Go After Your Dreams: An Interview with Noelle Sterne Part 1

SARAH L. WEBB INTERVIEWS NOELLE STERNE

Author of Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams

April 16, 2013

go after your dreams book coverHave you ever heard about something that you just couldn’t keep to yourself, something you just had to share with others because you knew it would improve their lives?

I had that kind of experience recently when I read Dr. Noelle Sterne’s book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams.

I’ve written before about how bitter I was about “wasting the best years of my life,” and Trust Your Life offers the perfect anecdote to that type of guilt.

And they say lessons come along just when we need them. I felt huge burdens being lifted as I read in her book about how to deal with toxic relationships, how to reprogram our thinking, and best of all, how to start living our dreams today!

So, I thought I’d give you a taste of Dr. Sterne’s valuable insight, and she was kind enough to spend a little time discussing some important principles.  It’s so jammed pack with wisdom that I had to split it into two posts. (Read Part 2.)

If you enjoy the interview, be sure to buy the book!

SLW: Hi, Noelle! How are you?

NS: Very well, Sarah. It’s a pleasure to be with you today, and I’m looking forward to our discussion.

SLW: I’m very excited and appreciative that you took the time out to answer some questions with me today.

NS: Thank you. Your questions have made me think. Your listeners ought to know that we are discussing my book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams, published by Unity Books. It’s available in paperback and various e-forms. In fact, it is featured in what Unity Books is calling their 2013 Summer of Self-Discovery, which is my book and two others from Unity Books on Goodreads. They’re having a discussion group and webcasts with each author here. My author page is also on Goodreads here.

People can go on Goodreads and they can go on Unity Online. Also, the three books will be available in a discounted pack. So, with that introduction, we’re talking about this book called Trust Your Life.

SLW: Why is it important for you to share your insight and offer guidance?

NS: It has been important for me to share the insights in this book and offer the guidance that’s there because first, I had the overwhelming and unstoppable desire to write about what I’ve learned. Second, I learn continuously myself from writing, and third, I have the hope and the impetus to help others through the insights and guidance, even though what I have to say or explain may not be for everyone.

SLW: Well, I know reading through your book definitely was for me. I was taking a lot of notes for me personally, not just for the interview and presenting it to the readers. Hopefully I’ll get to read the other two books in the Unity Series.

NS: Right. Let me just say what they are, and both are on Amazon. One is Native Soul by Doug Bottorff. The other is Living Originally by Robert Brumet. That is actually coming out mid-June. But presale is available now. Whoever chose these at Unity Books, these three are complementary.

SLW: On Page 79 of Trust Your Life, which is your book, you use the term “courageous confrontation.” In your opinion, what’s so courageous about confrontation, and what do we need to confront in order to live the life of our dreams?

NS: I use this phrase in the context of listening to our Inner Voice and acting on it rather than stifling our responses, especially responses of anger or pretending, or outright fibbing that everything is fine. The listening that I refer to can sometimes take the form of an inner shout, or a nudge, or an uneasy feeling, or a bad feeling. We know we haven’t really expressed ourselves. For many of us, especially women in our culture, expressing anger or disagreement is difficult. You may have experienced this too. We’re afraid, for example, that we’ll be disliked, or rejected, or worst of all, labeled b**** or PMS-prone. Men are not similarly labeled, but they’re often admired for displays of anger and aggression. So, even though women have made great strides in our society, I think it still takes courage for many of us to express ourselves fully and risk those perceived responses.

Another reason we need to confront is to truly express our inner resources and responses. If we don’t, we repress them. Repression leads to depression and illnesses. Most importantly, in terms of reaching one’s dream, repression uses energy that we would otherwise have available for pursuing our dreams. Now, I’m sure we all know women, especially, who do or say anything to help keep the peace; who smile, for example, when they should be screaming or weeping; who agree to too many tasks for others when they’d rather be home reading; and who, maybe without explanation and without anyone’s understanding, after years of a so-called perfect marriage, suddenly pack a bag and head out the door. I’ve read about things like that.

So, as I point out in the book, repression actually precipitates chemical, physical changes in our bodies. It affects our immune system and our enzyme and hormone production as well. Medical science today does acknowledge the role of repression and resentment in many stress-related illnesses, for example, and activation of cancer.

In this context, I recommend Louise Hay. I hope your readers are familiar with her. If not, they should look up her books on mind-body correspondences. She has these wonderful charts and discussions on how our emotions and our bodily manifestations, ailments, are connected. Then she has affirmations on dealing with and routing out any ailment at its source, which is our minds.

Courageous confrontation is a part of all of that. Expressing ourselves, even if it’s tactful, keeps us emotionally clean and without the proverbial baggage. Then, we’re not taking time and energy ruminating over a relationship, for example, who said what, why the other guy should be blamed. We’re using our time and energy to think more clearly and take the actions that will lead to the fulfillment of our dreams.

SLW: I think just that one answer can change somebody’s life, let alone the whole book and everything else that we have to talk about.

That takes me into my next question pretty nicely in terms of confrontation and thinking about the atmosphere that we’re in. In the book you use an example of a friend you call Greer to talk about how our surroundings might be affecting us. What can people do if they find themselves in an atmosphere that’s stifling them or that’s very negative?

NS: First of all, we can admit that the atmosphere is stifling. Sometimes we intend to smooth over. We say, Oh I guess it’s me. Maybe I’m hungry. Maybe I’m tired. Maybe it’s indigestion. I will say this—my husband has an uncanny and infuriating ability to sense when I am less than positive. I may be smiling and speaking sweetly, but he’ll announce that he doesn’t want to be around me until I change my attitude. Of course, it’s a little embarrassing for me (I can’t hide anything from him), but he can feel it in the atmosphere, and he’s not willing to tolerate it. So, we can take a lesson from him, much as it hurts me to admit it. He recognized the atmosphere around him and declared its existence, and he doesn’t want to be a party to it.

Now, what we can do otherwise, which he does sometimes, is we can remove ourselves physically, if possible. If not physically, we can remove ourselves mentally. One way is to fill our minds with positive thoughts—mantras or one-line prayers, whatever one likes. For example: I am unlimited. I am unbound by other’s judgments. I am free. I am loved. Anything that occupies our mind, and since nature abhors a vacuum, then we’re not being subjected to that negative atmosphere.

In the book, on page 108, I also list questions about how we can recognize people who project a stifling atmosphere. When readers answer these, they can see who’s keeping them down and how. Then they can apply affirmations. Maybe they can talk to the other person (that takes a little courageous confrontation), or arrange as much as possible and practical not to continue in the other’s company. As I saw with Greer and other friends, sometimes the confrontation may mean gently terminating the friendship. With family members, it may mean another kind of courageous confrontation and a declaration that you refuse to be affected by their often doom-saying, negative judgments, criticisms, never being satisfied, when are you going to get married, that kind of thing.

SLW: Another theme that’s huge in the book and is in the title itself is forgiveness of self and others. I’ve heard some people say that you can’t really forgive someone unless you fully restore the relationship back to its original state, or before the original “offense.” So, what do you think of that perspective?

NS: Well, you’re right. Forgiveness is a big part of my writing and a constant life theme. I’m sure I need it as much as anybody. I believe that forgiveness works like repression. If we don’t forgive, we hold on to the judgments, the rage, the gripes, and they sap our energy and affect our bodies too.

In relation to your question about restoring the relationship to before the original offense, I believe that really depends on the relationship. The original state may have been much less than healthy, a dominant-submissive or codependent relationship. Rather, I would say that we have truly forgiven when—now this is a toughie—when we no longer feel even a twinge of irritation, or better, we don’t even think about the person and his or her offenses.

I’m a student of A Course in Miracles, and it has two wonderful lessons on forgiveness in which you first catalogue all of the other person’s faults, and then you see that person in Light. In case anyone’s interested in the workbook in a Course in Miracles. These lessons are in the Workbook, Lessons 46 and 121).  They really are challenging, I must say, because to forgive really takes LOVE.  Readers may also be interested in the Miracle Distribution Center, founded to publicize and help the study of the Course.

SLW: Is it possible to forgive but no longer trust the person with your life, essentially, or with your mental, spiritual, physical, or emotional wellbeing?

NS: I think it’s possible to forgive but no longer want to or feel you must associate with that person, if that’s what you mean. The way you put the question, I don’t think it’s possible to associate if you no longer trust the person. Yes, it’s possible to forgive them. If you don’t trust them, the relationship won’t work, and it won’t be nurturing for either party, I believe.

Again I would apply certain lessons as in the Course in Miracles. As you can get rid of all your resentment and anger, you just allow the other person to be. You become neutral about that person. In a way, that may be the best touchstone of forgiveness. But you can also recognize that you no longer have anything in common with them. Their outlook may be stifling too, as it was for me, when I finally realized it, with Greer. Also, you may realize you’re growing at a different rate, but you can bless them for what they gave you in both positive and learning ways. I think of examples such as friends from earlier years that we all have, even family members.

Many spiritual teachers point out that people come into and go out of our lives for different reasons, and we’re supposed to learn from each relationship. Coming back to one of your major earlier themes, we’re supposed to have the courage to see what is healthy and optimal for us and take the right action. Sometimes this means terminating relationships or just letting them go gently. You realize that now a great friend from high school and you are on completely different wavelengths, and you’ve grown in a certain way and they haven’t, or vice versa. Sometimes though, you reignite the relationship, often on new and delightful grounds.

SLW: Alright. That does give us a lot to think about, as do your writings in general. And speaking of your writings, in Trust Your Life, there are a lot of practical strategies that people can use to gather the courage to confront, or to forgive, or to pursue their dreams. I’m wondering if there will ever come a point after reading your book where it’s not such a conscious effort and that it comes more naturally.

NS: We’d all like that, wouldn’t we? I think of the co-founder of Unity, Charles Fillmore, who wrote a wonderful little booklet called A Six-Day Healing Practice. It has denials and affirmations for each day of the week. In the introduction, he says that each day’s passage “is to be repeated over and over until it manifests its living presence and potency in consciousness” (Unity Village, MO: Unity School of Christianity, 1986, p. 10). So he recognized that it’s not a sudden snap-of-the-fingers thing.

I believe that the time for non-conscious, or not trying, to live with the principles comes by degrees as we continue to practice faithfully and regularly. Of course, this is not easy. Our minds and society have decided to focus on negativity and dire appearances. We may need much more effort and outright denials to continue to affirm and visualize. I’m sure you know too that it takes a lot of self-discipline, mental discipline, but the more we do these things, the more our mental habits change.


It’s like with meditation. At first we can barely concentrate. We’re into the to-do list, and thinking about food. As we practice and forgive ourselves for all the mental flitting about, we tolerate a few more seconds, and a few more. Then optimally, best scenario, it becomes easier to slip into that meditative state at will anywhere and without all the candles and cushions. So, I think that as we “leaven”—that is, raise—our consciousness with these tools, it does become easier to respond almost automatically to the positives we’ve learned.

Is it ever not conscious? Well, for Jesus and other enlightened people, likely. For the rest of us, I think it depends on our hunger for the positives and our degree of surrender to them in the face of opposite sense evidence. So, keep practicing! Keep practicing! Keep at it! I’m talking to myself too.

Stay tuned for part two of Noelle Sterne’s interview on 5/13!


Author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne writes fiction and nonfiction, publishing over 300 pieces published in print and online venues, including Funds for Writers, Pen and Prosper, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, ReadLearnWrite, Women on Writing, Transformation Magazine, 11.11, and Unity booklets.Her monthly column, “Bloom Where You’re Writing,” appears in Coffeehouse for Writers. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has helped doctoral candidates complete their dissertations (finally), with a psychological-spiritual handbook in progress. In her book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books; one of ten best 2011 ebooks), she draws examples from her practice and other aspects of life to help writers and others release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. See Noelle’s website: www.trustyourlifenow.com. With Trust Your Life, Noelle appears in the Unity Books 2013 “Summer of Self-Discovery” on Goodreads with two other authors of positive messages for discussions and free webcasts here. Starting in May 2013, Noelle will be one of five featured authors on Author Magazine’s ongoing blog, exploring writing, creativity, and spirituality.


How Do You Define Courage?

courage definition“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” ― Atticus Finch

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” ― Coco Chanel

Clearly, I could talk forever and a day about courage, and lots of people have already spoken their piece about it.

But I don’t want to go on and on, ad infinitum without hearing from you!

I want to know how you define courage.

I enjoy blogging because of the continuous feedback loops. It’s a social medium meant to connect and engage people in dynamic dialogue.

So, leave a comment with your definition of courage.

Your definition may be short or long; descriptive, narrative, or expository; a personal example or an intellectual philosophy.

You can quote others or write a poem.

Feel free to post more than one.

I’ll also be asking the same question of Facebook and Twitter, so you can read what others have to say on those networks as well.

You can tweet to @SLWrites or post to my Facebook page.

You can attach appropriate (PG) images or links to relevant content.

Like, retweet, or reply to other definitions that appreciate.

Do what you feel as long as you answer the question:

How do you define courage?

 

I’ll be doing a follow up post compiling all of the favorite quotes. Come back to see what’s made the list.

6 Lessons Facebook Taught Me About Courageous Content

facebook thumbs up like button for courageousThe best part about social media is that we get to interact with people.

And when we interact with people, we learn a lot.

My interactions on Facebook in particular have taught me a few things about the difference  between merely updating my status with my vacation plans, and posting what I call courageous content.

Here are six basic lessons I’ve gleaned from Facebook comments and messages.

1. You get some love.

 

When you publish courageous content, it’s as though people were subconsciously waiting to hear from you.

You might get the sense that you’ve finally said the words they’ve always wanted to say but were too afraid or just didn’t know how to articulate.

Perhaps they have said the same thing before and are just so relieved to discover someone else who understands where they’re coming from.

People open up and tell you stories about their childhood and their parents, their fears and their dreams, and it’s obvious that they want to get something off their chests.

Your courageous content opens the gate for them.

You’ll get loads of thanks and praise and more thanks.

Savor those moments. Maybe even take screenshots of it all and keep an encouragement file on your desktop.

Because just as you get some love . . .

2. You get some hate.

 

When you reach the core of the Earth, things get heated.

By its very nature, courageous content elicits strong feelings.

Not all of them are positive.

It doesn’t even matter if your content is overtly controversial or not.

Don’t assume that the only people who get hate comments are the ones who are trying to pick a fight.

Anything you publish could potentially get under people’s skin and drive them to leave angry comments on your wall. Anything.

But that’s part of what makes the content so courageous–you’re willing to face the insults, boldly holding up your testament before the mob.

When I find myself getting down about the haters, I think of contemporary success stories like Oprah, Obama, and Beyonce. These people have billions of adoring fans, but for every person who loves them, there’s one or two who can’t stand them.

Love and hate are the yin and yang of living a public life. Embrace it.

If you let the fear of hate keep you from doing what you most want to do, then you’ve just surrendered your life to the people who least deserve it.

3. Courageous Content reveals who your real “friends” are.

 

Really, Facebook taught me the importance of having a Facebook page, rather than just using my personal profile to promote my work.

My personal profile is filled with “friends” who know me, but don’t necessarily fit into my target audience. Therefore, my content isn’t always meant for them.

When I post on my professional page, however, I’m targeting people who might actually be happy to discover what I post.

I’ve learned the hard way that personal and professional don’t always mix.

So, if you cherish the Facebook friendships on your personal profile, create a separate page for publishing all of that courageous content you’re creating.

I didn’t separate the two because I was afraid to let friends see my content; I separated them because I don’t have time to explain myself to people who just don’t get it and never will.

Now I can spend my energy engaging people who are happy to be engaged.

4. Not everyone cares.

 

While some people will have strong reactions to your content, others simply aren’t interested because of your topic.

It goes back to that target audience thing we all keep hearing about. If you talk about courageous parenting, then people who aren’t interested in parenting most likely won’t even raise an eyebrow, much less click on a link.

5. It’s easier to like, share, and comment on courageous content than it is to create and publish it. 

 

But somebody’s got to do it. It might as well be you.

That way, people who aren’t interested in creating the content, can still support and spread ideas that they believe in.

6. Continue the conversation. 

 

Practically speaking, you should repost older content simply because most people didn’t see it the first time. Even if you only write or speak about a subject once, you should re-share it multiple times so that more people can find it.

But there’s usually a way and a reason to create new content as well.

Courageous content is often dynamic and complex with lots of nodes to unpack and knots to untangle.

Just when you think you’ve said enough about an issue, people will start to ask for more.

Sometimes you manage to get through those initial discussions about a difficult issue because the initial discussions are clichéd, merely repetitions of what everyone’s okay with saying.

But it takes even more courage to stick with the conversation, even after all the hate has been spewed.

You have to find even more courage to dig and probe all around and within the issue, all around and within yourself.

So . . .

What have your interactions on social media taught you about publishing content?

Show Me How to Be Courageous: Angela’s Legacy

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Angela Davis shows us how to be courageous The struggle would be difficult, but there was already a hint of victory. In the heavy silence of the jail, I discovered that if I concentrated hard enough, I could hear echoes of slogans being chanted on the other side of the walls. ‘Free Angela Davis.’ ‘Free All Political Prisoners.’ -Angela Davis: An Autobiography, 1974

April 5 is the debut of the documentary film Free Angela and All Political Prisoners.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited that the world can once again be inspired by Angela Davis’s courageous story.

Those who were alive in the 70’s may have forgotten. Those of us who weren’t alive at the time may have have never known.

Indeed, we’ve done a poor job of retelling Angela’s story in our ongoing distribution of American history.

She rarely gets more than a blip in a montage, as if merely showing her face, fro, and fist is enough to convey the gist of her legendary life.

Too many of us, however, aren’t clear about the story beyond these images.

For me, of course, the most resonant theme in her story is courage.

Outside in the open, entangled in my grief and anger was also fear. A plain and simple fear so overwhelming, and so elemental that the only thing I could compare it to was that sense of engulfment I used to feel as a child when I was left alone in the dark. . . . Images of attack kept flashing into my mind, but they were not abstract–they were clear pictures of machine guns breaking out of the darkness, surrounding Helen and me, unleashing fire . . . -AD

Though most of us will never be one of America’s most wanted, Angela’s story can teach us all how to be courageous.

In fact, there’d be no documentary, no story to tell, had Angela not lived courageously in her everyday life, long before the criminal charges or the ensuing manhunt and trial.

One thing I hope Free Angela reveals is that while Angela Davis’s imprisonment and trial is perhaps the more sensational and infamous part of her story, all along, every day of her life, then and now, Angela is a role model for having the courage to think, speak, act, and be revolutionary.

The Courage to Think

I’ve seen the fear in my students . . . the fear of pursuing an education, the fear that it’s not meant for them, not part of their inheritance.

Then there’s the fear of the responsibility that comes with learning.

The fear of what truths may be uncovered if we allow ourselves to follow a thought process through its entire cycle.

As a student and professor of philosophy, Angela Davis embraced the power of thinking . . . of not only learning the thoughts of others, but in having new and original thoughts of one’s own.

She not only had the courage to hold and mold deep thoughts in her mind, she also had the courage to spread them.

The Courage to Speak

We keep silent for fear of exposing our true thoughts.

We keep silent because others have told us we should, told us to keep our thoughts to ourselves.

We’re wordless because we think our words are worthless.

Angela’s example shows us that our words are sometimes the greatest gift we can give to the world, and that we should say what must be said even as others try to silence us.

She shows us that words can save souls, save lives, and stoke revolutionary fires.

The Courage to Act

Nothing in the world made me angrier than inaction, than silence. The refusal or inability to do something, say something when a thing needed doing or saying, was unbearable. The watchers, the head shakers, the back turners made my skin prickle. -AD

Organizing, voting, rallying, marching, visiting, feeding, housing, leading . . .

Some of the greatest words are action verbs.

The beautiful thing about Angela is that she lived among the people, not segregated within her words or intellectual world.

She was a physical presence in the struggle for freedom and justice for all.

She gave her life:

For me revolution was never an interim ‘thing to do’ before settling down; it was no fashionable club with newly minted jargon, or new kind of social life–made thrilling by risk and confrontation, made glamorous by costume. Revolution is a serious thing, the most serious thing about a revolutionary’s life. When one commits oneself to the struggle, it must be for a lifetime. -AD

The Courage to Be

Angela thought, spoke, and acted while being a black women in a world that says blacks can’t think, that women shouldn’t speak, and that any actions by either group to take control of their lives is an automatic threat to society.

She was proud to be black, and she was empowered in her womanhood even in a society that overtly tried to suppress black pride and women’s empowerment.

That’s revolutionary.

By merely being herself, Angela Davis shows us how to be courageous.

This post is a submission in the Black Bloggers Connect contest.

Get your tickets to the New Orleans Area Screening of Free Angela and All Political Prisoners!