Octavia Raheem is a wife, mother, author of Pause, Rest, Be & Gather, Executive Rest Coach, Chief Operating Day Dreaming Officer, and Experienced Yoga Teacher. She began practicing yoga in 1999 and has been teaching since 2007. Octavia founded Starshine & Clay, an online retreat space for Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color to rest and restore. Her work has been featured in Yoga Journal, Tricycle Magazine, Mantra, Well + Good, CNN, and Atlanta Magazine.
Today, in our inaugural episode, Nicole and Octavia reflect on the decade since they first connected, as well as all the pivotal moments over the years that became accelerants for change in Octavia’s life. Together, they discuss the power of rest in support of dreams, to elevate success, to become more efficient, and to prevent burnout.
“I really walked with the power of dreams and the power of remembering the cultural capacity to dream, even in the midst of the nightmare that it can be to live in a marginalized body in this world.”
“Some part of the world I came from was so hard and so challenging to be in, that dreaming was the way out, and I also understood that I had to do something. I couldn’t just have the vision, I had to do something with the vision. I had to activate it.”
“Discovering yoga in 1999, this practice that calls one into the relationship with the body, the mind, the heart, with who and what you actually are within this memory of who are and were before the world tells you who you’re supposed to be…began to restore pieces of worth that I had felt had been diminished by the acculturation and devaluation of myself as a woman.”
“Rest is anything that restores you to a state that feels grounded and steady.”
“When you move from this rested place, I find a simplicity in ‘the how’ emerges, so you’re more efficient.”
“In the vein of self-worth, I have just decided that I’m worthy of my own time and care.”
Chances are you’re a high-achieving professional woman, and rest may not even be something you do, let alone calendar in. Today, you’ll learn why you might want to add rest as a foundational part of how you care for yourself.
In this podcast episode, I welcome a special guest who has made it her mission to help Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color, learn to rest.
Today, for our very first episode we are welcoming a truly special guest: Octavia Raheem is an author, rest coach, and Chief Operating Daydreaming Officer. She is the founder of Star Shining Clay an online retreat space for Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color to rest and restore. She’s been featured in Yoga Journal, Well+Good, and CNN.
I met Octavia a decade ago when I was also on my yoga journey and in this episode we reflect on the decade since we first connected. She shares how rest helps her to be more effective at running her business, while also being a mom and wife, and the seminal decision that made rest one of her highest priorities.
Are you a high-achieving professional woman who wants to know the secret to being more rested and effective? This episode is for you.
So, I’m so excited today to really be launching, first of all, School of Self-Worth and our first guest, because really for me, when I thought about this project and I thought about who I wanted to have in this conversation, Octavia totally came up as someone, she is the person to have this conversation with.
Because watching your growth and who you are; even going back to (we were just chatting briefly before this started) around our initial connection; is in watching your growth over the last decade. Because Octavia and I met years and years ago at a Lululemon Summit.
We were both ambassadors. We both went to Whistler, Canada for this three-day growth event and connected there very much. Afterward, I think you were one of my very first (I air quote) clients because you weren’t really a client, you were in my first cohort of people I was leading through coaching.
And that’s really where we had a much deeper connection; and I’ve watched her expansion since then through writing books, creating this beautiful message of rest in the world, and also watching you grow as a wife and a mother; all of these pieces, and so I’d love to even start from that point…
We were just talking about how ten years ago, 10 years is both a really long time, and not a long time.
So I’m curious; what your perspective is on that, Octavia even just from the very beginning?
So my perspective, first thank you for having me here Nicole, and when you said, I think you said School of Self-Worth because that title had dropped into my mind. I said oh right. That’s the journey, right?
That’s the remembering that is ours to do; and ten years ago I was very much into visioning and goal setting, at the 10-year level.
And I just remember that as it came out of my mouth. And what I do remember about the process of spending time, getting still, quiet, day journey first then we would journal after, I know you probably remember this process that was in one way seemingly benign but can just be an accelerant for how you move forward in the world.
So I remember this one event that I went to; visioning in goal setting was at the beginning of the year, it might have been like 2012 or 11 or 13, I can’t remember what year, and we spent 10 minutes visioning. Someone was reading a script, then we spent 5 minutes journaling and the guidance was something like your wildest dreams: you don’t even know how it could happen.
And I remember writing, seeing something in the vision, writing something down and then working that backward. So writing down the ten-year vision. The five-year vision. The three-year vision, the six-month… What am I gonna do in a day?
But here’s the thing, Nicole, what I remember about that time period in my life is, some of what I thought could happen in 10 years, once I got really clear and kept revisiting it… It happened in two or three years.
So what I remember about ten years ago is that I was in this moment of realizing possibility, and what was causing me to realize possibility was this brilliant combination of stillness, movement, momentum. You know like this kind of cyclical process that I started to engage in with far more intention, and also what began to propel me forward is who I decided to spend my waking time with.
I don’t know if I had ever realized how important it was to, if you want to move out of stagnation, to make connections with people who abide with them some level of flow.
You know, and so ten years ago feels like a lifetime ago in terms of what was just burgeoning in my mind and my body and my awareness. And it also feels like a blip ago.
Well, I love what you share, because that is still what I work with people on, is that 10-year vision that idea of like, what it will look like in the future?
And then I love how you were like it came true in two or three years, like how remarkable that it all happened so quickly!
Yeah, and you know on some level it feels like magic and I’m hella woo, and also hella strategic, and so I think it’s a combination of all of that.
But I just remember realizing the power of intention. The power of the word, the power in visioning. But I saw on a walk today before this, because I wanted to like just reflect and remember, and I was thinking about being in that first cohort of people you host, and this exercise came forward that you gave us then, that deeply impacted my life and you gave us this exercise of interviewing people to upgrade us.
And the exercise, I don’t remember the exact questions, but you essentially asked us to ask people who and what they saw, but you gave us the specific guidance to ask people that we knew who would upgrade us.
I think at the time you were like: think about Apple phone 2.0. That’s how far ago it was like Apple to you know yeah.
You’re bringing us way back!
You were like who’s going to be, who’s gonna tell you the thing that helps you believe in Octavia 2.0?
I don’t remember all the questions, but I do remember asking my mom, choosing my mom to be 1 of the people, and this seems so basic… But she is like No baby. I want you to know that anything you choose to focus on, you can make that happen.
And it seems so simple, and I have revisited it. You know because one thing that shifted in 10 years is my mom is no longer alive.
In that interview I still have it written down, I still have her answers. And I remember going through all the questions with her, and I don’t remember every single answer without looking, but what feeling I remember is ‘like wow here’s someone who absolutely believes in me’ and who’s also seen me like fail and stumble and make all kind of mistakes and be completely disagreeable
And the shift that occurred, just in that simple act of asking people to say, tell me the greatest possibilities you see for me. So you gave us that exercise.
And, Nicole, what I want you to know is I remember that moment being in that circle with you as just full of promise and possibility. And also I was like I don’t really know what I’m doing like what’s this about, what’s a coach?
How does this help our shift. Because what we were doing most of the time was being in inquiry, being reflective, you know, sharing truths… What’s the story we’ve been telling, what’s the story we want to tell with our lives. That’s what we were doing. And this pragmatic part of me was like how it this just supposed to help me… and it absolutely did!
Well I love everything that you’re sharing, because I feel like that is, I mean it was, you know ten years ago is, like, before there were so many coaches in the world, and doing that work to me I didn’t even think of it probably then as coaching more as like guidance or helping to lead people.
And I love that you really were able to see so much for yourself out of that, and I really actually want to go back to the interview you had with your mom because I’m curious for you, because really I’m curious about you know, your journey into the message you really share today around rest.
And I’m curious about how that vision and having that sight, of like okay, there are things that are open for me. The possibility is open.
How did you really for yourself start to gain and claim in self-worth to follow it? Because I think sometimes a lot of people might have a big dream or they have these things that they want; and they’re not really sure how to take ownership of themselves in a way to actually say oh yeah, I get to actually have that. I think it can be different to say ‘I get to have that’, versus ‘oh that’s just a dream I’m gonna let sit there’.
That is a beautiful question, and I want to like feel into it. I want to say something true.
I think I was born a dreamer, and I come from a long line of dreamers. And I don’t mean that in terms of my family, I’m thinking about Linkston Hughes and all of his poetry on dreams. I’m thinking about Dr. Martin Luther King, whose ‘I Have A Dream’ that speech has become so commercialized and it still stands as one of the most profound pieces of writing and an exemplar of like what it means to cast an expansive vision, boldly. Right?
And so I have that as part of my kind of cultural way, to also have a mother who despite it all, because I grew up in a very acute kind of poverty, you know like she fed us dreams. Like when there was nothing else, we would dream.
Then I also have the cultural legacy of being devalued and diminished and silenced and all these things that kind of shrink how one experienced self in the world. and what one thing is possible.
And so, within my being, these things have been fighting, right? They have been dancing a tumultuous dance with one another and I believe many a prayers have been prayed for me to survive that level of internalized battle.
And, I have to say, that rediscovering or discovering yoga in 1999, this practice that calls one into relationship with the body, the mind, the heart with who and what you actually are within this memory of who you are and were before the world tells you who you were supposed to be, my yoga practice was a place that began to restore the pieces of worth that I thought had been diminished by the acculturation and devaluation of my selfhood as a black woman.
And that seems like out there… How can yoga do that? And it could do it because a). I needed it to. I need something, I didn’t have access to therapy when I started yoga in 1999, but I had access to a student yoga pass at the studio.
You know a mouth for my university, and so that’s what I did. And that was back in the day when a mirror was at the front of the room. There might still be mirrors at the front of the room, I don’t know, but every studio I went to had lots of mirrors in it and there was something about standing at the beginning of the class looking myself in the eye, and first just seeing my conditioning, seeing the projections that came at me. But the practice being 90 minutes of staring at myself long enough until something else could be revealed.
And so for me to shorten this very long story having a practice and a ritual that called me back to my whole self, that I return to essentially daily or some level, it looks different now, but I return to it daily and have for decades, has been essential in me doing what Laton Hugh said which is ‘hold fast to dreams, for when dreams die life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly hold fast to dreams for when dreams, go life is a barren field frozen with snow’.
I know that poem because I memorized it when I was a little girl right? You know, so I’ve really walked with the power of dreams and the power of remembering the cultural capacity to dream even in the midst of the nightmare that it can be to live in a marginalized body in this world.
I don’t know if I answered your question. I feel like you asked like well ‘what made you be the one who would go after the dreams, versus just have it in my head’. And really it seems out there to be like well we have a model of Martin Luther King who, against every odd, you know like I’m like there were for me some very profound models.
Before it was a known statement, this idea of ‘I am my ancestor’s wildest dream’, I feel like I just encountered that, you know, in I don’t know the last few years.
I didn’t know that when I was doing this work with you, I didn’t know those words when I was coming up as a young girl in the exactness of those words… I did come from a place where my family and my community loved me as if I was a wild dream. You know, even in our flaws it was not perfect, but I was sitting in that kind of awareness of my heritage. And then maybe, Nicole, some people are going … not trying, not giving myself possibility. Opportunity just has not been an option for me.
But I also think some parts of the world I came from was so hard and so challenging to be in, that dreaming was the way out, and I also understood that I had to do something. You know, can’t just have the vision. I got to do something with the vision. I got to activate it, I gotta enroll other people in it. You know.
So more might come up as we keep talking about what was my how? But the main house is like the ritual to remember who I am, because then we have a thousand ways to forget every single day, most of them at our fingertips via you know, social media and all those things.
Yeah. What you shared is so beautiful, and I love how you said that dreaming was the way out for you and that you really saw that. And I also really heard so deeply and felt very deeply when you said you know I am my ancestors’ wildest dream because I find so often with women and I work with; high achieving women, professional women, where the dream tends to be like ‘oh too scary’ to pursue you know. Like too much to pursue, like it requires too much to overcome to actually say I’m going to step outside the lane that I’ve been in my whole life to choose something a little differently and sometimes there’s like a lack of urgency almost.
You know, and I think that you and I are both come from yoga traditions where you know I’m like ‘when we’re really present in the moment’ it’s like we only have this moment, this time and I’m curious for you, like in there, if you experience that or see that from others? Or if people ask you about that urgency for you around, you know, to me dreams are the way out is so beautiful.
And so many people get stuck along the way. I’m sure you know many of those people too who get stuck on that precipice of like ah can I really pursue my dreams, and what do you say to yourself? Or what practices support you, or what do you think about in those moments?
You know, a thing I also was remembering when we were speaking is, how one defines success. What has been essential for me is to figure out my own terms for it. That’s the real dream, and I’m not saying that that was easy, because I think from where I’m from, like going to college was the dream. I’m a first-generation college graduate, and all of those kinds of things, those were the dreams.
And I am glad that I honored that kind of collective and communal dream, like when I graduated, it was like I had made it. And I also remember upon graduation from undergrad, like entering this state of paralysis in this one sense, because I could immediately see that I could become the person who’s constantly presenting more degrees because that’s what I’m supposed to do.
I’m a learner to be clear, like I’m a lifelong learner. I would be learning until I’m 100 years old, but I also had to have some self-discipline and say I don’t actually want to keep pursuing those things. I constantly ask myself what do I actually want.
Because for me, like the dream is like, what is it that I actually want to do? What am I here to actually do? You know… I’m constantly questioning, not myself, but if I’m like, ‘oh if I’m comparing, and now I have to go do that thing’. But is that my thing to do? Do I want to do that? Or do I see someone else doing it? Do I see someone else having it, and thus I feel like I should have it, or now that’s my new measure of success?
And so my actual dreams, don’t feel too big for me. When I am dreaming someone else’s dream, I get completely overwhelmed. If I’m like I want that customer Cole has it, that sends my nervous system into a state of chaos, like I become really dysregulated in the pursuit of something that is not mine to be pursuing.
So for me, the question becomes how do I access the clarity? How do I let myself and how have I let myself desire what I actually didn’t want to desire? I don’t know if that makes sense, and gasp in my work to be like, ‘what do I want’? What does it actually cost? What am I willing to pay? These are questions I’m asking over and over and over, and over…
Yeah. Well, I love what you’re sharing because you’re actually asking yourself, and questioning, which, you know to me, I’m always like there are two different voices in my head, right? So there’s always like which one am I listening to?
And I love that you have a way of questioning ‘is this actually for me’? And you get to define success for yourself. I also really heard that for you, like you’re the one who’s deciding what the barometer of success is, and then when you do that and then you can listen to the voice that’s actually going to determine what is the right way for you? What works for you? What versus the one that, like you said, dysregulates you, and I see that all the time too.
We get very stressed when we compare. We think that someone else’s dream is your dream and it doesn’t even matter which industry you are in. I think about how my success looks nothing like your success because we are two separate humans with our own pathways to follow and it will look completely different.
So I’m curious if that is part of it for you. It’s like, to really make that distinction and then because I like to layer in more, and I’m curious where rest comes in there for you; because I know that’s such a big piece of it. Because we are so dysregulated, we live in this world where we’re on social media all the time, and you know people are probably listening to this while they’re doing something else, and we’re always in the state of activation. Right?
Where ‘gosh also I’m super overstimulated all the time too’ and I really actively try not to be. So what could you share about that place, like how does it support you to be in the pursuit of dreams? Because the pursuit of dreams actually still is a very activated state in certain ways. To do things and be in the world, and putting your message out there. And how do you balance all of those pieces?
Yeah, I think I started this conversation by saying access to vision. I didn’t say access the whole plan. One of my mentors and coaches would always say: If you already know the how; it’s too small. I’m a planner, right… I like plans.
I want you to say that louder for everybody!
I’m a planner, I like planning, as part of my training I was an educator for 10 years. And that really served me and serves me, and in the rem of dreams, if I know all the details then it’s not a dream. I think at that point is it’s a goal. Right? It’s something smaller than a grand visit.
So rest comes in because, how do you access the desire? How do you access the vision? Where’s your vision coming from if it’s not coming from rest? Rest helps us access what’s on the inside, and get very clear on what’s in here, and how got there, versus where that comes from.
Did that come from that, or that podcast, or that thing? Where did that actually come from? And so for me, rest a). doesn’t ask anything of me, which is refreshing and can also be daunting. We’re used to being asked to have, and being able to deliver, engaging something that is like ‘just come here and lay down and be’, is a whole practice. And it is also why it must be a practice because we know how to do, but we don’t know how to be and all the juice of living is really in remembering how to be.
Let’s just take a simple rest practice. For some people, their meditation practice might be that. When I think about rest, I button a lot of things up into the term rest, but it is anything that restores you to a state that feels grounded and steady.
If you say you live on say 15, something that’s restful for you, you might take you down to 13 or 10, right? I’m not always talking about 0 though, sometimes we need to get back to 0.
For me, the rest practices are your yoga nature, which some people define as yoga sleep, restorative yoga which is a yoga practice of being supported and realization, and then meditation. But for me, it’s just sitting and paying attention. This one way I kind of define it or think about it. It is in those moments that I access the absolute most clarity.
I used to lead a $200 yoga teacher training, and the title was something like ‘be still then make moves’, and me and my co-leader did that entire training rooted in this primary tenet that the best, most empowered, well-informed movements of your life must come from stillness. We didn’t start that training with ‘here’s how you teach these asanas’. We started with ‘here’s how you start to be friends, stillness, minute by minute, moment by moment; so then you can gain more insight about how to move and how to be in the movement.
And then at some point, of course, you got to get up. You actually got to go move, and so rest supports me in clarifying, discerning, what is mine to do… How I want it to feel, how I want to do it.
I also access incredible strategies when I cannot figure something out in my kind of super waking, activated state; and I’ll start to pull everything back, and then ‘aha…’ there’s the solution to how to do that. There’s the set of interview questions I need to ask that person I’m going to hire. All these things start to emerge.
I don’t think I’m a unicorn in that happening in the universe. I think my unicornness is that I actually prioritize rest. Someone asked me the other day, ‘what’s your main practice that ensures that you rest?’ and I said ‘I decided I would be saying yes to some rest practice every single day for the rest of my life. Period.
That’s the rest practice, before the rest practice. A lot of us, we have standing engagements that nothing gets in the way of, but most of those engagements don’t have anything to do with restoring or replenishing ourselves, and that feels incredibly unsustainable and ultimately unfulfilling to me.
So rest supports the doing of the dream. Also when you move from this kind of steel place or this rested place, I find a simplicity in the how emerges and so you’re more efficient. The word efficient doesn’t seem like it goes with rest but I have one client who’s always, like ‘I don’t want to use that word’ and I’m like ‘efficient’ is my other favorite word!
Have you ever lost something? I lost something in my purse yesterday you know, lost something in air quotes; and you’re headed out, you’re already feeling like you’re late, you’re rushing… So now you start pulling everything out of the purse, you dump something out. Now you’re looking in the laundry room, you’re in a hurry, moving frantically trying to find the thing, that you give up which causes you to slow down. Which may also cause you to come to a halt.
And suddenly you remember exactly where the thing is. For me, instead of having the chaos happen, first, I now go ‘oh let me just slow down’, come to what seems like a halt, ground myself, and remember before the chaos.
That’s my little silly example of how stopping… we weren’t going to find the thing in the frenetic movement. We were only going to remember where the thing was when we slowed down and stopped, but we’d already wasted time digging through everything freaking out about everything. I’m sure you’ve never done that Nicole, but I have experienced it like that. And those little daily moments remind me of the necessity of slowing down and engaging the pause and how it can save me energy and time versus take from.
Well, you’ve said so many resonant things, and I love the purse example because it is true right? We have to pause and our temptation is always just to be like ‘oh oh yeah’, I mean I leave the house in a rush all the time Octavia, like ‘oh my gosh I can’t find all my stuff, I gotta get going’.
But I would say for you too, I love that you also… just going back to what you said about the definition of rest includes more; it’s anything that restores or grounds you; because I think about that too and I also really love being efficient. It’s like one of my favorite things. And my attention always, with people, is to how can you actually get more connected, more grounded? Because then you aren’t actually so spun out, and working so much, because a lot of what’s spinning us out is that we’re not connected. We’re just doing doing doing, versus giving yourself that moment.
For me, rest is more than meditation but it’s actually also making sure I’m taking walks twice a day, resetting myself because that’s a lot of times where I too, like in yoga practices or at the gym or when I’m on a walk, actually hear what to do as well when I can’t figure something out versus when I’m at my computer trying to problem solve something; it’s like that’s when I get stressed and like I get overactivated. And then I have to take the break, and that pause in my own day to say ‘okay, this is not going to solve, it goes out there’, but I get lots of insight; I wrote the intro to one of my books on a hike, because it was just coming to me as I was out in nature, and so I was writing it on notes just to make try to miss the main, big pieces of it.
So yeah I’m curious because for you, it sounds like rest is a built-in way for you to actually be tuned in. And to actually be efficient around the things that you’re here to do, to follow those big dreams.
What I hear you talking about is how do you access your flow state. I’m not a flow state expert, not in the slightest bit. I know people who are, but I’m like ‘yep’ you stepped right into the flow, and there’s some effort to get into the state that supports the flow. But once you’re in it, there’s an effortlessness and there’s efficiency in it.
People have to start getting clear on what supports me getting into that state; because there’s gonna be some lifting, there’s some effort to get there, and for me, I’ve discovered that in the practices that I previously named and I’ve written you 2 books since 2020.
Every time people ask me ‘what’s your secret’ or you should do a workshop on writing; and I actually did one recently. I had to tell them at the beginning: I might disappoint you, because my process is lay down, rest, I’m going to guide you through a really specific and curated vision to get to the well of what I call the writer’s heart, and then write after that.
That is my entire process, I wrote these 2 books from meditating, practicing yoga nidra. Sometimes I would go on walks with no destination, I just time it, and it takes me about 20 minutes to enter into that place where ‘okay I feel very clear’ and I can access my creativity or more of my thoughts. Looking at what’s underneath my thoughts; that’s how I’ve done it. I can probably deconstruct that more, there’s probably more to it… But maybe there’s not.
I did the things that support me being rested and restored, and that allowed me to have access to another layer of myself, and my thinking; my creativity… And then I wrote it down. That’s the process. But the real key is that, in writing mode, I do that every single day until I’m done. If it’s Monday, Wednesday, Friday that I’ll do it, then I do that and I don’t let something else take president.
Well, I love what you were saying, and that was actually what I’m curious about; is how to create that boundary with it. Because you know, I’m actually looking at writing my next book too.. and I was like ‘oh lay down and then right’ that sounds perfect! I will totally do that. I’m gonna lay on my ground in an office or whatever, and then I’ll get up to write.
But you might be hiking… We also have to be curious enough about ourselves in relationship with ourselves to start to go; ‘what are those things for me?’ Because I don’t know what it is for you… I wholeheartedly believe in the power of yoga nidra and restorative yoga. So, I am going to cape for that; but I could be wrong about what it is for you.
Well, I like the idea of doing and lying down on the ground first. I am curious because you did say also, and you alluded to this, that there are certain things that we do no matter what because we know.
What has helped you really be firm in those boundaries, because I feel like a lot of people who are overstimulated or have a lot of dreams, are really scattered or distracted, have a hard time with that tuning inward. Because it requires a boundary of some sort to set. It’s something I haven’t seen you speak about it a lot, and I’m curious how you set that for yourself.
How I set the inner boundary?
The inner boundary, and with the outer world, because I know you have a business and family, and there’re so many demands on everyone’s time in these days. So how do you think of it for yourself, and how do you maintain it?
I won’t say it’s a hard question; I feel very clear on what really matters. And part of this is that I’ve lost a lot of important people in my life… when you have an hour to get to the ICU and you have that kind of experience, you really start to understand what’s urgent and what is not.
For the most part, something coming through email is not urgent on the life level urgent. That seems way out there, and it doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge/honor emails; I’m like the most responsive person you will meet; at 24 hours I’m going to get back to you most of the time. Or you’re going to know I’m not going to get back to you. So part of it is a clarity around what’s urgent, also having my son help me with some of this stuff that I think is urgent. Is it not urgent… Does it involve someone’s, like, well-being, life, all of these things; that’s urgent to me.
The other thing, Nicole, that I’ve said; all my friends have heard me say this; focus is my superpower. I could have 20 things laid out in front of me to do, and I will go do the one thing, then move to the next thing, do the second thing, then move to the next thing. That is a boundary for me, I can’t tell you how I said it. I probably had some traumatizing experience of not having that. And the pain of that experience made me go ‘oh I have to figure something else out’. But again, I don’t like wasting time. I don’t like the feeling of inefficiency and being all over the place.
I just did not like that feeling, so I found a way to stay that feeling off through focusing. The other thing is, I batch how I work a lot. Unless I’m in like a full-on ‘I’m going to turn this book in a month. I might be writing on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And then when I’m doing that I’m doing it in 60 to 90-minute blocks then taking a 20-minute break. I’m the kind of person that does that, and the other thing about a boundary is it’s not for the external world… It’s for you to know how you’re going to respond when it’s challenged.
I think about things that I’m going to say, that I want to say, yes to being clear on what my yes’s are. Being clear on what’s my yes about this year helps me to be clear on when something’s not in the realm of that yes. I’ve really generously just say no. But I guess what you’re asking me is, ‘well how do you get to that point?’.
I got to this point through great suffering. I didn’t come to being a devotee to rest in a leisurely way. I had around the time that we knew each other, maybe before or slightly after, I had this experience of being hospitalized for a physical injury. For dehydration and extreme fatigue. I physically could not go on anymore without getting hydrated and medicated, and support from a hospital for four days.
So I had an experience like that, you know how they say God will whisper and then it becomes a scream… I’m living my life in this really unsustainable way before this scream, this cosmic scream comes and says ‘hey what are you doing? You can’t live like this anymore.’
So for me, the threat of returning to being that kind of unwell in my relationship to self and boundary wakes me up every day with awareness of what my ‘yes’ and what my ‘no’ is. So part of my work is and part of my rest is; I don’t want or think that people have to have that level of burnout or breakdown to come into a more right relationship with themselves, and with their engagement around productivity and doing all of those things. I believe that we don’t all have to have some cosmic scream to say ‘hey you are not okay’.
The other thing is, I ask for help. Within the context of my, and this is this is a big thing; I said it kind of casually but it’s a big thing. Because the women who raised me could do all things in air quotes ‘at a great price’.
And so I’ll give you the example of the equity in my marriage. I can’t say there’s an equal split of labor… But what happens in my marriage and in my parenting with another is: if I can’t do it; you do it. That seems very basic, but my son’s out of school today and when I scheduled this, I don’t know that I remembered that he was not going to be at school on a Monday afternoon.
I have so many peers who are high achieving. They have their own businesses, they contribute to their households in profound and meaningful ways; and every time something happens in the household or with the child if they have a child, they have to attend to it… and for me, I’m just like ‘well that’s not gonna be my life’. There’s a clear boundary in my most intimate relationships around when I need support, how I need that support. But I also have had to do a lot of inner work to be able to receive it and not feel like I’m failing because I need, want and desire and ask for that support.
I really do love this question. Because it’s ongoing. I don’t have it all figured out. What is more clear to me is what’s a ‘yes’, what’s a ‘no’, what’s a ‘not now’, what’s a ‘maybe’… And being honest about those kinds of things.
I get to work with people I really love and I do things that I’m really excited about; and sometimes that excitement will lead me to say ‘yes, I’ll do all the things’. And I also hold the value of I want to show up really deeply and fully and very present for people, and that ethic also helps me maintain a boundary that will allow them to actually do that. So sometimes I have to walk myself out of some of the things, you know when I realize; I can’t really show up at the level that is really required because I said yes to too many things.
So I’m in this ongoing, honest conversation with myself about what I can do, what I need support to do. For women to set boundaries (I have not lived in any other body so I can’t speak on it) the world tests our boundaries… We say no; ‘Oh you didn’t really mean no.’ Or we present a no, maybe we don’t stay with our mouth, but the stance is ‘no’ it gets overwritten…
So for us, it can start to feel like that person’s so radical in her ‘no’ or in her ‘yes’, but the conditioning and the norm for women is; ‘your answer is yes before I ask you’. So if we’re not in this dialogue around what our ‘yes, no maybe, I need more time’, whatever it is with ourself; the world already has the answer prepared for us.
So in the vein of self-worth, I have also just decided that I’m worthy of my own time and care, which sounds very simple… It’s not simple. It’s been all the somatic therapy, all of the coaching, all of the practices, the journaling, the reflecting, the tearful conversations over wine with girlfriends. There are so many things that have gotten me to the point to go ‘oh yeah, you matter to you too’.
Well what you said to me; the conversation; It’s actually really simple. I love that you just decided that you are worthy of time and care. You know we make it to be this whole thing, but you can just decide that you get to have some time for yourself every day. I know it seems so revolutionary, and then when you said it I was like ‘yeah I know why don’t people just decide that they just get to do it’. We own our own businesses, but you don’t have to own your own business to decide that you have time for yourself every day. You give it to yourself even if you’ve got kids and a family. You could actually just decide and have more space.
It is simple and profound, and sometimes I want to say that; and then I remember the me that was hospitalized (break down, burnout, everything, 10-12 years ago) and she intellectually knew she could decide. She didn’t trust it. Because I remember being in the hospital and you don’t think that the first day I was there, you would think that I would go ‘oh wow I’m in a crisis’… I was thinking ‘oh wow I’m missing work’; ‘I’m I’m a burden to my co-workers; ‘I’m letting people down’; and so I’m sobbing not because I’m in the hospital but because of what I couldn’t do because I was in hospital… and my husband held my hand and he said ‘please stop; please stop’; he just was like there is no judgment in this one.
What? What is going on with you? Do you see where you are? And you are talking about ‘I have to finish my work’. He said to me, ‘you get to decide’ I am here; I’ll do it… But then I’m crying some more, saying ‘but I don’t want to be a burden’. So there was some deep illusion operating underneath the surface; like a knot that I’ve had to be intentional about untangling myself from. Maybe that was part of it, I’ve been doing all that untangling but to sit here and say to you ‘just decide’ that you are worthy of your time and your care. And it can be that simple. Someone else.
Well, I feel like, the rock bottom situation doesn’t have to occur if we can start to untangle the things that are blocking us before that point. I see that too, because many women come to me also where after they’ve been through some rock bottom moment; and I’ve been through many of those myself; and how do we start to say ‘oh I am willing to put in some time today to untangle that’ versus going, going, going, going until I’m crying in a hospital bed. Not being willing to see the truth that’s in front of me. That’s what I’m hearing from you, and I feel like the decision is simple, and then the work that it takes after that decision is persistent and consistent and over and over again. So that you can actually have the receiving side which is the worthiness and what you were saying being able to receive help which is a whole other conversation we could get into.. We would need another hour for that one, but it is a big thing for women to start to receive help too, and I’ve had to learn that practice a lot.
Yeah to receive the help versus be the help.
Well Octavia it’s been such (and I could talk forever) a beautiful conversation. It really is and really profound because I feel so much of what you’re saying is really simple. And then the practice of putting it in can be more challenging, and at the same time I think the simplicity is really important for all of us to remember on a daily basis; that you are worthy of receiving time and care, and if you can really make that what you focus on every day; that is when your life starts to expand and you actually have more time and space. You’re more focused and more effective… All the things that we want on a more surface level actually come true when you give yourself this deeper space for yourself. So I’m so grateful for this conversation we’ve had.
And I’d love for people to know the best way to reach you, I know your book your most recent book is out, which I loved I read both of them. They’re really beautiful practices, and her words are so beautiful… So I’d love for you to share what’s the best way to connect with you?
So simple; and then go buy her books! They’re beautiful. They really are.
Ah, yeah, go buy the books let them be companions. Because what I do know is that community can hold us accountable; can support… You made this declaration today ‘I’m worthy of my care in my own time’; go get your girlfriends, your sister, your partner, enroll someone else in witnessing you in that, and witnessing themselves in that. And so for me these books I’ve written; sometimes we feel alone and I’m like ‘well let these books be your companion’. It is very powerful and important to have companions as you untangle yourself from the knots of unworthiness.
So you could do that with the book; or do that with a peer; do that with this podcast; having companions along the way that remind you and reflect the possibilities on the other side of your persistence or consistency, your disruption. Because it’s gonna disrupt some things when you decide that you’re worthy and start to act like it and live like it.
So beautifully said. Her books are so beautiful. You can just open a page and read it and feel that companionship. So go check them out; Pause Rest Be is the most recent one; and thank you so much Octavia also for being here and being in this conversation and I felt really just your presence and your connection and I love being able to come back and connect this way a decade after we begin. So I am so grateful for you.
Thank you so much, Nicole. I’m grateful to be here.
Rapid Fire Questions
First question; What was the last thing you watched on TV?
Transformers with my son.
Love that! Perfect, I love it. Okay, second question, what’s on your nightstand?
An Aesop candle. That’s it.
That’s it? Oh lovely. I love it; so beautiful. Okay, and when was the last time you tried something new and what was it?
Dance parties with my kid; and that was Friday night.
Love it. So fun. Okay, last final question. What are the 3 most used emojis on your phone?
The crying laughing one, and then the crying laughing when turned on a side, and then the one that’s like this covering his face; like ‘did I just do that… did I just say that?’
Perfect, beautiful. All right. Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing our rapid-fire questions; it’s been just such an honor to have you in this conversation with us today!