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Interview + Giveaway: Sara Avant, Author of The Way of the Happy Woman

Note from Jenn: If you’re a busy, overworked creative soul or entrepreneur, you could benefit from the wise teachings of my friend Sara Avant. We connected online a few years ago and then became fellow published authors this year through New World Library. Her book The Way of the Happy Woman is chock full of exercises and tips for leading a healthy life. I hope you enjoy her interview and don’t miss the giveaway at the end!

Sara Avant is a motivational speaker, teacher, mentor, and the author of The Way of the Happy Woman: Living the Best Year of Your Life (New World Library). After a cancer scare in her early twenties, Sara moved to Thailand, where she embarked on an extensive healing and spiritual odyssey throughout Asia and served as one of the pioneer Western yoga teachers in that part of the world. She now lives in Boulder, Colorado, and continues to teach women about wellness, spirituality, and lifestyle around the world.

What inspired you to write your book, The Way of the Happy Woman?

Two things.

First, I’ve been a writer since I was a little girl. As a quiet and introspective person, writing is the way of communicating that has always felt most natural and heartfelt for me. I find there’s a level of intimate connection and nuanced articulation that I can achieve through my writing that I can’t always match through speaking. Because of that I’ve always wanted to write books. It’s a way for me to share important messages with total strangers in an intimate and passionate way.

Second, I had an important story and message to share. I figured out some important truths about being a woman in the world today that I wanted other women to know about (so they didn’t have to reinvent the wheel!).

Here’s that story, in a nutshell:

As the second oldest of four sisters and a senior at New York City’s all women’s Barnard College, I reached a crisis point in my life in 1999 where I realized I had no idea how to be a woman! I felt like I had no map and no role models. This plight culminated in my diagnosis of the early stages of cervical cancer. My wake up call summoned me to truly face myself—my unfelt and unexpressed emotions, my eating disorders, my menstrual irregularities, and my low self-esteem. Shortly after that I moved to Thailand for a job. There, I embraced the tools and lifestyle I needed to heal: yoga, Buddhist meditation, detoxification programs, and traditional Chinese Medicine. I also found women teachers and mentors that I could look up to and learn from. Slowly, my health improved, as did my happiness. I was finally becoming the woman I had always wanted to be. Then, as I began teaching yoga around the world, I started meeting other women who were suffering in the same ways that I had; and I had the wisdom and resources to help them. That’s how The Way of the Happy Woman began. This book is now the culmination of everything I have learned and taught to countless women around the world over the past 12 years.

I know many right-brain entrepreneurs are so passionate about their work that they can tend to put their whole self into their business, which can often lead to imbalance. What suggestions can you share to help busy entrepreneurs stay healthy and more balanced?

As an entrepreneur myself, I know that this is a tough one! What I find works well for me relates to what I write about in-depth in my book, which is to work in cycles.

There are some stretches where I’m launching a lot of projects and getting a lot of things done. It’s a real burn on my body and my energy, I know, but I choose to do it for a short spell. During those times, I redefine my priorities and see what I most need to do to support whatever I’m birthing into the world. For me, those things usually include eating good foods, getting massage and acupuncture, going to the gym to work out and doing my yoga and meditation practices daily, going for walks outside at least a couple of times a week, getting enough sleep, talking more vitamins and supplements to help my body cope with stress, and getting support from close friends and my boyfriend. What I cut out during those times are non-urgent projects, responding to e-mails and phone calls in a timely way, and most social engagements.

Then, once I’ve gotten to the other side of those creative bursts, I go on vacation or a meditation retreat, or I unplug for a few weekends in a row to rest and play. I consciously don’t schedule any big projects for a little while until I get my physical and creative energy back. I spend more time on my coach in sweats watching movies on Netflix and I schedule more dates with friends just to goof off and have fun.

Some might find this an intense way to live, but creating in cycles like this really works for me. It keeps me inspired and on fire (not in the perpetually burned out kind of way).

In your book you share the wisdom of the seasons, so since those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are heading into autumn right now, I’m curious what advice do you have for us to align with this season?

We just had the “Harvest Moon,” which is a great time to get your journal out and reflect on the past six months (since the planting of metaphorical seeds in your life last spring).

What are you harvesting now from the past six months? What seeds (relationships, projects, habits) have born fruit? What seeds never harvested? Celebrate the ones that you’re feasting on now. Decide if you want to replant the ones that never flourished next spring or if it’s time to let them go now.

Also, shift into eating more warming & nurturing foods. Soups, stews, oatmeal, and all that good stuff! It’s chai, spiced apple cider, and hot chocolate time. (I have great fall recipes & tons of other suggestions for this season in my book). Let yourself sleep more and spend more time alone, too. Carve out time to write in your journal. Do slower and more mindful yoga practices. Walk outside and take time to notice nature changing around you. Spend more evenings in.

We’re now winding down from the euphoria of summer into the quiet of winter. Ease into it. Surrender into it.

What are a few yoga stretches you’d recommend for us entrepreneurs who may end up spending a bit too much time in front of our computers?

My favorite is cat/cow. You can never get too much of this—it feels so good! It gets your blood and energy moving again and wakes up your spine, stretching all those muscles in your back that tense up when we sit at our computers for long stretches.

For cat/cow, get on your hands and knees and as you exhale tuck your tailbone between your thighs, round your back, and tuck your chin into your chest like a Halloween cat. As you inhale, lift your tailbone, lift your chin, and arch your spine (so your belly hangs down like a cow’s udders). Repeat this several times.

Downward dog is another great one. It lengthens your spine (to counteract slouching) and stretching out the backs of your legs.

I think short cardio bursts are excellent, too. Do 20-50 jumping jacks, jump rope, hula hoop, or run up and down the stairs a few times.

How do you feed your creative spirit? What inspires you in your business and your life?

This relates back to what I said earlier about cycles. When I allow myself times to rest and times to create, my creative spirit stays happy and bright. The times when I feel the most creative are when I go on vacation (and completely unplug) and when I go on a yoga or meditation retreat. I feel so rejuvenated after these times away, and during these stretches I get my best ideas, too. This summer, while on vacation and at a meditation retreat, I had the ideas for the titles and content of my next two books!

On a regular basis (each day) I consciously create smaller cycles of rest and creativity that keep me inspired, too. I start my day with meditation and exercise or yoga. Then I work, and then I end my day with exercise/yoga/or a walk (if I did a gentle yoga practice in the morning, on most days I’ll do some cardio or weight lifting at the gym before dinner). I don’t work early in the mornings or after dinner—those are times for connecting with myself and with others and for staying off of my computer.

Also, writing in my journal most every day helps me to process stressful events of my life, digest emotions, and explore new ideas. Reading good books, going to the movies, having conversations with my boyfriend or close friends, spending time in nature, planning fun activities for the weekend (I’m going to an amusement part this Saturday and learning how to ride a motorcycle)–all of these keep my inspiration strong for both my business and my life. When I’m taking good care of myself and feeding all parts of my being, I feel satisfied and full. From that space, I naturally want to create and share with others.

For all of us it’s important to stay tuned into ourselves. When we’re burned out, what do we need to get us feeling rested and bright again? Do that. Give that to yourself. When you’re feeling inspired, notice who’s in your life, what you’re eating, and how you’re spending your time. Those are the circumstances that feed your inspiration, so take note and give yourself more of it! This is how we become the artists and authors of our lives—an honorable role that we all deserve to step into.

You can download a free sample chapter and an audio (pdf & mp3) and find out more about Sara and her fabulous offerings at www.saraavant.com.

To win a signed copy of her lovely book The Way of the Happy Woman, please leave a comment below and like her Facebook fan page by Friday, September 30th. We’ll announce the winner on Monday, October 3rd.

Thank you Sara. Namaste!

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  • Wilma September 27, 2011, 7:41 am

    thank you so much for that!! I really need a change in my life, I need do more good things for me, but I never find the motivation, all things seem more important, I like the facebook fan pages and go to read the sample chapter, thanks

  • Monia September 27, 2011, 11:24 pm

    Great interview, thank you for that!!! I will def. put this book on my wish-list (Just wasn’t yet able to find it over my bookstore so I will wait and see or order over amazon then…)

  • Amanda S. September 28, 2011, 8:19 am

    This looks like a fabulous book!

  • Charissa September 30, 2011, 10:15 am

    I love Jennifer Lee and Sara Avant! I liked The Way of the Happy Woman page and Sara and Jennifer’s personal pages on Facebook. I’m always searching for knowledge on how to be better in tune with my body, my thoughts, and the universe. Thank you for helping me along with my journey!

  • Pamela C September 30, 2011, 10:32 am

    I am intrigued and inspired about learning more about the seasons and how to make the most of them from a fulfillment of my femine. Truly enjoying reading your posting on your website and am drawn to your story.. your journey

  • Jennifer Lee October 4, 2011, 10:13 am

    Many thanks to you all for the lovely comments! The winner of a signed copy of Sara’s awesome book is…… Charissa!! Congratulations! We will be in touch soon:)

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