Change-Maker Interview with Jennifer Louden

Originally posted as one of Marianne Elliot’s Change-maker interview series.

The change-maker I’m interviewing today is the woman who is teaching me what true servant leadership looks like, and showing me that real authenticity has survived the bastardisation of it’s name and is alive and well.

Jen Louden is a teacher, author, leader, change-maker and friend to many women (and men) all over the world. She was already talking about the importance of self-care while I was still running myself ragged and calling it ‘professional commitment’. She’s known to many as the queen of self-care, and she recently launched the Savor and Serve experiment:

“I’m so curious about the sweet spot where our longing to be happy meets our desire to make a difference I’m devoting a year to exploring it. [This is] the Savor and Serve experiment.” – Jen Louden

1. What is it that breaks your heart? And what are you doing about it?

Today, everything is breaking my heart. There are days like that. Today is one of them. More specifically, is injustice and ignorance. I want people to have a chance to be happy and I want people who have it all to see what a responsibility that is  (by have it all I mean running water, good food, safety, a livelihood). Fairness, sharing, making it better are my themes. What I’m doing about it right now is stewing.  Honestly, raising questions and being uncomfortable. Not letting myself or my readers off the hook.

2. What fills you with joy?

Today, everything. The feel of my dog’s fur, the way my daughter holds up her hand to ban me from her room, the ache in my back, writing this, the left over taste of salad in my mouth, the longing to know, to do, to create, the rain splattering against the window for the million day in a row, the sight of my Moleskin notebook filled with notes from a mediation retreat, being connected to you, yoga yesterday, really it all gives me such joy.

3. What do you do to take care of yourself and make sure your work is personally sustainable?

Honestly, I am, once again, deeply struggling with this. I seem to – over and over again – come to this place where I am not sustaining myself because I am caught in stories about why I can’t. Now, I must say that on the surface, I look like the poster child for self-care. I make myself healthy veggie based meals, I practice yoga and meditation a lot, exercise, get hugs, take the evenings and lots of weekends off, have a loving partnership, spend time with my kid, read boatloads, etc. I take care of myself financially. I ask for help. I go to therapy.

AND I had to admit to myself this morning I’M DEPLETED. Again. It’s so friggin embarrassing but there it is.  I’m going to have to go let go of a lot of stuff in the next 6 weeks so I can go into this depletion deeply and see what is there. That is the call. I hate that with all my being but there you have it. Breaking news.

4. This blog is a kind of a watering hole for people, like me, who have always been more focused on saving the world than caring for ourselves. What have you learned so far in the Savor + Serve experiment that you think we should know?

See #3. I have learned that depletion is here, it’s real, and there is a way I am colluding with it. I have to speak about that, experiment with that and be of service there. I have learned that you can run but it stays right with you. I have learned that the more of service you want to be, the more you need to deal with who you really are, what your issues are.  It’s just like teaching! The best teachers show up as who they are and they use teaching to see themselves, warts and beauty and in between, and grapple with that lovingly.

I have also learned, already, that service could be a great place to hide from myself, and that arrogance is a horrible possibility. “Look at me, look at all I can do!”  That makes me nauseous to say but it’s true. Self-care makes you humble or it helps when service has humbled you.

5. I learned so much from you and Michele in the TeachNow course last year about serving others by being nourished myself. How does the Savor + Serve experiment inform TeachNow, and vice versa?

I gave birth to TeachNow, and was lucky to have Michele (ed: that’s Michele over on the right) there to partner with and bring her brilliance too, a few weeks after I saw I wanted to work more directly with service, that I wanted to do more direct service, and support people in waking up to service. So it was my first “How I could do this” move. So many of us can serve through teaching, through igniting and sharing, and we have to do in a sustainable, self-loving way or we give up. Especially if we are teaching within a system or we are self-employed. We need support on so many levels.

Marianne, we all just aim to be fully alive and be of use in the world. I know a big part of my service is to bring self-acceptance and unmitigated joy to others. I also know if I’m not experiencing it myself, um, no go. So off do that!

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I did the TeachNow course with Jen and Michele last year and found it to be deeply nourishing, supportive and activating. In Jen’s own words, it’s a course in:

“How to step up and do your world-saving work… even if it scares you real, real bad.”

 

This is what I had to say about the course last year:

“TeachNow was exactly what I needed right now as a teacher, as a student and as a human being. Jen and Michele bring such honesty, generosity, wisdom and clarity to their teaching. Their insights into the wonderful, winding path towards becoming a fully embodied teacher, combined with the practical tools they shared, have nourished me and supported me to take the next steps along my own teaching path. This course was everything I had hoped it would be, and more. Thank you. I’ll be back for more!”

What exactly is the TeachNow program?

We will be talking a lot more about teaching in our next session of TeachNow, which will open for enrollment on March 19th.

Want to see what it’s all about? Join me for a free sampler class on March 19th at 5pm PT/8pm ET. You’ll learn 7 immediately useful teaching tips + get two free guides, including A Quick and Fab Guide to Content Creation – no more content creation overwhelm!

Sign up for the call right here.