Navigate Your Life: An interview with Jen Louden

Jen Louden

My dear friend, Jen Louden, is a writer, wise woman, and personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book. She is the author of five additional books on well-being and whole living, including The Woman’s Retreat Book, and The Life Organizer.

Jen has led hundreds of retreats and online programs, written a national magazine column, and spoken around the world (and on Oprah’s couch), all in service to helping women choose vibrant lives they love. On September 17th, she’s offering a free Life Navigation Primer call, a preview of her upcoming Life Navigation Course.

As a prelude to this call, Jen has curated a series of articles on her blog by asking ten women to respond to this question: How do you create the life you want?

I interviewed Jen last week, and asked her how she creates the life she wants. It’s a question we’ve both been exploring in one form or another for most of our working lives. I know it’s one that many of you are asking and talking about, too. Listen in on our conversation, below.

Then, explore this question with the ones you love. And, if you feel inspired, head on over to my Facebook page and share your story: How do you create the life you want? How do you stay true to yourself when life becomes challenging? How do you open to embrace the gifts that life brings you, and embody more of the joy that is at the heart of your own being?

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On right relationship with power

lightning

To heal a world inflamed by abuses of power, each of us must take responsibility for exercising our own power wisely. Know the shape of your own, unique genius. Embody your soul’s gifts. Bring the healing balm of love and grace into each encounter, through the creative power of your presence, choices, actions.

Right relationship with power isn’t just a good idea, to be added to that long, who-knows-if-it-will-ever-happen, perhaps-someday list — it is as essential to your well-being and mine, and to the well-being of our world, as your | my | our next breath.

Today, I’m restoring wholeness and peace to my heart by swimming in its deeper currents. Today, I’m listening with my fingertips pressed to the pulse of the world. Putting my hand to the page. Writing, writing…against the fist of misused power pressed against my throat, your throat. Feeling the wind’s salt lift in my ribs. Writing my eyes clear so light can enter and be reflected, without impediment.


What’s your creative process?

dark alley in venice

Thinking about this quote, today, from American photographer Robert Adams.

“The operating principle that seems to work best is to go to the landscape that frightens you the most and take pictures until you’re not scared anymore.” –Robert Adams.

For me, there are creative projects that emerge from “the landscape that frightens you the most” — and then there are ones that invite me into their world with such glad welcome that they are, quite simply, a return home. More and more, my relationship with my creative process is an encounter with the heart of belonging.

When I take the time to restore my inner sense of safety and well-being first, then the thing that seemed frightening at first glance, turns out to be kin. There is a dimension in which all things are in me, and I am in all things. When I meet the landscape that frightens me up close — not as an idea of what it is, but by touching its soul and presence — then I recognize my kinship with it. This doesn’t mean that I don’t use discernment in what I choose to encounter. It does mean acknowledging the life that holds us equally in a web of belonging.

How about you?


Imagination is Freedom

woman on swing

Imagination is freedom — it can transform the world. Here’s a wonderful story told by Robert Hass, about the power of imagination in action in one of the direst places in our collective history.

“I’ll tell you a story that may or may not be true because it belongs to the history of marvels. The French poet Robert Desnos was in Buchenwald not because he was a poet but because he was a Jew. The story is that Desnos and all the men in his barracks were marched to a room and told to strip in preparation for being deloused in an adjoining room. They understood what that meant, and Desnos turned to the man next to him and said, “I read fortunes. Let me see your palm.” The man, stoop-shouldered, eyes wet with fear, held up his palm. Desnos looked at it and shook his head. A long lifeline, he said, but I see trouble in business down the line and trouble with your daughter. The man, stunned at first, laughed. And others laughed. And soon all the men in the room were standing around naked, laughing, with tears in their eyes, reading one another’s palms. The guards were so disconcered that they ordered the men to get dressed and marched them back to their barracks. The next day a transfer order came through and many were sent to a work camp and some survived to tell the story. Desnos was not among the survivors. Surrealism began with the idea that freedom of imagination could transform life, and in this instance, if the story is true, it did.”
–Robert Hass, from What Light Can Do


Work Is Gratitude

Stanley Kunitz quote


What are you settling for?

chasing a bubble

I’m astonished at, and saddened by, how little we are willing to settle for. We are fractals of the Sacred. Yet we settle for a living instead of a life. Fitting in, as a substitute for belonging. Approval, fame, stardom — each of these is but a pale reflection of our radiance, our deep longing to offer our soul’s creative presence to our world, and to be received with joyous celebration.

If you were to lose everything that you’ve settled for — all the roles, identities, possessions, relationships, and functions that define you — you would still be unmistakably, irreplaceably you. The Sacred incarnate.

Can you really be satisfied with less?


The Gifts of Difference

dreamstime_xs_2490731 walking together uphill

We are each at different places in our life’s journey, yet when we choose to share our stories and travel together, the companionship we offer each other is invaluable.

We learn so much from each other, precisely because we bring our unique personhood and widely disparate experiences to the task of forging new pathways. The richest learning takes place at the boundary between us, where our differences call us to expand, so we can embrace wider horizons, and deepen into greater understanding.

The gifts of journeying together in a conscious way are evolutionary — new growth, richer relationships, the birth of true stories.


When Bad Things Happen to Good People: On Karma

path

Growing up in India, poverty, hunger, disease, death and suffering were all around me. You can smell it, see it, taste it there. It’s in your face, in ways that it isn’t, here, most of the time.

It’s also a culture in which the concept of karma leads to fatalism at one end of the spectrum, and acceptance and surrender at the other.

Karma is a concept – a description of reality rather than reality itself. In one sense, there’s no such thing as karma. There are patterns of unfolding, which have their own internal logic and order, and karma is a description of one aspect of that logic, of that order.

In other words, karma is not personal — it doesn’t pertain just to a particular, individual life. Each of us is an ecology rather than a singular self. And we live within nested ecologies of beingness that are interdependent. We are shaped by them, and we contribute to them through our actions, choices, intentions, thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.

In this sense, we participate in many different kinds of karma. Individual karma is not separate from the karma of a society, a culture, gender or humanity itself.

Karma, in this sense, is a path that’s been created by thousands of people and animals walking across the same trackless wilderness along the same trajectory for a very long time.

Cultural thought-forms, beliefs, and archetypes all make grooves in human consciousness. And we participate in those grooves, because we are part of the collective consciousness. It takes conscious effort to approach things as they are, rather than through the scrim of our individual and collective history.

So the karma that led to the tragic events of 9/11, for example, emerged from a complex weave of tangled patterns. Beliefs about tribal loyalty and tribal justice. Beliefs that the good of one group can be brought about by the destruction of another. Beliefs that there is one right answer, one right God, one right anything at all – and that everything outside of that paradigm is The Other.

All of these thought-forms create karmic patterns. And we contribute to these through our individual consciousness, as well as through the ways in which we live our lives, the choices we make, the people we elect to govern us, and a million other variables that make up the ecology of the world in which we live.

Wholeness has a way of asserting itself, regardless of the results that emerge from fragmentation.

No, those men and women who died on 9/11 did not bring those terrible events upon themselves because of their karma. That’s a child’s version of tit for tat. The men, women and children who died in Hiroshima in 1945, or the millions who have been killed in wars, or those who die of poverty, hunger, disease and malnutrition every day don’t bring these things upon themselves either.

The larger question, I believe, is this: How are we to live today, knowing that we shape the world even as it shapes us? Knowing, too, that we are fractals of the Sacred, that we are wholeness too – that we participate in, and are co-creators with the Great Mystery.

What can you and I do now, today, to heal the karmic patterns that shape us, and to bring to life new ones that contribute to wholeness? How can we as a community make pathways of love and equality, compassion and understanding, mercy, safety, shelter and kindness for everyone?

These are pathways we make by walking. One choice, one action, one step at a time. What’s the one step you will take today?


Birthday gifts, from me to you

Birthday gifts

It’s my birthday! And I have gifts for you that I trust will remind you to play, laugh, and bathe in your own splendid, squirmy delight.

We sometimes forget, in the midst of the daily noise, who we really are and why we chose to make ourselves at home in this beautiful, bewildering world. When you’re focused on scrambling over the wall in front of you, you can miss the wide horizon that invites you to melt into its embrace.

So, here are some gifts to remind you of your gorgeous, creative Self.

You Are a Miraclea video poem
You Are a Miraclea downloadable poster and desktop wallpaper
And, just for today, a gift copy of my ebook of poems, Rumors of Home

Please click the links above, to download your gifts. The poster and video poem are always available to you. The link to a gift copy of my poetry ebook vanishes – poof! — at 9 am PST tomorrow, September 19th.

Enjoy! And, if you feel inspired, please offer your own beautiful, creative heart to your world in whatever way calls to you, today.

Phone a friend, and tell her what you cherish about her.

Write a poem, take your camera out on a photo-date, paint, cook a meal, or put on some music and dance.

Share your joy and exuberance. The world needs you, O Miraculous One!

Make your life a celebration, today!

Love, Hiro


Bless yourself, arriving

Spiral shell

Today, let the descending spiral of this week lead you home, to your own tender heart.

Trace the pathway that has brought you here — trace it with your fingertip, on the palm of your hand.

Monday’s promise, unfurling light.
Tuesday’s thunder shower, erasing the sky.
Wednesday’s pivot, your heel at the summit — breath and courage.

Thursday’s swift glide.
Friday’s stumbling descent, a ragged completion.
Saturday — clear sleep and muddy play, a raucous market.

And today. Sunday.

Let your fingertip rest in the palm of your hand.
This stillness. This pause at the heart.
This listening. This pulse.

Tomorrow’s heartbeat lub-dubbing in your ear.

Bless the path you’ve shaped with your becoming.
Bless yourself, arriving.


  • You are a sovereign being,
    a fractal of the Sacred,
    a fractal of Wholeness.
  • The flow of your life.
    The soul of your business.
  • Grow your business.
    Grow yourself.
  • Expand your life. Evolve your business.
  • The art of alignment. The miracle of action.
  • Trust in the power of your perfect unfolding.
  • Permission to grow, to flow, to know.
  • You learn about freedom by experiencing what it feels like to be bound.
  • Beyond your beliefs, beyond your drama — the truth of your life.
  • Success is becoming the person who can ask for hugs and holding when your own strength has deserted you.
  • Embrace the mystery at the heart of creation.
  • Your soul sends out tendrils of light and fragrance into the world.
  • You are the gift — and the giver.
    You are the Love, and the lover.
  • At the heart of all things — even limiting beliefs and painful programming — is wholeness.
  • Surrender is an act of will. It is aligning your will with the will of the Sacred.
  • You learn about sovereignty through the experience of being dethroned.
  • Love transforms.
  • Your soul's purpose is to participate in wholeness, to express wholeness.
  • True Desire is a messenger of your soul.
    It leads directly to your soul’s purposes.
  • Unfold the miracle of your life and business.
  • Business = Love in action.
  • Everything you need is already within you, waiting to unfold and express itself.
  • Your inner world shapes your outer world.
    Success is an inside job.
  • You are the story, and the story-maker.
    Your life is yours to shape.