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May 242012

Life has been quite the unexpected journey. As a child I had this vision of my life: I would not get married, but I would fall in love when I was 28. I would have a career that put me in front of people as a speaker, teacher, and an expert. People would want to know what I had to say. I would be surrounded by other powerful women and we would share homes, be each other’s community, change the world and most importantly, make macramé together. Yes, I was a child of the 70s.

These were my visions of my life and all of them have come to pass…except for the macramé. I still haven’t made a plant hanger yet! What my childhood visions didn’t afford me though, was sight beyond the age of 28. All I could see was that I would fall in love…but I could never see much beyond that. The only thing I knew is that I would have it figured out by the time I was 40. The curious thing that happened is that after 28 is when the unexpected magic began to unfold. This is when I learned how to stand in my power…which first involved, learning to believe that I had “power” to begin with.

Over the years as I wandered the ups and downs of depression, a persistent eating disorder, career transitions and a heart breaking split from the person I fell in love with at 28, I began to see that there was so much more to this lived experience than what is just on the outside. I grew up being taught that what other people thought about me, that externalized judgments of myself where how I learned about who I was. If someone didn’t hire me then it was because there was something wrong with me. If someone didn’t want to date me, then clearly it was because I wasn’t good enough. This belief system permeated all parts of my life until finally at age 32, I learned how to say, “stop!”.

Thus began the most amazing, unexpected and beautiful journey thus far. I jumped head first into intense spiritual and emotional healing practices with a teacher who continues to guide me today. I reclaimed my practice of making art and I quit a prominent and all-consuming full time job. I was determined to figure this out. I was craving something more, something deeper, something more real. Looking back, I realize, I was longing to be connected with my power.

Eventually I found it. It crept up slowly on me like a lingering vine reaching out its tendrils into my heart. As my healing process continued, I found myself clearing space inside me by releasing ideas, beliefs, patterns and behaviors that no longer served me. What I found in that open space was a vibrant wellspring of self-love, self-acceptance and joy. This is where I find my power is rooted. This is where I find my strength.

However, what I hadn’t yet learned was how to lead and live from that place. As I walked through another devastating heartbreak in early 2011 and a career path that was becoming more and more elusive, I was forced to reevaluate where I was, what I was doing and if any of this was truly me, standing in my power. What I discovered actually shocked me. Yes, there were more and more moments of me standing in my power, and yet, in general I was leading with my ego because I was afraid of allowing those pieces in me to truly shine. Recognizing this, I took 3 months in (urban) seclusion, actively stepping out of social spaces and deepening my spiritual practice through extended meditation and prayer. Sitting with my guides and surrendering to the Divine during this time, magic happened and my power began to flow.

In June 2011, I launched a new business, Blue Jaguar (is) Love, a spiritually based life coaching, energy healing and intuitive business. My livelihood is now centered around my gifts of clairvoyance, emotional intuition and years of experience as a coach, philanthropic advisor, group facilitator, artist and teacher. I have found the shoes that actually fit. Getting here was not easy and it required buckets of courage (wrapped in macramé, I’m sure!) to do the healing, releasing and opening up required to fully stand in my power. My joy resides in me and radiates from there. This is the path I am called to walk…despite the fear, despite the uncertainty, despite the confusion on my dad’s face. Standing in my truth, of who I am, of how to be of service with the gifts I hold – this is me, standing in my power.

I turn 40 later this year and truly, this is magic. I’m not sure I have figured it all out, however I have learned how to stand firmly in my power, with love. That is what I was searching for and here I am. This journey – every step, every scrape, every stumble – has been completely worth it.

For me, to stand in my power in a community that stands in hers, is about living truth. It is about a deep practice of love and it is about self-acceptance in all things. I envision this world as being able to hold contradiction, embracing the fullness that we each carry in our light and in our shadow, and honoring the beauty of change. I envision this world to be one where we all have the space to create, explore and become as we have divinely been called to be. I believe that this space is about collective power and collective transformation. I believe a community space where we are all standing firmly in our power, together, will usher in a new economic, political and social interdependence that will turn our existing systems upside down. This is a community that breathes together – a tree with many roots, multiple branches, bearing an abundance in fruit, centered in the nurturing power of a single trunk. For me, this is liberation and this is truth. This is the world I long to live in and with each step I take in my power, I am grateful to be service towards this goal.

My hopes for Standing in Our Power is that the web of connection, intersection and interdependence continues to be built across the networks of women of color who are breathing, living, fighting, being and becoming together. I absolutely believe that SiOP can and will hold the spaces that allow each of us to grow personally, affect change socially and transform politically. I hold this transformational vision of leadership close to my heart.

Standing in our power together is possible. Collective liberation is possible. I believe in this. I commit to breathing and living this spirit of possibility with each of you.

Stephanie Syd Yang is an LA-based healer, intuitive and life coach who believes in the power of clearing space – in our hearts, in our lives, in our bodies and in our minds- as a path towards transformation + a more joyful life. She works with individuals to creatively connect with their inner power and wisdom while co-creating practical next steps to move them forward into their dreams.

She is a certified professional coach, an advanced certified energy healer and a trained intuitive medium. Over the years, Syd has worked extensively with young women, queer youth + emerging artists and also as a philanthropic advisor and giving coach for young inheritors working to align their money with their social justice values. She has written books on leadership (“The World Belongs to Us: Young Women, Leadership and Philanthropy”) and values based giving (“Legacy + Innovation”), and co-wrote the Essentials for Diversity in Giving (EDG) curriculum which works specifically with and for communities of color. Syd has traveled across the US and abroad as a keynote speaker, trainer and group facilitator. www.bluejaguarlove.com // 323.863.5814

May 162012

As an overachieving, overworking activist, sitting idly in the company of solitude, did not come naturally to me. Rest felt like lazy selfishness, two things my immigrant mother indoctrinated me NOT to be. Sitting in meditation, rummaging through years of painful emotions and lingering trauma while searching for inner guidance tested my courage and stubbornness.

On the first day of 2010, after experiencing two painful and messy breakups–one with my wife and the other with my career–I sat in my unfurnished studio apartment in the overpowering company of emotional pain. I found myself without motivation to self-medicate with work or family drama. A couple of weeks after my breakup, a couple of days after my resignation I longed for love. I told no one. Instead, I sat in front of my ancestral altar desperately seeking rescue from my reality. Hoping to find light within pain, I found something better…healing self-love. I came to stand in my power by sitting with myself to find my “why.”

“He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”

Like my grandmother, my aunt and my mother, early on I committed my energy to protecting children and teaching youth to go beyond survival and to thrive. During my last official nonprofit job, when it came time to defend our high school for low-achieving dropouts I gladly put on my activist armor and fought back. Alongside other courageous and committed stakeholders we formed a united–albeit small–front against a wealthy, majority white, board of directors. They craved the accolades of supporting a school for “promising” children. We wanted to stand for what was right. The members of the board were certainly invested in “winning” and they did. The school that served as parent, best friend, sibling, and hope for survival and success was shut down due to its lack of “promising” children.

Our egos were bruised, our energies spent, yet not winning did not defeat us in the same way that it defeated the youth who attended the school. As we moved to the next stage of our careers, some more at peace with our decisions than others, we eventually accepted the disappointment left by our confrontation with the darker side of the business of nonprofiteering–the side that involves confidential memos that never make it to the website or marketing materials. After 10 years of personal investment in nonprofit work, I experienced an unforeseen purge of idealism, followed by disdain for the paternalism of the nonprofit industrial complex. My idealism and naiveté led me to the real challenge of nonprofit professionals: staying truthful and courageous to the community and mission despite infiltration from individuals of very questionable character who wish to run nonprofit organizations as they run their hedge funds and banks, and sometimes even their families. It was then I realized why some nonprofits become funding darlings, why only some ideas make it out of our communities and into mainstream media, and why some kids that tried their best never really had a chance. It turns out that even supporters such as funders and in this case board members, do see a “losing side,” the side of “the rejects, the dangerous.” Even in community-based organizations specifically created to help children and families with severe socioeconomic disadvantages THEY are still searching for what THEY know, “promising non-threatening” children of color to feel good about “helping.” I recognize that it’s not this simple or one-sided and I can go on a huge tangent about this but for now just know I call this eye-opening experience my Nonprofit MFA, Masters in Feminist Activism. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t earned it, yet I am always grateful I did.

I continued to sit in front of my altar, hoping to soon find the courage to ask the right questions and accept the truth. Perhaps regain my strength, refine my mission, perhaps reach out to my community.

The truth trickled in as I discovered a deeper kind of power. Power informed by my truth, ignited by my suffering, sustained by my healing. I choose the word sustain as an intentional reference because we can not afford to ignore emotional and psychological well-being in discussions of sustainability and social justice and equality. Without us, each and every one of us, there is no movement.

When as a woman of color, as a femme lesbian, as a survivor, as a writer and creator I defend my right to authentic happiness I stand in my power. I push boundaries visible only to those who choose to see them, real to those who choose not to. I reject the notion of success, embrace my own legacy and lead not just with my brain but also with my spirit and my heart. It’s not an easy decision, it is a courageous decision. It’s not a certain choice, it is a choice that thrives in the creative demands of uncertainty, the power of my intuition, an intuition fueled by women who came before me, share this world with me now and are yet to make their way over from the spirit world. It’s a choice. It’s a lonely choice, at times requiring the company and hand-holding of spirit goddesses. It’s the only choice that elevates my soul, my family, my community, my ancestors. In my power, I stand, I kneel, I crawl and cry. I am whole, always firm within my values, my purpose and collective knowledge. I choose power. I choose light. I choose love. I choose.

Each day I showed up to my altar and removed painful arrows penetrating my skin, not with my Barnard degree or my professional titles, but with my dance of courage, love, compassion and patience.

Standing in my power I…
receive comfort and healing love from my mother
trust my community,
sit with suffering, with courage and determination to heal,
with compassion and accountability for those whose choices
have hurt me because
“violence however well-intentioned
always backfires upon oneself”
Standing in my power I…
choose forgiveness.
Forgive myself.
Accept my beauty after years of learned self-hate.
Start over. Finish. Quit. Dream. Create.
Break self-imposed silence with my soft voice,
experience vulnerability and,
experience the freedom of healing.

The power of women of color standing together in leadership and community is expansive, collaborative, not based on dominance or oppression and has and will continue to propel our world forward. Standing in our power means nurturing leadership models in which we can each contribute concurrently and cohesively with our passions, our intuitive insights, and our power to create and nurture.

Reinventing myself and my career meant transitioning from youth leadership development to coaching adults. As expected, mentoring youth continues to be top of mind. Specifically, I worry that too many “promising” young women of color are coerced into participation in paternalistic definitions of leadership. Now more than ever young women are encouraged to compete with each other for the few and elusive slots at the “big boys’” table.

As I move forward I am thinking about how I can most effectively contribute to building the leadership capacity of young women of color without having to sacrifice my own calling to mentor and teach women my age to dare boldly and expansively. I believe that by teaching each other, sharing knowledge and building collective power and the power within we will succeed in rejecting oppressive capitalist structures of work, family life and spirituality in favor of justice and equality. I envision a multi-generational model of mentorship and teaching in which women of color can fill in each other’s leadership and educational gaps; the gaps left behind by centuries of anglocentric capitalist models of learning and living. Lucky for us we have access to our own multi-millennia collective knowledge of thriving and healing.

After 10 years of youth development and nonprofit leadership Yaromil Fong-Olivares gave up her six-figure salary in favor of honoring her personal values and mission. In early 2010 she stumbled upon the world of professional personal development and set out to be the first “out” Latina Lesbian lifestyle coach by creating DI=VA Life Coaching. Now after a few winding roads she finds herself in quick and systemic evolution mode, enjoying the art of living and creating. She continues to evolve and thrive as an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer, Reiki Energy Healer and Lifestyle Coach & Blogger. A Latinasian (of Chinese-Dominican heritage), originally hailing from Santiago, Dominican Republic, Yaromil is committed to living and sharing happiness, passion, love and laughter as a self-identified “feminist social entrepreneur.” Always a lover of words, stories, beauty and justice, she is a frugal scholar self-taught in the areas of Positive Psychology, Taoism, practical philosophy, marketing, design, and meditation. She is a student at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and will receive her Wellness Coaching Certification in January 2013. She holds a Sociology degree from Barnard College, Columbia University and sometimes produces music videos and other media. Connect with Yaromil on twitter, @yaropathfinder and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/divacoachingblog, or by visiting her blog: www.yaromilolivares.com/blog.

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