Welcome to Project Fabulous Femme! Once or twice a month, I'll introduce you to a Fabulous Femme who's inspired me. I invite them to share their perspectives on being a modern woman and other vital corps topics. Please be kind, curious, and open-minded.
While Claire can be found in Dubai these days, she used to Skype me from Gaza, occasionally and effortlessly flipping into Arabic for a security check. Claire was beginning her transition out of humanitarian aid fieldwork into becoming the Performance, Mindset & Motivation Coach, Trainer & Consultant she has so organically evolved into. Within a few moments into our first coaching session, it would be unclear who was the mentor and who was the mentee. Yet, it was crystal-clear I was talking to one of the wisest, bravest, old souls I’ve ever met. That was before I learned more about both her work experience and academic pedigree. That’s before I learned she’s a black belt in karate and an expert in yoga. That’s also before I read her deeply-inspiring book, Wild Zen. Her book is an incredibly vulnerable memoir that weaves in politics, psychology, somatics and spirituality. Oh, and powerful feminine energy. In spades. But enough of me blabbering like a fangirl - meet Claire yourself!
How would you define being a modern woman in 2016? Great question! I’m not even sure I can answer that very eloquently as most of the time. I don’t even pause to reflect on what this actually means. I guess I’ve been taking my freedom for granted these days. Freedom to think as I please, freedom to express myself, freedom to move countries and define myself on my terms. But it wasn’t always like this, and there was definitely a time in my past when I didn’t feel free. Back then I would have thought a modern woman was independent and had plenty of disposable income. But what I think I’ve learned is that to be modern means we allow ourselves freedom of thought and the ability to identify choices, even if those choices are limited. The rest of our lives stem from here.
What would you like to see modern women give more of a shit about? The present moment! I see a lot of women around me getting caught up in convoluted analyses of the past and future, from politics and academia to fashion and fitness. None of those are “wrong” per se; in fact, I’m semi-obsessed with two of them. But when we’re only stuck in theory and can’t get out of our heads, our lives are actually passing us by. Fair enough if we’re getting paid to do this (as I certainly have in the past), but life is short - sometimes shorter than we think. Our free time is a gift and we should use it wisely. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. In the present moment I find my focus. I find out what matters most; and I try to live my life from there. With guts and clarity, not a head full of ideas.
Conversely, what would you like see modern women give less of a shit about? What people think of them. It’s so much harder said than done and certainly a lesson I’ve had to repeat over and over! We all know it’s not good for us but who doesn’t sneak a peek at how many likes they got on Facebook or how many people are reading their blog? Who hasn’t feared speaking up in a meeting at work or on a stage? It’s totally normal to feel like that and it’s completely possible to live beyond it. Much courage and strength can be found in getting clear on what and who matters in our lives, and to whom we really answer (ourselves, God, the One, our loved ones…etc.). When I figured that out, I became more curious than fearful. I thought less of what others thought of me and more about the purpose of our interaction or the message I had to share. That pretty much set me free!
When did you realize you were meant to be a martial artist? How did you discover it? I had just turned 13 years old. A near fatal horse riding accident a couple of years earlier had knocked my confidence and after getting back on the horse so many times, I quit. I never really got over the shock of almost losing my life and I guess I couldn’t find the words to express that back then. My middle sister and I used to love watching movies and by chance, we rented a Jean Claude Van Damme one. I can’t remember which one, but I do remember wanting to fight! Soon after that, I signed up for karate lessons. I got my black belt at 21, but it wasn’t until I turned 33 that I really knew this was my little corner of the world. For over ten years I’d struggled to train as my humanitarian work kept me on the move a lot. During my last mission to Gaza, I came across a group of Palestinian and Israeli martial artists in Israel working towards peace. They called themselves Budo for Peace and invited me to train with them. After years of working on war from a legal perspective, and seeing very little peace transpire, this experience changed me forever. The founder, Danny Hakim, introduced me to martial arts philosophy. It was the missing piece in my childhood training and through it I’ve emerged as a more committed martial artist. When I quit mission work and moved back home, I got back in the dojo. I haven’t looked back since. It’s a way of life, and it’s who I am and yet it doesn’t define me.
What’s your favorite non-negotiable act of self-care you do to decompress or recharge on the regular? Silence and solitude. I can’t live without either! I’ve become more extroverted over the years and often refer to myself as a social introvert. I genuinely love connecting with people (and I willingly get paid to do that!) but I also need a lot of time alone. I think a lot of use women do and those of us who can get it are pretty lucky. I’m one of those and, yes, I do a pay a price for it, but the price for not having it would be greater. I start and end my days in silence, usually an hour each end and sometimes more. Sometimes I journal or read, sometimes I potter around the house, sometimes I take a hot bath and sometimes I just sit. I don’t have a formal meditation practice but I do like being still and silent a lot. It reconnects me with my soul and that is so grounding.
Resilience or grit: From which place do you operate most? How does it show up in action? I’m definitely a grit kind of girl. I dig my heels in hard when I need to and I’m relentless when I’m pursuing something. I liken this to what I didn’t do just before I fell of the horse when I was a kid. He was a recently retired racehorse and we were in the desert on a hack. A horse in front of me bolted and he took off. All I could hear was my teacher yelling at me to hang on but I froze. I remember my legs and arms going weak and then, just before I fell, it went black. It took a long time to heal from that and a few other traumas that came my way as I got older. And there was definitely a time when I would have said resilience. But after I healed I found my early life spirit hadn’t quit on me. She’s a gutsy little girl all grown up now and she doesn’t back down easily. Grit is more her style. I’m not afraid of going fast and I don’t mind falling if it’s the only option. I’ll do all I can to avoid it, but if push comes to shove, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll stand up and fight. Sometimes that’s a swift and quiet fight behind the scenes and occasionally it’s an all out public one. Through fighting I’ve learned to surrender. Of course, my opponent is always another part of me, I don’t go round clashing much with others. But sometimes the toughest fights are those that come from within!
Who’s a fabulous femme inspiring you? What makes her so fabulous to you? Gosh, there are so many! Right now it’s my online fitness trainer, Lori Harder. She’s a fitness magazine cover model and not someone I would meet in my everyday life. I found her and her tribe of women late last year and have found her work transformational at every level. I’ve known for a long time that I can’t separate fitness from spirituality. The body and spirit come together as one package for me and it’s our mind and emotions that connect them. Perhaps I think that way as I spent a decade of my life on yoga, training and teaching it. Or perhaps it’s my martial arts training, where there is both a very physically competitive and spiritual side. Whatever the reason, when I tried to get fitter in the gym I kept getting stuck. Lori inspires me as she blends spirituality and fitness in the most empowering of ways. She’s studied with Gabrielle Bernstein, another woman with whom I’d be unlikely to cross paths. The outcome is pure magic!
If another woman wants to connect with you, how would you prefer that happens? Come visit me at www.clairehiggins.me.
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