This interview series is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do– share the work of my Superfriends with you. Turns out there are so many talented women in our midst! And Tara Mohr is no exception.
I met Tara for the first time when we sat together at Spirit Rock meditation center for a daylong workshop with Rachel Naomi Remen. (We are both huge fans!) I adored Tara immediately and hoped we would intersect again. To my delight, we would continue to weave into each others’ lives in the coming months.
Tara is wise and articulate and someone you want as your teacher. She’s got smarts and soul. And great taste in shoes.
I look forward to taking her course Playing Big sometime soon. (Next session begins in October) If you are wanting to play a bigger game in your life, check it out here. In the meantime, check out her Creative Superheroes interview below!
What is your superpower?
I think we all have many. Here are a few of mine:
Fusing left-brain/linear/logical/organized thinking with the swirling inner world of the heart and spirit.
Calling women into playing bigger.
Dancing with the divine through writing.
What are your obsessions? and how do they make their way into your creative work?
- Putting the heart back at the center – of everything. Using the mind in the service of the heart, rather than putting the mind in charge.
- How women hold themselves back and how we can stop. How women’s long-marginalized voices can bring our world back into balance. How women have gotten cut off from our bodies, how higher education tends to shred women’s confidence to bits, and what we can do about all that.
- Compassion as the natural expression of wisdom.
- Creative expression as a fundamental part of being human – not as something special only for “artists.”
What are the top 5 things you’ve learned so far as a creative entrepreneur?
1. Feed your creativity, give it space, and show up at the blank page/canvas/dance floor every day, and the creative wellspring will never run dry. But you gotta show up, and play around for at least 15 minutes for the waters to start flowing.
2. We are naturally drawn to teaching what we need to learn–not what we are already perfect experts in.
3. I, and most women I know, underestimate our “readiness” for that next bigger step. We are better off if we stop assessing, “Am I ready to….appear on that TV show, write for that publication, give that big speech?” and instead follow our creative impulses and aspirations. Those desires will take us places our egos are sure we aren’t ready for, and we’ll do just fine (actually way better than fine) when we get there.
4. I need a lot of community and allies to sustain my ability to do solo work.
5. The joy has not come from external success milestones -- celebrities loving my work, media appearances, hitting the right numbers, or even heartfelt notes from readers. Always, always, always, the joy comes from the work itself.
Tell us about a time when you had to practice courage.
Going on the The Today Show. Going on LIVE television in front of 2 million people will get your inner critic talkin’. I was flooded — FLOODED — with fear. I was sure the hosts wouldn’t get my work and they’d be critical of it. I was sure my message wasn’t honed enough. I was sure my wrap dress was going to come unwrapped.
Because I had the tools for dealing with the inner critic and fear–the tools I teach in my programs–I knew the voices of the fear weren’t telling the truth. I acknowledged the fear, waved hello to it, and was able to walk forward onto that stage, where I got to talk to 2 million women about their owning their brilliance. Oh yes.
I believe that vulnerability is a superpower. Tell us a story about how embracing your vulnerability. What were the gifts on the other side?
Pressing the “publish” button on the essays and poems I write is a near daily practice in vulnerability. For years, that vulnerability felt like too much. After years in highly critical university writing workshops, where creativity was subjected to grades and competition (both creativity-killers, of course), writing felt too vulnerable, unsafe, to the fragile artist inside of me.
Over time, I nourished that fragile artist back to health enough that she could begin to conceive of writing again, and even conceive of sharing her writing.
Now she gets to write almost every day, and she is happy and well cared for and feels safe again. The way she handles the vulnerability of sharing her work is by knowing that in the end, it doesn’t matter what they think. She is writing for the joy of it. She is writing for the communion with that thing larger than herself that runs through her fingers when she writes.
What did you believe as a kid that you no longer believe?
Most of the things I believed as a kid I believe now too: the mega healing power of love and compassion. The utter insanity of war. The pathological marginalization of the heart in our culture, and its many costs.
10 years ago – I couldn’t have said that I still hold the beliefs I held as a child. But I’ve spent the past few years reclaiming my childhood ideals – ideals I got talked out of in years of fancy college education and graduate school. Maybe this is an arc we all travel in life, leaving and returning to the truths we knew in childhood.
What is your current mantra? Tell us about the last time you used it.
Breathe & observe.
When I hear in my head those old familiar negative judgements about myself or other people, I try to step back from the thoughts to an “observer” place inside, and watch them. I might say to myself, “Oh, there it is again–that old feeling of being an outsider.” Then I breathe and watch it and experience it – but as the observer of it, as a person in a chair watching a movie in front of them. This is classic mindfulness work, and it helps get us out of our old unhelpful thought patterns.
Tara Mohr is an expert on women’s leadership and wellbeing. She’s the creator of the Playing Big leadership program for women, the new session of which begins in just a few weeks. A columnist for Huffington Post and the author of Your Other Names: Poems for Wise Living, Tara’s work has been featured on The Today Show, USA Today, Ode Magazine, More Magazine, MariaShriver.com, Whole Living and numerous other publications. Click here to get her free download, the 10 Rules for Briliant Women Workbook.