The Healing Power of Telling Your Story
Henson is an incredible author with a message to share about how she, not only left her corporate life, but found herself during the process of finding what she was meant to do. She is the author of the book, The Jungle: A Journey to Peace, Purpose, and Freedom.
Today, Cindy shares how a certain health challenge led her to “project manage” her own life and transform her life in a way that also impacts other people. Meditation, forgiveness, and speaking your truth are just three key takeaways from this amazing episode!
[01:25] The Birth of The Jungle: How Do You Tell Your Story Without Crossing the Line
It actually took Cindy four years from the moment she started writing a book until it was published. Being in a writing class on her first year, she had no idea she was writing a book. By the second year, she was thinking of publishing it but she was terrified. So six months into trying to do her own editing, she got fed up with the entire project that she took everything and put it into a box in her closet. Six to eight months later, particularly on her 59th birthday, it occurred to her to just pull the book out and seek help to get it finished. She then hired an amazing editor.
What really held her back from actually publishing the book initially was that thought of the impact it was going to have on her family. This was the most difficult part for her to work through about whether or not telling her truth would be harmful to people she loves.
Too Afraid to Tell Your Story?
So how do you tell your story without crossing the line? Or where is the line? This is actually a common question that I encounter a lot on the Born to Write Community on Facebook. But really, it’s personal. There’s no right or wrong, or how.
Luckily, Cindy’s sister was helping her with this project. And she kept asking her about her thoughts about how she would think their mom would feel. Her sister supported and encouraged her, telling her that it’s all about telling the truth with love and respect. She also got the same support from her partner, Dana as well, who told her that telling the truth will change Cindy herself, it will positively impact the world, and it could profoundly positively impact her family.
[05:50] Project Managing Herself to Better Health
Cindy had a rough childhood. By the time she finished high school and decided where to go next, she was already inspired to just begin working and not study. She just wanted to be free from her childhood that she turned down all the scholarships she received and she began working in a factory. There, she met a mentor who was very insistent that she went to school. Then the company offered to pay two-thirds of her education.
The idea of quitting corporate 10 years prior to her goal of 55 was terrifying. She thought that if she didn’t have money and success, then who was she really? Until, she found herself in a health challenge.
On her way to work one day, she fainted in the elevator by herself and she didn’t have any idea what just happened. Horrified, she then began to project manage herself back to health.
Many years before, she had rejected spirituality and religion. But at this point, she was wondering maybe there is something invisible. Curious, she went to the bookstore and bought books on meditation. She found how it was so life-giving and self-supportive that she couldn’t imagine how she could do that and be successful. She just found both to be clashing.
[12:00] Being a Fish Out of Water
Cindy has a valid point saying that we can only entertain something that seems completely out of our realm when we’re desperate – which was something she felt. She was losing weight and organs shutting down that she felt like dying. So she felt she had nothing to lose to try a strange kind of meditation that she had never considered before or even some new kind of thinking she had never entertained before. She had just had nothing to lose at that point.
For her, her health condition was more of a wake up call or message since she had been working so hard. To her, that was kind of speaking a language to her that she didn’t really understand. Meditation is what allowed her to go to a completely different place, which she still couldn’t describe even up to now that she meditates everyday. There are just no words to describe it.
At some point, Cindy’s work ethic was killing her, as Dana has told her. Her job was killing her. So the freedom, safety, and security she had from earning money just got all dismantled. Dana kept probing her to help her discover what she had wired in her mind that may not be true but are beliefs she has carried all these years that when dismantled, are inaccurate. Also, she helped her figure out how to re-assemble those in a way.
[16:20] Making Pauses as Part of the Narrative
Cindy is such a brilliant storyteller that she has actually structured her book in a way that you get engrossed with the story and almost forget you’re being told this as a journey. Then you’d pause at the end of each chapter to say “Dear Reader” to remind us that this isn’t just a story. Cindy is talking to us. And she’d give her insights for those moments and some things to reflect on. This could actually be disruptive, however, in this case, I felt like this was really part of the story. Being disruptive was a part of her narrative.
Cindy admits she went back and forth on this during editing for some weeks. She had early readers whom she asked about this and she got a 50-50 response. It disrupts the story while the other half thought it was great.
Her thought process behind this is how to bring people along in this journey with her and at the same time, not be disrupted from the story. She didn’t really know how to do both. As she was sitting with Dana and her editor, Dana suggested the “Dear Reader” idea. It was more of like a consciousness piece or an observer piece. Then the reader would be asked 2-3 questions if they want to further dig in. Others who don’t want to can just get past it and move on to the story. So there’s no downside to it.
[19:50] There’s No Going Back – 3 Signs Towards Her Path
With the help of meditation, she was pondering on the idea that if the universe has got her back, then she just needed to listen. So she began asking in her meditation as to her next step. She knew she couldn’t solve it with her logical brain. And although she didn’t really want to go back to corporate, she also didn’t know where to go next. She describes it as a very frightening thing. And that if she had the whole universe that could deliver something to her, what would it take to deliver it and how would she listen to it.
On three occasions, she got some signs to attend the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica – a flyer, an article in a magazine, and the third, on the back of the book she was reading. It was actually a book called Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda.
Expectedly, she had so many objections not to attend the program – cost, traveling to Costa Rica, learning Spanish. But the funny thing is that it’s not really that expensive to go there, she could just go to Costa Rica as Dana fully supports her, and she didn’t really have to learn Spanish since the curriculum was in English. So all her objections were actually being dispensed. Yet, she didn’t want to listen to it.
After so many conversations with Dana, she was able to ask enough questions to discern what Cindy was really frightened with. It all went down to the fact that she was not going to earn money. Once she knew that, she decided to apply and just see what happens. And whether she gets accepted or not would be her answer. She got accepted of course and she went to Costa Rica.
[24:30] Coming From a State of Non-Judgment
Cindy describes her class as like a microcosm of the world she was experiencing every single day since they were all from 39 countries. They could not have been any different from one another. She was so intrigued by this and so she suspended her judgment as she considered them as her friends. However, it really challenged her belief system in terms of issues like polygamy and monogamy as practices, or religious practices, and just general beliefs about government, business, etc. So she felt she was challenged everyday by people who are also her friends.
[26:22] Genuine Curiosity and Listening that Led to a Unique Election Process
Cindy recalls that as they were going to lunch, they only had 5 minutes to decide who was going to be their class representative. They had five Africans in the class. Then they quickly selected and nominated, put their names on the board, and then voted, and done! It was all done in 3 minutes. But the five Africans have not participated. Cindy told them that five did not participate and the others just brushed this aside saying this is how they do it and since they didn’t participate, then just move on. So she offered to speak with the Africans at lunch first and then spend 10-15 mins to redo the election and everybody was fine with it.
A Stroke of Curiosity
Off to lunch, she asked her African friends as to why they didn’t participate and they explained it wasn’t their way and they described it as too public. In their country, people would write their nominations on paper and then somebody trusted will read that back in public to ask the nominees if they’re willing to be nominated. Once they have those three names, then they’d have a secret ballot again where they’d write the person they’re voting for. The trusted person would count it and will only say who the winner was. They wouldn’t announce the number of votes that each received as this will be publicly humiliating for those people who have not been selected.
So when Cindy asked them whether they’d be willing to participate if they followed this election process, they were okay with it. And they picked Cindy as the trusted person. At that point, she realized she was seen as an elder in that group. She was mature at 45 years old while most of her colleagues were in their 20s. So the idea of being an elder who was wise and has something to offer was a new way of thinking for her.
And so coming back from lunch, they followed the process and it worked brilliantly. And one of the Africans became their representative. Ultimately, it was her genuine curiosity and her listening that really led to this.
[30:20] Gaining Compassion Out of Fear
Another chapter of Cindy’s book that was striking was when she was out with her classmates at a bad part of town. There were so much crime there and there was no public transportation that nobody really went there unless you lived there. In their case, they were working with the community and doing some projects to help the community. But when she got left by the bus, she was walking down the road she had no idea about. She was trying to find the bus stop but she had to pass by the dangerous part of town at dusk.
As she was walking, all kinds of ideas popped into her head about the crimes and seeing the bushes on her right, she placed her computer bag over to her left shoulder, afraid anybody could just jump out and grab her computer. Walking quickly, with having the intention not to be a victim of crime, at the same time, she was thinking about all the possibilities of what could go wrong. She was just hung up with her own fear.
Then she turned a corner and a massive bright light was in front of her. It turned out to be the American Embassy with 3-4 marines standing in front. She was just so happy and approached them. At that point, her viewpoint about U.S. military as being oppressive of the world. And all her fear just evaporated just by being a U.S. citizen. So they helped her get to the bus stop. For her, it was a saving moment that she wouldn’t have imagined.
[35:50] Contribute to the World and See What Emerges
At that time, Dana stayed at home in the U.S., supporting their home and their lifestyle while Cindy was in Costa Rica on this adventure of reinventing herself. Dana actually told Cindy she wasn’t ready to quit her career and told her it maybe it would be better if Cindy stayed home for a while. And she was just crushed. She didn’t know what to do now. Out of her meditations, she found clarity again about not really needing to know but just giving the gifts you have. Contribute to the world, give yourself some time, and things will emerge.
She then figured out she could be a consultant as she had a lot to offer. And she’s going to do this in a completely different way than she had done it before. She basically ended up returning to corporate, but just in a different way. Not a part of it, but supporting the leaders through her learnings from her studies, and even through her hurt.
[39:00] Forgive the Unforgivable
One of the hurts that Cindy had which got healed, as presented in the book, was her relationship with her father. Cindy mentions the book of Anita Sanchez called, The 4 Sacred Gifts, where the first gift is to “forgive the unforgivable.” This struck her so deeply. Cindy was a product of childhood abuse and she says it’s very easy to stay in that awful space. Yet, because we haven’t forgiven the unforgivable, we’re still the ones carrying the burden. That’s the piece she realized why she was in Costa Rica and that there was more forgiveness work to do. And that if she was going to be set free and unburdened, she had to do some forgiveness work. She could have all the things and have a great career.
But if you’re still burdened with the pain you’re carrying because you can’t forgive, then you still have to forgive yourself and others. Cindy describes this realization as blowing the lid off of all her pain and burden that she had been carrying, which in so many ways, were driving her behaviors in terms of her need for success and approval. So while she was making all those external changes, it was her internal changes that pushed through with forgiveness that made the biggest difference.
Forgiveness on an Even Higher Level
Moreover, Cindy talks about the impact her friend from Rwanda on her in that he endured genocide. And amidst that, he carried no animosity which she couldn’t just comprehend. She realized that she has been holding onto her beliefs and the inability to forgive her father. And to not be willing to forgive that just seemed silly to her seeing this guy who has lived through atrocities in the world that she could even barely be in the presence of hearing.
[44:30] Helping Organizations Through Conscious Leadership
Currently, Cindy runs the Henson Consulting Group, a management consulting firm in San Diego. She serves clients from around the country. She works primarily with leaders and organizations making a positive difference in the world, including nonprofits, government agencies, and triple bottom line corporations which are people, planet, and profit.
Cindy works with conscious organizations, specifically focusing on employee empowerment through conscious leadership. She facilitates trainings and workshops as well as culture consulting. Her passion and purpose workshop seeks to help all employees, managers, and leaders to help them get in touch with who they really are in the world. She helps them discover their purpose. This way, they can create their own north star so they can be the people they want to be everyday, living their passion and purpose. Ultimately, they start bringing back heart into work. Since we need both brain and heart in a work environment, tapping into humanity.
Finally, Cindy sends her last piece of advice to those who are thinking of telling their story or sharing their truth. Don’t worry so much about what is unknowable right now as it will all arise as it needs to. But just begin. Then other pieces start to emerge that you can’t imagine. More information will emerge and you can make decisions each step of the way. Just start.
The Four Sacred Gifts by Anita L. Sanchez
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