Jane Arie Baldwin

Personal Tools and Techniques for Unwinding

Tag: writing

Should You Risk It All (or even just a little)? 4 Things to Consider

There can be no great accomplishment without risk. — Neil Armstrong


Think of something that you want or want to do that seems just out of reach for you at this moment, an idea that sends butterflies rushing through your belly.

For me, it is standing in front of a group of people reciting my poetry by heart. To stand in front of a crowd reciting poetry from a sheet of paper? That’s doable. By heart? No way.

“I could never do that!”

This thought shot through me and sent butterflies in a spiral throughout my body the first time I imagined reciting my poetry by heart in front of an audience.

“I could never do that! Just hand me the sheet of paper, please, and I will be fine.”

A few days ago, I attended a poetry slam. I watched many poets recite pages long verse. I saw how they became their experience, lived the moment in real time. I noticed the deep connection that they made when spoken word came out of a mouth on the stage, hit the air, and showered down on the audience. I could almost see the goosebumps form on the arms of audience members as I felt those pop up from my skin. At that moment we were all one, with the same urgent need to connect with each other and have a communal experience. To understand and be understood together.

That’s when I knew it was time for a change. I needed to embrace the art of taking risks.



We live in a dichotomy. Our brains register all change, positive or negative, as a threat. We tend to go about our day-to-day business without taking note of what’s happening in our bodies. Meanwhile, our bodies are processing our experiences and sending us alerts such as physical aches and pains, uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, mental images and phrases. These signals alert us to possible danger. Because of our auto-pilot nature, we often miss opportunities for positive change.

This dichotomy means it is crucial to stay alert to the body, the breath, the thoughts and feelings that are happening in each experience. Positive change requires awareness of and attention to what’s going on at many levels or planes: physically in the body, mentally in thoughts, emotionally in neurological pathways, and spiritually as an opportunity to open your heart and connect to others.


When our deepest desires do not match our actions, negative rumblings under the surface show up in our lives. We feel irritable, insecure, and we can even become physically sick. Our minds play tug-of-war between our basic instincts, which are ruled by emotion in the ancient part of the brain and what we think is reasonable, located in the more modern part of the brain. This heave and ho causes procrastination, indecision, and even stasis.

Focusing awareness on each of the four planes of experience can help to alleviate the stress that causes procrastination or stasis. To flow or to surf with our deepest desires we have to tune into the what we want above all, with laser focus.


Physical level – the breath is the key to regulating the physical level. Find it and follow it through your body. Guide your breath to places that seem stuck – your lungs or diaphragm, the back of the lungs, even your feet may need some. The stress of taking risks tends to get us in our heads. Connecting the breath throughout the body can balance out this feeling, much like you would spread butter evenly over a piece of toast.

Mental level – our thinking patterns can make or break us in an instant. Notice your thought. The best brain training for this experience was created by Byron Katie who asks,

  1. “Is this thought true?”
  2. “Is it absolutely true?” After a couple of tries, your thought process will begin to question its thinking and release the vice grip on what it thinks it knows.
  3. Then you can ask, “How do you react when you believe that thought?”
  4. And finally, my favorite question, “Who would you be without the thought?”

Mind games keep the mental level on its toes.

Emotional level – We have to give kudos to this level, the level of our instincts, because this reactionary level has kept us safe as a species, until now. We are living in a time when we are beginning to understand that the body is not separate from the mind. The body is the mind. Emotions are brain chemicals that communicate information throughout the body and the brain. They help us make informed decisions based on we are feeling.

Spiritual level – What does the heart want? It wants a compassionate connection to others from a place of love and gratitude.


The question, “What are you willing to risk?” is not synonymous with “What are you willing to give up?” Instead, think of it as, “What are you willing to gain?”

I used to think that I was being asked to give something up when I heard the above phrase. I hadn’t been ready to give anything up until I remembered how much I loved being on stage as a child, unencumbered by holding white pages in front of my face so that my hands would be free.

At that moment, I realized that it is my thin sheet of paper full of carefully crafted words that ultimately separates me from the audience. The only thing I would be giving up by memorizing my lines is playing small by hiding behind my paper. It’s not stage- fright I’m risking, it’s messing up.

When I check in on my four planes of existence, I acknowledge the particular thought on the mental plane that’s got me stuck.

I’m not even on stage yet, and my thoughts are judging my experience, judging my performance. Judgment, masked as a protector keeping me safe from harm, is in truth keeping me in hiding.

“I could never do that!”, Has a message, it is an excellent indicator that positive change is afoot, an opportunity for positive change came when I took the time to notice what unacknowledged feelings lurked beneath.

The real message is, “Shit! I want this. I desire this! Wait…how do I get there?”

That’s when I focus on my desire: to create work that connects with an audience. Let the experience be what it will let the performance be imperfect. I want to bask in the joy of the creative flow.

The New Conventional Femininity


(originally posted July 29, 2010)

“When she stopped conforming to the conventional picture of femininity she finally began to enjoy being a woman.”                                      — Betty Friedan

I wanted no part in it.  My whole life I wanted nothing to do with the trappings of being conventional — I shunned conformism, creature comforts, and practicality for a gypsy life of travel and solitude well into my twenties.  Then I found true love with Jimmy and through the twin sisters of fate and destiny we landed a beautiful baby girl into our laps.  I still would not give in to the traditional convention of family life.  I would not allow myself to get comfortable with the idea that being a wife and mother could in and of themselves bring me joy.  So what happened?  Why now? Why do I feel content and full in these rolls to the point of wanting to do them really well, to the point of being invested in them 100%?  The answer lies in how my view of myself has changed over the past decade.I have noticed lately a deep rumbling in my being to experience – well the only way I can describe it is — a deeper connection to the fabric of my family, and my home.  That is, basking in the beingness of my role as wife and mother. I spent years running away from  what I thought “wife” and “mother” meant, the conventional rolls I thought they would force me to play.  It scared me, frankly.

When I look back at my personal history and connect the dots, almost everything scared me.  I was skeptical of anything and everything.  I know that my negative and fearful attitude created the conditions for cancer to thrive in my body, in my second chakra, in the place of: life, beginnings, relationships, money, stepping out into the world with others.  Getting cancer was the trigger that showed me that I had to shift out of my negative place of being yet I had no idea how to do so.  One of my biggest awakenings occurred when I realized that the negative and fearful way I felt about having a conventional life — marriage, kids, family — translated to other areas of my life.  Negative and fearful was the thread that ran through most of my thoughts.  Skepticism lay like a smoky haze at the root of my being.

It’s more than just a mellowing with age that has happened here.  My faith in myself grew with the planting of my dreams.  With every step toward a dream I noticed those voices got louder and stronger NOT in my favor.  For many years I put off getting my training in the healing arts, “now is not the time, your not ready,” said the skeptical voice. When we found the ranch, the first thought that popped into my head was, “don’t get any big ideas here that you can’t fulfill.”  It was a constant negative influx of words, thoughts, and feelings feeding my brain like a drug dealer pushing crack.

“WOW!” I realized.  That skepticism and negativity doesn’t only show up in my relationships with others, it’s that way with me too!”  What an eye opener.  That’s when I stopped identifying with them.  “What a relief” I thought. “That’s not me.  Those are only feelings that I’m identifying with — as me.”

Now I can begin to mellow.  I’m no longer frozen in paralysis when the dragons of fear and skepticism show up for a fight.  I’m getting better at noticing what triggers the fears that come up around how I’m running my business and how I’m caring for my family as a wife and a mother.  I’m learning how to manage them rather than feed them.  My identification with my conventional rolls no longer scare me, I welcome them with open arms. My femininity no longer carries the trappings of the past, it expands with the beginning of each new day.

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