A Woman of Wisdom
A conversation with Caroline Joy Adams
by Sydney L. Murray
Quite some time ago my mother sent me a framed inspirational
quote. It was part of a series called Inspirations
by Caroline Joy Adams. I've had it in my office ever since:
"Your life is a sacred journey. And it is about change,
growth, discovery, movement, transformation, continuously
expanding your vision of what is possible, stretching your
soul, learning to see clearly and deeply, listening to your
intuition, taking courageous risks, embracing challenges at
every step along the way... You are on the path, exactly where
you are meant to be right now...And from here, you can only
go forward, shaping your life story into a magnificent tale
of triumph, of healing, of courage, beauty, wisdom,
power, dignity & love..."
I had the opportunity to chat with Adams as her warmth and
enthusiasm flowed through my speaker-phone.
SLM: Your work seems
to be about encouraging people to celebrate who they are and
what they've accomplished.
CJA: It means recognizing that each one of us has incredible
strengths, resources, gifts and talents. We need to get in
touch with these and bring them forth into our lives and the
lives of those around us every way that we can, every day.
SLM: That can be difficult especially when one is going
through a dark period.
CJA: It is hardest at times like these, but we have to do
it anyway, especially when we're going through a difficult
time. Then we need to take some time out and look at all of
the things we've accomplished, all of the amazing things we've
done and experienced. Take a look at the ways we have grown
in positive directions and made progress in our lives. It's
never going to be as much progress as we'd hoped, because
that's part of life. I encourage you to take a look at how
far you've come in the last five or ten years. In very significant
and important ways we've all grown. That's incredibly important,
to remind people that wherever they are it is an important
place of growth and learning. SLM: It seems important
for all of us to ask ourselves the right questions before
we attempt any major life changes.
CJA: I think we need to ask ourselves a series of questions:
What do you
really feel like you want to accomplish in this life?, What
makes you feel connected to other people?, What gives you
a sense of your own strength and power? And when you ask yourself
these questions you'll come up with different answers. And
it's not just about what do you want to do with your time,
it's about the moments that you remember when you've felt
incredibly alive and in a place of strength and power. What
were the experiences which made this happen for you? Then
you can ask yourself how you can bring more of those experiences
into your life. We need to get as concrete and specific as
possible, because we can't just say we want to be happy. I
sometimes ask people, What are the three most glorious,
incredible moments you've ever had?
SLM: We also need to ruminate
upon how to create those moments of calm in times of stress
CJA: That is the biggest question for all of us because life
is made up of stresses, challenges, and sometimes we go through
an entire life phase with huge challenges. Challenges come
up every day, because that's the way life is. It's just a
matter of getting through one challenge after another. And
that's why we need to be asking the important questions. In
my book, A Woman of Wisdom, Honoring and Celebrating Who
You Are, I invite the readers to ask themselves specific
questions when something stressful is happening. They are:
What if this event is here to open me up to a powerful life
lesson which can facilitate my spiritual growth?, Am I being
invited to become more flexible, patient, open minded, compassionate
or light hearted? And what new awareness, skills or qualities
can this situation allow me to open up to, or to develop right
now?, What can I do to return to a calm and clear state of
mind or an open and loving heart? If we ask ourselves those
questions, we can find our way.
SLM: I enjoyed the passage in your book about the dance school
right above your head in your cherished office, which at times
disturbs your idyllic space.
CJA: That's funny because I've been here all day long and
it's been totally quiet and suddenly five minutes before this
interview there's this massive jumping around and
all of a sudden the walls are vibrating. I went upstairs and
asked them if they could please be a little quieter. It's
a self-defense class with 20 women. I spoke to the teacher
and told her that most of the time I can deal with this, it's
okay, but if they could tone it down I would really appreciate
it. So, sometimes there's a challenging situation right in
your face and you just have to be able to learn to look at
it from a different perspective. I just thought, They're
creating havoc in my space and yet they're doing a powerful
thing, because these women are learning how to defend themselves;
so they can feel strong in their bodies, in their minds and
in their spirits. And all the power to them for doing
that, even if they're making a little more noise for me.
SLM: It's important to have that kind
of flexibility and perspective or you could go crazy.
CJA: Absolutely! Flexibility is absolutely the highest on
my list of priorities. We're
often called upon to think of a creative, new and flexible
way to handle a situation and ask what is the good and what
is the hidden goal? What is it that we can find that's humorous?
There's something to be learned from every situation.
SLM: What important lessons did your
mother or father teach you?
CJA: I think that my father had more of an influence on who
I turned out to be, although, of course, both parents have
influenced me. I think that the major lesson my mother has
given me is to have an optimistic attitude. She has that.
Maybe even too much. My mother never really wanted to deal
with the big life challenges, she tended to gloss
over them. I would say the best lesson I received from her
is that change is possible. Also to have a vision of something
significant to you and taking small steps toward achieving
it. My father had a profound affect on me because he was in
the publishing business and he brought home tons of wonderful
books when I was a child. That really helped me a lot because
I had a difficult childhood. My parents had a troubled marriage
and it was a very tense atmosphere at my house. My father
helped expand my vision of what is possible in the world by
reading lots and lots of books. That had a major impact on
me. My father was also an artist as well as a writer, so I
received a lot of positive direction in both areas.
We need to be honored for who we are and truly have a chance
to celebrate it, celebrate ourselves. We are all here, absolutely,
to be students and teachers for, and to each other. Some people
we meet only fleetingly, others are around our entire lives.
The connections that are powerful and are there for the long
term are there for us to learn very specific things.
SLM: There's one thing which makes
a difference in my life and that is to be grateful for all
that I have, right here, right now.
CJA: I believe we all have incredible gifts and I like to
call them gifts. I just love the word gift because whatever
we have is a combination of what we create for ourselves and
what we have been given. I absolutely believe that there is
a tremendous, creative force in the universe that flows through
us like a huge waterfall, and we just have to let that power
and energy flow through us, and flow out of us in a way that
is unique to each one of us. For instance, my particular talents
are a gift, but one I had to work awfully hard at developing.
When I was a kid I loved to write, but I had the worst handwriting
in the world and it was because my handwriting was so terrible
that I found a book on calligraphy. I had to decide consciously
to improve this aspect of myself.
SLM: It's true. So many incredibly
talented people have worked years to achieve their talent.
CJA: I think it's important to realize that talents are developed.
It's absolutely a process. We all have natural gifts. First,
find out what you like to do and then devote the time necessary
toward achieving your goals. Part of our modern culture encourages
us to believe that we shouldn't have to put any time into
developing a skill. My own daughter expects results immediately
and feels if she isn't good at something right away that means
she doesn't have any talent for it. So, I have to work really
hard with her to let her know it takes a lot of time to get
really good at something. There's a quote that I remind myself
of: Overnight success usually takes 15 years. Even in my own
business I'm still in a stage of growth. I'm nowhere near
where I want to be in a few years. Yet, I've come a long way
from where I was when I started this seven years ago.
I feel truly fortunate because this is my mission in the world:
to bring people together in positive ways and allow them to
truly honor and celebrate themselves and each other. It's
not always easy and there are challenges along the way, but
it's a beautiful vision I've been given and I feel very much
that I have been given it as a mission in my life.
Caroline Joy Adams' book A Woman of Wisdom, is available
in bookstores now and the companion journal will be available
in the fall. Please visit her website at www.carolinejoyadams.com.