Announcing the Living Brave Book Club

I’m so excited to share this new addition to Living Brave – Stories that Inspire with you…

The only thing I love more than reading a great book…

Is talking about it with my friends and colleagues! And that’s why I’m so excited to launch this new virtual Book Club with each of you…

As you know each month I have highlighted the latest book on my nightstand.

But now we can engage in the Living Brave private Facebook group about the book, it’s ideas and content, your take-aways and how you’re applying the concepts in your life.

Each week I‘ll post questions for you to ponder and respond to and we can have our own virtual book club discussion.

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I can’t wait to hear what your takes are on each new book and how you are living out the material in your own life. I know from my experience with “real-live” book group discussions – I always learn so much from what others have gleaned and their unique perspectives on the same material always expands my understanding and challenges my awareness.

Then tune in whenever the spirit moves you to see what others are saying about the book of the month! Contribute your own insights. Discuss important take-aways.

But to join in you’ll need to head on over to join the group »

See you there!

Warmly,
Cynthia Benge

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.

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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??

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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 »

 

My Holiday Gift to Your Best Year Ever Embrace Life Whole-Heartedly in 2017 Like Never Before

Are you ready to get focused and design your best year yet?

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It seems everywhere I turn, people are sharing with me how they want to embrace life more whole-heartedly, more courageously, and expressing a strong desire to be more connected with an authentic tribe they can explore this process with.

Every day someone asks me:

“How I can make whole hearted living an integral part of my regular, busy, daily life?”

So in the spirit of the holidays, the best gift I could think of to give you is to take you on a FREE 17 day journey to unwrap the 10 Guideposts to Whole-Hearted Living and show you the HOW of embracing life whole-heartedly.

  • Appreciate every drop of the real you
  • Live your life from a place of worthiness instead of shame, fear, and never feeling enough
  • Connect deeply and vulnerably with the ones who really matter… and finally be seen for the real you
  • Embrace your inner fear and your inner courage in life’s thrilling and sometimes terrifying moments

Make 2017 your best year ever.

Are you ready to get focused and design your best year yet?

It seems everywhere I turn, people are sharing with me how they want to embrace life more whole-heartedly, more courageously, and expressing a strong desire to be more connected with an authentic tribe they can explore this process with.

Every day someone asks me:

So in the spirit of the holidays, the best gift I could think of to give you is to take you on a FREE 17 day journey to unwrap the 10 Guideposts to Whole-Hearted Living and show you the HOW of embracing life whole-heartedly.

  • Appreciate every drop of the real you
  • Live your life from a place of worthiness instead of shame, fear, and never feeling enough
  • Connect deeply and vulnerably with the ones who really matter… and finally be seen for the real you
  • Embrace your inner fear and your inner courage in life’s thrilling and sometimes terrifying moments

Make 2017 your best year ever.

If cultivating a life filled with more happiness, connection, and courage is on your to do list in 2017, then join me as we walk through each step of The 10 Guideposts for Whole-Hearted Living, based on Dr Brené Brown’s life-altering work.

Count me in for my best year ever!

I’ll give you strategies to work with letting go of your inner critic, tools for how to develop resilience, and the power to embrace your own worthiness. And when you have those resources in your backpack, you will find the courage to keep rising back up in the face of disappointment, frustration, loss or heartache.

Every few days up until the new year – I will be sending you a HOW TO for each one of the Guideposts.

  • We’ll explore what it takes to show up, be seen and live brave.
  • We’ll unpack the barriers to self compassion- the how to’s of letting go of your inner critic
  • We’ll learn the difference between striving for excellence and hustling after perfectionism
  • We’ll learn how to cultivate joy, laughter, rest and inner peace

That’s it – my gift for you this holiday.

It’s time to let go of the old and ring in the new.

All that’s left is for you to say yes get started!:

Cynthia, I’m In. Let’s do this!

…..but WAIT there’s more! LOL

As an added bonus… I’ve done your holiday shopping for you as well.

You can give the gift of a whole new way to begin the New Year to a friend or family member without spending a dime.

I’ve arranged it so you can send them a digital bundle of my most powerful resources along with an invite for them to join you on the journey to whole-hearted living.

This experience is SO much better than a holiday sweater or a new gadget!

It’s an opportunity to explore, a whole new way to live life!

Give this gift to yourself and someone you love MOST! The world will be a better place for it.

Click here to join the journey and share the gift bundle »

It’s Not Happy People that are Thankful… Cultivating Happiness for Real People

It’s my favorite time of year as we anticipate the holidays and start off with the best one- Thanksgiving.

It’s a time to gather with loved ones, enjoy the bounty of the earth and open our hearts to all the gifts we have been given!

Developing an attitude and practice of gratitude has been such an important part of my own healing journey and also a crucial component of my work with individuals and couples.  Being able to focus on the good in our world and in each other changes everything.

Studies show we are happier, healthier (less heart disease, stress related disorders) and heartier (we actually live longer) and are more resilient when we focus on the plusses not the negatives in life.

But here’s the real kicker:

So if we experience so many benefits from a positive outlook then…

Why is it so hard to develop one??

We are actually hardwired to see the negative. Its’ a survival mechanism.

In the dark ages we had to be looking for any and all dangers that could be life threatening. Form a survival perspective, the positive registers in a more neutral way than the negative.

But here’s the good news:

We can train our brain to see the positive.

Sue Lundquist of The Gratitude Cafe invited my on a panel on gratitude. Listen in to the whole discussion here by clicking on the play arrow below. And to hear more be sure head over and subscribe to her show.

What we know from brain science is that whatever we focus on and draw our attention to effects our mood, our behavior and even what happens to us.

Gratitude is a practice that can be cultivated.

Modern science has shown what many have proven over the years–it is good to give thanks. It is a healing balm. In his book, Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman describes a study he conducted where he taught severely depressed patients to write down one thing each day they were grateful for. Within 15 days, 94% of them reported feeling better.

One of my favorite quotes from my guru and mentor Dr. Brené Brown is this…

“Comparison is the thief of joy”
-Dr. Brené Brown

I love that!

I think the opposite of gratitude is envy. When I start down that path of thinking everyone else’s life looks better than mine (or I don’t have all I dreamed or hoped for) I remind myself of all the good in my world and focus there.

As you can see, I didn’t start off happy here. Envy is a seed of unhappiness.

Instead, I chose to be thankful so I can get to happiness.

Cultivating Your Gratitude

Whether its’ a daily practice you start or end your day with, or if it’s an “in the moment” kind of attitude adjustment, make your gratitude list broad and varied. Try to come up with as many things as you can to be thankful for.

As you are making your list, take a moment to really savor each item. Really focus on the gifts that particular item brings into your life. So if it’s family you are grateful for, take time to remember an especially fun or loving experience you had with each member. Get in touch with the feelings and take the time to relive the moment.

Offering gratitude to others is another way to “live into this powerful practice.

Gratitude comes in many shapes and sizes:

  • It can be as small as a smile given to the store clerk
  • It can be a generous tip given to the newspaper boy
  • It can be as big as a grant given to help world hunger or bring clean water to a small village
  • It can come in a note to a teacher or a warm meal for a friend

Gratitude wells up as a thankful surge when we remember our blessings and we delight in our families and our friendships and work that is meaningful.

My hope for you this holiday is that your list is long and deep and wide- and that your cup runs over in gratitude for what you are given so you can share that love with the world.

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.

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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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