public speaking

073 | Your Voice & Story Matters with Johanna Walker

 
JW-Headshot 1.jpg

SUBSCRIBE ON ITUNES

I’ve had both a challenging and exhilarating relationship with public speaking - from growing up absolutely dreading it and avoiding it at all costs, to discovering that when I am finally up there and doing it, I have a lot to share, and am been able to make a meaningful impact. 

Today’s guest Johanna Walker shares her story of growing up on the more shy and quiet side only to discover the profound presence and power of her voice on stage. She went on to craft a powerful talk about her journey of navigating grief after growing older and one day realizing she would never become a mother. It was through hearing another woman’s story that she could relate to that pulled her out of the grief and into a mission of telling her own story and supporting others to do the same. She now encourages all of us to tell the stories we never thought we would want to tell because of how much they may help someone else. 

There are many powerful take-aways in today’s episode ~ I hope you enjoy it. 

In this episode we discussed: 

  • Johanna’s story of moving through grief after never having children, and how she crafted a moving talk that touched the hearts of many 

  • The power of storytelling in sharing your message 

  • How to tap into charisma and presence 

  • Johanna’s story of growing up as the quiet girl to embodying a powerful stage presence through sharing poetry and talks, to her life now as a teacher for public speaking 

  • Johanna’s process of finding your “genie gem” ~ the essence of what will make your talk most meaningful and memorable 

  • How becoming a powerful speaker influenced Johanna’s relationship to fear 

Stay in Touch with Johanna:


DSC_9317.jpg

Johanna Walker is the fear-blasting, storytelling maven for coaches, consultants, leaders, and change-makers. She’s the founder of Women Who Speak, a transformational speaker coaching program for female leaders, and she’s the co-founder and co-host of Boulder, Colorado’s popular bi-monthly story slam series, Truth Be Told. In addition to her work as a speaker and coach, Johanna has written and performed solo theater pieces that she’s toured throughout the US and Canada. She holds an M.Ed. from Kent State University, an MFA from Naropa University, and is a certified WholeSpeak Public Speaking Coach. 

 

What I Said At My Grandmother's Memorial

 
FullSizeRender.jpg

Ever since I was a child I've been traveling to Northern Minnesota to visit my grandmother and spend time at my family's cabin on the lake.

But a few months ago, my grandmother passed away after a stroke. I went back to Minnesota this summer, for a very different reason. To honor her passing, and to speak at her memorial service.

I signed up to speak thinking I would be sharing stories and kind words to a few close family and friends. Then the night before getting on the airplane, I dreamt I would be speaking in front of many, many more people.

I guess I wasn't surprised when I arrived in Minnesota to find out 150 people had RSVP'ed to her memorial service. (gulp).

I hadn't written a speech, I didn't know what I was going to say, but I knew this was a divine opportunity, and I wasn't going to pass it up.

I realized my grandmother was leaving me with one final gift, to share my voice.

Somehow throughout my life, I have been put in situations again and again where I am invited on a stage to speak in front of many people. And almost every time it has scared the pants off of me.

But as many of you know, over the last few years I have been coming more and more into the power of my voice. Again and again I have learned to trust in myself.

So, the day before her service, the words came, and I knew what I was going to say.

All the familiar nervous feelings came up in my body right before I went up to speak - the intensity of having all those eyes on me, the amount of energy and adrenaline running through my veins...

But this time, I welcomed it all. I breathed through it. I saw this intensity of energy as a reminder of my power. I told myself, I trust in my voice.

And I spoke.

While I was up there, it felt so natural. It felt like it was exactly where I was supposed to be. It felt like spirit was with me and I was honoring the divine gift of my voice.

But what I didn't expect was what would happen afterwards. Person after person came up to me to say how my words had touched them.

One woman even came up to tell me, "Your words make me want to be a better grandmother. Really."

When a friend of my grandmother asked me if I would type up what I said and email it to her, I decided to also share these words with you too, because somehow, even though you probably didn't know my grandmother, these words feel important, and I think they speak to a larger message and maybe, it's a message you need to hear at this time.

Find the words below.

With love, 
Meredith


When my grandmother passed she began coming to me in my dreams. In every one of these dreams she was dressed from head to toe in one of her finest matching outfits, wearing bright red lipstick, as we all remember her.

And in these dreams, she was holding a gift. It was carefully wrapped with my name on it. But in the dream I never actually got to the moment of opening the gift.

In my waking life, this made me start thinking about all the gifts my grandmother had given to me in my life...

As a child they were gifts of joy and sweetness. Of birthday cards, warm christmas cookies, blueberry and my personal favorite, chocolate silk pie.

As I grew older she shared with me the gifts of dedication and attention to detail as she taught me how to sew and to knit. She showed me through her own love and commitment the beauty she could create with her hands.

As a young woman she shared gifts of courage and strength. She showed me I could face my fears.

I'll always remember the time my sister and I arrived at her house to her saying, "Girls, I think there's a mouse in my room, come help me get it out!"

Grammy was already losing her eyesight at this point, and that mouse turned out to be a bat, hanging right on the edge of her bed.

Grammy went to get a ski glove and told us to pick up the bat and throw it out the window.

My sister and I looked at each other. "You throw it out! No you!" While we pushed the glove back and forth to each other, Grammy put on the other glove, picked up the bat and threw it out the window.

"There's nothing to be afraid of girls!" she smirked.

But in her passing, my grandmother gave me much deeper gifts, gifts of self-reflection and self-inquiry.

In the final days of holding her hand, I remembered the preciousness of life.

I remembered that one day I too shall pass.

And I asked myself, "How do I wish to live?"

"Do I want to be held back by fear or resentment?"

"Or do I want to live each day with love, forgiveness, and generosity?"

I asked myself: 

Am I doing everything I want to?

Have I spoken up and told the ones I love how I feel?

Is there anything I should let go of that no longer serves me?

Is there anywhere I am postponing or holding back?

I believe every one of us is here with a divine gift to give in this life.

Are you fully honoring yours?

Or are there dreams left unfulfilled? Or words left unspoken?

My grandmother gave me many gifts in my life - gifts that went far beyond the physical and material.

Take a moment to look around. Every one of us here have been touched by this woman's life in some way. And she remains to be an anchor in this community, bringing us together.

Today, I invite you to reflect upon the gifts this amazing woman may have brought to your life and I ask you, to go out and share your gifts with others.


The Sovereign Circle ~ Last Chance to Join!

If you've been on the fence and want to take time to explore more about this opportunity sign up for a call here.

If you are ready to step into the fullness of sharing your gifts, join us in this 7-month sisterhood. The program includes monthly private coaching with me ~ an intuitive, loving and supportive guide. Someone you can strategize with, address and clear limiting beliefs or blocks that have been holding you back so you can truly shine in the radiance of who you are and all the offerings you have to share.

 

Mary Magdalene & The Courage to Be Seen

 
IMG_1992.JPG

Have your palms ever broke a sweat at the thought of being the center of attention? Have you ever felt timid to share your voice? Or afraid of what would happen if you really let your true self be seen?

For much of my life I experienced intense anxiety around being seen, especially when it came to public speaking. It felt like my body would shut down in these situations, my chest would constrict and I would have trouble breathing, so as any young girl probably would, I stopped putting myself in the situations where I would have to speak or share in public.

But when I think back on this fear that I carried through high school and college, it always felt so much deeper than just the normal nerves of public speaking or being the center of attention. It was a deep visceral feeling that something terrible would happen if I really let myself step up to share in the way I was feeling called. 

For the last seven years of my life have been focused on understanding and releasing this deep rooted fear. I began with beginning to teach yoga back in 2010 and then took bigger steps by joining toastmasters to give speeches in 2014.  But even though I did well and even excelled in these areas, underneath I still felt a palpable fear of “I might just die if I do this."

Now, I want to write about this today because in the past few months I have noticed something big shifting for myself and others. I have continued to take steps to face my fear, showing up to interviews to talk about my book, teaching more yoga and leading events where I share my story, but it has been completely different. That visceral feeling of “something terrible is going to happen to me if I do this” hasn't been there.

At first I told myself, "Well it's because I've been spending years practicing this..." but to be totally honest, I think the real reason this deep rooted fear is lifting is because of Mary Magdalene.

I first began to learn about the truth of Mary’s life after meeting Kaia Ra at one of her book readings for The Sophia Code last year.

All I knew about Mary Magdalene growing up was that she was close to Jesus during his life, and that she was often portrayed by the Catholic church as a prostitute. I remember an image I saw of her when I was a child - she was depicted as dirty and haggard, kneeling next to Jesus to wash his feet.

But the truth is, Mary Magdalene was a Priestess. She had a very high role of anointing, and that image of touching Jesus’ feet was actually a moment where she was using sacred oils to anoint him in a highly revered act.

As I have dove into books and channeled teachings about Mary Magdalene, I have learned she was Jesus’ wife and she was a complete equal to him. She would teach beside Jesus during her lifetime. Her image was tainted after her death because the church took out many stories from the Bible that portrayed the divine feminine as a powerful force. For centuries, the feminine was suppressed. 

When Jesus was crucified, there was a prophecy that there would be 2000 years of darkness, and after that time, the divine feminine would rise to restore her place again alongside the divine masculine.

This is the time we are in right now. I've read about many prophecies that after 2012 it would be the beginning of a new golden age. 

Right now, a new paradigm is being midwifed by Mary Magdalene and many other ascended masters to restore the sacred feminine in our collective consciousness. And what I have been noticing in this incredible time is: it is safe for women to be powerful and share their voices.

To affirm this belief, last year our Pope declared Mary Magdalene as “the apostle of the apostles.” She has now finally been recognized by the Catholic Church as one of the highest teachers of her time, right alongside Jesus Christ. 

The energy of Mary Magdalene began coming to me more and more in conversations, books, in imagery, and in my meditations. Every time I thought of her, I felt a sense of peace and ease.

Then I attended a women’s circle to learn more about Mary Magdalene. The leader of the circle told us that Mary Magdalene carried an ancient wound during her lifetime: the fear of being stoned for being visible and sharing her voice. She said this deep rooted fear was passed down through many centuries, and that many women still feel the weight of that wound today. 

Every hair on my body raised when she said this because finally I had an answer to explain my fear - I just knew I was connected to this ancient wound. I imagined myself as a High Priestess in a past life, in the lineage of Isis and Mary Magdalene, and I just knew in my bones that I had been carrying this wound that it just was not safe to be seen.  

I then realized that in stepping up to be seen and share my voice now, I am healing the lineage of women who for centuries carried this same wound.

Mary Magdalene has been coming to many, many men and women in the dawn of this new age to help us birth this new paradigm.  She is letting us know it is safe now. The feminine is safe now. It is safe to share our voice. It is safe to be a powerful feminine leader. 

So what is being asked of us now in this time? We are being asked to restore the feminine within ourselves. To learn how to receive, to rest, and to simply be. We are learning to honor our bodies, our emotions and our sexuality as sacred. We are relearning the ways of the feminine, and by restoring these qualities within ourselves, we are doing our part on behalf of a much greater awakening.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and to reach the bottom of this email. If you are here reading this, I imagine you may have a connection to Mary Magdalene as well, whether you know it consciously or not. I want you to know that you are safe, and she is here for you, guiding us from the higher realms.

Do you feel the shifting in this time? Do you feel called to restore the balance of our culture by honoring the sacred feminine within?

I will be sharing more teachings of Mary Magdalene as part of my upcoming program, The Sovereign Circle. There are still spaces left to join, and we begin with our first live virtual circle with the next full moon on October 4th. Reply to this email if you'd like more details, and I'll send you the program guide.

With love,
Meredith

 

3 Characteristics of Charismatic People

 

When I first joined a Toastmasters group I was a little taken aback at how nice everybody was to me.  The other members went out of their way to get to know me, ask about my interest in improving as a speaker and make me feel at home in an environment where I felt uneasy meeting so many new people.  

I felt so good leaving that first meeting that I went back again and again until I eventually joined.  Sometimes I wondered what made this group so inviting to be around...

Then last week, I learned their secret: charisma.

After our meeting one of the members started telling me about the 3 most important characteristics of charismatic people.  As he spoke them, it made total sense to me, "This is how these people are approaching their life, everyday," I thought.

I've been applying these principles for the last few days and it has made a huge difference in my interactions. 

I feel more confident meeting new people, have less social anxiety, and am making more genuine connections.  I am walking away from conversations feeling really good.

Since these have made such a difference in my life, I wanted to share them with you today so you can start having more uplifting conversations and interactions right away...

3 Characteristics of Charismatic People

1. Unrelenting Positivity

When people have the ability to see the bright side in any situation, it benefits everybody around them.

I love being around positive people because they are holding a higher vibration - a vibration that will attract more good into their lives.  

Through meditation and awareness of my thoughts, I've been able to catch myself when I start going down a negative spiral.  I now easily bring myself back to the moment and remember what's going right in my life and what I'm grateful for.  

2. Child-like Awe and Wonder

It is a gift to see the world through a child's eyes.  There is so much appreciation for the little things:  the butterfly that lands on the flower, the birds singing in the morning, the warmth of the sun shining on your face.  

I've been bringing more child-like awe and wonder into my life by spending time with my cat, Quan Yin.  In the early evenings we've been walking into the back field together to watch the sunset.  I love watching her excitement as I give her my full attention and let her lead the way.  Then, when she rolls on her back, waiting for me to pet her belly, I can't help but smile in appreciation.

3. A Genuine Care For Others

I used to unconsciously worry about how I was being perceived, wondering if others were going to like me.  I realize that way of thinking just took me out of the present moment and left me feeling empty after an interaction.  

Now I am focusing on, "How can I make this person feel like the most important person in the room?"  

It completely changes the energy.

A huge part of charisma is genuinely caring and wanting the best for other people.  This shifts the energy off of me and to the person I am talking to.  Since I've brought this awareness to my conversations, we both leave feeling better than before.

These principles have also affected my speaking and yoga teaching.  

If I got up in front of a group and worried about what the audience was thinking of me the whole time, I would miss out on making an authentic connection, and probably leave feeling like I could have done better.

However, if I can focus on what I want to GIVE and how I want to make the people in the room FEEL, then it is always a win - win situation.

Do you ever find yourself uncomfortable in social situations or getting stuck in your head when meeting someone new?  

I invite you to try out this technique this week.  AND - I'd love to hear how it goes for you in the comments below.

With love, 
Meredith

 

What My Cat Taught Me About Abundance

 

Last December I put on my high heels and red lipstick to go to a fancy holiday party at a beautiful modern home in Penngrove, CA.

However, this wasn't just any normal holiday party.  This was a Toastmasters holiday party, a public speaking group I have been a part of for the last year.  Three people were prepared to give a speech that night, and one of them was me. 

After much practicing in the back field of my home, I felt ready.  I was excited.  As I put on my jewelry and curled my hair, I reflected back on how much I had grown in just one year.

I remembered standing terrified looking out at the audience at a podium in front of thirty or forty people the first time I stood up to speak in front of this group.  Despite the fear of that first moment, I knew I was ready to grow, ready to face the fear, and over the last year, I have.  

Public speaking has become more and more familiar, and through putting myself on center stage, I have learned so much about myself and the craft of captivating an audience.

Over the last year, I realized there was a girl inside of me, ready to be SEEN, to be LOUD, ready to STAND UP and share her voice.

I was encouraged every step of the way by this amazing group of people of all ages and from all walks of life.  I delivered my speech, "The Gifts of Giving" at the Holiday party that nightand was on a total high.

Then just a few weeks ago, I was looking at the voice memos on my phone and discovered my boyfriend Michael had recorded the whole thing!

At first I felt shy about sharing it, but realized this magical story of giving and receiving could be inspiring for you to break free from scarcity and believe in the beauty, magic, and abundance all around you.  So here I am sharing it with you...

The speech is only 8 minutes long, so I hope you take some time to listen above.  You'll also learn how I ended up with a magical cat on my doorstep...

Warmly, Meredith

P.S.  Do you feel called to be seen and share your voice?  11 beautiful women will be joining me in Bali, Indonesia this May to do just that.  I will be sharing the practices that have helped me deeply connect to my intuition as well as tools for rising into leadership.  There are now only 2 spaces left in the Rising Women Leaders Bali Retreat.  If you have interest in joining us, apply now. <3

Photo by In Her Image Photography

 

Permission to Be Fearless

 
courage-divine-feminine-overcome anxiety

Last month on the Winter Solstice, I was invited to sing in front of 150 people. I arrived, a little nervous, but confident in my offering. I sat with my harmonium, poised with a microphone near my mouth and my instrument. I welcomed the group into a meditation and began to sing, "Ong Namo Gurudev Namo."

I finished the song feeling proud. I did it, I thought. The moment I had been anticipating for weeks was over. I did it. The brief moment in time felt so surreal.

I realized that if I had been asked to sing in front of a group this size a year ago, I would have been terrified. Expressing myself through my voice, especially singing, has been one of life's biggest challenges and greatest gifts.

I remember struggling to introduce myself in front of a small group of people in high school and freaking out before presentations in college. I always felt like a deer in the headlights and struggled to find my breath and voice.

The fear of sharing my voice was actually what inspired me to become a yoga teacher. I remember admiring my teacher in New York, gracefully walking across the room while powerfully commanding the yogis from one pose to the next. Could I ever be like that? I thought.

I was introduced to the harmonium by another yoga teacher, Kimber Simpkins, who opened and closed every class singing with the harmonium. As I began to use my voice, I felt the vibration in my body and began to discover the sound inside me. As I watched her, confident and poised, I again asked, Could I ever be like that?

Soon after discovering Kimber's classes, I fell in love with a musician. Watching him sing so beautifully in front of a crowd brought out all the insecurities inside me.

Every time I went to watch him perform, I felt more nervous than he did. I realized this fear was telling me something: maybe it was time for me to share my voice. I then discovered this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:

"Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down."

I began to make small steps to face the fear. First, I started teaching yoga classes. Every time I stood in front of the room as a teacher, I became more confident in myself and my voice. Each step I took to face the fear gave me the courage to go further.

I remember the first time I sang in front of my boyfriend, terrified at what he would think. My fingers were shaking on the guitar. I had him close his eyes because I felt so exposed. It was uncomfortable, yes, but I survived, and in the end, I received praise. I felt proud of myself.

That sense of pride kept me going.

My boyfriend encouraged me to step out of my shell. One night, I asked if he would sing with me around the fire at a friend's house. I felt the nervousness arise as I held the guitar, but I sang anyway. It wasn't perfect, but again, I was praised.

A few months later, I was at a full moon ceremony to release fear. As each person spoke, I knew this was the step I needed to take again and again to develop my strength. In the ceremony, I shared the fears I carried around my voice and did the thing that scared me most: I sang with the harmonium in front of the entire group.

There I was, years later, embodying the teachers I had looked up to most.

Every time I faced my fear and shared my voice, a new door opened from the universe. Opportunities and invitations came, and my confidence grew.  Eventually, I was led to the sacred moment at the Winter Solstice to share my voice with more people than I ever had before.

Every step of the way, I was being prepared.

Every step of the way, I had to trust myself that I was ready...

Through that trust, I have seen the universe open doors for me that I am ready for. I see women all around me answering the call to rise up in their power, their divine femininity and their voice. I have answered the call and am now encouraging other women to feed the flames, discover their power and stand strong in their voices.

If you are out there and have ever felt afraid to speak up, afraid to sing, or afraid to share, know that you're not alone.  I've been there and I can tell you from my experience: when opportunity comes knocking, trust in it. The universe is only going to present you with opportunities you are ready for; you can say yes, even when there is fear.

Your voice is ready.

Deep down, you know it is.  All you have to do is say yes.