Time to Dream or Do?

Time to Dream or Do?

When you’re setting goals, there is a time for dreaming and a time for doing.

The art is in knowing the difference.

When it’s time for change and setting goals the call comes in different ways. Some calls ask first to be dreamt into existence. Dreaming is part of an active creation process. It’s a fun place because you live in the world of possibilities.

Something marvellous forms itself in your vision. You imagine new twists and turns — a new development in your story. You have a new excitement about life. Anything can happen if you’re open to it.

Wake Up and Get Ready

Other calls come with a to-do list already attached. You go from step one to step fifty and, voila, you’re there. You organize yourself, then learn the path, and refine the skills you need to succeed. Things like math or music or web development are like this.

When you’re young you learn many skills to become a ‘better’ adult. The cool thing about skills is that they can circle back to dreaming again — different skills let you express your vision in unique ways.

The two approaches call for very different mindsets and practices. Your brain will be wired to favour one over the other.

The wise ones learn to cultivate both.

Learn to Dream

One of the best guides I’ve found for creating the practices that will stimulate creativity is Todd Henry of the Accidental Creative. The short version of his ‘rules for a creative life’ are:

  • Keep your focus to three creative priorities. Let your ideas marinate.
  • Build relationships that spark your creativity and hold you accountable. Don’t think friends – think mentors, friendly competitors, inspiration.
  • Manage your energy wisely – leave buffers between events to absorb and be present to what’s happening. Keep burnouts to a minimum.
  • Be really choosy about the stimulus you take in from media and social media. Garbage in, garbage out.
  • Trust your instincts.

Practice Make Perfect

If it’s the skill of learning skills that you need then don’t look any further than Canada’s singing astronaut, Chris Hadfield.

His memoir, An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth, is a hymn to the joy of preparedness, over-preparedness and obsessive attention to detail. Of course, riding what is basically a large bomb into space will do that. His rules for success are:

  • Sweat the small stuff.
  • Plan and test. Fix what went wrong. Plan and test that. Do it again and again.
  • Figure out what could have gone wrong but didn’t. Make a plan and test that.
  • Make a checklist for all the plans that worked, all the plans that didn’t work and all the plans that might not work.
  • Practice, practice, practice the all the skills on every checklist.
  • Don’t trust your instincts.

All Together Now

Now, for a moment, let’s think about how we could use these two complementary mindsets to the goal of losing weight.

The creative part of the process might look like this:

  • Scope out Pinterest to find new and innovative ways to cook spring vegetables.
  • Learn to make artisanal bone broth to stimulate your soup making.
  • Practice different ways of eating – vegan, paleo, Mediterranean – to see what gives you most energy.
  • Find forums of similar people and find out what they’re doing.
  • Explore different ways of eating, like mindful eating, to see how your habits affect your weight.

The skill-based part of the process might look like this:

  • Sit down on Sunday night and make your meal plans.
  • Use an online tracker with reminders as an interactive checklist.
  • Plan for the times during the week when your plans will not work.
  • Write a checklist for all your plans so you don’t have to make it up on the spot.
  • Make a lot of ‘if this happens, then I will do that’rules for your behaviour like ‘if I’m home late from work, then I’ll cook one of the frozen meals I made on the weekend’.

How could you apply these two approaches to something you want in life?

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Re·sil·ience  noun ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s

: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens

: the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.


Bessel van der Kolk has worked since the 1970s with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He recently did an interview with Krista Tippett from On Being. He’s discovered some fascinating connections between mind and body and trauma. He works with people who have suffered terrible events in their lives, and his insights are valuable for everyone. His message is that resilience comes from working with our bodies first and our minds later.

It’s a lovely interview, full of hope and promise and resilience.

Listen here: Restoring the Body: Yoga, EMDR, and Treating Trauma

Posted by Deirdre Walsh

The Expressive Soul of Tara Mohr

The Expressive Soul of Tara Mohr

Connecting with your expressive soul starts with stripping down to your deepest self

When I was just starting my business and was learning a new flavour of expressive soul – newbie entrepreneur – I was drawn to a course led by Tara Sophia Mohr called Playing Big.  A small voice of doubt called to me, “Was I not playing big enough already? Do I really need to think about playing bigger?”

But it was the perfect place for a “big visioner” to be hanging out. Tara is committed to helping women find their voice in the world and bring their talents to meaningful projects. Her work resonates closely with mine – we’re both about helping women find an authentic, true voice for their talents.

With Tara it comes from a place of deep gratitude and love. She’s run a successful learning community focused on female leadership for years. And now she’s woven all the threads of her teaching and experience into a book, Playing Big.

This interview is from a couple of years ago when Tara was launching the course. Our conversation about stripping off the layers of “shoulds and coulds” resonates perfectly with uncovering your true expression.

You can listen to the interview here.

Read it here:

D:  Today I’m talking with Tara Sophia Mohr, who’s an expert in women’s leadership and well-being, as well as the creator of “Ten Rules for Brilliant Women” and the creator of the Playing Big program.  She has an MBA from Stanford University. She’s been on the Today show a couple of times, including once last week. She writes for the Huffington Post, has a fantastic blog and she writes poetry.  And she’s so lovely that you can’t even be annoyed at how talented she is.

So I did the Playing Big course with Tara earlier this year and I found it really, really inspiring and I found it really, really packed with useful training skills about upping your game.  About creating more visibility in the world to help you step into the calling that belongs to you.

So Tara I’d like to thank you very much for talking with me today.


T:  Thank you.  Thank you for having me here.  It’s a pleasure.  I adore you too so it’s really nice to be able to chat with you.


Poetry Gives Us What We’re Looking For 

D:  Now before we get started, I think your poetry doesn’t get enough play in your Playing Big.


T:  I agree. I feel like I’m selling cookies at a bake sale everywhere I go They say: “Tell us about 10 Rules for Brilliant Women” and I’m saying “Would you like some poetry with that?”


D:  Yes, because your poetry is so beautiful and it speaks so much to the Playing Big journey without specifically referencing the Playing Big journey. I love it.


T:  I just blame it on the world.  I think we don’t have enough poetry lovers in the world and people aren’t looking for poetry or integrating it into their lives for the most part. It can give us what we’re looking for in all the wrong places.


D:  So very true. And because it’s not so mainstream we don’t have places to find poetry. The poetry we learned in high school were great poetry, but not really applicable to us where we are now.


T: And a lot of times I know that the poetry that I learned in school was very cerebral and the emphasis was on admiring the craft of the writer, or looking at the rhyme scheme. It wasn’t really what most people, if they’re going to turn to poetry in their adult lives, are going to turn to because it really touches our heart or lifts our spirit. And that’s what I love about poetry because we can do a lot of personal growth work on ourselves and we can try and be more peaceful and we can try to be more confident.  But poetry actually connects us to peace. And poetry can help us remember that we’re everything that we need to be and then we can feel that confidence. So I think poetry is a way to experience so much of what we tend to seek through our personal growth work or our spiritual work. It brings it right to us.  We don’t have to try to attain it.


We Are Part of the Whole

D: Yes, I know what you mean. So I’m going to read one passage that really resonated for me about the Playing Big journey and what was so meaningful to me about it.

So Tara writes:

In my own life, when I think of myself simply as “Tara” – the 5’0” married woman from San Francisco who writes and teaches classes, etcetcera – there is a narrow, self-critical tone to my life experience. I’m filled with thoughts of what I’d like to change about what is. I am more irritable with those I love. There is pressure to get it right, to live up to a picture of how I think my life should be.

For me that captured so much about where modern-day stress for women lies – in that gap between who we know ourselves to be and where we think that we should be.


T:  Yes.  I’m really glad that you picked out this passage because it is an important thing to me and I haven’t written about it a lot and it doesn’t get noticed a lot. But it’s really important. And what I was trying to write about and describe was the sense that when I’m really only in my surface level identity, in all of those things that I named there — that I’m Tara and I live in California and I write, I teach and I’m this tall and I weigh this much, I’m married, I’m an only child – all of those things that are really the identity of the personality – I’m never satisfied.  There’s something inherent about our ego self that is just never satisfied. And if we’re identified with that ego then we are going to be really critical and hard on ourselves. We’ll always be striving for the next thing, thinking it’s going to change how we feel.

And the alternative is actually really thinking of ourselves in very unconventional ways. So for example, thinking of myself not so much in terms of “being Tara” but thinking of myself as one cell in the larger human body. And so what is my cell like and what is that cell like over there? Or thinking of myself as an essence of life that has lived for thousands of years through many different manifestations and I’m just living through the Tara one right now. And when I find that I can remember those other ways of conceiving of myself – oh my gosh, I can really relax from the stress that you’re talking about.


D: Yes, and your book of poetry is called “Your Other Names” and what I took from it was that you connect to those other names by the experiences that have come before you and live through you.


T: Exactly. That’s exactly it. It’s remembering that we have other names besides our given name and besides our ego identity. There’s other ways to think of who and what we are like those that I was just mentioning and that actually I believe – and some other people might say that while thinking of yourself as someone who has lived for 2,000 years and that I’m an essence of life is crazy – I would say, well actually, if you’re not tapping into your other names and thinking of yourself in a way that’s not based in your ego than you’ll not have psychological health. I think that actually in order to have some kind of sanity, in order to have some kind of psychological health we have to regularly tap into those more expansive, and more sacred ways of seeing ourselves. We need to really identify with our other names as well as our given names.


Getting to the Gold

D: When you understood that – because you wrote the poetry before you started the Playing Big program . . .


T:  And a lot simultaneously.  Two parallel paths in a way.


D:  So when you had that profound understanding of who you really were in the whole of the world, how did that inform creating Playing Big?


T:  Well, I think that part of the connection between what we’re talking about around our other names and Playing Big is that idea that, in our culture people think that playing big comes from working hard or striving to be bigger. It comes from puffing up our chest and putting on a great performance. It comes from succeeding in a very worldly sense that takes a kind of effort or performance. And I think that in many ways the opposite is true.  That actually playing big, achieving great things, having remarkable success, having amazing, creative offerings that get produced through us and flow out into the world through us, leading with impact.  Anything that we might define as playing big – that that is actually what happens naturally when we undo some of the blocks and limitations that life has put in us, and when we simply tap into our authentic desires.

I’m just writing a workshop description for something else and I called it relaxing into your playing big because I think when we really can let go and can really understand where our inner critic is and we can quiet the voice of our inner critic and we understand how to work with our fears, when we stop being so dependent on praise, or avoiding criticism. When we do those things and we kind of flush out those obstacles and toxins and then just tap into what wants to come out of me and have the courage to do it in an uncensored way, we will be playing big because what’s inside of us is grand and remarkable and it’s gold.  It’s gold.


D:  That’s so beautiful.  It’s stripping off the layers, as you say, to get to the gold.


T: Yeah.  And I love that a lot of time women come into Playing Big and they say: “Well, it wasn’t what I expected but now I learned what playing big can really look like in a sustainable, soulful way for me.” And yet it’s really about unearthing the wisest part of us — we’re unearthing that gold and we’re, brick by brick, removing some of the obstacles that have stood in the way of us sharing our voices soulfully in the world.


The Play in Playing Big

D:  Because I must admit that when I first started doing Playing Big I knew I was drawn to it, but I was pretty nervous about what playing big would actually mean.  And at first glance it seems like it might be a recipe for actually adding stress to your life because you’re awakening your inner critic.  But there’s the whole not knowing how it’s going to look – what playing big is going to look like and so the stress comes from there.  But what I noticed, as you say in the course, is that the opposite was actually true – that there was a big component of play in Playing Big.


T:  Yeah, I’m so glad to hear that you felt that way because I think it really can be so playful and I think that when we think about what the real stress is – it’s the tug of war that we’re in with ourselves around: “Is it OK if I put myself out there or not?” and “Am I willing to take that risk or not?” or “I want to do this but I’m not good enough”, right? This constant impulse to create, share, risk, express ourselves and then all of the forces that come into interrupt that or dampen that.  That’s like having a tug of war inside all the time. So having a lot going on in terms of what we’re bringing into the world doesn’t have to feel stressful if there’s flow there. And there can be flow when we just remove the blocks.


D:  Right, right.  And I know from your style of playing big that there’s a big component of play for you in playing big.


T:  Well, that’s nice that you said that. I think that’s great. Because sometimes I might forget to see that in myself or my own life, but, yeah I think that I certainly try to have fun along the way and take a spirit of experimentation.  There’s some new research that show that children need to feel emotionally safe to learn – that we actually have to take emotional safety into consideration in our design of our educational environments.  You can’t learn math if you don’t feel emotionally safe.  For myself and for other women, we’re not going to feel safe and stretch into playing bigger if it doesn’t feel like a safe space – kind of like a trampoline. You know if you fall that you’re just going to bounce and that there’s a real bouncy surface to jump around on.  So I try to hold that tone, and of course sometimes I’m a stress case and sometimes I’m a fear case, and all of that.  But my intention is to have the balance.


D:  Do you have any suggestions for women on how to lead from a place of playfulness rather than from that place of stress or fear?


T:  Yeah.  So I think that humour is so important and having people in your life that you can laugh about what’s going on with and just laugh about a lot of things in life with.  I think that’s so huge and for me with a couple of friends, and then my husband, where there’s just so much humour in our relationship and I think that’s really huge.  And then for me, dance, especially in the past year or so, has become a really important practice.  It’s kind of hard to dance without a spirit of play. And I think that’s taught me a lot about being in the moment, being present to what’s happening, listening to my body, playing with other people – like exploring on the dance floor what happens and relationship when two different dancers come together – all that.  So that for me has been a great practice, too.


D:  Yes, and even when you say it being in the moment, dancing with others in the space – this also could be so applicable to time at work, time with your family.


T:  Yeah, to think of it as a dance.  To think of a meeting as a dance, think of a conversation as a dance. Absolutely.

What can Tara teach us about our expressive soul?

Playing big includes play.The world is expansive and sacred. When you doubt yourself think of the world flowing through you. Find people who you can laugh with — they’ll keep you healthy.

Posted by Deirdre Walsh



How Mindfulness Saved the Day in Peru

Even in the middle of a dream-come-true things can get dicey.

The trip to Peru with my cousin had been in the works for five years. We had a big-ish birthday coming up and we wanted to celebrate with something memorable. The last time we were together her daughter was hiking the Inca Trail. That dream caught our imaginations and trekking through the Andes became the goal.

And what a dream it was. If Peru isn’t on your bucket list I’d suggest that you seriously consider putting it there. The people are warm and friendly (perhaps not taxi drivers), the scenery is breathtaking, the food is world-class and the whole country has a vibe of being fully and completely ALIVE.

Much like life, even within the wonderfulness there were a few times where things went “sideways” or fell into the “not so much” camp. In those moments my days and years of practicing mindfulness made all the difference in living peacefully through moments (rather than hours) of discomfort.

Really Living the Dream

One of the secret superpowers of mindfulness is that it delivers “emotional control” when you practice on a regular basis. Now that’s not a very sexy term. And it certainly isn’t going to stop you in your tracks to say “I need to get me some of that.” But in the face of unexpected difficulties it’s the difference between living the dream or creating a nightmare.

The best part is that it shows up without even really trying. It’s just part of the package. A fancier term for it is mindful acceptance. Instead of whipping up a storm of drama in our minds based on what we “deserve” we can drop the drama and deal with the reality of the situation.

How Awful Could It Be?

There were a couple of times when this feeling of acceptance made all the difference. First up was camping. Now, I don’t like camping at all. But there was really no way around it on the trek. How awful could it be?

Well, there was a splendour of shades of awful. Cold awful. Ice on the tent awful. Hard to breathe at the altitude awful. Awake all night listening to the dogs and pigs fight outside the tent awful. But, you know what? Time passes a lot more quickly when you let it float by. Morning seemed to come quicker and the night was forgotten at the first sight of the truly gorgeous day that was ahead of us.


Lesson learned:

Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you have to be awful.

There was an easy opportunity to spin into a nightmare during our trip home. Our flight in Cusco was cancelled and that cascaded into a whole stinking mess since there were shutdowns at O’Hare and backlog through the system. Oh, and the earthquake. We were looking at a 24 – 36 delay on top of the 18 hour trip home.

There were a lot of people on the flight who were threatening and melting down right from the beginning. 12 hours in most of them looked like they’d been on a bad bender. Hunched over – big dark circles – embattled. Their being upset was exhausting for everyone.

 As I stood in line for the sixth hour, trying to get a boarding pass (not consecutive, thank heavens), my route appeared — 16 hours in Lima, then a 5-hour flight; 8 hours in Miami and then a 3-hour flight. And that was a good deal! I started practicing my breathing, calling for acceptance and generally trying not to tear up. I wouldn’t have been able to keep my cool with the same degree of sleep deprivation and turmoil before starting mindfulness.


Lesson learned – part two:

Being awful is as hard on you as it is on everyone around you.

Mindfulness is a skill and a tool that can help you lower the impact of “awful” on you. You have stronger relationships by letting the “awful” float by. You stop letting your discomfort and pain spill out on top of everyone else. You laugh off the challenges. Or, at least, you just feel better after a challenging time — you look better and you get back to the fun stuff a lot quicker.

Posted by Deirdre Walsh

The Promise of Integrative Medicine

The Promise of Integrative Medicine

After taking a few turns through the healthcare system with family young and old, I found myself more and more disheartened with the whole process.  We didn’t see the positive results we hoped for from the rounds of doctor visits, hospitalizations and changes in meds.  This wasn’t because of poor care or lack of commitment, though.  We met a lot of incredibly dedicated and caring doctors and nurses, and for that we will always be profoundly grateful.

It’s just that none of the medical teams we met ever worked like a team.  We could see glimmers of coordination from time to time, but more often individuals made significant medical decisions without even thinking about what might be going on elsewhere.  We considered ourselves very lucky on the few occasions when we, as family, were included in the discussions.

We were on our own.

There was no central resource, no single person who had an overall plan.  There was so much pointless discomfort and suffering because things fell through the cracks of different specialties.  I’ve heard from others who have had close encounters with the health care system that our experience is sadly familiar.

It left me longing for a better experience, and for a guide who could help us navigate these confusing waters. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered a new approach to medicine.

One that gave me hope.

Integrative medicine takes the best of Western medicine – diagnostic imaging, surgery, drug therapy, radiation, and physical and psychological therapies – and combines it with complementary healing therapies – like naturopathy, osteopathy, acupuncture, yoga, meditation – but only when the benefits are scientifically proven. The elder statesman is Dr. Andrew Weil at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. More and more teaching hospitals in the U.S. are getting on board with integrative options for patients.

One of the best ideas behind IM is that you – the patient – are at the centre of your care.  Most people have a primary care doc, but they also consult with a range of other health professionals who have their own advice and treatments – naturopaths, pharmacists, chiropractors, counsellors, osteopaths, acupuncturists, massage therapists, etc.  What the IM approach does is create a way for all those practitioners to work together and integrate their individual treatments into one overall plan.

Holistic Approach

It’s a new idea and it may be a while before your doctor gets onboard. There are a few MDs in Ontario who are open to complementary medicine but they usually operate outside the government-funded system. The physicians who object to IM claim that it’s diluting the scientific rigour of the Western medical system. The very valid point they’re making is that, as a healthcare consumer, you need to be very discerning about the kind of healthcare you are receiving.

Perhaps it’s time to create a different kind of relationship with your doctor. You can use the principles of IM in your relationship with your doctor, even if the funding and coordination isn’t there. Be open about all the kinds of therapies you are using to maintain your health. Start a conversation about your diet, exercise, sleep and other health habits to get their input.

Be a partner in your health

Look for this kind of approach from everyone who influences your health:

    • A partnership between you  and the practitioner that emphasizes the healing process
    • An openness to use of conventional and complementary methods to stimulate the body’s innate healing response
    • Consideration of all factors that influence health, wellness and disease, including mind, spirit and community as well as body
    • Recognition that good medicine should be based in the best possible science
    • Use of natural, effective, less-invasive interventions whenever possible

Photo:  In 30 Minutes guides