Archives for Celebrity Mentors

Celebrity Mentors

What Assumptions and the Wild West Have in Common

In our household, Clint Eastwood, Louis L'Amour and John Wayne are lifetime honorary members of our extended family. In fact, I was raised on tales of the gritty Wild West in film, print and song (with nearly all of my childhood summers spent visiting hot, dusty fairgrounds to listen to bluegrass music, I learned early on the Wild West wasn't for wimps). For instance, let's say you went out west in hopes of striking gold and getting rich quick. But instead of actual gold, you discovered fool's gold. Then imagine your surprise when you went to the bank to cash in your fortune, only to learn your "gold" wasn't actually gold at all. This is what I feel like every time I encounter another one of my own assumptions. Unfortunately, given that I am 45 years old and counting, I have had quite a lot of years to practice constructing plausible-sounding assumptions. Clearly he doesn't love me because... I can tell my box turtle, Bruce, is very unhappy because.... She is obviously mad at me on account of how she said this.... Well, just LOOK at that sky. Obviously it is going to rain today.... Yup. My assumptions tend to sound pretty darned factual. But they are rarely ever correct. I suspect this is because they are based on only the data I have in my own head, which is only about half the data I need to predict any current or future event with any degree of accuracy. For instance, I don't have information about what the other party (human, tortugan, atmospheric, global or otherwise) knows or thinks or feels. More often than not, I don't even really have accurate information about my own part in any assumption I may be cooking up, because I am too busy reacting to my fears or my laundry list of so-called "evidence" to tune in and pay any actual attention to myself. Yet making assumptions is proving to be a very hard habit to kick. One of my favorite mentors, Don Miguel Ruiz, Sr., names "assumptions" as one of the four key things that can make the difference between a hellish and a heavenly life. Specifically, in his book "The Four Agreements," Ruiz states: Don't make assumptions. This is a very clear statement. Planning on making any assumptions today? Don't do it. Then, just in case there may still be any ambiguity, he goes on to outline what you should be doing instead: Ask questions. Express what you really want. Communicate clearly to avoid sadness, drama and misunderstandings. And of course, each of these three alternative activities sounds oh-so-reasonable. Ruiz even adds in one final carrot as extra incentive for those who are still on the fence: With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. Life transformation. Sign me UP. Yes, I would like one (1) order of "life transformation," please - and can you put a rush on that? Yes, I'd be happy to pay extra for the rush. And yet I continue to churn out assumptions so chronically I rarely even know I'm doing it. 
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Celebrity Mentors

Death Threats for Do Gooders

Abdul Sattar Edhi, or just "Edhi" for short, recently passed away. He had been alive on this planet for 88 years before he died, but I had never heard of him. Recently I moved to a new casa, and my neighbors are from Pakistan. Their son told me about Edhi's passing, which prompted me to learn more. As I read more, it didn't take long to realize that this man was literally Pakistan's version of Mother Teresa. And they had a lot in common too. For instance, both lived very simply and humbly. Both stayed engaged at a grass roots, hands-on level in their work throughout their lives, serving the poorest of the poor with their own hands. Both refused donations from government agencies, fundraising efforts and suspect entities, taking only individual private donations to fund their work. And both received death threats. 
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Celebrity Mentors

What Do You Think of Jennifer Lawrence’s “New Normal?”

A post or two ago, I shared a personal experience about ordering a pastry and eating it with peace and happiness. This was significant because I did this even though the friend I was with at the time (who is much more slight and not curvy like me) wasn't doing the same on account of feeling, well, fat. I mean, I've been in recovery for well over a decade, and this certainly wasn't the first time I've eaten what I wanted in the presence of someone who was having a bad body image day. But it was the first time it felt so - effortless - AND that I noticed how effortless it felt. That was the really cool part. Back in April, actress Jennifer Lawrence came out with a statement about her vision for Hollywood's body future. In an interview with Harpers Bazaar magazine, she said she wants her city and her industry to embrace what she calls "a new normal body type." What she actually, precisely said was this: 
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Celebrity Mentors

Retraining Your Eyes to Accept Your Body

These days, I spend increasingly less of my time focused on what I would call "recovery" matters. In other words, I can go whole days, weeks even, without really thinking about the me that used to struggle SO hard with an eating disorder on a daily basis. But there is one area that continues to require significant daily investments of my time and focus. That area is body acceptance. I certainly wasn't an overnight recovery success myself. By that I mean, I've never gotten to a place where, from that point forward, I simply stopped struggling with my eating issues. Rather, recovery happened gradually, not even day by day but minute by minute, until there were fewer moments of significant struggle with increasing stretches of relative peace in between them. Now I am working on body acceptance in the same way, minute by minute and day by day. Some days are harder than others, but the really tough days are fewer and farther between. One particular tactic is really paying off. I call it "retraining my eyes to accept my body." The way I do this is simple. 
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Celebrity Mentors

A Good Reason to Hide Your Face

I've been on stage since I was 10 years old. My family band first put me there, and much later I led a band of my own. In the middle years, I played and sang and acted and even danced in front of groups of strangers, feeling rather more perfectly placed there than anywhere else. This, I discovered later, was because I wasn't really comfortable in my own oh-so-ordinary regular company. I needed the odd safety of the stage to let the best bits of me out unguarded. But then later, being on stage started to feel less familiar....less comforting. Suddenly, gradually, I was no longer bugging my booking agent for more gigs. In fact, I felt relief when one event would end and there was no next event looming. Suddenly, and especially the more comfy I got living inside my own skin, I began noticing how much I enjoyed being out of the spotlight. Over the years, I have received some very genuine and heartfelt letters and emails and personal shares to let me know that my work mattered. But there were also many times when the critiques seemed unusually harsh, and focused on intensely personal aspects of being me - aspects that only the real me or perhaps someone very very close to me could possibly perceive or interpret with any accuracy. For instance, women would come to book signings and later email me with comments about my weight. Some event coordinators would witness the line of eager students waiting to talk one-to-one with me after a speaking event (lines that sometimes took an hour or more to break up) and then send a nastygram telling me they were disappointed in my presentation for one reason or another. At times someone decided they didn't like my book or a blog post I'd written, and they would let me know and then let their entire network know in the most public way possible. It all just got to be a little too much. I started to realize I liked myself and my life better with fewer eyes on me. 
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Celebrity Mentors

All About That Bass on the Dance Floor

A few weeks ago I tagged along for one of my boyfriend's many music gigs. This particular band happens to play mostly cover songs, and their singer is uh-mazing (he can sing anything - really - he's just that good). So I wasn't that surprised when, about halfway through their second set, I heard the familiar strains of one of my favorite songs. And with that, their tall, black, male lead singer launched into Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" (click HERE to read the song lyrics). He killed it. He sang the crap out of the bass, the treble, and all the parts in between. But that wasn't the best part. The best part was how the audience responded.
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Celebrity Mentors

How to Know You are Brave

One of my favorite songs of all time is Sara Bareilles' song "Brave." In the song, she sings "I wanna see you be brave." The first time I ever heard her sing that line, I thought, "Me too." I hadn't ever really thought of myself as brave before, but I liked the idea of "me" as a brave person. And one day, as I listened (for the umpteen jillionth time) to her sing, "Show me how big your brave is," I decided, "Okay, I will!" The song was released in April 2013, and it is now January 2016. I am happy to report I've been brave lots of times since then. But until I recently began reading Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear," I still wasn't really grasping how unusual "being brave" really is - for me or anyone. In the chapter titled "The Fear You Need and the Fear You Don't Need," Gilbert shares: Bravery means doing something scary. Fearlessness means not even understanding what the word scary means. 
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Celebrity Mentors

What is Your REAL Job?

I recently started following one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, on Instagram. Turns out I have a lot more in common with this world-famous, life-changing writer than I realized. For instance, we both love coffee. And puppies. And cussing. And love. We are also big fans of creativity, gratitude and kindness for kindness's sake (whether or not we manage to pull it off on any given day). And we like colorful things - like flowers and wine and book covers on intriguing books (that we may or may not have written). But most of all, I think, what we have in common is this: We understand our "real job" is not the one that pays the bills. For example, Gilbert shares a graphic on her Instagram that states: I love. That's just what the f*** I do. So clearly her work as a writer, author, speaker, teacher, shop keeper and all the rest is in service to her real job, which is "to love." SO beautiful. While I am currently hard-put to define my real job so succinctly as Gilbert does, I am working on it. And I know it is not writing, even though I love it the most out of any job I've ever done. 
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Celebrity Mentors

A Camera-Crazy Mentoring Monk

I can't remember the very first time I saw a monk, but I also can't remember any time I've seen one that hasn't given me a lot to think about. I mean, that takes courage - to walk about in mainstream society garbed in bright yards of fabric and ropes of brown beads. Somehow, no matter how colorfully diverse humanity gets, that particular form of diversity always grabs my attention. Something in me whispers, "What if.....?" and thinks of the many months I spent living in an ashram in India. So of course I couldn't resist watching "Monk with a Camera." Of course, the fact that this particular monk with a camera also happens to be the grandson of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland just makes his story that much more compelling. But what really makes Nicholas Vreeland stand out is his inability to put. the. camera. down. Monks are supposed to renounce, well, everything....at least from what I've heard. But this particular monk fell in love with photography at age 13, far earlier than he fell in love with the internal life of a renunciant. The documentary describes how Vreeland has struggled with his passion for photography....as well as his passion for women (Buddhist monks, like Catholic priests, take a vow of celibacy). Interestingly, in the latter he has triumphed. But in the former, not so much. 
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Animal Mentors

How to Know You Really Love Animals

It says "To Shannon, love Jack Hanna." :-)

Back in May, I got to meet legendary zoo director and animal activist Jack Hanna.

He even signed a cool postcard to me - addressing me by name.

At the time, I was pretty confident we were meeting as equals - two fellow animal lovers who simply choose to cohabitate with different numbers of non-human companions (me, 2; Jack, 200? 350?).

Then...
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