Freeing Ourselves from Our Personal Prisons & Flying Free

This is the year, the month, the day, the hour, the moment that we can set ourselves free. Free from the constraints of worry and holding on to the past.

It's all too easy to cling to yesterday with white knuckles, even when the present and the pending future is full of unlimited possibility.

"Anything is possible," declared my yoga instructor this evening.

I remember thinking the same thing when I was a youngster. Magic was in the air in those days. But as we grow into our adult costumes, it's easy to get lost and forget that the magic and the miracles are still around.

And so, moving forward into a space of freedom -- I'm thinking it means living for now. Letting go of my conception of what should be. Loving without condition. Loving with a rawness that can only be found in the authentic now.

Freedom comes in the moment -- when you are in a flow. Yes, a majestic beautiful flow. It comes when we lift our heads and our chests to the sky. When we dare to look into a stranger's eyes and smile.

Freedom comes when we love freely, without rules or chains. The mind must find a sense of peace, if true freedom is going to reign.

It's easy to cling to the past. To talk about what is dead and what has died. Whether it was a person, a relationship, or a dream. But there comes a time -- to let it all go and claim that gift called freedom.

Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. When pain arrives, it's important to feel it -- to own it -- to accept it -- and then let it go. Otherwise suffering becomes all we know. We become caged and freedom turns elusive.

But now it's time to breathe. It's time to claim the miracles and the magic that float through the universe. That live in our veins.

The winds of freedom have arrived, and it's time to fly.

- Jen Engevik
Project Be Bold

The Art of Discovering Inner Strength

"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle." -  John Watson

I begin my post with these word for one simple reason -- I read them in a book by William Hart entitled The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation as Taught by S.N. Goenka. The book has been sitting on my shelf for a handful of years entirely unread. I had tried to read the first page a number of times, but for some reason couldn't continue. And then...just at the right time, I have found myself devouring it.

Why am I devouring it now? There are numerous reasons why, but here are a few very candid ones:

inner peace1. I need to deepen my friendship with myself.

2. I want to become more compassionate.

3. I need to let go of some things in order for the next chapter of my life to evolve.

4. I want to deal better with suffering and loss.

5. I need to reconnect with my true purpose and inner truths.

The list could go on and on, but these are my main goals.

So, Sir Goenka created a meditation philosophy and technique that at one point requires you engage in a 10-day silent retreat. In the  process you burn through your mental garbage -- limited perceptions and the dramatic stories we tell.

One of my best friends has done it twice. The first time PJ dared to experience the process, he said the first day of complete silence freaked him out.

"You can't imagine the mental noise that I experienced. I began by thinking of the things I should be doing, then I moved on to the things I have done, then I thought about crazy dramas from my past, and sometimes I even found myself humming in my mind. I couldn't help myself!"

As the ten-day period progressed, he dove deeper into the pains that he had suffered in his life. His failed marriage, his relationship with his parents, failed business pursuits, and the list goes on.  In his silence, he would all of a sudden find himself sobbing as he relived moments. He forgave himself and others for mistakes made along the way.

And then one day...

He sat on his mat and he experienced complete mental silence.

"Jen, you wouldn't believe it. I didn't have anything else to think about, and I was perfectly fine."

And so yesterday it was September 25, 2013 -- strangely, it is almost four years to the day that my friend told me about his experience. And I'm finally ready to experience the process myself.

What I've learned so far is that I am the possessor of a mind (and you too) that has so much potential. But, before we experience our full-potential, we have to become friends with ourselves. "Become an island unto yourself. Strive hard and become wise," Hart quoted Buddha within his book.

This doesn't mean that we abandon those we love. It means that we seek to become healthy and whole, which will enhance our relationships with others. True satisfaction in life can't be attained through obtaining massive riches, experiencing "the right" relationship, reaching the greatest of goals, etc.

This comes when we are OK with silence...a personal friendship with ourselves...and the truth that lives within.

- Jen Engevik

Project BE Bold

Getting to Know Ourselves Deeply

know_yourself"How are we going to choose to live? Who are we? What are we living for?"

These were three questions poised by Anand Mehrotra at the end of the documentary "The Highest Pass."

I was blessed with the opportunity to finish the film this evening and found my eyes welling up with tears a few times. There is something to be said for being willing to risk life and limb to accomplish a goal.

In this case, it was a group of motorcyclists -- with very little experience riding -- daring to trek over the "highest pass" in the Himalayas.  One rider in particular said something so very profound. To paraphrase him, he said at the beginning of the film that when things got rough on the trail he wanted to run home to his family.

After much thought, he chose to stay and continue the journey. In the end, his being was filled with a new sense of love. "Now instead of returning to my family out of fear, I want to return to them out of pure love."

As we go through our days, it is common to seek comfort -- the easy way out. Yet at the same time our hearts are crying out for some sort of adventure -- authenticity.

Soren Kierkegaard once wrote, "Boredom is the root of all evil - the despairing refusal to be oneself."

highest pass
From "The HIghest Pass' Documentary

We walk around with our hearts aching -- our minds wishing we could accomplish something beautiful and lasting, experience love in its fullest sense, get over the hang-ups and patterns we cling to.

Mehrotra, Kerkegaard, and Socrates alike teach the importance of knowing ourselves deeper. Discovering our most precious and sacred hopes and dreams that were planted in our hearts for a reason.

Those who say things like, "he/she is a dreamer...her head is in the clouds" are those who tend to lack vision. What if Steve Job's parents told him he was a dreamer and he was silly  enough to listen? Kiss your iPhone and iPad goodbye baby! :-D

When we know ourselves, we can be reintroduced to our child within -- that being that understands the power of imagination, dreams, and life in the present moment.

"To inherit the kingdom of heaven, you must be like a child."

To me, these words spoken by Jesus mean much more than taking a trip to a place beyond the clouds of this world. It's that for the most part children aren't as jaded as we adults. They have so much to accomplish, so much to see, and do. They laugh when their tummies tickle and they weep when their hearts are pained.

child with imaginationA child is self-aware and present in such a profound manner.

Why do so many of us adults rob ourselves of the same enjoyment? Why not dream and stick our necks  out to undertake something bold and amazing?

How about we  take time to connect with our purest selves? Discover our fearless and powerful beings. The only way to surmount our challenges and create life anew is to dig in and feel the emotions, pains, disappointments, frustrations, and fears we have experienced throughout our lives. No more burying our histories with silly, meaningless diversions.

Authenticity is where its at -- and once we dig deep inside there is no turning back. Our true purposes will be uncovered.

"Beautiful things will be revealed. It's just that you have never given yourself the opportunity to reveal what you are capable of. Do not let fear keep us from our own capacity." - Anand Mehrotra

Be good to yourself!

-Jen Engevik

Facing Inner Tigers, Authentic Courage, & the Life of Pi

Yesterday, I was compelled to go see the movie Life of Pi. I decided that it is a film  I need to see by myself, as I'm currently on the  path of self-discovery that requires that I do some meaningful things on my own.

And so...

There I was in the dark watching the Life of Pi -- A boy loses his entire family in a shipwreck and he is left alone with nothing but a lifeboat,  zebra,  hyena, gorilla and lion. It is a long story as to how a  wide-eyed Indian teenager found himself in such a precarious situation. Understanding requires that you go see the film.  Please do...

The movie pushes you into the uncomfortable space called "alone-ness." On the sea, with no land in sight...no one to talk to...thoughts of the past, terrifying present, and uncertain future drumming through your head. You can't pull out your iPhone...turn on your car radio...or invite a friend over to save your soul. No...you only have your thoughts and the expansive world around you.

The character named Pi has  a choice. He can either be swept away into oblivion as result of his fears - the pains of losing his family - or find meaning in it all. Finding meaning requires that he has unyielding courage - owns a thing called purpose - and clings to a concept named faith.

Courage. Purpose. Faith.

It is easy to get all whacked out in the modern world when someone throws out the word faith. It implies for many that one is willing to believe in fairy tales or is tied to religious dogma that binds humanity. Early on the the film, Pi's father argues against the idea of faith and urges his son to rely on science.  Regardless, Pi is forced to survive on the endless sea and finds himself with no choice but to leave his fate to the elements. A highly spiritual boy, at one point in the movie he throws his hands towards the sky and cries out to God..."what do you want from me!!! I submit everything I have to you. I have nothing else to give." He sobs. The ocean that surrounds him is vast. Still no land in sight. Silence.

I've found myself in that space in time a handful of times. When I was told that my father had died unexpectedly when I was 10, I cried out hysterically. When I lost one of my dearest friends in a car accident, panic raced through my limbs as i realized I'd never talk to her again. And recently, ending love for the sake of differing journeys has led me to feel as though I am on the lifeboat -- asking the universe "why?"

I've really tried over the past few weeks to face my pains and fears head-on. When feeling the urge to turn on the radio to drown out an intense feeling that rages through my mind and body, I've worked to resist the impulse and dared myself to feel it...and then let it pass. Or when asked by a friend if I wouldn't like to go on a date to replace what I've lost instantly, I've said no. Another friend told me jokingly...just start drinking and time will pass in a blink of an eye. I knew he was being sarcastic...but it really is no joke...I know many people who have taken that approach to loss and one day awoken to the fact that they still had to face their loss/pain.

My mission is to arise from challenge authentically. I don't want to bury my pain or fill my void with something out of desperation. I seek something new -- to set out on a journey in which I can arrive in a new land -- a truly bold and courageous individual.

In order for Pi to survive, he had to do two things: (1) Face himself. Know himself. Be himself and (2) Face the tiger that has survived the shipwreck with him (once again to understand why there is a real life tiger that survived the wreck with him...go see the movie). The Bengal tiger that survived was quite vicious, but he relied on Pi to feed and care for him. Pi at one point decided that he would need to kill the tiger if he were to survive (for the tiger had already eaten all of the other animals on board), but as a Hindu with a love for all living creatures couldn't do it. And so...he seeks to tame the tiger.

He realized that in taming the tiger -- in taming the mind -- in saying no to fear -- survival could be attained. Killing the tiger would be a cop-out -- for after killing the beast there would undoubtedly be another challenge that arose.  In taming the tiger, he could have a fearless companion with which to survive. Pi now had a purpose that extended beyond himself. He was determined to save two souls -- his own...and the tiger.

Without a doubt, our minds have raging tigers within them. Tigers that if left untamed will consume us and negatively impact those we love. The greatest minds throughout history have revealed that the only way we can tame the tiger is to find silence - get acquainted with our pains - and make friends with them.  Forgive. We tell ourselves some wild stories and we think by telling them, we will find true freedom. For example...mine used to equal..."My dad died when I was 10, this is why I am vulnerable and fearful." I am not sure how many times I have told that story...thinking that it would free me from something...but it imprisoned me.

I know now that it takes much more than that. I must be still and face the tigers that rage within my soul. I can focus on the 10-year-old I was when my dad died in my mind's eye...and wrap her up in a warm embrace. I can tell that child about courage...purpose...and faith. The wounds then can heal for real. My new story then can be transformed into what I am doing in the present...and how the courage I have gained by weathering my very own shipwreck is empowering me to undertake an authentic journey. One that will unfold in beauty and love.

What stories are holding you back? I promise that when you get down to the root of your challenges and feel the rawness of your truth, you will survive. It isn't as scary as it seems...

"Life is an act of letting go." - Pi - From the movie Life of Pi

- Post by Jen Engevik


Acceptance, Reality... and a Bittersweet November

November will forever have a different meaning to me. It has become a month (as of this year) that has forced me to face pain...to really experience (like the first time again) what it feels like to be alone. Not that I don't have family members and friends...but to not have a partner in which I can confide -- share my deepest fears, sorrows and triumphs.

Such a loss makes me think deeply about what I am made of. Sometimes what I find is very hard to stomach and other times I discover this bold creature who thinks she can take on the world.

I know I will live through this November -- and if God willing there will be another November in 2013 -- and a handful more to experience.

The process of healing from loss doesn't come with a guidebook or a manual. I am learning it is about putting one foot in front of the other and keeping on. It's about one day waking with dread that can only be washed away when you weep as the sun rises in the East. And another day finding yourself able to rise in peace - go the whole day without a tear - and when the sun sets in the West find your shoulders shaking as you bawl for what you have lost.

On Monday I was lucky enough to return to Marianne Williamson's lecture. She spoke a bit about the feelings that come along with losing someone that we love. She spoke of how powerful the union of two human beings is -- how a partner occupies the most sacred part of who we are. And when that is gone, the void usually inspires deep sadness, and even panic. Yet, she reminded the audience one must not forget that all over this planet are people in pain. Healing can be advanced by realizing the power of empathy and reaching out to others.

Williamson challenged the audience to recognize the "Big Game" from the "Small Game." She then defined the Big Game as a life dedicated to the service of others - of using our talents to provide love and goodness to others. The Small Game on the other hand is buying into limitation - to our pains - endlessly thinking of our past choices and the people who have "caused" our inability to move forward.

There are a few things I am sure of:

- I can and will pull through. You can too if faced with loss, I know ;-)

- We can choose to see the bigger game...or be a victim of the smaller one

- The future is unknown...the moment contains all the power we need

While I know that I will be okay, it still doesn't take away the fact that my November is a painful one. Still, everyday I must wake knowing that I may weep...that my body and mind may be weary...that I may miss the one I have loved for days, months, and maybe years to come. And that is okay -- for true love is eternal.

May we not turn love into hate for the sake of self preservation.

"Accept your situation," I was told by a friend. Accepting is painful...reality can be a bitch...but it is the only way to "new places cookin'" as my first yoga teacher continues to say to this day.

Make it a beautiful weekend -- oh you weary at heart...and fulfilled folks all the same.


Jen Engevik

Love Like Water By Poet Mark Nepo

Water in its clear softness fills whatever hole it finds. It is not skeptical or distrusting. It does not say this gully is too deep or that field is too open. Like water, the miracle of love is that it covers whatever it touches, making the touched thing grow while leaving no trace of its touch. True, the faces of shores and the arms of cliffs are worn to the bone. But this is beyond the water's doing. This is the progress of life, of which water is but an element.

Most things break instead of transform because they resist.

The quiet miracle of love is that without our interference, it, like water accepts whatever is tossed or dropped or placed into it, embracing it completely.

Of course, we are human and are easily hurt. But we waste so much of life's energy by delivering who and what shall be worthy of our love when the deepest elemental sense, these choices are not in our province, anymore than rain can choose what it shall fall upon.

Certainly, we need to make decisions: Who will I spend time with? Who will I learn from?  But beneath all that, the element of love doesn't stop being elemental. It does not stop covering everything before it. And over a lifetime, the pain of withholding this great and quiet force is more damaging than anything. For love, like water, can be dammed, but toward what end?

In truth, the more we let love flow through, the more we have to love. This is the inner glow that sages and saints of all ages seem to share: the wash of their love over everything before them; not just people, but birds and rocks and flowers and air.

Beneath the many choices we have to make, love, like water, flows back into the world through us. It is the one great secret available to all. Yet somewhere the misperception has been enshrined that to withhold love will stop hurt.

In truth, it is the other way around. As water soaks scars, love soothes our wounds. If open to, love will accept the angrily thrown stone, and our small tears will lose some of their burn in the great ocean of tears, and the arrow released to the bottom of the river will lose its point.

-Mark Nepo - from The Book of Awakening

Christine Schwab on Bold Living, Overcoming Obstacles, and Rheumatoid Arthritis

One day, I came across an amazing woman when searching for  bold individuals to feature on Project BE Bold. My hope was to discover a being that couldn't resist but follow his or her inner voice/passion in an effort to make the world a better place. My search led me to the Website of Christine Schwab. A pioneer in the TV makeover world, she has worked to inspire people seeking a new lease on life via Live with Regis and Kelly, Oprah, Entertainment Tonight, the CBS Early Show, and more.

In her recent book Take Me Home from the Oscars: Arthritis, Television, Fashion, and Me, Schwab shares the harrowing discovery that she had developed Rheumatoid Arthritis and the events that shaped her life up to that point. Her heartfelt and inspired book reveals the fighter within who has dared to inspire others to live their dreams and overcome their limitations.

I hope the following Q & A session will inspire your heart. Please pass this interview on to anyone you may think will benefit from Christine's wisdom and inspiration:

1. What were your earliest recollections as a child and how have they helped shape you as an adult? Being boarded in foster homes. I think the insecurity of my life then turned into the impetus to succeed, as I became an adult. I always wanted a better life and was determined to work hard to achieve it.

2. When did you know that you wanted to be a part of the entertainment world? I didn’t. I started out working part time doing makeup and became interested in the entire package of a person. I opened a day spa where we took that entire person into consideration, hair, skin care, clothes, make up, exercise, and diet. It was very successful and ground breaking. We got a lot of media attention, one form being TV and somehow it came naturally to me and I just clicked. After seven years running the spa and doing TV to promote it, I sold the spa and decided to give TV a run as a full time career.

3. How did you get your first career break? It really came through press for the salon. As the buzz increased, TV came. My first show was a morning show in LA with Regis Philbin. I worked for 25 years with Regis on national TV. It was a great match. I also learned to think on my feet working with him, which came in really handy for live TV.

4. What is the boldest thing you ever have done within your career?  Give up my salon and go for TV. It was so scary and unknown. Up to then I had only appeared on TV to promote my salon. The decision to just work in TV was bold and many said foolish, and yet it worked and I loved it. Not managing 60 people anymore, just putting together segments was so much more creative for me.

5. What were the first signs that you had Rheumatoid Arthritis? My feet started bothering me when I was in New York doing a week of makeovers for Live. I thought I had just overdone it on the treadmill but as the week progressed, my pain became worse and moved up to my knees.

6. How did the diagnosis affect you mental well being in the beginning? It floored me. And I returned to my childhood method of denial in order to keep my career going. I knew I would lose my career if the word got out and so I made sure it didn’t…for twenty years. And the denial helped me to cope. I refused to read any books on arthritis, refused to talk about it except to my doctor. I lived in the same fantasy-land that enabled me to survive my childhood.

7. When did you come to the conclusion that you could make a difference for others with Rheumatoid Arthritis? It came to me. I never set out to be an advocate. But the story was brewing inside my head and I finally put it down on paper. When it sold to a publisher, I knew my secret would be out. I contacted the national arthritis foundation and the rest was history. As I started speaking out, the feedback encouraged me to speak louder. The reason I didn’t come out was because of the negative connotation about arthritis. I became determined to change that stigma.

8. For others diagnosed with arthritis, what advice can you provide on staying strong and gaining appropriate treatment? Be aggressive in finding a good, progressive doctor. Someone who gets you. I dedicated my book to my doctor at UCLA because he got me and kept me moving forward with promises of new medications coming in the research pipeline. He never gave up on hope or on me.

9. What is Christine's Kids and how can others get involved? Christine’s Kids is one of my Facebook pages. I started it because in the beginning I never knew that kids got arthritis too. I thought, like most people that it was a disease of the old and disabled. Not so. When I started meeting these kids and their families I was shocked. Their plight is so difficult. These kids fight daily for their childhood. I wanted to create more awareness for them and let the world know that this disease knows no age boundaries. Each week I feature another child on Christine’s kids. They are superheroes to me. Others can help by coming to my Facebook page and clicking on “like” and then sharing it with friends. The more people we reach, the more awareness we achieve. The link to christine’s kids is http://ow.ly/8huwf

10. What advice can you give to those seeking strength in today's world? I would encourage anyone who had any adversity in their life to read my book Take Me Home from the Oscars. It is honest and insightful, and mostly offers hope. I had to overcome adversity. I know it can be done. Otherwise you let the adversity win, and that is just not acceptable. How do we best harness our bold selves?  You have to believe in yourself. Whatever it takes, for me it was education. Learning to be a writer, learning to deal in business. And of course working in television gave me great confidence. Don’t settle, keep growing and improving. We are never finished, there is always more to learn and do in life.

11. Please share your favorite quote(s) of all time...

"Thoroughbreds wear blinders and they run their own race."

This quote has gotten me through so many tough times. I have willed myself to just get out my blinders and keep going forward!


Thank you Christine for your inspiration and willingness to share! For more information on Christine, please visit www.ChristineSchwab.com.

- Post By Jen Engevik of Project BE Bold