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Stephanie Syd Yang

Oct 112013

exercises for embracing your power

Learning to embrace myself has taken time and practice. As I mentioned in the previous post, I work with people to help them access the spaces within themselves to transform suffering and move into more embodied expressions of wholeness. Here are the two other guiding principles of my healing practice, along with exercises that allow me to live them and embrace my power.

2. Personal healing transforms lives, families and communities

Some years ago, I thought that working with and for organizations that supported reproductive justice and women’s leadership would feed my spirit. I entered into this work wearing big, clunky, rose-colored glasses. When they fell off – and they did – it made a loud crash! I assumed that if a space was feminist, it would naturally be inclusive. Growing up in harshly patriarchal spaces (Chinese culture and evangelical Christianity, to name a few) I craved a space where people could be different, where we could share leadership and where women would be able to speak up and be heard.

What I learned, however, was that in organizations and movements, we were quick to point fingers outside ourselves, looking for external sources of our pain. But we rarely looked within to examine how we were wounding ourselves and others. There was so much talk about how “women lead differently,” yet that is not what I experienced. I saw hierarchy, nepotism, ageism, racism, refusals to share power, lack of support for each other, and a culture of overwork. It was heartbreaking. I eventually left that world in search for something more aligned with values I held in my heart: equity, shared power, interdependence, accountability and honesty. Because I could dream it, I knew it had to exist.

Stepping back, I noticed that often what was happening within organizations was the playing out of dysfunctional patterns that mirrored those of the people involved. Perhaps because of my family history, the one that I most often hit up against was co-dependency (a reliance on others / things external for validation and meaning that serves individual ego) as opposed to interdependency (a mutual relationship that serves the collective good.)

While I had these criticisms of the leaders and the organizations which failed to create the internal spaces where the staff could bring their whole selves, I felt completely irresponsible myself to stay involved with organizations if I didn’t do more personal healing. So I stepped out and stepped way back, spending many years (and the bulk of my savings!) intensely on my own healing and spiritual growth. I thought I had to “find” my self, and yet, my biggest a-ha moment along the way was realizing that my wholeness had been with me the entire time. I just had to notice and step in.

Try This: Draw two circles, one on each side of the same sheet of paper. On the first side, write down all the negative and challenging things you tell yourself in the center of that circle. Be honest and gentle with yourself, at the same time. When you are spinning in self-doubt, what do you say to yourself? When frustrated, how do you speak to yourself? Include as many as you can to fill the circle, then stop. Do not write beyond the lines.

Now, consider what you have written. How often did you use the verb “to be”? When we use the verb “to be” we are spinning magic, calling things into being. To say “I am not enough”, is actually calling that statement into being. Perhaps you are simply feeling like you are not enough? Let’s practice being precise with our word choices.

Turn the paper over and on the outside of the circle drawn there, re-write what you wrote on the other side, but this time, avoid the verb “to be”. Examples might be: “I hold in my body.” “ I feel unlovable”. “My body expresses trauma,” etc. Allow your experiences to simply be that – experiences. Allow them to separate from you as they dissolve in their impermanence. This practice of shifting up HOW we talk to ourselves is a simple way to begin releasing the limiting belief systems we hold.

Finally, within the center of the circle on the 2nd side of the paper, write the words “I AM”. Just like the universe IS, you absolutely ARE. What do you choose now to call into being – for yourself, your family, your community? What do you choose to call into being for the world? This is your wholeness – both your humanity and your divinity. Everything is interconnected. Take this image with you throughout your day as a reminder of who you are choosing to BE. We can be who we say we are. Use the verb wisely!

3. To heal is to release joy; to release joy is to connect with the Divine in each one of us. 

Whatever healing means for each of us, it is a powerful key to unlocking the joy that resides within each one of us. The more we release the more we are able to connect to the Divine, which is the All that Is. We are all a part of something bigger than ourselves. This is our Wholeness, this is our Power.

Releasing more joy into our lives is also about reclaiming love for ourselves. Given the societal, familial and other external messages we have received, it isn’t always a simple task to love ourselves. However, it’s impossible to love others if we don’t love ourselves.

It also isn’t easy to love oneself given the messages that many of us have received over our lifetimes. We also can’t achieve social justice without people and organizations filled with love – because justice is love. The path to self-love is through challenging ourselves – with love. The solutions are nestled in the questions. Through intention, attention, and practice, we can learn to dance again with the joy and abandon of a well-loved child.

Try This: Take a piece of paper (the larger the better) and fold it in half, lengthwise. On one side, write out what you love to do. On the other side, list out what you are good at. Be bold! Write down everything – from the silly to the profound. Now, draw lines between those two lists to and see what these connections unveil. Now, explore. What new ideas has this inspired? What new directions can you take in your life? Where might you try on something new? Take a step and see where this path might lead. This can help you explore your deepest desires and strengths, which will help you unlock more of your joy.


As a mixed race, queer person, I have learned what it means to navigate life on the margins, tight-rope walking the edges between identities and worlds. I know that I am not what other people imagine me to be. And I know that I can re-imagine myself, I can re-claim the wholeness of who I have always been. I bring these sensibilities into my practice with others, helping them to re-imagine their own wholeness back into being. Each day I offer gratitude to be of service in these ways. I have found my calling. I am standing proudly in my power.


Sep 252013

syd new photo

I am sitting at the dining room table at my sister’s home, watching my 7 year old niece twirling and skipping around the living room, rocking her Asperger’s world with so much joy and grace. She is bold, unfiltered, vibrant and real. I lapse into daydream as I watch her, wondering, what if each of us, regardless of age, ability, class, employment status, race or identity, were able to access the space(s) in our own selves that allow us to move through the myriad twists and turns of life with this pure expression of our power. Can you see it too?

Learning to embrace my power took a lot of exploration, a bottomless pocket of patience and an unwavering commitment to my own healing. My journey has taken me into the nurturing embrace of many healers, connecting and learning from different traditions, practices, experiences and beliefs. Some fit, some didn’t, yet each experience moved me deeper into a more full experience of who I am called to be.

My journey has woven through the ivory halls of academia, circling in and out of the non-profit sector, mentoring young women, working in film production and consulting for socially-responsible finance and philanthropy. The connecting thread however, has been my practice of deepening relationship to Spirit and a softening into my gifts of clairvoyance, mediumship and of being an Empath. These gifts have been a part of who I am at my core since day one, yet it is only in the past few years that I have given myself permission to fully own these gifts as mine – as real, necessary and valid.

Today, I make my living as a healer, building a community-based practice in Los Angeles, Blue Jaguar is Love. I work with people one-on-one and in small groups, helping them to access the spaces within themselves to transform suffering and move into more embodied expressions of wholeness.

The three guiding principles of my healing practice are also the principles that guide my own feet as I walk through life.

1. Healing is possible.

Healing is absolutely possible if we choose it; but we have to practice at our own healing. It is not a linear process. In sixth grade I was determined to learn to play the violin. I had grandiose visions of making jaws drop the moment my bow hit the strings…then I found out I had to practice every day. My heart sank. What I soon discovered was that practice had a sweet side: the more I practiced the better I got and the easier it became. I could then try out new techniques and more difficult music. It wasn’t about being perfect, it was about learning.

Healing is like learning to play the violin. We do learn from teachers outside of ourselves, yet ultimately, it is ourselves to whom we are accountable. Why do you practice? What keeps you focused? What are you working through? When do you choose to walk away? As I learned with my violin journey, the expectation of speedy rewards actually slows us down: it is the process that matters.

Try This: The simple act of breathing is a potential lesson, an opportunity to connect deeper with ourselves, with the world and with Spirit. Begin a daily stillness practice. Start with just one minute to sit still and simply breathe. Notice your inhale and your exhale, say hello to your body as it is right now. What are you feeling? Where are you? Just notice. Call back in all the parts of yourself that you may have left with other people, or in that meeting that went too long, or even in your bed this morning. Call yourself back into yourself. Find your center now in your breath. As your heart slows your mind will follow suit. When you are ready, tack on another minute to your stillness…and then the next day, another minute. Notice what happens. What do you hear when your mind is still? What do you know? The more we practice the easier it becomes to access stillness, inner wisdom and our own personal wholeness. This is healing, one breath at a time.

Coming in Part II: My other two guiding principles and two more exercises for embracing your power.

Stephanie Syd Yang is a coach and co-facilitator of the Standing in Our Power 2013-14 Transformative Leadership Institute.

Jul 262012

Over the course of three days, we connected, shared, strategized and transformed in a beautiful home where streams of sunlight flooded the space, giving life to the multi-color décor. Our stories of love, trauma, struggle and resilience were as bright and rich as the colors in the curtains, etched into artwork from around the world and painted onto walls.

The first Standing in Our Power (SiOP) core leadership team retreat was held on June 6-9 at the blessed abode of core member, Shilpa Jain, in Berkeley, CA. One of my favorite memories was sitting around a large, round wooden table–that felt like it was made just for us—while we shared communally prepared food.

We began our core retreat with ritual, led by Dayanara Marte (Dee) and Omisade Burney-Scott. It was a beautiful, co-creative process that allowed each of us to honor something greater than ourselves. Shilpa led a ‘Snowball Inquiry” activity that surfaced questions that are real for us at this time. It was like sewing together a quilt with disparate yet strikingly interconnected patches.

From the discussions that ensued, a thread began to weave throughout the retreat in the form of an inquiry: How can we embody a new way of ‘being’ and release the constant pressure of ‘doing.’ Honoring that question, we were able to slow down, breathe and be present. We agreed that the inaugural SiOP retreat, scheduled to happen October 25-28 in Ohio, will focus, in large part, on who we want to be as Women of Color leaders. We will explore how to embody new ways of leadership and release the overwhelming sense of anxiety and inadequacy that comes with needing to do the next best thing.

We then took a deep dive into some much-needed healing work with Dee and Piper Anderson through a process called “Emotional Release,” which has been developed by Dee in her work with Women of Color in the New York City. It was an incredible individual journey inward and then back to the collective. I personally uncovered traumas that I had packed away so well that I forgot they even existed. Together, we laughed, cried and held space for each other as we explored how our hearts had been broken.

Meizhu Lui, our amazing elder on the core, then led us through a process to deepen our political analysis and framework. We examined historical and contemporary data that spoke profoundly of the social inequities experienced by Women of Color. This process definitely got us fired up. As Meizhu tells us: we need to know how we got here to then be able to transform our present and future. Cherine Badawi led us in a World Café process – as we walked in pairs throughout Shilpa’s neighborhood – which explored Women of Color leadership by tapping into our experiences and visions. As the retreat came to a close, we appreciated each other, shared gifts and celebrated with music and poetry.

The retreat yielded a powerful draft agenda that we plan to continue refining as we finalize our list of attendees for the first national SiOP gathering. As we continue our deep listening phase and begin building the next circle that will help to develop the larger network, the energy of our core retreat guides us. These next few months will be a time to continue focusing on how to be, while we also manage a series of tasks. I have no doubt that it will also unfold and flow in a truly magical way.

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

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