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Creativity catalyst Julie Daley hosts 'A Woman's Belly' retreat in West Marin

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Julie Daley is a Bay-Area based teacher, writer, and creativity coach. For the past decade she has been a professional catalyst for facilitating the creative force in her clients. Julie offers her expertise through individual coaching and group retreats. Her upcoming one-day retreat on January 25 is called 'A Woman's Belly: Source of Health, Strength, and Creativity'. Participants will gather in West Marin, California to join Daley and Simone de Winter, a Certified Ayurvedic Specialist, for a full day of renewal. Daley shares more about the benefits of attending the retreat in the following Q&A.

What is "A Woman's Belly" about and how did you come to develop this retreat?

A woman’s belly is the source of her creativity, and at the same time so many women are disconnected from this part of our bodies. If we are to know the power of our feminine creativity as a source of birthing a truly new way of life, then we must come to know this part of our body, not only physically with good health and care, but also spiritually and emotionally.

Belly is the area from the ribcage down to the pelvis. So a woman’s belly is both her digestive system as well as her womb. During our day together, we will be working with a woman’s entire belly.

Simone de Winter, who will be co-leading this retreat with me, initially came up with the idea of working with the belly.

From Simone, “My work, Ayurveda, is a lot about the belly... digestive health as the foundation for overall health, and women's health. I was interested in offering a women's retreat with Julie, because we were developing a friendship, and I like how she is carving out a piece in the world of woman’s power in a soft, receptive, and feminine way. So I immediately thought of the belly. It is where our work comes together.”

Who are the ideal participants for this event and what is your vision for what you want them to benefit from attending the retreat?

Really, any woman who is interested in the health, strength, and creativity of her belly will gain a great deal from attending the retreat. Any woman who wants to hear and trust her intuition and creativity will benefit from our day together.

The core of our work together at this retreat will be on deepening the relationship between a woman and her body – specifically the belly area. For many women, this relationship is very undeveloped. By relationship, I mean a conscious, loving relationship where we listen to the body and what it needs and desires. The body does have needs and desires, and most of us simply bypass these and instead make choices from our minds about what we think we want versus what the body needs. Choices made this way tend to cause us to eat and do things that do not contribute to our physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

In addition, we will also explore what it means to be creative, and the connection between the womb and sacred creativity. Today, when it seems as though the world is in so much flux, women’s creativity is desperately needed to help bring a new way of being into the world.

So, ultimately, I hope she comes away with a deeper, more loving, honoring, and respectful relationship with her body and belly, as well as an experience of what it feels like to express creativity by way of the sacredness of her belly.

Are there any particular exercises or lessons that will be part of the program which are unique and if so, how did you determine what kind of content to include throughout the day long excursion?

Simone and I have worked to bridge our two distinct areas of expertise into an experience of what it means to embody a woman’s power in this soft, receptive, and feminine way. There aren’t many models out there in our culture that illustrate what this looks like. We don’t have a lot of role models. During our time together, we’ll all learn from each other as we weave these two areas – Ayurvedic and yogic practice, with experiential knowing of the creative power held in our female bodies.

In Simone’s words, she will be offering “a five element visualization/meditation that connects the individual to the greater natural world to create the understanding, on an experiential level, that we are the same as our environment, that the laws of nature apply to us humans/women as well. This will be both lecture and experiential.

I will be sharing some of what I teach regularly on Creativity, which originally came from Stanford Business School, as well as fairly new material that explores experientially what it is to create consciously from the womb. I’m exploring this myself, so it is something that is keenly alive for me personally, too.

This day has come together very much in the same way that we’ll be teaching – intuitively, through the knowing and wisdom that the belly holds.

How does the Ayurveda and yoga blend together to offer women the experience of cultivating a self-care/self-nourishing practice in their life?

I asked Simone to speak to this question, since this is her area of expertise. “Ayurveda offers the lifestyle, dietary and herbal support. Yoga is often part of the lifestyle support, which can be in the form of breathing exercises (pranayama), meditation, chanting, mantra, movement and postures. Yoga offers a path to self-realization, freedom from the constraints of the mind. We all know about the role of the mind in health and self-care. And in this pursuit, if practiced in the right way, it can be very disarming for the nervous system. Another beautiful way in which they come together is in the understanding of the subtle body, where the chakras are found. In working with a woman's belly we work with the second chakra, the creativity center.”

Could you elaborate on the particular important of the belly and it's role in women's lives apart from the obvious (pregnancy, childbirth)? What was your thinking behind paying special attention to the significance of the belly?

I’ve been exploring creativity as a path to knowing and expressing one’s true nature in the world now for over eleven years. It’s what I teach, and it’s how I coach. Tied with that, is my exploration of what it is to be a woman, and to be awake in a woman’s body. If we are to really be happy in the world, and to live our nature, then we must come into an alive and loving, compassionate relationship with our bodies. For women, this has many difficulties because we’ve been taught to objectify ourselves – to see our bodies as objects, and to relate to them that way. Instead, when we come to experience our bodies as beautiful alive creatures, not objects at all, by listening deeply to them, we begin to express what it is they offer into a world that, I feel, is truly thirsty for the alive, creative expression of awakened womanhood.

We women give birth to many things, not just babies. When we become conscious of this, and when we rediscover how to listen and honor what the womb can bring forth, we begin to live this very natural capacity of womanhood.

The womb also signifies creation in general not just creation of life. Even after a woman is no longer fertile how can the creative energies still be accessed by connecting with the belly?

This is what we will be exploring during the retreat. It’s a matter of listening, honoring, and trusting, and then expressing these energies. In all honesty, we are rediscovering this. After so many centuries of women being disconnected from the creative capacities of the female body, at least in most of the industrialized world, we are coming to realize just how crucial it is that we embody these capacities –that we live them.

A woman’s womb is a mirror image of the womb of creation. The Universe is within her. That is why a woman reconnecting with her creative capacities is so powerful.

Describe to me what you mean by unabashedly female?

To be something unabashedly means to be so without shame or apology, and to be boldly certain of that something within oneself. Meaning, if I am unabashedly female, I am so without shame or apology, and I can stand as myself knowing with certainty that I am this – a conscious, creative female human being.

On a daily basis, we are bombarded with media messages that attempt to persuade us to believe what that there is some external measurement of what it means to be a woman. My work is to guide women to come to know as experience by way of their own bodies what it is to be female, to be a woman. This means living as you come to know yourself to be, outside of what anyone else might tell you is acceptable or true.

Your work is focused on guiding and supporting women to embrace being women. Why is that important for female well-being to connect with the innate aspects of being female?

We are happiest, healthiest, most successful (whatever that means to each of us), and most powerful when we are simply what we are – without trying to be something we are not. When we let go of trying to be something else (which takes a lot of energy), we are simply what we are. This sounds so simple, but in reality it’s quite a journey. We’ve all found ways to be what others have told us we should be instead of who we naturally are, and coming back home to ourselves means we have to let go of those adopted ideas of what we should be.

Innate aspects are aspects that are our essential nature. We are born with them. Consider for a moment what it takes (how much energy we must expend) to attempt to ‘not’ be what we are, to fight what we are by trying to be something else. Consider what this does to our health, how it affects our well-being. If health and wellness come from being whole and true to oneself, then not being able to embrace our femaleness opens us to what happens when we are at dis-ease with our own nature.

What was your background and career experiences before you created your coaching programs that influenced the kind of business you created?

I spent a number of years in information technology as a programmer/analyst for a financial institution. I loved programming. I found it to be very creative, almost Zen-like. But the part I loved the most, was writing programs that made people’s lives better – easier and more pleasant. I left that work to return to school as a non-traditional undergraduate at Stanford to finish my degree. My degree was in Interaction Design – a blend of Computer Science, digital art, psychology, and communications. Once I finished in 2001, though, I felt something inside that was asking me to go in a whole different direction. I couldn’t ‘hear’ what that direction ways. Instead, I had to trust and leap without knowing, and say no to the known way in order to find the new way. It was a dark night of the soul, stepping into a desert where nothing was known. It was frightening for a while – for quite a while – but I couldn’t stay in the old life. I’m sure many of your readers will recognize this experience.

I can’t say my past career directly influenced what I am doing now. In fact, to come to where I am, I’ve had to shed a lot of habitual thought processes that continued to take me away from the lived experience of being in my body. Over-thinking will do that, and we are all taught to over-think our way through life. The work I am doing now is to undo that, to learn to live consciously and to allow life to come to us.

Do you have any other special events that women can look forward to participating in for 2014?

My online course for women, Becoming a Force of Nature, will be offered again in the springtime. It’s a 24-week deep dive into embodied creativity for women who want to lead, love, and live from within. Women from all over the world can join – the current program has women from four continents. It’s a beautiful internal journey, the one women must take to find and reclaim the parts of ourselves we put away in order to be what others told us we must be. Taken alongside other women, we learn from each other as well. I’ll also be teaching again at Stanford Continuing Studies, so if you’re in the Bay Area, you can join me there on campus.

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