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Sun in my eyes, the creek murmuring in the garden outside my studio. Many days, and nights of rain have assured its steady ebullient flow. I open the window slightly so I can hear it. Let the cool air visit the warm space. Then comes raven’s guttural cry; Jetplane’s echo overhead.

A phone conversation with Taaja, teacher of the red carpet walk workshop, one of several workshops I attended at the Everywoman event in Victoria last weekend. Taaja calls it “a practice of dignity, grace, power, and inner beauty; a practice for honouring all parts of ourselves that we need to love”.

I hadn’t planned on going to that workshop. I had judgements. Still somehow without making the decision to go, my friend Emma (whose bite-sized life coaching workshop that day was my favourite) and I ended up being there in the same room and we were curious. So we stepped onto the red carpet and became a part of the group process. It didn’t take more than a minute for the tears to come. Something about it was touching me deeply, bringing something so vital to me, that I couldn’t help but release tears of joy and healing.

As a teenager and young adult, I was told a lot that I was beautiful, sexy.  My mother used to tell me: “You could have any man you want”. I learned to believe that my outer beauty was the most important thing about me.  Them as I grew older, I realized that although they may gain me more attention, my looks wouldn’t pay the bills nor were they making me happy. Instead,  they were the site of a war going on, a relentless struggle within my own mind, characterized by how I talked to myself, and thought about myself. This “body image” war, as I named it in my poem, Refusing to Eat, in my book Weaving of My Being, was continually being fueled by the daily exposure to ads on television, billboards, in magazines, videos and music.

After several years of intense disordered eating, I started to understand that I had to learn to see myself differently, to not depend on my looks, my “attractiveness” or my body to be loved, or for my own love. I had to find other ways of acknowledging who I am and of honouring myself than through clothes, or image or beauty.

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Yet, even though I had hesitated, somehow I also sensed that I would be good at it. I am a performer, and have been lauded for my confidence and ease of standing up in front of others and speaking comfortably. I can hold an audience rapt with my words, voice, presence and emotional vulnerability. Although the “I” falls away quickly when I step into the moment with them. As a teacher, I also have an ability to be very present and to give from the heart. People respond to me…

Still there was anxiety for me in stepping into the process. Although I may have sensed I could be good at it, I was afraid to show it. Because I work hard at being humble. I avoid accepting too much credit for the work I do, the gifts I offer. That is a part of my charm, my partner says. However lately I have watched myself shy away from praise, unable to fully receive clients’ compliments.  I recognize that there is something untrue about it, something that needs to shift. I want to step into my gifts and to fully receive others’ gratitude for what I offer them.

Stepping onto the red carpet was about saying to myself: it’s okay to be who you are, it’s okay to give from your heart, to want to give more and more, to share your wisdom and to offer your love and compassion to the world. It wasn’t about physical beauty. It was about integrity, presence, openness. I could connect, I could look into their eyes. It was warmth and love that I was sharing.

Still I believe that the one who gives, who teaches and writes, performs and speaks, the one who offers love in all these forms, is way bigger than “I”. There is a paradox here, a big one. One I am learning to respect, to accept and to live with.

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