Creating Courage in COVID Times

  
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How can you create more courage for these challenging times? Is creative courage different than creating courage? What if there’s more than one kind of courage? On May 5, I had the pleasure of talking about these questions with Dulce Bell-Bulley and Ramona Ray on Kosmic Voices, their monthly 1st Tuesday “conscious conversation” on KAFM Radio.

My portion of the conversation is in this podcast link above, and the full original is here. Below is the transcript, plus links, photos and resources. It’s certainly taking a bit of courage to post it, given my filler words, like, you know, the ums, pauses, and run-on sentences now needing creative punctuation. But I love raw, live conversations! Thanks to Dulce and Ramona (who are also gifted local writers) for inviting me. And thanks to the show’s sponsor, Main Street Minerals and Beads for their underwriting.

Dulce: Well, Shelly, welcome, welcome. Thank you for being on Kosmic Voices. I'm going to hang up and listen. Hope everyone else can enjoy the show. Listen to Shelly Francis. Blessings until next month. Bye!

Ramona: Bye, thanks Dulce. Well, our special guest today is Shelly Francis, a founder of a new publishing company called Creative Courage Press, based in Palisade, Colorado. She is the author of a book called The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity. It was published in 2018. And Shelly is passionate about the idea of creating courage for the complexity of being human. In writing The Courage Way she discovered there are many types of courage and that courage takes trust. These are some of the refreshing ideas that show up in the books she is publishing with other remarkable authors. The first book she launched for Creative Courage Press, this spring, is by a doctor named Mukta Panda and is titled, Resilient Threads: Weaving Joy and Meaning into Well-Being. This is definitely something we'd like to talk about now. She's also a photographer. I love that she coined a new job title called a metaphortographer, because she takes pictures looking for the underlying metaphor in the photo. And Shelly has a thing for elephants as a metaphor for courage and wholeness, which shows up in her business logo and Instagram feed. Shelly joins us today to talk about finding your own creative courage, especially in this time of the coronavirus. Shelly, we're so happy to have you here with us today.

Shelly: Thank you, I'm excited to be here.

Ramona: So, listening to Dulce talk about all of these changes, you know, planetary shifts, planets going retrograde, retreating, staying home. I mean, this just seems the perfect time to talk to you about creating courage, the creativity of courage, the courage of creativity? I mean in a lot of different ways, whether it's about art, or just the courage to be creative and how we are alive. And then Dulce is telling us that it's a good time to retreat and stay home. Tell us your thoughts and about your book. I mean, how do we create the courage to do what we need to do today?

Shelly: Well, certainly it's a time when everybody's thinking about scary things like a pandemic, and how do we stay healthy? Where am I going to get my next paycheck if I'm on furlough, or if I've lost my job? So this has brought the entire world to a halt, needing courage, and any solutions that are going to come from it are going to have a lot of complexity to them. So we're going to need a lot of people connecting to what they know and what they can contribute in a creative way so that we can overcome this. And really, it's a chance to reinvent our world into something new. We're seeing how many systems are really broken—from health care to how education is run, the government, I mean, even churches are doing business differently these days. And so all of this is going to require courage. When I was writing The Courage Way for a nonprofit based in Seattle called the Center for Courage & Renewal, the question was, how do we equip people for courage? And how do they renew their commitment to themselves and to the institution or the organization that they work for? How do we really connect soul and role? And in the process, I interviewed 120 people, at least, over many years. And what I came to understand, or what just blew my mind, is that that courage actually takes trust. And that's one of the things I'd love to talk about. And also just that there's more than one kind of courage.

Ramona: This seems like a really unique time. We talking about trust. Can you tell us more about that?

Shelly: Well, certainly trust has been broken in many ways. I'd say across the world. It's hard to know who to trust in the news that we're receiving, how can we trust that the protective equipment that we have will keep us healthy and safe? How can I trust that I will be okay, even if I can't see down the road a week from now, or three months from now, or much less two years from now. So, trust is something that we need both internally—how do I trust myself, how do I trust other people?—but also how do I trust in life overall, and what does it take to build trust? Have we had good experiences about trust in our growing up years and our family? Or do we tend to fall into more fear and anxiety around trust.

Ramona: It seems like we're bombarded on a daily basis with, you know, the facts about how many deaths there are… I think there's the ideas that we hear a lot about, you know, people not wanting to take responsibility for where we are not wanting to, you know, wanting to blame someone. I really don't want to go into the whole fake news things but, it is difficult to… I mean, do we want to spend time in that world? Or do we have to create another reality for ourselves to live in in order to keep going in a positive way?

Shelly: Well, I do believe that humans can tap into amazing inner resources of creativity to co-create with each other something new that is for the common good, that can be for all of us. What I wrote about was that we're in this time that feels so volatile and uncertain. It's complex, and it's ambiguous. So what do we do with that? And a lot of the way that we first respond to these kinds of challenging times and conditions depends on our biology and our instincts for where we go when we're under stress. And this has been surprising too, to take it beyond the typical stress reactions that we think about.

Everybody knows fight or flight. We hear about that all the time. So are you someone who wants to jump in and fight the battle? Are you quick to speak up and take charge? Or do you want to run away and just forget about everything? So that would be fight or flight.

Freeze is another sort of that deer-in-headlights moment where the overwhelm can just shut you down. And it can show up as just a total blank face, words that just can't come out of your mouth, or you can't even see what step to take. So you're just frozen in time and feel anywhere from scared to just apathetic.

A fourth “F word” that I learned in writing this book is the word flock. And that's the idea of flocking to your people. It's kind of funny to think about that when we're talking about herd mentality [herd immunity]. But it can be tend and befriend, it can be finding your tribe, but it can also show up as peer pressure and a real, exclusionary, polarized us-against-them mentality.

So all four of these stress responses sound negative, but they're there for our survival. And there can be positive aspects of each one of them. When we find for our rights, we stand up and we do what needs to be done. Sometimes we leave for really good reasons when it's time to go, to leave a situation without regret, or leave a toxic and unhealthy relationship. Now, that certainly takes courage.

Freezing can say, you know, I'm just gonna pause for a moment and think, I'm going to take my time to make a decision, I'm not going to rush into it. And flock, you know, it's finding your people, it's finding a sense of community. So those, I think of those four F words, almost like the corners we go to when we're under stress.

But there's always a fifth option, which I learned about, which is the idea of fortify. How can we fortify ourselves during these stressful times? I like to think of the circle in the middle of this four-cornered box, and that's where I would put fortitude. And fortitude is another word for courage, and it's in the center. So it's that sense of centering and grounding yourself and fortifying yourself before you make a decision. And maybe my response is usually to freeze or to run away. But what would give me courage and fortify myself to fight for something, to speak up, to stand out, to look inward, to right wrongs? (I wrote a poem in the book that often comes into my mind that just kind of summarizes some of the concepts.) So fortitude and fortifying ourselves are a pathway to finding our courage. How can we practice finding what rejuvenates and restores us before, or so that courage is accessible right when we need it? Does that make sense?

Ramona: Yes. What comes to my mind is, I think of that as my stake in the ground. You know, it's the thing that I can say—when all else fails—I know this, this is my core value. This is my reason for being. This is my value that I bring to the world. And I really love that concept. But I think sometimes we're stressed, when things are happening around us. I mean, there's a question in my mind, okay, where's my value? What am I doing for the world? You know, what am I doing for me? Why am I here? And I think sometimes, when we're in a stressful situation, it's hard to decide. I've read some things like somebody said, they were trying to read a book and they couldn't get past a couple of pages before they lost their focus. So they were trying to do this. I think sometimes, how do we find that place where we can continue to move through there. If you've got six skills, you know, we're talking about I could lose my job. I have this skill, this skill, and this skill. How do I know which one to move towards? Does that make sense?

Shelly: Yes. And that kind of goes back into what does it take to muster your courage? And what can help is to think about that there's more than one kind of courage. We're not just talking about that standard physical bravery. That might be the first one that comes to mind—of jumping into the fray or the courage to overcome an illness, which is certainly one of the things we're facing right now. You know, a lot, physical courage often comes in the moment and you do it because you have to. People, other people may look at you and say that was courageous. But it's just what you had to do to survive. And some people really are trained to do things physically, that look courageous and heroic, but it's what they're trained to do. It's a level of competence.

Then there’s that moral courage of just knowing what's right. I love that you tied it into knowing your values and knowing that this is where you want to put your stake in the ground. People who do display moral courage on a really big basis might be whistleblowers, or people like Martin Luther King or Malala Yousafzai, like more recently, or Nelson Mandela. Those kind of big examples of moral courage give people a sense of possibility for what they need to do to take care of themselves and their family or their children or their parents or their community.

Social courage is something that not many people have named but researchers like Brené Brown have made more common. And social courage is risking a vulnerability, it's risking rejection or loss for the possibility of love and connection and a sense of belonging. And this ties into what you're saying, it’s when, for instance, you've lost your job, and you don't know what's coming, if you hunker down and feel like you're all alone, and you have to do it all by yourself, you may not have a sense of community support. But if you're willing to risk saying, "I'm scared, I need help. I don't know where to look. Could somebody help me with my resume?" Or "do you know somebody who's looking for someone like me who has these skills?" I mean, we're kind of talking about the job loss situation, but even if it's reaching out to say, "Hey, I'm really nervous about going to the grocery store because of an underlying health condition. Would you be willing to lend me a hand or help me order? If I order groceries, will you go pick them up?"

That takes a level of social courage, and it's also an act of self-care to ask for help and to trust that somebody will say yes. And I think we're seeing that in the news all the time, all the happy stories of just this burgeoning of people who are willing to reach out and help and know their neighbors for the first time maybe, because we've otherwise we've just been so focused internally on our commute or our other lives or... So I think social courage, I just jumped to summing that up, I think is something that we're seeing more of these days.

So creative courage is the next on the spectrum of courage. And that is not just being an artist, artsy with your crafts, or being a painter, being a writer, being a musician. It's the idea of coming up with creative solutions, creating community, creating meaning from the challenges that you're going through, creating new visions and symbols that people can rally around. That's kind of leaning a little bit more toward the artistic side. But you know, when you see people, like Yo Yo Ma who has been doing daily cello and that there's sort of music for sheltering in place. Or in Italy, where at seven o'clock they started singing their national anthem or other people at seven o'clock cheering for healthcare leaders—like those are acts of courage that combined social courage with a creative courage that bring us together and I think have inspired and encouraged other people to think of what they can do to support each other more locally.

Ramona: And it's also an opportunity to not feel so alone. I think summed up this whole thing, going through this whole thing, sometimes it's just that we've been home for a long time, and some of us have not been interacting with people at all and, you know, there can be that moment of "Oh, I haven't seen seen another live human being in a really long time, and I'm not sure when that's gonna happen again." And to be able to, I mean, like you're talking about being creative, like how can I, how can I make that happen? And people are doing that—they're coming up with Zoom meetings and and Zoom cocktail hours and Zoom card games and different ways to connect in and to, you know, to touch another person's life.

Shelly: Hmm, like reading stories to your grandchildren over the phone or through Zoom. I saw a zoo in Seattle that had zookeepers reading a story about an elephant with baggy pants, and they were doing it with animals in the background. I mean, there's just so many ways to reach out, and thank goodness for the technology that we have to be able to do that. And what about the people who are just hunkering down at home, turning off technology and just having quiet time, reading directly to their kids because they're able to spend that time. I mean, I know that's a really double edged sword right now with homeschooling being such a shock for so many people. But the cooking—think of all the people who are learning how to do sourdough bread right now.

Ramona: I love that. But how to… I love all of these ideas you're bringing up. I love the zookeeper reading the book. Say you're an older person at home. How do you hear about all of these different ideas? I think some people don't know that all of this stuff is going on around them. How do you find this stuff? Do you just search? I mean, I, I'm assuming that everybody has a computer where they can search ‘activities happening in my life?’

Shelly: Well, I think that's one of the things that people who are privileged to have technology and computers need to be aware of, that not everyone is equipped with, even knowing how to get on to Zoom in the first place, or what the heck is Zoom, because that’s a new verb that is suddenly in the world. And so I think that takes an awareness and a compassion for people to say, “Hey, I don't live by my grandparents, but there's that neighbor down the road I hardly talk to, or down the hallway in the apartment, maybe I could reach out and knock on the door and see if they need anything.” And maybe sometimes it's not about technology, but it's about rediscovering the things that you've loved that you've set aside a long time. So maybe it's just finding new TV shows to watch, or getting your book out or journaling or puzzles, puzzles. A lot of people I'm hearing are doing puzzles these days.

Ramona: I love that you had the option though. It's not necessarily technology, that some people actually are turning everything off and being silent by themselves. Can you speak to that?

Shelly: Well, that's sort of the inner work that Dulce was talking about earlier—is that it's scary to look inward at your life. Take a moment to take this opportunity to say, “Hey, is everything working in my life?” Or is this an opportunity to reflect? And think about what would bring me more joy? or What have I always wanted to do? Or is this the moment to start doing something that matters? Who haven't I reached out to you that I've been thinking about, but I've kept putting it off. So, what gives us courage to look inward can be, just—it goes back to trust. What can I trust, if I look inward, that what I discover can serve me? So it's about having a growth mindset. Hoping to learn something from reflecting on your past or to be rejuvenated and excited about something that you used to love that you're making time for again.

Ramona: The question that just keeps popping up in the back of my mind, you know, some of us even before the pandemic started could go to that mindset of "Oh my god, what if this happens? Oh my god, what if I get sick? Oh, what if what if this happens? What if that happens? I thinkI would... Yeah, I just think that it's a really negative place to spend our time. But at the same time, well, I guess it comes back to trust doesn't it? That to make friends with the unknown, to not worry about what might happen tomorrow but to place our attention and our love and our joy in today?

Shelly: Certainly that's about being present and being grounded in the moment. And for me, it's also about learning to let go of control. I am. I have this mantra that my handwriting teacher of mine gave me that I just love, that I find very powerful. It's "I let go of the need to control, divine grace fuels my life." And you can just write that for, you know, a few minutes on a page and let it sink in and rewire your brain. But it is about trust. There's also another great song that I've been listening to a lot lately by a folk singer named Carrie Newcomer. And her song is called "Learning to Sit with Not Knowing."

Shelly: And in this time of uncertainty, how can we let the not-knowing let life and possibilities bubble up? Rather than going down that drain of fear and anxiety. There's a children's book, something about following turtles all the way down, I forget the title of it. But we can certainly get hooked into the negative thinking or the fear. But when we connect with other people, or we connect with things that bring us meaning and our values, that can help us come back to a sense of, hopefully, possibility, and a little bit of peace. But I know that's really hard when you're in survival mode.

Ramona: I want to remind our listeners that you're listening to Kosmic Voices on KAFM Community Radio. And support for Kosmic Voices comes from the staff at Main Street Minerals and Beads, that’s 524 Main Street. Main Street Minerals and Beads is your source for beads, rocks, findings and jewelry in the Grand Junction area. More information at 241-4116. And our special guest today is Shelly Francis and she's giving us ideas. I mean, we're talking about courage, courage to create courage, different levels of courage, different types of courage. Um, do you want to speak to courage, the courage of creativity when it comes to art and things like that?

Shelly: Sure. I think for me, I have always loved drawing and painting and growing up sewing clothes. My grandma taught me how to sew. My dad is an architect and also an amazing pen and ink drawer (ha! drawer!) artist. My mom is a beautiful painter, and my sister's an amazing musician and singer. But those weren't the things that were our day job. Those are things that gave us pleasure like hobbies. So I have always been fascinated with the idea that art doesn't have to be something we get paid for, or something that has to hang in a museum, but something that can bring us joy and pleasure and just kind of a messy experimentation of playing, a sense of playfulness. And yet, I wonder if more people felt like their work, their artistry, had meaning to offer to the world, if more people would have the courage to share what some of their creations are, even if it's just with a few friends or family. So, I'm not sure I answered your question, but kinda, there's a balance between art for the fun of it, art to make meaning, an art that could possibly help you make a living. Could you make a living from your art? I guess that's one of my goals with my new publishing company is, how much fun would it be to just get paid for being creative?

Ramona: Or maybe the art just takes you out of your head. If you're stressing about today, or the virus, or you know, maybe it's just an activity that you can lose yourself in, and stop thinking about what might happen if you stopped paying attention.

Shelly: Exactly. And like what a great thing to get out of your head and into your heart because I think that's what I love about art is that it really does come—your imagination—comes from your heart. It's not just something that you're thinking about the process with your head. I mean, that's part of the practice of it, becoming, mastering your art, but that you're tapping into another part of your brain that you don't often always use.

Ramona: What would you do if you had more courage?

Shelly: What would I do?

Ramona: Do you have all the courage you want?

Shelly: No, never! It's a practice. It's definitely an ongoing thing to do. Right now I'm trying to get the courage to help pitch a book that just came out, the book we mentioned, called Resilient Threads and saying, this book is perfect for this time. And the words that I'm writing to media stations or newspapers, or just other doctors, like, “this is enough to get one other person to pay attention to this book.” So, I'm needing more courage for my own voice and agency, I suppose, is part of it.

Ramona: You know, I think that in this time, we're all challenged. Okay. I mean, you start from the beginning, do I? I mean, number one, you know, my goal is to stay home as much as possible because I think that that's in my best interest and something I can do for the world. At the same time, there's just that I love where I live, I love my home. I love, I love my family. I mean, there's so many things that work in my life right now that there's almost a feeling of guilt, because I think about all... I looked out the window and I know that there are people out there that don't have work, or possibly don't have enough food. And so there's that idea of how do you have the courage to create your own life even though you know that other people around you don't have everything they need? I mean, is it courageous to live your best life and to come from that place of love, to to bring that joy to the world even though people around you are suffering?

Shelly: Well, I love that you named all the things in your life that bring you joy and that you love. It sounds like your life is full of gratitude. And that naming the gratitude and being someone who holds that kind of space for other people is an expression of being creative, it is a creative act because, you're, instead of diminishing others, or wallowing in your own guilt and feeling stressed from your guilt, to be able to stand in that place of love and gratitude may show other people—and you may not even realize it—but you're showing other people how to be appreciative of whatever they do have. I mean, it's not just about materialism, and having, you know, certain things that can make a happy life. But one of the things that you you said, brings up for me the idea that I learned in the book too. It’s that just because we don't see something we're doing as courageous doesn't mean that courage doesn't exist.

There was a researcher I interviewed named Monica Worline, who did sociological research on courage. And she went into the workplaces and asked people to tell her stories of courage in the workplace. And 80% of the people who responded told stories of someone else being courageous at work. They hardly ever looked at themselves as being courageous. And what she said is that it didn't negate or wipe out that courage for you not to think that you were being courageous. You have access to your own inner landscape. So somebody who speaks up on behalf of a project that looks really challenging said, "Oh, that was easy because I've done it in my previous job, so I knew it could be done." So they, they know why it wasn't a big deal for them, but other people who witness it see it as courage. And so what Monica said, I just love this phrase is, "Courage exists in the spaces between us." And so when we're exemplars for each other, we're creating courage in these spaces. [Read more about these ideas in the sample introduction chapter called Why Courage?”]

And a few weeks ago on the news one night, I saw a doctor saying that fear will fill in the blanks. So when we're sitting with all this uncertainty right now, it's so easy for all of our worst-case scenarios to show up and start filling in that void. And then we spiral out of control into the worry. But when we see other people acting with courage, it can encourage, it can bring a sense of encouragement. And I think that that leads to that fifth, a fifth type of courage, which I never knew before, coined by the woman named Bree Newsome, who pulled the Confederate flag down in South Carolina a few years ago. She said that "this is a moment for collective courage."

And collective courage is what the pandemic is asking us to recognize right now. It's our interdependence. It's a moment when we recognize that the whole world needs people to step up and show up in whatever capacity, whether that's helping your neighbor or finding the vaccine. And so that sense that if we filled the emptiness with love and compassion and kindness, we could create some more courage between us. A collective courage and a sense of, hopefully, some optimism for getting through and something different on the other side.

Ramona: We will get through. We will get through this together, and we are creating, we are creating our next world and the way we treat one another now, and I love hearing those positive stories about people that are stepping up and making masks and donating them or feeding people or the world. I can't think of his name Andrés, the chef that's feeding 300 families a day. I mean, think about that. I mean, that's just cooking to feed the world.

Shelly: And he's been bankrupt before. So, I mean, he's come from ground zero back up.

Ramona: Yes. And just, I mean, there's so many stories of love and support and community, and I love, I love the idea of collective courage. So how do we get from where we are today, to be part of that whole collective courage?

Shelly: Well, I think it takes practice and an openness to each other. I think of my courage quintessentials again: true self, trust, community, and two practices I didn't name yet. Paradox is a practice and by paradox, it means that two great things can be true at once. So instead of either-or thinking, it means looking for the both-and. And that can mean love and loss, grief and joy coexisting, even fear and optimism can coexist. And that doesn't necessarily mean that you're in that mindset at the exact same moment. But if you can learn to flow from one to the other and say, "I can be really sad at all of the loss, and I can be really content with slowing down right now," that's a moment of practicing paradox, is to look for what's both-and. I think about trust: I can trust in myself and I'm going to look for people that I can also trust. Does that make sense, does the idea of practicing paradox makes sense?

Ramona: I love your description of that. But can you start with the first one, authentic self? Can you speak to each one of the different five things that you're talking about?

Shelly: Sure. So I would draw this on my hand with a sharpie. And I've done that before. It's kind of messy, but.. on my index finger, this is how I remember what my courage, my five things are. I can remember what I need to do about courage on one hand. With my index finger, I think of true self. And I point to my chest and I say, "Who am I in my heart? Who, what, what is my soul here to do? What are my strengths? Even, what are my shadows and challenges?" What are those four corners that I tend to go to? And if I'm aware of that—it's about creating self-awareness—but also recognizing that if I'm taking care of myself, then I have the energy to take care of other people that I love and care for.

On my middle finger, I would write the word trust. And you know, if you only have your middle finger up in the air, that not trust at all. So that's what I remember. You put your index finger and your middle finger together and that's the peace sign. If I can trust in myself, I can have more inner peace. But I do need to look for what I can trust and pay attention to when I'm reacting out of fear instead of responding with trust.

If I hold up three fingers that ring finger is where I would write the word community. And community is finding my people, finding who I want to be with, who I care about, who matters to me that I want to fight for, you know, whether that's my son, my mom and dad, my best friends. But that, you know, trust is in between. So it's trusting community and myself.

And on my pinky, I would write the word paradox, partly because P and paradox and pinkie all go together and I love that silly reminder. But it's the littlest finger and it might be the most important lesson I've ever learned is to look for the both-and in life, and not just the black and white either-or. I always want to look for another creative solution and option to what I think might be only this answer, only that answer. There might be a third way if I think about a both-and solution, a win-win solution, even if it's just an argument with myself.

And on my thumb, I would write the word reflection. And I would use my thumb to point to each of my other fingers one at a time to kind of say, all right: true self, trust, community, paradox.

And reflection is being able to reflect on those other pieces and reflect on my life. Go inward, look inward. Look, take a moment to notice if there's other people being a mirror for me in a moment, at any one time, that are showing me either exemplary courage, or something that rubs me the wrong way, which is really telling me something about myself, that I'm being triggered by at any one time. So reflection is just so great.

And if I did that, with those five types of courage that I put on my other hand, and I put my hands together, then all of a sudden I'm cupping my hands together and I can hold more complexity. I can hold the tensions and the uncertainty of the moment.

I once held a little bird in my hands who had hit my window and his eyes were fluttering and I didn't know if it was gonna make it or not, but I just held it and just kind of sent loving energy to its heart. And I noticed it had little whiskers on the side of its beak, like I never had a chance to hold a bird up close like that. But that bird took off after a few minutes and all the birds in my plum tree started singing and I just thought, "that's the kind of fight or flight that I'm going for. I want that kind of flight where it feels rejuvenating and like bringing something back to life." I think that's part of the creative courage, but that's also an act of social courage. And I had to let go of whether that bird was going to live or die, like that was none of my business.

Ramona: What a great story. I want to remind our listeners, you're listening to Kosmic Voices. And our special guest today is Shelly Francis. And she's telling us beautiful stories of the courage to create and finding ways to reflect and decide the best way to go forward, and about true self... I mean, there's been so many ideas, I'm not recapping well. But so, you know, finding your true self. I mean, yeah, that's a great place to start out, knowing you're being true to yourself, that discernment, like what is the most important thing? I mean, how do you determine that skill that you want or that passion that you want to move forward with?

Shelly: I have two thoughts about that. And I know we're getting close to the top of the hour.

Ramona: Can you give us an answer in the next five minutes?

Shelly: Yes. Well, I could talk about this for days. So that's really fun. There's a thing about asking each other open, honest questions. That is a practice that comes from the Center for Courage & Renewal. It's one of 11 touchstones that create this Circle of Trust® approach for helping people tap into their inner wisdom. And my three favorite ones are to start with asking an open, honest question of somebody that you couldn't possibly know the answer to, but it will give them a chance to tap into their inner knowing. That kind of conversation that you can create with a question that isn't a yes or no answer. But something like, “Was there ever a time in your life where you couldn't wait to wake up and get out of bed in the morning?” What would you say?

Ramona: Are you asking me that?

Shelly: Sure. Why not?

Ramona: Yeah, there have been times that I could hardly wait to get up. In fact, often there are times I can hardly wait to get up. There's a couple of things. One of them is coffee. Sometimes the night before I go to bed, because I've always got it ready and it's like, I want that cup of coffee at night. But I have to wait until morning, and I know as soon as I get up, I can have that fresh, black, hot coffee. Or the spring air the way it is right now. It's like I could hardly wait to get up, get dressed and get outside and go walk in the park. Look for the birds, look for the blue heron, For awhile now there's been a great blue heron out at Canyon View, and for days in a row, and I was so excited to be able to see it and to watch it just sit there and be still. I mean, just to embrace and enjoy the day, just to be alive. To feel good in my body. Yeah, being on vacation seeing someplace you haven't seen before. I actually call some of my experiences Mexico Mornings, because it actually can take me back to a specific time where I was spending a lot of time in Mexico. And it was that everything was vibrant and colorful and alive and you know, more real than day to day life. And so I love it when I experience Mexico Mornings in my life today. Did that answer the question?

Shelly: Well, I love that, because it brings up like, how that sounds like something that fortifies you, is to bring back a memory and that you've kind of named it as your Mexico Mornings. You've created this metaphor that sounds like you're really grateful for, but that you can tap into that feeling and feel that way again.

And the other thing you asked is just how do you know when changes are coming, you know, what else can you do? And there's a line that's actually a title of Parker Palmer's book Let Your Life Speak. It's how do we know what to do next? And another line from a Rilke poem is living the questions. [Correction: it’s from a book, not a poem.] So if you set a question for yourself, but live into the answer rather than expect, or demand an answer to come, you know, by tomorrow or by Friday.

Ramona: Oh, I love that.

Shelly: So it’s having people help you hone in on the question that you're asking for your life. Who can you trust to have conversations where it doesn't turn into fixing and saving and advising? Which is another one of our touchstones: no fixing no saving, no advising means I'm here to support you having your insights and awakenings. But I'm not going to try to enforce my thinking on yours. I'm not going to short-circuit what your soul knows, I'm just going to help your inner wisdom come out. And so letting your life speak might look like COVID showing up all of a sudden, and you losing the job that you already hated. And giving you a chance to think of what would you like to do with your time instead? Or—I mean, that's an extreme example. And not everybody hates their jobs. Although there was a statistic from Gallup that said, that there's just—I can't remember if it was 50 or 60, or 80—but how many people are dissatisfied with their work. And so sometimes it's that door closing that opens a window concept, when everything ends in your life and you think ‘oh my god, what now? What?” What can you do to say, “Well, now what? What's possible instead?” Yeah, what's the blessing? What's the silver lining? I've heard a lot of people talk about silver linings right now. Yes. And it's about finding meaning in your life. That's what I think.

Ramona: Watching for miracles every day. Boy, this hour goes so fast. Shelly, if you had one thing that you wanted to give, one thought that you wanted to share with the listeners today. All of this information has been wonderful. I've so enjoyed our conversation. It's been spectacular. One final thought that you want to leave with people?

Shelly: Well for me, I would say that courage is an act of self-care. And I think that kind of turns it on its head, because often we think that when we're acting courageous, we're doing it on behalf of someone else or for the greater good. But when we take, when we make the time to prioritize ourselves, putting on our own oxygen masks or N95 or our hand-sewn masks, we are—or when we do something courageous like changing our life even or taking a job that people don't understand—we're being an exemplar for others. But we're taking care of ourselves so that we will have more energy to take care of other people and bring our gifts into the world. And the world needs people who feel alive and awake. So that, you know, we remember that we're all in this together.

Ramona: Shelly, I feel more courageous right this very moment just from visiting with you, and I've so enjoyed your thoughts and your ideas about courage and the different types of courage. Do you want to share contact information with our listeners?

Shelly: Sure, you can find me online. My website is CreativeCouragePress.com. And from there, you can find links to my blog, I have a blog called Fortitude. And I'm playing with my elephants and photos on Instagram @ShellyLFrancis. Also, @ShellyLFrancis is my Twitter handle.

Ramona: Wonderful. Thank you so much for being here with us today. You've been listening to Kosmic Voices with Ramona Ray and Dulce, a monthly show dedicated to conscious conversation. We're on the first Tuesday of every month at noon. Dulce Bell-Bulley astrology reports and information about our upcoming workshops and classes can be viewed at www.AstrologyByDulce.com. Thanks for listening and may the power be with you.