Hello Spring!

It’s my favorite time of year—a time for new beginnings, for starting over, and for busting out new potentials. The flowers know it, the trees show it, the air is fresh with the scent of movement and change.

I have lots of spring rituals that rev me up and move me forward and charge me into setting some new goals and intentions. They include the usual: a spring detox cleanse, a closet purge, and of course there’s the garden that needs planning and digging and planting. I always try a new exercise routine as well—just to keep my body guessing. And I set a goal to learn something new—this year it’s Mah Jong. An antique set was on my Christmas list and I can’t wait to set it up and try it out.

And of course, there is a bit of soul-searching that goes along with new beginnings—I try to stretch my soul-growing practices as well. I’ve signed up for a breathing practice class. My ayurvedic medicine practitioner told me I hold my breath and it congests and contracts my energy source. Not good for working on expanding consciousness.

What’s on your list of dreams that needs a new beginning? Is there a way you are longing to show up in your relationships or at work but you just don’t quite know how? Is there a path you’ve been longing to take or a change you’ve been wanting to make but you’re too scared to take the first steps? Are you stuck in the same old patterns of self-doubt or self-criticism and you want to break the cycle?

It’s time to get on board—the change you can feel train.

Join me in one of my new programs for Spring and let’s get you moving ahead towards the life you were meant to live.

My favorite spa for the soul program is coming up soon:

Rising Strong™ Island Retreat on Whidbey Island- May 17th-19th

We’ll gather with an amazing group of soul-sisters to learn from each other and from Dr. Brené Brown about how to Rise Strong and Live Brave.

Together we’ll explore:

  • How to live authentically from the heart and your deepest core values.
  • How to lean into vulnerability & the find the courage to speak your truth
  • Practices and tools to help you let go of the inner critic and self-sabotaging beliefs that hold you back
  • How to live with boundaries asking for what you need and want in a clear and positive way
  • Practices for Self-Compassion and Gratitude that are crucial to making changes
  • A step by step method for Rising Strong after failure, disappointment or loss

Click HERE for more information and to register.


And Guys, here’s a new one just for you:

Living Brave the Daring Way™ for Men June 1st & 2nd
The Saturn Building – Seattle

It’s a safe and respectful gathering of a small group of like-minded men, just like you, who want to learn to be better at identifying their needs and wants and communicating those needs to the people most important to them.

It’s a psycho-educational program that will expose you to the work of Dr. Brene Brown and other’s on the subject of the male psyche and the cultural myths and stereotypes that have caused you to feel less connected and alone.

Together we’ll explore:

  • How to better communicate your deepest desires and feelings to the people who are most important to you in your world.
  • How to let go of the struggle for perfection and let go of the feeling of “just not being able to get it right” and translate that into a desire for excellence and feelings of worthiness.
  • Healthy ways to manage strong emotions and feelings and use them for information and indicators of your needs, rather than getting hijacked by them.
  • Tools to help you let go of the inner critic that keeps you stuck in old patterns of behavior
  • And finally, we’ll learn to Rise Strong after struggle, disappointment and loss and use the knowledge you’ve gained to help you find a resilient new beginning.

My colleague Joseph Losi, MA,LMFT, Certified Emotion-Focused Therapist and Mankind Project Director, will join us to teach and support and share his story with all of you. Joseph has spent the last decade working with men and women toward more empowered views of themselves and their partners, and helping them create more loving and fulfilled relationships in his psychotherapy practice. In addition he has fifteen years of experience working with the Mankind Project, a global men’s movement dedicated to male emotional intelligence.

Click HERE for more information and to register.


Our Dreams are achievable. No matter what our age or condition. No matter what came before, no matter our current restrictions. There are still untapped possibilities that lie dormant in each and every one of us.

Join me as we uncover those unrealized potentials and let’s be the change we want to see in the world!

Let Your Inner Love Shine

It’s February and love is in the air.

I’ve decided to focus on love this month – in my communications and in my thoughts and meditations and inspirations!

Won’t you join me?? Let’s have a LOVE IN!

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.” – Brené Brown

I had an experience recently during a meditation class I was taking where the leader led us through a guided meditation on love.

She got us in the right frame of mind – grounded and centered and relaxed. Then she asked us to imagine someone or something that we truly loved. To bring the person or animal or place to mind and focus there for 5 minutes, taking in every detail-and experiencing fully the feeling of love and appreciation we had inside us.

Then she asked us to remember a time when we felt fully loved and appreciated by someone.

It could have been a friend or a parent or a partner or a child. She asked us to focus in on that experience, taking in the full measure of that feeling and focusing there for the next 5 minutes.

Pure. Bliss.

I realized in that moment that I could feel love and loved all by myself.

I didn’t need anyone in the here and now to offer me that. I could conjure that up all on my own! Like magic.

Valentine’s Day can be a hard one for many people who don’t have a special someone in their lives right now…

But what if we focused on love all month?

What if we allowed ourselves to give in to that delicious feeling in the various forms and places that we find it? Sort of like gratitude but with a bit more juicy-ness.

There are so many times where I have experienced loving moments both big and small. I hold in my heart the times I looked into my husband’s sweet brown eyes and shared the love we had for our newborn baby. I remember the love I felt as I sat with my lifelong friends as we grieved the loss of our dear sister to cancer. I remember the love I felt for my loyal and faithful doggie as she gave me her wet-nosed, tail-wagging lip slurping welcome each morning.

I think back to the love I have always felt from my Mom as she tended us all in such sacrificial ways. I savor the unconditional love I experience as I sit in my pew at church and the words and hymns pour down their full measure of grace on my sometimes weary soul.

I’m going to be sharing on my Instagram and my Pinterest account this month the things and people and experiences I love with you. I invite you to do the same.

Share with me what brings that full- bodied experience of love in your life. Share with me your peeps, your pups, and the places that bring you joy!

Here’s to love in all it’s many forms and splendors!

Looking for a little more self-love skills, to quiet that inner critic a bit so you can let your own inner shine? Join me for the Rising Strong Island Retreat on Whidbey Island in April. Get all the details here »

Letting Go of What People Think to Become Authentically You The Journey to Whole-Hearted Living

Brené Brown defines authenticity as:

“The daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”

So becoming authentic is about letting go of who we think others want us to be, and beginning to operate from a deep place that represents our truest self.

But when we have been programmed from an early age to care about what others think- it’s hard to let go of that. We struggle to embrace a new practice of honesty and forthright behavior.

And, as Brené describes it, it is a practice.

Much like learning to meditate or ride a bike or cook or learn a new language.

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen” – Brené Brown

So it’s a practice and a series of choices.

The first part of being authentic is to let go of what others think.

And the second and sometimes more difficult part is to cultivate what you think. What you believe in and know to be true. This is where the work often comes in.


It means living purposefully from our values, and that takes some time and effort and contemplation, but I know from experience it is worth the effort.

When we can identify our 3 or 4 core values- and use those to make our difficult but daily decisions about how to live our life or allocate our time- our decisions become so much easier.

Authenticity Action Step:

Go ahead and take a moment to define your own core values…

Write down your 3 or 4 highest core values.

These might be things like love or social justice or integrity or family or relationships or hard work or honesty or a healthy lifestyle.

Keep it in a place you can refer to often.

Reminding yourself of your core values will keep you on track and grounded.


What to Watch Out For:

Where we often get into trouble is when 2 of our values begin to compete with each other.

For example one of my values is a strong work ethic and responsibility to my commitments.

But I also hold family as one of my top 3 core values- so I need to put family first and limit my commitments to work or outside activities to tend to that first.

This helps me plan my day and govern my decisions.

I can stand right inside my integrity when I have to say no to a volunteer opportunity or even the more difficult one of a promotion or assignment at work if it means taking away precious time that I have allotted to family.

We are so programmed to operate out of the “should’s” in our life that we sometimes don’t know what we would do if we “could.”

Embrace Life Whole-Heartedly in the Full 17 Day Challenge

Connect deeply and vulnerably with the ones who really matter... and finally be seen as the real you.

Cultivate a life filled with more happiness, connection, and courage as we walk through each step of The 10 Guideposts for Whole-Hearted Living, based on Dr Brené Brown’s piercing work into shame, resilience, worthiness, and the courage to keep rising back up.

Join the 17 Day Whole-Hearted Living Challenge!


Making the Choice to be Authentic

The choice to be authentic is a difficult one.

It sounds nice but how do we begin to do it- when we are so influenced by others around us?

One of the big questions I often use to ask myself- what would I do if no one cared?

What if I didn’t have to tell anyone what my decision or action was?

What if I only had myself to please?

What would I do then??


Now that doesn’t give us license to just go around behaving badly—because that’s not who we really are at our core.

It’s not our “best” self or our “worst self – but rather our most honest self.

We might ruffle some feathers when we bring our truth forward. We might get criticized or judged or even (dare I say it?) “left out”…. which is our ultimate and primal fear- being ostracized by the group.

But the greater risk is to go through life living a lie. To live in ways that are outside our internal integrity. To cut ourselves off from our deepest feelings, needs , and truths. This is the road to the slow death of our vibrancy, vitality and joy.

As E.E. Cummings says:

“To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself—means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight—and never stop fighting.”

The fight to become the truest version of yourself is so important.

Because if you don’t, the world will miss out on your unique gifts, talents and contributions.

But more importantly you will miss out on the joy, fulfillment and connection that comes with allowing others to truly see you, know you, and appreciate you- which is at the heart of feeling deeply loved and living Whole-Heartedly.

Experience All 10 Steps on the Journey to Whole-Hearted Living

This article is excerpted from our 17 day Whole-Hearted Living Challenge…

Join us on our 17 day challenge as we go through each of the 10 Guideposts to Whole-Hearted Living and embrace life fully.

Click here to to learn more and join us on the challenge »


Realizing a Dream – Creating a Safe Place to Challenge Ourselves and Live Brave

What does it feel like when a Dream Comes True?

Last Sunday as I lay in Shivasana  in the barn at Willow Pond Lodge on Whidbey Island looking out at the blue sky and cherry blossomed treetops, I was overcome with a wash of gratitude so deep it made my toes tingle. It was the third and final day of my first Living Brave Island Retreat.

Leading a group of women through the work of Brené Brown and her Daring Greatly™ and Rising Strong™ curriculum was the culmination of 5 years of hard work, multiple trainings, lots of practice, detailed planning and a boatload of hopeful dreaming. And my vision of leading a weekend retreat was unfolding in the most lovely, perfectly- imperfect and  inspiring way that I felt awed and thrilled and deeply centered and overwhelmingly grateful at the same time.

This Brave group of women came to the Island to learn about what it means to live an authentic and whole-hearted life, one where they could go after their dreams and goals and still stay true to their values and integrity. A life where they could turn their disappointments and failures into fodder for growth and a recipe for new beginnings.

They shared their stories with one another in such vulnerable and compassionately tender ways. It humbled me and broke my heart open.



Discover More

They Say Curiosity Killed the Cat-


Forget that old adage- Curiosity is actually key to developing a healthier and happier life all the way around!

A recent Gallup poll surveyed more than 130,000 people from over 100 nations,
a sampling which statistically represents 96% of the world’s population!
(Now that’s some major coverage) The survey was done in the pursuit of happiness- or at least in the pursuit of some solid data on what makes a happy person happy. Armed with all that data, sociologists set out to identify the two factors that have the strongest influence on a person’s happiness.

Here’s what they found-

The two most important factors that contribute to a person’s happiness
on any given day are-

  • Being able to count on someone for help
  • Learning something new

What these findings clearly suggest is that no matter where you live in the world, what job you do, or your economic status- happiness in life requires the ability to establish healthy relationships and a determination to grow as a person.

As it turns out, a healthy dose of curiosity is a factor supporting both endeavors.
Take a look at what Todd Kashdan, author of Curious- Discover the Missing Key to a Happy Life, has to say on the topic.

“One of the most reliable and overlooked keys to happiness is cultivating and exercising our innate sense of curiosity. That’s because curiosity- a state of active interest or genuinely wanting to know more about something- creates an openness to unfamiliar experience, laying the groundwork for greater opportunities to experience new discoveries, joy and delight”

Kashdan goes on to describe the abilities enhanced by a robustly curious outlook- Curiosity, he explains, allows us to:

  • Remain open to new experiences
  • Build strong and resilient relationships
  • Effectively manage uncertainty
  • Adapt to the demands required of different situations
    (what he calls “psychological flexibility”)
  • Discover our strengths, our deepest values and what it is we’re passionate about
  • Strengthen connections to these values and commit to a life aligned with them

If a daily dose of discovery is the key to creating and enriching a meaningful lifestyle and enhancing our relationships-

How do we cultivate this important quality?

We all have an innate curiosity that’s with us from birth- but experience and exposure as well as certain personality traits can dull that drive for discovery.
Think back to when you were a child- did the world seem like a magic place, full of adventures and surprises- Or were you one of those children that imagined danger around every corner and shied away from new experiences and people? A secure base or primary attachment, is one of the keys to allowing our natural curiosity to come forward in new situations. It also allows us to imagine the best in ourselves and of others. This can be intrinsic. Sometimes it is “learned” from our adults and caretakers, the teachers and mentors we come into contact with early in life.

The more positive experiences we have, the more confidence we build and in turn, the more our natural curiosity has a chance to blossom and grow.
Think about when your curiosity is most apparent and noticeable.
When are you the most engaged in learning  about a new topic, new places or new people? When are you the most engaged in learning something new about yourself?
It’s usually when you have the time and security to explore.

I can say from experience, that curiosity is the first skill I attempt to model and develop with my clients. The ability to look with a curious and open mind at the situations and at people we encounter, allows us to broaden our viewpoint and have a better experience with the world around us. Suspending judgment long enough to “take in another’s perspective” is an integral part of developing healthy communication in any relationship.
Responding with compassion and understanding is an ingredient I often find to be lacking in most conflicted relationships.

Opportunities to develop our “curiosity muscle” exist everywhere!

Here are some ways to begin expanding your own capacity for curiosity:

  • In looking at your relationships- look with “fresh eyes”
    Ask yourself- What attributes and strengths would you see in your partner, your children or your co-workers if you were encountering them for the first time?
  • In your communications- ask more questions!
    Why not strive to remain open to what others are saying. Listen with an intent to understand instead of judging or reacting.
  • Imagine that your partner/co-worker/boss/teenager has your best interests at heart..
    One of the things I ask couples to do in this exercise:
    Imagine that your partner loves you deeply and only wants the best for your relationship- Now ask yourself-
    How does that change my interpretation of their behavior?
    How does that change the communication right now?

According to Dr. Brené Brown in her newest book Rising Strong, one of the keys to growth and learning, to process life’s difficulties is- The ability to stay open and curious. Even when we are faced with challenges, difficulties and disappointments. It’s the ability to stay face down in the dirt for long enough to mine the golden nuggets out of the muck.

“The opposite of being curious is disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending—to rise strong, be curious with our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.”

It appears the latest research has proven the age-old adage lacking- Curiosity may have killed that cat, but it happens to be a key ingredient for a vibrant and wholehearted life!
With a little bit of curiosity, we can more deeply learn from those around us, from our environments and even from the places where we stumble and fall.

Curiosity allows us to turn towards others with an open mind. And if we employ that curiosity while we look inside ourselves for our truths- who knows what new awareness lies in wait.


Welcoming the New Year With Intention

being with what is

I began 2016 as I began 2015 – with a yoga practice.

Last New Years was my inaugural foray into this ancient art. My theme for last year was self-care so I joined a group of healthy-looking souls and did my best to keep up with the stretches and reaches, the contortions and down dogs. What impressed me the most was the BREATHING – talk about opening your heart and mind – WOW! What a gulp of oxygen will do for a body! But the best part was the soothing voice that led us. An enlightened soul entreating us to “let go” to “be you on your mat” “to do whatever is available to you”.

This was a whole new way of thinking and being for me. Who knew my soul needed to hear this soft compassionate voice encouraging me to “just be me”? My heart felt soothed – I could feel my muscles letting go – my mind leaving the “worried thinking” and constant buzz of have to’s. But also opening to the encouraging word of potential; our teacher told us we all have the potential to stand on our heads, to do a back bend, the splits- but we don’t have to. We can do what is right for us at this time and place…

I loved the permission to JUST BE WITH WHAT IS.

Now, I’m in the business of compassion. I offer it up on a regular basis in my practice as a marriage and family therapist, so this concept was not new to me. What I didn’t realize was how much I needed a heaping helping of it for myself. I had no idea how profound the impact of hearing this soft and accepting voice would have on my sense of calm and well-being. It was like receiving water in a parched desert. You know that feeling when you didn’t realize how thirsty you were until you started drinking that cool glass of water, or how tired you were until you crawled into your cozy bed at night, or how hungry you were until you smelled the chicken soup simmering on the stove. My soul began to crave the yoga mat, the soft light, the stretch and strength, the sweat and breath, the soothing voice of acceptance.

Since that day I have tried many programs and classes – evening hot yoga where the sweat of 30 bodies created a virtual steam bath, restorative yoga where we lay on a cloth log and let our back stretch into positions unlike any I have experienced before, sunrise yoga, late night candle-lit yoga and even cardio-yoga. Each teacher has imparted a few gifts of knowledge, wisdom, technique and affirmation.

And I have become a yoga groupie.

I now belong to 3 different yoga studios. I have my favorite classes and teacher and even bring my mat with me on vacation. The lessons I have learned this year have been many and varied-but they all boil down to this:

We need a place to go to restore and rejuvenate. We need a shelter from the storms of life and a way to center and get grounded. Yoga has been that place for me this year, and I will be forever grateful to my dear friend for introducing me to this practice.

Last week I had the unique privilege of welcoming in the New Year with an awesome yoga class at the base of Seattle’s Iconic Space Needle, in the glass Atrium under the flowing flower creations of Seattle’s own Dale Chihuly.

As we began our practice the sun rose over the horizon bathing us in a pristine and warm light as we held our mountain poses and performed our sun salutations. It was magic.

As we lay in savasana, we set our intentions for our New Year. I was filled with gratitude for this amazing city I live in, for the wonderful community of people I encounter on a daily basis, for my health and physical well-being and for the meaningful work I am privileged to do – as well as this new found practice of not only yoga but of  self-compassion and acceptance.

I’m also inspired by my guru Brené Brown and her new book Rising Strong, and have begun a new series of workshops based on her ground-breaking work on resilience. In it we learn that the secret to living a whole-hearted life is to connect to our values, honor our vulnerability and dare greatly in our personal and professional lives.

As we closed our New Year’s Day yoga practice, our instructor shared this awesome vision with us as that I want to share with you…

Feel all of your experiences of 2015 as the ground beneath you – every good and hard experience was what brought you to this place today; be grateful for them all, for they are the teachers and the lessons that have grown you.

Think of all you have to do and be in 2016 as the air above you – all your dreams for the future, your intentions for your life, your goals and hopes and potential awaits you.

The important point in-between is the capacity and potential of your physical, emotional and spiritual selves – the unique and precious gifts that you have been given. You are the creator of what lies ahead – be mindful of this gift. Be mindful of your potential, your calling and your opportunities…

Set an intention for your life in the New Year and be purposeful as you move forward into the life you have imagined. It awaits…

If you are ready begin the New Year with one of my new Living Brave Programs, set your intention to Dare Greatly – Be You and Be Brave. I’d love to journey with you!

Meet Cynthia Benge

A therapist for over 20 years, I guide people from their own “stuck” places to a life full of adventure, meaning and satisfying relationships.

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