An evening of inspiration with the Lunagals

I would like to invite you to An Evening with the Lunagals: two of my favourite female changemakers who are visiting from Vancouver on Thursday, February 18.

Madeleine Shaw and Suzanne Siemens – the Lunagals – have been using business tools to create their social change goals since long before ‘Social Entrepreneurship’ was a buzzword.

Eventbrite - Lunagals: An Evening with Madeleine Shaw and Suzanne Siemens

The Lungals are best known as the founders of Lunapads, a pioneering natural menstrual health product line and web retailer that they’ve built into a 7-figure business over two decades. Lunapads is currently in the running for the SheEO Radical Generosity venture, and I can’t think of a more deserving company!

In addition to empowering women to #DitchTheDisposables, the Lunagals have supported the provision of sustainable feminine hygiene supplies to over 14,000 girls in 18 countries as Directors of United Girls of the World. Their passionate and “playfully disruptive” work has earned them recognition including the recent 2015 Vancouver Board of Trade Wendy McDonald Award for Entrepreneurial Innovation.

But my personal connection to these two inspiring women is the reason I am so thrilled about this opportunity to share their stories with my community.

lunagals shecosystem-poster.pngJust over a year ago, I was newly back in Toronto and searching for greater alignment in my life. I came across an organization called G Day: a community-based rite of passage for adolescent girls, founded in 2013 by the Lunagals. After a conversation with Madeleine, I stepped up to volunteer as Community Leader (as well as MC) of G Day Toronto in November 2014.

Thanks to the dedication of an incredible team, G Day Toronto gathered 250 Girls and Champions for a magical day of celebration and empowerment last April.

G Day was an opportunity to really step into my power.

It took courage and a great deal of emotional honesty to pull it off, and the Lunagals supported me every step of the way with a blend of intuitive trust and no bullsh*t professionalism. It was the first time I was able to really show up authentically at work, giving me a taste of a feminine paradigm for the working world that centers around work-life integration.

With over 50 women on board as volunteers and presenters, G Day also connected me with a community of heart-centred female entrepreneurs like the Red Tent Sisters, my Dance Our Way Home mentor Erica Ross, and Leigh Mitchell from Women in Biz Network. Seeing what these women are capable of when our forces combine – and seeing how happy everyone was to share space, if only for a day – inspired me to create more opportunities for us all to shine. Truly, G Day Toronto is where the seeds of Shecosystem were first planted.

That’s the power of the Lunagals’ magic. Who knows what could giant beanstalks could sprout from your attendance at this event!
Please join me for an intimate meet & greet with the Lunagals (and wine & goodies!) at 6:30PM followed by a conversation moderated by Marysa Czarski and an audience Q + A.

Learn how Madeleine and Suzanne’s unique co-leadership practice and values-based business model has influenced their key decisions, attracted investors, garnered media attention, supported them as working moms, and taken them as far afield as East Africa. Learn more at www.lunagals.com.

As a valued friend, I invite you to use the promo-code SHECOLOVE to save 20% off the ticket price.
Eventbrite - Lunagals: An Evening with Madeleine Shaw and Suzanne Siemens

Thursday, February 18, 2016
6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
The Foundery
376 Bathurst Street

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ARE YOU PART OF A THRIVING SHECOSYSTEM?

I told you I was done playing it safe and small. I told you I was ready to create something. Well here it is: after months of visioning, researching, and dreaming, it’s time to let you in on my next BIG thing.

After hearing myself go on and on about ‘holding space’ and ‘creating safe space,’ I’ve decided to create a real, physical, bricks and mortar space that reflects the values I hold dear. I want to unite the ecosystem of working women so that we can all become more resilient and radiant.

I am going to start a coworking space designed from a feminine paradigm that values self-care, sisterhood, holistic wellbeing and showing up authentically in our working lives.

It will be an environment where working women thrive – personally and professionally.

The SheCoSystem, as I’ve named my evolving project, is modeled on my core belief that just like everything in our natural ecosystem, working women thrive on interconnectedness. The more we come together, collaborate, share, and learn from each other, the more resilient we become as individuals, businesses, and as a community of working women. SheCoSystem will facilitate this connectedness by providing a collaborative, engaging, accessible and supportive workspace for the mobile workforce. It will be a hub for our city’s existing women’s networks and a purpose-built home for women’s events.

So that’s the plan. But it doesn’t start with bricks and mortar; it starts with community. That’s why I’ve joined forces with Women in Biz Network to host weekly events:

 Coworking, Wellness & Mentorship Meetups

Emily Antflick coworking meetup

Join us every Tuesday morning from 10-12 in Studio 106 at Artscape Youngplace on Shaw Street.

We have our own private, light filled room with fast wifi and strong coffee. Every week a group of women meet up to cowork and engage in self-care. After a quick check-in, we get down to business – each woman focussing on her own projects, occasionally turning to the group (or to our in-house professional mentor) with a question, an insight or a helpful resource to share. Then we take a purposeful break to dance, stretch, meditate, or learn together.

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Pay as you go: $8 WIBN Members/ $12 Non-members

Monthly pass: $30 WIBN members/$36 non-members

 

Join us to create a new coworking space and community hub for women in Toronto. This is your opportunity to be a part of a the conversation and help us shape the space to suit your needs and values.  Join us to become a founding member of a vital new community, investing not only in your own business but in the future of women’s work in Toronto.

You are a part of the SheCoSystem if:

  • You are a woman who wants a workplace where you can show up in an emotionally authentic way without feeling fear or shame
  • You value holistic self-care and recognize that your business will thrive only if you take care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing
  • You want a purpose-designed home to host your workshop, meetup group, club, or event
  • You are a wellness practitioner looking for a space to offer your services
  • You are looking for a safe and all-embracing space where you can take risks and work in integrity
  • You believe that growth can arise from serendipitous connections
  • You are passionate about lifelong learning and personal development
  • You love to collaborate and share your success – and vulnerability – with like-minded others
  • You want to prove to the mainstream business world that the full expression of the feminine is a viable and sustainable way to work

Want to know more? Contact me and I’d be happy to tell you more about the vision – or just show up next Tuesday to help co-create the SheCoSystem to suit your needs.

Psst – Here’s a peek at our space and the wellness portion of last week’s Coworking & Wellness meetup!

How can I trust in the unknown?

We were walking along a trail in Rouge Park in early May. The park was buzzing with spring’s eagerness to emerge – ferns unfurling their fibonacci curves, trilliums driving home some Ontario pride, little green fingers stretching up through the soil. I spotted a tree growing sideways up the edge of a ravine, and I couldn’t help leaving the path to run along its trunk, balancing in the tangle of horizontal branches.

I was a month out of a relationship and a career, and I was as fragile as the spring buds. But something else was starting to emerge. Something that expanded my chest and sharpened my inner vision. I climbed down from the tree and said to my friends:

TypicThere is so much WILDNESS in me that’s busting to get out…

I didn’t really know what I meant at the time, but that word would not go away.  Wildness. 

It was more than climbing trees and foraging for fiddleheads (but that was part of it). When the word wildness popped into my head and wouldn’t leave, I decided to work with what it represented. As I read and thought and talked and wrote and meditated and danced with the idea of wildness, I began to realize that wildness is the ability to courageously express my authentic, soulful self.

I also realized that too many of us women are out of touch with our wild selves. Occasionally we get a taste of our wildness or feel a longing to rediscover our inner Wild Woman. More often we drown out the cries and cravings of our wildness with air conditioning, makeup, mind numbing routines, cycle controlling hormones, processed food, codependency, distraction…we slouch politely through our lives behind the socially constructed barriers that keep us from hearing the longing of the wild soul.

I decided to play with an idea: what if I created a retreat where the intention is to try to hear our wild voices again?

In order to do that, I had to really step back as a facilitator and make space for each participant’s’ unique Wild Woman to emerge. I set out to design a retreat based on a feminine paradigm that values co-creation, creative collaboration, and an open hearted trust in the mysterious unknown.

With a background in formal education, I am used to working with specific learning objectives and detailed lesson plans, so learning to let go was a challenge. But a knowledge that is deeper than my degrees kept reminding me that the greatest lessons arise from the white spaces.  

Rediscovering my wild soul

required me to surrender control,

to move beyond predictability. 

My mission was to create a container that would encourage people to open up and contribute creatively, take the lead, and expand their personal boundaries. My responsibility was to hold space that was stimulating enough to spark new ideas, yet safe enough to allow women to take risks. I also wanted to bring participants to the edge of discomfort, allowing each woman to question whether her comfort zone serves her or whether it blocks her wild soul from expressing itself. Finally, I had to be open and vulnerable in order to allow these women to reveal their own vulnerability.

The most creative things in the world

happen in the spaces between the

heads and hearts of women who just get it

I sensed that these wise women would find their way to my retreat. And they did.

SaraElisabethPhotography-WildnessWeekend-4704When the ten Wild Women who took part in the retreat first arrived on Friday evening, we  first took time to drop into our breath and our bodies, giving ourselves permission to leave behind the highway and the busy week of work and urban living.

We then started with an exercise around setting intentions, because intention is what separates sacred retreat time from our mindless everyday flow. It was a provocative activity, where rather than simply meditating on her own intention, each person was asked to look at a list of words that another woman generated through a free-writing exercise, and then create an intention for someone else – without even knowing whose words she was reading – and read it aloud to the circle.

The intention that each woman received was surprisingly resonant: testimony to the common emotional ground shared by everyone in this sisterhood. This opening exercise reinforced the appropriateness of my own intention:

How can I trust in the unknown?

As the co-created retreat unfolded over the next two days, I asked myself this question countless times, both to comfort and to inspire me.

I called on it each morning at breakfast, when we set an unconference style agenda for the day.

I leaned heavily on it on Saturday, when I stepped back to allow the participants to lead their own programs – some planned, and others completely spontaneous.

I repeated this question all the way to the closing circle, where I chose not to tie everything up in a neat, pre-packaged closing, but to open the circle again to whatever each woman felt she needed to share or facilitate in order to bring sacred retreat space to a close.

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It feels strange to reflect and evaluate my facilitation of this program. The metrics of success are less clear, because my role was so amorphous.

Do I measure it by the elated exhaustion I felt on Monday after holding space for nine others all weekend?

By the honest and gracious feedback that is trickling in from the participants?

By the fact that I was vulnerable enough to facilitate a tie dying activity in the midst of a full on ugly-tears breakdown (as promised: I’ll cry or your money back)?

By the sheer feat of turning a vague idea into a concrete experience in 3 months?

I still have a lot to process, but on the whole I think I did OK.

Ahem, we did OK!

So in the spirit of co-creation, I’d love to know what you kinds of events you would like to take part in in the coming months. 

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Dreaming Wildness Weekend into Reality

I learned a new word today: KOMOREBI – an untranslatable Japanese term that refers to the quality of light when the sunshine is filtered through a canopy of leaves. Last Tuesday I floated in this dappled light for a few hours, dreaming about Wildness Weekend.

Still buzzing from a full moon long weekend love-fest at my family’s cottage, I drove out to the venue to spend some time exploring and visioning, and the komorebi combined with a sprinkling of warm summer rain soothed and entranced me. I immersed myself in this daydream to give colour and texture to my retreat planning process. Walking alone through the tangled forest, gorging myself on wild berries (3 different species!), journalling on the rocks, the retreat started to come to life through my five senses.

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On this particular day, the part of my wild soul that was speaking the most loudly was more lily than lion: it was all about gentleness. Gentleness loosened my shoulders, softened my gaze and slowed my steps. Gentleness shushed my inner critic and allowed me to slowly, softly, move toward what feels right for this retreat.

I am thrilled to be partnering with Heidi Kutzelnig of Epicurean Wellness who will be feeding our bodies and souls throughout the weekend with her creative and nourishing food. Heidi is a Certified Holistic Chef and Nutrition Consultant, as well as a truly courageous and empowered wild woman. Case in point: when I called her to talk over the menu last week, she had to call me back because she was in the midst of rescuing a baby squirrel. I don’t know what I’m more excited for: her apricot gazpacho, her polenta bennies, or her presence in our circle!

And speaking of circles, the participants who have already registered for this co-created retreat are bringing a wealth of offerings to share with the group, from Wisdom Circles to yoga classes to theatre games. This is where it gets really interesting as a facilitator. Unlike my past life as a high school teacher, the goal is not for me to create a neat lesson plan with every minute accounted for. The goal is to build a skeleton and allow the participants to flesh it out with their intentions, their spontaneous inspirations, and their many gifts.

It is a challenge for me not to overplan, but I absolutely trust that the spaces I leave open will be filled with something more glorious and nourishing than anything I could plan on my own. That is the whole point of this co-created retreat. My personal challenge is to quiet down the perfectionist in me who craves certainty and schedules. It is about gently telling her to be open to the mystery, the richness of possibility, the spaciousness of the unknown.

I cannot wait to see what arises in the spaces between us.

Wildness Weekend is almost full, so if you are considering coming, register soon or get in touch with me if you have questions, ideas, or just want to go for a dreamy komorebi walk someday.

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