Have you met Jen Louden? She’s the best-selling author of six books, a teacher, retreat leader and all-round powerhouse of kindness and honesty. Jen beams such wonderful energy into the world and you only have to watch one of her videos to know she does everything with integrity and care (which is why i love her so). Last year I signed up for her fantastic Teach Now* class and I’ll be doing it again this month – as my path as a teacher grows and expands, learning from Jen and Michelle was exactly what I needed — highly recommended!
So with that said, please welcome the luminous Jen Louden to the stand…
SC: Did you always know you’d teach and write? How did this path begin for you, Jen?
JL: If you ask my family, they would say I’ve been telling people what to do since I started talking – maybe before. I’m fairly insufferable.
I’m passionate about helping and I’m over-the-moon passionate about creating. Besides love, it’s what makes life worth living for me.
So I always knew I would create but not how or what. It’s been difficult – and most days still is – to find the right form. I was drawn to art, photography and film-making as a kid but truly, I sucked, even though I made it through USC film school. That is where I discovered writing, and from there, teaching. So that’s where I play these days!
Could you describe a typical day?
Snuggle with the sweetheart. Snuggle with sweetheart and the little doodle dogs.
Drink some healthy stuff (E3Live and kefir) then off to my studio for asana and meditation and chanting – 5 days a week, not usually on the weekends, like to be a goof off then.
Then quick email check in because there are often little emergencies to deal with. Black tea with stevia, more water, and work until I take Lilly, my 16 year old, to school. I use that as a break to get off the computer and into creative work when I get back – but sometimes, okay, often, I cheat and have to peel myself off Twitter and email an hour later. I spend the day writing, teaching, creating content for my Savor & Serve Cafe, banging my head up against the wall, telling people about my work, and not getting out in the world enough.
Exercise happens somewhere in there most days – I suffer immediately if I don’t move my body. I’m usually cooked by 4 and need a long break, then do email again in the evening after dinner.
Evenings are mostly about helping with homework and reading!
How do you prepare yourself before leading a retreat? I imagine they must take a lot out of you!
What takes a lot out of me is trying to be someone I’m not. Truly, when I can settle in to being utterly myself and not think I’m supposed to be wise or know it all, I have a blast.
I’m about to lead a new retreat at Kripalu, Stepping into the Shero’s Journey, and that is going to require some real digging and research. I always always start with me on the couch in the studio with my journal. What do I know that I want to share? What stories do I have?
Then I start thinking about who do I want to interview? What books do I want to revisit?
Then I start writing bits down on post it notes and looking for a flow. I think in modules – so I might teach Conditions of Enoughness (lecture) then an exercise (so people can get it) then a way to “dump their baskets” or share what they’ve learned. I also consider different learning styles – it’s so easy as a teacher to fall into teaching the way you like to learn and forget there are other learning styles, like visual learners or auditory or kinesthetic.
I also spend time in meditation blessing the women who are coming and asking what they need, and then I’m sure to rest rest rest the day before~
I’m so inspired by your new Savor & Serve Experiment! Could you share with us what inspired this new direction?
Longing. Longing to make a more direct difference. Longing to face into the fact our planet is in deep shit and we all need to find our way to help. Longing to know my life matters. Longing to be fully engaged in what I’m doing. Longing to say to the women who have followed me for years, “Self-care is essential but so is world care. We must do both. We can do both!” But since I have no idea how to do both, especially the save the world part, I made it an experiment.
What one thing could we do right now to savor our lives more?
Stop trying to change anything about this very moment. Stop judging anything about this very moment. Stop thinking that you will do this when you are done with whatever you are thinking you will do next. Do it now. (I just did.)
Second thing to do – breath directly into your heart. Right now. Feel the longing to be intimate with yourself and life. Feel how overwhelming and tender that longing is and rest there. Even for 2 seconds.
What and who inspires you? Please share some hot links :)
You do! You are so talented and full of beauty. I took Unravelling just to watch your videos. My daughter (she’s 16) inspires me – she’s doesn’t bend to peer pressure. Amazing. Desiree Adaway is a new friend who inspires me. Jody Williams who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work on banning land mines blows me away. Pema Chodron because she’s like me but way smarter and more enlightened. My friend Elizabeth Lesser in this TED talk “Take the Other to Lunch.” My sweetheart Bob who works hard for the planet everyday.
What is the message you want to share with the world? (in other words, what do you consider to be your life’s work?)
Be kind to yourself and share that kindness with the world – and – it really is possible to be whole and at peace – yes, really, and thus it really is possible to change the world.
What are you working on next?
Besides my Savor & Serve Experiment, this month I’m leading Teach Now again with Michele Lisenbury Christensen. It’s all about how to teach with more ease and joy, and it’s also about finding your voice and your power, and sharing it. It’s about changing the world through sharing what you love – and doing that in a way that brings you alive. It includes 6 recorded classes, 5 live integration calls, work sheets, homework, videos, guided meditations, and something like 28+ master teacher interviews with people like Sharon Salzburg, Parker Palmer, Mark Nepo, Cheri Huber, Meg Wheatley, Elizabeth Lesser – really great stuff.
The program starts March 24th with a free class on where you are on the teacher’s path, how to give yourself the full permission you need to teach, and lots more. It’s not a sales spiel, it’s the actual first class. The people who took it last time – 120 – loved it and many had been teaching for years, and some had never taught. And people actually used the materials, and did the work – love that!
You’re having a dinner party and can invite six famous people from the past or present – who would you choose and why?
Buddha – I want transmission!
Jesus – what do you think of Christianity?
Hildegard of Bingen – so what’s it like to be so creative?
Homer – how the heck did you remember those epics?
Cleopatra – teach me some strategy, baby.
Okay, weird but I’d be happy at that party. But then again, I’m happy at most any party, especially one with you, Susannah. Thanks for inviting me to yours!
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Isn’t she awesome? Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us today, Jen!
* I’m an affiliate for Teach Now as I loved it so much and want to help spread the word, so if you want to learn more about sharing what you know, sign up and try the first class! :)