Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dream Into Action: A Retreat to Bring your Dreams to Life

Just stopping by with a big announcement!

We are now in Early Bird sales for my upcoming retreat, Dream Into Action.

It's something I've been dreaming of for the last seven years, so stop on by my new blog to find out more, or to the Dream Into Action site to register.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Welcoming Spirit Has Moved

Oh friends - big news! My brand new coaching website is up, and this blog has moved over to it's new home.

You can find both of my new sites here:

Paula Jenkins Online: my new life coaching website: http://paulajenkinsonline.com/

Welcoming Spirit: at its new blog location: http://welcoming-spirit.com/

I sure hope you'll stop by for a visit!
Much love -
Paula

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Embracing our Brokenness, Accepting Ourselves

Perhaps you've seen the photo by Tyler Shields of the ballerina's feet? The left foot is wrapped, looks beautiful and graceful, wearing a ballet slipper while the dancer balances enpointe. The right foot is bear, showing multiple bandages, bruises, blood, cuts, worn toenails. It is showing the raw beating that a foot takes to dance enpointe. You can see the image here. It is what inspired this post I originally made during Lent.

I was taken aback when this image showed up in my Instagram feed on Thursday. Dance, broken-ness, projected image, perfection, practice, things hidden and those revealed, all rolled in to this one picture.


Each of us has flaws and our own brokenness is inherent to who we are. Even the most practiced of ballerinas, embodying beauty and grace, has her own brokenness, some of it hidden just below her shoes. Just below the surface. The scars of her practicing, her falling, her getting back up one more time then she falls to try again. And she does it all to fulfill what she is driven to do.

It is love and passion and failing that brings us to life, in our entirety, in our wholeness. We dance greatly because of our imperfections, they are what has formed us, what made us stronger, what gave us such strength and focus and purpose.

Like the ballerina, each of us has scars, our own equivalent of bruised toes that have supported our whole weight. Some of the the scars are emotional, some physical, some run so deep that we are nearly swallowed by them some days, while other days we stare it down and tell it to "be still." But each morning, we rise, we muster faith, we cover up what we can with pep talks and emotional bandages, and we keep going.

It is all a story of Crucifixion. It is all practice of dying and rising, getting ready for the final dying and rising. Our brokenness, our scars are reminders of dying. We sit with suffering. We are given opportunities to rise, to live out and past our pain, but for now, this is just practice. Practicing the dance and practicing living and falling and dying and rising.

"And great mystery: to redeem our brokenness and lovelessness the God who suffers with us did not strike some mighty blow of power but sent his beloved son to suffer like us, through his suffering to redeem us from suffering and evil.
Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it." - Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

Jesus is showing us how to do this;  He is the exemplification of sitting with the suffering. And on Easter Sunday, we will witness the trans formative nature of His suffering, His sharing in our suffering, as he Rises and our brokenness and lovelessness is redeemed.

If we embrace our brokenness we can accept ourselves in this moment, and accept the invitation to rise again. For today, we sit with broken-ness and see how it is intimately woven with love, with wholeness, with balance, and that it is all a part of the dance.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I Want to Help Others Fly

A year and a half ago, I was working with a life coach, and was looking to leave advertising, and find a job that would give me better balance, that would shorten my 4 hour daily round trip commute. At the time, I was also trying to decide what I wanted to do next. I had an interview with a large financial industries company as part of this journey, and wrote the following post (which I haven't published until now).

Even at the time, I could feel that my reaction to this interview was different. It was a a solid realization that I truly wanted to move in to something new, in a role where I could support and uplift others.



I can't quite pinpoint what was so off putting about the interview. Maybe it was the one guy who asked how many hours I currently work a week, and when I answered between 55-60 he asked, “so you are comfortable with that kind of work load?” Or the beige cubicles with wine colored stripes. Or that I heard the term “fire hose” used repeatedly.

I found myself staring beyond one of the men interviewing me, past his ears, past a leggy plant, out the window. Where there was freedom. Big buildings needing to be explored. A vast view to take in. There was beauty beyond the walls.

When I was in first grade I had a similar experience. Math class made me feel claustrophobic. It never quite made sense. The rules were oppressive. So, instead of doing the math, I’d sit and stare out the window. There were stories out there. There was a world to explore. My life beckoned.

My teacher put me in a small walled-in cubicle. She didn’t want me to see out the window. Even with no view, I’d daydream. I didn’t want to do what she asked me to, she didn’t understand and she’d closed me in. So I would sit. I would think of stories in my head.

Next, the teacher gave me a kitchen timer, put it next to me and would tell me I had to get my work done before the time was up. The claustrophobia would rise, the anxiety would mount. I would get so upset that someone would cage me, time me, pace near me, decide what was best for me.

And there was something about that office, that team, those people, that gave the same feeling I'd known in first grade. Something about managing people through that environment that made me feel the roles were about to reverse. That I’d become the one that caged others, who defined their days, decided their priorities, that clipped their wings.

When really, all I want to do is to help others to fly.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Our Wedding Dance, or Dancing in the Kitchen

Sean and I got married in October, and we chose to have our first dance in the kitchen of the small reception hall. That's right, the kitchen.

Sure, he's a chef, and that's cute and all, but there's a lot more to our kitchen dancing than his profession.

Dancing in the Kitchen, Wedding Dance on Welcoming Spirit
Our first dance, photo by Matt Welch of Munkee's Eye Photography


It started way back when we were living together in a one bedroom apartment. The kitchen was modern and huge and it was a great space to dance. Many nights we'd just stand there, swaying back and forth, usually without any music playing.

Just dancing in the kitchen.

We moved before Zoom was born, and again we had an ample amount of space in the kitchen. While I was pregnant, it was comforting to stand and dance, and the kitchen was our favorite space. Those months were filled with me picking out about a million "perfect first dance" songs, which I'd insist we play, and we'd dance.

Right there in the kitchen.

When we moved into our new home, again a smallish home with just 2 bedrooms, a reliably open and inviting dance space is in our kitchen.

Zoom will sometimes start a dance party there, and we will play loud music, jumping, dancing, laughing in our kitchen. And there are nights, after a long day, that we still just hug and sway, in the dim light of the kitchen.

So when we looked at our reception hall, there was a clear space for a dance floor. But when we thought about where that first dance should be, well, I asked if we could have it in the kitchen. Sean loved the idea. The caterer didn't mind (but had never had anyone ask that before).

Dancing in the Kitchen, Wedding Dance on Welcoming Spirit
Our first dance, photo by Matt Welch of Munkee's Eye Photography

For us, dancing in the kitchen embodies so much more than what at first glance might seem to be a quirky place for a first wedding dance. It is in its simplicity, it's everyday-ness that we have found it to be sacred. It's a dance that can be done any day, regardless of mood or circumstance. It can (and should be) done in any home, with or without music. In pajamas or wedding gowns, with chicken pox or after gardening. After a hard day, or to celebrate something, we dance in our kitchen. It's the heart of our home, it's a symbol of our togetherness, both as a couple, but also now as a family. It reminds us that we are close, no matter what, and we are loved, no matter what.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

How to Do a Centering Prayer Meditation

My next retreat is on "Living in The Present Moment," and much of what I'd put in the initial outline had been about meditation, learning to live in the now instead of allowing oneself to get stuck in the past, truly facing what's in front of you. One of my favorite activities for getting really in to the present moment is Centering Prayer.

It's a silent meditation where one aims to keep a clear mind, but also respectfully acknowledges thoughts as they enter the consciousness. I was first introduced to this by Sister Michelle L'Allier.

There is, of course, the other and less comfortable aspects of staying in the present moment. If we focus on the here and now, we have to get real and face whatever is going on in our own mind.

I think this is harder in today's world than it has ever been. We have so many distractions close at hand, or in our hand that it's easier to give in to what Pema Chodron calls an "entertainment mentality," than it is to sit with our own thoughts.

What I'm learning in my coaching program is that there's a true value in sitting with our own thoughts, with allowing time for introspection, journaling, for getting in to the truth of ourselves.

For today, I want to share my own walk through of how to do Centering Prayer. In this video, I talk about three ways that I've had this meditation explained to me, and then offer you a chance to try the practice yourself. The first 6:53 is the explanation and led meditation, and after that is silence.

Enjoy! I'd love to hear what you think of this form of meditation in the comments.



Monday, February 23, 2015

Lent: A Call to The Dance

My friend, former room mate, and now ordained Presbyterian minister Kathleen and I run a Lenten Journey group every year on Facebook. It's one of the most amazing experiences I've had, as the group of women that gather each year have gotten to know each other, and there is such community. I'll be sharing some of my Lent posts here, with you :)

For Thursday, 2/19: The Dance

When Anne Lamott was asked what she thought of Lent, she replied with the following," Well, it's the most profound holiday in the Christian tradition," Lamott says. "And I think two things really come to mind. One is something that the great writer Barbara Johnson said, which is that we are Easter people living in a Good Friday world. And I think that every year the world seems more of a Good Friday world. And it's excruciating, whether it's Japan, or Libya, or whether its your own best friends and their children who are sick, which is something that makes no sense when you think about a loving God. But it's a time when we get to remember that all the stuff that we think makes us of such value, all the time we spend burnishing our surfaces, is really not what God sees. God, he or she, loves us absolutely unconditionally, as is. It's a come as you are party."

When Kathleen and I started chatting about themes, it was somehow, dance that resonated with us. I am not a dancer, but I do like to dance (see below, exhibit A). We've come to love this Lenten Circle of fierce loving sisters, and for me (the Lutheran with strong Franciscan influences), it is about the invitation to the dance. The dance of Life, the God who loves us, whether it be a good hair day or not, whether we're wearing the same pants as we did yesterday to work today or not.

Me, dancing at my friend's wedding.
 Yes, Lent is about reflection and giving up things to symbolize what Christ has done for us. It is a somber 40 days for which we will need manna and strength, and our hearts filled full of courage. It's also about knowing that it is by our simply Being that God has said, "yes, I love you, you are invited to my dance, and I want you to come as you are." So perhaps you haven't soaked in that message recently, or perhaps part of you, like part of me, always wants to run and hide because such love can't be for me. Christ's impending journey is a love story that is about to unfold is for YOU. And the days to follow are all about the dance of this life and the next, of heaven and earth, of pain and joy, of slow dances, fast dances, of wallflower moments, of waiting to be chosen, of brave decisions, of all things.