Tara Sophia Mohr | Playing Big

Tara Sophia Mohr, Playing Big. Find Your VOICE, Your MISSION, and Your MESSAGE.

how to treat your creative baby

liz gilbert

In college and graduate school, I often felt like I was being battered and beaten by the way my writing was evaluated by professors and teaching assistants – coldly, cerebrally, with words and a tone that reflected no sense of how vulnerable it feels to share one’s work.

I, like most of us, walked away from higher education with some serious wounds to my creativity.

It took me nearly a decade to write creatively again.

I had to get sick of that grayed-out, stuck, resentful feeling I get when I’m not creating. And I had to find a whole new way of thinking of creative work – mainly, that it was for my fulfillment and self-expression, not for anyone else’s evaluation.

Over the past few months, I’ve been savoring the essays about creative living from from Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic.

In my view, creativity isn’t just a topic for those of us engaged with the arts. It’s for any woman who has a longing or a dream she is working toward, or trying to find the courage to start working toward, because that process – of bringing a dream into reality – that is the creative process.

And honestly, I think creative living is particularly important for women, because for women to shake up the very messed up status quo, we need to bring forth our honest, original critiques of it and our visions for change. Doing that requires everything Liz is talking about – trusting your inspiration, wrestling with fear, giving yourself permission.

Liz’s take is so original, and I love that it’s based on her hard-won lessons from decades of her own creative living.

Every other page of my copy is dog-eared. I’ll share with you a few heart-stirring lines to take with you.

“To even call somebody ‘a creative person’ is almost laughably redundant; creativity is the hallmark of our species… The guardians of high culture will try to convince you that the arts belong only to a chosen few, but they are wrong and they are also annoying. We are all the chosen few. We are all makers by design.”

“We have to be careful of how we handle our fear–because I’ve noticed that when people try to kill off their fear, they often end up inadvertently murdering their creativity in the process.”

“You can believe you are neither a slave to inspiration nor its master, but something far more interesting–its partner–and that the two of you are working together toward something intriguing and worthwhile.”

“I promised that I would never never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it — meaning that I would always support us both, by any means necessary.”

And one of my favorite, favorite ideas, one that went “boom!” in my mind and had me thinking about it for weeks (still thinking about it actually)… is the stunner in the the graphic above.

Here’s her elaboration on it in the book:

“Your creative work is not your baby; if anything, you are its baby. Everything I have ever written has brought me into being. Every project has matured me in a different way. I am who I am today precisely because of what I have made and what it has made me into. Creativity has hand-raised me and forged me into an adult…”

Liz reminds us that our creations aren’t precious, but the contact we make with ourselves and with inspiration in the process of making them is precious.

For me, this speaks to the truth that our creative energy is infinite; the well is not going to run dry. We do not need to have any sense of scarcity or clinging around what we create.

I love this idea because of what it leads me to – greater freedom – freedom from ego, freedom from fear of failure. With that freedom, I can create more boldly, and with less time wasted in intervals of regret or disappointment about how certain creations turn out.

I know that many of you reading identify as “creatives” in some way so you can apply this work to your art. What if your art isn’t your baby, but you are its baby?

Others of you are entrepreneurs, and you can understand this as it relates to your business. What if your business is not your baby, but you are its baby? What do you see now, that you didn’t see before?

And for others reading here, maybe it’s that project at work or in your community, or the handmade gift you’ve been working on for ever, or the measure you are trying to get passed in your town. What if you remember it’s not your baby, but you are its baby?

Such a relief to look at it this way, yes?

Look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.

And please, if you want to be creatively inspired, to rekindle or liberate or heal your creative self, pick up Liz Gilbert’s book, Big Magic.

With love,



the first question


If you saw last week’s blog post, you know I recently enrolled in an incredible online class from two of today’s foremost mindfulness meditation teachers, Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield.

In one of the Q&A video sessions, a woman stood up to ask her question. She was struggling with a food addiction. She talked about how it upended her daily life, how much she wanted to change, but found she couldn’t. She asked what advice the teachers had for her.

Tara Brach, in the kindest way, replied that she had a question for the woman.

Of course, as a coach, I was all ears. In my work, I see each day how powerful questions can be, how the right question can connect a person to their wisdom and resourcefulness, and how the wrong question can do just the opposite.

I really wanted to know: what question did Tara Brach, the wise and compassionate teacher I so admire, think was most relevant here?

Would it be about this woman’s willingness to change?
Would it be about the “why” of this addiction, the underlying needs that it filled?
Would it be about whether she had hit rock bottom yet?

Tara’s question wasn’t about any of those things. It was not a question I could have predicted.

She said, “In the midst of the pain of this addiction – and I really do know the pain of it, because addiction has been in the mix in my world – how are you relating to yourself? What’s your way of relating to the fact of, ‘Okay this addiction is here?'”

Tara explained that, in her vast experiences as a therapist and a meditation teacher, often when there’s a major shift for someone, it’s not catalyzed by a change in habits or even in their understanding of the problem. Rather, it’s a change in how the person is talking to themselves, relating to themselves, around whatever they are struggling with.

It was a powerful reminder to me: we can be kinder to ourselves about everything. Acceptance of what’s here now is the foundation for any kind of profound personal change.

So my question for you today is this: whatever you are bothered by most in yourself or in your life, whatever you are struggling with most, can you see you own suffering, your own trying, your own dear heart, and be kinder to yourself about it?

Last but not least, I want to invite you to join me for this incredibly special course. It’s a beautiful format – with video, journaling, and a very special mentorship component.

It’s for anyone who wants to start, or rekindle or strengthen a meditation practice. But beyond that, it’s truly for anyone who wants to feel a greater sense of calm and freedom in their life, and to make wiser, more clear-eyed decisions.

It has done all that for me. I hope you’ll join me! You can learn more here.



for more kindness and calm in your life …

The Power of Awareness-1

I recently enrolled in an amazing online course, taught by two authors whose work I’ve been reading and loving for years – Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield. They’re two of today’s foremost mindfulness & meditation teachers.

Today I want to share with you some of their words of wisdom. Here are a few of the many ideas from their teachings that have impacted me these past weeks.

“We can train our hearts and minds to experience more wellbeing.” This is the essence of everything I believe in, and of the work I do. Most of us don’t get that training – as children or adults. When we do, we can become wiser, happier, and do much less harm to others.

“Mindfulness has two “wings” and we need both to fly. One is awareness. The other is lovingkindness.” I love Tara & Jack’s definition of mindfulness: being aware of what’s present – around us, and within us – but also holding all of it with an attitude of tenderness and lovingkindness.

“Chasing after something pleasant is a kind of stress. Avoiding something unpleasant is a kind of stress.” As someone who is a part of a field that helps people pursue their dreams, this felt like such an important reminder. I want to create, to go for my goals, and to help others do the same – but without reinforcing our tendency to chase an illusory, perfect future. We’ve all got to notice when our heartfelt longings toward more self-actualization, more wholeness, have gotten twisted into a chase after what we think will feel good.

“Why would you want to learn to stay with unpleasant sensations of emotions? You wouldn’t! But when we resist or are fearful of unpleasantness, we get tired. It takes energy to resist what is there. Chronically pushing away your experience will lead to chronically feeling tired.” This is so true, and it is why most of us become both physically and emotionally chronically tired as adults.

“It’s not what’s happening in our lives, it’s how we are relating to it. With training in noticing what’s happening and connecting with the quality of tenderness, we can find a space of presence. Instead of tensing about what’s around the corner in life, we can really live our lives.” Think about how different your life would be if you were tensing about what’s around the corner less – in every facet of your life – not because you were in denial about what could happen, but because you had a sense of how you might be able to meet all of life with more equanimity?

I could go on with more useful ideas I’ve learned from the course, but the truth is I don’t think the incredible ideas and wisdom in the course are what have impacted me most.

What has impacted me most is the presence of these teachers. They emanate something very special that goes right to the heart, and is transformative. I have been uplifted and centered by having their energies present in my life through their teachings in this class.

Here’s something lovely. You can experience a taste of their teachings and of the course through this short free video series from Tara & Jack. Signing up will also allow you to learn more about the very special Power of Awareness course, which is coming up again soon. I genuinely believe this course can make big change in us and thereby, in the world. I hope you’ll check it out.

With love,


let’s talk clothes.

There’s something I wrote the other day in my post about authenticity that I want to come back to. This:

And don’t get your hair blown out straight for the big professional event, and don’t wear the uncomfortable thing you think you should wear. Talk and look like the real you when you show up.

I cut those lines from the post and added them back in at least a dozen times. I worried they might be too off track, or too superficial.

Every time I tried to cut them, they insisted, “Keep us.”

So they stayed.

I wrote those words, at heart, as instructions for myself. I would like to stop wearing the uncomfortable thing. I would like to wear less of the uniform.

You see, there’s an odd thing I do when I have a big speaking engagement – particularly one in a corporation. Somehow (and it’s a bit of a mystery to me how), I end up wearing a suit. And often, I end up wearing it with rather uncomfortable shoes, and – to be frank – body-shaping undergarments.

If I felt great in all that, it would be no problem. But I don’t. I find the getup uncomfortable and hard to breathe in. And it doesn’t feel like it reflects me. I’m presenting something more conventional, corporate, and secular – yes, secular – than I want to.

So how does it happen? Somewhere in between my initial intention to wear something I adore and the speaking event itself, a familiar mental weather pattern descends. Fears about giving the speech get funneled into concerns about looking good, looking “professional.” There is hurried, harried shopping. There is body image b.s. And then, a few days later, there I am, packing a suit-ish outfit in my, well … suitcase.

Why does this matter?

Because, how free can we feel – or be – if we restrict our very bodies, by our own choosing?

Because I’m doubtful that women who can’t take a deep breath, and whose underwire is digging into their ribs, are able to give their full energy to what they feel called toward. What would we do or say differently if we could move more freely?

It also matters because in a thousand ways, women conform to and compete within a system that we did not make and that was not made for us. Professional dress is one tangible reflection of this.

Our dress – and more broadly, how we present our physical selves – takes us into some important territory — women’s bodies and images of womanhood. When it comes to work clothes, we are reinforcing, or redefining, notions of what “professional” or “successful” or “lawyer” or “professor” or “leader” look like. Does the Superintendent wear a sari? Does a professor have a woman’s body adorned in exuberant, cheerful colors? Can the CEO look like a priestess from some other time?

Dress Revolution

If we are brave, dress can be a vehicle for slaying old ideas about who does what, and how. Because it’s visual, it busts stereotypes on an unconscious level, making it particularly potent.

Dress also matters as a metaphor. We are faced with the same choice in our dress as we are in so many other aspects of our careers:

How much do I want to do the conventional thing to fit in, and how much do I want to push the envelope?
How much do I, as a woman, want to succeed within the system as it is, and how much am I here to change it?

We all have to do both. We pay attention to the codes, the norms, the standard career routes, the culture. By doing the conventional thing, we get to play in the game.

But then there are the moments during the game when we ask: is this a time when I want to depart from what’s conventional? Is this the place I choose to be an agent of change?



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Rising Strong with Brené Brown

rising strong 2

Last week, I had plans for brunch with a dear friend. We had set the date weeks before, and I was really looking forward to it. This is a friend I cherish, and I love spending time with her.

The day before we were supposed to meet, I got a text from her. “So sorry, but some big work deadlines came up and I can’t make it tomorrow. Let’s reschedule soon!”

My heart sank. I did something I often do when I’m in an icky emotional place: I didn’t respond. I didn’t mean to not respond, but I went into my pattern of, “Ouch. I don’t know how to respond right now. I’ll deal with it later.”

That same day, I started reading, Rising Strong, Brené Brown’s beautiful, potent new book. I was so honored to receive an early copy from Brené last week.

If you don’t know Brené Brown’s work, I’m thrilled to introduce it to you. I think of Brené as a courageous leader, an agent of change and a gifted communicator. She is a stunning example of a woman trusting her own story and voice enough to bring them forward in the service of helping all of us.

Rising Strong is all about how we can come back even stronger, more whole – even healed – when we fail, when we vulnerably share ourselves or our work in some arena (your team, your field, your community, your relationship) and it doesn’t go as you’d hoped.

In the book, Brené writes that anytime we have a strong emotional reaction to something, when our buttons get pushed, we can move through it in a positive way if we “reckon” with it.

In the Rising Strong model, that means we do two things:

We 1) engage with our feelings (rather than deny or repress them) and 2) we “get curious about the story behind the feelings.”

As I was reading Rising Strong, I thought of the text from my friend. Much as I wanted to be able to respond with a casual, “Sure!,” and move on from there, her message had, in fact, evoked a strong emotional reaction in me, and the truth was, it was hurt.

I used the Rising Strong model and asked myself, “What is the story behind these feelings?” There was a quiet, but familiar story there. “If she cancelled so casually, she must not value the time with me as much as I value it with her.” There was another story that went after that, “That’s because she’s so special and whole and together and wonderful, and I’m needy.”

Once I saw those old stories, I could have some compassion for myself. I could see how they were likely untrue. I followed Brené’s next steps – to rumble with the feelings of shame and unworthiness that were part of them – and to choose how I wanted to respond. It was clear to me: I didn’t want to live in that old story. I wanted to live a story of honesty, of honoring my emotions, and of connection.

I sent my friend an honest message back. “Happy to reschedule but I’m disappointed. I miss you and was really looking forward to this time together. And I felt a little hurt by your message because it seemed so casual about canceling.” This felt quite vulnerable to say.

The next time I checked my phone, my friend had written back with a heartfelt apology. She even said the minute she had pressed “send” she felt badly – like she didn’t communicate how she too was very disappointed and had been really looking forward to the time together. She explained that sometimes when she’s upset about something, she kind of writes it off in herself and with others, and she was working on that.

My heart immediately felt open and cheerful again, and I again felt all the reasons why I adore our friendship.

Though what made the difference was just one small choice to be honest and vulnerable, the gulf between the two possible outcomes that could have occurred was huge.

If I hadn’t been prompted by Rising Strong to look at the story around my emotions, to question it, and to choose my behavior from there, a sense of hurt and distance would have lived on in this friendship. And maybe even worse, I would have kept carrying that crappy old “she’s so wonderful; I’m not” story in my head and heart. Instead, I ended up feeling closer to my friend, and so solid in our friendship, and a little bit healed from that old story about myself.

This is only one of many, many ways that I’m looking at things in my life differently because of what is offered so generously on the pages of Rising Strong. I finished the last page and, like my toddler son does with his favorite truck books these days, went right from the back cover to page one to start it all over.

I hope you’ll join me in reading, and in Rising Strong from the difficult moments of your journey. People always say you grow most from the difficult stuff, but this book gives the roadmap how we can do that.

To get started today, ask yourself: what was the last thing that triggered a strong emotional reaction in me? What’s the story I’m carrying behind those emotions? Am I willing to question that story?

That’s just the beginning of the Rising Strong process. Learn the rest (and so much more) in the book. You can pick up your copy here.

With love,