J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 5.
C: Self-love is one of the most critical pieces of being human because with self-love comes self-forgiveness, comes acceptance, and it's only when we can give those gifts to ourselves that we can extend that same kindness to others.
Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.
J: On our last episode, I chatted with my good friends Stephanie Rogers and we learned about how important and helpful it is to find that one thing or multiple things perhaps that you love to do. Stephanie loves volunteering at a local halfway house, and for you, it might be creating a business or learning a musical instrument; the sky's the limit. One thing’s certain, doing something you love makes you so much happier and fulfilled. Today, I'll be talking with Carrie Hensley from carriehensley.com. She's what I would describe as an earthy, grounded woman, she loves yoga and meditation, as well as motorcycles in nature. Carrie tells us more about her journey from self-loathing to self-love and how we all can shift into a place of greater self-love and authenticity. So with that, let's jump into our interview and I hope you enjoy it.
Welcome to today's episode of Vibrant Happy Women. I am so excited to introduce my guest today, Carrie Hensley. Carrie describes herself as a survivor. She's been sober for 22 years, she loves yoga and has been a yoga instructor for 18 years and has created a thriving online community where she teaches women how to dig deep, to sift through the layers of doubt, fear, and judgment, and use powerful tools like yoga to connect to their inner guru, reclaim their intrinsic worth, and live life on their terms. She lives with her husband and her son, Drew, who is 20. Carrie, what a great bio, I love that, so I would love for you to tell us more about that.
C: Well, thank you so much, Jen, first of all for including me in your series and having on today. Yoga has been my lifeline for the past 18 years. It really has allowed me to do a lot of the personal healing that I needed to do in order to be who I want to be as a human being, and then also, it allows me to be a good wife to my husband, Chris, and a mom to our son Drew, and… and just allows me to show up authentically in the world.
J: That's great. So what other hobbies do you have?
C: I love anything outdoors. So we… my husband and I are avid kayakers, hikers, we mountain, bike we both have motorcycles, so it's a… another tool for me to just reconnect to my true nature.
J: Carrie and I are Facebook friends, I just happened to see a picture of have you with a bunch of bruises, what happened?
C: (Laughs). So we… my husband and I love to do everything 100%, and so I've only been mountain biking for the last couple months and I was coming down a hill and hit my front brake a little too hard and forgot that you actually have to let go, so I flipped off my handlebars and did a somersault and took my bike with me. So…
J: Ooh! Wow.
C: Yes. (Laughs)
J: I'm glad you're okay. (Laughs)
C: Me too! Me too!
C: I’m back on the bike, ready to go again. (Laughs)
J: Nice, back on the, bike that's how we do it, right?
C: Right, exactly.
J: So we like to start off every show with our guest’s favorite quote or a motto, do you have one of those for us?
C: I do. My absolute favorite quote is, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are,” by Joseph Campbell. I think especially as women, this is so important for us to remember that it's okay to be ourselves, it's not selfish it's not… you know, we each come to this lifetime with specific gifts and talents to share and make the world a better place. And so if we can remember that being ourselves is a gift, we show up authentically.
J: I love that. I frequently use the analogy of, you know, all the varieties of birds out there, they're all different colors, different flight patterns, different foods, different habitats, yet each one is beautiful and amazing, and if we'd stop trying to all be like the Cardinal or the Bluebird, we can celebrate all our differences; so I love that quote.
J: I love that quote. We like to start out the show with delving into your low point because we all struggle, and part of being a vibrant happy woman is experiencing that struggle, reaching the aha moment, and then getting through that and moving upwards again. So tell us about your lowest moment and the events leading up to that.
C: Sure. So my lowest point was really in college, it was just before my 22nd birthday. And at that point, I was in the throes of my addiction; drug and alcohol addiction. About 7 or 8 years prior, I realized I was abused as a child, I had suppressed those memories. And… and about that point that I remembered about the abuse, I just started drinking to forget and really to mask the feelings of shame and feelings of unworthiness and feeling that I was damaged somehow. And so alcohol really became my salvation. It was an enabler for me to be angry, I could push people away, it… it was the most fantastic numbing experience that I had. And so… and I still vividly remember at 22 years later, sitting around and I just… I just absolutely hated myself, and to the point where I just wanted to die. And, you know, when you get to that point and you start plotting out, “Well, I'm just going to go to the store and they'll know I'm drunk and I'll get arrested. I can't even do that correctly!” and it just… it just broke me. It was just at that point of just complete desperation, just despair, hopelessness, completely feeling lost and not really sure how to get out of that hole and… and what to do. So…
J: So… so you actually… you actually wanted to be arrested, huh?
C: No, not arrested, I actually wanted to… I was plotting my suicide. And I was so drunk that I thought, “Well, okay, if I get to the store, they're going to know I'm drunk and they're going to…” so, you know, just these… these random thoughts. So just… yeah, just really wanting that… that… wanting it to be done, that…
J: Yeah, yeah.
C: Just not able to deal with the pain anymore.
J: Ugh, wow. So how did you get out of that… that dark place?
C: You know, at that point, I had been hearing voices and blacking out and I actually reached out to God and said, “I can't do this, I need help, I need to do something different with my life. And if you help me get out of this, I will devote the rest of my life to making a difference in the world.” And it wasn't like it happened overnight, some other big moments of recognizing that I was hopeless and I needed a power greater than myself to help me get out of this. And really, that was the beginning of a an incredible relationship that I have a source now, and that has been in my guiding principle for the last 22 years. And then realizing that I have a different path and every step that I took that was different than the expectations of, whether it's my family of origin or the culture or society, that's how I slowly began to shift and really trust myself in my path, if that makes sense.
J: Mm-hmm, yeah, really, exactly what you said with that quote at the beginning, being your authentic self and really starting to… to love yourself, it sounds like.
C: Yes, yes.
J: So looking back on that dark time and then starting to pull out of that, what's the one clear lesson you learned during that time?
C: Oh my goodness, there's been so many lessons. And I think the biggest lesson is, self-love is one of the most critical pieces of being human because with self-love comes self-forgiveness, comes acceptance, and it's only when we can give those gifts to ourselves that we can extend that same kindness to others. So if I'm judging myself, I'm going to judge others, if I can't forgive myself, I can't forgive others. So I think it's really that personal relationship that we have with ourselves, everything else stems from that sense of love and forgiveness and acceptance.
J: Hmm, that's beautiful. Many of our listeners might be struggling in a dark place, maybe not exactly like yours, but dark is dark, hard is hard.
J: What… what advice would you have for them?
C: That… oh, that just gave me the chills, Jen, asking that question, because I know that place so well, and I know you feel so isolated and alone that my recommendation would be, reach out to someone that you know or think could help you and… and be very specific and how you're reaching out for help. You know, one of my favorite authors is Brené Brown and I'm sure for many of your listeners, you know, they… they gravitate towards her. And one of the things that she says that I… I just take to heart is, “Not everyone is worthy of your story or of holding your space.” And I think oftentimes, we give our power, we want someone to help us that isn't capable of that support and it ends up being more toxic. So my advice is, just know somewhere deep within you, just that thread that you're not alone and that it doesn't have to feel this way, that it can be different and it can be the most amazing life that you never even dreamed possible.
J: Yes, that is so, so true. You transitioned into a healthier place and started the yoga community, tell us more about that.
C: My online commuter really started because I had a brick and mortar yoga studio for 7 years and the community was incredible. We did a lot of fundraising and we… there were a group of us that shaved her head in solidarity for kids going through cancer and raised $25,000 for kids cancer research. And I just missed that sense of connection because I think we… sometimes we can be so competitive, especially as women, we tend to compare our worst with everyone else's best. And so what I found when you come together in community and start sharing your feelings, it's very validating because you realize you're so much more alike than you are different. And so I started the online community because I just missed that sense of camaraderie. And we do a live monthly online yoga class, we have a book club, we have monthly Dharma Calls where we talk about a specific theme and how we can apply that to our personal and professional lives. And really, it started selfishly to fill in my own need of community and it's just so beautiful to see these women come together support each other. We have women in Italy and Switzerland and Canada, just all over, so it's neat to… to just see how much more we are alike.
J: So where can we find that community?
C: So you can find it on my website, it's a carriehensley.com.
C: And then the… the name of the community is Sacred Sangha, and Sangha is Sanskrit for ‘community’.
J: Ooh, sacred community, I like that.
C: Yeah, and it's great. You know, product I try and keep it affordable, it's $108 for the year because I want it to be a supplemental experience for people who might not be able to get to their yoga class; so there's yoga, meditations. But we do an all-day virtual retreat once a year in January and that's fun where we come together and make a vision board and about what our… our goals are going to be for the year and we do yoga and meditation and love it.
J: So that's at carriehensley.com; we'll have to check that out. So vibrant happy living today, aside from your yoga community, tell us about some other things that make your life vibrant and happy.
C: So my greatest joys are my husband, Chris, who we've been together for over 20 years, and our son, Drew. And as I think for those of us who are parents, you know, that maybe have been in dark places, that maybe didn't have that ideal childhood, to be able to see that we can change the patterns and allow our children to really thrive and become who they are, that's, for me, one of my greatest gifts as a… as a parent to be able to observe. I love to read and spend time with my friends. I think that's, you know, again, just being around… for me, the… just the joys are at that sense of connection and relationships is where I just really… it feeds my soul.
J: Mm-hmm. Have there been times when you saw yourself sliding into those old patterns and… and how have you changed that up and made it different?
C: Absolutely. I think (Laughs)… there have been many times where I just think, “Oh my gosh, you're supposed to be a yoga teacher, who… who is this person?” And, you know, I think one of my key mottos is, “We're spiritual beings having human experiences, not human beings having spiritual experiences.” And so when I catch myself slipping into those less-than-stellar behavior modes, I just have to give myself a little bit of space and remember, “I'm human, this is why I'm here in this lifetime, it's to learn and to grow.” And so when I do slip, I'm the first to admit, “Hey, I screwed up, you know, I apologize. What can we do to change the scenario?” just to really remind everyone around me how human I am.
J: Hmm, wow, you… you really do follow your motto of being authentic.
C: You know, I think many of us were taught that it's not acceptable to make a mistake; we were taught that had to be perfect. You know, and I… I think I say on my website, I’m a recovering people-pleaser and a recovering perfectionist. And… and I'm sure many of your listeners can relate, you know, we weren't taught that it's okay to make a mistake. And so you… you have to scramble to make it right rather than… you know, for me, it's more important that my son, Drew, knows that, “It's okay to be human, that's why we're here in this lifetime. Make as many mistakes as you can, as long as you're learning from them.”
C: And it's easier to say that than do, right?
J: Mm-hmm. And I always like to think, okay, instead of being totally devastated by a mistake, just say, “Hey, I’m one more step closer to that full success; every mistake is a step closer,” and to celebrate them.
C: Right, right. And I think… yes, and you make such a good point because I know, for me especially, you know, when I make a mistake or when I disappoint someone, it's so easy to get hooked into that old space of, “You can't do anything right,” or, “Look at this!” or, “Oh my gosh!” And, yes, I'm one step closer from… to learning really how to do it correctly.
J: Exactly. We have reached my favorite part of the show where we talk about a few of your favorite things. Are you ready?
J: Okay, a favorite personal habit that contributes to your success, what would that be?
C: For me, it's the yoga and mindfulness meditation, that's something that I practice every day. And we have even talked about this recently in the…. the Sanha because people say, “What is your habit?” I have to do it first thing in the morning, and that means that I get up really early. And I… it might not be feasible for everyone, when I had my son, I…when he was a little, I had to just, but I get up at 4:00 so that I can do my yoga meditation because I'm a much nicer person (Laughs) when I have that on a regular basis.
J: Wow, 4:00. Some of our guest probably meditate, but I would guess that some don't, explain in a nutshell why meditation is so helpful for us.
C: Great question; I love your questions, Jen. The reason it is so beneficial is because it helps us start to understand the inner workings of the mind. So it helps us start to uncover where, why, and how we react, get hooked, and triggered into old patterns of reactivity, and through meditation, we become much more calm, less reactive, and we become more co-creators of our world.
J: Co-creators with God?
J: Hmm, so I love the phrase ‘co-creation’, can you explain that a little more?
C: Sure. You know, for me, the biggest thing I have to remember is that I am not in the driver's seat. When I am in the driver's seat, when ego is in the driver's seat, the sole focus is protection, the sole focus is making sure that my needs are met and it's all about me, versus, “What's… what's the greater good here?” You know, what… what I think in my limited perspective, I think that this is better. From the… if I'm able to step back and let go of the (unclear) [18:23] of the… the benefits and just know that whatever unfolds is supposed to unfold, it's a much happier, less traumatic experience for me. And that's really co-creating, is just remembering that I'm not in the driver's seat, that I'm along for the ride.
J: And that doesn't mean that I slip into the victim role either and say, “Well, I had nothing to… I couldn't do anything, you know, this is God's will.” No, it means you take these inspired action steps on a daily basis, but you surrender the fruits of… of the action. You know, “I'm going to give it my best and then however it unfolds, it unfolds.”
J: I love that, “You… you are not in the driver's seat and however it unfolds, it unfolds,” ooh nice.
J: Share your favorite easy meal that you like to eat regularly.
C: I love juicing. So my favorite… every morning, I get up and I do a green juice with apple, cucumber, celery, parsley, lime, spinach, lemon, and ginger root, and it's a wonderful way to start off my morning. For me, it has to be simple, so a great meal is just getting a bunch of spinach together and throwing all different kinds of seeds and fruit and, you know, in a salad bowl too. I'm very… I… eating is one of my least favorite things to do so it has to be simple.
J: I don't think I've never heard that before, “Eating is my least favorite thing to do,” ooh.
C: Yes (Laughs). So very simple, very simple recipes. And I probably because I'm vegetarian and my husband and son are not, so for the last 17 years, we've all kind of tried to configure eating and how to make it work great for… for all of us.
J: Do you think you could share that smoothie recipe with us?
C: Oh yeah, I… do you want me to…?
J: I’ll post it on the show notes.
C: Yes, it's wonderful, yes.
J: Okay, yum.
C: Well, and I have a cute little story, one of… so in the Sangha, we do 5 e-courses each year as well, and one of them is a spring cleanse, and we… I share all these different recipes. And one of the moms sent a picture of her 3-year-old son, and she says, “He does not eat vegetables, but he will drink this green juice every day,” and he took his straw and put it in hers when he was done; he loves it so much.
J: Aww, that's really sweet.
C: Isn’t that great?
J: Oh, I can't wait to try this, mm.
C: Good, yes!
J: So what is your current favorite possession?
C: You know, in terms of possession, it's more of a thing, it's my alter. And I don't have a lot of space, but I love, in my office, I have a small table that my husband created for me so I could have an altar, and it just has some of my favorite things on it. It has a salt lamp, a… a big citrine stone, that's for personal power, and just trinkets that were given to me by people that are really special like a Ganesh statue. Ganesh is the remover of obstacles in yoga philosophy, a Candle, a little bit of nature, there's a pinecone when we were out one day at a hike; so just things that I pick up then just reminds me when I'm here working that everything is… around me is sacred.
J: That's nice, little reminders, yes.
J: And right in your office, that's a great place to put it.
C: Right? So that it reminds me that what I'm doing is… is beautiful, sacred work.
J: Well, I think it really is. You have this community where women could come together and learn they're not alone and that…
J: … it's really a beautiful, sacred work, for sure, yeah.
J: Carrie, what's a favorite book that you'd recommend to the Vibrant Happy Women community?
C: So my favorite book of all times is ‘Radical Acceptance’ by Tara Brach. And this was introduced to me by a therapist about 10 years ago and that's really where the… the true self-love healing started. And it's a book that she shares just some fantastic meditation techniques and different things. One of them is called the sacred pause, and there's a 30-second window of when something flies out of our mouth and we become reactive where we can actually pause and change the neural patterning in our brains so that we become less reactive. So she just shares so many fantastic tools and it's… it's really just about learning to love who you are in this moment.
J: ‘The sacred pause’, so can you tell us a little more about that? Because I…
J: … think I need that with my 6 kids.
C: For many years, science thought that, you know, what we were born with in our brain is what we had and it couldn't change. And now, science is… is showing that that's not true, that we really can change the way that our neural patterning… and that's how we react, how we show up. You know, we probably all have those people in our life that… that are so angry or reactive or maybe we’re even that way and we think, “This is just how it is,” and science is saying that we can change those patterns and rewire them so that we're healthier, so that we're happier and that there's actual brain chemistry that changes as we begin to change our habits and our conditioning. And so… yeah, and so the ‘Radical Acceptance’ is the book and within that, ‘the sacred pause’ is one of those techniques that helps us change, and just by changing that 30 seconds, you have that ability to change the wiring in your mind so you're calmer, you're happier.
J: Mm-hmm. Yeah, by not reacting and going down the pathway you've done in the past, then you can start forming that new pathway; that makes sense.
C: Right, right.
J: Well, I definitely have to check out that book.
C: Yeah, it's just… and she's… Tara Brach is a Vipassanā meditation teacher. Vipassanā is a type of meditation, it's… and she actually has a podcast series on iTunes that you can download for free or you can donate. And she's just got such a wonderful sense of humor, she's just one of those people that… again, we talked about that authenticity where she just is so raw and honest. And, for me, I love to see teachers who emulate humaneness. I don't want you to be perfect where I put you on a pedestal and don't think it's achievable for me.
J: Mm, yeah, and that seems to be the type of teacher you are, I'm guessing, in your community because you're so authentic yourself.
C: Thank you, I try.
J: Ah, you're great; you're great. So a favorite item on your bucket list and why.
C: So I loved this question because, for me, a bucket list item is, my husband and I are celebrating our 20-year anniversary, yes, next year and we are planning a European motorcycle trip; both of us ride motorcycles. And I'm just so excited because, first of all, just to be in Europe, to be with my husband, and to be on motorcycles going through the country is just… that's been on his bucket list since… since I knew him over 20 years ago. So it's… it'll just be fun that we can do it together.
J: So what countries will you be going through?
C: We haven't decided. We are thinking along the Mediterranean Seas so we can actually see the water, but it's still… still in the works.
J: That sounds so nice.
J: Oh, that's great, it'll be beautiful. Another question, what's the best advice you've ever received?
C: You know, this actually came recently in the form of a question, Marie Forleo in B-School, and it was just… it just kind of stopped me in my tracks and it was, you know, “How would you change what you were doing or saying if you were the very best in the world at what you did?” And the reason that changed me is what I realized is, you would do it for yourself, for no one else. And I think sometimes we get sucked up in the needing to perform or the expectations of what everyone else around us… around us expects us to do, but really, “How would I show up for myself?” And that was powerful because I think there are often times that I try and sabotage what I'm doing or I give myself permission to skip out and not do something, and that's really changed how I treat myself.
J: Yeah, that makes sense, deciding, “I am the best in the world at what I do, and therefore because of that, there is no need for self-sabotage, I'm going to do this amazingly.”
C: Right? Yeah! So it just gives you permission to really shine.
J: Yeah, it really is. So, Carrie, we're at our last question which is, if you had to create a 3 to 5 part formula of actions or behaviors that maximize your happiness, what would that include?
C: Mm, the first one is (I shared this earlier), it's to remember that I'm a spiritual being having a human experience, not a human being having a spiritual experience. And if you combine that with, “Seek the answers within because you know more than you think you do,” and then finally, take some sort of inspired action every single day.
J: Mm, so give us a tangible example of a recent inspired action you took. I would assume by inspired, it means you were seeking answers within to figure out what that inspired action would be.
C: Yeah, and… and, you know, for me, this formula is… is on a daily basis. So it's, you know, making sure that I'm meditating every day. There's not one specific example that's coming up, but just to show how this can be a part of your daily life is, you know, connect a source or God every day, whether it's just an offering or prayer, 3 gratitudes. For me, that inspired action is, within the… the Sangha, we have… I created a 645 page book that I called ‘Dharman Action’ and it's 1 part planner, 1 part spirituality, 1 part visioning. And so I write down every day the 3 most important things that I have to get done and then the rest of the list. And so just combining those 3 it reminds me that, you know, again, I'm being divinely guided, but at the same time, I also have to co-create and be a part of that creating the life that I love; the living on my terms.
J: Okay, that makes sense, you have to take inspired action and not just sit and wait for it to come to you.
C: Right, yes.
J: That's great.
J: Carrie, I have loved listening to your thoughts, you are so inspired and… and you have a light that just comes out of your voice, I'm so glad you could be on the show. So we love for our guests to give us a parting challenge, something actionable; so we'll say give us something we can take inspired action on this week.
C: So this week, I would encourage you to begin that self-love relationship because I think we tend to be hardest on ourselves. And so I would encourage you to do one thing, whether it's get the book, ‘Radical Acceptance’, whether if you're a dark spot, to give yourself permission to reach out to someone and ask for help, maybe take an hour class, yoga class for yourself or 10 minutes to meditation and close the door and don't let your 6 kids come in….
C: … even though you love them.
C: But some action that… that you translate is self-love. And I just encourage you to do that because, when we give our self that self-love, it gives us permission to play a bigger role in our life without sacrificing or needing to, what I love Brené Brown talks about, hustle for our worthiness; that, you know, it just… it reminds us that we're supposed to be here and that the more we can give to ourselves, the more we can give to those around us.
J: And it's true, the more we can give to ourselves, the more we can give to those around us. So… so that's why I think you're a person of light really, you nurture that and that comes out with your words and your actions.
C: Thank you. And it wasn't always that way. You know, 22 years ago… and that's why I say, you know, just… if you are in that spot, just know that it can be so much different. You know, where I am today, every day, I finish my day with 3 gratitudes because there's just so many ble… there are so many blessings in my life and I'm just so grateful. I'm so grateful I asked for help because it does make a difference.
J: Thank you so much for being here, Carrie.
C: Jen, it was my pleasure, you were just a delight and thank you so much for having me on your podcast.
J: Take care.
I had such a fun time talking with Carrie. She has a very soothing energy, don't you think? So a summary of this episode along with links for everything we talked about can be found by going to our show notes page at jenriday.com/5; and that's the number 5. So throughout the interview, Carrie mentioned meditation. I also love meditation, and what I like is that there are so many different ways to do it; walking, sitting, lying down. The goal is essentially to calm the mind and sometimes, we can use it as a tool to analyze our thoughts, our beliefs, and our behaviors. One for of meditation I use regularly is the combination of calming our mind and repeating affirmations. Most of my Life Coaching clients use this type of meditation to change personal habits and self-limiting beliefs, and they experience really great success with this. Those who stick with it overtime, find that they're finally able to accomplish goals they've been working on for years such as losing weight, making big strides in a business endeavor or becoming more patient as a mom. I have a free e-book on this topic and you can get your copy by going to jenriday.com/meditation or you can go to our show notes page at jenriday.com/5 where I've provided a link. On our next episode, I'll be talking with Laura Ball who made the choice to leave college and go home to raise her younger sister after both of their parents died. Her story is all about courage to choose the hard road, especially when you know it's the right road; can't wait to share with you. See you then, take care.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast www.jenriday.com.