Paula Conroy is an ex-banker turned entrepreneur who uses the ancient Indigenous wisdom of traditional Rites of Passage to help people make their way through the transitions we face at different points in our lives. After experiencing a dark night of her own soul, and working her way through the healing journey, Paula realized that she placed her power outside herself – in the job, the title, the achievement – to feel self worth. She realized she was even looking at turning 40 as another place to find self worth. She thought this was the age where she’d finally feel old enough to have a voice in the world.
Paula is a transformational leader who supports women to transition from one stage of life to the next in a really healthy way. She uses the ancient wisdom inherent in traditional Rites of Passage processes to bring awareness to the elements that are required to ensure that these inevitable transitions in life are done well.
Paula’s main focus is to support women to become aware of their fragmented parts, recognise how to heal these aspects of self, and bring them into wholeness, therefore discovering the possibility of moving powerfully into their next stage of maturity and into their full potency of Womanhood.
Paula spent 15 years in Senior Leadership positions within Global Banking, managing large, complex, multi-jurisdictional teams. She recognises the criticality of Conscious Leadership of Self as an essential capacity to cultivate, prior to taking on the responsibility to lead others. Feminine leadership capacities have been buried under the current culture and ways of training, and Paula is stewarding women through transformational journeys to discover this for themselves.
Turning 40 and Honoring the Magic of Traditional Rites of Passage
In this episode of the Forty Drinks Podcast, host Stephanie talks to Paula Conroy about her transformative experience around turning 40. Paula shares her journey of self-discovery and growth, starting from her early adult years working in banking to her transition into motherhood and entrepreneurship. She discusses the challenges she faced as a younger woman in a male-dominated industry and the internal struggles she felt in finding her place and feeling worthy. Paula also delves into the concept of archetypes, specifically the maiden, mother, and crone, and how they relate to different stages of a woman’s life.
Stephanie and Paula explore the importance of developing a relationship with one’s own mind and ego, and the need to create intentional space for introspection and self-reflection. They discuss the process of uncovering and integrating past traumas and experiences, allowing for healing and personal growth. Paula also introduces the concept of Rites of Passage and the role they play in guiding individuals through life’s transitions.
The episode concludes with a discussion on the importance of feeling and how our current culture often discourages the expression and exploration of emotions. Stephanie and Paula emphasize the significance of building our capacity to be with our feelings and the positive impact it can have on our relationships and personal development.
If you enjoyed this episode, please rate, follow, and review the podcast. Your support helps us bring more incredible stories like Paula’s to our listeners. Until next time, Cheers! 🍸
The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communication
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Stephanie: Hi Paula. Thanks so much for joining me today.
Paula: Hi Stephanie. It's wonderful to see you today.
Stephanie: Likewise. I am really interested to have a conversation with you today because you are one of few people who admit to being really excited about turning 40. I haven't encountered that quite as often, so I'm very excited to hear how you got there. Why don't we back up a few years and tell me a little bit about your formative adult years. What got you to your mid thirties where our story will begin?
Paula: Yeah. Fantastic. Thanks Stephanie. And yes, indeed. I was actually very excited to turn 40, which was not common amongst many of my friends either. I feel that that desire within me started from a early age when I moved out of university and I moved from South Africa to London and I started working in banking. 22 is when I began in banking. I felt all the way through my career in banking, especially in those younger years during my twenties, was that I was always the younger person. I was always the little one. I never felt like, well, I mean I obviously didn't have that much experience yet, and I didn't really know exactly what I was doing, if I'm brutally honest, but there was always the sense in those years and those younger sort of maiden years of my life of wanting to find my place within the whole and wanting to find my place within the work. And the work that I did back then was super exciting. I mean, I was cast as part of this global engine and learning about all these global corporates and it was really fantastic. I mean, I met so many interesting people, but I was always the younger and dare I say, woman in the team. I think in that London phase of my career, especially probably like 25 to 28, I was one of two female salespeople across a team of 27 people, so there was very few women and of that, very few people that were under 30. So I always felt young for my age group. And look, to be honest, my whole life, most of my best friends are all a good five or six years older than me and some are even, 15. My very best friend now is she's 58 now. So I've got lots of friends who are older, so I've kind of always felt a kinship with people five plus years older than me. And so then when I moved from London to Sydney, Australia and carried on working in Australia, I sort of transitioned through into my thirties and took on increasingly larger leadership roles within the organization, taking over a country head role of looking after the client management team here in Australia of the corporate institutional, client management team. Then there was this experience that I had of really feeling in my flow, I had enough experience to know what I was doing and everything felt great, but I was also in that child rearing phase of my life. So those early thirties, I had my two beautiful children and continued working through that period of time but all the while I kept having this internal experience, whether that was what was perceived on the external, I'm not sure, but internally within me there was always the sense of like, I haven't yet found my place, I need a few more gray hairs before I can actually hold some sense of authority in this arena. There's still a part of me that doesn't feel worthy of the job that I've got or doesn't feel like she's quite there yet. This sort of wounded maiden in me was quite prevalent during that part. And even though I had wonderful success within my career and I certainly did great things, which I'm proud of, there was also this part of me that was kind of a bit stuck and standing in the way and kind of telling me things that weren't necessarily true, I suppose, but were pointing me towards a part of me that needed my attention, that needed to be brought into the wholeness of the individual that I was in the moment in order to be fully expressed as a woman in her thirties, but that didn't really come in an easy way. I kind of got agitated around about 35, knowing that there was something calling for my attention, so that's kind of what led me through to that point of recognizing that I wanted to be older even though I was younger, but that indeed I couldn't step into those older years, into that maturity until I had worked with this part of me that was still wounded and trapped in her immaturity, trapped in her un whole place, so to say.
Stephanie: So a couple of things: number one, you've said a couple of times, maiden, so will you just give me some context for how you're using that word in this conversation?
Paula: Yeah, beautiful. So your listeners may be familiar with different archetypes and there's three primary archetypes that I work with especially when I'm working with women and when I'm working with the journey of feminine consciousness, and that's the maiden, the mother and the crone. To briefly just touch on each of those, the maiden comes into her being when she transitions into her adolescence. So from child into young adult, she transitions into adolescence, and that's sort of the springtime of her life. It's the exploration, it's the up and out, it's the seeking. It's the trying on different hairstyles, trying on different hair colors, trying on different clothes, trying on different partners, all those sorts of things to try and discover who she is. So, as long as trying a whole lot of things on putting a whole lot of things on to know what to take off, what do I want to be left with? What actually resonates deeply with me. But often in that process of the maiden putting things on and taking things off, it's quite a lot of wounding that can happen as we discover the things that we don't want and we realize we have experiences that land as being potentially, tarnished or scarred, or traumatized in some way, shape or form, as little or as big as that might be for us individually. So we have things that happen during those maiden years, we don't yet have the maturity, we don't yet have the know-how, we don't yet have the years of life and experience to be able to digest those wounds from our youth in a healthy way and integrate them fully into our beings so that we can continue to show up in the present moment, fully present. Those maiden years thenshould move in a really healthy way through a rite of passage into the mother archetype. And the mother archetype doesn't necessarily mean a biological mother. The mother archetype is all the characteristics and the traits that are embodied by a really healthy mother frequency. And we know what mother Earth is like, if she's healthy, she's operating beautifully. We know Mother Nature, she's infinitely diverse, she's inclusive, she goes through her cycles. That connection to that mother frequency is what can be termed the full summertime of our life, this, this time of our full bloom when we have tried on and taken things off and now here we are showing up in our full bloom. And yet we have so many women who aren't in their full bloom, we're still trapped in those wounds of our mother years. And then we'll move through from the mother years into the maga years and the crone years, which are sort of the wise elder years, the autumn, the winter of our lives where we take on that role of not necessarily so actively doing as we would in the mother years, but we take on a much wiser role, a much more sort of passive role. And yet there is this extraordinary amount of wisdom that we can share through our storytelling, share through our experiences, and that wisdom of the crone, these archetypes live in us always. The maiden, the mother, the maga and the crone are living within us always, but our literal biological years would dictate where we are at on that spectrum. So we can pull on the wisdom from the crone and we can pull out the rebel genius of the maiden and all of her energy when we need it, but our whole journey of the feminine consciousness, our journey of being a woman is all about arriving at the place where we are right now and being able to fully show up in the archetype, in the stage, in the age of where we are right now, being fully expressed, recognizing our gifts and talents, healing our wounds.
Stephanie: Okay. All right. That's a great setup. Let's go back to what you were talking about around age 35, you started feeling, you called it an agitation. Can you describe to me what that agitation felt like and how it expressed itself?
Paula: Yeah, for sure. So that agitation was showing up in many ways in my life, generally pointing towards misalignment or discontent. I had two small children at home and I was working this really big job that required a lot of time from me, and I kept feeling this tug on my heart around wow, my time's going into my work, and yet I've got these two small children at home and my heart wants to be there and yet my life is here. It was showing up with gut health issues, I was experiencing a lot of pain in my gut and I worked with a friend of mine who's a health coach to heal that process. But, really showing up with tensions, she did a number of different tests and she was like, oh my gosh, you know, your gut health is not great at all. And that was quite startling, like, wow, a bit of a health alarm. And then it was showing up just in my general melancholy, I remember distinctly arriving home one evening, after a long day at work, it had been a really busy day, and I walked in through the front door and usually I was so excited to see the children and I walked in through the front door and I could hear them in the one room. And I sort of melted away from that room and I went upstairs and I heard my husband in another room and I melted away from him. And I kind of found myself in the corner of the room going wow, I don't wanna see anyone right now. I feel like I'm in a little fight or flight response right now. I don't even wanna run and embrace my children and my husband. And that was quite shocking for me, I was like, something's not right here, something's not working here. That then prompted long conversation with my husband and how to start turning towards the possibility of being able to disentangle myself, first of was the practical side, the financial side, and that sort of thing from my job. But for me, the biggest sort of disentanglement or dissolution came with me being willing and able and building my capacity to be able to step away from something that I was quite attached to, even though there was this whole raft of issues that were showing up in my life that were pointing towards the fact that this is not where I'm meant to be anymore. I was still very attached. There was this part of me that was quite codependent or very codependent on my identity that was wrapped up in this long career in banking, the potential career path that was available to me, should I choose it, my teams and all the work I'd done with them over the previous 14 or seven years when I'd been looking after those teams and all the work that was still to come and the exciting things that were coming. So there's quite a big ego identity that I was very attached to, that was a difficult thing to pick apart, and that took time. I had to build the capacity to be able to be willing to let go of this part of me that was very attached to being someone important with this career and with all these things, all the kind of, you know, bells and whistles and saying, wow, I need to turn away from something that I'm attached to, that I know is not right for me, in order for me to go through what's going to be a pretty difficult winter, pretty difficult journey through the dark night of letting go of the old in order for the new to be birthed within me. And I really experienced that as a rite of passage, as a transition from that stage of life into the life that I've now created.
Stephanie: That passage though is what I'm really interested in because it can be so overwhelming, For many people it's not just the job that's breaking down and maybe it's the marriage or the relationship or where they live or any number of things. So help me understand, and I don't know if this was work you did on your own or work you did with your husband, but how did you make practical steps towards understanding that you were really attached to this job for ego reasons versus, well, ego and practical financial reasons. How did you start disentangling yourself from that in really practical terms?
Paula: Honestly it is a big journey and I mean, the toolkit that I have, fortunately, is quite vast. Having been in these areas of personal development for a very long time and setting up the mindfulness program at HSBC and having a strong practice for myself, a lot of this process is about developing a relationship with one's own mind, with one's own ego, the way in which it functions. And life is always pulling us outside, getting us to attend to the doing of life and not the being of life. And that's indicative of this sort of masculine culture that we live in, with the masculine within all of us, and again, I'm just gonna be clear that I'm not saying men and women, I'm gonna talk about masculine and feminine, which lives in all of us. The masculine is part of us that can really do and get stuff done and the feminine is this part of us that feels and is rooted in our being. And this exists in both men and women and all genders of all nature, you know, this discussion around gender is such an interesting one when we pull it away from being a man or a woman or somebody in between, it's actually, well, these feminine and masculine traits live in all of us. And, we are predisposed and certainly I was predisposed and trained into doing, just keep doing more, keep yourself busy, keep focusing on what the next thing is, have a plan, have a list, focus, get stuff done. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. And that's how I was trained from being a little girl. I mean, this is just the culture that we all live in. So this transition from doing into being is one of the biggest ones that we can make, is how do we create intentional space for us to learn how to develop a relationship with our minds? And for me, the most practical and valuable step in all of that is to find some kind of reflective practice that resonates with self. So that might be a meditation, it might be a journaling practice, it might be a consistent walk in nature, anything that resonates with the individual that is leaving the phone behind, putting the phone on silent in another room, because that's the biggest attention grabbing tool we have in our lives. And all of us love our phones, I mean, I don't wanna give up my phone, it's just our relationships with our phones are not healthy, we're too attached to them, myself included, to my own degrees. So, to have some kind of practice in place that somebody can cultivate and recognizing that starting anything new, like learning a musical instrument or starting exercise, it's going to be difficult in the beginning. There's going to be resistance in the body to do it, there's gonna be resistance in our being to do it. For me, even now, like my practice goes in and out and in and out, as I can see, the ego part of me resisting change and not wanting to go there. And then this inner part of me is calling for it and I can feel the conflict that happens within me. It's all about this inflow and outflow of our experienceof our relationship to ourselves but somehow one has to find a way to develop a relationship with one's own mind. For me, I was fortunate to have many practices to support me, but that's not to say that it happened with a whole lot of grace and ease. I can tell you there were some fireworks in my house, my husband and I had some really rocky discussions, really rocky times, we really stretched ourselves into the corners because of the implications of what it would mean if I were to change my life for our family, for our finances, for our children, for us as a couple, for me and my time. He wanted me to do something different because he wanted me out of this kind of hyper-masculine side of me that was gone all week and traveling a lot, and back at home with the family and being able to reimagine myself in the feminine side of me, but I didn't even know what that was, I had no idea what that even meant. So in that process, he was pulling and tugging me in one direction, and I was resisting him as a mirror reflection for what I was actually resisting in myself. So my invitation would be is that, If we can get practical and create intentional spaces for us to allow ourselves to not be practical, to just be, and that can just be as little as five or 10 minutes a day of sitting with one's feet on the sand or the grass or in a park or under a tree, you know, or with a journal and a pen, or with a silent practice or something like that, where we can just begin to pay attention to the ways in which our minds were operating. I started to see how attached I was to my identity, and that in itself was quite a shocking experience. It was like, oh my gosh, Paula, jeez, look at this, you need them to feel good about yourself. You need this title to give you some sense of self-worth. That's painful to come into that realization of like, oh my gosh, I've placed my power outside of myself all the way through by needing something on the external in order for me to feel some sense of self-worth to validate and justify. And even I think turning 40 for me was even that, I'm gonna place my worth on this age. And when I turned 40, all will be well because now I'll finally be old enough to feel worthy enough to have a voice in the world. And all of that are just mirror reflections of like, ah, where am I not actually fully giving myself the credence and the self-worth that I should intuitively have, and yet I'm disconnected from that version of myself. So, yeah, the practice of some kind of practical process, some masculine practical process to create the container within which we can just be, we can create that safety for ourselves to relax into this relationship with ourselves, this intimacy with ourselves, and allow it to be an onion that it's not necessarily gonna be on the first time we sit under the tree or walk on the beach, there's a process that we go through all the time, it's an iterative process. And if we can stay the course and trust in that wisdom that we know is happening inside of us, that's calling us to that feeling being part of us, we can trust that we're gonna get there. It's just gonna happen in its own time, and it's up to us then to hold that safety of that practical container, that strength of that container in order to be able to get there. That's really what we do with Rites of Passage a lot is we create, especially in our work with women, but I also work with the Rites of Passage Institute, where we run camps for children transitioning into young adulthood with their parent, as well as with the leadership trainings to create a container of safety within which people can feel safe enough to become unsafe within themselves, to go into parts of themselves that they haven't felt and that they feel that strength of the container and the community around them to be able to let go of all the things that we're holding onto all the time, just to keep it together and to keep moving forward. How can we create that safety to just allow ourselves to relax and to feel?
Stephanie: Oh my goodness. I think keeping it together is highly overrated. No kidding. No kidding. I just wanna back up a couple of steps and just underline something that you said. You said, um, oh, And now I'm not gonna get it perfectly, you said, we're looking outside of ourselves for something that gives us our self worth. And I think that is a place where a lot of people get stuck. I have a picture in my head right now, it's like as if you had one foot on a dock and one foot on a boat and the boat was slowly floating away so your legs are going wider and wider and when you put that credence or that weight or that value in the something external, you're never in control. You're always at the mercy of, and I wonder if that's where things like imposter syndrome come from, but jumping back onto the dock and being someplace where, where your footing is solid is sort of a visual for then having that inside yourself, that worth, that knowing inside yourself.
Paula: Yeah, I fully hear you on that. And yes, if I look at the work we do with children, for example, or the children transitioning into young adults, the Rites of Passage framework, which has been coined by indigenous cultures for millennia, involves a very important step, which we call the honoring, which is the last phase where within the community there's a reflection back at this young adult, this child transitioning into young adulthood, and that doesn't necessarily mean it only has to happen for children transitioning into young adulthood. It can happen right now where we bring in what we call the honoring. And that honoring is there for community to be able to reflect back to the individual the unique gifts and talents that that individual has and have the opportunity to connect these young adults, to their unique gifts and talents, so they don't keep looking outside for the answers that were communities there at this very impressionable age really honoring these beautiful qualities and characteristics of these young adults. And often on these camps when the honoring comes around and I get all emotional every time I think about it because it's so beautiful where so often these children are sitting on our little honoring throne and the, or these young adults and the parents sits in front of them being witnessed by the community, telling this beautiful young person all the wonderful things that they love about them and these young adults, their faces and the way they receive and just the glow that comes from being seen in this intentional way by their parent, by those around them, their community. It imprints so deeply in their being that they know something happens in that moment. Unfortunately we've got a youth worshiping culture. We don't adhere or celebrate all of these facets of maturity, the facets of the wisdom of the elders, the facets of the maturity of the mother, the facets of the maturity of midlife, you know, midlife is such an incredibly potent phase of life.
We've still got energy, we've got enough stripes on our shoulders, we've been through enough experiences of life to have garnered enough wisdom in our being, embodied wisdom in our being to be deeply rooted in a very mature part of ourselves, and yet we arrive in the stage of our life and we feel uncertainty, doubt, self-worth issues because our culture hasn't supported us from when we were transitioning into our young adulthood and all the way through. It's just media, you know, this is what it should be, this is what the perfect life should be, et cetera, et cetera. And we're not rooted in that truth yet for ourselves, we don't go through those rites of passage to reconnect us to that sovereignty and that inner knowing that gives us the capacity then to be able to show up and vision for a new way forward in the world.
Stephanie: I wanna come back to Rites of Passage in a couple of minutes because I'm very interested in this, but I wanna come back to your story. One thing that you said to me as you were in this phase of agitation was that you felt like you were stuck in a younger version of yourself. Can you tell me what that felt like or how you knew you were stuck?
Paula: Yeah, well I had an experience interestingly, on the solstice of 2019, where I came up with my children to stay with a friend of mine. I was still living in Sydney at that time, staying with a friend of mine who lives in a beautiful, very rural part of the Northern Rivers here in Northern New South Wales, and I had an experience where I was taking my children, and it's no cell phone reception, there's no wifi, we're in the middle of nowhere. There's composting toilets. It's been a sanctuary for me, this beautiful place in nature and my husband was doing an event down in Sydney and he was gonna join us later. I took my children, they were four and six at the time, up this creek, there's a beautiful creek that runs through the property, but it was when the Australian fires were on. I'm not sure if you remember that time, but there's horrific fires. So it was super dry, there was no water, water hadn't been running through the rivers for a very long time. Andthe river was very sedimenty, so the rocks were all quite slippery. And my son could jump from rock to rock, but my daughter was requiring some assistance as we were heading up this creek. And my son got to a rock and climbed on top of this rather large rock and I picked up my daughter and I put her on top of the rock. And for the life of me, I have no idea what happened, but I put her on the rock and the next thing I know, I'm head down in the rocks below me, my sunglasses are broken into my face. You can't quite see it, but I've got all these scars on my forward here. And I dunno what happened, butfrom putting her on the rock, either I blacked out or I slipped so fast that I don't even know, and I came to, and my head was gushing and my children were up on the rock, they're looking down on me, and it was just chaos. And it had to be this, this moment for me of like, wow, I'm in trouble now, I'm on my own in the middle of nowhere, no one knows I'm up this river with my two small children and I need to really burrow down into that warrior woman within me because I need to get us all to safety. And so, it was right, okay, I'm bleeding, I've got glass around my eye. All these sorts of things were happening, let me just get the children, and get ready. So burrow down into "right darlings, Mummy's had a little accident, so now I'm gonna need your help", and da, da da da, da. You know, really kind of buckled up and reached that part of me and managed to get us all the way up, got to the car, tied a dish cloth around my head, got the children into the car, drove us all the way to the nearest ER, and got myself cleaned up and stitched up.
But as a result of that experience, the what ifs that were flowing through my head, the, oh my gosh, what if, what if you'd been knocked unconscious? What if the children couldn't get down then? What if, what if, what if? It was just, I was kind of stuck in these loops and very affected by what had happened in that experience. And I had the good fortune of having the resources to be able to see a therapist for a block of time. And in that experience she did lots of journey work with me, linking me back to experiences that had happened in my past, and through that I uncovered some pretty big experiences that happened to me during my teen years that I realized were totally contracted in my life. And as I went through the journey of meeting that part of myself, meeting that experience again, I hadn't wanted to look at that experience, I hadn't wanted to go there, I just kind of put it down and moved on with my life, which is what we were taught to do. Just get on with things, carry on, keep yourself busy, which is all very wrong advice. Don't keep yourself busy. Feel the feelings. Stay and feel what needs to be felt, walk through the stages of the trauma when it's happening, you know? It's really important, even with death, I'm a trained death walker, which means I can walk through the stages of death with somebody in a really healthy way, not get stuck because we're scared to feel the depth of that feeling. So in that experience of going into these parts of myself, these younger versions of myself, and recognizing that, wow, as I sought to release the contractions that were really stuck around those experiences, those experiences could then integrate and I could feel a nervous system reset happening every time I uncovered another part of this previous version of myself, this younger version of myself, this maiden version of myself that got stuck somewhere along the line and didn't walk through those stages of her experiences fully and completely and digest them completely, that those experiences then show up in in contracted reactions in my present day moments. So I'm reacting from the wounded young version of myself that I was. And as I uncovered all of that, there was just ah, relief and relief and relief and I felt my whole nervous system defragging. And it was then that just after 2019, that was the end of 2019, moved into 2020, COVID arrived. And Covid, for all of its challenges that it brought for many people that created an enormous potential and opportunity for me to create change in my life. And that's when I chose to leave my career in banking. And it was like right. I feel different now. I feel like I can respond to what I'm feeling inside of myself from a different place. There's a capacity that is being built in my nervous system relaxing, in these contracted parts that were keeping me stuck, that were stuck back in these maiden versions of myself. There's a possibility now of being able to release those and they have been released, and now I can think more clearly. I'm more connected to myself in a way that I can choose something different.
I can make choices that don't feel so frightening. Leaving my career doesn't feel so frightening anymore because I'm more connected to who I am. I feel more whole, more integrated as the woman that I am now. But it took bringing those parts that had happened back then into the current day wholeness by being willing to turn towards them, feel them, and then integrate them. And all I can say from my own experience is that it's not as terrifying as we think it is when we don't know what's going on. I felt terrified of going there because I didn't know what I was gonna feel and yet turning towards it, I mean, in this case, I didn't choose to turn towards it, I got knocked on the head and you know, chose to fix that, but got guided this journey. If we can build our ability and our capacity to choose to turn towards these things that we're afraid of, that happened to us once, we have such a big possibility of transmuting the past into something that can be healthy and whole, in our current day lives, our current day age.
Stephanie: You've said something thatI've heard numerous times and I wanna see what your description of this is: if someone's willing to look back and uncover some of that stuff we've buried and those painful situations that we've lived through and just sort of put behind us, I can comprehend the concept of uncovering them and facing them. I can comprehend the concept of feeling. Tell me what you mean by integrating that. What does that mean in a practical way?
Paula: Yeah, really, really good question because so often, we live now in a culture of non integration, we pick up our phones and we scroll and we're like, oh, that was a nice quote. Scroll again, scroll again. We don't even pause to let the beauty of the quote that we've just actually acknowledged was beautiful, settle into our being. We've got this attention deficit culture of just more, next, more, next. And, you know, so integration is dramatically lackingin our current day culture. And that then is mirrored back to us in our ownpersonal development work is that big things happen to us, culture says, just keep busy, I'm better when I'm busy, keep going. So we don't fully allow for that experience to be felt. It's mirrored to us in the seasons as well, we plant in spring, and spring grows into summer, and then the leaves fall in autumn, and then winter comes, all the time. This barrenness of the winter, the darkness of the winter, the lack of life, the insular nature. But our culture's like, oh, I feel like I need a change because my summer's ending and my leaves are starting to fall into autumn, let me quickly plan for spring and start something new. We're afraid of this vulnerability of the transition that requires us to go through a winter and nature tells us we need to go through a winter. We need to go through this insular phase and listen to the wisdom that nature's showing us in order for us to fully allow the experiences of our lives to compost in a way, into the fodder for this next spring.
Stephanie: I was just gonna say that, right? That's cuz that's what happens during the winter. All those leaves that fell in the fall, they're going to get covered over with the snow. They're gonna break down and they're going to fertilize for the spring for that next period of renewal and growth. Thank you for that example. That's a nice practical one. And let's just say out loud in case somebody was taking us literally, it doesn't have to happen during winter, a winter internally can happen at any point in time.
Paula: Yes. We can actually look at the seasons in every stage of our life. Our marriage might be in a summertime and our work might be in a wintertime or our children might be in a spring and our parents might be in their autumn, but when we bring the wisdom of nature into these cogs of our wheels, it's like suddenly we can kind of kick it in and go, oh, wow, I'm not honoring the winter of this cycle that's happening. And how can I create space again, create intentional space, doesn't need to be all day, every day, but how can I create the intentional space to allow for that winter so that composting can happen and I can fully allow it to settle and integrate into my being? It's not about letting go, I'm always interested people say, oh, you gotta let things go. And I'm like, well, we can't really let go of anything because everything's a part of us. So our experiences are all a part of us. It's not about letting go, it's about bringing it into wholeness for it to then feed the level of being and wisdom that we now have to respond to the next moment. Letting it go for me feels like, oh, we're gonna push it back into the shadow and just forget about it. Do you see what I mean? Yeah.
So integration is not about that letting go, it's about being willing to go through the full cycle of the feeling, to be able to integrate that back into our present moment without the tinge or the electric shock of pain that perhaps was associated with the experience, that kind of live wire that came as a result of whatever capital T trauma or little t trauma or experience that resulted in some kind of impact, that that live wire kind of diffuses through that, and we can be with the experience. When I think about that experience of falling in the river, there's nothing happening in me, it's like, wow, I can look at it, go thank you for that rather traumatic at the time, but incredibly insightful experience that has fed into this next cycle, which is absolutely aligned to who I am and where I'm going with my life now.
Stephanie: Wonderful. So this is like five years of your life that you're going through this and you're working through some of these things, and this is what set you up to be excited about turning 40. Am I right?
Paula: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. So that fall in the river came when I was 39 I think it was. And then that catalyzed a number of changes in my life. Or actually it was 38, can't quite remember, but catalyzed a number of changes, leaving my career, my husband and I moved from Sydney up to a beautiful town in Northern New South Wales called Byron Bay, and all of those changes, all of those practical masculine changes created the possibility for me to drop more deeply into my feeling sense and into my feeling state of being. And with that came the possibility of being able to birth something new and that feels more aligned to who I am and where I am in my life, and what I can now support other people and facilitate for other people to go through these inevitable transitions. Because life is all about these inevitable transitions from one stage of life to the next. It never stops. Growing is forever. So, you know, how do we do these inevitable transitions well and complete the whole cycle in that transition so that we don't have these ropes in the water continuously holding us back from the full potency of that next phase.
Stephanie: Which brings us right back to this concept of Rites of Passage, and I was so interested in how you were describing your work with young people and Rites of Passage and it resonated a lot with what I did when I turned 40. Some of the things you were describing, they were washing over me and my mouth was open a little bit like, oh, that's things I, that I did unintentionally.
Paula: Yeah, I love that. Stephanie, when I've learned more about you and I've listened to your podcast and it's just been so fantastic to actually observe how some part of you, some really wise crone part of you created an intentional Rite of Passage for you, even though you at the time didn't even realize that that's what it was gonna be. The adventure that you went on and its intention in the first instance, setting out to just do this wild adventure to then landing up 40 weeks later or one year later, having created a completely transformational experience for you, that wasn't just for you, it was for your community, all those people that you met with along the line, rites of passage always involves community, always involves the telling of stories. The sitting together and telling stories, always involves the recognition of one another in that process, that honoring. Always involves some kind of vision. And all of that came into your Rite of Passage without you even realizing I said, salute that part of Stephanie, who was so wise and clever to create such an extraordinary thing. And look at how that transformation has now transmuted into the creation of your podcast in the creation of sharing stories that can potentially support other people to do these transitions well. So I, I applaud you and I applaud that intuitive capacity within you that did that for you. It's fantastic. I love your story.
Stephanie: Thank you. Thank you. Yes, I was listening to you talk about the, the pieces of the, the Rites of Passage and, and it, it was, it was resonating with me that, that I, I didn't do any of that intentionally, and, in fact, I've said if I had set out to do it, I would've been scared or overwhelmed or would not have committed to it. So for me, the silliness of it was something that I could really attach myself to and, the ridiculousness of it was something I felt really connected to. And so it, it happened, in spite of me, like you're saying, there must have been some wise piece of me somewhere that that bubbled it up and sent it to me fully formed. It is funny to hear you talk about the elements of a rite of passage and the fact that this checked so many of those boxes and it did create an exceptional transformation and, and it continues. Here I am a decade later and doing this podcast, and I feel like some of the things that you went through in your late thirties or even earlier than that I'm going through now because every one of these conversations I have opens up an idea for me or, or sends me thinking about something, or I just finished a book that somebody else had had recommended and it has opened up a whole new avenue for me. It's interesting that that transition, which did change my life completely, 10 years later, still continues to ripple out. Throw the big stone into the middle of a quiet pond and watch the ripples. And a decade later, you know, the ripples are still quite significant.
Paula: And that's the beauty of an incredibly potent transformation of an incredibly potent rite of passage is that it has the capacity to create lasting change, not just for you, but for community as well. This is the wonderful aspect about bringing in the practices of the process of a rite of passage and how to do those well is that, it's reaches, let's say, you know, teacher never knows how far has or her reach will go within a student's life. And, that's the absolute magic of the rite of passage when done well, is that it has long lasting effects for the individual and the community. My business is called The Frequency because I see that once these sort of gongs and the frequency have been made, these intentional gongs, is that that resounding frequency is there, it's there forevermore. So yeah, I'm super, super impressed with how that part of you created something extraordinary and how you've followed your intuition the whole way through. It's such an important trait in the feminine, both in men and women, but in our feminine side, this intuitive capacity, this intuitive knowing. And even if Stephanie at that age didn't know the intuition within you, guided something that was beyond your hand. Um, so yeah, well done for being able to listen, having the capacity to listen, you know, having the capacity to hear the call.
Stephanie: And that is a big part of the first step is knowing that there is a call and being able to tune into it and be aware of it and hear you know, even if, for you and for me it was messy, it's usually messy at first because you have no idea what the answer is going to be. And for a lot of people this period, this point where things are feeling like they don't fit or they're feeling like you called it agitation or, or dissatisfaction, the solutions feel like, well, if I were to wave a magic wand, the solution would be X, Y, Z, A, B, C, D, E, N, F. And it's so big that I can't even comprehend it. So I think a lot, myself included, you turn away from it because it just feels too big and so yeah, tuning in and just being able to sit with it, once you can then follow a few steps through, you can move one thing and change everything.
Paula: Everything. Totally. Yeah. And so much of it has got to do with our capacity. Our capacity to be with the change, our capacity to be with the feelings of what we need to let go of, our capacity to be with the vulnerability of not perhaps knowing what's about to come. It's this capacity to be with the feeling experience of the transition that we haven't got in our current culture, I mean, we see how for so long, the feminine state of being within us, our feeling state of being, women have been told they're overemotional and men have been told not to feel and they've been told to be man's man. And, we can see as a result of that, this mental health crisis that we're in, because we have not been taught how to feel. So this whole process of being able to build our capacity to be with our feelings, and they can see it through all the stuff that comes through with conscious parenting.
Conscious parenting is all about being able to acknowledge the child in their big feeling state of being, not shut them down, tell them to stop crying, tell them to not shout, et cetera, et cetera. Obviously we wanna be able to create healthy avenues for them to express their big feelings, but how do we hold the space for these children to be with their big feelings? When we were children, we were just told children are seen and not heard. Fortunately I had a very wonderful mother who supported me to learn how to feel possibly more than many people in the world. But many people have had very traumatic experiences when it comes to being with their big feelings as children. And therein lies part of our issues now showing up as adults is we don't know how to be with our big feelings, our big concerns over changes and transitions that are inevitable in our life. This growing older, it's going to happen to all of us, and yet we resist it. Even, for me, my best friend's 57, and she's going into sort of this elderhood stage of her life, and it's wonderful to witness her approaching that elderhood stage of her life with grace and with power, you know, strong power. She's moving in a healthy way through her stages of life, which is supporting everybody around her, her children, her partner to also transition. If we get stuck somewhere along the line, then those coming up below us get stuck. You know, we have dads saying to daughters when they are entering adolescents, like, oh, you'll always be my little girl. And she's like, I'm not your little girl anymore. I'm a big girl now. You know? And it's like dad's got stuck in his relationship with his daughter and daughter's trying to progress. And we have relationship breakdown. Why we used to talk so much. We used to be so close. It's like, oh, well dad, you haven't matured with me as I've grown, mom's clinging onto sons or whatever's happening.
The mother, son camp we run, which is 10 to 14 year old boys and their moms. You know, there's a deep grieving process that needs to happen for mothers as their boys start venturing out. And so many mothers keep following their sons, and their sons are going on their necessary rite of passage, leaving the tribe and their adolescence. Indigenous cultures always took their boys out and made them go out and do something on their own in order to be able to come back. And yet we don't have that practice in our western culture, in our modern day culture. So we have moms that are following their boys, and we hold these camps for these moms and sons. I mean, they're beautiful, extraordinary camps and very filled with a lot of grief. We create the space for these mothers to now feel the grief of their child transitioning into their young adulthood. And if they don't feel that grief, their grief will keep them clinging and clawing for their son and their son will keep moving further and further away from them.
So to keep that healthy functioning of the family units through those adolescent years, there has to be this possibility of maturation of the parent, of ability to feel these big feelings of grief and sadness as their children, as their little girls are changing, as their little boys are changing and they're going out into the world to find themselves. It's an extraordinary wisdom that is inherent within these ancient practices of rites of passage that can give us so many tools, practical tools and possibilities of creating safe space for ourselves to go into the difficult feelings that we weren't taught, especially our generation and the generations above us weren't taught how to be with in a healthy way, we don't have the capacity to hold ourselves in that unsafety and communities don't necessarily create that safety for us. And that's where Rites of Passage for me has been such a beautiful experience because communities being the core value of rites of passage and being able to create that safety within the community so that those, I see it time and time again on the camps, the safety gets created and all of a sudden the wheels come off, the mothers cry and howl and share and resonate with one another and see one another in one another, storing and feeling states of being, and they can really go there. And by the end of the camp, by the end of the rite of passage, they're coming out clearer, fresher, calmer, more accepting, more willing and able to be there with their transitioning son or daughter in a way that's supporting them in their next level of growth, while reconnecting now in a mature r relationship and one that's rooted now in the relationship of young adults and parent to a young adult.
Stephanie: Wow. That's big stuff. Beautiful stuff. Yeah. Wow. Paula, I have just so enjoyed, talking about this with you and you've awoken a couple of brain cells inside of me that now wanna go and think and explore some things. I thank you so much for joining me today and talking about this and sharing your story.
Paula: Oh, Stephanie, thank you so much for having me. Thank you for all the beautiful work that you do and sharing stories like this that can hopefully help a lot of people in their current moment, So I really do honor that and thank you for having me on as a guest today.