Blog Archives

Why you don’t need to be an expert

July 11, 2016

“Chasse-neige! Chasse-neige!” they called out. I pointed my skis toward each other to slow down but somehow the only way I could stop was to throw myself onto my side, then dust the snow off. It was my first time skiing (years later my husband and I would learn to snowboard) and without any lessons, I rode up the ski lift in this small French Alps town where people take the sport very seriously.

My dear friend Alvarro sat on one side of me and his boyfriend, Arnaud who had been skiiing these slopes since he was a child, on my other side. How bad could it be? There was a four-year-old with his parents just ahead of us and a couple that looked to be in their 80’s behind us.

I was prepared for a gentle bunny slope but when I got to the top of the mountain, saw that the “bunny slope” was actually a zig zag across what looked like a death slope, otherwise known as the double black diamond. There was only one way down to hot chocolate and warm wine. I did my best and had to trust that the experienced skiers had the skill to avoid me as they darted down the steep mountain.

We had assumed that Arnaud with all of his experience and knowledge would be my teacher. While both my friends tried to be helpful, Alvarro who had only recently picked up skiing, was able to explain what I needed to know, because he could still see things from the beginner perspective and break it down in a way that I could digest. I learned something important that day other than just how much easier skiing looks when other people are doing it.

I’ve spent a lot of time acquiring knowledge, skills and experience which is important but sometimes we hold ourselves back believing we must become experts before getting out there.

We often try to prove our value to ourselves or others through these things and it’s easy to get stuck in the self-improvement cycle, waiting too long until we are ready or losing touch as we pile on the credentials.

I see this a lot with women. I have seen it in myself. And the world doesn’t want to wait for what we’ve got. There is value where we are now. There are gifts in seeing from our eyes in this moment. Even a beginner has something to offer and may even be the best teacher.


I have brought these lessons into my teaching.

1) We don’t always need to know it all or to be the best expert to share with others. What we need is to be able to facilitate an experience. Wherever we are in this moment offers a unique vantage point.

2) It’s not just about content or knowledge or information; it’s about delivery. Consider my motto, “It’s the how, not the what.”

3) There is benefit in choosing ground delivery. Accessing beginner’s mind is important. It’s useful to cultivate the ability to see things from the ground up in order to pass it on.

4) Being a teacher or guide is really about helping others make discoveries for themselves. Just because you have a strong yoga practice, doesn’t make you an instructor. Just because you are a doula, midwife or labor and delivery nurse, doesn’t make you a childbirth educator. Helping others goes beyond giving them information, assistance or modeling for them. Educere, the root of the word educator, means bringing forth [from within]. And guru, a Sankskrit word connoting teacher, is said to mean “dispeller of darkness,” implying that one’s light is already there. True learning comes from within.

On the flip side, teachers have sometimes been given a bad wrap. Consider the famous epithet, “Those who cannot do, teach.” While that may sometimes have some truth in it, there are some amazing teachers and coaches who can’t do backflips but help others to win Olympic Gold Medals in gymnastics. Yet, this would not be possible if they did not know their craft.

A balance of knowing and the ability to provide an opportunity for others to discover for themselves is important. While there are situations when someone needs to relate to someone who has had that experience, it is not always necessary for it to be firsthand. For example, a grief counselor may not have lost someone close to them but they have experienced many small losses in the course of being human. I know many amazing midwives who have never given birth and surgeons who have not been a surgery patient. There are ways to deepen and embody what we know. By doing this, we can be led by experience and translate it for others.

Sometimes we only need to be just ahead of someone else to help lead the way. It’s not necessary to wait until we know or have done it all to be of service. By being with your experience, you may open the door for someone else. Merci, Alvarro!

What makes my programs different?

1) See things from the expert and ground perspectives.
2) Experience practices and tools before and while applying them to others. Immersive and embodied learning.
3) Community and group support to lift each other up. Honor the wisdom that everyone brings. Be inspired by a diversity of perspectives.

How to live your truth when you don’t know what it is

July 1, 2016

A little over a year ago, I had the good fortunate to go on a restorative vacation at a family-friendly retreat center in a small village on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Surprisingly, a highlight was the restorative benefits of having healthy meals made for us. More than a vacation from cooking for three people with different dietary tastes and needs (moms – many of you know exactly what I am talking about) and from shopping, I loved the freedom of not making choices. I got to be like a child who could just show up and know that I would be taken care of.


During the year, there are occasional evenings when I am so tired I ask my husband to take care of dinner (note: he does more than his fair share but logistically it works for me to make dinner since he gets home later). On these nights, I tell him that I don’t care what he makes or picks up as long as I don’t have to decide. I also trust that he knows me well enough to meet my basic criteria of healthy, fresh and preferably organic and no bell peppers (one of the few plant foods I really don’t like, with bananas as a close second).

Overwhelm can be the result of too many choices eventhough we usually consider choice a good thing

Can you relate? We are learning that decision fatigue and the paradox of choice are making people exhausted and paralyzed. Even children are experiencing this. What color socks to wear? What kind of sandwich for lunch? What flavor ice cream? Which friend for a playdate? What activity afterschool?

I overheard a former client describe working with me to another parent. She told her friend that the best part of hiring me was that she could relax knowing that she didn’t have to make any decisions, that I had her back and would tell her what to do. This surprised me because my work is informed by a fierce belief in women’s voices, autonomy, intuition/inner wisdom and choice.

Sometimes we don’t even know what we want

While I don’t see my role as espousing advice or telling people what to do, I recognize the space where people don’t even know what they want, what their way is or how to get there. There is value in in not knowing and it is not necessary to get lost in the overwhelm, confusion or pressure to figure it all out.

We can believe someone is their own best expert, that their way is the way and at the same time they want a map to work from, someone else to make sure they are fed or headed in the right direction.

The conventional approach is more choices or information or advice. More choices typically add to confusion and paralysis. More information adds to overwhelm or a heart/mind divide. Advice reflects the beliefs of the person giving it and can add social pressure, undermine someone’s ability to access their inner guidance and may lead to shoulds and shaming, people pleasing and regret.

I’d like to propose another way. Consider these ideas:

1) It is part of the process to be in the not knowing and wise to have someone who can hold you in that space. It’s in that emptiness that our inner wisdom speaks to us.

2) A true guide’s job is to know the territory and get to know you so they can help lead you there with new discoveries and an ability to change course along the way. Sometimes the path is made by following one foot in fron of the other without a plan.

3) A lot can get in the way of true seeing and sometimes we just need to clear the path to gain clarity, or build ourselves up so we can see over the obstacles.

I employ these ideas in my role as a Feminine Empowerment Coach and Self-Ownership Doula. I have spent years familiarizing myself with the inner terrain of women’s lives, particularly mothers, caregivers and creators. If this is the kind of support you crave, come take a look at how we can work together.

As always, I would love to hear your insights and how these ideas have been helpful for you.

Two Lessons from Scandinavia

June 20, 2016

Despite a long, dark winter, Scandinavian countries are rated as four of the top ten countries for happiness and are known for a high standard of living, human rights records and both better birth practices and support of new parents than most other countries. While there is a rich cultural and political tradition worth examining, here are two concepts that I learned from Nordic culture that I have found inspiring.

1) One of my favorite words from another language, hygge, has no English equivalent. I first heard it when I was visiting friends in Denmark. While it is sometimes translated as coziness and comes form the Norwegian word for wellbeing, the Danish explanation is that it means something like warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. It may bring to mind images of a log burning in the fire place, candles glowing, twinkly lights, flowering branches in a vase, spiced wine and a gathering of good friends. It could also be a cozy reading nook, soaking in a hot tub, enjoying a sunset or a hot stone massage.

Certainly, all of these examples contribute to our wellbeing. What would add more hygge to your life? What could be appreciated, savored or elevated by sharing the experience? How would more hygge contribute to your happiness?

2) There is a Scandinavian saying that Forest and Waldorf kindergartens have borrowed: “There is no bad weather, only inadequate clothing.” This concept has changed my way of seeing not only the weather (I am much more likely to go out in the rain and cold) but situations, too. It allows me to suspend judgment and check in about what I need to feel taken care of in the moment. I don’t have to work so hard at resisting what is happening and instead, can discover how to work with it. That adds to feeling happier without needing to change what I can’t control (like the weather) or move to Sweden.

How can you apply the weather analogy to your life? What would change if there was no bad weather or bad situation? What do you need to feel adequately dressed or taken care of?

Ode to the Fathers (and a case for their support)

June 19, 2016

I work with dads on a regular basis in my childbirth classes and as doula clients. I usually use the term partners for inclusivity and to honor the many forms families take. I am grateful for this diversity in my classes. Since most of the people in my classes are couples, partners are usually dads or other mothers (or choose a preferred noun). While partner is more inclusive, it rarely captures the intimate connection, profound identity shift and weight of this role. In this writing, I speak specifically about dads because of Father’s day and the cultural expectations associated with the label, though a lot of what I say can be applied to other mothers and birth partners.

When I teach, the most common question fathers have is how to be most helpful or supportive. 

I can talk to them about the unfolding of the labor process and birth etiquette, demonstrate massage techniques like counter pressure and hip squeezing, practice breathwork. We can explore their beliefs about birth and strategize ways to communicate with their helpers in order to get what they want. 

I can answer questions and provide a space for them to connect with their partners, babies and the process, while validating the importance of their roles and acknowledging that they will be going through their own initiation to parenthood. 

However, I know that just by their presence, by showing up, that they have what it takes and are already there in terms of helpfulness and support. 

It am saddened when they are told to suck it up or that it is not about them. Or when they are asked to take a back seat in order to let the professionals do their work, when they experience vicarious trauma from the helplessness of observing a process that doesn’t involve them or take them into consideration, that ignores or even belittles their experience, concerns, questions.

In most cases, dads have only been involved in the birth room for two to three generations. Yet their presence is often paramount for the birthing mothers and increases bonding with their babies. While it is in some ways empowering, they have had this new role thrust upon them — sometimes with little preparation, high expectations and oblivion to their needs or level of comfort in it. 

They must cope with exhaustion, the overwhelming experience of watching their partners cope with intensity and pain, worry about their babies health and stressful situations that provide few outlets (doulas and sometimes nurses, midwives and other caregivers may fill this). They may still be treated as outsiders in what is often a female dominated environment.

I have known dads to vocalize/breathe/tone through every wave of contraction with their partners for hours on end, hold a mother’s leg up while she pushes until his back aches, go several nights without sleep, skip multiple meals, develop a UTI from not going to the bathroom and sit at his partner’s head through a Cesarean surgery and birth.

Following a birth, there is little support for dads even though they have also experienced a major life-altering event. Fathers can also experience postpartum depression though the rates are much lower for them. More often, while paternity leave has become more generous at some companies, new dads are expected to return to the real world relatively quickly despite additional responsibilities at home and often a desire not to miss out on time spent being a new family.

As helpers, we have a responsibility to involve and nurture fathers and partners. They are an intrinsic part of pregnancy, birth and early parenting as well as other life events, processes and crises. They have their own experiences beyond just helping and being supportive which deserve to be honored. Meanwhile, by tending them, we enable them to be more helpful and supportive — invariably benefitting mothers and babies.

Essentials I carry

June 13, 2016

When I first began my doula practice, I put a lot of effort into assembling what came to be know as the Mary Poppins bag that I carried to births (Remember the scene in the movie when they show the kids faces as she pulls a lamp out of her carpet bag?). My spoonful of sugar included: nauseau bands, a variety of massage tools (from the orgasmatron head tickler to a baker’s rolling pin), honey sticks, rehydration salts, heating pad, ice pack and fan among the treasures to be found. I invested in a set of high quality essential oils for aromatherapy. I then added tools that required learning new skills, such as a TENS unit, homeopathy kit and Mexican scarf called a Rebozo.

The bag become something to be added to and it’s weight, representative of what I had to offer. For home visits, I additionally delivered hand mixed herbs to make a postpartum sitz bath tea to soothe new mamas, a Moby wrap sling to teach moms how to wear their babies and samples of teas, healing salves and breastfeeding videos to loan.

Acquiring these items was mostly fun and I enjoyed learning different applications, as well as sharing with my clients. What I carried became proof of my attention to detail and interest in beauty, feeding the senses and home remedies. Mixing the herbs and cultivating tools fed my creativity. And I loved going the extra mile for my clients.

At a certain point, my bag began to cut into my shoulder and I was limping under it’s weight. I could no longer bike or walk to visit clients who lived nearby. So, I decided it was time to get a bag on wheels or a small suitcase, as I had seen other doulas with. Then, I had the realization that all this stuff was actually holding me back. I did not need these things. My clients did not hire me because of what I carried. Anyone could purchase a massage tool.

Instead of trying to accommodate more stuff, I began to scale back. I let go of three quarters of my bag contents. Then, I refilled it halfway with things that fed me: food, supplements to support my system when awake all night, a change of clothes, travel size of my favorite toiletries. It turned out that taking care of myself and carrying less helped me to be even more present and emphasize what matters most: compassion, encouragement, reassurance. The tools I was free to develop and rely on became intuition, hands, heart and voice. And I bring these with me wherever I go now and whatever I do (plus cell phone, ID and keys).

Stuff is nice as long as it is not weighing you down or becoming a crutch, but it’s not essential.

Now, about you. What’s weighing you down? What does your stuff prove about you? If you pared down, what’s left that is essential? Who would you get to be without all the stuff? What does clearing out make space for in your practice? in your life? Recall that Mary Poppins remained light enough to fly.