Have you ever felt like you’re living a life that isn’t truly yours? Maybe you long to uncover the most authentic version of yourself, the one that’s laid hidden beneath layers of expectations and societal norms? Or, maybe you ever feel trapped in a never-ending cycle of change and growth without ever really getting where you want to be or feeling the way you want to feel. What if I told you that there’s a process to the feeling of emergence, a journey to be embraced? And that it was steeped not in rigidity or force, but in poetry and grace.
In today’s conversation, interwoven with live, spoken word performances, poet, spoken word phenom, author, actor, and artist, Arielle Estoria, guides us through a journey she calls The Unfolding. Arielle has shared her work with Google, Lululemon, Tedx, and more, and her passion for empowering women to feel at home in their own bodies and lives has resonated with countless individuals. Her latest book, named after the seasons of liberation she writes and speaks and invites us into – “The Unfolding” – is a beautiful collection of poems, essays, and meditations that guide us through this transformative process.
In our conversation, Arielle introduces us to:
- The Awakening: The crucial moment of self-realization.
- The Eclipsing: The darkest times when we confront the shadows of struggle.
- The Mending: The delicate art of piecing ourselves back together.
- The Illuminating: The time when we finally let light in and gain new perspectives.
- The Returning: The culmination of our journey, where we find wholeness and peace.
In this intimate conversation with Arielle, she shares her personal experiences of pain and growth, and reveals how we can all learn to embrace a process of Unfolding, of coming home to ourselves, in our own lives. And, along the way, she also recites some beautiful, deeply-evocative poems that I know you won’t want to miss.
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Arielle Estoria[00:00:00] Deep waters. The awakening the ocean does not apologize for the space that it takes up. It does not make excuses for the depths that most people cannot handle. It cannot help but drown those who are not ready to submerge beneath its fathomless waves. Let this two be a lesson to us that we may expand as far as we need to not apologize for the way the others are not ready to submerge into our waters.
For those who might tell us to come back to shore, when we’ve always known we were made shaped, created for deep waters. So, have you ever felt that you’re living a life that isn’t truly yours? Maybe you long to uncover the most authentic version of yourself, the one that’s laid, hidden beneath layers of expectations and societal norms.
Or maybe you’ve really just feel trapped in a [00:01:00] never-ending cycle of changing growth without ever really getting where you wanna be, or feeling the way you wanna feel. Well, what if I told you that there was process to the feeling of emergence, a journey to embrace, and that it was steeped not in rigidity or force, but in poetry and grace?
Well, in today’s conversation, poet, spoken word, phenomen, author, actor, and artist, Arielle Astoria, guides us through a journey she calls the unfold. And Ariel has shared her work with Google Lululemon, TEDx, and more. Her passion for empowering women to feel at home in their own bodies and lives has resonated with countless individuals and her latest book named After the Seasons of Liberation, she writes and speaks and invites us into the unfolding is a beautiful collection of poems and essays and meditations that guide us through this transformative process.
In our conversation today, Ariel introduces us to the awakening, which is this crucial moment of self realization, the [00:02:00] eclipsing some of the dark moments in our lives that we need to move through the mending, the delicate art of piecing ourselves back together again, the illuminating the time when we finally let light in and gain new perspectives and what she calls the returning, the culmination of our journey where we find our wholeness and peace.
In this really beautiful and intimate conversation with Arielle, she shares her personal experiences of pain, of growth, and reveals how we can all learn to embrace a process of unfolding in our own lives, of coming home to ourselves. So excited to share this conversation with you. I’m Jonathan Fields, and this is Good Life Project.
So as we’re having this conversation, you are well into this really wonderful career in spoken word as a poet, an author, speaker, and also acting. It’s kind of like a fascinating portfolio. Mm-hmm. , thank you. Of forms of expression of your humanity, of your [00:03:00] artistry. And I and I, I kinda wanna dive into those a bit.
Let’s take a little bit of a step backwards. You grow up in the Bay Area, the daughter or a pastor’s kid, but interestingly also, While I’ve heard you describe your, your early life that way, some of the writings, especially the poetry and the essays in your newest book, it really, it dives into like even the fundamental notion of, but my mom was actually a part of this church, in this community and this tradition as well.
Yeah. Yet, um, your dad went by the moniker, a pastor, your mom, teacher, and I’d love to tease that out because it seems like this has been a journey that you’ve been on, sort of like grappling with faith, spirituality, um, and also a sense of how different traditions treat different people and it that manifested and showed up in your own family.
Absolutely. My parents grew up pretty evangelical, just across the board. And then my dad and my mom actually both completed seminary at Golden Gate Theological Seminary, which is [00:04:00]now here in Southern California actually. But it was a Baptist seminary, so it wasn’t until that point that we started to carry that denomination and what that denomination specifies as the rule of men and the role of of women.
And I watched both my parents navigate this journey fairly at the same time, doing the same thing, learning the same things. And yet when it came to you, Conferences when it came to the platform my mom could have versus the one my dad could have. It was very much so she could teach, um, and she could teach two other women, but she can’t speak over men.
She can’t be in the same con, you know, and speaking over. And if she does, it’s um, probably just a prayer or she’s just working with the kids’ ministry. And so I watched that all the while I’m in an arts high school, you know, I’m constantly finding myself on stages on platforms. So there was this contradicting moment where I was watching this suppression while I was [00:05:00] walking forward into this path of being exactly where they were suppressing.
And I remember going to a conference where they announced a female speaker, pastor Reverend, and he corrected himself. He said, you know, we’re gonna bring up teacher so-and-so, and I was like, but what? She’s not doing anything different from all the men who are up here except she has boobs. Like I, I genuinely don’t see the difference here.
And so I watched all these moments where I, I realized how much I didn’t fit in the denomination I had grown up with. And then that obviously trickled into a lot of other aspects about sexuality and queer identity and all these other places and spaces that I found myself surrounded in that did not fit this very small box or this very small table of invitation.
And I learned very quickly who I was. I was meant to be on stage. You know, I had really thought it for a very long time, but I knew even more so that that was the path that [00:06:00] I was stepping on and how much that contradicted what I was raised with and what I was taught to believe was my place. . Yeah. I mean, grappling with that at a young age, I think it’s so interesting because so often when you’re in a family or community where faith is centered in it.
Mm-hmm. , it’s not just a practice or it’s not just this thing that you do on the society, it’s really, it’s a, it’s a part of the identity and especially when you build family culture and community culture around that tradition. It’s almost like rebelling against that or saying like, maybe this isn’t for me anymore, or maybe I need to step into it differently.
You’re not just saying that about the tradition. There are repercussions that that ripple out into the family. Yeah. Into the community. Yeah. Which I think is why so many people actually just kind of keep on keeping on without really doing what you did and said, I need to really grapple with this myself and make my own choices.
Yeah. Well, it got to the point where I could no longer. Reconcile existing and pieces [00:07:00] for the sake of upholding a conditional acceptance, love and belonging. It got to the point where that was more exhausting being half of myself just to be loved in the pieces of me anyway. And so it definitely is a huge part of not only what I was raised to believe, what I was taught, what I was exposed to, but it was very much so an ingrained aspect of who I am.
And I still identify as a person of faith, but they’re that tethering to it, that chain aspect to it. I’ve definitely released significantly. I mean, it’s in all of our names. That’s how ingrained this has been in our identity. My parents very much so instilled that this was a namesake. It wasn’t just a belief system or a thought process.
It, it was a namesake. And so Relle is, it means line of God. It’s a Hebrew, um, mostly male name and each of my siblings have names that represent some type of connection and spirituality to God. [00:08:00] So it was very much so you are this before you are anything else. So having to relearn and embody what it means to be a black woman and a person of faith.
You know, what it means to be, you know, a woman in a relationship and a like a body and this. And so there wasn’t a whole lot of, and conversation. So that was my unfolding full date, , adding the and to what was happening because I was only given one side of the story. Yeah. And you just shared that, that phrase, um, the unfolding, which is also the name of your new book and it’s a process too.
And no one actually run really dive into that. . But I also wanna pick up on something that you were talking about earlier, which is this notion that you had a sense from the earliest days that you were meant to be on stage. Mm-hmm. , how does that sense, um, manifest in you? It was less of a sense and more of a, a physicality that my younger self embodied everywhere.
If you ever have a chance, I don’t know why you would, but if you ever had a chance to go and look at our home videos, there’s always this little raspy girl in the [00:09:00] background who’s like, daddy, look at me. You know, I had the feather bowa, I had the little plastic microphone from the dollar store when it used to be just the dollar sore and plastic keels.
And I would find any elevated platform in the house, whether that be a staircase or an entryway, where I could make a stage and I would make up songs. And I, and I had a persona, I don’t know where she came from. I don’t know how I got came up this name, but I called myself Erica Wallace. That’s how I identified, um, as this young person who just wanted to put on a show and.
I always say I kind of am now embodying whoever Erica Wallace was to my younger self, and so it was less of a sense and more of like, I know I made to take up this space and then obviously getting older, you know, insecurities creeping in, conditionings on how I can and cannot show up as a creative, as an artist, as a woman, as a speaker.
All of those started to like bury this awareness of, [00:10:00] I’m Erica Wallace, I’m meant to be on these spaces. I’m meant to be on these stages. But there was something in me as a younger, as a little girl who knew this is where I was going and now I’m back to it. But it definitely took a rerouting for sure.
Yeah, I mean it seems like when like that’s a part of you then you, when you head into college, you actually end up studying psychology, but also acting sort of, but I guess psych was more of like the essential focus and you were doing all this work potentially thinking about art therapy with kids. Yeah.
And I know you were working with kids on the spectrum as well, so it seems like you were heading in a very different direction. Very much so. And then you ended up, I, I think also just even working in the university for a short time, but then the, you, you make this left turn or, or maybe we should call it a return, right?
Sure. What happens in there that makes you say, you know what? I need to actually get back to who I am and it’s not the way that I’m showing up or the work that I’m doing right now. Yeah. So I had gone to an arts high school actually, and that was the first time that I was given space to be [00:11:00]practical and creative at the same time.
Hmm. I’m the oldest child, you know, oldest of five, so I have a lot of eyes watching me. Um, I tend to be very responsible, very organized, and I’m a left and a right brain creative. So as much as I wanna be creative and, and have, you know, freedom to do what I wanna do with what I’m creating, I also kind of want a skeleton and I kind of want a little bit of structure and then let me free from there.
And so, going to an arts high school was the first time I got this taste of educational inartistic. And our school setting in high school was set up like a college. So we were in school with academics from eight to 12. We had lunch from 12 to one, and then we were in our emphasis from one to four 30, sometimes five.
And then if you were in a show, you were at school till nine, 10 o’clock at night. And so I got this little glimpse of what it meant to be on stage and to tap into my creative aspects. I have been an actor before I was a poet, acting kind of became [00:12:00] the spearhead in poetry. Kind of stemmed from that. And then I got to college and I was like, okay, how do I keep this practical and artistic lessons with me?
And I still knew I wanted to study psychology. I knew that whether I was gonna be a doctor in a, like a more clinical setting, I knew that I wanted to understand people better because no matter what I did, I was gonna be working with and around people. And then I fell in love with more studies around kids.
Like you had mentioned, I’m in focus more on art therapy. I was like, okay, I’m not gonna be an artist. I still was very much so at a point where I’m like, I’m not gonna be an artist, but how can I twinkle things in and still get paid, you know, still have benefits. And I did that up until my junior year. I ended up dropping my double major in theater because I was like, I’m not gonna be on stage.
And I had maybe like two or three credits left and I was like, oh, I’m not gonna be on stage. And the moment I did that is when spoken word came more into the picture and I just was like, didn’t I just say I wasn’t gonna be [00:13:00] on stage? And that was all throughout college. I was still doing leadership. I was still working at the university and still thinking, oh, I’m gonna work at a university.
That’s what’s it for me? That’s the calling. And then by the time I graduated in 2015, this art space, these creative things just kept popping up. And I was like, I think I have to. Give this some attention for it to go away. You know, like, I gotta entertain this so it can leave me alone. . And obviously it’s been since 2015 that I’ve been fully freelance in writing.
In speaking, I’ve been a teaching artist, um, for nonprofits that work with, um, inner city schools and kids incarcerated. I’ve been to New York working with Rikers, um, women in prison for two weeks doing a poetry event with them. So it’s just been this very full thing and it wasn’t just, let me just entertain this so I can go away.
It was clearly, oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. It just took me a very long time [00:14:00] to get there. Yeah, one of those like, we make plans and god laughs type of thing. Yes, exactly. It’s like, yes. Like, oh so silly . You can think this is just to like get it out of your system, but no, that’s not actually what’s about to happen.
Um, Was there a moment along the way, like in the last eight years or so where you’ve been, you started out literally just to get this out of you, and then it actually becomes your, your central devotion, your living. Was there a moment along the way where you start out saying, okay, so let me just sort of like get through this so I can go and do the work that I’m supposed to do.
Was there a moment where you’re kind of like, oh, wait a minute, this is the work? Yes. Or was it just sort of like this gradual e. It was very quickly, I think with the way it snowballed so much where it was just thing after thing, there was no room for me to stop and pivot anywhere else. Um, and there have been moments where I’ve been like, okay, works a little slow.
So worked at the anthropology for a season, you know, and I, and I nad and, and did all these little [00:15:00] side things I’ve gotten really good at, at my side hustles. Um, and so there were moments where I just picked up a little something, but that was just to keep me and carrying on with what I was doing. I lived with a family and they’re now five kids.
I lived in their attic, um, so that I could pay a little rent, watch the kids and be traveling and be doing all these different things. So it was very quickly I realized, oh, This is the work, you know? Um, it was very instant being able to be on stages and, um, it was my senior year actually, I got to speak at our, um, senior Speaks Chapel.
And I remember getting off stage and just sending like this little nugget, this little prayer, like, okay, if this is what you want me to do for the rest of my life, I think I could, you know, or I would, I would, and I just kind of left it. And then, and then very quickly, shortly after that is when, yeah, I just kept going on this snowball and then I very much so.
I don’t want a boss, you know, like, I don’t, I don’t want people [00:16:00] telling me what to do. As I was going in and out of these jobs where I did have bosses, I was like, yeah, I think I’m good on that part. So that quickly became the motivator. I don’t love being told what to do, so let me just keep it on this path.
I love that. I’ve heard you say in the past, actually to a, a friend of mine, um, you used the phrase, I’ve professionalized being a tornado of a human being. . Absolutely. Because, I mean, I feel chaotic 90% of the time. And even just my resume of things that I do, people are like, what is a week to week look like for you?
And I’m like, it really depends on what role I’m carrying. You know, this is the month of being the author Ariel, um, and going to some castings here and there. So a lot of interviews and, and getting the book out and things like that. But I definitely feel chaotic 99% of the time. Definitely a human tornado for sure.
Yeah. But it seems like you’re. Some people move into that space and either they create it or like, you know, the [00:17:00] circumstances around them create it or it’s some blend of it. Most people, when they’re in that state, they do anything they can to get out of it, to lock down as much of what they can, um, to create certainty.
But it sounds like you are almost actively generating the opposite. You’re generating that swirl, the chaos, the all sorts of things happening all at once, which makes me curious. Whenever that happens often it’s because it’s serving a purpose. Do you feel like having this swirl happen all around you serves a generative or a creative or a constructive purpose for you?
Yeah, I mean, I ultimately, I think it’s how I’ve built this life and this career that I get to live off of, and there’s never a dull moment. I genuinely appreciate that there’s never a dull moment, and that at any point in time an inquiry can be in my inbox and my whole week will shift, you know, or my whole month will shift.
I love that, and I think there’s still a [00:18:00] consistency to it if it makes sense, like there’s still this through line, um, that I, I feel for myself, even though it may not look as through line to everyone else or it’s connected to everyone else, um, there’s still a rhythm to it and I don’t. , even though I might feel a little bit busy at times, I don’t tend to feel too overwhelmed.
And if I do, that means I’m doing too much, then I need to scale back. But usually I feel very, like I’m just popping into one space in another and it doesn’t feel all over the place. It feels, um, very serendipitous, very connected. And so we’re most might feel quite overwhelmed. , you know, by the too many different pieces for me.
They’ve always felt very streamlined and very connected and I don’t feel like I’m all over the place cuz it’s still me just tapping into various aspects that I’m passionate and excited about. Yeah. I love that. And you just used a word that I don’t hear used very often, but I love the word also, which is serendipity.
Mm-hmm. . And [00:19:00] I’m curious what, what your take is on this. I feel like when we seek security, when we seek to always know what’s coming next, when we create the plans. Yeah. And sort of like stick to them that so often we don’t even realize. Part of what we’re doing is we’re eliminating this space for serendip.
you know, when we kind of know 90% of what’s coming our way. Absolutely. That absolutely. There’s very little opportunity to actually, for those random conversations or moments or opportunities to drop in and for you to even, yeah. Even if you create space for them to drop into your orbit, you probably don’t have the space to say yes to them and pursue them.
So serendipity, I feel like it’s just, it’s this amazing thing that adds magic and grace to our lives that we almost entirely carve out without realizing we’re doing that. And our, our concept of time has, has built that for us. There’s actually two types of time within Greek mythology. There’s Cairos and there’s K Chronos.
We live in a very chronos way of living. We have our clocks, we have our [00:20:00] timers, we have our calendar. There’s order there. But I’ve often learned that our control of time and our control just in general of the things around us, were, are just an extension of fear, a tactic of fear, because, you know, that’s an anxiety coping mechanism to watch the same show over and over and over again because there’s no surprises.
And I think we do that a lot of times in our own life. Let me just control this. Let me eat the same things. Let me go to the same places, let me be around the same type of people and nothing shifts because it can be scary when it shifts. And then there’s the kairos way of existing Kairos leaves room for the whimsy.
It leaves room for the serendipitous. And we don’t, we don’t plan in control every single moment. And I think for, for me, in this life I built, it is mostly built of chiros. It is mostly existence of leaving room, of saying yes and genuinely not knowing. Where I’m going, [00:21:00] who I’m working with all the time, and not just leaving so much room for opportunity and for connection.
And I find that that is where I have built something so beautiful. And then there’s some organization that has to come in because there’s deadlines and there’s things like that. I think for the most part, um, my silver lining has always been this kairos way of being open to the yes, of being willing and ready for whatever may come.
Because I think most of my career has been built off of the whimsy and serendipitous doors, and I’m very thankful for them. , do you feel like you’re just sort of innately wired to be okay and even thrive and flourish in that place? Or are there practices or strategies or tools that you lean on mm-hmm.
to be able to kind of like touch stone and still be able to like, take long comfortable breaths and, and find peace when there’s a whole lot of swirl, you know, like much of which is intentionally created because, you know, like within that lies opportunity. [00:22:00] Right. I think it’s definitely a habit building.
Um, yeah. I’ve been doing this, uh, quite a few years now, so the turbulence feels a little less turbulent. Yeah. Now that I’m a little used to it, you know, I remember. The first couple of summers of freelancing and it, it tends to get very quiet in the summertime before you start to get into the holiday season.
And I used to always, always freak out in the summer. I used to tell my friends I was moving home. I used to think I was gonna go get a full-time job. Like summers were rough. Now I’ve just learned if I can and I can financially afford it to rest a little in the summer to allow that to be my reclaimed time, to allow that to be my time, to just be with family and be with my partner.
And so it definitely is habit building. It’s something I’ve had to exercise and not be so afraid of the different ways that often freelance and, and being your own, you know, Boston being an entrepreneur can sometimes provide. And so definitely habit building. And now [00:23:00] having a partner who really grounds me.
Mm-hmm. , um, in a lot of the ups and downs because I, I am still in Enneagram four. I tend to be fairly dramatic in my response to things, and he is just such a constant and so he kind of brings me back and levels me out a little bit. But I think habit building and realizing like, okay, this is not as extreme or detrimental as I can, as I am making it seem, or even more so, um, what can I learn?
What can I be here in this slower time, in this softer space for myself and not allow myself to freak out mm-hmm. as a result of it every time. . Yeah. So it’s a com a combination of, um, of building habits and also just having been through the cycle enough times that, you know, there’s actually a rhythm to it.
Right. And rather than fight against it, just say, let me know it’s coming. Let me prepare for it. Yeah. And let me actually take advantage of it, knowing this is the fallow time and this is where we rest. And that’s actually a good thing. As long as you sort of like, you see it coming and you know you’re prepared for [00:24:00] it.
Absolutely. You used this phrase, the unfolding earlier in our conversation also, which also happens to be the name of your new book. And last eight years or so, you’re out there and a lot of what you do is you being present in a room on stage or virtually, you know, given the last few years too. Using your voice, using your spoken word voice.
You know, you draw people in with the power of your voice and your story and your language. Now when, when like every, all of these ideas are distilled into a book and that book goes out into the world, I’m curious what it was like for you to shift gears. Okay, so as a poet, yes, you’re always writing anyway, but a book is a different thing and sometimes it takes a different type of energy and many friends who are speakers or spoken word artists mm-hmm.
who are constantly writing, but then when they sat down to write a book, it was a fairly brutal experience for them. I’m curious how the process of creating a bigger, longer, deeper piece of work wa has been for you. Yeah, it was most of [00:25:00] these like thoughts, most of these poems, um, existed already. Some of them were tweaked specifically for the book.
Some of them were written specifically for the book, but because, uh, I, myself need to write to process and, and write to heal. A lot of what’s in the unfolding were things that I was telling myself, speaking over myself, writing to remind myself in the moments that I was experiencing, you know, the different phases that you find within the book.
And so that part. as hard. I think the most difficult was my ability to hide around a level of vulnerability. Hmm. But not an exposed vulnerability. I’m really good at making myself seem open, but not raw necessarily. And for the sake of this book, I needed to be raw and I didn’t wanna go there. So after the first draft, my editor kind of had to pull that out of me, and she was like, I can tell you’re not [00:26:00] going there and you’re doing it on purpose,
And so I had to let myself go there. And that was really hard because I, I didn’t want to write a tell all, I didn’t want it to be dramatic or a biography. I just wanted to tell the story that I was experiencing and to try and tell it as honestly as possible without hurting anyone in the process or without bringing anything up, you know, um, that might trigger things in the process.
But even that relearning that like, it’s okay to bring things up. It’s okay to poke some holes because sometimes we need to, for healing and for, uh, moving forward in relationship and boundaries and things like that. And so that, Probably the hardest part was allowing myself to drop those boundaries, drop those walls within myself and to really go there and to be honest, and that meant that I cried writing some of it.
Mm-hmm. , you know, that I had to have some wine for a lot of it, you know, that I had to change the scenery. But for the most part, I think because I am a left and right [00:27:00] being creative, it didn’t feel so difficult to get that organized and to get that nitty gritty. It was just a matter of like allowing myself to figure out how it flowed and how it all connected.
Because sometimes poems are just poems, you know, and you’re not trying to think of where they fit and how they. Go into a bigger story, you’re just writing the poems. So bringing it all together as one conversation, you know, or a few different conversations. But then one theme was probably the most difficult.
And then also allowing myself to really be exposed and, and vulnerable, even though it was still kind of scary. . Yeah. Well, it’s almost like the framework that you created for the book seems like a framework for a slow and intentional revelation of your own vulnerability and your own story, which is really cool because you created it, it sounds like in, at least in part for you.
But what you’re also offering in the book is essentially it’s a framework for other people to step through it too. So you talk about this thing you described as the unfolding, and then mm-hmm. [00:28:00] offer essentially five phases through a process of personal individual unfolding. And I wanna explore those different phases.
But before we even get there, tell me what you, when you use the word or the phrase unfolding or the unfolding, what are we actually talking about there? Yeah, so I had written the unfolding in my notes in probably 2018, and I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know if it was a book, if it was a song, if it was a spoken word album.
I was like, okay, love this, whatever this is going to be. And I just left that in my notes and I didn’t do anything with it. And then a few months actually after that, I received an inquiry about writing a book. And at that time I still didn’t know what the unfolding was. And so I was writing all these proposals and trying to pitch it and none of it felt right.
And so I just left it. Um, and my now literary agent was the first person to tell me, you don’t have to write a book right now. So I said no to everyone. And then a year later, more life [00:29:00] happened. A lot of these poems started to spill out of me, and a lot of it was growing up in the evangelical culture and wanting a lot of that shift for people, especially prime of the CO of Covid and the pandemic of just.
As we’re sitting in this face of like, what does it mean to be human? You know? And what does it mean to be in community, let alone, what does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to go to church? You know? And so I watched all these people talk about this conversation of deconstructing things, and that word felt so harsh to me and it felt so disconnecting.
And a lot of it at the same time was this conversation of deconstructing felt so much like, you’re changing and you’re being otherly. Mm-hmm. , you’re being something different. And for me, as I felt I was changing and unfolding, I really just felt like there were these layers that were just slowly getting peeled back.
There was this shedding that was happening and I wasn’t becoming this brand new person. And I really strongly felt that I, I’ve always [00:30:00] been. This has always been me, but not having the fullest permission and space to fully be that. And so I talk about meeting my husband and I, I say very clearly, he was not the reason for my unfolding, but he gave space for all these different seasons in my life to kind of catapult in one space.
And he gave, um, me permission to unfold, to ask these questions, to not know, which was the biggest part of it, and ultimately helped me to trust myself and trust the decisions I was making. Trust that I can still believe in a divine orchestration. And also that I have a wisdom and a discernment as well.
And so when I say the unfolding, I’m talking about all the layers we shed, all the pieces of ourselves that we pull back, that we let go of in order to be who we are today in order to be our fullest and freest self. Yeah. I love the way that that feels, it reminds me in no small [00:31:00] way, in more Eastern traditions, there’s a Sanskrit word, Jivan or jivan which translates roughly to liberated being being liberation.
And, and the idea is that it’s the distinction between transformation and liberation. It’s this idea of like, I’m not necessarily becoming something or someone entirely different. I’m, all I’m doing is I’m peeling away the layers of obstruction and delusion that don’t allow me to simply be the real me, my truest self, the thing that has always been there, but has never been what I lead with or how I show up in the world.
That’s beautiful of what I acknowledge. And that’s a lot of what, when your description of unfolding to me feels a lot like that. And in fact it makes a lot of sense, right? Because the process that you lay out, awakening, eclipsing, mending, illuminate, the final piece of that is returning. It’s not saying, okay, so now I’m this other person I wanted to be.
It’s no, now I’ve actually figured out a way, you know, a path back to myself. That was just [00:32:00]hidden by all sorts of things. So let’s walk through, through those, um, those different phases. Um, a little bit. You tee it up with, um, this notion of, okay, so we all start out with, with this experience of awakening what’s actually going on in this phase.
Yeah, so I kind of described the awakening as, um, waking up from mid-afternoon nap and you’re like, who am I? Where am I? What year is it? You know, like, is it still the same day or a different day? It’s this waking and coming to, um, this fog that kind of happens. And I say there, there’s two. Two types or two layers to the awakening.
Um, the first one is realizing that the person you’ve been staring at this person in the mirror is still you, but looks a l just a slightly different and yet so familiar at the same time. And then the other version is you’ve suppressed this person. This person has always existed. This roar has always [00:33:00] been there, and yet you never had space or permission to allow it to unleash.
And so now you’re coming to it. And in the awakening, you’re still familiar with your surroundings, but there’s a jolt a little bit. You know, there’s a little bit of disorientation that happens. And for me it was realizing like, oh, I have always believed these things, but now I’m starting to say them out loud.
Now I’m starting to live it out loud a little bit more, and that’s a little scary for other people. Therefore, it’s starting to become scary to me, even though I’m not afraid of it. But because it elicited. , um, some fear in people where it was unfamiliar, who I was, what I was saying, and how I was acting and who I was marrying.
And there was like, this is not you. So then I started to be like, oh, this is not me. And, and go through that phase of like, I’m not awake and I can fit back in this box. You know, I can go back to whoever it was, whoever it is I was, even though we don’t fit in those anymore. And so that awakening [00:34:00]is, I have been shifting.
Am I gonna keep ignoring it or am I gonna actually start to face it and to allow myself to continue to grow in it. You write about a mentor asking a question. If you were basically asking you if you’re gonna live a life that was based on not disappointing people or that you felt proud of and called to Yes.
And it seems like that was a, it was, it seems like it was almost like a passing question or a moment, but it was pivotal in your own personal awakening. Definitely, I had to talk to a lot of people in that season because I just, I had a really hard time hearing myself, um, trusting myself, believing myself, not really sure what I was meant to be guided by and what I wasn’t, and, and the mentor who said that she’s one of my.
My favorite humans. And, and she was so, and I had interned under at a church, um, that she had left, came out, married her wife. I actually did a poem for their wedding. And so this is a person who has just like guided me and given me [00:35:00] so much freedom to choose. She’s also the person who said like, stop shooting on yourself, like the should and should knots that we carry.
And so that question she asked me was in the height of not wanting to make a decision because I was gonna disappoint people. And what do you do in those moments when a lot of things we do will probably disappoint people? Does that mean that you stop living? And I was almost to the point where I was willing to stop making my own decision, stop doing things.
Cause I’m like, it’s just, it’s causing too much. Pain, it’s causing too much tension, you know, and not intentionally, but that question of, you know, can you make decisions? Can you live a life that you’re proud of? Or is it just gonna be one that you get a blas by other people and that seems fulfilling for you?
Hmm. Yeah. So powerful. And I think we’ve all had our own version of something like that. Whether it’s a person asking a question or just an experience that we’ve had that kind of rattles us for a second, then says, Hmm, who am I really living for? And yeah, and then like you described, it’s [00:36:00]once you start to really explore that, it’s hard to take steps backwards.
Um, in this part of the book, you share essays, you share, um, poems, reflections. There’s a poem, deep Waters. Could I ask you to share that with us? Yeah. So it’s on page 51. Um, deep Waters, the Awakening the Ocean does not apologize for the space that it takes. It does not make excuses for the depths that most people cannot handle.
It cannot help but drown those who are not ready to submerge beneath its fathomless waves. Let this two be a lesson to us that we may expand as far as we need to not apologize for the way the others are not ready to submerge into our waters. For those who might tell us to come back to shore when we’ve always known we were made shaped, created for deep waters.
I love that when [00:37:00] you start out this process by awakening with through some experience, we’re still just in the beginning of the unfolding here. Like this is early, early days. Yeah. And as you describe, often people move into this next experience or season, the eclipsing, which is. Not necessarily fun, and I would venture to say for most people it’s actually, it’s like the dark night part of the experience going through a really profound shift.
Yeah, the eclipsing, I say, you know, if you’re familiar with, with an eclipse, there’s two types. There’s a solar and then there’s a lunar. So different things happen in both of those, but ultimately in both the whole aspect of the eclipse is the shadow space. And sometimes that shadow space, even though it’s kind of just a moment, feels like it.
Forever. And so as we’ve awakened, as we’ve come to, okay, there’s some new things here. There’s some shifting, there’s a lot of grief that [00:38:00] happens with that. There’s a lot of reality with understanding I’m not who I was and that can be terrifying. Um, that can be scary for a lot of other people as well. So then it makes it seem like it’s even more scary for us.
And so for me in that space, it was again, like I said, not being able to hear myself, not being able to trust myself. A lot of panic attacks while driving in the car, because that’s where a lot of the conversations I was happening that was elicited and listening, those responses that were going on. And even more so the poems you find in the eclipsing chapter were things that I needed to use to reground myself to remind.
This is where my feet are. My head is above water. You know, I’m not drowning. And like I said, I can be a very dramatic person. And so I really had to allow myself to like, speak the down scaling of what was happening to myself because if I didn’t, I would just be overwhelmed by it. So a lot of mentors, a lot of [00:39:00] time on people’s porches and people’s couches in that season because even though it was a moment, um, it was really hard and it was really scary.
Waking to these parts of myself and like we talked about earlier, and ultimately, can I be this and still be loved? You know, can I be this? New person or can I be this unfolded person that I feel like is living in existing beautifully today, but is that gonna mean I lose some belonging in some spaces?
That’s known a different version of me. And so a lot of time at the beach in the eclipsing space, um, a lot of time to connect with myself and the best ways I possibly could. But it is a hard season. Um, it is a shadow season and one that might hold more grief than it holds anything else. I would imagine for so many, it’s also a season that we’d really rather see if we can just opt out of and skip over.
We’re like, we’re like, I wanna get to that end place where everything’s awesome. Who can I pay or buy my role out of, like this particular season and experience. And we’re [00:40:00] just like, there’s something that we all have to move through where, um, that is going to be a part. You know, it’s interesting because the way you describe your experience and the timing of it also was overlapping with what I would consider a much bigger societal season of eclipsing and, and like 20 20, 20 21, like continuously through now racial reckoning in the middle of a global pandemic.
You write about this, you write, you spill poems out of anger, out of frustration, out of sadness and fear, and try to reconcile what it all looked like as an artist to speak life where there was so much. . I think as I was experiencing my own personal eclipsing, we were sitting in a societal space where so much was being brought to the surface.
I think the eclipsing could also be a season of uprooting where so much has been suppressed in our soil. So much has been suppressed systemically, and now there’s no choice [00:41:00] but to bring it up, but to uproot it. And that’s. Painful process. And so being able to sit in the space of holding a lot of grief and walking that into our world.
So my husband and I got married in May of 2020. My uncle died the next day, the next week we got home and everything was uproar with George Floyd. And so we’re sitting in this space of just, we are all holding this tension. So much is being uprooted, and how do we sit in this space? How do we heal? How do we mint?
How do we speak kindly to each other in this space? And also just how primed the pandemic was at that time. We were just so disorienting. We didn’t know what community was, what connection was. , all the while we were experiencing trauma, after trauma, after trauma. And so for me, again, a lot of those poems I spill because I need to process what’s going on in my spirit, what’s going on in my heart.
And I needed to use it to [00:42:00] like look at the words that I’m speaking and that I’m sharing and use that to ground, to connect and to heal. Because, um, oftentimes we don’t know what to say in those moments. We don’t know who to be in those moments. And so I try to give somewhat of an insight or somewhat of a, a permission slip in order to how to be, how to heal, how to connect with one another while we experiencing the shadow space.
And I think for me, even more so, realizing it wasn’t just me, you know, like I wasn’t just on this lone island, like we were all sitting in this very different space of different eclipses happening, um, eclipses, I think. And how do we hold each other in that time? Yeah. So powerful in, in that part of the book, you, you share, uh, a fairly long form poem you wrote called Human, which is, I mean, this spilling of something that was deep and powerful and raw Mm.
Within you about how you experienced that moment and every moment leading up to it. And I’m guessing every moment. [00:43:00] Yeah. Since then, I would definitely invite folks to spend some time reading that poem. Cause I think it’s just incredibly moving and powerful. And it seemed like it was almost like an exorcism, not just a, for an artistic expression.
Absolutely. I wrote human, actually, that’s probably one of the. One of, probably one of the only oldest poems in the book. Um, I wrote Human in 2016, and it was the first time I had written a poem to express what it felt like being a black woman. And that was pivotal for me because of how we talked about before.
So much of my identity was in being Christian, not being in a black person, not being in a black woman. And so it wasn’t until, um, you know, First wave of, uh, videos and trauma being shown in videos and black bodies being killed in videos that I had to come to terms with some things. And that’s the only poem I probably have never memorized.
Just because [00:44:00] like you, I love how you described that has as an exorcism because it very much so was I, I wrote it sobbing. I think every time I performed it, I’ve sobbed. Um, so it’s a poem that I, I can’t leave on my heart a whole lot. I can share it and I can put it in a book and have people read it and take it in.
But it is a poem that still shakes me quite a bit. And um, it was the first time I was really able to come to terms with. This is very hard. You know, this is very, very hard and it hurts. And just making the aspect of humanity back into the conversation because it was too much. And even sometimes it’s today, it’s too much of, of them versus us.
And I think with that poem, I just wanted to remind that there is no them versus us. There’s only in us and we’ve created too many separations for it. And um, yeah, I think just trying to bring the humanity back into most things, um, that we [00:45:00] find ourselves separating. So as we emerge from this season of the eclipsing, we emerge into what you describe as the mending.
Mm-hmm. . So we don’t stay in that season. Um, but we have to move through. Yeah. Um, and we move into this mending experience. Tell me about what’s happening in this season. Yeah, so the mending is, um, I talk about the art of the Japanese art of Kintsugi and it’s taking these pieces of clay or glass that are broken and bringing them back together with this gold glue.
And I love this art because you can still see where it’s broken, like you can still see where the pieces are pieces, but now it makes this beautiful and whole space. And so the mending, I’m bringing these parts of who I was cuz they still fit and identify with who I am today and I’m leaving the rest.
It’s kind of, you know, the old phrase of the toss the baby out with the bathwater. You know, we’re tossing out some bath water, the [00:46:00] baby’s still there, some of the bath water is still there. Um, but we’re tossing out. The rest of that doesn’t serve and that doesn’t. And getting to the point where we can mend and heal these really tender spaces that we’ve, you know, experienced awakening and eclipsing.
And now we get to just decide who, how do I wanna be? Who do I wanna be? What do I wanna bring with me, and what do I wanna leave behind? It sounds like for you, there were two really big focal points in this season. One was amending of your relationship with faith, with God, with spirituality. Mm-hmm. and like saying like, what does this look like for me now?
But the other was also a, a reclamation of your body. Mm-hmm. . And it sounds like those were sort of like weaving in and out at the same time as you said. Okay, so how do I feel whole with these things? What’s my version of these where I wake up in the morning and feel good in relationship to. Yeah, for I, in the same breath of not really knowing or operating as [00:47:00] a black person, um, consciously, you know, I was doing that unconsciously because I am, but, um, it, it took a lot of, um, being conscious about what that means and what that looks like.
And the same for being in my body. I think a lot of my, uh, spirituality growing up was a very disembodied spirituality. You are only a spirit. You are not a mind, you are not a body. And if you are those things, check them, you know, um, check them out the door, adjust them, or they’re not good or they’re sinful of all the different things that we were told.
So I, I learned very much so how to turn off those parts of myself, how to ignore and suppress those parts of myself so that, that mending was coming to realize that my spirituality can be embodied. Hence my starting to practice yoga. I’d been practicing yoga for about. Eight or nine years now, and I’m, I’m 200 hour, um, teacher certified.
And that journey of, of just allowing myself to be on my mat. And I have a lot of poems and little essays in the book about being [00:48:00] on my mat because that’s been such a church space for me. It’s been such a healing space for me and being able to tap into what it means to be a black, physical curvy person in this world.
And that that is part of, um, the story I’m minding. That’s part of my connecting back to not just God, but also back to myself and also helping me to be a better partner. If I am just turning off and shutting off who I am physically, then I don’t, I don’t know how that’s gonna help me show up fully for someone else and be in relationship with other people.
And so not mending and connecting a buck of this embodiment and what an embodiment practice looks like and means for me. Yeah. I have a, a long history in the world of yoga as well. as a creative person also identify very much as a maker. I would often find myself in the middle of practice when I really just let my mind go and just be super present in the practice.
First. It’s sort of like just I’m in complete flow and then [00:49:00] complete presence. Mm-hmm. and like elements of grace touching down and then the maker brain takes over and all sorts of ideas and language. Yes. And where it starts to drop. And I’m literally, I, I really much remember a year ago asking a teacher, I was like, is it okay if I keep a little notepad and a pencil next to my mat
Or does that like completely break what it’s supposed to be about ? Yeah. No, I think there, I’ve, I definitely need to get in that habit of, of actually having something in class with me because, because then I forget it, you know, like so much happens when you’re, when you’re in there and you get out of the room and you.
It’s just a, it’s definitely a rebirth. So you get back out, you’re not even the same person. So I think what that is is just we’ve created space to create, we’ve allowed ourselves to be so still and to tune in so much that we’ve actually given ourselves permission to be a vessel in that moment to receive downloads or whatever, or that you may have, or whatever you wanna call it.
And so, yeah, there’s definitely, um, an unhinged space that the Asana practice itself within yoga [00:50:00] offers and gives. And then there’s just the daily practice of it, which is just breath and connection and union, which is what, what yoga means is to, to yolk. To unite. And, um, and that has been such a huge part of just like how I’ve been able to Yeah.
Create, I’ve written a lot of poems, a lot of these poems actually in the book on a yoga mat . So, yes. Yeah. It completely resonates with me. So moving from the mending part, then we, we ease into this process or a season of illumination. It’s interesting, right? Because I feel like we’ve been talking to them about, you know, like seasons.
You moved from one to the next, to the next, to the next in a linear way. Yeah. My lived experience of sort of, you know, like moving through these seasons, is non-linear. Mm-hmm. . So it’s sort of like, I may, okay, so now I’m emerging into illuminating and then all sorts of new stuff starts to come up and I move back into the eclipsing because it’s necessary for me to be there to process what I’m moving through at that moment.
Yeah. So what’s interesting is [00:51:00] like every season that you’ve described in this book and sort of like the experience of unfolding really resonates with me. And also the notion of holding it lightly that these are actually gonna unfold in a linear sequence, and just knowing that sure, there’s gonna be some back and forth along the way, and eventually we’ll move in a more wholehearted and and holistic way towards that final state.
Mm-hmm. , but that there may be like, not to set ourselves up for like, I, I need to go from this, to this, to this. And if I kind of find myself being called to go back, like there’s no shame in that. It’s actually a very natural part of the process that resonates with you or. . Yeah, I think I say in the book, you know, healing is not linear.
Yeah. Um, it’s very cyclical and, and so is the five stages of grief. You know, when we talk about those, we experience them, you know, sometimes at the same time, sometimes all five, you know, and, and not in the same order. So don’t think of these phases as a structured guide. Um, just use them as. Permission slips as, as marking points that you could reach.[00:52:00] And now that I’m, you know, a few years removed from having written and from everything being finished, I almost would say that the illuminating could, in a sense also be another awakening. Mm-hmm. . Um, it’s shedding that light now on how we’ve healed, on what we’ve awakened to on, on those lessons and tools that we’ve taken with us through the shadow space.
And now there could be a lightness to it, you know, it could be an awareness and a dancing with these new realities, or it could be another coming to another shedding light. Odd. Another aspect that maybe we’re, we’re just now growing accustomed to, or we’re just now growing aware of. And so even sitting in this space, I’m like, I don’t know, maybe the illuminating is actually just another awakening and it’s all just a one big circle, you know?
But I’m making it seem as though it’s a progressive step-by-step thing, but it’s not step-by-step to any means. And so the illuminating is just a little space of light [00:53:00] and hopefully a space that allows you to dance a little, that feels a little lighter. I kind of use a lot of alliteration towards.
Towards dancing and towards being with the light. There’s something about sunshine on your skin that I have, uh, such a connection to. And, and I’m anemic, so I really like warmth. And so I think that’s why I use that alliteration quite a bit because the sun does, I will just sit in the sun just because it’s such a warm and inviting space.
And so I think in that illuminating space, maybe actually it is just another level of awakening and coming to and allowing there to be light in what you didn’t know and now you do know and also what you’ve let go of, I think. We shed light on, we’re who we’re not anymore, we shed light on, um, where we’re not going.
And, um, I think there’s different layers that could be a double edge of, of grief, but then also some relief and some joy at the same time. Yeah. It’s like what, um, dear friend of mine, Cindy Spiegel, describes this micro joys. It’s like you can be going through [00:54:00] seasons of profound loss and grief, but it doesn’t mean that that season used to be devoid of like, these just momentary glimmers of joy or connection or hope.
Yeah. That’s beautiful. And the poems that you write in this particular section, they really, there’s that energy of lightness of the sun coming through Wildflowers is one of the poems in that section that, um, that really sort of like dances around in my mind as well. Mm-hmm. , the final season that you describe is, is the.
and this goes back to the earlier part of our conversation, right? It’s less about who am I turning into down the road, but more about, mm-hmm. , the sense of returning, but not returning to the old self, not returning to the old box that you left behind. Yeah. Tell me more about what you actually mean by returning and returning to what or who.
I think there’s a level of returning to ourselves for having, um, experiences of being disembodied, of being suppressed and disconnected. There’s such a, a beautiful aspect and [00:55:00] in conversation of returning and I think for me it’s almost like getting to my mat. You know, every day that I know my mat, you can almost still see where my footprints are in my mat.
Like there’s just something about it that feels like, I know this, I’ve been here, this is familiar to me. And even though we’ve changed and, and shifted, I do still think there’s a level of a core of us that is still very much so true to who we are and who we’ve always been. So it’s almost that return to that core and then vice versa for me.
That core has always been, I think, one that has been, um, connected to my creator, connected to the divine. And I hadn’t lost that, but it just was a matter of me returning back to it and more consciously, um, than it was anything else. And so I think of that return as, you know, coming back to your home after a trip.
And I, I have been very much so ingrained to always clean the house before we leave anywhere. And so [00:56:00] I love that feeling of coming back home, you know, after however long. Honestly, I feel like one or two nights Covid has made travel feel, uh, extremely longer than it feels, than it’s smelled before. So one or two nights is good, you know, and you feel like you’ve been gone for weeks and you just, you that feeling of coming back home.
And my plants are all there, you know, all our cozy things. It’s just that like exhale of like, ugh. and I say in one of the poems of just, it’s that return of, oh, there I am. And there I’ve always been, I haven’t lost this. I haven’t lost my connection to myself or, or to God or to the divine or creator, whatever you wanna call it.
Those have always been there. And now I’m just coming back to it. And staying grounded in it is really that return space. And it almost is, does bring the same light that, that the illuminating does. And I wanted that to feel like an exhale because we might have to hold our breath again because again, it just goes in waves.
And so, but [00:57:00] for now, we get to exhale for now, we get to release and just be here. Beautiful. One of the essays in that section and say Yes is also really, it’s an invitation to keep saying yes to the process. Keep saying yes to like the essential you. Yeah. Just keep saying yes to allowing this unfolding process to happen.
Mm-hmm. , you can get closer and closer to your true identity and stories and which I thought was just a really beautiful invitation to, to really bring the book home with and towards the very end of the book. Also that this poem glorious. Would you, um, share that with us and, and maybe bring us home with that poem?
Yeah. Um, this is, it’s on 2 0 9. Actually wrote down the, the page for that. This one? One, this one. I know. Okay. I know. We’re it cuz I specifically, I specifically wanted it to be closer to the end. Yeah, yeah. Um, and I actually, I wrote this poem after my partners and I first date, so that was, this one was a really beautiful full circle moment.
Um, glorious. I’ve [00:58:00] grown familiar with the feeling of holding out my hands. With the expectation that I will pull them away, empty, that a catastrophe would be made in every moment, that instead of shooting stars, atomic bombs will end up falling. So afraid that a solar eclipse automatically implies there will only be darkness, and I will not notice that the light always returns.
I have this bad habit of believing that all good things that happened to me are not actually for me. That somehow they dodged the person they were meant for and wound up in my lap. By happenstance, I once attended a retreat where they asked us if the glass was half full or half empty, and I said both, but it doesn’t matter because it’s not my glass to begin with.
I told them that even though glorious opportunities have happened to me, they did not have my name on them. Someone else dropped them, and I just so happened to be the next one to pass by and pick them [00:59:00] up. I was asked, so what does that mean? You need to learn to accept? I said, I guess it means I need to believe that I am deserving of glorious opportunities.
I am deserving of glorious opportunities. I am deserving of glorious opportunities. Now say it with your hands out like you’re receiving. I stood there with my hands open and tears falling down my face. See, I am fully aware of the fact that I am human and flawed, that the mediocrity of my humanity often shadows the still hint of sparkle in my dust.
It often blocks the fact that I am human and grace filled and swimming with purpose, that there is nothing happenstance about my existence or the things that happen to me, that my story is weaved with intention even when I think it is not. I wanna expect more shooting stars than atomic bombs these days and be in awe of the change that comes after a [01:00:00] solar eclipse and learn to sit in the darkness when it arrives.
Take in the moment, wear it like the warmest blanket I’ve ever known, and then find the light again because the light will always be there. I wanna look at the glass and know that no matter how much is inside of it, its purpose is to hold things. So it doesn’t matter if it’s half full or half empty, it is simply doing what it was made to.
I wanna hold out my hands, grasp the glorious parts of life as if I were holding onto raindrops, watch them bounce on my palms and still find them marvelous even when they disappear. Because even if they aren’t mine to hold forever, at some point, no matter how long ago they were still mined and they were still glorious.
So beautiful. Thank you so much for that good place for us to come full circle. So in this Container of Good Life project, if I offer up the phrase [01:01:00] to live a good life, what comes up? Mm. To live a good life. Means to love well, and let yourself be loved. Hmm. Thank you. Thank you. Hey, before you leave, if you love this conversation, you’ll also love the conversation that we had with Cleo Wade about life and love and poetry and expression.
You can find a link to that conversation in the show notes. And of course, if you haven’t already done so, please go ahead and follow goodlife Project in your favorite listening app, and if you found this conversation interesting or inspiring or valuable, and chances are you did, since you’re still listening here, would you do me a personal favor, a seven second favor, and share it maybe on social or by text or by email, even just with one person.
Just copy the link from the app you’re using and tell those, you know, those you love, those you wanna help navigate this thing called life a little better so we can all do it better together with more ease and more joy. Tell them to listen. [01:02:00] Then even invite them to talk about what you’ve both discovered.
Because when podcasts become conversations, and conversations become action, that’s how we all come alive together. Until next time, I’m Jonathan Fields, signing off for Good Life Project.