Teaching Myself to Ask for Help

April 16, 2015

Last September, I could feel myself shifting, growing. My business was growing, and my energy was changing. It felt as though my consciousness was being pulled out of my head and my ability to charge forward in spite of myself, and traveling down through my feet, into the ground beneath me. Traveling beneath the soil, my energy became horizontal and I could feel myself (and my femininity) lowering into a new vibration. Slower. More intentional. Readying myself for the possibility of the baby that seems to be constantly tugging at my ankles as I pad around the house.

IMG_7589All of the sudden, if I wasn’t careful, I became exhausted easily. My out-of-orbit rhythms became tattooed beneath my eyes like dark rings of discontentment. I could not longer wind myself up and set myself to a task. I could no longer drink all of the coffee and plow through my to-do list.

My work stopped being about doing and started being about feeling.

When I say work, I do mean the literal work of tending to this space – the curation of classes and group experiences, the coaching calls, the healing work. But, I also mean the work of being a human on this planet. The presence of mind as I navigate my daily life.

A couple of things become startlingly clear…

I was going to need to scale back.

I was going to need help.

I tried to wrap my head around the latter for weeks and months, as I attempted to give myself permission to receive help.

The prayer was simple: Help. Strategic camaraderie. Allowing myself to be witnessed and supported. Someone that I can trust. Someone that I can totally adore. Someone who will tend to this space as lovingly as I do.

you are worthy of loveBut the ask unraveled me. Who would I be if I didn’t do it all? Was it possible to really (truly) ask for help? Could I entrust my beloved business to someone else’s capable hands?

It took me months to realize that the boulder in my way was the truth that I had been married to the idea of earning my keep. For years, I have showed up here, overextending myself and enjoying it. I have responded to every email, accounted for every dollar, written thousands of words a week, and worked with hundreds of women, all by myself. This site, this business, was my best thing. My labor of love.

But, as things were shifting in my life, my perception of my role needed to shift as well.

I am a (recovering) control freak. I have always been an overachiever. I have prided myself on doing too much – on my ability to follow through. Truthfully, I loved these things about myself, for a time. But, if I wanted to grow – if I wanted to allow myself to grow – I needed to open myself up to the vulnerability of asking for help tending to this space.

The truth is, though I love it dearly, I am not my job.

I am not the items on my to do list.

I am not money earned or bills paid.

I am the ocean and the sand and the light-hearted feeling of divine belonging in the world around me.

I am a spirit, with tangled hair, just wanting to be acknowledged.

I am divinely feminine and deeply rooted.

My worth is inherent.

I am strengthened – not diminished – when I allow myself to ask for help.

And, I am absolutely thrilled to introduce you to Joanna, the answer to this call for help.


Meet Joanna, business support & systems wrangler

JoannaHey y’all – I’m so excited to do this work with Mara and to support her in her business. I’m also honored to have a bit of space in your life today.

A little about me: I love the color kelly green. I’m a Gemini, an empath, and an INFP. My rescue dog Tucker makes me laugh on a daily basis. I drink iced coffee all year long. Discovering Mary Oliver’s poetry changed my life. I adore Moleskine notebooks and the possibility of a blank page.

I’m having lots of fun these days on Instagram, where I share my true stories and my wonderfully imperfect life. I’d love for you to come hang out with me – @joanna_begins

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Ferocious Truth

April 06, 2015

I want to unfold.
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere,
because where I am folded, there I am a lie.

{Rainer Maria Rilke}

My heart beats out the rhythm: tell the truth tell the truth tell the truth.

Tell the truth of who you are, of how you are.  Tell the truth about what you need. Tell the truth of your story as a human on this planet.

Tell the truth because in your silence, you are breeding the story that you are alone struggle. That you are alone in feeling this messy. Tell the truth to remove the artificial borders that you have created for yourself, sealing you in here, with your white hot and bubbling truths.

Tell the truth to honor your desire to move forward, to grow, because there is no growth without truth.

When I avoid my truth, my growth is circuitous, winding through the darkness. I lay myself a careful trail of breadcrumbs, so that I will be able to find my way back through the mist of clues and stories. When I avoid my truth, I must be careful to remember what I’d told, to whom. My energy is diffuse with all of that elaborate record keeping.

When I avoid my truth, I become a stranger in my own life. 

In truth I am flourishing in a hot house of honest vulnerability. I am messy, open. I am wild, untethered. In truth, my many pieces are on display for you, but I am safe in belonging to myself. In truth, I know that it is not my job to manage your response to my words, my actions. In truth, my energy is reclaimed and I am whole.

When I live in the bright light of truth, I am free. 

My lies were inconspicuous. They were quiet lies, white lies. They weren’t lies as much as they were omissions of depth. They were born in the moment that followed my impulse to cover my tracks, dim my shine. They grew out of the desire to be loved and feeling unsure of whether or not I deserved it.

My lies were quiet lies. They spread beneath me as I walked, qualifying my understanding of my own goodness. Was I good with the lie? Was I good enough?

My lies were lies of contorting the truth. Doling it out to myself piece by piece, because I assumed that I wasn’t strong enough to love all of myself – just as I assumed that you might not love me, if you saw all of me.

In my heart of hearts, I want to unburden us of the need to lie to one another.

Ferocious truthThese quiet lies are eating us alive. They writhe their way into our relationship with ourselves, with others. They promise to be the answer to our deepest longing for love. They promise to light the way.

But, these lies are not our saviors. The relationships that they allow are cultivated in uneven earth. Instead of the love that they promise, they breed our loneliness. These lies stack up upon one another, building walls between us and everyone else.

These lies reinforce the ultimate lie: That there is something wrong with you. That you can’t be honest and be loved. That you are unlovable. 

It can feel risky, telling the truth. It can challenge all of our notions of belonging. It can trigger every single feeling that we might have, every memory tucked deep in our flesh about what it means to belong and what it means to be cast out.

I have been cast out. I do not want to be cast out again.

But, I will not live a lie, for your love.

I will not cut myself up into little pieces, so that I am easily palatable. I will not quiet myself in order to make you feel more comfortable. I have been doing that for far too long.

The truth is, your goodness is inherent. There is nothing here for you to prove.

Your worth is not hinged on anything you do.

But, unless you allow others to truly see you, you will never feel the warmth of that inherent goodness, the warmth of your worth reflected back at you in a look of love. Unless you allow others to see you as you are, in your truth, you will never have the opportunity to be loved as you are.

You will never have an opportunity to love yourself, as you are.

ferocious truthYes, there will be those who see you in your truth and do not like you. But, there is a perfection in that, a whittling down. An honesty. We are not for everyone. That is ok.

You must teach yourself to tolerate their reactions to you. Your job is to show up in your truth, in your messy, human vulnerability. Your job is to do the best that you can with the tools that you have on hand. Your job is not to micromanage how others react to you.

Honoring your truth about belonging to yourself. Trusting that it is safe to speak your truth no matter what is an act of belonging to yourself. When you speak your truth you are claiming sovereignty of your life. This is what occurs when you trust yourself to speak your truth and belong. When you speak to yourself honestly about who you are and what you need. When you allow others to witness you as you.

Belonging to yourself is permanent, grounding, even if your membership to others circles feels tenuous or uncertain.

But, unless you are speaking your truth, you will never belong to yourself. 

This is the essential piece, the beginning piece. This is the piece that you can practice, even if it is only in the safe space of your own mind. Start with one truth. And then another.

There is space for all of you here, if you allow it.

Want to share your ferocious truths?

I will be playing with truth through the New Moon, April 18th, on Instagram with the hashtag #ferocioustruth. Join me. 

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For Those Who Are Lying in Wait

March 02, 2015

Deep beneath the crust of earth and ice, I am lying in wait.

Contrary to popular belief, lying in wait is an active process. It is different than the indifference of lethargy. It is different than the directionless energy of telling myself I should be grateful for whatever comes my way.

Concealing myself and readying myself to attack by surprise, gestating the possibility of a new incarnation of myself.

When I am lying in wait, I am readying myself for the next beginning. I am active in hold my reasons for sprouting in a faith. Faith that that breaking through to the surface will be worth the effort. Faith that there are revisions of becoming that are greater than myself in this moment. Faith that the Spring will come, the rain will fall.

Faith that my environment is stacked for my survival, that my becoming is supported by something greater than myself. 



There were so many years of waiting. So many years where I held my breath, waiting to be better, thinner, smarter, prettier, easier to love. There were so many years when my entire focus lent itself to shaving off essential components of my identity so that I might become more easily palatable.

In those years I told myself daily – you are undeserving of the life you want. It will come for you when you’ve put in your time, when you’ve made the necessary adaptations. When you’ve cracked the code. When the epiphany arrived and you were suddenly able to be polite or don your white gloves with elegance.

When you stopped falling up the stairs. Or spilling coffee on your favorite white scarf. Or speaking out of turn because you just can’t keep yourself quiet a single second longer. When you easily slide into a size six. Or write the book without shedding a tear or sweating anxiously when you feel the overwhelming urge to scroll through your Facebook feed instead.

You will deserve the life you want when you’ve perfected yourself. 

But years later I know that this life isn’t made for perfection. It is made for surrender, the continued act of softening to what is. Softening to what you love. Softening to the fact that you can be made for it and it can be hard, and that is ok.

I am the woman who falls up the stairs, tripping over here feet because talking and walking is too much to keep track of most of the time.

I am the woman who sobs through every new iteration, stomping my boots as I struggle to keep up with myself.

I am the messiness of coffee spilled on precious fabric and the mastermind behind enormous projects launched to great success.

I am not particularly graceful. But, I am recognizable to myself.



Sometimes, sprouting occurs even in the most inhospitable environments. 

I was born on March 8th and my father reports that there were crocuses at his feet.

Today, it is March 2nd and I know that there are crocuses below the crust of snow and ice that are emboldening themselves to sprout despite the desperate cold and legacy of a Winter that will not end.



We know the adage, the only way forward is through.

And yet, we resist the “through.” We cue up season after season on Netflix. We pour ourselves another drink. We yell at someone. We get upset about nothing in particular. We eat a bag of potato chips.

We do our best to remain directionless, so that we might avoid the pain that we believe that transformation requires.

But, what if you weren’t afraid of the depth of your emotions?

What if blooming wasn’t a question – but a soul imperative?

What if you took a deep breath and decided that you weren’t willing to wait anymore?


Here we are.

Lying in wait.

in full bloomSometimes, sprouting occurs even when the only person who believes in us… is us. 

There is no one better to judge our genetic make-up or the depth that we are willing to go. There is no one to see the fiery insides of our spirits. We are privy to our own inner fortitude. We, alone, know the full range of what we are capable of. 

But, the trick here is to allow ourselves the process of becoming prematurely. Like the crocuses we may bloom impossibly early. We may submit ourselves to the truth that Winter is not, in fact, over. We may curl back up, licking our wounds and cursing ourselves for jumping the process. 

Sometimes, we sprout for sprouting’s sake. 

Because it feels good to bloom. Because it feels good to break through the ice and dredge of self-imposed boundaries, for no reason other than to feel something different than the soft, dark coil of waiting to be ready. 

Because you alone know what you are capable of. 

Because you want more for yourself and you aren’t willing to put your life on hold any longer.



Everywhere around me, I see women cracking through ice, blooming like crocuses in the Spring.

I asked my tribe about blooming so that I might share it with you. I asked them to crawl inside their why so that I might bring their brilliance to light here.

In their words…

…I am fertile ground ready to accept and nurture the seeds of the enchanted garden that resides within this vessel of my soul. I am in full bloom when I can erupt from my solitary beauty sleep, enriched with the wisdom from generations before and the tending of my soil with nutrients of the goddesses that surround me today, preening me for the day when I am ready to meet the sun with unfurled petals of my own unique glorious colors for the world to view in awe.

…Being in full bloom is about honoring all parts of the process: the deep grounding, in the dark silence, the blooming, the reaping, the celebration. In full bloom is about balance, which can only come when I can recognize my own responses to this process.

…It is the feeling of a Gardner who is enjoying the fruits of her labor, seeing the impact she has made, feeling full of pride. But also – knowing that it took a lot of “dirty work,” persistence, and a whole lot of faith.

…For me, it is allowing and honoring the harvest, the enfolding, the blossoming and the becoming through trust and delight. It is about letting go and letting flow and staying out of my own way.

…I is about honoring the rhythm inherent in life. No longer denying the impact of the natural world on my own internal landscape but instead, claiming it, leaning into it, knowing it and myself deeply so that I may show up as the person I believe myself to be. I bloom when I stop resisting what is already contained within my cells and allow myself to be cradled in my own truth.

…Being in full bloom represents stepping into my own unique journey as a woman. Giving myself space to breathe, be, awaken, restore, connect and express who I was created to be.

….It is where I gain solid footing on uneven ground. It is where I nurture my curiosity and trust while honoring who I am in this moment.

In my words…

I bloom when I claim this space as sovereign territory, sacred land, and tend to myself with a deep sense of reverence.

I bloom in truth and messiness.

I bloom when I am ready, but my readiness is in the tug of my own evolutionary path – not the illusion of doing it all perfectly.

I bloom in specificity.

My blooming is an active process. 

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Yes, You Can Have That (Finding My Way Home to My Spirit)

February 24, 2015

For far too long we have been seduced into walking a path that did not lead us to ourselves. For far too long we have said yes when we wanted to say no. And for far too long we have said no when we desperately wanted to say yes. . . .

When we don’t listen to our intuition, we abandon our souls. And we abandon our souls because we are afraid if we don’t, others will abandon us.

{Terry Tempest Williams}

“Ma’am, this computer is going to take at least $500 to fix.”

I hadn’t been expecting to buy a computer this month. I certainly hadn’t been expecting to buy two computers this month.

I bought the first computer in a panic, rushing under the crunch of the storm. I was working with a sales person who’s name was Lewis. I told him what I needed out of a computer, which, admittedly is quite a bit since I run my entire business from it. He told me the one that would be the best fit. He told me the price. I felt the rising tide of panic in my stomach.

I couldn’t possibly spend that much on myself. There has to be another way. Maybe I should just fix the broken computer, surely an exploding battery and protruding trackpad aren’t that bad. Maybe I should just use C’s computer when she’s not looking. 

That sinking feeling of taking too much space. Of asking for too much.

On the one side there is affording it, but where I really get caught up isn’t in affording it – it is in believing that I deserve to have whatever it is.

The thing about this story is that it concerns a big ticket, luxury item, but I experience these feelings almost equally when considering a $10 purchase.

It is not about the money. It is about allowing myself to have the things that I want. 

A note: I struck out “need” there and replaced it with want. Because, when we tell ourselves we can only have something if we truly need it… it leaves out the whole slew of things that we want just because they light us up – experiences, people, things. I didn’t not “need” a brand new computer. I wanted it. It is important for me to claim that. 

I said, “Well that’s just WAY out of my price range.”

Lewis kindly directed me over to another computer, a replica of my old one, and told me that this computer would do everything that my old computer did and it was in my price range because they were phasing it out. It would be a little slower. At some point they might not be making software for it. But, for the next couple of years, it would be a pretty good fit.

I bought it.

We drove home (in a blizzard).

When I got home, I didn’t want to take it out of the box. I didn’t want to set it up. I left it in the corner, picking up my old computer and engaging in the fragile dance of using the lower right hand portion that wasn’t jutting up at an odd angle.

Here’s my truth: I ignored my intuition in the moment of buying that computer. Instead of allowing myself to stand in my truth and power, I curled up in the safety of the low cost, even when I knew that the dreams that I have for this business and for this work would have been better served by the more expensive computer. I couldn’t allow myself to have it. I told myself the old story, we just don’t have money for things like that. The story that I had been telling myself since childhood. I said no when I desperately wanted to say yes.

I had abandoned myself in the process. Wanting to be good, wanting to do it correctly, wanting to belong to my family of origin.

I told myself that if I let myself have what I really wanted, I would become some sort of outsider.

Give yourself permission to have whatSo, I sat down and ordered a second computer to replace the one in the box I wouldn’t open. I bought the second computer sitting on my couch with my excitement and reservations. I bought the second computer while telling myself that there was enough room for all of myself in my own life.

That is the computer that I am writing to you from today.

Here’s the interesting piece. I feel nauseous even thinking about telling you this story. What will they think of me? How totally obnoxious and elitist that I ordered not one but two computers. Ugh. This whole thing is disgusting. 

It’s true. My privilege is showing in this piece. I own that.

But, I wanted to share this story because this is a process that so many of us encounter daily in different ways. 

We twist ourselves into knots about giving ourselves the things that we require – the things that we know that we need to do the work that we are here to do. We deny ourselves proper self-care, nutrition, and time. We refuse to invest even our own energy into our bigness.

We say no to ourselves more often than we say yes.

In the process we are starving our own inner lights instead of stoking the fires of our spirits.

And why? So that someone, somewhere will think that we are good? So that we can belong? So that we can make other people comfortable by keeping ourselves small? Because we believe that it is virtuous to say no?

The truth is that my spirit doesn’t require a fancy new laptop. My spirit doesn’t care a thing about laptops.

But, my spirit is here for this work. My spirit shines brightly, vibrating excited energy through my skin when I use this tool to show up in this space, creating tools and courses that are healing for women. My spirit is here for this work – and this work is served by this laptop.

My spirit shows up in the exact moment when I start saying yes to myself instead of no.

Yes, you may take this hour to create something beautiful. 

Yes, you can have that. You can have this life that you have created. You can receive the abundance that you tenderly cultivated. 

Yes, you can have that.

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The Loophole, Self-Trust & The Story of A Tattoo

February 16, 2015

Even the most repressed woman has a secret life, with secret thoughts and secret feelings which are lush and wild., that is, natural. Even the most captured woman guards the place of the wildish self, for she knows intuitively that someday there will be a loophole, an aperture, a chance, and she will hightail it to escape. 

{Clarissa Pinkola Estés}

When I was a child, I would dream of brief cases, commutes, and travel coffee mugs. I would find myself whipped up into a lather contemplating 401Ks and benefits. I was the kind of child that dreamed of a stable income and a 9 to 5 job.

Because a stable income and health insurance meant safety, and, above all else, I wanted to be safe. I wanted to build a life that I could trust in – a life where there weren’t many surprises and I felt delightfully competent.

I dreamed of the simplicity and ease of it all. Someone else to tell me what to do – and me, doing what I was told well enough that I rose through the ranks of my dream organization.

And so, I put one foot in front of the other, working my way through my undergraduate and graduate degrees, readying myself for the day when I would suddenly understand business casual clothing, possess the right footwear, and begin.


It was 6 am and I was in a hotel in Vermont in January. As I woke up, my eyes were scratchy, swollen from having cried all night long the night prior as evidenced by the mountain of tissues on my bedside table.

The conversation:

I can’t keep doing this.

I can’t keep doing this, either.

Mara, if this was the last year of your life, what would you do with it?

I wouldn’t become a social worker. I would start my own business

And there it was, the truth that I couldn’t avoid any longer.

After two years, accumulating over one hundred thousand dollars of debt, and being told, repeatedly, that I would need to shut down my website and my online identity if I was ever going to be a respectable therapist… I made the decision not to become a respectable therapist.



I felt the day weighing on me, as I trudged around Portland in the heat. Must attend the conference. You paid for the conference. My heart beat out the old good-girl story: finish what you’ve started, do the right thing – even when it comes at a cost to you. Steadiness over whimsical. Be reliable.

IMG_6272But in that moment it occurred to me that if I didn’t get the tattoo I had been dreaming of, right that second, I wouldn’t be able to understand my body – understand my life. That the permission involved in the act was as much a test as anything else.

That I had been accepting no as an answer in so many areas of my life and whittling down my vibrancy. It had been two years since I said goodbye to the life I had always imagined. Two years when I decided to craft a life where I could get a visible tattoo on my arm on a random Saturday afternoon.

Two years and I still felt like I had to ask permission – from my partner, from my mother, from the world around me.

I still felt like that woman who forfeited her freedom.

I felt that old trap of following the path and putting my trust in the way that things had always been done instead of trusting in myself – and in my spirit.

This is not how I want to live. I want to live a spirited life, a wild life. A life of my own. 

So instead of saying No, I said Yes.



“What’s with that hexagon?” The TSA agent asked after he scanned my ticket. “Are you planning on filling it in with something? What are you leaving the space for?”

“It’s the space for the holy spirit, of course. I’m leaving it open.” I laughed. He laughed.

I told people that for a while, when I first got my tattoo. Intrigued that people seemed consumed by filling the space, often stopping me to ask me what my plans were for it.

Why is it in us that makes us want to fill every open space we see?

It’s the space for the spirit, my spirit. It is the reminder of the place where I first felt like a woman, standing solidly within my work, my greatest achievement.

It is the space that I am holding open for myself in my own life – to change my mind, to rewrite the rules, to deeply honor my needs even when it is inconvenient and calls for a dramatic renovation of what I know to be true.

It’s the space for the holy spirit. Mine.

It’s the space to discover myself anew each day. To reclaim my body, my territory. To bloom in my own skin, on my own terms and in my own right timing.

In it’s permanency, I feel safety in my own trust deeper than I’ve ever felt anything before. In it’s solid, thin lines, I see the truth and the healing beneath the fantasy of briefcases and 401Ks. I see the bravery that was required to shed that skin so that I could step into my own.  I see that though I am and have always been hardwired for survival, I can choose to survive on my own terms. Thrive on my own terms.

In it’s permanency, I am reminded of how I want to live.

A spirited life with room for messiness and renegotiation. 

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