idea how it was going to happen. I didn't know, but I just sat down and I prayed. I said a really clear intention. I just said to the universe, "I don't know how this is going to happen, but I promised to show up for my part and to at least sit down at the computer and give it my best and see what happens."

 

Two months later, I met a woman who was just finishing her book. She had been working with an editor and a writing coach. She was like, "Oh, yeah. It's helpful to just have support through the process." I was like, "I'm ready for that." She connected me with that woman, and we started working together. For about 13 months, I wrote 5,000 words every two weeks. That's about 20 double-spaced pages. It really helped to have that accountability, that support along the way to actually complete this project. Just a few months ago, I've completed the manuscript.

 

I tell this to you because I want to invite you to think about any places in your life, any dreams that maybe you have pushed aside, felt like, "Oh, my God. That's impossible. How could I ever do that?" and to really think about, yes, you can do that if you set a really clear intention and if you're willing to trust in the universe that the very next step will be shown to you.

 

I'm now at the phase of having a couple other people read it and making more edits, but next month I'll be starting the process of publishing it. I'm really excited to share it with you. I have some awesome opportunities for you to get involved in the process, including an opportunity to actually pre-order an early copy of the book. I'd love to share just what's happening behind the scenes as they go through this process. You can go to my website, meredithrom.com. There you'll be prompted where you can sign up to stay involved and to get to hear all about the details of the release of this book that I wrote.

 

I'm so grateful to have you here listening to the podcast. If you've been enjoying the show, I'd love to hear. You can leave us a review on iTunes. Without further ado, I hope you enjoy today's episode.

 

Welcome back. This is Meredith Rom. I'm so grateful to have my friend, Ashley Burnett, on the podcast today. Ashley is a women's leadership coach, a professional dancer, a speaker, retreat facilitator, and creative muse. She's dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs heighten their visibility, embody their missions, deepen their facilitation and leadership skills, and speak up for their life's work with confidence.

 

I had been hearing about Ashley from a few other entrepreneurial women friends for probably a few months before she actually came into my field and we got to meet. I was lucky enough that she moved from San Francisco to Petaluma, where I live. We got to have dinner together and, since then, just been having some really sweet visits in each other's homes, and really glad to have her here and just to talk about uninhibited leadership and a lot of other great topics. Thanks, Ashley.

 

Ashley Burnett:

Yay! I'm so excited to be here, Meredith. I'm just stoked to have this conversation with you and all the women that are listening today.

 

Meredith Rom:

Yeah. I would love to just dive in and talk a little bit about how you came to be doing this work. I know that you had studied dance for a long time in your life and you had been a professional dancer. I'm curiously particular about that transition of how dance evolved into what you believe in now and how you're serving women in leadership.

 

Ashley Burnett:

Yes, I grew up in a fairly small town in Illinois, Quincy, Illinois in the Midwest. My mom was my dance teacher and my dad was my theater director. I was born into the arts. My mother ran a dance studio for years, and her mother was also an entrepreneur as well. In terms of entrepreneurship, that has just been embedded in my blood for lifelines, I think, for a long time.

 

In terms of dancing, I ended up majoring in dance in college at the University of Illinois. I went on to dance professionally for about 10 years after graduating and was running a massage therapy practice at the time also. I think there was a moment of just not feeling that my body could physically sustain those two careers for a long, long time.

 

Hence, a few years ago, when I was also getting into health and wellness and really wanting to heal my body, because I was also, when I was 28, diagnosed with hereditary gallbladder disease, which also was in that long lineage of women entrepreneurs. There was that gallbladder disease. My mom and her mom and her mom and my aunt and everyone had been diagnosed with that.

 

I was actually on the table at San Francisco General Hospital to get it taken out. I had a change of heart at the last minute, jumped up off the table, said, "I can't do this. I want to heal it naturally with diet and lifestyle shifts." I haven't had a gallbladder attack in nearly eight years now.

 

That was the catalyst for me to go back to school to become a health coach, which got me into the coaching industry. Once I got into the wellness industry and the health industry and started health coaching, pretty soon thereafter, people started coming to me to ask me how did I build this business, "How did you do this? How are you getting out there so quickly and doing your work?" It started to organically shift into this business in leadership coaching work.

 

I was really understanding that because of my long lineage of entrepreneurship that this was really where I was being called to be. However, to come back to the dance piece, I let go of that. I think there was a correlation between the gallbladder. Part of my healing was to slow down and to go inward. So much of my dancing was always an external process with performance and things like that. There was a lot of inner processing as well in the studio, but there was part of me that felt like I had to step away from that for a little bit to heal, at least to heal the way that I was dancing at the time.

 

Then, in addition to that, there was also this piece of I really need to focus on one thing for a little bit because, for so long, I had been doing massage, creating a jewelry line, dancing professionally and creating dances and producing shows, and I had a company and also is dancing for other people, and starting a coaching business. There was this moment where it was like I've got to just yank everything out and just focus on this coaching business.

 

It was something I needed to do for a while, but about two to three years into that sabbatical, I was really understanding that that wasn't an option for me, that dance is one of my most strongest lifelines. I have been blessed with this ability to express myself through movement, and I need to honor that. I don't feel like myself when I'm not doing that.

 

Not only in this year of moving to Petaluma, where now I have this really beautiful thousand-square-foot workshop studio space attached to the house that we're living on, where I get to share my retreats and workshops and things like that, but I'm healing myself side that workshop and out on this sacred land, channeling movement here again. That feels really important. I'm channeling that work, that movement into the work that I do.

 

Teaching always, when I start a retreat, which is something that I ... I just love retreats. They're like my jam. Always starting that retreat after a meditation and intention setting always with movement. I really believe that the body is the shortcut to moving through fear and self-doubt and limiting beliefs and for us to get into our intuitive state. When we're disconnected to the body, we can't get out there, channel the information that we need to get out there in a flowing way. That's the way that I always start my work and start my days really.

 

Once we get into that then with my clients, I also weave in a lot of leadership embodiment work that helps to boost confidence. The body is a huge integral part of the work that I do with all of this leadership work. It feels good now to be able to put all these pieces together and to be able to teach these yoga dance fusion classes, as well as then as I'm teaching curriculum to then, in between, get them up, teach them these leadership embodiment practices which still draw on the body to help them to step into larger visibility platforms with confidence, and get out there and hold space for groups and speak onstage and all the things that people that are in leadership roles are wanting to do either on a small scale or a large scale, but being able to do that with a sense of trust in one's self.

 

Meredith Rom:

I agree that the body is the ... It's really the vehicle to connect to our intuition to know what steps to take next in our life. It sounds like this gallbladder disease that came at that time, it was like you had been really outward and giving of yourself in dance and massage therapy. It sounds like that was a time your body was asking you to tune inward and to be a little bit more there for yourself and that healing. Then again the dance came back in later.

 

I'm curious just a little more about the gallbladder disease that came up. I'm curious about what emotions do you think it was related to and what really did catapult that healing at that time for you?

 

Ashley Burnett:

Yeah. Obviously, I have a little frog in my throat, so I apologize. To be completely honest, I think what really was going on, and I'm so glad that you asked this question because I want to stress that while I am so passionate about leadership and business, work for entrepreneurs, a huge part of the work that I do is all based on fiercely prioritizing self-care and really paying attention to the signals of the body.

 

At the time, I was about 28. My parents got divorced in my very early 20s. I had been super close with my family and attached to that unit. When that broke off later in life, not early childhood, the rug was pulled from underneath me and I fell on my face. I didn't have any of the tools really at that time to deal with my anger around that.

 

Right after that happened, I graduated college, I moved to Chicago. In Chicago, I was there from 20 to 25. I was really angry. I was really. really angry and sad and frustrated. I didn't really process it and I don't think that until I moved to San Francisco, I spent a few years learning massage therapy and continuing to self-teach myself on health and holistic healing and all of that, that really I think what happened was that it was manifesting as anger in the body. It ended up residing in that gallbladder area because the liver and those areas are really representative of anger.

 

Meredith Rom:

Yeah, I know that, too, in my practice of yin yoga, which brings in the Chinese medicine system, that the liver, gallbladder can ... It's where we hold unexpressed anger, emotions like that.

 

Ashley Burnett:

Yeah. There was that piece and the energetic piece. Then there was just a dietary piece that was definitely there. I, at the time also, was going to a little more extremes, drinking a little bit more coffee a couple of times a day, a bar of dark chocolate a day, just things that I, at the time, was like, "Oh, yeah. This is totally fine," but it was overkill.

 

When I decided to jump off of that table and heal this thing naturally, there was the process of going on a fairly strict gallbladder diet for a year. If anyone that's listening to this interview has had gallbladder stuff, gallbladderattack.com was the site that was like my Bible. It helped me so much in terms of diet, but the reality is that now I can eat all of those things, I just do so really in moderation. Most importantly, I've gone inward and I've expressed ... I've deeply worked on my issues around my parents' divorce and other things that were coming up that I think were really energetically causing the gallbladder to spasm out.

 

Meredith Rom:

Right. I have a question that came to my mind, which you've partly answered, but you've gained so many tools since that time. If you were to look back on that woman, just finding out this disease and feeling out of balance, what would be some of the first things you would tell her, where to start, and how to begin that healing process?

 

Ashley Burnett:

Yeah, it's such a good question. It's really letting her know that it's okay, that starting to understand that people's existence, that you're not responsible for other people's existence, coming to be in process around understanding that life isn't permanent and moving through our attachments and releasing those.

 

I think that I would have potentially told her to start going to Spirit Rock and meditating a lot sooner than she had, really dropping inward. I think I was reaching, I think I was grasping a lot at that time. I was also going through my Saturn returns. It was very intense emotionally. I had also met my now husband, who was living in Omaha at the time and I was living in San Francisco. We were having this two-year, long-distance romance, which was also a very grasping time. There was always this wanting of wanting to see someone.

 

I think if I could tell her anything, it would be to just really try to practice presence. That's something that's coming up for me really strongly right now of just trying our best to be in the present moment to really see the buds on the trees, to really smell, use our senses of where we're at right now. We've gone so far away from this with technology. I think it's really important for us to just come back to really being where we are in that moment and being okay with ourselves.

 

I probably would have done myself healing work earlier, too, but now that I'm saying that, it's like I was always doing self-healing, but the thing was I wasn't getting support. If I could also tell her anything, it would be go get some support. You don't have to do everything yourself. You don't have to read self-help books and read nutrition books, and that's the only thing that you do and try to hold the space for yourself all the time. It's okay to be held by other people.

 

That's coming in very strongly also right now, and I'm sure you feel this as also a leadership coach and holding space for others quite frequently, that, as people in roles of leadership, we've got to learn how to have the space held for us. We cannot be giving, giving, giving and holding the space for others all the time and then not having that space be held for ourselves and giving back to ourselves. Long-winded answer to your question, that's probably what I would talk to her about now.

 

Meredith Rom:

Yeah. I love all of those. Those are so integral to just how I live my life and how I've been teaching others. That piece about support, a blog post that I wrote a few months ago was about this idea of even if we are just leaning on one person for support, that's usually not enough. We need layers of support around us.

 

I had my friend, Kevin. He was visiting me for a few days while Michael, my boyfriend, was away. I have been going through a challenging time. I was feeling like, "Wow! My partner, who I rely so much on, he's away for two weeks." I was telling him about that challenge. He was like, "Yeah. If you're just relying on one person for most of your needs, it's like standing on top of a flagpole."

 

Ashley Burnett:

Totally.

 

Meredith Rom:

It can get pretty shaky up there if that person just moves a little bit to the right or to the left. He says, "Instead, if you can think of becoming a spider and having eight legs holding you up and you have your friends and you maybe have a coach or a massage therapist or a therapist, and just like lots of people that are there supporting you." That was a huge light bulb moment for me. I immediately went into just cultivating that support around myself so deeply.

 

Ashley Burnett:

I love that. Yeah, community is key, what I like to call your support power posse. It's like having that and determining who is that. Yeah, exactly. If you're just looking for your partner to fill that space or just one coach or something like that, I feel like it is. It can be completely overwhelming. We've got to create other built-in support networks for ourselves. Yeah, I love the spider analogy, too. It's great.

 

Meredith Rom:

Definitely. I had a couple other questions come up when you were speaking earlier. One was around ... I know that you're a very visionary person, I'm a very visionary person, and sometimes I get these huge ideas or downloads and I'm like, "Oh, my God. Everything needs to change right now. I need everything to be different."

 

Part of the practice of being with these big ideas that sometimes come in that I want to take action on is that non-attachment and that, okay, coming back to the present moment, being gratitude. I'm curious how you handle this, what you do for yourself to be in that practice of non-attachment? I think it'd be useful for me in particular, but anyone listening who has a visionary mind.

 

Ashley Burnett:

Yeah. I mean when you're in a leadership role and you're a visionary and/or an entrepreneur, I mean it's the entrepreneurial mind to have all of these ideas that come up, and we want to take action on them and we want them to happen overnight. There's an impatient nature that happens.

 

There's also this grasping of, "If I don't get it out now, someone else is going to take that idea and run with it. I won't be able to do it." There is this idea of, "Yeah, it's already going to be done. I need to do it right now." This brings me into the idea of uninhibited leadership, if you're interested in going there.

 

Meredith Rom:

Yeah.

 

Ashley Burnett:

This is the idea of understanding that even if you have an idea that comes up and you sit with that for a while, and then you see someone else do something similar to that idea and get it out there, the reality is that no one else on the face of the planet can execute and deliver an idea the same way that you can.

 

Your thoughts, philosophies, and ideas don't have to be the same. They can be the same as someone else, but the way that you are going to actually deliver those is what makes it unique. When you can really drop into that idea, that's when you can relax, we can relax, and just completely owned who we are, which is my really definition of an uninhibited leadership. It's like allowing yourself to completely be yourself in your leadership and to, what I like to say, let your freak flag fly.

 

You can get out there and be your wild, crazy self in a way that still has dignity and integrity and ground, but that's the idea. It's really about understanding and owning that no one else on the face of the planet is you or is going to deliver anything else like you. You can have very similar thoughts, philosophies, and ideas and visionary programs or anything else, but that person is going to deliver it in a completely different way than the other person is. It's going to resonate with certain people. That's how we can get out of that compare and despair syndrome, too.

 

The other piece is that it's not a sprint. Life is not a sprint and neither is your journey of entrepreneurship or whatever kind of leadership you're in. It's not a sprint to the finish line. This is a marathon. This is a lifelong marathon, and your ideas do not have to happen and they're not going to happen overnight.

 

I think a lot of people that identify themselves as light workers and visionaries, there's this idea of like, "But we've got to do this now. We've got to do this now because the world needs us and we need to do it." I get that. I really get that desire.

 

The fast-paced franticness of that is not going to help anything. We have so much of this fast-paced, frantic energy going around us, swirling at all times, the technology and, "I've got to change my printing ink," and "I've got to check that email," and "I've got to write that blog post," "I need to ... " I mean it's out of control. "I've got to do this Instagram thing. I've got to write on Twitter. I've got to ... " Then it's like, "Oh, I need to actually be present and look at a flower for a second, an actual living thing that has a higher vibration."

 

I think there's this level of actually when we release that attachment to have to having something done really quickly or doing it now that we give the opportunity space to flow. We give ourselves space to flow. I've learned how to stop pushing so hard. I'm not perfect with this all the time. In fact, just a few months ago, I did a huge conference that I felt like I was pushing again. I was like, "I don't like how this feels."

 

I think it's really important in this process to ask yourself, "How is this feeling to me right now? Do I want to feel like this? Do I want to feel in this frantic push, push, push, push place, or do I want this to feel more spacious? Do I want this to feel like there's more pleasure involved and more flow and connection and trusting that this process is going to unravel itself because I'm holding this intention, I'm starting to take maybe some action towards it, but I'm letting it to unravel itself instead of me forcing it to happen?"

 

Meredith Rom:

I had an insight recently. I was doing this exercise I learned from a book around I'm writing a letter to God, spirit, universe, just getting out any challenges you're facing, and then to end the letter with, "Please, right through my pen, guide me." I was writing, just connecting to that intuitive state of what would this greater presence say to me.

 

One of the things that was said was, "Meredith, sometimes the best thing about having a desire is it's just having that thing to look forward to and having something that is in the anticipation phase of having it," so learning to enjoy that. I wanted to touch on what you said before this piece around if you have an idea that is similar to what someone else has already done in the world, that you should go right ahead and do it because no one will receive it the way that you're going to share it.

 

That reminds me of something that ... I've been listening a lot to KC Baker, as you know, this woman who share so much about your messaging and your speaking. She had this idea around it's okay to not be original as long as you're authentic. That was very freeing for me to hear, like, "Oh, okay. Yes, my ideas may be similar to what other people are sharing, but I have my own stories to add to them. If it's really true for me then, yes, I should go ahead and share it, of course."

 

Ashley Burnett:

Totally, yeah. I couldn't agree more.

 

Meredith Rom:

Yeah. One other thought around that timeline of I recently watched Tony Robbins' film, I'm Not Your Guru. Have you seen that?

 

Ashley Burnett:

Yeah. I just saw it, yeah.

 

Meredith Rom:

Yeah. Something that he says is like we usually overestimate what we can get done in a year, but we greatly underestimate what we can get done in 10 years. It's like that idea of what you said at the marathon. Let's look at our life in the bigger picture here and find the ease in that process.

 

Ashley Burnett:

Right, yeah. I think he's right, where it's like then we think it's too hard. It's like an extreme. It's either one thing or the other, where we might think it's too hard and then we just don't go ahead and move forward with that dream at all. A lot of dreams are just released because they tried for a few months and it was hard. Then it felt like it was too hard, so, "I quit. I'm done. I'm done. I'm not going to try to become an entrepreneur anymore," or whatever it is. "I'm not going to try to build that app," or whatever it is.

 

Again, yeah, it takes time. The process doesn't happen overnight. If I could say anything to anyone, it would be stop trying to be Oprah when you're first starting out, or just stop trying to be Oprah all together. It's like just be yourself. Trust this process. Understand it takes time get support. It's going to happen.

 

Meredith Rom:

When it starts feeling hard, unconsciously it's usually when we are trying to be something else or we saw something and, "Oh, I want to try and be like that." Then it gets hard and sticky, and it doesn't feel good. Always coming back.

 

I'm curious about ... You mentioned Spirit Rock before. I know that you recently wrote a blog post about going there. What have you been learning there? What has that been like for you?

 

Ashley Burnett:

Yeah. I mean I've just, in the last ... Again, as someone who is constantly producing new things as an entrepreneur and visionary, that I was really feeling this calling in the last few months to start really going inward a little bit more than I normally do. I talk a lot about self-care even in the midst of launches.

 

I know it's hard, and I don't even have a kid yet. I have a primary relationship, I have tons of friendships that I'm navigating, and a big, big business where I'm holding space for my clients. Then also when I was launching that conference, we had gathered 1500 people together from all over the world for that. That was a lot of space to hold for people. I tried my best to take care of myself and take [babs 40:43] and meditate here and there, morning and night, and do my movement. It was clear it was still too much and not enough focus on going inward and rebalancing and being supported and being held.

 

I really was being called the Spirit Rock because I felt like this space could hold me. There's that piece. I have meditated myself for years and years and years, but I've never been formally trained. It's been cool to be taking real time out and learning more about the process of non-attachment and releasing that ... I think desire is good in a lot of ways, but I think there's a lot of unhealthy ways that it comes in and takes us away from the present moment.

 

It's really one of my favorite practices I just learned, and I had been doing it myself without knowing that's what I was doing for a while, but is the love and kindness meditation. Some of you probably know it and others of you maybe have never done this before, but it's really sitting, finding a place, finding a comfortable seat, closing your eyes, and then starting with yourself, repeating the mantras, "May I be safe, may I be healthy, may I be happy, may I be able to support myself with ease," and you can change these words up. It could be, "May I be filled with love and kindness, may I be filled with peace," starting with yourself and repeating each mantra a few times until it really sinks in to your being.

 

Then moving on to the next one silently to yourself. Then moving it towards someone else that you care about, that you want to hold in that space, and then moving it outward even further to maybe your greater community, or eventually you can get it to where you're holding that space for the whole world or that intention for the whole world.

 

Then, lastly, the most difficult for a lot of people ... I'll say the most difficult for some people would be doing it towards yourself. In fact, when we were holding that practice at Spirit Rock, one of the people was expressing that they were like ... Or actually the teacher was, when he first started doing this 30 years ago or however long, he was fine with doing it for other people, but then as soon as it came to himself, he hit a wall.

 

Also, it could be very difficult for people to do it towards people who have really triggered you in the past or are very challenging for you, or even with the state of the world that we're in right now, people who actually cause harm and suffering to others and actually trying to hold them in that light. That's been pretty profound to me. I've been doing that morning and night every day, or if I'm laying in, getting acupuncture, I'll do the love and kindness meditation, or if I'm taking a bath or something like that, I've been doing it. It really helps me to get out of my head and just really drop into myself and just understand there is nothing else but this present moment.

 

That's the other thing that I really ... I talk about presence, but, having gone to Spirit Rock a few times now, really honing in on they talk so much about the present moment that there's nothing else but this moment right here. If we're somewhere else, we're in the future or the past, we're never actually getting the present moment. We're never experiencing it. It's huge. It's really huge. That's where I'm focusing my energy right now.

 

It's tough when you are a visionary because we're always looking forward towards the next thing, but I think it's really important as visionaries. This whole past month of August, I've been super internal, not trying to produce other things. I've got a retreat coming up at the end of next month that I'm looking forward to, but I'm not creating that curriculum yet. I have the intention for it, but this month of August has really been about just letting it be, giving myself a break from producing anything new.

 

The other thing I want to say about that is I took a ritual training program a few years ago, and I teach ritual in my work also. There's this idea of never really being able to relish in the harvest. If we are constantly looking to the next thing ... It's like this idea my coach, Joanna Lindenbaum, who originally taught me this idea, was if we're constantly climbing up the mountain and we get to the top of the mountain, then we get up there and then we just see this other peak and we're like, "Okay, we've got to climb that mountain now." We never take in the view. We never actually relish in the harvest of what it is that we've just accomplished.

 

I think for a lot of entrepreneurs and visionaries, it's like an illness. We just keep going to the next thing and we never actually get to soak in and celebrate what we've really accomplished.

 

Meredith Rom:

Yeah, that's so important. I think that's a lot of what can be hard or challenging in our culture is there is so much just people achieving and what's next?

 

Ashley Burnett:

Right.

 

Meredith Rom:

It's hard work. It's the piece about slowing down, looking at what we have done, feeling grateful for that.

 

Ashley Burnett:

Totally.

 

Meredith Rom:

Love and kindness, too. It's been a big piece. I really like how when I first learned sending that love into every cell of your body first, and then from that place, sending it out, really nourishing.

 

Ashley Burnett:

Yeah, because really you can't show up in the way that you need to as a leader or partner or mother or father if you don't start with loving yourself first. I really strongly believe that they're going to feel that energy. Your clients, your kids, your colleagues, they're going to feel that energy of you not really being connected to yourself. That will affect everything. I think it's imperative that we begin with ourselves and move outward from there so that we can give in just a much more fully aligned way.

 

Meredith Rom:

That's so true. This actually I think relates to the archetype of the Queen. I know that you've been bringing that into your work, and the Queen being someone who can hold space for that and really be of service, but I'm wondering if you could share more about the Queen and how that's been coming to play in your life and work.

 

Ashley Burnett:

Yeah, I'd love to. It's been interesting, this journey with the Queen. Back at that ritual training, we looked at different archetypes. Mostly at those, we were just looking at Maiden, Mother, Queen, and Crone. I don't know, it was this interesting thing where the women who identified with the Queen stage of their life were asked to stand up.

 

I don't know what it was, but I just broke down in tears. It was so powerful to have these women stand up. I didn't stand up because I don't identify with being in that stage of my life right now necessarily. I definitely resonate with the Mother stage, but, I don't know, it just struck me that here's this idea of someone really, really knowing themselves and really owning who they are and being comfortable in their own skin. There was that that happened, and then I don't know exactly what else happened, but recently I led a retreat where we focused ... I'm not exactly sure where the inspiration came from other than that, to start working with the Queen. It really organically came in.

 

Then I started going back and watching old dance videos that I had created six, seven years ago. I was realizing, "Oh, my God. I was working with this Queen energy back there and I didn't even know it." I was doing very esoteric modern dance and having this one character like come forward and pins this banana peel to her head and she just claimed all the space. I was like, "Oh, my God. I'm watching this. I was working with the Queen energy back then and I didn't know it."

 

It's interesting. I've been playing with it for a while. Now it's really an integral part of the work that I'm doing. The reason being is that if there's one major piece that I could say that my clients walk away with, it's that it's not that they get to a place of never having fear or doubt or any of that again, but they are so much more self-confident in themselves, much more self-loving, have so much more trust in themselves after they get out of a program. I really feel that working with this Queen energy is helping them to truly embody that.

 

The idea of working with the Queen is ... And it's not this idea of this big Queen presence that is full of ego. It's not about that, it's about the Queen who fully owns her value and embraces all of her unique skills and her life experiences and her talents and her challenges and everything that really makes up who she is, and that she's not afraid to weave her uniqueness and her unique qualities into the work that she's doing to help shift the world for the better.

 

It's this idea of the Queen who can sit on her throne and take up space without questioning her right to take up that space, because one of the things that I've seen a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with and a lot of visionaries struggle with is they have these ideas, they want to do this work, and then they're so engulfed by fear and self-doubt that they don't do it. They don't end up holding space for people, they don't end up having that women's circle or doing that retreat because they're scared that they're going to look stupid or they're not going to know enough, or they haven't had enough training to do that, or they aren't going to fill it and no one's going to come to their party, so they just don't do it, or they don't do it because they feel like they're going to take up space from someone else.

 

The Queen doesn't question our right to take up space because she knows that when she does, she actually won't be taking anything away from you or anyone else. In fact, the contrary actually happens. She is giving you permission to step into your confidence and shine and do your great work.

 

The Queen also knows she's not perfect. She has released this idea and the myth of perfectionism, and she owns her mistakes and she cultivates the courage to voice those mistakes humbly and learn from them. I can't tell you how many mistakes I have done and created and made over this journey of 15 years of entrepreneurship, but I do voice when I make a mistake to my clients, to my communities, to my people and apologize for that and try to learn from it.

 

Meredith Rom:

That's so beautiful. That's so freeing. It's so freeing to know that on an entrepreneurial path, or really any path, mistakes, we all make them, and it's okay. We can learn from them and to think of that as part of the Queen, something that maybe many of us look up to, is very freeing.

 

Ashley Burnett:

Yeah, this idea of there is really no such thing as failure, only feedback and that when we make a mistake, it's another opportunity for ourselves to learn and grow. We can't grow the way that we really want to if we don't make mistakes. We just stay in this little comfortable place.

 

A couple other pieces of the Queen that I really work with and the work that I do is talking about, again, self-care. It's like the Queen, the archetype of the Queen. We're not necessarily talking about actual Queens right now, we're talking about the idea and the archetype of the Queen, but she loves herself and she really cares for herself just as much she cares for and loves others. She really values her self-care, she really practices it diligently, and she works on loving all of the parts of who she is, even the dark shadowy parts that bug the shit out of her, excuse me, for lack of better words right now, but that trigger her.

 

There's so many pieces of myself that trigger me, too. I have to learn how to embrace that's part of myself. I can work on this. It's not perfect. I will continue to work on this, but I have to have compassion for that part of myself that triggers me.

 

Meredith Rom:

Yeah. There's the meditation piece coming back in, going to give love to myself even in those times that trigger, even those parts I don't want to accept on the surface. That's true. True work, inner work.

 

Ashley Burnett:

Yeah, and it's hard. It's hard to look at the parts of ourselves that we don't like. They're dead in the eye, and then tell them, "It's okay. I understand you've been trying to keep me safe. You have a positive intention for me," and then working with it and seeing how we can start to shift it.

 

Also, one of the ideas of the Queen that I like to do to embody, especially in the leadership embodiment work that I talked about, is leading with a combination of warmth and compassion and ground and strength. Some of the best leaders are really people who emulate these two and really embody these two qualities. It's learning how to lead with that ground and that fierceness and that strength, but with compassion and love and warmth always at the forefront. Some of the best, best leaders that have been out there, Gandhi and Maya Angelou, Mother Theresa, people who have really just done huge work in their lives, they lead with that combination.

 

The idea of the Queen, it's leading with that idea of warmth and compassion and ground and strength, and then leading without ego, not letting her fear, shame, guilt, doubt define her and/or slow her down from actually putting herself out there because the mission is stronger than that fear and doubt and shame and guilt. The mission of why they're doing what they're doing, why we're doing what we're doing, it takes precedence over that fear. The Queen is not afraid to speak the truth and vulnerably use her voice to create positive social change for the greater good of humanity through the work that she does.

 

Those are really the elements that I like to work with. I think once we start to work with these and embody it through a ritual that people begin to really feel that Queen energy in themselves. Then they can draw on that experience when they do go out and hold space for groups or retreats or giving a talk on stage or doing events or workshops, or holding space for even just one client. I'm going to be working a lot with this in my upcoming retreat late September, but I think throughout all the work that I do now, it's really working with this archetype.

 

Meredith Rom:

Yes. I have a couple more questions for you. One thing you just mentioned was the voice and the Queen using her voice and speaking up in the world. I'm curious if you could touch for a minute just what that journey's been like for you and if you have any advice for women that are on the brink of wanting to share their voice. Maybe they're feeling the fear or the self-doubt come up, anything you would say to them.

 

Ashley Burnett:

It was interesting. I started out again in dance and theatre and performance and was on all these stages from a very young age. I mean I did my first musical at age five. By the time I had gone to college, I had already done, I don't know, probably ... I can't even ... performed on a hundred different stages.

 

Performance was my life. I was always using my voice, whether that'd be dancing or actually speaking, doing a play in that way. I had that upbringing. That's part of ... In a way I wasn't as scared of the stage because of that, but then I went to the opposite extreme and started this massage therapy practice when I lived in San Francisco, and have that running for 10 years. It was quite an interesting thing to just get quiet and go inward and basically communicate with someone through touch and through the body.

 

About halfway into that experience, I was really realizing like, "Wow! I have something to say here, and I want to say it on a larger scale and on a larger platform and it's not just behind a massage table." There was this feeling of hiding at one point that was happening.

 

I think I needed it. Also, there was healing, and I just needed to go inward in that way, but then I just felt like there was a bigger message that I needed to share.

 

Really, it was interesting because when I started coaching, I was just doing one-on-one coaching mostly. I had started to lead some online group programming, but where I flourish and where my passion is is in-person with people, holding events and retreats and workshops and creating experiences for people that they can viscerally feel and experience in-person.

 

I started to lead experiential day retreats in the city. That was when I really felt like I could start to really speak my truth. I had done some telecalls, but there was still this idea of hiding behind the computer, and so I started to get out and really create the vision for those retreats. Now it's like that's what we're doing here and that's what this upcoming retreat that I have at the end of September is really focused on helping people to do.

 

I think in terms of what I would say now, again, it's these elements of perfectionism doesn't exist. We have to release the myth of perfectionism. Stephen Hawking, the great scientist, said that after the Big Bang, if the particles would have not gone in odd directions and everything would have just expanded perfectly, we wouldn't be here. Matter would never have been created and we wouldn't be here.

 

Perfectionism does not exist in our universe. We can't continue to buy into that myth anymore. It doesn't mean just like throw something together absent-mindedly and then try to put it out there. That's not what it means. It just means that it's not going to be perfect and we need to start getting our work out there because the world needs it.

 

The biggest thing is to continue to connect to your why, continue to connect to the bigger mission of why you're doing what you're doing if you really have the desire to help people get healthy or help people live a more peaceful life through meditation or to help someone to feel more confident in their style, if you're a personal stylist. I've worked with stylists before. If you're someone who wants to help someone to dance again and get back into their body in that way, if you're someone who wants to help them to move forward into their leadership and get over their fear of public speaking, that your fears that come up around doing that work and putting it out there, those are what's holding you back from actually getting the people that need your message the help that they need.

 

If we can start to really connect into that why and really think about our community that we want to serve and really connecting with that, that can help us to release this idea of perfectionism and help us to actually get the good work out there, and the work with the body and learning different strategies on how to build more confidence in the body through simple movements that actually help to diminish cortisol levels and boost testosterone and oxytocin which slashes those cortisol levels, which is a lot of the work that I teach in the experiential retreats that I do, that can actually help us to feel more in our strength and in our power even before our mind feels that way. It's like we want to play with boosting the oxytocin and testosterone in the bodies that we can slash out those cortisol levels, which we can do through movement technique.

 

Meredith Rom:

Yeah. I like what you said. I've thought that before. On the other side of your fear is someone who genuinely needs your help, and if you can continue to come back to that. It really helps to be with whatever intensity of sensation that might be there.

 

I'm curious, I'd love to hear a little bit more about ... You have a retreat coming up the end of September. Tell us more about what that's going to be about and how people can find that.

 

Ashley Burnett:

Yeah. I'm super excited about it. It is called the Unleash Retreat. You can find out more about it at unleashretreat.splashthat.com. Unleashretreat.splashthat.com. Really, it's for any woman who identifies as a leader of some sort or an entrepreneur who feels like they're ready to expand their leadership and their business and their visibility and to scale their good work through strengthening their facilitation skills, as they lead classes and workshops and events and retreats.

 

We're going to focus on group programming. This can also be online or offline, because I've done such an array of both work, and the skills that we're going to be learning or things that you can apply if you're creating an online virtual circle or group program, or if you're doing something in-person with people, or a combination of both, but we're going to focus on developing advanced skills to create safe containers to really build trust with your attendees and your clients as soon as they come into your radar and walk in the door, and help build a really sacred container for that work to be done in.

 

Then to weave powerful ritual. We're going to look at some different rituals that you can do to really help embody the work that you're doing, help your clients really embody the work that you're doing. We're going to start looking at that.

 

We're going to talk about confidence skills, like how to start building that confidence while facilitating, because I know a lot of times people just won't even ... They can't even think about leading a group because of that fear. For other people, it's like they feel very confident holding space for groups, but they just want to take this work to the next level and they want to learn some new skills and advance their facilitation skills.

 

Really, it's for both people who are maybe beginning an entrepreneurship, as well as people who have been in it for a while and just want to take their skills to the next level, as well as people who actually aren't entrepreneurs. I have a couple of people coming who are in higher up positions at corporations who are leading teams and things like that that are coming as well.

 

We're also going to talk about, for those that are in entrepreneurial roles or are holding events and things like that, how to create lasting transformation for the clients, how to bring more income flow into the business from those retreats and events, and actually how to fill those retreats and events, too.

 

That's some of the main focus, but we're also going to be working a lot with that Queen archetypal energy to help just boost confidence in ourselves in general as well as while we're facilitating and really drop into the body and healing the body through movement, self-care, nature, ritual, and coming together in sisterhood. I think it's so important to be able to come together in community and, again, like we talked about at the beginning of this conversation, allow ourselves to be held and not always have to be in that facilitator role and to be able to really be held by a safe and sacred circle of women who are like-minded and who are getting out there and doing great work in the world and holding space for others.

 

It's going to be super awesome. The first night is on the autumn equinox on September 22nd. It's the 22nd through the 25th. We're holding a powerful autumn equinox ritual to help restore balance and ground and strength as leaders, because if we don't have that balance, we can't get out there and give. It's going to be a really beautiful opportunity to restore balance in ourselves before we even get into the work of learning new skills and things like that.

 

I live out here in Petaluma, California on 22 acres of beautiful, sacred Native American land. We'll be gathering here during the days, and folks will stay in the charming town of Petaluma at night. It's just going to be a really beautiful opportunity to grow and expand and really get centered before we dive into fall and winter. I am really, really excited about it.

 

If people have questions, they can find me personally at ashley@strongbodylove.com, or at strongbodylove.com, on Instagram or Facebook. You can also, again, go to unleashretreat.splashthat.com to learn more.

 

I'm happy just for your community, Meredith, because I love you and I love this community that you're gathering together to offer a really beautiful discount to your community for this retreat, too. If people want to ...

 

Meredith Rom:

Yay!

 

Ashley Burnett:

... learn more, the best way is to just shoot me an email and we can hop on the phone together and chat about it.

 

Meredith Rom:

Yay! Oh, my God. It sounds incredible. I have a big smile on my face as you're sharing because I can feel so deeply your passion about this work. It is really needed. It is going to help so many people. I'm very excited for you. I will-

 

Ashley Burnett:

Yeah. The last thing I'll say about it is my friend, my dearest friend, one of my dear, dear friends, Monica Lucero, who you know, will be acting as retreat doula a.k.a really holding the space throughout the entire retreat and clearing the energy and making sure that when things come up, because when we're doing this deep work, it's really intense, but that we acknowledge when stuff comes up that we can look at it, explore it, clear it so that we can continue to move forward and do the great work that we need to do.

 

Moni also clears my energy and she clears the space energetically beforehand, so it really feels like a safe and sacred container for us. She'll be part of that as well. Then I'm going to have a couple of other guests that will come weaving in and out of it, too. It's going to be awesome. I'm super excited.

 

Meredith Rom:

Wow! That's so wonderful. I will include, too, the links in the blog post and the show notes so people can take a look at everything that's there.

 

Ashley Burnett:

Thank you. I appreciate that so much.

 

Meredith Rom:

Yeah. So much of what we shared today I feel like was what I needed to hear. I know that it's going to really resonate out in all the people who got to listen to this. I would love to just close this call today with so much gratitude. Thank you, Ashley, for being here. Do you have any closing words before I say a little prayer for the call?

 

Ashley Burnett:

Mostly to just thank you so much for having me on the show. I love you and I love the work that you're doing and the energy that you bring to everything. It's been just so great to get to know you over the last year. I look forward to more.

 

I want to thank everyone who has listened to this interview and just for your presence and being here. I hope to get to connect in with you personally at some point. I'm sending you all just so much love. Just remember presence, presence, presence and trust and slow down. Those are the three biggest pieces that are coming to me right now.

 

Meredith Rom:

Yeah, that's so key. Let's ground back into our breath, just reflecting on all that has been shared. For those of you listening, you can tune into the space of your heart to see what comes to your mind, what you're going to take into your life, all this information that was shared today, and the action steps you might want to take, any insights that you're going to carry, maybe share with someone you know. Just hold that gem in your hearts. I'm going to bring my hands to my heart center and bow. Thank You, Ashley. Thank you. Thank you to everyone listening. Namaste.

 

Ashley Burnett:

Thank you.

30 ways to heal a broken heart

 
relationships-break-up-brokenheart-yin yoga

In the last few weeks, I have been meeting more and more people going through a break-up.

Many of my yoga students and close friends of mine have been letting go of their relationships.  With the recent autumn equinox, I've seen it is a cosmic time of letting go.

An astrologer once told me a break-up happens when you are no longer able to fulfill your purpose while in the relationship.  If somehow the relationship has been preventing you from living as your most true and authentic self, the planets align to end it.

A break-up creates the space for you to fulfill your sacred contract with life.  {tweet it}

There is something comforting to know that as difficult as it is to go through it, that there is something so much greater on the other side:  Living as your highest self.

I've been thinking back to my own break-ups, and what has gotten me through those difficult times.  I remember those were the hardest times for me to take care of myself, but that was actually what helped me through it the most.

So, whether or not you are letting go of something or someone in your life, I created this list of 30 ways to take care of yourself as a reminder to come back to basics, and the small daily actions to remember the love you can have for and with yourself.

30 Ways to Take Care of Yourself Now

  • Use essential oils, I have a diffuser in my house and it changes my whole state when the room smells like wild orange or lavender
  • Make your bed luxurious and comfortable – buy nice sheets, pillows, plants, and a nice mattress
  • Meditate for the love of it, not because you have to, but because you want to.  This means doing what is enjoyable to you - try pranayama, writing, saying affirmations, or drinking warm tea while you sit down in silence.
  • Keep crystals around your house to surround yourself with beauty
  • Do a tarot reading
  • Do yoga – this is an obvious one, but so many of us avoid yoga because we don't want to feel the difficult emotions we are going through.  However, feeling them is the way we can move through them.  Try a few yoga poses at home to ease back into it.
  • Turn off technology by 8 pm.  Create space to ease into sleep.
  • Make a vision board
  • Ask a girlfriend to hang out.  Take initiative with your friends.  Tell them what you're going through.
  • Invest in yourself.  Take that new yoga class, or get the massage you've been putting off.
  • Buy a box of raspberries.  Raspberries for me, feel like the most luxurious purchase.  It is expensive compared to other fruit at 5 or 6 dollars a box, but ultimately 6 dollars for a luxurious afternoon eating raspberries is worth it.
  • Buy flowers for yourself, for no reason.
  • Drink your favorite tea.
  • Use a hot water bottle.  This is a great comfort item, to have something warm with you in bed, and is also good for cramps.
  • Journal.  Try "morning pages" from The Artist’s Way.  Write three pages each morning on anything - just let it all out on the paper.
  • Give yourself a pedicure.  Wash your feet in the sink.  Put on nice lotion and paint your nails.
  • Take an Epsom salt bath.  This relaxes and soothes the muscles while removing toxins from the skin.
  • Be generous.  Take a girlfriend out for tea or make dinner for someone.  Giving takes the mind away from ourselves to come into a space of giving back.
  • Be creative.  Make a card, a collage, or a drawing.
  • Rub body butter over your body while reading the affirmations.  Try the affirmation, "I am healing my past easily and naturally now."
  • Buy something fun and new, and this doesn’t have to be expensive.  I was in Mexico last year and I bought a couple $1 woven bracelets.  They were bright and beautiful and brought me so much joy.  When I went home, I gave them to 6 friends.
  • Declutter your life.  Let go of the things you don't need.  Sell and give away things you don’t use.
  • Keep your home tidy and clean.
  • Surround yourself with plants.
  • Learn something new.  (Try picking up a new instrument and taking lessons!)
  • Write a list of your strengths.  Then ask other people what they think your strengths are.
  • Write a list of things your grateful for.
  • SING.
  • DANCE.
  • Create a new vision for yourself – write it down and read it every day.

PS.  Tonight I am back to teaching Yin Yoga at the dhyana Center in Sebastopol at 7:45 pm.  Tonight's theme is "Release Fear, Cultivate Wisdom."  If you would like to join us, click here for details.  

 

An Interview with Songstress Ayla Nereo

 
courage-ayla nereo-clarity-courage

Today I'm excited to share an interview with the singer/songwriter Ayla Nereo.  She’s another one of those courageous women I see out there sharing her gifts and inspiring those around her.

I first discovered Ayla’s music on a mixed CD my friend gave me when I lived in a little one room cabin in Berkeley. I would listen to the songs on repeat as I decorated my room and imagined what would happen in my life. 

It was a magical time.  I had just taught my very first yoga class and was just opening up to the idea of what was possible when I faced my fears, and I was about to reconnect with a boy I had once met a year and a half earlier.  (a boy who later became my current boyfriend).

As I listened to the music, I imagined Ayla as a famous musician traveling the world, someone I would probably never meet in person.  Then one day, my friend who gave me the CD said, “Ayla is playing a show at my house.  Do you want to come?”

I replied, “What?  Really?  She’s coming to Berkeley? To your house? Of course I want to come!”

I was so excited to see her sing in person.  

The same day as the concert, I had my very first date with that whimsical boy, Michael.  When I told him I was going to Ayla’s show that night he said, “Oh, me too!  She’s a good friend of mine, we went to college together and I went on tour with her last summer.  You’re going to love it, I’m so glad we can be there together.”

That night, not only did I get to sit next to Michael, but Ayla invited him to play a song before her set.  I watched as the man I was starting to fall in love with stood up to sing in front of the crowd. 

It was beautiful, and I thought of how brave he was.  Then Ayla took the stage, turned on her projector, and literal fireworks started going off on the screen behind her as she sang, “It’s Okay,” ~ my favorite song of hers at the time.

Michael came back to sit down next to me, put his hand on mine, and smiled. 

“What magic!”  I thought.

It has been so beautiful to watch Ayla’s career unfold over the last three years since that house concert in Berkeley 2011.   I have watched her consistently show up again and again to her craft and her calling. 

I remember hearing her stories of how sometimes only one or two people would show up to hear her play when she first started touring.  Now, she travels to festivals across the country, singing to crowds of hundreds, even thousands of loyal fans. 

Watching her consistently stand up and share her gifts has been an inspiration for me to stand up and share my own.  

The music was with me as I taught my first yoga class, as I fell in love and as I started to believe in myself.

I’m so grateful to know her, and to share with you her insights on the courage, trust, and action it takes to consistently show up and live your dreams.

 
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How would you describe your latest music?

Each album is an evolution of my evolution.  My latest music is an expression of that evolution, another phase, just another way the music is showing up.  It’s a little feistier, a little more fire and also more direct.  It feels like that’s what is needed in the world right now, and I am becoming more direct in how I communicate because of that.

Where does your music take you now?

It’s taking me to festivals, bigger venues, new groups of people, more diverse groups of people, and people I would say represent the masses.  At the same time, the music is asking more of me.  It’s asking me to become a clearer vehicle, especially when I perform.  The more I listen, then the farther the music takes me. 

It asks for a strong integrity in me, and lets me know if my ego gets in the way.  I have to continuously check what my relationship to the music and the world is - if I am feeling self-important about the music and wanting it to serve me or if I’m remembering that I am serving it.  It’s that difference.

When you think back to the first songs you wrote, what first prompted you to share them?

It was definitely called out of me.  The songs trickled in and I was so incredibly shy about sharing them.  At first I shared timidly around campfires at the house I lived in.  Someone would ask me to play another song and I would write another song and timidly have two friends come hear it and they would tell other people and then they would ask me to play it. 

Even the first few years of making music, it was never something I would volunteer.  I was not the person in the room to say, “I have a song to share!”  And that was part of what made me choose to make music as my career, it always felt like it was wanted.  People were asking for it, and I felt it was my responsibility to respond.  Maybe this all would have happened anyway, but I really give a lot of credit to those people in that first house where the first songs came in, because they were the ones asking me to share.  I’m grateful for that.

An image I took for Ayla and David of  Wildlight

An image I took for Ayla and David of Wildlight

What fears have you encountered and how have you faced them?

I think the biggest fear I have experienced is self-doubt.  I also encountered the fear of being seen, the fear of being a powerful woman, and the fear of not being liked, or the fear of people not liking the music, or not liking me, or the way I am giving it. 

To a big degree, with so many years of creating and sharing the music, those fears are not there anymore, but there are times they creep in, so it really takes practice.  A really simple way of undoing the fear is with prayer.

“May I step out of the way, May I receive what wants to come through, May I stand in gratitude that I get to do this.” 

So much of working through the fear is just showing up on stage and being with it,  show after show after show after show.  And then being humbled by it and learning something from it and applying it at the next show. Then doing that over and over for years...  Like anything else, practice.

What was it like playing your first concert?

My first concert was thrilling and terrifying.  

I definitely stepped up to it in stages.  I started around a campfire, then a few songs to friends at dinner parties, then my first official show was at Stanford, where I went to college.  I just remember being kind of awkward and super nervous, and yet all my friends were there, cheering me on and supporting me so much and calling in people’s attention because I didn’t have the presence of holding attention yet as an artist.  And so, they really helped do that, hollering and clapping and getting the whole crowd into it, and it ended up being really fun.  Support was a key piece. 

What is performing like for you now?

It’s so different.  I’d say I used to get nervous with butterflies, even to the point where at one time I decided I didn’t want to be a performing artist because it was too nerve-wracking.  I even said, “I will probably never tour.”  And really, through practice, I learned performance is all about vibration. 

I learned the vibration I stand in when I perform the song is literally the vibration the song would go out on.

If I am worried about what other people think or caught up in this or that fear, then that’s the vibration the music comes out on.  If I’m really grateful, happy, intentional, and surrendered, then that’s the vibration the music comes out on.

Now I don’t get nervous, it’s more about remembering what I am there to do, it is not about me, and when I remind myself that, the show is better.  If I treat it like it’s me, Ayla getting up on stage sharing with everyone, it’s a lot of pressure to try and create the best outcome for everyone from one human being.

If I let all of that go, and just remind myself that I’m not trying to do anything here, I’m just trying to receive as well as possible, then the best possible outcome that I can’t even create or conceive of by myself happens. 

What does courage mean to you?

There’s a quote I remember reading once, “Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but rather the directing of one’s attention to something else.” It’s not about battling fear or winning over fear, but it’s tending to what is important.  When that attention is so strong and direct, there is not room for fear.

We show our courage when the attention of what we do want is stronger than the fear of what we don’t want.

How do you think vulnerability fits in?

I see vulnerability as a form of courage because it’s a form of transparency and really showing ourselves.  It’s opening ourselves to others, it’s a softening, and a letting in.  I think vulnerability has been one of the ways I have began to understand courage, power, and strength.  Vulnerability is the feminine power.  It’s the ability to receive, and there’s a grace in that.

It’s definitely been one of the more humbling and beautiful teachers in my work, especially in performance, showing up in front of people on stage and letting myself be vulnerable. To not create an appearance of who I am and how I want people to see me as, but rather just show up in the beautiful simplicity of this human being, who I am.  When I can really do that, it is incredibly empowering.  When I embrace vulnerability, I feel my strongest.

What advice do you have to someone who has a dream but is stuck, afraid or doesn’t know how to take the next step?

I would say trust life.  But first, make your prayer really, really clear.  As clear as you can make it in this moment.  Ask yourself, "What do I really want?  What is my passion? and What do I desire above all else? " And, not just the external things, (and actually it’s probably best to leave those up to spirit to decide), but the internal state of what you want to experience.  I ask myself, "How do I want to feel everyday waking up?  Do I want to feel really grateful?  Really in love with my life? Am I so grateful that I have the best possible life I could have? "  

Those are the things that I pray for and ask for.  The external will create the best possible outcome to make me feel that way.  So make those prayers really, really clear and then trust that every single thing that follows is helping that prayer, even if it appears like it is taking too long, or is not a blessing.  Trust, and clarify the prayer. 

The other big piece is to move towards it in any way you possibly can.  If you want to meet the universe halfway, then you have to go halfway, and often, it’s a lot farther than you think.  If you want to sing music to people, then you need to start singing music to people and organize your own house concert.  Ask someone if you can play music at their party, or if you want to teach workshops, just start teaching to friends.  

It’s about how you are showing the universe you are committed, you really want it, and you are going to do whatever you can in this moment to move towards it. 

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What projects are you currently working on?

My latest album, Hollow Bone just came out.  There is currently a remix album being made, and I’m doing a remix contest for it. 

I’m also working on a collaboration with The Polish Ambassador and Mr. Lif, a hip hop MC and the three of us are doing a whole album together.  We’re doing a Fall tour, around the whole country, and we’re in the midst of doing a launch for that.  We are integrating permaculture and calling it “A Permaculture Action Tour.”   We have a team of people working with us that are helping us connect in to local groups in each city we go to.  On every Sunday of the tour we are going to build or plant a garden and do hands on work to benefit that community directly.  We are doing an IndieGogo to bring that permaculture team on the road with us.  There’s so much that needs to happen in the world, so we are trying to light people up, spark curiosity, interest and action with permaculture and sustainability. 

What do you consider the most important part of the work you do?

The most important part of the work I do, is what I don’t do.  It’s the things I can’t take credit for.  It’s the way that life or spirit or soul, this higher good of all beings that can come through each of us, that feels like the most important part.  If I said anything else right now, it wouldn’t be true.

If there was one thing you’d want every person to learn from your music, what would that be?

To learn how to love themselves and accept themselves completely and have their love so filled up that it extends to every human, animal and living thing on this planet.  

More love.