The "Telling Your Story Sound Studio" Arrives!

I've been crazy sick this week--the kind that makes you stumble down the street when you're not laid out flat in bed--but even in this compromised state I managed some serious excitement yesterday when the Telling Your Story Sound Studio CDs arrived.

The three disc set, featuring extensive interviews with Peter Aguero and Ophira Eisenberg, is packaged in a beautiful 8-panel digipak designed by the amazing Liz Kalloch. To be able to hold these exquisite objects in your hands helps the possibilities they hold seem even more tangible and real. It's not just in your head or on your computer, it's in your car and your kitchen and on the little stand next to your bed--always reminding you of the path and all the possibilities it holds. Giving you permission to be a new way in the world--you own it. Your stories are just as worthy of being told as any of ours, and these physical manifestations of so many powerful truths will not let you forget it.

The Telling Your Story course starts shipping tomorrow. Be bold and audacious--be one of the first in the world to hold these treasures in your hands.

The other thing I was so thrilled to receive yesterday was our first, full-color four-page Jen Lee Productions catalog, which will go out with every order this winter. It's so amazing to see all that we're up to, all together. There is so much to celebrate with you.

What ARE these new resources, exactly, and when is your next retreat?

My next live event is in March at Teahouse Studio in Berkeley, CA. I'm bringing a whole bunch of my friends--amazing, inspiring women are gonna be in the house--and I hope you can come join us. I'm looking forward to the workshop format, which is more affordable for locals and still convenient for us out-of-towners to come in and stay at the hotel across the street, or in town with friends. The conversation we'll create about The Art of Creative Wellness is one I am living and breathing over here--one that makes us or breaks us. Read more and claim your spot here.

As for the next retreat, I'm really not sure. I'm doing a limited number of live events right now. In terms of presence and community, it's an ideal way to be together and interact with these powerful conversations. But in terms of tuition and the limited spots available for attendees, it's not so ideal. That's why I'm in the midst of a long season of producing resources that make the content of 12-week workshops or 5-day retreats available, for a fraction of the cost, to anyone in the world. No plane ticket required.

If you've been looking for opportunities to work with me, or suspecting that our paths are running in kindred directions, these courses are for you. I have so much to share (with more coming very soon)--this is the best way to make these conversations available to the most people, in a form so personal and intimate that it's the next best thing to being together live.

These practices, insights and conversations have changed my life, and they can change yours, too. Join me: find your voice. Tell your story. Share this work with those friends who are looking for Just This.

West Coast, Here We Come!

Teahouse Studio presents

Steady Burn: The Art of Creative Wellness

March 24-25, 2012: 10:00am-5:00pm both days

Location: Teahouse Studio, Berkeley, CA

Registration: $385, including catered lunches and beverages throughout

Early bird registration: Register by 2/01/12 using code BURNEARLY to receive $20 off

Steady Burn: The Art of Creative Wellness

There are all kinds of classes and books about how to do your art. How to write a paragraph or mix paints. But there isn't as much wisdom available about how to be a thriving creative--how to keep the fires of inspiration burning, steady and strong, as life and relationships and careers ebb and flow all around. All the know-how in the world doesn't make a difference when you're overwhelmed, burned out, unsure of where to start or when to stop.

In this two-day workshop, we'll explore the terrain where self-care and soul care overlap for artists and creatives of every medium and background. Uncover deep wells of restoration and rest, tap into hidden sources of power, and discover access points for stamina and rhythm.

The creative fires don't have to consume you and rage, and they don't have to dwindle and die. You can learn to tend this flame, to kindle your own steady burn.

This workshop is for:

  • Those who long to nurture their creativity and make space for it amidst the bustle of daily life.
  • Artists of every medium who seek to break the Burst-Burnout Cycle and find their way into steady productivity.
  • Accomplished creatives who may have experienced success-induced difficulties, and who are learning the art of creative wellness in the presence of velocity and opportunity.

Registration:
March 24-25, 2012: 10:00-5:00 both days
Registration: $385, including catered lunches and beverages throughout
Early bird registration: Register by 2/01/12 using code BURNEARLY to receive $20 off

Note: class is limited to 20 participants, early registration is encouraged.

Coming in from out of town? Find travel tips and nearby lodging here.

About the Instructors:

Jen Lee is a voice recovery specialist, independent media producer and a beloved performer in New York City’s storytelling scene, including The Peabody Award-winning Moth Radio Hour and The Moth Mainstage. Jen is a sought-after mentor and guide for workshops and retreats unleashing creative expression. She is also the creator of Finding Your Voice, a cutting-edge personal breakthrough course, and a contributing author of Women Writing on Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing.

 

Phyllis Mathis is a long-time spiritual leader, an ontological coach and licensed professional counselor who has been practicing for over 30 years. A seasoned writer, retreat facilitator and a beginning potter, she is the co-creator of a forthcoming course called The Iconic Self (January 2012). 

 

 

 

Caren Gazley is a soul care specialist and human rights activist whose work has led her to places like Mauritania and Albania. Still an L.A. girl at heart, Caren has deep wisdom drawing from her rich personal experiences about caring for yourself in the midst of parenting, partnerships, community and passionate work. She is the author of Ritual and Rhythm: A Guide for Creative Self Care (March 2012).



 

What people are saying:

"It was nothing short of magical, what transpired in those three days, and I would go back in a moment to experience it all again if I could." --Dana Fontaine

"Being at the Integrate Retreat was like being wrapped up in a warm brown blanket, with Jen and Phyllis telling stories you could listen to for hours, threaded through with wisdom and friendship. There was a lot of beauty, fun, and warmth there. The pleasure of it stayed with me for a long while, and the friendships started are still going strong." --Sandra Flear

"Jen is like slipping into a cozy chair with a cup of hot cocoa.  Her Integrate Retreat was a gift that continued to give for weeks on after . . . her storytelling is mesmerizing and she provided thoughtful writing prompts and food for thought.  I continue to peel the layers as I continue to discover the various voices I am integrating.  The women I met at the retreat continue to be my daily touchstones, soul sistas, and kindred spirits.  I look forward to attending future retreats!"  --Amelia Maness--Gilliland

"The weekend was very transitional for me, being in a space of such love and acceptance was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  The stories I held and that others held for me were so powerful. The way your voice spoke to us in story and also in lessons was a true gift." --Stefanie Renee

"Jen teaches and guides in such an entertaining and intuitive way that it hardly feels like 'learning'. If your soul is after rest and nourishment, and your spirit yearns for encouragement and validation, then you won't regret signing up for one of Jen's retreats. You'll return home inspired and with new horizons stretching before you . . . and with the support of a group of incredible, like-minded women. Be brave. Go for it!" --Helen Agarwal

"It was an amazing weekend--catalyzing and replenishing at the same time. You created an atmosphere that was both new and familiar, and I left feeling thoroughly listened to, acknowledged, and understood. I can't say it enough: thank you."  --Kate Godin

Current Inspiration: Hula Seventy and Mati Rose

I'm usually pretty unconscious when I'm collecting things that are currently inspiring me.  It's not until I have stacks of new prints around, really not until it's all up and rearranged on the walls that I even notice themes or patterns emerging.

I rotate what's hanging in our home and in the studio.  I want to see things that feel fresh, true to the present moment, but things that are also calling me forward into a coming future.  If you were in my apartment today (which is getting a lot of attention as I move into a new season) it wouldn't take long to realize that my main sources of visual inspiration these days are the work of these two artists: Andrea Corona Jenkins, aka Hula Seventy, and Mati Rose McDonough.

Here's the trio I see when I'm working at my desk and looking out the window: two of Hula's new polaroids (You Are Beautiful and Love Always Wins) and my beloved Bicycles Are Nice.

 

A set of polaroid prints shine in my twinkle-lit dining room, including the popular Vintage Brooches.  This series is a perfect example of the way Hula recognizes the beauty in things that most people's eyes pass over.  Where some see the ordinary, she sees whimsy, and not just behind the camera.  It's in every nook and cranny of her treasure-filled home, in every gesture of love and color that make up her family's festive and tender moments.

Look and See is the first thing we all see when we walk into the kitchen, and this sweet inscription makes me smile. Every time.

Mati's work makes up the heart of this inspiration wall in the studio: Speaking 1,000 Languages and Flower Power in Rose.  Something about Mati has always felt kindred to me.  Her optimism is not the stuff of cotton candy and denial spun around a stick.  It's the strength of a woman who is intimately acquainted with the dark and still finds her way back to the light.

Dreams of Venice is in the kitchen--it's what I look at when I'm chopping vegetables and making meals.  It is a really important image to me right now, something about sailing into the dark and still singing.  Quiet Treasure is next to my kitchen window, above the coffee maker and next to the sink where I spend a good amount of time doing dishes every day.  This is my first Mati Rose original, and I love how it reminds me that there are treasures waiting in quiet, gentle spaces.  (Like this winter, especially.)

I ordered Show the World Your Magic for my girls, specifically for their reading corner in our living room.  It's hung low, at their eye level when they are sitting in a cozy spot and reading, and where grown-ups on the sofa can be reminded of their own magic, too.


Meet Hula and Mati and soak in their magic for yourself--you can find them both at Joy: A Be Present Retreat in March.

When Strangers Become Friends

Our view from the back porch, Horizon Perfekt

Things I will always remember from Integrate in the Rockies:

  • Relaxing in the hot tub while snowflakes fell and melted on my face.
  • Watching light, pretty snow falling nearly all weekend through a wall of windows and feeling like we were inside a giant snow globe.
  • Dancing in the kitchen.
  • Sitting close on the couch.
  • Coining a community line of Tshirt slogans.
  • A British tea service fit for queens.
  • Seeing the falling snow through the delighted eyes of a woman from New Orleans.
  • Watching everyone arrive as strangers and depart as dear friends.
  • Holding space together for all that comes next.

Below is a photo recap from an amazing weekend, and you can see our group Flickr pool here.

To read more, check out Amy Blum's post, Afterglow.

To receive updates regarding future Voice and Story Retreats, email me at jen (at) jenlee (dot)net with Retreat Updates in the subject line, and I will keep you posted.

Important Updates

The Common Man Store, Ashland, NH. Horizon Perfekt with cross-prossed Lomo 200 film.

#1: Merch

I have a few apparel items left from the Squam Art Fair, now available online.  It's not a full inventory--there are limited quantities and sizes of many styles.  But, there is a new color (Just Be True in black, or as I call it, NYC-style) and a few plus-size shirts available this time around.  Also, big sales on two of the items and an international shipping option, so head over to the Merch page and check it out.

#2: Integrate in the Rockies Retreat

After making a rearrangement with our accommodations, we're now able to offer a discounted rate on the Splurge Suite and a new rate for individual rooms.  So if you've been hoping and praying for that option, this one's for you.

#3: Local gathering and resources

I was originally planning on trying out some course work in NYC this fall with a handful of locals.  Unfortunately, the workshops and retreat that I have going every month this fall are taking all the in-person juice I've got, so I'm having to let that local gathering idea go for this season.  But, on the plus side, I've resolved my questions about the courses in question and I'm moving forward on completing some new resources sooner than I expected to be.  So stay tuned for an upcoming series of Voice and Story Resources.

I'm so happy to be back to working in my studio and making things.  Trust me, good things are a-comin'.

Integrate: Because Creative Work is Lid-Resistant

No one has more beautiful lids in her kitchen than my friend, Hula.

The idea for the Integrate Retreat began in my inbox.  The Take Me with You journal had come out, and I was hearing all kinds of things from you, dear readers, about where you were at on your journey of recovering or finding your voice.  What fears you were battling and what you were up against in your mind.

And it was so familiar.

Fear about what would spill out on the page was a common theme.  Most of us have a certain level of awareness that there are thoughts, ideas, or even whole parts of ourselves that we keep under wraps.  Things that feel threatening, as if they could really shake things up or make it impossible to put off change any longer.  Or some of them are things we don't particularly want to get out--we don't want to be known for them, even known by ourselves.  We get so used to it that we stop realizing just how much energy it requires to keep the lid on.

Just don't pick up a pen.  Just be careful who you talk to.  Just avoid that topic.  Just don't go there.  We make up strategies and do our best to execute, but slivers of longing still find their way out through the cracks. 

I know this.  I know it so well.  There's something about creative work that is lid-resistant.  Whatever our medium, whether we are painters or photographers or storytellers, to access the kind of freedom we need to create good work we are required to loosen our grip.  Including our grip on ourselves.

I hadn't been writing for very long at all when some very disruptive words leaked out onto my page.

"It's okay if I'm not brave," they said, "because someday my girls will grow up and they will be brave and they will live in exciting cities."

I don't think I'm the only one who would be stopped in her tracks by such a thought.  I had a 3-year-old and a newborn baby, a house and two dogs in the suburbs.  I wasn't even 30 years old yet, and I was already settling for a life that some part of me didn't want.  And I had been very happy to ignore that.  For years.

But seeing it in black and white--where I couldn't avoid knowing any longer that I was on a path of not following my dreams and then pressuring my children to do what I had not been brave enough to do myself--well, it was a point of no return.  One I didn't ask for, and one I never saw coming.

Slivers of longing still find their way out of the cracks.

I set off to uncover this exciting-city-loving girl and to welcome her into the fold.  She had been there all along, in fact she had probably had some hand in marrying an exciting-city-loving boy all those years ago.  And so, with a 3-year-old and a newborn baby, we began the adventure of a whirlwind move to Brooklyn, a place that mysteriously fits us so, so well.

I know what it's like to be afraid, to use so much energy to coax myself into Just Being Okay.  Who wouldn't want a pretty little house in the suburbs?  It was supposed to be what I wanted. 

Keeping the lid on was exhausting--practically a full-time job.  Taking it off shook everything up, like an earthquake running through my inner universe.  But on the other side, I got to be more free, more true, more whole.

This is one way integration shows up in our creative journeys.  If there's one thing I believe, it's that we shouldn't ever have to go it alone.  To have conversations that change everything forever, and to create a community for ourselves of people who are on the same kind of path--these can be the foundations that keep our quaking worlds from shattering.  This is why we are gathering in November: to be together, to loosen our grips on that lid, and to witness the adventures that are just waiting to find us.  There's a spot there, just for you.  And a dream in my heart that you will come.

Integrate Retreat 2010

co-facilitator and friend, Phyllis Mathis

McG and Julie Keefe

Photo by Julie KeefeImagine spending a long weekend in a safe place, a place in which however you are is welcome. Imagine being loved so much that you find your courage, or more of it, and dare to say something true. Out loud.  Watch your brave words embolden another, and laugh together.  Then cry together.  Go for a walk, take pictures, watch a Broadway show that turns things you took for granted upside down.  Meet parts of yourself that you don't ordinarily invite to dinner.  Find a way--through the back door, where no one thinks to look--to the parts of your voice that have been eluding you.

Thank you to these dear friends for the way they love and embolden me.

For more about the Integrate Retreat 2010, check out these posts and links:

Integrate Retreat 2010 on Flickr (some great pics)

When Girls Gather by Amelia Maness-Gilliland

Day 16,261: Re-Entry by Julie Keefe

New Friends by Katie Noah Gibson

 

Eat Me Big, Drink Me Small

Diana Instant+Yesterday the Integrate Retreat finished, and I came home to rewrite my story for Thursday's show before running into Manhattan for the rehearsal.  This morning I'm taking it easy, thinking about unpacking from last week's trip, savoring and settling back into my daily life.  I was home to select the Get Lucky giveaway winner on Sunday at midnight, but couldn't get a post together to announce it until now.  Random.org helped me select the winner: Emily from Collecting Raindrops.  Congratulations, Emily!  Send me your mailing info and I'll get this yummy read on its way to you.  Everyone else can have Katherine's new novel arrive in her mailbox by ordering a copy here.  More on the retreat is coming soon, but here are a few thoughts about its theme, Integrate, in the meantime.

Size has been on my mind a lot since I saw Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland a few weeks ago.  The parts in Alice's journey in which she's eating or drinking something to make her big or small really stood out to me.  I could feel her struggling with her size and power, and myself grappling with my own.

Life is full of moments in which we feel big or in which we feel small, and it's easy to think that one must be our true identity, and the other a mistake or a just a part we're playing or a sham.  So it's especially confusing when we feel both at once.  I know I can rock that stage, but I really wish my friends were here to hold my hand.

Something about watching Alice grow and shrink and grow back again on a big screen helped me see with a new clarity that the essence of who we are defies measurement--it exists on some other plane.  I could see the possibility that I could be so malleable, that I could be big or small as the situation requires.  Inside this paradigm, it is normal to go back and forth between these paradoxes of self: seen and hidden, strong and vulnerable.  Going from leading a retreat in a beautiful brownstone to washing poopy panties by hand feels matter-of-fact instead of like some crazy whip-lash.  It all belongs: all my roles, all my sizes, all my pieces.  They are all true, and they all get their moments.  Eat me big, drink me small. 

Companions

The Red Room, Photo by Stefanie Renee, www.stefanierenee.netIt's hard to remember now how it all started.  Last winter I longed for a gathering in February--something to anticipate and carry me through the last cold, dark months after the holidays, when the festivities are over and spring seems still so far away.  Then there were all the friends who have visited us here in Brooklyn, who rearranged their thoughts or found clarity in long-held dilemmas, teaching me early on that Brooklyn can have that effect on people.

While planning to teach last year at Squam, I realized that I have more to share than what I can fit into an afternoon, or a day, and I began dreaming of hosting a longer conversation.  And while I was there, I met some dream-believing friends that swore that if I created a retreat in Brooklyn, people would come.  (A thought that felt like a major stretch for me.)

I found a lovely house for us and set a date, and they came.  A whole house-full, from across an ocean and a continent, from down the street.  I am still trying to wrap my mind around this.

I wanted to create an experience that would enable women to recover and reclaim lost, censored or silenced aspects of their voices, to excavate their stories that hold keys to the past, clarity for the present and guidance for the future.  I wanted to show as tangibly as possible the central role that togetherness and community plays in this journey, and the best way to do that was to invite special guests and storytellers from my own story community to create the retreat alongside me.

Fatou Coulibaly, Photo by Stefanie Renee, www.stefanierenee.netIt was an honor to have Fatou Coulibaly join us, in her first trip to New York City.  Fatou is an anthropologist from Senegal, who left her country when she received death threats in response to her PhD dissertation.  Through a long friendship that spans many years, Fatou has been a companion for the journey of international story catcher Jen Lemen (Picture Hope, Mondo Beyondo), passing along her unique wisdom and sage guidance. 

Jen Lemen, Photo by Dixon Hill Girl, http://www.dixonhill.org.uk/

We were so fortunate to have Jen Lemen join us for the weekend, too.  Fatou and Jen did double-duty as storytellers for the group and personal security blankets for me.  Fatou was my left hand and Jen was my right, and together there was a completion, a power, a depth and richness of storytelling that none of us could have created alone.  And so it always is with a supportive story community.

Love and courage were the mainstays of this weekend, and together they wove a safety net that made us feel like we could leap in the most tender and true ways.  Jen said long ago, "Stories can change you and me forever," and many of us are still feeling the reverberations of the stories we received and the stories we told as we transition back into our lives, changed.

Kathy and me, Photo by Stefanie Renee, www.stefanierenee.net

I have spent the last week soaking in the deep joy this experience left in its wake, letting all that I learned and witnessed rearrange me in such a way that I carry it with me going forward.  I've been missing these companions, and celebrating all the gifts from our time together.

You can see more amazing photos from our adventure together in our Flickr pool.

Join us in April, as we use voice, story and more to bridge the divide between our fragmented parts and Integrate. (Single and shared rooms are still available.)

Unforgettable

Things from this weekend's retreat that I will never forget:

  • Seeing my chocolate chip cookies work their magic right before my eyes.
  • Listening to my beloved friend, Fatou, laugh with delight. Again and again and again.
  • Catching giant snowflakes on my tongue in Times Square.
  • Watching Wicked on Broadway while sitting between two of my greatest loves.
  • Setting the oven mitt on fire.
  • Acting out my fantasy to lead a hands-in-the-middle group cheer.
  • Going all-forks-in with amazing women on an equally amazing chocolate cake.
  • Every smile, each embrace, every opening and beginning.
  • The way love makes us brave, and the way--with courage and togetherness--we make dreams come true.

Guest Post: If you're very lucky

Meet Phyllis Mathis, my beloved friend and mentor of over ten years.  Phyllis is co-founder and managing editor of Voca Femina, and the ontological coach behind Resonance Life Coaching.  Phyllis, with her profound wisdom and genius, and I joined our powers to cook up the Integrate Retreat in April, which promises to be the most transformative event I've been a part of yet. (There's still room for you to join us.)

Today she shares this story with us:

If you’re very lucky, at some brief moment in time, someone may come along and change your life. 

My someone’s name was Jay. That was the American name he adopted to prevent his yoga students from slaughtering his true Korean name.  

I was an ignorant, overweight, green around the gills yoga-newbie who had grown up on the belief that to darken the door of anything “eastern” was akin to dancing with the devil. Nevertheless I found myself enjoying the newfound flexibility, clarity, and strength provided by this modern/ancient practice, under Jay’s expert instruction. 

Included in my studio membership was a periodic “energy check” – a session with Jay in which he would poke around certain pressure points, looking for anything out of balance, any way he could help his students achieve a healthier balance.  

That particular autumn had been rough. My long-time business partner and close friend had turned vicious - in typical mean girls fashion - and had eviscerated me in front of my colleagues, just weeks after I had signed a five-year contract with her. I was a mess - stunned, wounded, and at a loss for how survive a whopping five years with this woman. 

I was in that condition one day after class, when Jay offered me an energy check. I warily followed him into the treatment room and lay down on the mat.  

He poked and prodded while I wondered what information he could possibly be gleaning, and for what purpose. He moved his hands to press a spot just below my left collarbone. I yelped in pain. 

“What is that?” I asked, completely surprised. 

“Ah,” he said, “You have problem with co-worker.”  

“How do you know that?” I demanded. How could he possibly know that? 

“This energy center have to do with relationships, coworkers,” he replied. “Tell me what is wrong.” 

I gave him a brief history of my humiliation and betrayal. His response startled me. 

“You have to fight!” he said, eyes narrowed, intense. 

“Oh no, I am not a fighter,” I blurted. How could I explain the situation, my cowardice, my complete lack of skills in the art of confrontation, my thorough intimidation under this woman’s glare? 

“In a fight, she is a lion and I am a chicken,” I offered, hoping a metaphor would bridge the cultural gap. 

His eyes did not lose their intensity.  

“Even a chicken knows how to fight for her chicks. You must fight like a chicken – for your soul!” 

His words hung in the air, the moment stretched out in time.  

The oracle had spoken.  

I took his words home, tucked them into my heart. Soon I managed to recover my dignity, face my partner, establish my boundaries, and get my power back.  

Not bad for a chicken. 

Shortly thereafter, the studio closed and Jay was gone.  

Five years later I realize that I was very, very lucky. You never know who might show up to change your life in an unexpected way. 

Curious about this weekend's retreat?  Follow me on Twitter, and I'll keep you posted on what we're up to, as I can.