Seeking Sanctuary


I sat on the shores of the lake, watching the birds float and fly past. A cormorant stood on a post, its wings spread wide to the sunshine. The lake is a wildlife sanctuary. In that space, the birds are safe to do what is truest to their natures. No predators can harm them there.

Sanctuary. A place to be safe.

Wildlife sanctuary. A place to be safe in your wildness.

Near the lake was a church. I wandered inside. It was beautiful, polished, and serene. A sanctuary.

And yet… it wasn’t a wildlife sanctuary. My wildness did not feel safe in that place. I wanted it to – longed for a real sanctuary where my wildness was honoured – but I didn’t trust the immaculateness. I couldn’t feel safe revealing all of myself in that space. Too much of me had been judged in spaces like that in the past.

“What if I DID feel safe in this space?” I thought. “How would church be different if it were more like a wildlife sanctuary? If it were the kind of place where we could be totally free to be our wild selves without feeling the pressure to conform? Without having to protect ourselves from predators? What if it truly represented the wild way that God loves?”

As though to test my question, I took off my shoes and stepped into the baptismal font. The water was cool and sweet against my skin. It felt good – a baptism of my wildness. But it didn’t feel safe. I kept an eye on the door, expecting a stern priest to walk in and send me away for defiling the church. All I dared to reveal was my feet. I stepped out quickly and tried not to leave footprints.

I went back outside to the lake. There I felt safe. With the birds and the trees. I took of my shoes again and didn’t worry about footprints.

A week later, at another lake, giggling in the dark with a small tribe of friends, I tripped through the woods and stepped into the lake. Tentatively, we inched our way into the dark water. It held us and invited us further in. We gave ourselves to it. Bathing suits came off and we let ourselves be baptized in our wildness. For long lazy moments, we floated – just a little bit fearful and yet fully wild and fully alive.

This was our wildlife sanctuary. Here we were safe to reveal all that we were. Here we were wholly loved – by the water, by each other, by the gods of our understanding.

From the moment we step away from the safety of our parents’ arms, we are each on a lifelong quest for that place of sanctuary – that place were we can dare to let ourselves be fully wild, fully naked, and fully baptized. Sometimes (far too rarely) we find it in a church, sometimes we find it in the woods with a circle of friends. Sometimes we only find tiny whispers of it that make us long for more.

Once we find it, we know that we need more of it and we know that we need to commit our lives to co-creating it for others. Because there is nothing quite like the feeling of knowing that we are fully loved and accepted in our nakedness. There is nothing that makes us feel more alive and beautiful.

Together, those of us who have learned to reveal our wounds and our nakedness to each other, become co-creators of circles of grace. We are wildlife sanctuary keepers. We are witnesses of the kind of God/dess who longs to help us create REAL sanctuaries, not artificial polished spaces where only those who have washed first can step into the baptismal font.

Because living truthfully in our wildness is the only way to fully be alive.

If you are longing for more of your wildness to be revealed, step into the sanctuary of Lead with Your Wild Heart. You are safe here.

The promise I made to myself

18 - ring

Three and a half years ago, I brought myself a promise ring.

I was visiting Banff at the time, after a business-related road trip through Western Canada. Visiting Banff always brings up mixed emotions for me. I love the beauty of the place, in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, but it holds a sad story from my past. I lived there the summer I turned 19, and it wasn’t a particularly happy summer. I was in that “trying to decide whether to stay safe in life or to take more chances and risk getting hurt” phase of early adulthood. Sadly, I let the things that happened to me that summer convince me that safe was a better option. I gave up the plans I’d had to change schools and move to another province and I went back home to nurse my wounds and play it safe.

One of the places that always brings up deep longing for me is the Banff Centre. When I lived there, my roommates and I sometimes went to watch visiting performers, and each time I went, I’d think “oh, if only I were talented enough to spend time at a place like this!”

When I visited three and a half years ago, I drove past the Centre and started to cry. I cried for the young woman I was more than twenty years earlier who believed she wasn’t talented or worthy. I cried for the hurts that young woman had already suffered and had yet to suffer. I cried for the long journey I’ve had since then, learning to trust both my worthiness and my longings, and learning to be both resilient and courageous through the hard times.

When I drove back into town after visiting the Centre and the resort where I spent the summer cleaning other people’s mess out of hotel rooms, I wandered through the downtown and dropped in at a jewellery store. In a flash of inspiration, I bought myself a promise ring with a blue chalcedony stone.  (I later learned that the chalcedony speaks of spirit and trust and is known as the Speaker’s Stone, the stone of one who must measure his words. It encourages reflection and meditation, its gentle radiance preparing us for action but helping to hold back words we might regret. The great Roman orator, Cicero, is said to have worn one around his neck.)

Later that day, I sat in a cafe with my journal and wrote the following promise to myself:

I promise:
– I will take more chances.
– I will believe that I am an artist.
– I will trust my ability.
– I will look for opportunities to paint and make art as often as I can.
– I will sign up for another class or workshop that stretches me.
– I will honour the muse.

I couldn’t go back and make those promises for my 19 year old self, but it wasn’t too late to make them for my 40+ self.

Last week, in the last lesson for Lead with Your Wild Heart, I invited participants to make a commitment to themselves and to honour it with some kind of gift, like a ring. That tweaked my memory and I went back to find the original post I wrote about the promise ring I’d bought for myself. I started crying all over again – not because I was sad anymore for my 19 year old self, but because I am delighted for my 46 year old self that I can honestly say that I have kept my promise to myself.

I have done just what I said I’d do. I took more chances (quit my job and started a business), started making more art and taking art classes, I’ve been honouring the muse, and trusting my own ability.

Nothing to date has felt so much like an honouring of that promise as the creation of Lead with Your Wild Heart. Nothing has felt so much like it is emerging out of my most authentic, most beautiful, most Spirit-guided self.

I’ve just opened registration for the second offering of Lead with Your Wild Heart, and I can say that I am thrilled beyond expectation with how beautifully it has turned out. This has been an exercise in trusting my own wild heart, and I know that it will serve as a gift to all those who take it into their own wild hearts.

And now… can I tell you a little secret? I’m dreaming of taking some version of Lead with Your Wild Heart to the Banff Centre for Leadership Development. I don’t know yet how to make that happen, but I’m sharing the dream in hopes that will help me get closer to it.

I’m trusting my wild heart and seeing where it leads.

What does it mean to be wild?

you were once wild

I didn’t know how much launching Lead with your Wild Heart would change my life and my business, but it has, dramatically. Interviewing the incredible members of my wisdom circle, researching, writing, and teaching this program have taught me more than any course I’ve ever taken or ever created.

In shamanic language, this feels like my original medicine – the gift I’m meant to contribute for the healing of the world. In helping women (and, in the future, possibly men) get closer to their wild hearts, I am becoming intimately familiar with my own. (The next offering will begin in May, and I expect there will be in-person offerings to come as well.)

The seeds for this course came to me one day last summer when I was wandering in my favourite woods. There are often deer in those woods, and I have such great reverence for deer that I always stop to pay attention when I see them there. Often I follow them deeper into the woods.

One particular time, I almost missed the deer that was standing completely motionless about ten feet from the path on which I walked. The deer was watching me, and when I stopped on the path, we stood locked in a visual embrace for what I think was about ten minutes but what felt like an eternity.

I walked away from that encounter with the profound sense that the deer needed me to understand something that I’d been missing before. Further along the path, it came to me. “I need to create a program called Lead with your Wild Heart. I need to teach women how to get reconnected again.”

The deer invited me back into the wild – back to my wild-hearted trust, wild-hearted love, and wild-hearted courage. Those are the things I now share with the incredible circle of women who have gathered for this program.

Sometimes my coaching clients lament that they are not very good at planning or goal-setting, and I tell them “Maybe you don’t have to be. Maybe you just need to be good at wandering in the woods and listening for the wisdom.” You won’t hear that in business school, but my best ideas have almost always emerged when I’ve found time to be silent in nature.

The deeper I go in this journey, the more I understand what it means to be wild again.

To be wild again means that: 

  • We are connected with the earth, the wind, the deer, and the trees.
  • We are connected with each other in a deeper way than our culture encourages.
  • We trust that which is primal and wild in ourselves and we offer our most natural gifts to each other.
  • We trust that which is primal and wild around us and we honour the wisdom of creation.
  • We remember that we are stewards and citizens rather than consumers and conquerors of this earth.
  • We dare to weep when we are wounded, laugh when we are joyous, and touch when we are in need of each together.
  • We reclaim the circle and gather around the fire, sharing our most vulnerable, wild stories.
  • We dare to plunge the depths of our wild hearts and honour what we find there.
  • We sing and dance, trusting both our voices and our bodies to be expressions of the sacred.
  • We are courageous warriors, serving the cause of all that is good in the world.
  • We dare to believe that the world is a good place to call home.

Why should we lead with your wild hearts?

The more conversations I have in preparation for Lead with your Wild Heart, the more I am convinced that this work is not optional. This work is critical. This work is what we are all being called to in one way or another. The world needs us to accept the invitation into this work.

Leading with your wild heart is not about abandoning everything we know and moving into  the woods. It’s about engaging with the world around us. It’s about sitting in deep conversations with our neighbours. It’s about seeking more authentic ways to live. It’s about having the courage to tell the truth.

Why is it important that people get in touch with and learn to lead with their wild/authentic/creative/expressive/vulnerable hearts?

I’ll let some of the members of my wisdom circle share their thoughts on this question:

Julie Daley: “Leadership is nothing without love, connection, and relationship. And where do we find love, connection, and relationship? The heart: through a wild and authentic heart that pulses and beats with the width and breadth of our humanity. It is in our full humanity that we find our way to true leadership, a leadership that invites others into their own wholeness and personal leadership.”

Filiz Telek: “Because the world calls for it right now! and our survival literally depends on it. The heart is the doorway to a wholesome, healthy, joyful, authentic life beyond right and wrong.”

Ronna Detrick: “My impulsive response to this is that you can’t lead if you’re not doing in with a wild/authentic/creative/expressive/vulnerable heart. My calmer response is to say that, of course, leading can take place, but I’d wonder if it’s really you that’s doing so if it’s in any form that’s not all that wildness and heartness. We are so enculturated to understand and recognize leadership in a particular way…andrarely with words like “wild” and “heart.” To get in touch with and lead from this place has the potential to change EVERYTHING!”

Lisa Wilson: “We’ve been asleep for far too long.  We have reached a point in our collective evolution, a turning point, where the calls of something more can no longer be ignored.  The wild heart of each individual, beating to a knowing that goes far beyond logical understanding, holds the paths to our healing.  There is no one else who can heal you but you, and there is no other time to heal than now.  The wild, creative heart longs to be heard, acknowledged, and to be the rhythm to which you take every step.  There are many who still do not hear the calls; thus, those who can hear have a responsibility to guide themselves and others towards this awakening.  It is time.”

Hali Karla: “Because the world needs it more than ever. The world is changing and our heart-wisdom is all too often left forgotten in our daily lives and how we interact with one another. In a world based on segmentation, we’ve nearly forgotten the primal power of true connection and devotion to our vulnerable selves and source. That is why people ache deep down for compassion, expression, soul-integration and belonging – and that is also exactly why change is coming. Because it is needed and desired, deeply. It is time to remember our inherent potential. Nature has this way of balancing itself out in the end. Regardless of how humans occupy themselves they are part of this amazing balance.  Big changes and innovations, new paradigms of leadership and connection, and living in harmony with ourselves and our world will require adaptability, flexibility, deep self-awareness and radical empathy… this begins within, in the rivers where our own passions flow, uninhibited. And the more of us who choose to lead with the light from this intention, the more others will be inspired to step into that light and begin to explore the exponential beauty and transformation of heart-centered, sustainable, community-focused creative potential.”

Jodi Crane: “Because that’s where the joy is.  That is using your creative gifts for good, being self-actualized, and living your full potential.  Why would you not want to do that?”

Michele Lisenbury Christensen: “Our tendency – as pushed by both our brain structure and our culture – is to lead with our tough, logical, organized, methodical, clenchy, stiff-upper-lip selves.  And all those qualities ARE valuable.  Challenge is, we’ve got ’em in spades, and they crowd out the softer, wilder, more emotionally connected, more intuitive, more  humane aspects of our power and our leadership.  And when that happens, our capacity to respond effectively is dampened.  We can’t, without our wild hearts, be present to our own emotions, our messy processes.  We can’t be agile with the human process of coming with change.  We can’t make difficult decisions that necessarily have downsides, and be present through the inevitable turbulence in their wake.  We can’t be truly courageous without our vulnerability; we can only be brave.  And that’s a pale substitute.”

Ann-Marie Boudreau: “That is where intuitive creation resides, where our own unique gifts are born and make their way into the world where they become a part of the process of evolution in moving all sentient and non-sentient beings forward on the path of life. It is in this place where we all dance together in community  creating and shaping the world around us, unfolding our earth story before us with the dawn of each new day.”


By the way, my dear reader, YOU ARE IN MY WISDOM CIRCLE TOO! Join the conversation. Add your response to the question in the comments below. Why is this important?

Note: Registration for Lead with your Wild Heart is still open. You can download the first lesson free here. Join us in this exciting conversation about what can happen for the world if we step into our wild hearts.

My heart out on my sleeve

I want to put my heart out on my sleeve
Wear it where the world can see it pulsing.
I want to love wildly. To live vibrantly. To speak daringly.
To laugh until I cry. To cry until I laugh.

I want to believe that my heart can be safe,
Out there in the wild open air.
Pumping life into everything and everyone that needs it.

I want to stop tucking it away when I hear that it is too much for people
That I should be ashamed.
That I should be more fearful.
That I should be silent.

I want to believe that my exposed heart
Will nudge your heart out of hiding
And soon our hearts will all be pulsing together
Giving us the rhythm we can dance to.

I have a big beautiful dream about us – you and me, wild and free.
Living in the mystery of the pulsing of Mother Earth’s heart.
Our hearts in tune with hers. Our blood mingling with hers.

In my dream, we love much, we dare much, we forgive much.
We share because we believe in abundance.
We live simply because we believe we have enough.
We tell stories because we believe in ourselves.

I want to keep dreaming this dream,
Even when my heart gets hurt.
Even when it’s so bruised, I have to tuck it back into my chest for awhile.
Even when I see so much pain, I wonder if the pulsing will stop.

I will be courageous in my dreaming,
Because I know the world needs dreamers.

I will keep putting my heart out there in the open air,
Because I know the world needs wild open hearts.

Want to put your heart out there with me? Let’s learn to lead with our wild hearts.

Pin It on Pinterest