Tag Archives: women

The 5 Elements of the Cuban Spirit

By Chen Lizra, who will be presenting The Power of the Cuban Spirit on May 19 – 24, 2017 at Hollyhock.

In today’s world we are seeing crumbling values and a loss of our core as human beings. As we look around, many world leaders, but not all, don’t set a good example anymore. They have stopped being role models we care to live up to. The problem is that seeing and feeling this change causes many to lose hope. We need hope to be happy and to feel a certain magic. Life is meant to be lived with a little ‘je ne sais quoi.’

On top of this, we chase careers, fulfillment, owning a house, cars, raising kids and giving them a comfortable future, we want more and more, but with that more comes a sacrifice. We get addicted to the race, to the stress, to doing without knowing anymore how to stop. Does it really make us happy? Are we really satisfied with life? Do we know how to really enjoy the journey and not just the end goal?

I’ve been traveling back and forth forImage result for chen lizra work to Cuba since 2005. Cuba
is a country that did not follow society’s trajectory, model of the Western World and capitalism. As such it became a case study and a human laboratory for alternative living, connecting and enjoying life. When visiting Cuba there is a certain magic you feel that can’t be explained. And it’s not just because you are on a holiday.

So what is this magic? What are its components? And can they be learned and can work anywhere?

Continue reading The 5 Elements of the Cuban Spirit

Africa’s First Fair-Trade Clothing Company

By Brooke Spencer
Original story by Holly Richmond via Grist
Photo by hdptcar, Flickr Creative Commons

A man named Chid Liberty would one day make history as the co-founder of Africa’s first fair- trade clothing company which would not only empower women but also make beautiful clothes.

Chid grew up in Germany and the United States but also had a personal connection to Liberia (his father was born there.) When Chid’s  father passed away when he was eighteen, he had the idea to go back to Liberia, as he was interested in social change. It upset him to learn about the people’s living conditions so he decided to utilize his economic background and create opportunities for women in the fashion. It was a field that he had little knowledge about but knew the women would have sewing skills.

The company, Liberty and Justice was founded by Chid Liberty and his co-founder Adam Butlein. In 2010 Liberty started hiring women to be seamstresses in his clothing factories. He was also known to hire what were considered “older women” (past their twenties) to the dismay of his trainer who did not take kindly to the idea. Most women in factories (like in China) were below the age of twenty-five, working at an Olympic speed to produce mass quantities. However, Liberty, green to business, started hiring women in their thirties, forties and fifties. Despite the negative reaction from Liberty’s advisor, he wanted to use the workforce he had and inspire a positive work environment.

The formation of the company was a little rocky. Chid had trouble finding investors and struggled having little knowledge of the industry. It took some time to create trust and bonds between himself and the investors but eventually he found people to back the company. Hiring a capable consultant taught them how to work efficiently and change what wasn’t working. They produce brands Prana, FEED projects, Hagaar, and have support from big buyers in the United States.  Today, over ninety percent of the employees are women, who are paid an average of twenty percent more than their peers. The employees collectively own a forty-nine percent stake in the company while the rest is put back into funds for the community. The company proves to be very successful and is still growing.

Often children in Liberia don’t go to school (about sixty percent do not); however, ninety-eight percent of the children whose moms work at Liberty and Justice factories attend school. The women also show up early for work in order to pray and sing together. Liberty has worked hard to create a work environment in which that the women appreciate and enjoy.

What started off small  has turned into a thriving company well-worth supporting. Liberty’s father, an African socialist would be very proud of his achievements.

Check out the Liberty and Justice website to learn more about the company.


by Nancy Mortifee

I can still hear my teacher’s voice from across the room…

“The trouble with you, Nancy, is you aren’t sick enough of this behavior to change it. That’s why you’re stuck.”

“Are you serious?” I think to myself, “What are you talking about? Of course I’m sick of it. Look at how I am suffering.”

I’m indignant, defiant and scared. “Take a breath, girl,” I hear another voice say (this one inside my head) “let’s think about this for a sec.” As if watching an old movie, I recall the many other times I brought this same issue into the “circle” and here I am again. My defiance began to melt and it donned on me that I could actually make another choice. Thus began my journey to understanding what it really means to be ready to change.

In my heart I knew that I had made many beneficial changes in my life, shifts that came out of a deep commitment to awakening. Every day I realized the benefit of my personal shadow work. And still, I pulled in my teacher’s words, that before I could affectively change my core defense patterning, I needed to do more than simply be tired of it; I had to be absolutely sick of it. I mean really, really, sick to death of it.

We have all heard Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, ““Doing the same thing, over and over again, expecting different results.” What I’m talking about here are those most challenging, intractable patterns that over and over again, directly compromise our intimate lives, with ourselves and others.

My friends who have committed to the AA twelve step program, say in order to actually STOP drinking, gambling, over eating, shopping, or whatever, a person needs to hit “rock bottom”. “Bottoming out” might mean you’ve been arrested, lost your job or an intimate relationship, such as your spouse or your kids. Or maybe it comes from doing something that’s just SO embarrassing you can’t live another day with your behavior.

It’s easier to get this when you consider the more dramatic behaviors and certainly some unhealthy patterns are more obviously dangerous than others. But what about behaviors that are subtle, less obvious to others, or are easy to deny in ourselves?

One of my most debilitating defence patterns has been self-abandonment. I have wrestled with this pattern my whole life and the truth is, hardly a day goes by without my “abandoner” showing up. For years, my self abandonment was easy to deny, because it showed up in disguises that society admires. To the external world, the self abandoner may appear selfless, accommodating, easy going or flexible; a really nice person who puts others first. Hmmm… some of that sounds okay.

However, the self-abandoner can also be spineless, afraid of looking bad, wishy-washy and ultimately full of anger and resentment. Left uncared for and uncontained, the self abandoner undermines all intimacy with self and others.

For me, my “bottoming out” was my last divorce and the recognition of the wounding that my dysfunctional relationships had caused my daughters. It was clear that I had only an imaginary sense of self. My, how I suffered, until I finally realized that I was sick enough of this particular behavior pattern to take it on in a serious way.

“So how do you know when you are sick enough”, that’s what my clients often ask. My answer is this: When you get to the point where the pain of holding onto the pattern is greater than the pain of letting it go, you know you’re on the right track.

In my case, I have historically attracted similar painful experiences into my life over and over again, before I have finally got the message. It’s as though the volume increases with each subsequent hit until I eventually reach my denial threshold and finally choose surrender over defiance. Does this sound at all familiar?

Now, it may seem simple, in that it defies logic to hold on to a behavior that hurts us and yet, sadly, applying logic to childish patterning only serves to fuel self judgment. Any fool would know that not speaking up in a dangerous situation leads to hurt and injury, right? But the “fool” in this case is just a scared child who is hungry for someone to look after her, and that someone is me.

So what can we do when we know “enough is enough, already!” Well, the only strategy that has worked for me is to reach out for help. Perhaps there are those rare individuals who can take it on solo, I just don’t know any of them. Friends and family can be huge supporters and yet, sometimes they can unconsciously collude with us, which really isn’t any help at all, in fact often makes it worse.

For me it requires intention, then commitment, follow-though and accountability. It takes a willingness to be vulnerable and to allow my fear, rather than continuing to be defended and defiant.

As you know, I am a big fan of group process; I love the magic that a group brings to the circle and to each individual in it. Bringing the “same old” issue to a gathering of women can help us move through the barriers much faster than letting it stew and keeping us awake at night. Those of you who have been in my women’s groups know how mysteriously the common themes emerge and how magically the work of other women helps us with our own.

If you’re on the fence about exploring this kind of personal work, I invite you to listen to your heart and your belly. If you hear a voice that says, “Alright, enough already!” I’d take it as a good sign to take the leap.

Nancy Mortifee
Nancy Mortifee

Nancy Mortifee is an educator, author and workshop facilitator specializing in women, couples and groups. Through Mortifee Training, she shares her eclectic practice, embracing elements of emotional body work, cognitive based therapies and gestalt. “Through sensitive and gentle exploration I help women chip away at some of the defense patterns and life limiting attitudes that keep them from fully expressing who they are.”


Fuel Passion and Creativity

by Nancy Mortifee

Mindfulness and Intimacy for Women

Connecting deeply with self and others

How do we cultivate and sustain fulfilling intimate relationships? True intimacy with another begins with caring for one’s self, something many of us lose sight of when we’re busy parenting children, building our careers, engaging in new romance or dealing with divorce, grief or loss. Mindfulness practice offers us the opportunity for deep listening.. “Who am I and what do I want?”. Intimacy training gives us tools to reclaim self and build a greater capacity for relationship.

In the context of confidential circles in a retreat setting, my work is to guide women who are exploring issues that challenge us to stay present and fulfilled in our ever changing lives. Through personal one-on-one sessions, group processes and periods of personal reflection, participants learn effective techniques for cleanly expressing and receiving authentic emotions without blame or judgment. Emotional expression is fuel for our passion and creativity when we rediscover the joy of being fully present, whether we’re feeling excitement, anger, joy, fear or sadness.

Body awareness meditation, voice, movement and storytelling are valuable techniques that affirm our spiritual nature, allowing connection to a deeper knowing. From this place we can awaken to our unconscious patterning, learn to let go of behaviors that no longer serve us and cultivate a more intimate life.

I invite you to explore my site to learn more about the work I do, both through residential retreats and personal or couple sessions. In 2013 there are exciting opportunities for us to work together on the beautiful island of Cortes at Hollyhock, in the majestic B.C. Kootenays at Johnson’s Landing, and new for 2013, the stunning cliffs of Big Sur at Esalen Institute.

with love and gratitude,



Deepa Narayan has a PhD in Human Development, specializing in cross-cultural psychology. She has 30 years experience in research and facilitating workshops around the world to empower women, men and youth.   She now focuses on more intimate circles. She has won many leadership awards and published over 15 books on empowerment of self and poverty.





Nancy Mortifee is an educator, author and workshop facilitator specializing in women, couples and groups. Through Mortifee Training, she shares her eclectic practice, embracing elements of emotional body work, cognitive based therapies and gestalt.  “Through sensitive and gentle exploration I help women chip away at some of the defense patterns and life limiting attitudes that keep them from fully expressing who they are.” mortifeetraining.com



Join Nancy and Deepa for their program, Mindfulness and Intimacy for Women, at Hollyhock on Cortes, July 26 – 31, 2013

Mutiny In Mali

by Lisl Dennis


In recent months, BBC World News and New York Times coverage has triggered dark memories of a challenging place I’m not likely to return to. West African Mali, with its ongoing fundamentalist factions and frictions, was the exotic context for my own personal leadership meltdown. This experience, in which I was a most venerable, yet vulnerable, international photo-tour leader, instigated a seismic shift in my intentionality around my worldwide cultural and decorative arts photography career.

In fact, it was my mis-adventure in Mali that gave rise to STORYSHARDS: Archaeology for Your Life. My meltdown in Mali cut a swath through my ego, and refined my leadership skills on and off location. The experience transformed my photography into broader more useful realms of Engaged Creativity. Which is to say, I have transcended the need for every little picture I take to be images all about me, myself and I. (This theme will be developed soon in Engaged Creativity: Tea & Empathy.)


Actually, I loved Mali, mostly: the mud Mosque at Djenne; the majestic gold-bedecked women in divine damask boubous and poofy headgear; the palpable ubiquitous spirits; the buzzy markets with their jolly printed textiles and Mudcloth; the muezzins sounding off far and wide; the Niger River at dawn and dusk; the vastness of the Sahel. But the dark side of adventure travel in deep Africa cast a spell on the photo-tour I was leading. Blindsided by the fears and vulnerabilities collective within the group, spooks and inefficiencies sabotaged our trip. Putting in to the Niger at the now now desecrated Timbuktu, with its renown Arab Library empty and a shambles, we embarked on the two-week trip – all hell and high water.


My amulet of self-protective gris-gris was not potent enough to protect me from my own hubris and naiveté. The group, I assumed, should be just hunky-dory roughing it, night after night, on the Niger River. Thrilled to be open to adventure – to the unexpected in this most discomfiting context and culture. The itinerary went way-off and group dynamics sadly awry due to miscalculations of times and tides on the Niger, resulting in a poison dart throwing amidst mutinous group members. As the creative panjandrum of the trip, I became the principle target. The whole saga Heartbreak Hotel can be read in on my StoryLines blog page

STORYSHARDS is a visually contextualized retreat that honors your personal story and the creative re-purposing of your life. The program is carried uniquely by a sequencing of multimedia vignettes that follow a narrative-arc familiar to many. Akin to an archaeological dig, with its creatively constructive imagery drawn from diverse cultures and contexts, the program’s visual segments include evocative transporting music. The program’s unique structure opens to mutuality in group conversation around the various ups and downs of our lives. They are the ground for your Story Forward.


Most of us have been fired in life, somewhere along the way. Perhaps we still carry a sense of vulnerability around this. An engaging well-received segment in STORYSHARDS retreats is my Malian meltdown with its exotic archetypal characterizations, bizarre details, and humor I can now bring to the episode. Most important, it’s a creative and imaginal context in which to honor lessons learned, and to consider the role of honest vulnerability increasingly thought to be foundational to modern day leadership.

Women, especially, are speaking of their ability to acknowledge and take ownership of past leadership goof-ups. Re-imagining our disposition to the global whole is integral to the new systems awareness and evolving in to shared leadership models.

Considering leadership anew, in her book IRON BUTTERFLIES – Women Transforming Themselves and the World (Prometheus Books, 2010) Executive and Life Coach Birute Regine, EdD writes of vulnerability as a dynamic and requisite aspect of leadership’s new frontier: “When we can accept vulnerability in ourselves and others, we level the playing field. We are all vulnerable; it is our shared humanity. If you’re not connected to your vulnerability, you believe you don’t need anyone, and that you can just give orders. But when people are connected to their vulnerability, they are more willing to cooperate and collaborate. In this way, vulnerability actually helps create conditions for a more cooperative society.”


With not much of a cooperative society in the midst of my Malian mis-adventure, I felt like the Scottish explorer Mungo Park as fictitiously depicted in T. Coraghessan Boyle’s wondrous historical adventure Water Music (Penguin Books, 1981). In 1806, coming to hell and high water, the Scottish explorer, sponsored by the Royal Geographic Society, discovered the source of the Niger River, and met his dreary demise. As Boyle portrays it, towards the close of his second expedition, he was a near-goner on the banks of the Niger – definitely cooked. Over a bush-meal of flash-fried jackal paw-pads, his stupefied guide queries him:
“So tell me, Mr. Park, if I ain’t gettin’ too personal, Just what is it you see in this explorin’ business anyhow? I mean you have been starved and abused; sick with the ague and the fever; your clothes is in rags; half your goods is gone; and your horse is layin’ over there…”


I was unseated, as well, fried and a near-goner as I waved-off my dazed and disaffected group. At the Bamako airport, a supportive member of the group stated to me point blank: The Vessel is Broken. Picking up the pieces over time, and by taking responsibility for the shards scattered in Malian sands, my creative intentions re-formed resiliently with unexpected new directions and capacities, giving rise to STORYSHARDS: Archaeology for Your Life.

The news media these days makes me wonder whether the Animist Dogon are still dancing the night away. When we were there, my mutinous group sat in wonky plastic chairs on the sidelines. I jumped in with the Dogon dancing with abandon around a humongous bonfire sparking high into a whirling African galaxy. Today, though remote in the Bandiagara Escarpment, tucked in to in their stone aged thatched hatted villages, the Dogon are not immune to the current troubles. As if adventure tourism hasn’t had an impact over the years, now the Tuaregs and other groups are seeking refuge and attracting attention to the remote region, compromising the Dogon’s lifestyle and creative minority culture.

Here’s a video of a Dogon Mask Dance I filmed when I was there. I’ve just interwoven strong graphic images of Mudcloth throughout the video ceremony, which can be viewed on the StoryShards Youtube Channel


In the last year or so, dreadful abuses by Al Qaeda look-a-likes have been afflicted upon the generally peaceful and culturally inclusive Malians. Striving to protect the Malians from growing factions without and within, French troops have been policing the country’s porous desert borders, striving to quell sand-grown cells. French President Francois Hollande visited the troops last February. Their boots were ripping and melting in the hot rugged terrain.

Reminding me of my own Malian meltdown, is the sorry tale of a camel gifted to President Hollande. He could not get the beautiful animal back to France in a timely fashion, presumably to enjoy Parisian life in the gorgeous Menagerie Jardin des Plantes. I really empathize with the camel’s demise: Left behind as a prime beast, culinary Malians ceremonially cooked it up for dinner. A newly chosen camel is alleged to be on its way to Paris.

For more of Lisl’s Story Lines, see the liberally illustrated StoryShards.info

LislDennis-2Lisl Dennis’ career as a worldwide travel and decorative arts photographer, travel writer, television host and international tour leader has garnered a rich spectrum of images, impressions and experiences from a diversity of cultures. storyshards.info