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Empowerment

Dana Balicki is the go-to guide to aid and realign your life or your business. She is a true inspiration. Keep reading to see how she draws empowerment and manifests change in others.

Who are your mentors and what is your advice to someone who is seeking mentorship?

I’ve been wildly blessed with loving and fierce teachers, guides, healers and mentors.

Some of my main mentors over the past decade have been: the indomitable Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK (you most recently saw them getting dragged out of the RNC for disrupting Trump); the effervescent Gail Straub and David Gershon of the Empowerment Institute; and the sublime Rha Goddess of Move The Crowd. I helped Rha write this piece on mentorship for the women’s financial site Daily Worth, and these are solid tips for finding and keeping a mentor:

– Bring clarity about your needs and what kind of support you’re looking for.

– Carry generosity with what you bring to the table (not a one way street, sister) and heaps of gratitude for each interaction.

– Speak up when something isn’t clear.

– Always be prompt, do your homework, and follow through on what you say you’ll do.

– Honor boundaries.

As with all relationships, these are precious and require your intention, attention and action. Oh, and sometimes mentors show you how not to do things. Meaning, you see them do something and you realize “Oh dang, that’s definitely not how I’m gonna do that when it’s my turn.” Be open to the learning both ways. It’s all of value if you let it be.

How does one articulate their vision?

We don’t make a lot of room for clarity because we’re all moving too damn fast, multi-tasking our little hearts out. And we get addicted to problem solving mode. It’s our cultural pathology. Then everything looks like a problem! Your job, you life, your love, your body, your sexuality, your feels, your spirituality, your money.

It’s exhausting and nowhere in the fixing is there room for clarity, creativity, enjoying the journey. Or vision; there’s just fear and the tired, old look of clinging to it.

We have to shift the orientation from this cultural pathology to one of Vision. Capital V. A new orientation where you look at your life zoomed out, with the view of “How do I want to be alive right now? How do I want to feel everyday? What do I really want to bring to the table?”

So to cultivate the conditions for clarity we have to slow the eff down. Slow down the thoughts, the actions, the reactions. The mind, the body, the heart.

Let go of caffeine if you have to.

Pick your top friends who really make you feel loved, nurtured, seen and take a pause with the rest.

Let your calendar breathe if you’re always back to back.

Discover “off time”. (That means no phone, no DOING of anything, just being. It might be new and scary, but you’ll figure it out.)

Once clarity has some space, you can begin to observe your thought/behavioral/emotional patterns and notice that which no longer serves you.

Now imagine how you want to feel, not just what you want to do or have. Do you want to feel safe, seen, heard, respected, loved, good enough, supported, courageous, clear, confident, abundant, grounded, whole?

Do you believe that it’s possible that you could have what you want? That you could feel/be what you most desire? If no, start there. If yes, find a way — right now — to start feeling it. You create your reality. You make your vision real.

What are the daily practices that move us forward and help us stand in the light?

Good news is that there are many! Here are a few of my tried and trues:

– Slow down. Maybe that means starting off with meditation, prayer, self-pleasure, goddess cards, talking to plants, stretching, cat time, a little dance around the room in your undies, no phone or inbox your first hour (a must!), or just a few deep breaths and setting an intention for the day. Do it, girl.

– Make time to be in your body. Bow down to yourself. You’re perfect.

– Appreciate, appreciate, appreciate. The folds of your body, a tree on your way to work, the feeling of the earth under your feet, the scent of your lover’s long, manly mer-man hair (maybe that’s just me), the air in your lungs, your home, this opportunity of being alive right now. Whatever it is, let the appreciate snowball.

– Make room for clarity. See first point about slowing down. In case you already forgot that one.

– (Re)connect with your inner guide. Get quiet and still, ask, listen, trust what you receive and act from there.

– Remember that you already know what’s best for you (aka trust yo’self).  

Clients typically come to you when seeking change and empowerment, what is your process for catalyzing this?

The crux of it is belief work. We quite literally go to work on what you believe, where it comes from, what it’s costing you (that’s critical) and how to release it. Then we lean into creation through being, visioning through feeling and the art/science of manifesting. We use ritual, visualization, imagination, deep dive homework between sessions, reading, talking, dancing, whatever we have to do to get where the soul wants us to go.

There is a highly structured process (which I love, as I’ve got loads of Air in my sign and deeply desire grounding) that I enter into with each client, but there’s also so much unique flow. Every person is different. Every journey is its very own.

For most of us it’s about unearthing and healing some deep childhood wounds. Even for those who’ve done a lot of internal work, there is always something here to explore. If you’re experiencing a pattern in your life that isn’t working, there’s some core belief keeping you stuck there. It’s ready to be transformed otherwise it wouldn’t be so uncomfortable. Your soul is just itching to let it go.

And we don’t spend all our time in the past. Quite the contrary. My job as guide is to bring you squarely into the present — the neutral present — where you are free from your past and future. You are here, right now, in love with yourself, trusting yourself, and making empowered decisions about how you want to be alive. It’s the best.

What does a day look like for you?

I get up so early now. Not quite with the sun, but close. I have the same thought, first thing, every morning. “Another beautiful day in the desert!” And it’s true, every time.

There’s prayer, maybe a little self reiki, dream journaling, intention setting, cat petting, husband kissing. Decaf tea or coffee (caffeine free for a year and a half!) and a light breakfast. I’ll read the news at some point — which I have a love/ugh relationship with —  and I stay the hell out of my inbox.

Then it’s body time! Three times a week I’m at AM spin class. I feel so damn proud of my body working that hard. I swim too. Which is exquisite and necessary in the high desert summer months.

I have clients 3 days a week (by design). Some days are heavy with inner exploration with my brilliant clients and the other days I leave open to work on other projects or connect with the desert and friends.

My amazing husband, painter Ryan Schneider, makes me lunch and dinner almost every day. I don’t do dairy, gluten or soy and he’s no meat, no sugar. So, it’s complex. Thank goddess for him. I used to be the cook and when we got out here it just switched. I ain’t mad at it. We live and work together all day, everyday and miraculously it really works.

Night time under the stars with the Milky Way and maybe a movie (just watched the new Tony Robbins doc, Ryan had no idea who he was, but was totally inspired) or some other funky desert adventure with friends — you just profiled Alison of Wonder Valley, one of my beloved high desert homegirls.

What are your practices for staying well, mind and body?

Staying well, for me, is all about listening to and trusting myself and calling in the support team when I can’t figure it out. For years, I heard my body telling me that I needed to be warm. I dismissed it as frivolous and nonessential.

I finally listened to myself and moved west. My body loves this dry heat (though my skin struggles a bit. Thank goodness for CAP to the rescue whenever I’m in the city).

I’ve also suffered from re-occurring pain in my back stemming from multiple accidents and an extra vertebrae. Because of that, I’ve had a very extreme on-again-off-again relationship to exercise. But when I’m in my body, the pain dissolves and I feel my power.

Committing to movement, slowing down enough to hear my real needs and getting still and quiet with my mind grounds me into wellness. Oh and a good daily grounding cord visualisation, natch.

Some members of my mind/body support team include Dr. Rob D’Aquila, Kalisa Augustine (another CAP beauty fave), Sandra Sitron, Julia Frodahl and Rha Goddess.

How do you break people out of cyclical or stagnant patterns?

I help them see where the pattern really comes from, the cost of the pattern, healing the inner child who started the pattern as a way of protection, evolving the inner-archetypes who are committed to the old pattern/paradigm and keep it locked in place (ever felt like you were arguing with yourself or you were “of two minds” about something? That’s them.), vision what else is possible, find that juicy growth place that will stretch them almost beyond what feels possible. But it puts them right on the wave, riding it like a goddamn mermaid.

You’ve worked both institutionally and one on one, how do you see the difference in effecting change on an institutional level versus effecting change personally?

I used to think it was all about the institution/organization/system. Then I realized that they are just made up of individuals. That was actually a big aha moment for me.

In my experience, so often, organizations wanted to change things up, do things differently (in order to stay relevant), but they didn’t have the internal structure to support the change. For individuals, we need the internal support, but I don’t have to go through a dozen layers of bureaucracy, send 50 emails, have 10 one-on-ones with various team members just to get permission to build it.

So many of us are excellent at holding up the world/others and not so much ourselves. Our movements and institutions suffer. Inner work is a trickle up practice. You can only start to live into your greatest hopes and desired social impact once you embody them.

In many movement building settings, when personal needs are sublimated into empowering others, we disempower ourselves as change agents.

I have had the immense pleasure of working with clients who are in positions of power in the next wave of evolving, living-system organizations. So the deep inner work becomes major leadership catalyzation. It’s a dream come true and I can’t wait for it to become the norm.

When we first met you moved to Joshua Tree without having spent much time there, what prompted this? And how has it worked out?

So wild, right? My man and l visited for four days midsummer 2014, then decided to ride out the NY winter in the desert. Six weeks into our winter escape we knew we were home.

For a long time we’d been feeling the pull for something else. But we didn’t know where or when or how. It was impossible to try and just pick a place, so we leaned into how we wanted to feel. What we wanted each day to be like. We talked about it, drew pictures, tagged each other in instagram photos that felt “right”. We had at it. Anything to keep chipping away at that clarity.

Because we did that visioning together, we knew it when we saw it.

The desert is a mirror — which can be completely unforgiving, yet show you exactly what you need to see.

The power of this expansive, rich and strange land must not be underestimated. Every day is a gift, but one you’ve fucking earned.

We’ve never looked back.

What are three fundamental practices you encourage when people are going through a transformation.

1. I’m a broken record…but seriously y’all, slow down. I lived in NYC for ten years, I totally get it. And you can do this. You must make space for you — that’s not going to happen in the hustle.

2. Be kind to yourself. It’s really one of the hardest things to do because we’re all so good at cutting ourselves down. Whenever self-judgment comes up, see if you can bring some tenderness and forgiveness in. There’s so much dignity in kindness.

3. Honor your growth. You’re going to expand and contract. It’s natural. So when you feel like you’re not moving, notice your small wins, your bold moves. Enjoy your journey, sweetheart.

What are your favorite books?

Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit; Becoming Wise, Krista Tippett; Geek Love, Katherine Dunn; Salt, Nayyirah Waheed; Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed; Dipa Ma, Amy Schmidt (the transference on this one is other-worldly!); Octavia Butler, Ursula Le Guin, Rebecca Solnit, Esther & Jerry Hicks – pretty much anything they write; Womancode, Alisa Vitti. I’m obviously really light on the guys here, but I am currently, going deeper with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s work on Psychomagic and Culadasa’s The Mind Illuminated. I also use my teacher’s Gail Straub & David Gershon’s book “Empowerment” in my work with clients. It’s a brilliant tool.

What are your favorite movies?

Most sci fi and fantasy movies. Time travel, mutants, aliens, transformation, vampires, mythical beasts, space exploration, artificial intelligence, post-apocalyptic realities, parallel worlds, dystopian/utopian futures. I’m in. And I’m really, really, really ready to see more people of color and women featured/directing/producing (all films, not just sci-fi), because it cannot be only white dudes in the future, right?

Little known fact about me: When I was 9 or 10 I was really into comic books, especially X-Men. I wrote a teaser script and cast the movie. Iman was Storm, Sigourney Weaver was Wolverine (was it the hair?) and Sinead O’Connor was Professor X. I was ahead of my time, clearly.

Name a few things you couldn’t (or wouldn’t want to) live without?

In no particular order: my cats, my husband, avocados, trees, bodies of water to swim in, sun to bask in, chocolate, the amethyst I wear around my neck everyday…my talisman, good food, good books, good friends and family, and alone time. Dairy-free pesto, good face cream and Beyonce are right up there too.