To Change Your Life You Must Do This….

 

Last week, I did 2 things that were uncomfortable.

First, I went to a fitness center I’d never been, Orange Theory, and worked out with 20 strangers for one hour. I felt uncomfortable not knowing the workout routine, or how to use the machines. The instructor walked me though the gym and described the exercises. I nervously looked around trying to figure out if I belonged there, and failed to hear her instruction for how to get on the rowing machine.

As I sat down on the rowing machine, the seat slipped out from under me and I fell on my rear end. Blushing with embarrassment, I got up off the floor, smiled sheepishly, and finished the workout.  It wasn’t perfect but I was proud of myself for sticking it out.

Second on the uncomfortable list, I filmed a Facebook Live Video sharing my story about how horses saved my life from bulimia and depression. I’ve shared my story in retreats and small groups, but never on live video. 

I was uncomfortable not knowing what people might write in the comments, or how the video would turn out.

Halfway through filming, an incoming call came though the iPhone I was recording on, and the live screen became shaky. For the next 5 minutes, it looked like I was talking 2 times faster than I was. I felt uncomfortable watching my face shake on the screen, and not knowing how to fix it. I was disappointed that video didn’t turn out great but proud of myself for taking the risk to put my story out there.

I did these two things to push myself out of my comfort zone because:

A.) I want to be fit and have a healthy, strong body plus meet some new people.

B.) I want to share my story about Beyond the Arena to a larger audience to spread the message of the healing power of horses.

Later in the week, I did another Orange Theory Class and Facebook Live Video. I still felt uncomfortable but not as much as the first time. 



This time at Orange Theory, I was more confident and knew NOT to sit on the rowing machine seat too fast. I also recognized a few of the people who were there during my first class. No longer strangers, they smiled and said “Welcome back!” which made me feel good.

During the second Facebook Live video, I clicked “Do Not Disturb,” on my iPhone so incoming calls wouldn’t disrupt the filming. I was still uncomfortable sharing my story on live video, but it wasn’t as scary as the first time. I felt more confident and gave myself permission to share more – I spoke 10 minutes longer than the first time.

Point is, if you want to change anything in your life, you have do do things differently — and that feels uncomfortable.

Most of us don’t want to fail, not get it right, feel awkward, feel vulnerable, feel like a beginner, and not know the outcome. 

That’s understandable AND not being uncomfortable holds you back from the life you want. 

This week, I challenge you to do one thing that is uncomfortable and out of your comfort zone. 

Here are some ideas: get up on the other side of the bed, drive a different route to work, say hi to someone at work you normally don’t, try a new recipe, go to a workout class, call someone instead of text.

The first time you do it, you will feel uncomfortable. GOOD! That means you’re stretching and growing into the person you’re meant to be.

The second time you do it, you might still feel uncomfortable AND you’ll feel a bit more confident, I guarantee it.

“The hardest thing to do is leaving your comfort zone. But you have to let go of the life you’re familiar with and take the risk to live the life you dream about.” T. Arigo

Get comfortable being uncomfortable….it’s inevitable for growth, change, and becoming the person you’re meant to be.

The rowing machine beginner,

Devon

Cowgirl Magazine Article

COWGIRL LIFE: Cowgirl Rising

When a woman’s attempt to live the cowgirl dream is derailed by a series of personal tragedies, she explores beyond the arena in hopes of getting back in the saddle.

By Deborah Donohue

Photography by Lori Faith

The sun was setting in a pool of pink, crimson and gold behind the desert foothills of the Silver Bell Mountains. Green Saguaro and lilac-washed Prickly Pear cactus dotted the landscape as my driver crested the last hill, heading down into the land of the White Stallion Ranch.

I was supposed to have arrived hours earlier, but a mishap of cancelled and delayed flights had made getting to Arizona a pilgrimage in itself.

Author Deborah Donohue has the floor during a coaching session.

I was in Tucson to attend Devon Combs’ Unbridled Retreat, a long weekend of personal coaching work with horses, along with a generous dose of pure dude ranch fun. Combs’ workshops utilize the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method as well as more traditional Life Coaching. She describes it as “healing and awakening through horses. I work with people on a spiritual path who are searching for healing, to help them get unstuck.” Clients and retreat participants are “assisted in completing unfinished business from the past,” and are “encouraged to take definitive steps…towards creating a positive future.”

Initially, another member of the COWGIRL team was slated to attend. When it turned out she would be unable to make the trip, it was offered to me. I looked at Devon’s Beyond The Arena website and was intrigued by her description of the Unbridled workshops. I ignored the twinge of uncertainty in my gut and agreed to go. I didn’t know at the time that the universe had just arranged an invitation that would challenge me to the marrow of my 63-year-old cowgirl bones.

Upon arriving, Devon herself met me at the entryway of the historic Southwestern enclave. After a warm hug, she assisted me with my registration and escorted me to where the rest of the weekend’s participants were gathered, a group of women who had come from all over the country. Women like me, who had perhaps come to shed a skin or grow a new one. They were, each and every one, approachable, open and welcoming.

After introductions, cocktails, and a classic ranch dinner (complete with sexy singing cowboy) we headed to our casitas. The night was deeply dark, still, and free of distractions, allowing the subtle sounds of the desert to prevail: the whinnies of the ranch horses, a great horned owl calling to its mate, the beautiful melody of a night bird I could not place but would not forget. For the first time in many nights, I slept like a baby. A good thing, too. The horses would be waiting for us, bright and early.

Compassion and support from the group are an important part of the retreat. 

There’s something I should mention about that twinge in my gut. A few years ago I somersaulted off the front of a big, gentle horse during a riding lesson in the Santa Ynez Valley, not far from my home in Santa Barbara. I was transitioning from a canter to a trot and lost my seat. I regained it briefly, then, doing the antithesis of what I’d been taught, lost it again, for good this time. I sailed through the air in what felt like an interminable moment, before raising a cloud of arena dust as I landed on my right side, smacking my head hard against the ground. The horse, a well-trained fella unused to folks flying off his back was more surprised than anyone. Covered in dirt, I stood up, took a few shaky breaths and got right back on. I went through the very same maneuver I had attempted before the fall, executing the change in gaits without a hitch. All good, right? Wrong.

During the next few days I had some strange flashes of light when turning my head. I wasn’t experiencing headaches or other signs of injury, but to be on the safe side I went to my doctor. He reassured me all was well and that the light flashes would subside. So I returned for my lesson the following week. The horse I had been riding periodically went back to its owners, so I was given another horse to groom, saddle and ride. The new horse, though smaller, seemed to have a defiant personality, or perhaps simply sensed my nervousness and reflected my uneasiness back to me. She and I were clearly uncertain of the other.

As I sat on her back holding the reins I felt fearful and insecure. My body began to tremble, tears burning behind my eyes. My confidence had crashed with the fall, despite its innocuous nature. I hadn’t been physically hurt, yet something had seismically shifted inside of me. The horse incident had been the culmination of a cascade of traumatic events that included my mother’s death, a friend’s massive stroke, my mentor’s slow decline in the throes of Alzheimer’s, and my beloved dog dying. Somehow, falling off that horse had shattered my fragile sense of well being into a sharp point of particular and personal vulnerability.

From that day on, I no longer felt safe in the world. Fear became an insidious and too frequent visitor, and the parameters of my life began to quietly narrow. I still dreamed of riding, but there were good reasons not to…a sprained ankle here, bursitis in a hip there. My heart began to feel as though it was enveloped in a dark cloud of existential fear, encasing its joy and freedom, its ability–or perhaps willingness–to live out its dreams and adventuresome nature. I didn’t ride again.

Trail riding through the Sonoran Desert at the White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. 

It was COWGIRL’s Editor-In-Chief that encouraged me to go on the Unbridled retreat. She had given me the option of participating as much or as little as I chose. I could simply observe and write about others’ experiences if that was my preference.

I took the assignment, but as the trip grew closer so did my trepidation. I knew my bluff would be called. I imagined jumping cactus flinging their pods of needles my way, rattlesnakes under every bush, scorpions in my boots, and mountain lions who could effortlessly take out a petite woman for an evening hor d’oeuvre. Not to mention the horse issue.

An Unbridled Retreat participant works a horse in the round pen.

I tried to bow out, suggesting someone else take my place. No such luck. Perhaps, she suggested, it was a synchronistic opportunity. And so I looked at my options. I could say yes to fear or yes to getting my life back. I felt frustration—and the possibility of real regret if I could not muster some courage. I knew staying home would not help me. And I wanted my former, fearless self back, the one who knew she could handle whatever the moment presented. I surrendered. I gave in. My desire to heal overrode my ego, who continued to warn of the embarrassment and shame of having her insecurities paraded around a round pen. In the end, I committed to go as a participant, as myself, the most inexperienced, wannabe horsewoman on the Cowgirl magazine team.

I awoke to the early morning desert, the air crisp and clear. Outside my casita, cottontail bunnies darted among the cactus. After breakfast, we gathered with Devon and began our work. The first exercise had us seated on chairs arranged in a circle adjacent to the round pen. We took turns pulling cards from a gorgeously illustrated horse-themed deck designed by Melissa Pearce. Pearce developed the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method. (Devon Combs is a Certified Equine Gestalt Coach, which entails graduating from a two-year program similar to a Master’s program.)

I selected a card without looking—a beautiful sorrel horse. On the back was the word Energy, with a paragraph describing the power and intensity of thoughts and emotions, and how we can redirect and guide our energy “in the most positive direction possible, focusing on the task at hand and trusting what unfolds.” We all checked in with one another, one at a time, expressing what our cards might represent to us and our goals for the workshop.

Next, we would work with the horses. The irony is that I have written previous articles for COWGIRL about equine-assisted healing (for veterans with PTSD, for example). Intellectually, I knew of horses’ healing abilities. However, personally experiencing their energy fields and intense attentiveness in a somatic, body centered way was entirely different, and life changing.

I was reminded of what most cowgirls already know: try as one might, we cannot disguise our innermost feelings in the presence of a 1200-pound prey animal.

The retreat included team penning at White Stallion Guest Ranch.

All horses are able to read body language and energy. Over millennia, they have had to hone their ability to tune into exactly what was going on in their environment in order to survive. After my experiences at the Unbridled weekend, I believe they can also intuitively sense where a person is holding pain—physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. And they will meet you right there. I believe that is why tears may come when one approaches a horse with a vulnerable heart. They accept us as we are in that moment.

Working, or simply being with a horse can be an opportunity, in Comb’s words, “to let down your mane.” There is no point in maintaining pretense when the horse has your number. While this process may be “therapeutic,” Combs is quick to point out that it is not therapy. Rather, it is a lively engagement of “discovering one’s own answers” and “connecting to our inner wisdom.” Worn out excuses and stories are neither indulged nor accepted, and Combs does not shy away from calling “bullshit” on occasion.

An experienced horsewoman with a charismatic and down to earth attitude, Combs is a woman who has walked the talk. In fact, her intelligent, empathic work with others grew directly out of her own harrowing journey through bulimia and depression. She credits her life being saved to a last ditch stint at a treatment center in Arizona where the program included healing modalities with horses. “I was able to pour my heart out in the presence of a horse,” she explains. “A horse who did not run away but instead came closer.” That experience re-awakened a sense of self-awareness, self-compassion and forgiveness—and it opened the door to her life’s work.

Unbridled facilitator and Founder of Beyond the Arena, Devon Combs.

I too, was able to let my heart be seen and recalibrated by the spirit and presence of the horses I encountered. The animals insisted I stay in the moment. I breathed close to the delicate velvet of their noses and felt their warm breath on my cheek. I brushed their manes and their dusty backs. I buried my face against them, releasing the last vestiges of the fears I had been carrying. With lowered heads, they accepted my grief, my uncertainties.

I wrapped my arms around their necks, leaning into their well-muscled shoulders, taking in their scent, imprinting it on my heart which broke open in a flood of tears, washing away the terror that had homesteaded within me. I felt safe.

That afternoon, I got back on a horse. After an hour lesson with the resident wrangler, I set out on a long trail ride among the cactus, winding through the serene Sonoran terrain. I didn’t see any rattlers. I didn’t find any scorpions in my boots (though I continued to give them the recommended morning shake-out) Instead of mountain lions, I spotted two majestic six-point bucks and two fawns. I was relaxed and at ease in the saddle.

Another of the gals riding behind me on the trail actually used the word “graceful.” On the last afternoon, I even took part in the team penning! At one point my hatband flew off as I loped along after collecting a wayward steer. Russell True, ultimate cowboy and owner of the White Stallion Ranch retrieved it and approached me. “You signed on as a beginner at the start of the weekend. Right? That’s what your card said.” “Yes,” I replied. The man of few words beamed, “You’re doing great!”

Deborah and Pueblo Team penning during the Unbridled Retreat at White Stallion Ranch.

I returned home from the White Stallion Ranch and the Unbridled Retreat with a buoyant heart and a sense of self-respect and self-reliance I had not felt in quite some time. I’d left my fear in the dust and had a barrel of fun in the process!

ABOUT UNBRIDLED: Devon Combs’ Beyond the Arena equine-assisted coaching process is ninety-percent ground work, but holding the retreat at the White Stallion Ranch in Tucson afforded the opportunity to take lessons and trail rides, and to participate in team penning—all activities provided by the ranch and available to all guests. At White Stallion Ranch, every person is assigned a horse specifically suited to their level of riding experience, and guests usually ride that horse for the duration of their stay. www.beyondthearena.com.

The beautiful White Stallion Ranch, originally built in the 1900s, has been owned by the True family for fifty years. The Trues take great pride in both “mindful stewardship of the land,” and “exceptional guest service.” With one of the “largest privately owned herds of horses in Arizona and a large herd of cattle,” it is definitely “beyond the arena.” www.whitestallionranch.com.

What I’m Focusing on in 2019

Happy New Years!

On New Year’s Eve I stayed in and burned a Duraflame log in the fireplace, sipped some bubbly, watched “Big Little Lies,” got in bed, thanked the Universe aloud for lessons learned in 2018, and turned out the light at 12:04am.

The older I get, the less I’m concerned with FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when it comes to social situations. My personality was somewhat tempted to go on out New Year’s Eve, but my soul wanted to stay in and celebrate with a quiet night at my new home.


On New Year’s morning, I opened the curtains to fresh snow, and one of my favorite sights in the whole world; Detail and Bella outside my bedroom window.

I made my bed (new pattern!), fed Charley (my cat), bundled up and went outside to feed the horses, then I came inside, burned sage and listened to a guided meditation.

Feeling in the zen zone, I made coffee, watched Oprah on YouTube, and got pumped when she was talking about purpose and authentic power. The most poignant thing that struck me was when Oprah quoted the Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav, “When the personality comes fully to serve the energy of the soul, that’s authentic power.”

That really hit me….my personality serving my soul. It does in many aspects of my work but not always in my love life, or in the business side of my work. Interesting new awareness.

I bundled up again and went outside for a brisk walk. My body needed movement, and my new awareness needed processing.

The air was crisp and I headed to the creek.

I love the creek, it’s peaceful and nature soothes my soul. I’m glad my personality was on board to serve my soul and go outside….it would’ve been easier to watch inspirational YouTube videos all morning and resist any physical action.

In 2019 I’m focusing on overcoming resistance, and my word is
E X P A N S I O N.

Expanding my beliefs, my thinking, my actions, and my world by breaking out of thoughts and habits which keep me stuck.

Going for a walk and writing a blog today are two steps I’m taking to overcome my resistance.

Want to find out your word for the new year?

Think about how you want to feel in 2019 and notice how your body responds.

For me, it’s opening my arms out and stretching them as far as they can go while looking up, opening my heart, and taking a deep breath.

That’s how I want to feel….E X P A N S I V E.

I’d love to hear from you, what are you focusing on in 2019? Share in the comments below.

Sending you love and positive energy for the new year!

xo,

Devon

You Have Permission

I recently read a poem aloud at the Montana Retreat and I got chills because IT’S THAT GOOD.

The poem strikes a deep chord for me, and I have a feeling it may resonate for you too.

It’s called “You Have Permission” by Leonie Dawson…

“Today, and everyday, you have permission.

You have permission.

You have permission to say no to demands on your time that don’t light you up, and don’t give energy back to you.

You have permission to not give a crap what’s happening outside your world, and keep your energy focussed on what you are creating.

You have permission to let go of friendships that make you feel like shit.

You have permission to say no whenever you like, however you like, in whatever kind of voice you like, without feeling like only Mean Girls Say No and Nice Girls Say Yes. That’s bull. Yes and No have equal weighting – what’s important is if you use them when they are the best thing for you, not out of fear, obligation or guilt.

You have permission to know that Yes is powerful, and so is No. The power comes from you using either from your highest spirit and truest integrity.

You have permission to change. You have permission to not be the person you once were.

You have permission to get angry and self-righteous, and to also glean the wisdom from those emotions. They are leading you to where your boundaries are, and where they have been crossed, and what you need to do from now on.

You have permission to be exactly how you are.

You have permission to not be more like anyone else in the world, even if you think they are better, wiser or more popular. You have permission to be more like yourself, your gifts and your wisdom.

You have permission to not care what other people think of you.

You have permission to not try to change what other people think of you. You can’t ever argue that you are a good person. They will either know you are, or not. You don’t need to spend time with people who don’t believe in you.

You have permission to do things that your friends and family do not.

You have permission to be wild, expressive, truthful, exciting and outspoken.

You have permission to not accept friendship requests on Facebook, or anywhere else in your life. You have permission to block people whenever you like.

You have permission to share as much or as little as you like. You have permission to blog, or not blog. You have permission to Twitter, or not to Twitter. It doesn’t really matter. As long as it’s making you happy, that’s the best thing.

You have permission to suck at a wide variety of activities. It’s okay. You make up for it with your million other brilliance particles.

You have permission to be whatever body shape you like.

You have permission to choose, and choose again. And then choose again.

You have permission to not always be a perfect image of something.

You have permission to be a contradiction.

You have permission to not go to your school reunion, unless it really excites you and delights you, and you would love to really heart-reconnect with people you went to school with.

You have permission to not be interested in the newest fad: harem pants, geek glasses, polaroid cameras, scrapbooking, macrame. You also have permission to be totally obsessed with them, if it makes your heart light up.

You have permission to cut people from your life. You have permission to surround yourself with people who are good and loving and nurturing to you.

You have permission to be a disappointment to some people, as long as you’re not a disappointment to yourself.

You have permission to do nothing whenever you like.

You have permission to make your big dream come true.

You have permission to not do it all perfectly, or have all your shit together.

You have permission to not forgive people. You have permission to forgive people when it’s right for you.

You have permission to think some people are crazy. You have permission to think some people are smigging ice-cream with chocolate and wafers and sprinkles and cherries on top.

You have permission to not have the perfect relationship.

You have permission to not have a relationship.

You have permission to take whatever time you need for you.

You have permission to make ridiculous choices for yourself.

You have permission to use and listen to your intuition. To feel when things are off, and to remove yourself from them, even when you don’t quite know why. You will always find out why. Our intuition is here to serve us.

You have permission to be down. You have permission to be up.

You have permission to still believe in unicorns and fairies.

You have permission to believe in things that other people think are very very odd and strange. You have permission to not care. You have permission to believe in things that make your life wholer, richer and deeper. You have permission to make your own world that is the truest painting of you.

You have permission to suck at coloring in.

You have permission to say bugger off to anyone who has ever told you that you’re not good enough, you’re not worth it, you are not beautiful, you are not lovable and you are not the most divine, wise, delicious Goddess to walk the planet.

You have permission to know that you are.

You have permission to swear when you like, however you like, to your reckless abandon.

You have permission to not be the best of anything – just the best of yourself. And some days, just the best you can do that day.

You have permission to not always give. You have permission to fill your own cup up first.

You have permission to have things around you that delight you.

You have permission to live in a tipi if you want to, or a mansion. Whatever makes your spirit shine is the right thing for you.

You have permission to make choices on whether it makes your spirit shine.

You have permission to know you are a goddess, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Even when you feel utterly human. Even when you want nothing more than to climb under your blanket, or light up the sky.

You are a goddess.

You have permission.

You have permission.

You have permission.”

I’d love to hear from you…which part of the poem spoke to you the most? Leave a comment below.

For me, it was “You have permission to change. You have permission to not be the person you once were.” Gulp, that’s a big one. It’s scary AND exciting. 

Starting today, let’s ALL give ourselves permission.

Love,

Devon

How I Danced Away My Fear

Last Saturday night I called my friends to go out dancing and nobody was available.

I was bummed because I really wanted to go out, and my intuition was nudging me to dance. I couldn’t bear staying in another night, zoning out to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

I had a choice: take myself out dancing, or stay on the couch and ignore my intuition.

My ego piped in with all sorts of questions…Am I a loser if I go dancing by myself? What will people think? Will I look pathetic? What’s a 34 year-old woman doing out alone at the clubs on a Saturday night amidst 23 year-olds?

Before my ego completely took over, I got into action: I jumped in the shower, put on my favorite dress, and called an Uber.

The Uber dropped me off at the jazz club, El Chaputepec, and it was packed. The Rockies game had just let out and apparently everyone was in the mood for jazz. The live band was okay but it wasn’t the soul-riveting saxophone jazz I had hoped for.

I dipped out and headed across the street to Cowboy Lounge, a favorite go-to club for country music. I walked in, paid the $5 cover, took a deep breath, and smiled as I heard Garth Brooks’ song “Ain’t Going Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)” playing on the dance floor…..it was music to my ears, and I felt butterflies of excitement.

The moment I walked onto the dance floor, my uptight ego was drowned out by speakers blasting honky tonk guitar. As the music coursed through my body, “What will people think?” turned to “Who the hell cares, I love this song!”

My fear was replaced by the pure joy of doing what I love…dancing my a%$ off.

For the next 3 hours, I danced by myself, danced with partners, danced on the stage, and danced over to the bar to get water.

I stayed until the club lights came on, and went home tired, happy, and proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone and going out alone.

When I get an intuitive nudge, it’s guidance to do something good for my soul. My intuition guides me to challenge old beliefs, so I can evolve and grow and become the woman I’m meant to.

The result of NOT following my intuitive nudges? Stuck energy, unhappiness, feeling sorry for myself, and the depressing feeling of stifling my soul’s growth by letting fear run the show.

Dancing is good for my soul and my intuition knows that. Pre-Saturday night, my ego was latched onto the old belief that I need my friends to go out dancing and have fun.

My new belief is that I can go out dancing alone and have fun, and most importantly, I’M RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN JOY AND CAPABLE OF MAKING MYSELF HAPPY. It’s empowering and liberating to know that. 

I’d love to hear from you…..what is something in your life that you feel called to do but it’s outside your comfort zone?

Those intuitive nudges lead us to face our fears and that’s a good thing. By trying something new, we change our beliefs, and by changing our beliefs, we change our lives.

So, go out, and try something new….you’ll surprise yourself!

You can find me on the dance floor,

Devon

Just Jump: Why I Jumped out of a Plane

I recently checked one item off my bucket list. I jumped out of a plane that was 12,000 feet in the air. I went skydiving. It was terrifying and exhilarating.

As I turned on the dirt road toward Out of the Blue Skydiving in Calhan, CO, I peered up from my car windshield and spotted a plethora of colorful parachutes in the sky. My heart started racing as adrenaline pumped through my body. That would soon be me!

I parked the car and found the main office, where there was an instructional video to watch and a stack of of liability paperwork to review. I proceeded to sign my life away and initial 47 times that I was aware of the risks of jumping out of a small aircraft. Then I forked over $259 and walked outside to watch the next planeful of jumpers parachute to the ground.

A few minutes later, I met my tandem skydive instructor, Dave, a red-headed guy with a friendly smile and a strong handshake. He showed me the jumpsuit closet and my eyes immediately went to the hot pink suit. Not only was I going to fly in the sky but I could do it in hot pink!

Once I zipped up my suit, Dave helped me step into the harness and gave the first set of instructions, “You are going to grab these side straps and NOT the side of the plane as you jump out, cool?” “Cool,” I replied, with butterflies in my stomach.

Once our plane was ready for boarding, I was instructed to board first. I learned I was going to be the LAST one to jump out.

I got in the plane and slid all the way to the back so I was next to the pilot but facing the back of the plane. The pilot wore an oxygen mask which I learned is required if you fly above 10,000 feet, plus add 6,500 feet of Calhan, Colorado elevation.

Dave got in behind me and put me at ease with his relaxed demeanor and simple instructions. I watched as other jumpers, ages 25 – 65, climbed aboard the plane. They were all men with the exception of one other woman. I was the only tandem jumper.

I had no idea skydiving was a recreational sport but all these people owned their own parachutes, had their solo skydiving certificates, and jumped out of planes for fun on the weekends. I suddenly realized I was in the midst of hardcore adrenaline junkies.

I couldn’t fully turn to face Dave, but I had some questions.

“How many times have you jumped?” I asked.

“17,000.”

“Wow, that’s a lot. What’s the most you’ve done in a day? ”

“22 jumps.”

“That’s crazy, weren’t you tired?”

“Yep, that was a long day…I started at 7am and jumped until 9pm.”

“Do I need goggles?”

“Yep, I’ve got them for you. Haha, everybody always asks about goggles.”

“Do I need to do anything while we’re in the air?”

“Nope, just relax and have fun.”

“Okay,” I gulped.

The other jumpers were laughing and doing safety checks on each other’s packs to make sure everything was in place. As the plane continued to rise, we hit turbulence and my stomach flipped…I was grateful to have only eaten a banana and a handful of almonds earlier. I was determined NOT to throw up on the other jumpers, Dave, or myself.

I noticed a No Farting sign next to the pilot and it made me crack up. Skydivers have a sense of humor. As we approached the drop zone at 12,000 feet, everyone started high-fiving each other. I joined in, and was grateful for the reassurance and camaraderie.

Then came time to make the leap. A jumper at the back of the plane lifted the door and one by one people started disappearing out of the plane in rapid succession.

Dave told me to start inching forward and before I knew it we were at THE DOOR.

In a relaxed, instructional voice he said “Okay, we’re going to walk up and don’t grab the side of the plane, hold on to your straps.” I nodded and shouted, “Okay!” The wind was super loud and it became impossible to carry on a conversation without shouting.

I had meant to thank the pilot for our safe flight, but it was too late…there was literally no turning back now.

With fear and adrenaline at an all-time high, I took small steps toward the door.

I got to the edge, looked down, and terror hit. I was speechless and had no time to think. Next thing I knew we were out of the plane and falling….

I gasped but couldn’t catch my breath, the wind was hitting my face at 120 miles an hour.

Now I realized why they call it skydiving….you are literally diving toward the earth!

After about 10 seconds I felt a tap on my arm and which was the signal to release my arms. That’s when I started to breathe and I was flying, not falling.

It was unlike anything I’d ever felt; flying through the air with the greatest of ease. It was the ultimate natural high. Dave was right, I could relax and have fun.

There was so much SKY.  The wind was carrying me and my body felt weightless. I couldn’t stop smiling and there was a permanent wind-eating grin on my face.

After the 45 second free fall, Dave instructed me to put my hands back on the shoulder straps and BOOM, the parachute ejected. The abrupt tug from above slowed our speed from flying to hanging.

I was hanging comfortably in my harness with my feet dangling 7,000 feet above the ground. Wow, what a view—similar to the views looking out of a plane but there was no plane, just open air.

My hands were cold as ice but I wasn’t ready to come down just yet. After about three minutes of soaring with the parachute, we began to steer toward the landing.

I had no idea where our landing spot was but luckily Dave did. He instructed me bring my knees up the closer we got to landing and said we might land on our rear ends.

As we rapidly approached the ground, two other guys ran up to assist. Turns out we didn’t need their help as Dave expertly guided the parachute and I landed on my feet!

He immediately untied me from him, then gave me a high-five and said “Great job!” I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. What do you say to a stranger who just kept you safe as you fell 12,000 feet out of the air strapped to each other? All I could say was “thank you.”

Skydiving gave my courage muscle a huge workout and I felt strong and confident about facing other fears in my life. What I know for sure is the only way to overcome our fears is to face them….skydiving is great practice for feeling fear but making the leap anyway!

Whether it be starting a business, changing careers, speaking up for yourself, or jumping out of a plane, each time you face your fears your confidence muscle grows, and you become less afraid and more alive.

“If I can stand in an open airplane doorway two-and-a-half miles above the ground and will myself to step into empty space, then I can do anything.” –Dave Stein

Take the leap, you’ll be glad you did.

Cowgirl/Skygirl,

Devon

How to Handle Criticism

Last week something happened that really rocked me. I received my first scathing email from someone who attended a recent event I led. As I opened the email and read the first sentence, I stopped breathing and braced myself for the blow that was coming. My eyes raced through the first paragraph, trying to avoid the stinging words leaping off my computer screen. I thought the quicker I could read through it, the less it would hurt.

As I proceeded to read through the 13 paragraphs of what I did wrong, my emotions went in every direction imaginable.  I felt angry, shocked, hurt, pissed, and sad.

It was my worst nightmare come true…someone didn’t like me or what I had to offer. My inner people-pleaser was crushed.

My mind started racing around all the “wrong” things I did, and my thoughts spiraled to “I must be wrong,” “I must not be good enough if someone else thinks so.”

Then, the other part of my brain kicked in, my inner defender who digs her heels in the dirt, points the finger back and says, “That’s bullshit,” “She’s out of line,” “This is about her and not me.”

My thoughts continued to run rampant and the email became the last thing I thought about at night, and the first thing I thought about in the morning.

It took me a few days before I decided to revisit the email, this time with compassionate perspective. I put myself in the messenger’s cowboy boots to see where she’s coming from.

Once I adopted the compassion angle, I realized this was a gift. I pride myself on doing a damn good job in my work, and doing the best I can, but I can’t please everyone. Thank goodness I realized this because it gave me relief. Not everyone will like me. Or be happy with me. AND THAT’S OKAY.

“Appreciate the constructive; ignore the destructive.” – John Douglas

Before I re-read the email, I burned sage, said a prayer for the messenger and myself, took a huge breath, and clicked “open.” This time my body wasn’t in fight or flight mode and I could read the words clearly without my emotions taking over. From this place, I plucked out the constructive feedback and bypassed the destructive criticism by taking deep breaths and staying present.

“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Aristotle

I’ve avoided criticism most of my life and have gone extra lengths to be in the “approval” zone. For many years I played it safe, stayed under the radar, limited my exposure, and sought out relationships and scenarios I could control. All that is shifting as my desire to create and expand grows, and I realize I can’t please everyone. My growing edge is to continue putting myself out there in spite of the familiar fear, “What will they think?”

“Sandwich criticism between two layers of praise.” –Mary Kay Ash

Before and after I re-read the email, I went through testimonials on my website and recent feedback from other women who attended the same event, whom had raving reviews. Their positive reviews shored up my strength and reminded me that I don’t suck at this, and I shouldn’t throw down my toys and quit because someone doesn’t like me or what I have to offer.

“The dread of criticism is the death of genius.” –William Gilmore Simms

Now I know in my bones that I can handle criticism. It’s part of putting myself out there. I can hide and stay safe or I can rise up and keep showing up. Keep improving. Keep being true to myself and sharing my gifts.

If someone doesn’t like me, I won’t crumble as a result. Criticism allowed me to face my fear head-on, and walk through it. Many women at my events courageously face their fears, and recently, I faced mine.

My old fear is replaced by a newfound growing strength and conviction that I can handle whatever comes my way.

Only when we face our fears can we overcome them.

Grateful, stronger, and always learning,
Devon

Do What Scares You

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”

Thanks, Henry David Thoreau, but what if I don’t have the confidence yet?

Here’s what I propose, “Go in the direction of your dreams….one shaky step at a time.”

“I’ve been afraid every single day of my life, but I’ve gone ahead and done it anyway.” – Georgia O’Keefe

When I was twenty-three, my dream was in the form of a blue-eyed boy named Nick in my real estate class.

He was gorgeous, and I mean the kind of piercing blue eyes that make a woman’s palms sweat and cheeks blush at the sight of him.

I can’t believe I learned anything in class but he was a damn good excuse to show up everyday (and to apply an extra layer of lip gloss every 20 minutes).

We didn’t exchange words for the whole three weeks, just a lot of stalking looks on my part and he threw a few casual glances my way.

At the end of week three, we took our final exams and I turned mine in. I looked around and noticed he wasn’t there.

Nick, where art thou Nick?

I booked it out of the lecture room and took off  down the hall, frantically looking around. It turned out that he was finishing the test in a nearby room, free of distractions.

I walked by, saw him alone, and fear struck my heart.

The universe had thrown me a bone…it was now or never.

My familiar inner critic voice reared her head but I did not listen. Instead, I reined in the huge surge of fear-fueled adrenaline and took action.

“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

I nervously walked into the room. Dreamy blue eyes looked up from his test and he did not smile.

Oh shit, what was I doing?

I smiled like a crazy woman and scampered over to the desk where he was sitting. Voice shaking, I blurted out “Hi, I’m Devon.”

He said hi and that his name was Nick. I already knew his name but I didn’t tell him that.

“Don’t mean to bother you, but, ummm, I don’t know if you’re spoken for or not but, ummmm, would you ever want to get coffee sometime?”

Then I shut my mouth and stopped stammering.

He grinned a little, put his pen down, and sat back in his chair. “Umm, haha, no I’m not spoken for and yeah, that sounds cool.”

I almost passed out, I was holding my breath at this point.

“Great!!! What’s the best way to get in touch with you?” OMG, I sounded like I was at a networking event.

“Here, I’ll give you my number.”

He wrote down his number and I tried to control myself. I walked backward right into a chair and almost fell over.

Blushing like wildfire, I sheepishly grinned and said, “Awesome, I’ll text you!” I spun around like I’d just won the lottery.

Walking outside, I spotted my car, got in, and started fist pumping. I was so PROUD of myself for going for it.

Nick and I ended up dating for two years.

The point is, I was a nervous wreck. If I had waited until confidence came, I would have been dead in the water because it never came.

Fear was pulsing through me but I took action. Instead of letting fear paralyze me, I used it for fuel.

I took one small step for womankind and one huge step for Devon.

My confidence muscles were weak and flabby at the time but they got their first real workout that day.

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

And I’ve been building the confidence muscles ever since. One day and one step at a time, in different areas of my life.

How do you build yours?

Is it saying “NO” to something you really don’t want to do?

Is it saying “YES” to something you normally never would do?

What’s something you could take action on that’s a complete 180 degree difference of what you’d normally do?

Instead of letting fear paralyze you, take advantage of the enormous energy it has behind it.

Channel it into action. Act on it and confidence will follow, I guarantee it.

So go talk to that person. Or leave a conversation that doesn’t feel good to you.

Email the person who has the amazing career you want to have someday, and ask to take them out to coffee.

Or ask the guy you’ve been crushing on to go out for coffee.

Sign up for the class at the nearby community college. Speak up in class, in the boardroom, or in the bedroom.

“Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.” – Anonymous

Here’s what I suggest:  Just GO in the direction of your dreams; trembling in your boots, or high heels, or tennis shoes.

Take action WITH a shaky voice, sweaty palms, and your heart pounding with fear of failure, being judged, looking stupid, the unknown.

If you’re scared to try something, that’s a good sign. That means it’s a risk worth taking and you are headed in the right direction.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” – Joseph Campbell

So what do YOU think? Can you relate? Is fear keeping you from moving forward?

Your confidence will build over time but FIRST you gotta take action.

What’s one thing you can do this week to move forward toward your dream, in spite of fear?

I’d love to hear in the comments below so that I may support you!

Giddy up, and let’s do this,

Devon

What’s Your Manifesto?

Yesterday I drove through the sprawling New Mexico desert headed south to the Unbridled Arizona Retreat.

Two hours past Albuquerque, I got a hit of inspiration to share my manifesto after singing along to Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild,” and listening to a Podcast about lifestyle manifestoes.

Listen to my manifesto by clicking below:

 

What’s your life manifesto?

A manifesto is a declaration of what you believe, what you stand for and what’s important to you. It’s a mission statement for your life.

Here are some prompts to to create your manifesto…

What I live for is____________.

What lights my soul on fire is_______________.

What I can’t live without is_____________.

At the end of the day, ________, is all that really matters. 

I’d love to hear from you….share parts of your manifesto in the comments below.

What lights my soul on fire is driving through the desert and singing at the top of my lungs, while headed to a beautiful ranch to connect soul-searching women with intuitive horses.

Here’s to kicking up dust in the desert,

Devon