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Girlfriends Equal Health: They Teach it at Stanford

August 1, 2012

Personal Assistant CotswoldsIn my passion for my work I often keep going long after I need a break – and I’ve been accused by women friends of appearing too busy to get together. :( While I’ve read this piece before – I just received it again from my sister. I was reminded that while work feeds us in many ways and personal “cave time” is essential for connecting with our feminine wisdom we also find ease and strength in the mirror of our girlfriends.

They Teach It at Stanford

“I just finished taking an evening class at Stanford. The last lecture was on the mind-body connection – the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to…

…nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.

At first everyone laughed, but he was serious. Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this quality “girlfriend time” helps us to create more serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being. Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes. But their feelings? Rarely.

Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters/mothers, and evidently that is very good for our health. He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.

There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising” we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged—not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!

So every time you hang out to schmooze with a gal pal, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health! We are indeed very, very lucky. Sooooo let’s toast to our friendship with our girlfriends! Evidently it’s very good for our health.”

I was the email recipient of this little gem, via a very good ‘girlfriend’ of my own – my sister! (thanks Gayle) – it’s not known whether this is actually from a Stanford class, but I’ve begun prescribing girlfriend time to struggling clients – yes women leaders need them too – and I sure find my own benefits in female friendship.

I’m taking my own medicine and just sent a text to my neighbor for a walk.

Plus, I just posted this line on my computer screen: “a failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!”

A walk or cup of tea anyone?

Karen

P.S. If anyone knows the source – please let me know. I always like to give appropriate credit.

For Wise Moms: Maximizing your Most Important Leadership Role this Summer

July 10, 2012

Emily Bouchard is our guest blogger this week. A Next Octave Women’s Leadership Program Graduate, Emily’s international work pays attention to the legacy of wisdom we leave as mom’s, partners, and wives. When her mother died, Emily reflected on what she ultimately missed above all else, ” I yearn for my mom’s feminine wisdom in my life and wish I had her words to draw from her leadership long after she’s been gone.” Here’s Emily’s wise perspective on the summer, travel with the kids, and a legacy of philanthropy.

Emily Bouchard

Emily Bouchard

Summer brings forth plans for travel and family time for moms with children of all ages.  Women in leadership roles in their professional lives find themselves in a unique position as leader, mentor (or “femtor”), and guide to our children as we seek to empower them and keep them from feeling entitled (and perhaps even spoiled) by the good fortune we have helped to bring into their lives.

Using family trips during the summer as a way to strengthen bonds, tap into unifying values, and spark a sense of privilege and responsibility can be much easier than you think.  Children of all ages tend to rise to the occasion when given specific roles and tasks related to the family trip.

Some examples of what women have done to cultivate their children’s natural giving instinct and desire to engage in the travel planning include:

1. Having each child research the locale of the trip and create a “travel brochure” for the family for their designated part of the trip where they will be the “tour guide”.  They get to choose where the family will go and their job is to make the “tour” is interesting and enjoyable.

2. Giving each child the same amount of money, with half allotted towards souvenirs and treats, and half allotted towards giving back somehow to the community the family intends to visit.  The children (and remember, any age) get to look at how to leverage their resources and work together towards making the most out of the opportunity given.

For more ideas related to how to engage your children in your travel plans, and bring philanthropy and giving back into the conversation as you discover new places together, you can join the authors, Emily Bouchard and Jamie Traeger-Muney for an interactive webinar about this topic hosted by Catalytic Women.

Emily Bouchard is the co-author of  Estate Planning for the Blended Family with Paul Hood, and leads “Your Intangible Legacy” Ethical Will Workshop for religious, civic, and estate planning organizations. Emily is also the Managing Partner of Wealth Legacy Group, a consultancy specializing in the emotional impact of wealth in people’s lives.  WLG works with clients and their advisors through individual and group coaching, speaking, workshops and in-service trainings designed to address the qualitative side of financial management and estate planning.

Thank you Emily for your wisdom on emotions and money and blended families and paying attention to the legacy we leave.

Warm regards,

Karen

Leaving HER out of the equation

July 9, 2012

I remember a remarkable moment, early in my professional career. In the mid-80’s, I facilitated a three-day meeting of senior managers in a bay area corporation.  During the first break I asked for directions to the restroom. The men said, in a matter of fact tone, that there was no women’s room on that floor. When I looked surprised the reply was, “This is the Board Conference Room floor” as if that explained it. I would need to go down the stairs to find the women’s room that the secretaries used. I was already dismayed that no women were in the meeting, except for the two secretaries floating in and out to refresh the coffee urns.

Dedicated to women’s equality since my teen years, I was sething. While it wasn’t uncommon to be the only woman consulting to a room of senior managers, this was the first time I’d been put down by a structural design. Yet, I had a job to do. Clenching my jaw, I kept going.

It took me many years to realize that in addition to women being put down a level as a gender, our feminine vision, values, gifts and approaches were also excluded. The saddest part is that in retrospect I did the same thing with my feminine self as I pushed, drove, played tough, and kept my focus on accomplishing results. There was less room for gentle compassion or undulating feelings, and I had no idea that as a woman my true source of power resided in my feminine wisdom. (More on this today on my guest blog post at the 3rd Act.)

Now, in my late 50’s (turning 60 this year!) I’m unequivocal about showing up in the world as my whole authentic feminine self. I work from an integrated appreciation of the my many dimensions. Including all of myself – I feel more fulfilled, less drained.

Our power arises naturally when we value the feminine in ourselves and other women. When we try to project a certain image, or be like someone else, there is a tightening in the heart. When we can be who we are with honesty, positive regard, and compassion, we relax the heart. These are the conditions of centered confidence and freedom, no matter what is happening around us.

Clearly women’s wisdom is still needed in our companies, and the world today. Whether looking at the debacle of Wall Street in 2008, the political conflicts we are currently experiencing in America, or the wars that rage unceasingly around the world, we are clearly missing the kind of wisdom that places long term health, inspiring beauty, compassionate caring, and effective action on what matters for life as top priorities.

This is why I put together the next The Next Octave Women’s Leadership Webinar. After working with hundreds of women in corporations, nonprofits, community organizations and small-business owners I discovered that women need a methodology based in feminine wisdom to develop as authentic, powerful leaders. Consider joining this dedicated group of women coming together to learn and apply the powerful methods and models that create wise feminine leaders.

Warmest regards

Karen

Anne-Marie Slaughter: Why Women Still Can’t Have it All – in 2012

July 6, 2012

“It’s time to stop fooling ourselves”, says Anne-Marie Slaughter in a recent article in The Atlantic Monthly, “women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed.” Anne-Marie held top positions of power, and chose to leave the State Department to go home to be with her teen-aged sons when they needed her. She got a lot of grief for her choice.

My heart breaks that we still struggle with this basic disagreement! What really matters to the future of our world – the number of hours worked or the health of our children and families?

At first I also did the supermom routine. When my beautiful daughter was born my days were like this – nurse, work, nurse, work, sleep, nurse. Take the sitter with me to consulting contracts so I could see and hold my baby during the breaks. Soon I was exhausted, then joyfully pregnant with my son and I knew things had to change.

The choice to stay home for 4 years was super hard for me – it meant a loss of identity, confusion about my priorities – and I couldn’t figure out how to slow down! What was I going to do with all my energy? While I was competent as a professional – it took me many months to learn how to really show up as a parent.

Anne-Marie tried for years to do it all – to have it all. Eventually, her heart chose – her sons needed her at home, now. Even though she was the first woman to hold these positions, her sons couldn’t wait until the next big policy was in place or until after the election and after top positions at Princeton and Harvard,  she left a senior position as Director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State to spend her time as a mom.

What is your experience? Do people in positions of power place more value on parenting activities or on other activities like training for a marathon more outside of work?

Subtle gestures, unspoken assumptions, and direct comments place a low value on child care in comparison with other activities. They make it harder for a primary caregiver to get ahead.

This story from Anne-Marie goes to the heart of the matter: “An employer has two equally talented and productive employees. One trains for and runs marathons when he is not working. The other takes care of two children. What assumptions is the employer likely to make about the marathon runner? That he gets up in the dark every day and logs an hour or two running before even coming into the office, or drives himself to get out there even after a long day. That he is ferociously disciplined and willing to push himself through distraction, exhaustion, and days when nothing seems to go right in the service of a goal far in the distance. That he must manage his time exceptionally well to squeeze all of that in.

Be honest: Do you think the employer makes those same assumptions about the parent? Even though she likely rises in the dark hours before she needs to be at work, organizes her children’s day, makes breakfast, packs lunch, gets them off to school, figures out shopping and other errands even if she is lucky enough to have a housekeeper—and does much the same work at the end of the day. Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s indefatigable chief of staff, has twins in elementary school; even with a fully engaged husband, she famously gets up at four every morning to check and send e-mails before her kids wake up.

The discipline, organization, and sheer endurance it takes to succeed at top levels with young children at home is easily comparable to running 20 to 40 miles a week. But that’s rarely how employers see things, not only when making allowances, but when making promotions. Perhaps because people choose to have children? People also choose to run marathons.”

There are real barriers and flaws in the system young women today have inherited – systems that make it tough to parent and succeed at work. Women are still underrepresented at the decision making tables – and so are their values and priorities. If we truly believe in equal opportunity for all women, some fundamentals need to change.

Women are over 50% of the college graduates and wield over 50% of the financial resources in the US and Europe. While Linda Tarr-Whelan, Ambassador, Senior Policy Advisor to the UN and author of Women Lead the Way, asserts we need a 30% solution. Anne Marie proposes that we will see changes in what is expected only when we elect a woman president and 50 women senators; to ensure that women are equally represented in the ranks of corporate executives and judicial leaders. We are a long ways from those numbers.

The system needs to change – and women need to change. As women, only when we value our feminine wisdom will we insist that society value parenting – whether it is a man or a woman as primary caregiver.

Anne-Marie took a risk in publishing this article – and a quick google search shows lots of hostile responses. I’ve lived this story as well – stayed awake worrying about my kids when I traveled and wished I was home when the disasters struck  – and I have to say I agree. We can’t have it all, not in the existing system.

Only when the subtle and overt system barriers change and women wield positional power in sufficient numbers will we create a workplace and a society that genuinely works for women and families.

The good news? This will be a world that works for everyone.

Warmest regards,

Karen

The Feminine Wisdom of Touch

June 25, 2012

I first met this week’s guest blogger, Alice Parvin, at a 2010 Women of Wisdom conference in Charleston.The depth of our connection grew immediately and we recently took it to a whole new level when Alice traveled to the island of Molokai where I hosted a women’s retreat on feminine wisdom. Is there anything more important than loving touch? Alice goes to the core of our yearning.

Alice Parvin

Alice Parvin

We connect as humans in thousands of ways everyday. Through the internet, via phone, Facebook, text messages, instant messenger, perhaps even a hand written note, a smile,

a hug or touch to the arm when we greet each other, but we so often miss the most important connection of all; the connection of touch on a conscious level.

I recently attended a Reiki Healing Touch Level One Class. I participated to find out more about using Reiki as a medium to “read” what my own body was yearning to tell me but what I discovered was even more profound. We are woefully deficient in human touch in our society; conscious touch. This realization came after a day with four amazingly wise women all on different paths of discovery of their own wisdom. After performing my final Reiki session on one of the participants I braced myself for her review. With tears in her eyes, she faced me and said, “If every young girl were to learn how it feels to be touched in such a wise way, there would be fewer unexpected pregnancies in this country.” Her statement rocked me.

As we talked about it on the way home, she said she was expressing what so many of us yearn for, the touch of the mother. The Great Mother. A healing touch. The touch of a wise woman.

If we as women had learned this touch, this loving, unconditional touch as children or even in the womb, we would be wiser women, friends, lovers and partners. We would carry it in every cell of our bodies, needed nothing more. Many of us who were children of the 50’s and 60’s were denied this. The fault does not lie with our mothers. They did not know. Some of us have been fortunate enough to have discovered the mystery of this touch of feminine wisdom later in life, others not.  It has changed my life. I learned at 60 what the magic of conscious touch can do. To heal, to open your heart, to discover pleasures and joy, I never knew.

It was only after the statement made in the Reiki session that I realized it was connected to the discovery and growth of my own feminine wisdom through touch and how deeply I want to share that with other women…all women. Through this experience I have awakened to my own appreciation of how my feminine wisdom through touch can reach so many people, if I am present and conscious to that wisdom.

Alice Parvin is a community leader, volunteer, mother and student of the facets of feminine wisdom, energy and power. She is co-founder of Fredericksburg Academy, a Pre-K through 12th grade private school, now in it’s 20th year. She is also a founder of WINGS which supports non profits in the community. She lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Thank you Alice – you are truly a wise feminine leader bringing insight, vision, compassion, (a fabulous sense of humor!) and an ability to get big things done. We are all better for it.

Warmest regards, Karen

Seeing our Way through Doubt

June 21, 2012

Read more…

Solstice: Welcoming Your Magnificence

June 21, 2012

My heart aches today. Is it sadness or joy? The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year.  Like the Winter Solstice, it is a turning point. I deliberate on the repetitive patterns, habits, and behaviors I use to limit myself and others, remembering feedback, confrontations, and curious looks as mirrors of times when I stepped out of my Wise Self and into my ego reactions of fear or… well…fear.

It all comes down to that doesn’t it? Yet, my heart ache isn’t because of self hatred or anything like that! I am pouring on the love as I reflect. Drinking in the richness of insight, composting – taking the debris and the rich growth of the year and turning it into rich soil for second half of 2012.

This is one of those good aches, the creaking, opening, to more possibilities. A deeper resonance as I embrace my always growing and emerging soul. Who is my Wise Self below the fear? What does she want to say? Where does she inspire me to lead?

I also deliberate on all the ways I generously created a new future for myself and others this past year. How I stepped out of old limitations. I celebrate all that I am becoming and LOVE the gentle soul in me who cares so deeply about the world. I honor my dedication and my willingness to risk, to write, to speak, and to reach out and touch…and be touched.

The Solstice is a time of great personal power, a time of dancing and bonfires to help increase the sun’s energy. The goddess of light is honored as is the goddess of darkness – their rich and fertile pathways run below our common days. The sun is the furthest north for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, our half of the Earth is tilted toward the sun, and it’s the longest length of time between sunrise and sunset on this day.

This is a day for turning. A day to consciously join the cycle of constant change – the ebb and flow, death and birth, weakness and strength, melancholy and elation. It’s a good time to have friends around, to be a good friend. It’s a time to give of your heart and warm the soul. It is a time to celebrate and ruminate – who you have been and who you are becoming.

Enjoy! Take a wild dance round the garden or under the moonlight in nature. Welcome your magnificence and shout it out to the world. Yahoo! I’ll see you there.

Karen

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