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!

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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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Catch & Store Energy: Making the Most, to the Max!

August is here. The month of my birth, the waning blue moon, the plump pears weighing down the tree in my back alley…

August means that Wildness Weekend is just a few weeks away, and every day my dreams become clearer and more concrete. July was all about absorbing inspiration – through books, coffee dates with collaborators and mentors, workshops, time alone in nature, and always, dance and movement.

I’m a longtime student of Permaculture, and lately I’ve put my Permaculture Design Certification to use in an unexpected way as I cultivate my inner garden. As a total winterphobe, I start to get anxious this time of year as back to school sales herald the coming of the freezin’ season. I’m trying to allay these fears by thinking about the second Permaculture Principle: Catch and Store Energy. 

I’ve been making hay while the sun shines, on a borderline manic quest to make the most to the max (#MTMTM) of these long days and the opportunities they provide to take in new ideas, cultivate new friendships, and find the spark for new projects. I’m stockpiling this inspiration to feed me through the dark days when it’s a bit harder to come by.

I offered my first Dance Our Way Home session early in the month, holding space for women to take a couple of hours out of their everyday urban realities and get wild through a healing freestyle dance journey.

And the most beautiful part? Each woman had a breakthrough that was totally unique to her. Here’s what some of them had to say:

“I finally got reconnected with my soul! This was exactly what I needed after weeks of mind chatter and lots of mental work.”
“This space gave me such a divine and profound moment of releasing and just feeling my feminine goddess. It felt so good and safe and now she’s out…Better watch out!”
“Emily authentically facilitates connection with self, other, nature & universal divine. Her wild spirit creates a space for freedom and self expression, that anyone would be grateful to bear witness to.”

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The participants’ feedback affirmed my sense that we’re all craving connection with our wild essence, and facilitating this connection for others energized me and turned up the volume on my own inner Wild Woman’s voice. I’ll store that energy for a long time – and I hope to offer more DOWH sessions soon.

Here are 5 other sources of inspiration that I’ve drawn from this month:

1. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ exploration of the Wild Woman archetype in Women Who Run with the Wolves A no-brainer, I know, but I have to share how much I am loving this book. From Baba Yaga to the Inuit Skeleton Woman, Estes draws the wild woman out of our planet’s timeless myths and her analysis resonates deeply. I’m looking forward to sharing some of her ideas at Wildness Weekend.

2. People, Nature and Music at Boreal Festival This annual canoe trip/music festival takes a couple hundred house music lovers up to Muskoka for a bush doof unlike any other. I connected with lovely new people in this free-spirited tribe and felt right in my element dancing til dawn, paddling and swimming in Moon River, and sleeping under the stars. Boreal was unforgettable, and the organizer, Justin, led from the heart in a way that really earned my respect. I bought my tickets to his Harvest Festival today (Sept. 18-20) – come!

3. Coworking at the Centre for Social Innovation I recently joined as a community member, and have been spending lots of time at the CSI doing my own work and learning about the coworking movement. I have big plans in this field, and I am so lucky to have a well of inspiration right up the street from my apartment. More broadly, I am inspired by the folks who populate Toronto’s coworking map. July was full of meetings with people in the industry who were without exception eager to share contacts, lessons and encouragement – I just had to reach out.

4. Embodying Emotion at Layah Jane‘s Deep Waves 5 Rhythms  The last session I went to was in late May, and doing the waves again last week showed me how much has shifted since I wrote about my spring thaw. My dance felt light and open as I skipped and cartwheeled. The words that kept coming up were JOY and SIMPLICITY. I’ve been devouring Gabrielle Roth’s Sweat Your Prayers, but nothing compares to getting into the studio and moving through flowing-staccato-chaos-lyrical and finally, resting in stillness as spontaneous images of flowers and indigo skies flood my inner vision.

5. The Teachings of my “Disengagement” At this time last year, I was booking off the August long weekend for my wedding. The universe had other plans, and my relationship ended with love and mutual understanding in the beginning of April. I’ve done (and continue to do) the work to move through the pain and to reflect on everything I have learned from the breakup. As I walked down the dock at my cottage on the night of the Blue Moon, a dizzying wave of gratitude unexpectedly washed over me and I just stood alone and laughed and cried and watched the mercury ripples dance all around me. I may not have been in a wedding dress this weekend, but I am madly in love with my life, and that will do just fine.

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Inspiration is easy to come by in the summer, and these hay bales are stacked in my soul.

As August bathes you in its warm rays, make sure to get out there.

Wake up early.

Stay out late.

Feed hungrily on whatever inspires you.

Take it all in and store it somewhere you can access it on a cloudy day – in a journal, in your instagram feed, in a friend’s memory, or canned in your pantry.

Make the most…to the max.