If Women Ran the World, Sh*t Would Get Done now a Spirited Woman Top 12 Holiday Book Pick!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Emotional Pro: An Interview with Ilene Dillon

Ilene Dillon, M.S.W., is known as The Emotional Pro. Author of 19 books, workbooks and CD sets, including a teacher's manual on emotional literacy, Ilene holds two California professional psychotherapy licenses, with over 40 years of service. Through the years she has seen how many people "have learned to stuff, ignore, or avoid emotions, not realizing how great life is when they’re being used as intended!" That's why she has a personal mission to teach people, herself included, about love.

Ilene has been featured in publications such as The San Francisco Chronicle, Care Notes, Feel.com, Personal Excellence and Woman's Day. Ilene has practiced as a Coach the past 8 years (and works worldwide, through the Internet, with people in such places as South Africa, France, Germany, Mexico and all over the U.S.), and is credentialed as a Junior College instructor.

A quarter-century professional member of The National Speakers Association, Ilene's clients include California colleges and probations officers, Dallas Presbyterian Hospital, American Family Cruises, California Council for Self-Esteem, California Personnel and Guidance Association and Adelaide, Australia's C.O.P.E. Ilene was a guest on King World's Rolanda Show, and has presented to Beijing's China Rehabilitation Research Institute, the Relationship Coaching Institute's first-ever online Conscious Relationship Summit Conference, at women's conferences, for federal and state penitentiary inmates, and has appeared on radio and national television in the U.S. and Australia.

Since 2004, Ilene has been the creator/host of Full Power Living, Internet-based radio "awakening the world to the power and importance of human emotions," LIVE on Thursdays, 9 a.m. PT (http://www.emotionalpro.com/). She also hosts “Emotionally Speaking” and “Building Conscious Families” on the Women’s Information Network (http://www.thewinonline.com/), is an Expert at http://www.myexpertsolution.com/, and a registered therapist on http://www.eqlive.org/.

I recently had the chance to talk to Ilene as a guest on her show, Full Power Living, and I couldn’t wait to share her wisdom and expertise here.

Shelly Rachanow: Tell us more about your radio show, Full Power Living.

Ilene Dillon: Full Power Living (FPL) was begun in 2004, when I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into! I wanted to “awaken the world to the power and importance of human emotions.” I had been discovering how important emotions are, and how little we know about them, or how to work with them. Focusing on emotions allowed me to talk about everything, because emotions are part of everything! I discovered and embraced that FPL was really God’s “conspiracy” to keep me growing and expanding!

A hallmark of my hosting is that I actually read each person’s book and construct my own questions. Amazingly, I get to talk in-depth and one-on-one with the world’s cutting-edge thinkers, about what interests me! We have more than 300 archived shows, release over iTunes (“Ilene Dillon”) and book incredible guests 3-4 months in advance! I’ve had to expand my knowledge of “things computer/Internet,” allow myself to ask for what I want, trust my capabilities and my Sixth Sense, and enjoy the wonder that computers and technology afford us to connect, share, relate and open the world to feeling! I’ve made great new friends—listeners and guests worldwide. We visit when traveling. FPL welcomes sponsors who exercise full respect for our mission by supporting FPL “as is.”

Shelly Rachanow: Our emotions can both help and hinder our ability to experience “Full Power Living.” Why is that so and how can people learn to feel more empowered?

Ilene Dillon: Emotions are amazing! They’re tools that have been given to human beings to help us navigate life. Each one gives us a “signal” that tells us the best action to take; they’re available to us 24/7. We need our emotions in order to manifest and create our lives. Sadly, most humans have learned to stuff, ignore, or avoid emotions, not realizing how great life is when they’re being used as intended!

Full Power Living is all about being the fullest, true-to-ourselves, working-in-harmony-with-the-universe people we can possibly be. My show guests have taught me: The key is recognizing who we really are—amazing souls in bodies. Next, we need to listen to our inner voice, that voice that guides us to do what’s right for us, behave in loving ways, and use our talents, skills, emotions and learning. We need to dedicate ourselves and our lives to LOVE (love ourselves and others--we are all One). We need to trust ourselves, realizing we have an internal guidance system constantly leading us to good. We need to share our individual part of the “life puzzle,” stay connected with nature, value what is really important (Big Stuff, not small stuff), and enjoy ourselves, realizing it’s about the journey, not the outcome! Emotions are key to all of this. Learn the emotional signals, feel emotions, make friends with them, learn their lessons, and share them.

Shelly Rachanow: So often in our culture, we are taught to ignore or suppress our feelings about things, men especially. Why is it important to change this?

Ilene Dillon: Our earth is designed as a “giant school,” to which we all have come to learn and grow. Every experience is an opportunity to learn. Learning lessons frees us to grow and move to new lessons. Failing to learn lessons leads us to repeat them, ad nauseum, until we complete them; each repetition offers a harsher experience. Emotions are paired with our experiences to help us notice and learn! Positive and negative childhood experiences are paired with emotion, becoming our “homework assignments” for our lifetime.

As adults, when similar experiences occur, emotion(s) comes with them, drawing our attention through joy or pain. We need to listen, find the “lesson” and use the emotional “signal” to take new actions that heal us, allowing us to move smoothly through life. The reasons we’re taught to ignore/suppress emotions could fill a later book! What’s important is that we now fear, feel embarrassed by, and don’t understand emotions. It’s harder than ever to sweep them under the rug; and it doesn’t work. Men and women both ignore/suppress emotions, just in different areas. Men sit on hurt, tenderness, and love; women sit on anger, desire and the emotions of power.

We need to rethink emotions. They are merely energy in motion (e-motion), each shaped to signal us to appropriate-for-us action and serve as our “Human User’s Manual.” Not using our emotions is like burning the books in Alexandria’s library. We’re made to grow, love, change, evolve—and emotions are our 24/7 specially-designed tools!

Shelly Rachanow: Your personal mission is to teach people, including yourself, about love. What have you learned along the way and how can people use love to transform their lives?

Ilene Dillon: In the early 1990’s, I authored a manual for parents, for them to teach their children about love (re-released as The ABCs of Love: Building Emotional Foundations for Life). In my research, I learned “love, is love, is love,” meaning it doesn’t matter whether we’re loving ourselves or another—it’s all love. What does matter is that we choose love as our lifes’ guiding principle. This is an active decision that I made; it transformed my life!

Love is the “stuff” of the universe. Not the limited human love, but agape, unconditional love--loving without restriction or requiring change. Since what we focus on, we tend to become, when we focus on love, we build it inside. What we have inside of us is reflected back to us, drawing to us others who are focusing on love. Our lives become filled with love. No matter what happens, love is our primary awareness and experience. Many people complain of the rude, difficult and uncaring people encountered when traveling. For years, traveling has brought me the most loving, caring and helpful people—but only after I chose love as my life’s guiding principle.

Transform your own life by making a choice: From now on, whatever happens, love is the most important thing! Notice what happens with the way you treat yourself, react to others, take responsibility, care for the earth, treat your children or spouse, or the kinds of experiences you have. Transform your life by deciding to fill yourself with love!

Shelly Rachanow: What’s one thing each of us can do right now to feel more fulfilled in our daily lives?

Ilene Dillon: Gratitude is the Law of Increase. When you are grateful for the “crumbs,” the loaves will follow. Stop several times each day and notice, be grateful for and enjoy those things that enhance your life, including difficulties (which offer you opportunities to learn and grow)! Stay totally in the present (not easy!), a way of eliminating worry and fear. Recognize each experience as an opportunity to learn. All lessons are not going away (until you learn them and are finished with them). Learning is what we’re all here for.

Take as much responsibility as possible, for each of us is personally responsible for our lives (and responsibility is a building block of self-esteem). Responsibility is about freedom and choice—if I make everything I do my choice, I am responsible and I have the ability to make new choices to get different outcomes. Choose love as the guiding principle of your life, and remember that “loving others as I love myself” involves loving myself! When I am full of love, I send love out, without behaving manipulatively, or being stressed. I also draw love effortlessly from my world—human and natural. Listen to, work with, and learn from your emotions, and life becomes a wonderful event of supportive friends and experiences, crammed with fulfillment!

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Ilene Dillon:  If I ran the world, I’d make sure people knew from the beginning how things are set up (like a giant school). I’d help them to see who they truly are (an incredible and amazing soul). I’d encourage people to greet each new experience with the wild enthusiasm of a 4-year-old child, no matter what. Rather than change anything about the earth experience, I’d help people rejoice in blending their lives together, realizing they are helping each other to learn with every encounter, joyfully and lovingly. I’d make sure everyone knows that we are all “One”—with each other, animals, the universe and that “whatever is larger than I am” we call Allah, God, Yahweh, The Great Spirit, or The Great Whoever.

I would make sure people understood that emotions are our friends, with us 24/7, prodding, reminding, focusing attention, filling us up, helping us manifest and create, and standing ready as the tools they’re created to be. Like Al Capp’s Schmoos, emotions serve us, happily allowing themselves to be consumed and released into the atmosphere, so long as they can do their job of helping us live better lives! If I ran the world, we’d all be creating beauty—inner and outer—together, as we speak “Emotion,” the language of the universe!

To learn more, contact Ilene at:
P. O. Box 21708, El Sobrante, CA 94820
Twitter: IleneDillon
Facebook: Ilene Dillon
Linked In: Ilene L. Dillon

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Green Devotional: An Interview with Karen Speerstra

Our planet, our home, is in crisis. Author Karen Speerstra, who lives and writes on a mountain in central Vermont, is keenly aware of our planetary crisis. In her book, The Green Devotional, she gathered a collection of quotes, poems, essays, and prayers meant to inspire all of us to actively reverse the man-made cause of global warming, stem the tide of environmental destruction, and reconnect to the good earth.

As Karen says in the introduction, “For the voices within these pages call you not just to prayer, but to action. They form an eight-part polyphonic chorus in support of our green planet. They’re a ‘shout out,’ a call to ‘step up.’ Open this book anywhere, anytime, and hear what the voices are saying. Choose one of the devotional thoughts to think about – alone or with friends, meditate on it, and act upon it. For when we are devoted to something, we cannot help but fervently live it.”

Included are selections from such people as Rachel Carson, Cornel West, Bill McKibben, Alice Walker, Sue Monk Kidd, Dean Koontz, Barbara Kingsolver, Daniel Pinchbeck, Arundhati Roy, and many others. The Green Devotional ends with a section of “closing prayers” that prepare us not just to go to sleep but to rest up for another day of passionate action.

I was really excited to talk to Karen more about what we can do to help our planet, especially after watching everything that’s unfolded in the Gulf Coast in the last few months.

Shelly Rachanow: Where has your “green” interest come from?

Karen Speerstra: I’ve been around this great planet of ours for a while. In the 70’s, especially during a fuel shortage - people today wouldn’t believe the lines we were in waiting to fill our tanks - I began to think very seriously about this little spaceship earth and how we were overpopulating it, denigrating it, quite literally destroying it. We read Paul Erlich and were “into” zero population growth. I wrote articles about ecology. I made my own yoghurt. My husband and I deliberately decided to have only two children - just to replace ourselves. I’d have loved more. Being pregnant was the greatest time of my life. But we felt there are limits to everything. Jimmy Carter put solar panels in the White House; we turned down our thermostats. Then we drifted into the “me” decades and forgot about the “us.” Thank the goddess we’re now coming back to realizing more is not necessarily better and there is likely no better living through chemistry. I love a slogan on some T shirts here in Vermont: “I like butter better than margarine because I trust cows more than chemists.” I mention this with great trepidation because my daughter-in-law is a chemist. But a very savvy one.

Shelly Rachanow: What is your personal view of climate change?

Karen Speerstra: I believe there are natural cycles our earth goes through, but I also see evidence that our meddling and greed has created conditions that are hastening changes - changes we as humans are not equipped to deal with no matter how “in control” and smart we think we are. Earth will survive. Many of us may not. We see in the Gulf writ large what’s happening all around us. Our oceans have dead zones. Our coastal populations will be threatened. Even slight temperature risings cause ice to melt; oceans will rise. I believe bio-diversity is crucial to our planet’s (and our) well-being and when we pluck one tiny thread out of our immense life-tapestry (and believe me, we’re destroying species at a horrendous rate—it’s not just tiny threads) the whole tapestry frays. We’re acting like silly, self-centered adolescents rather than responsible adults. It’s time we grew up.

Shelly Rachanow: Why have you called this a collection of 350? And why “devotions” in the title?

Karen Speerstra: When I first talked with Conari Press about this book (and they approached me with the idea—“How about a book to ensure the well-being of your grandchildren.”) I wasn’t sure exactly what it would be. I knew I wanted to write some original essays in addition to gathering quotations. We have one grandchild, Josie, who is now three. I dedicated the book to her. I live in Vermont and have met Bill McKibben. I was and am close to the 350.org movement which is an attempt to remind us all of the dangers of rising carbon dioxide. It’s now perilously close to being irreversible no matter what we do. 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in our air is a “planet-saving” number. I felt this book might further remind folks of that. The editors thought, even at the outset, they wanted 365 “prayers”—loosely defined. I doubt people read one a day, but I complied by adding 16 more at the end—one for the extra day in leap year.

“Devotions” was the publisher’s sales and marketing people’s idea. At first I felt it might be too “religiousy” but as I lived with the text, it grew on me. We do need to be “devoted” to saving our planet. And we do need to recognize that we need help from inner/higher/other sources. As I say in the Introduction, early prayer books were devotional aids called Books of Hours. They measured out the day in eight three-hour increments. The book has eight parts. Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Time, Space, and Essence (soul if you like) and a final section on those 16 closing prayers as early books of hours had.

Shelly Rachanow: You have a chapter in Green Devotions on hope. How can there be hope amid such despair over the inevitability of climate change and things like the oil spill in the Gulf?

Karen Speerstra: Good question, especially when the looping videos keep it ever-present in our minds. But that’s also good. Too many oil spills have been covered up and forgotten. We only usually see the edges of our oceans and they usually look pretty good. And we have very short attention spans.

Hope is a fragile bird-like thing as Emily Dickinson pointed out. Easily squashed. Easily killed. Hope is, as another writer, Gabriel Marcel, pointed out “a memory of the future.” We have to “remember together” now what tomorrow and next year might look like. It’s our creative visualizing that can make or break us. I’m hopeful that we can do that. Hope is not positive thinking or a Pollyannaish attitude. Hope, I believe, is like steel. It’s our core. It’s what gives us the energy and strength to “get up and do what has to be done” as Garrison Keillor says about Powdermilk Biscuits. We all have to get up and “do” now. We can’t leave it to the government, or even to the Bill McKibbens of the world. It’s up to me. And you.

I’m an ovarian cancer survivor (diagnosed n 2003) and one of the things I firmly believe about hope is what Dr. Jerome Groopaman says in The Anatomy of Hope. “Hope, unlike optimism, is rooted in unalloyed reality…Hope is the elevating feeling we experience when we see - in the mind’s eye - a path to a better future. Hope acknowledges the significant obstacles and deep pitfalls along that path. True hope has no room for delusion.”

Shelly Rachanow: What are some things people can do right now to make a positive impact on our environment?

Karen Speerstra: While it’s buying local, taking bags to grocery stores, driving less and changing light bulbs, I love what Bill McKibben says:  "You’re going to fix global warming by changing lightbulbs? Try changing your politicians instead. Screw in a new Congressperson."

I believe we have to elect people who have the best interests of our planet at their core. We can as individuals, families, and neighborhoods do a lot, but regulations and enforceable consequences for the larger impacts are mandatory.

I was one of the co-authors on a book called Our Day to End Poverty and here’s what we said: “Here’s the good news. Just as the problems are interconnected, so too are the solutions. Solving one part of the problem can have a positive ripple effect.” Every little ripple helps. We know what to do - it’s now just a matter of will. Will we?

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the “If Women Ran the World Blog” question for everyone: What would you do if you ran the world?

Karen Speerstra: If I ran the world I’d need a lot of help – but the right kind of help. I’d listen more to children. They know the importance of play. Of smiling. Of wanting to be healthy. They know how to pick up and use whatever is at hand (the French call that bricolage) to make it into something. They also know they don’t need to stockpile things for a later time. That’s because they live in the present and not the future. Or the past. I’d encourage people to listen more to their hearts and not only their heads. I’d encourage people to listen more to the earth. Really listen. She’s vibrating. She reminds us we’re all energy. We can raise our energy - and hers - by loving or lower it by fearing. It’s our choice.

For more information, visit http://www.sophiaserve.com/.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Opposite of Me: An Interview with Sarah Pekkanen

Sarah Pekkanen's debut novel, The Opposite of Me, was a Redbook magazine pick and won 3.5 out of 4 stars from People. The Opposite of Me has been sold in countries including Holland, Germany, Spain, Australia, China, and Italy - where it hit the bestseller list. If this sounds glamorous, please consider the fact that Sarah writes part of her books at Chuck E. Cheese while her children scream for more tokens.

Her second book, Skipping a Beat, will be published in February 2011. Sarah's novels are published by Washington Square Press, a division of Simon & Schuster. She is a former journalist whose articles have appeared in publications including The Washingtonian, The Washington Post, People, The Reader's Digest, The New Republic, The Baltimore Sun, and others. Sarah lives in Chevy Chase with her husband, three young sons and rescue lab Bella.

I recently read The Opposite of Me and LOVED it! I particularly related to the main character and the pressure she put on herself to succeed. I was so thrilled to talk to Sarah about why we women tend to do this, the labels we're given in our families, and more!

Shelly Rachanow: Your book, The Opposite of Me, has received some amazing reviews and you have been compared to writers like Jennifer Weiner and Emily Griffin – that’s amazing company to be in. Tell us more about The Opposite of Me.

Sarah Pekkanen: Thanks so much - believe me, I'm thrilled to be in the company of writers like Jennifer and Emily, since I adore every word they've ever written. When my agent called to tell me that Jennifer Weiner's editor wanted to buy my book, I had tears in my eyes!

The Opposite of Me is the story of 29-year-old twin sisters who have nothing in common - or so they think. Lindsey is the driven overachiever, while Alex sort of floats through life on the strength of her looks. But life as they know it changes for both sisters, and they're forced to re-think their relationship and the assumptions they've always made about one another.

Shelly Rachanow: When we first meet Lindsey, she’s working very long hours in a stressful job – something so many women can relate to. She also has placed a ton of pressure on herself to succeed, which is something else so many women can relate to! Why do you think so many women do this to themselves, especially when they don’t seem to be happier in the process?

Sarah Pekkanen: What a great question! I'm not sure how much of the pressure is internal or external, but I know that I was raised to believe I could do anything I wanted, which is an exhilarating and also scary prospect. I think because women were held back for so long, our generation carries a lot of hopes and expectations. We feel as though we should be able to do it all - but no one can, at least not without going a little nuts. Magazines that trumpet celebrity moms squeezing back into their size 2 jeans just weeks after giving birth certainly don't help. I wish we could all get together and admit that we don't floss enough, that we put on a baseball cap to cover up our gray roots, and that we inhaled a pint of Ben & Jerry's over the sink for dinner -- instead of worrying we don't measure up.

Shelly Rachanow: One of the themes of your book is the labels we’re given in our families when we’re young (i.e. the smart one, the pretty one, etc) and how these labels can shape our lives in the future. What made you decide to explore this topic in The Opposite of Me? Did you have a label in your family and, if so, how did it impact who you are today?

Sarah Pekkanen: I took a lot of psychology classes in college, and I'm always interested in the experiences that help shape us as individuals. I think the notion of identity is so fascinating. Probably like most of your readers, I switch hats a dozen times during the course of the day: I'm a parent, wife, writer, sister, friend.... I play different roles depending on, say, if I'm meeting with my kid's teacher, talking on the phone with an editor I want to impress, or grabbing a drink with my girlfriend. In a way, we're all shape-shifters, aren't we? It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly how my idea for this aspect of the book formed; I wish I knew! But I loved the idea of creating twins, then making them as different as possible. I've always heard about twins who are so close that one of them feels pain if the other one gets injured miles away - but I wanted to twist around that phenomenon. What if my twins had nothing in common? What if they weren't close at all?

I also think it’s very common in families for children to get certain labels, either spoken or unspoken – like the “pretty sister,” the “smart one,” the “drama queen,” or the “peacemaker.” I’ve always been curious about how those labels are formed – are they really a true reflection of who we are inside? It’s interesting to me that we can go out into the world and re-invent ourselves as adults, yet when we go home to visit our families, they still see us through the lens of our childhood roles. And sometimes, despite our best efforts, we get dragged kicking and screaming back into those roles! So I took both of those notions and spun them around in my mind for a while before they turned into the premise of my novel. The intersection of those themes – sisterhood and identity - is the heart of my novel.

In my family growing up, I often played the role of peacekeeper. I don't really like conflict, which is interesting, because my biggest challenge as a writer is trying to infuse it into my manuscript!

Shelly Rachanow: Balancing work and family is one of the biggest challenges facing women today, especially when we have young children as I know you do. How do you think we as a society can be more supportive of women or make things easier for women in the future?

Sarah Pekkanen: In an ideal world, women would have access to fabulous, inexpensive child care, generous paid maternity leave, and flexible work schedules. In fact, some of these benefits already exist in other countries, like France and Canada. It's a shame that women in our country are booted out of the hospital so quickly after having children, and that many have to return to work after just a few weeks off. I wish fathers had these benefits, too. Hopefully as more women rise in the government and private sector, we'll be able to carve out more supportive surroundings for all women.

Shelly Rachanow: What can you tell us about your next book? What can readers look forward to?

Sarah Pekkanen: SKIPPING A BEAT will be published by Atria Books/Washington Square Press on Feb. 22, 2011. Skipping a Beat is similar in tone and genre to The Opposite of Me, but the story is totally new. It's about a woman named Julia Dunhill who discovers that her husband has turned into a completely different man after a sudden, shocking medical trauma - and now he wants to rewrite all of the rules of their marriage. Julia, who sees pieces of her life in scenes from the world's great operas, has three weeks to decide if she should stay with Michael or leave him. Like my debut, it's set in the D.C. area (my hometown!).

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Sarah Pekkanen: I'd make it more like kindergarten. Everyone would get a nap at 2 p.m, followed by a cookie and glass of milk. Think of how much happier we'd all be! Especially if the cookies were chocolate-chip.

To contact Sarah, visit:

Web site: http://www.sarahpekkanen.com/
Email: sarah@sarahpekkanen.com
Twitter: @sarahpekkanen
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sarah-Pekkanen/215202723761?ref=mf

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Let Go Now: An Interview with Karen Casey

Our own, individual well being is a fragile thing when it is enmeshed in other people’s issues or dependent upon the approval of others. When we pour our efforts into trying to solve the problems of others, or into fixing their lives, rescuing them from crises, or controlling them, it not only drains us of the energy that would be better spent on our own growth and development but it becomes hard to tell where other people end and we begin. The same holds true when we invest too much of our self-image in the approval of another. For many of us, solving, fixing, rescuing, and controlling seem like caring acts that would be callous to discontinue. And approval-seeking becomes a crutch, too.

That’s why it’s such a plus when Karen Casey, the “founding mother” of recovery books, steps in to clarify, advise, and give us meditations to help us find a loving way to let go of ineffective attachments. Karen has written 20 books that have sold several million of copies worldwide, and in her new book, Let Go Now: Embracing Detachment, she counsels us to realize that we can show genuine love and concern only when we detach from the knee-jerk need to solve, fix, rescue, or control. When we let go of the drama, we can feel and share our true caring feelings that come from within.

In Let Go Now, Karen shows us how to find our own balance points, set boundaries, and make our lives our own. The meditations she provides are just the tools we need to help us let go of the illusion that we can control anyone or anything beyond ourselves, which is definitely something I’ve been working on in my own life. I was especially excited to talk to Karen about this topic.

Shelly Rachanow: What does detachment mean to you?

Karen Casey: My definition of detachment is having the freedom to not let the behavior, the opinions, the attitude or the mannerisms of others affect how I feel, how I behave, or how I perceive myself. In other words, it’s the “art” of allowing others to be who they are without re-”tooling” who we are.

Shelly Rachanow: How might you explain it to other people so they can implement it into their lives?

Karen Casey: The best way to explain it to others is through sharing my own experience with how “attachment” looked and felt. My life was very narrow and constricted. Every move I made and every thought I had was based on, ie., in reaction to, what I observed others doing. Watching the movements, and particularly the facial expressions of others gave me the “clues” I used to determine my own worthiness and I became very practiced at this from a very early age.

A passage I read in a book in 1971 clarified how I had been living for as long as I could remember. My enlightenment was ignited from reading a response one person made about the behavior of a third person: Why should I let him decide what kind of day I’m going to have? In that moment I knew that my entire life had been in response to others. By explaining what it was like for me, others can see how similar they might be living.

Shelly Rachanow: Is detachment a concept that fits for women more than men?

Karen Casey: I have thought about this a lot over the years and while I think women might be more sensitive to “their attachment,” than men, both sexes find themselves in relationships that aren’t respectful of boundaries, relationships that are defined by the actions coupled with the reactions of both parties. Detachment is really about freeing ourselves from our “codependency,” and it’s a skill that both men and women need to cultivate.

Shelly Rachanow: Compare and contrast for us Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow; It’s Up to You; and this new book.

Karen Casey: The differences in these three books are in form more than content. All three have at their core how to live more peacefully. In Change Your Mind, I settle on a dozen relatively simple principles that can quite adeptly be applied to one circumstance or another that presents itself in our life on a daily basis; and in the process, create far more peaceful interactions with all others who have been “selected” to travel with us, thus for every one there is a more gentle journey.

In It’s Up To You, the principles from Change Your Mind are fleshed out in a three month program of morning and evening readings that will keep the reader on track with making the changes that will insure a life that’s more peacefully lived.

Let Go Now: Embracing Detachment, is a modified meditation book. It has 200 essays that can be read and reread, describing detachment. It repeatedly “pictures” how it looks and how the refusal to do it makes those of us who hold on to others, feel. Learning to let go of the behavior of others on our journey, understanding that what they do is not defining us, no matter what we think; is hard but it can be done with fervent practice. The book’s simplicity allows the reader to feel hopeful about the possibility of real change and a life that feels stress-free.

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the “If Women Ran the World Blog” question for everyone: What would you do if you ran the world?

Karen Casey: If I ran the world, I’d be a constant proponent of initiating peaceful encounters with other nations and neighboring communities too. I do believe in the concept of “pay it forward,” and I also firmly believe that nothing can change in the world around us if each one of us isn’t willing to also change how we see the others who wander our way.

Peace Begins With Me is the title of a song but it’s so much more than a song. It is the one sure thing that every person could do that would result, in time, in changing the tenor of the entire planet. Mother Teresa assured us many years ago that the best we could do was to be kind to every one and start with the person standing closest to you.

If I ran the world, there would be no more hunger, I’d outlaw nuclear weapons and I’d see to it the we, the wealthiest nation in the world, provided the best and most accessible health care for every one, the best educational programs, and a tax structure that is honestly equitable; one that demands that the wealthiest truly pay their fair share.

If I ran the world I’d eliminate racism and classism, both of which are at the root of so many problems in this country and the world at large.

Karen is in demand as a keynote speaker at Hazelden Women’s Healing conferences and a sought-after speaker at many other recovery and spirituality conferences. She conducts Change Your Mind workshops based on her bestselling book, Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow. Visit her online at http://www.womens-spirituality.com/, and read her blog at http://www.karencasey.wordpress.com/.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

R Star Ministries: An Interview with Rosalind Russell

Rosalind Russell is “one passionate woman doing all she can” and the more I learn about her, the more I can say that is definitely the truth! Based in the Laguna Beach area of California for the last 31 years, she founded The R Star Ministries in 1991 with a focus on empowering women.

Rosalind began her international work in Nepal (the third poorest country in Southeast Asia) in 2003 with a program called, “Women helping Women and Children…Therefore the World." With this program, her foundation provides two pregnant goats to women, who agree and sign accordingly that they will pass on two goats within two years to another village. The women also offer training and support to the village they collectively choose and they are learning to work with women of different castes.

The women in these villages seldom have any way to earn funds and as they learn to earn and recognize that they did the earning, they are empowered. As Rosalind says, “Micro banking is teaching women to be bankers, and bankers run the world.”

Rosalind has also collaborated with others to create hospital care and dental care for thousands of people in the area. In 2005, she saw the need for a school for the 200 children there; construction began in 2006 and the school is now open. She has gathered funds for books, desks, paper and pens, teachers, and chalkboards, and the structure that was built includes toilets, a cooking area, and a much needed well. With the school’s programs, human trafficking is more preventable because, Rosalind notes, “education contributes to better thinking!” Her work in the area since 2003 has helped stop trafficking and infanticide and has given pause to those thinking of freely entering a terrorist training area.

I was so excited to talk to Rosalind recently and learn more about how she is making a difference around the world.

Shelly Rachanow: Tell us more about R STAR Ministries.

Rosalind Russell: We are a small grass roots organization and we have always been focused on empowering women by assisting where we can with health and education, encouraging women to apply for a grant or scholarship. Well before our ‘goat’ work in Nepal, we began a one-on-one prison ministry in California that is still ongoing 27 years later. We support many philanthropic groups within the local Laguna Beach area, as well as nationally and internationally. Belonging to Rotary International of Laguna, I am involved in a variety of projects and exposed to many countries’ needs and how to fulfill them.

Shelly Rachanow: How did you earn the nickname “The Goat Lady”?

Rosalind Russell: The moniker “The Goat Lady” came from the very first article written about my first trip in 2003. It stuck and has broadened from Goat Lady of Laguna Beach to Goat Lady of Nepal. I just laugh when I hear someone recognizing me but not recalling my actual name of Rosalind. I am pleased to be associated with my work, and with a name few would desire because it can relate to stubborn or old, which I am. Old that is, and tenacious I will add. It all works for me.

Shelly Rachanow: Why did you decide to focus your international efforts on Nepal?

Rosalind Russell: Can’t say I decided to focus on international efforts in Nepal exactly. I will say that is what transpired because of the ‘chance’ meeting with my now adopted Nepali son Rabin while in Kathmandu in February 1988 (his family actually adopted me, rather than the other way around as most people assume). We remained in contact, lightly at times due to our time constraints, life and actual stamp money. Once I integrated to using a computer and having email, we were in constant contact, and he always asked me when I would return.

After years of political turmoil there, I finally made it back in 2003. I tried to think of what I could bring as a gift to Rabin and his family and finally I came up with goats, as they are a favored animal on small farms on mountain sides. Soon, several friends also decided to give goats and the story increased when another friend told an editor of our local paper.

The simple plan has changed my life. In truth, I didn’t plan to gift the goats more than one trip. I thought I would gather the funds, meet with one of my favorite charities which I did here on the phone a few times; then meet with the head of the same organization in Kathmandu, which I did, and hand it over to them to disperse and manage the funds I had collected. However, I wanted to help women who were living in a remote and war torn area and the charity wasn’t able to reach as far as we wanted to.

So I’ve traveled there personally and Rabin does much of the fieldwork. Because of my meeting Rabin and returning to do a little something for his family, I am now doing amazing work to benefit women… and children… and of course men, too. I like being part of the solution toward uplifting women in the wee area I eagerly work in.

Shelly Rachanow: What are some things people can do right now in their daily lives to make our world a better place?

Rosalind Russell: They can align with one or more charities they resonate with by donating their money and/or volunteering their time. They can host a gathering in their own home for the purpose of exposing the work of those they support. Government can’t manage the world, or all of us for that matter, but individually we can give of ourselves to help make the world better in our lifetime.

Peace is one of the elements we introduced to our first school, which just opened for kindergarteners to third grade students. Despite living in wars for well over a dozen years, students will take what they learn home so peace can be a consideration from our school for families to adopt for their lives.

At our school, the girls are allowed to attend on scholarships (free expresses it well). Otherwise, the country would continue to have 49% illiteracy, 98% being females as females are not considered important. Villagers will not pay to educate a female, so another way to make a difference is by sponsoring a female child so she can have uniforms/pencils/paper.

Shelly Rachanow: On your website, you say “the R STAR MINISTRIES is dedicated in bridging the gaps that have left people, especially women and children, isolated and disempowered. Through simple acts of connecting resources with people who need them most, we are changing the world one heart at a time.” What’s the most important thing you’ve learned through your experiences that you want people to know?

Rosalind Russell:  The quote from the web and blog is our mission statement. Everyone can do something, is what I have learned from my experience in Nepal. I am not an exceptional person, but I do and have done exceptional things because I am willing and eager to see what’s needed.

I have learned it takes a village to help me to do what I do. In other words, I do not work alone. I have a cadre of capable people who help me, from donors to board members, family and friends, bookkeepers and tax advisors, and counselors. I also have my own willingness to continue forward as the more I do, the more I see the way we will achieve peace in our world will be to lift women who are neglected into education and then actual jobs and food to support their lives.

My work empowers women to have a voice. I have also learned it is important to have the support of men as well, which I do.

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Rosalind Russell: Education for all, but focusing on females since 2/3 of those who are illiterate are female. Also, education so women are in a more equal place to run the world as they desire. I would find ways for women’s education to be safely available.

Education would include learning women are valuable BECAUSE they are women, empowerment being the word, self love if you will. With such empowerment, women would then be able to take care of many injustices they face, like not being allowed to work; forced genital mutilation which does go on in modern, Western countries for those thinking this is a third world country phenomenon; infanticide; forced abortions because of carrying a female child; being terrorized by rape and kidnapping; being trafficked; or being killed or neglected.

By the way, peace would be the first subject taught within the education process for both genders…if I ran the world.

For more information, visit http://www.rstarministries.org/ and http://www.rstarfoundation.org/ or contact Rosalind at PO Box 4183, Laguna Beach, CA 92652 or 949 497-4911.