Ophira Eisenberg is one of my favorite comedians and storytellers. I think it's her honesty above all else that wins me over--I feel like she's telling the truth to me because she tells the truth to herself. Her insight, self-reflection and wit are a powerful combination and her new memoir, Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy is as thought-provoking and genuine as it is funny.
This week features a series of posts to unpack and unfold the anatomy, so to speak, or design of The Iconic Self Online Experience to give you a window into how it works and why it is such a distinctive offering. But these elements are also core elements of all of our Soulful Journey offerings, and things my friends and collaborators looks for as hallmarks in our own journeys of resources that we trust and ultimately rely on. Our own experiences of powerful discovery all have these things in common--so whether or not The Iconic Self Online Experience is your right thing at your right time, my hope is that this Anatomy of Discovery will regardless help light your way.
Part One: Bridge
The first element of discovery is really structural in nature--skeletal, one might say. It involves building a bridge between two banks:
- understanding and living
- good ideas and practice
- concept and experience
Too much of what we come across or try to learn from leaves us on that first bank, building up a head full of knowledge that somehow still never manages to change the game.
There are so many good ideas and interesting concepts "out there" to toy with, but increasingly I have little patience for things that stop short of the rigor to even inquire how to translate those things into a new experience, practice, or way of life. Concepts and ideas alone, without a process of translation and integration, have an insufficiency to them that no longer holds my attention.
- Yes, we say, we would LOVE to have a peaceful relationship with our bodies--it's the finding a way in that's hard
- Of COURSE it would be great to be in touch with our intuition and know how to follow it--it's the How that everyone is so vague about
- It's not far-fetched that we hold the worst of ourselves at bay, but what if we're withholding our best? How do we dare the minefield to recapture our hidden treasures? How do we know in which direction to look?
In The Iconic Self Online Experience, discover:
What IS The Iconic Self, anyway? Watch the brand-new, 3-minute interview above to find out more.
Though this ground-breaking work has been years in the making, Phyllis Mathis and I have taken our time translating The Iconic Self into an online experience, primarily because two vital ingredients for the transformational power of this journey are presence and conversation. Early feedback of other online courses was fraught with disappointment in these two areas--primarily with the absence of instructors' presence and participation in any conversation resulting from the material offered.
We are the first to argue for the power of in-person, immersive learning experiences like the retreats we've shared previously. But up against the limitations inherent with such gatherings, we looked for new ways to share this journey in a way that remains infused with presence and conversation.
First, we went into a professional recording studio and shared the personal stories and hard-won insights that both form The Iconic Self and invite listeners around the world into this unique path--neither therapeutic or expressly spiritual in nature, and yet a welcoming and inclusive in-road to the process of soul integration.
Having this content in the realm of voice--physical voice--brings listeners right into the room with us. It expands our circle of friendship into an open embrace. It adds a layer of humanity, expression and depth beyond what's possible through the written word alone.
Then in the last several months, Phyllis partnered with Live It to the Full to author and craft online experiences infused with her presence in the virtual classroom and a culture of conversation that extends beyond her responses to every comment and becomes contagious and fluent among the participants, as well. (If you've heard her interview on Retrospective about constituting one another in conversation, you already know this is a core value for her.)
Now, equipped with both a presence- and conversation-rich audio program AND a presence- and conversation-infused virtual classroom model (which includes a live, recorded conference call), we invite you to join us for The Iconic Self Online Experience. You can read all about it here, and register before the maximum capacity fills (only 25 participants). Our availability for live events is limited this season, but we crave your company and companionship as we sink deeply into the journey that changed everything for us. Please join us!
We are also thrilled to feature photography by Bella Cirovic throughout The Iconic Self Online Experience.
If I had to boil down my most central area of inquiry to a single word, I would say, transformation. I am endlessly looking at how and when and why we leave one way of being behind for another, examining the necessary conditions or ingredients, so to speak.
I look across learning styles and personality traits--the way some of us do our deepest work in solitude and others in community--as well as other factors, like how much we can integrate at what pace or what settings certain topics lend themselves to more than others.
My friends and I are always looking to see how many pathways into a conversation we can create: Is there a way to just dip your toes in the water or to carry a simple reminder with you during your day? (a tshirt) Is there a way to plunge into the deep end? (a retreat) How about a way to ease in at one's own pace, moving from the shallow to the deep end as one adjusts to the water? (a home study course)
What about people on a budget, or people who don't know where to begin when too many pieces arrive all at once?
That last question led us to the creation of monthly subscription options, first for The Iconic Self with Phyllis Mathis, MA, LPC, and now with author and artist Liz Lamoreux's transformational work, The Gift of This Moment.
This option means more sweet packages in your mailbox, with resources and supports that arrive at a steady, easy-to-follow-and-digest pace. It means another doorway into conversations and practices that can mean the difference between losing yourself or holding on and finding your essential essence in life's more trying moments. It means that instead of waiting until Some Day, you could begin Right Now.
There's a school of thought that says when making and then selling something, people don't care about how or why you make it the way you do--they just want you to answer the question, What's in it for me? It's likely true for some people, probably a personality thing, but I am a values-oriented person and I can't imagine I'm alone in this. The how and the why matter immensely to me--it's why I buy organic and free range and free roaming food and support farms with humane practices. I pay more money for these items, and not just for their superior flavor and nutritional content. There is a kind of work in the world I believe in supporting, other values-oriented people I believe in sustaining.
Maybe this is why each time a new release draws near, I'm always compelled to pull the curtain back and let you see a glimpse of how we do things and why we do them that way. The curious among us can read on.
Almost everything we make has official and unofficial titles. For instance, something that might be called, say, The Gift of This Moment may have an unofficial or working title like, How to Feel Less Fucked Up and Alone. Maybe we'd sell more if we just stuck with those unofficial titles, I don't know, but I do know that they help us keep our eye on the ball during the making. To remember what we're up to and why.
Similarly, the official tagline you'll see on a Jen Lee Productions banner right now reads, Hold the possibilities in your hands. And that is part of what we stand for, for sure. But an unofficial tagline has been keeping things clear behind the scenes in the making: Artists rule.
Like many things we create, I started down this path of independent media production because I was frustrated--frustrated with the ways we have undervalued wisdom and allowed systems to flourish that diminish creators and wisdom-keepers. I dreamed of a way to make things that would pay artists more than mere cents for the culmination of years of living and cultivating and researching and developing. A world where authors would get to name their own books and get to be a part of the process of making and shaping and designing their work, where they don't lose creative control to vetoes from the marketing department or a big-name bookstore that threatens not to carry their work unless they change the title.
We all know that what we really respond to are authentic voices, but I don't believe projects we run through such severe interference emerge with that authenticity intact.
What's the remedy? Letting artists rule. The work is the way the work should be, even if we're hours from going to press and we decide no, those interior photos really don't work in black and white. If they must be in color to retain their power and beauty, then in color they shall be.
Some content is well-suited for book form, and in those cases it becomes a book. But the concern and consideration that most drives me is transformation. I'm not asking, What will people buy? I'm asking, What way of interacting with this content will be the most transformative? The greatest shortcoming of books is that we are passive in our posture towards them. We generally hope that they will do something to us: entertain us, inspire us, give us the magic recipe we've been missing to have the life of our dreams.
But my journey has been more heavily influenced by a deeper kind of work--one in which I am interacting with the material and really reflecting and seeing things that I can no longer not see, things that change everything forever. It was while doing a writing exercise in The Artist's Way--not while reading it--that I had a realization that ultimately culminated in our move to New York City. It changed the direction of my work and our lives. A few months after arriving, someone was visiting me and saw the book near my bed. Oh, I read that book once, she said. I think I'll go back and 'do it' after I retire.
I almost had to sit down. What if I had just read that book, like it was any other? What if I had waited until retirement to take the time to listen to myself and hear what I most want? She had read a book and thought, That's nice. I had really interacted with it in a way that shifted my life's trajectory.
This story is not ever far from my mind when I'm writing home study courses: work that is active and invites you in to play with it, to experiment, to wrestle with the more difficult parts. The same ethos drives the home retreat kits. Yes, being in person, presence-with-presence is the most transformational way to interact with the material. But what if the logistics of that are out of reach? What's the next best thing?
When we began talking about Liz Lamoreux's new project, we quickly learned that the solitary nature of some of her practices for reflective living were not well-suited to the group format of a live retreat. At first I thought we would make a binder and CDs, as we had for Finding Your Voice and Telling Your Story. Our companions for the journey had powerful, rich experiences with them, and we knew how to make them--it would be a breeze.
But we weren't far into our discussions before I could hear that the binder would not be a good fit for this project. What we needed instead was a meditation journal, a separate poetry collection, and a field journal and photo album. We needed an audio CD with Liz's teaching and stories to walk our companions through the practices, and some audio meditations would be helpful, too. And that is how we build a project, piece by piece, form following function and not the other way around.
It's not inexpensive to make exquisite things in small batches, compared to what it costs to manufacture something you see for sale in Starbucks or Barnes and Noble. But in our case you know that your funds support the artists directly, that they receive more than mere cents from your purchase. Much of the work we offer is free, but every now and then we come up with a way that we can give you the best of what we have to offer in a form that allows you to give your support in exchange. We have not produced a resource yet that was not years in the making--years that we would not have had to pioneer these frontiers and then be your guides along the way if our financial circumstances did not and do not continue to allow it.
What happens when artists rule? Dreams come true. Next week (6.13.12) we release our latest project featuring the warmth and wisdom of artist, author and teacher Liz Lamoreux. We're in the dreams coming true business for artists and visionaries, and we hope you'll celebrate this one with us.
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.