Episode #22: Discover Your Original Medicine with Gail Larsen, Coach to the World’s Top Public Speakers
Caneel: Hi, this is Caneel. Welcome to Allowed. We are recording this episode on Friday, April 3rd, which I needed to look up both the day of the week and the date in this very decontextualized new time. I’m so blessed to have here with me, on Zoom, the beautiful Gail Larsen.
Gail Larsen’s work has been described by fast company as “transforming your relationship to your voice via the deepest stirrings of your soul.” She takes what is often considered our greatest fear, public speaking, and helps us understand that fear is truly excitement without the breath.
She delights in each person finding their own way to speak from the truth of who they are and what they love, to open hearts, inspire, change, and move people to act. She’s the founder of Real Speaking, which you can find at www.realspeaking.com and she’s also the award winning author of a book called ‘Transformational Speaking: If you want to change the world, tell a better story.’
It’s a great book. It’s full of deep wisdom as well as practical smarts and I highly recommend it if you’re a speaker of any kind. Gail is a Small Business Association award-winning entrepreneur. Her original approach to communication draws from her own journey as a previously reluctant speaker, her respect for indigenous wisdom, and her 3+ decades in the world of public speaking.
She’s a former EVP of the Worldwide National Speakers association and she’s taught at Omega Hollyhock and Eselon and in 2014 she founded something called the Holy Fool’s Day Extravaganza, particularly relevant here right after April Fool’s Day. She’s actually got a really fun site around this. You can go to www.holyfoolsday.com.
All of the show notes from today are going to be providing these links and more so if you want to learn more about transformational speaking, please go to caneel.com/podcast.
Gail is the woman who has pulled people’s deepest, most important messages out in front of them to bring to the world. She’s done this around the world and you have no doubt and been influenced by many of the people that she has supported in this work and she has brought forth that one thing they alone can only give.
Gail, maybe you can give our listeners just a little flavor of who are some of the people that you’ve worked with.
Gail: You know, I look at them as change artists from all walks of life. You were referred to me by Diana Chapman of Conscious Leadership Group and I’ve probably worked with a dozen of you that are working in Conscious Leadership because of Diana.
Danielle LaPorte, White Hot Truth, Marie Forleo Business School, Kriss Carr and the World of Health. A number of bestselling authors, Keenan Ross, Dr. Margaret Paul on Inner Bonding. Gabby Bernstein of Spirit Junkies. I have the joy of working with Gabby every time she brings out a new book. You know, it was so great because she came as part of a Deepak Chopra’s event to Santa Fe last summer with her one year old and we got to spend a really good time together.
A lot of the names of people I’ve worked with aren’t recognized, but they’re just as important in bringing our voices forward because we all are part of this web of life and what we do in the world is important, and how we show up and bring our medicine is important.
Caneel: Diane always says “who’s to say that leading people in your own home is not more powerful than leading a nation?”
Caneel: I just want to give a little preface that the way that I know Gail is one of my coaches, a person that you’ve met before on the show, Diana Chapman, who is the co-author of ‘The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership”, she told me “you must work with Gail. I just have this feeling you must work with Gail.”
Shortly thereafter I just went on her website, signed up for the first workshop that I could get into and I flew down to San Miguel de Allende this past summer.
The reason that this is so important to me to share with you, the listeners here of Allowed, is that the reason Allowed exists is largely because of that choice to show up and do that work with Gail.
I went down there and we went through a magical four days, and at the end of which you leave with a collage or a watercolor of the talk. At least this was how it was for me. It was still kind of marinating and it didn’t feel final yet so, I just trusted the process that it would just come together on its own naturally without a whole lot of effort from me. And it did.
I remember when Alayna, Heather and I were on the phone together and we had this name for this show called ‘Whole Leaders’ or something like that, and then suddenly into my head dropped the name Allowed and I knew exactly what the whole entire thing was.
It was the synthesis of my talk with Gail. That’s what came out. So thank you, Gail, for that and thank you for being here.
So, let’s get started here. Maybe you can tell us a bit about the larger context of your work, and let us know what original medicine is, and then how does that all fit in?
Gail: Yeah, well the larger context is, I’ve been in the world of speaking since I guess my early thirties and I’ve seen it from so many angles, being asked to be a speaker when I won an award, heading the National Speakers Association, marketing speakers, and then part of my own personal growth and development, recognizing that speaking isn’t about the words, it’s about who we are, the story we bring.
If we’re really going to touch people, it comes from a much deeper place than making up content. And so the reason we have a four day immersion is to really get to the heart of who you are and what you have to say, even more so than what people want you to say. Because I think people want the real us.
You discover when we get there, something new can be born. So, original medicine is a concept I learned from my teacher, the cultural anthropologist, Angeles Arrien, who entered other realms about six years ago. It’s an indigenous teaching that says we all come to the earth with gifts and talents, nowhere else duplicated.
Then secondly, if we don’t express them, they’re lost to the world for all time. I was so taken by that and heard it from Angeles so often that when I started doing this work about 20 years ago, everything else had to fall apart for me to get to my real work.
So, I thought, let’s create a process and a journey within the context of transformational speaking for us to really name and claim our medicine, because concepts are great, but until we make them real within ourselves, they don’t really sustain us in times of need and needing to know who we really are when life is asking us to show up in our power.
Caneel: Wow. Yes. So, we talked about naming on our last episode with Christine Owenell. What is naming and why is it so important?
Gail: Well, you know, if when you say your name Caneel Joyce, or when I say my name Gail Larsen, it takes us back to an identity that in many ways is kind of like a public persona. But a medicine name takes us to essence. It’s very different than purpose.
Although I think I would argue that when we know our medicine, our purpose is to express it and then we can find lots of ways of doing that. But if we’re not here first, it never is really in full alignment.
I think what I’ve seen over time is if we’re not expressing our medicine, we’re sick. It’s not just medicine for others, it’s medicine for ourselves and a reminder of who we really are. If we can’t be in places in our lives where we’re showing up with that, we’re really out of kilter.
Caneel: If we don’t own our medicine, we are ill. That is so true.
Gail: Because we’re trying to figure out what other people want from us rather than really resting in that place of, “Oh my gosh, this is who I am. And if I’m willing to show that fully, how might my life reconfigure so that I can live that as a way of life as opposed to hiding it to see if it’s okay?”
Caneel: Yes. This reminds me of a story I shared with Christine. My son is eight years old and he’s a dropper of many spiritual genius messages. And he was explaining the other day ghosts versus zombies and what are the differences. And he said, “well, you know, a ghost is a soul without a body and a zombie is a body without a soul.”
And I said, “you know, but the thing is they’re both dead. Right?” And he said, “no, the ghost is a soul and we each have a soul. And that’s the only part of us that’s alive. And a zombie only has a purpose but doesn’t have a soul.”
Gail: Whoa. That’s a lot of wisdom. We see people walking through life in a zombie trance. How are we able to connect, touch each other, and really support each other and ourselves without that deep connection with soul?
Caneel: The thing about zombies is they walk around and somehow, they infect each other, right? It makes me think about this concept of how we impact each other through our willingness to embody our essence, which is our soul. That’s, I think, the foundation of a lot of your work as I experience it. I will be able to transform others once I have allowed myself to own and claim my original medicine. Is that right?
Gail: Yeah. You know, I loved when Fast Company reviewed my book and they said, “transform your relationship with your voice via the deepest stirrings of your soul.” It’s like this internal wake up call and transformation that allows us then to be in relationship with others using our voice in an entirely different way.
I love what you’re saying about it being allowed and you created Allowed because you went into that place that said, “this is who I am, this is how I want to express.” And then something new emerged from that, which is far more fulfilling.
Caneel: Oh yeah. Far more fulfilling and the ease and energy of it is profound. The amount of energy that I have been able to access by just kind of owning that personally is incredible. Do you hear that from other students as well?
Gail: Yeah, I mean it’s why I put so much emphasis on medicine and transformational speaking. Ultimately by day four, we get to the message that we really care about in the world, and what I see is when we know that medicine and that message, then it’s going to simplify everything and really amplify what we’re here to do because we know what to say yes to and what to say no to.
It is about energy.
You know, we talk about these times and what we’re here to do, and I’ve been so influenced by the work of David Hawkins and power versus force and the vibration of joy. And so that alignment moves us into joy where we, if we can hold that vibration, we can influence 90,000 people at a negative emotion without ever seeing them, without ever talking to them.
That’s pretty incredible, right now. It’s an exponential scale of how we bring our energy up and how it influences others. So in choices about our work and choices about most everything in life, if we can use that 540 vibe, on the scale of one to a thousand, as our way of checking in about what we’re going to cut, what we’re going to do. It can support us and support others without even touching them. And that’s kind of important, right?
Caneel: That’s so important right now. This was one of the big mind blowers for me, was learning about his work through you.
Gail: Honestly Caneel, when we had that shared experience of transformational speaking and then I got to invite my favorite people and we had four days of really setting context for us to share our wisdom, to do grief work, to be in circle, to be in ceremony, to listen to the land.
And this community now is part of what’s sustaining us with the real question being when we hold the vibration of joy, what can change without us even having to put any other energy toward it? And so this is the experiment that we’re working with together and it’s so enlivening. And the first thing when all this hit was, “Oh, we need to call the vibe tribe.”
Caneel: Oh my God, Gail.
Gail: Yeah. It’s like the purpose of this time of being brought home is to see what no longer serves. And, you know, the subtitle of your book Transformational Speaking is “if you want to change the world, tell a better story.” I mean, this is a huge awakening, and many of us in conscious work are saying, when are we gonna wake up?
Well, you know what, we thought we had awakened and that we didn’t have to go through this. But here we are all in this together and it is a great awakening and an opportunity for us to look at what we’ve been doing mindlessly that does not serve the collective, and that does not serve all life. To find within ourselves what the new story is that we want to support and how are we going to start living it right now?
Caneel: Wow. You’re blowing my mind for many reasons. I want to transition into a blog post you wrote recently about this time where you’re talking about kind of this disruption and the breaking of bones.
This is certainly what’s happening right now on a metaphysical level. Tell us a little bit about your own story with being stopped and how it relates to now.
Gail: Yeah. I was reflecting when all this started two or three weeks ago on my experience with being absolutely stopped and the first was when I was starting out. I was In California getting ready to drive to San Francisco to begin my book tour for transformational speaking.
And that morning I went to my friend’s garage to take out the recycling from her guest house and fell and broke both my legs. I was screaming for probably 20 minutes before she heard me. It was a very large property and way out in the woods in Nevada city.
And finally I’m on the way to the hospital and I’m calling the publicist saying, I’m not going to be on View from the Bay this afternoon. And her first question was, can you show up for your interviews tomorrow? And I said, I don’t know what’s wrong, but I’ll call you from the ER.
I was in bed for a week. What happened was my body breaks down when I get moving too fast.
Like when I launched my online Academy six years ago, the person I was counting on to help me disappeared. I was coming from behind, meeting my commitments, and each time we went through a module, we were getting it up. And in the middle of it, I was spinning and I spun in my kitchen and I broke my hip and I was taken out of my life for three weeks. And so, in shamanic practice, breaking a bone is breaking a pattern. And you know, I see for myself when I make a commitment, I’m going to do it no matter what.
And the teaching I had to get from it was we can tell the truth to people, we can renegotiate, we can make a new decision and still be in strong relationships with people. And what turned out with the online Academy is a week was not enough for each module.
I had about 50 people in this launch and when I got back three weeks later and we got online, they said we needed the time to catch up. So, we commit to things and that’s what we’re seeing now. We’ve committed to stuff. It feels like we can’t violate that. We’ll suddenly we’re not in charge anymore. You know, nature has appended every one of our plans.
Caneel: This is when we find out actually how much we are allowed to do. So many things that felt like options before or obligations. But now there is freedom in a way because we’re discovering, I’m allowed to have record a podcast in an imperfect room with no studio and my son here doing homework with me. I’m allowed to not take a shower for many, many days in a row.
Gail: At the beginning of that newsletter, I use the poem by David Wagner called lost where he said “stand still. The trees in the forest know where you are. Wherever you are is called here and you must treat it as a powerful stranger. Seek permission to know and be known.”
You know, there’s an opportunity in this that feels very difficult as we settle into it. But it’s also a reason not to do all the daily things that have felt important. And to go back to the parts that we’ve missed in the rush.
And honestly, I think we’re all feeling that we can stay just as busy without ever going out with all our opportunities online. I know it’s really hard for extroverts, but this is what we have now. And what a time to descend into. What I even remember when we stood on the journey well, and we all were thinking about where we were in the story, but when something ends, we just run across and we start over.
But when we take that descent into the well, the first piece is let go and grieve, and David White’s poem, “those who will not slip beneath the still surface on the well of grief, churning down into the darkness, to the place where we cannot breathe. Will never know the source from which we drink those secret waters, cold and clear, nor find in the darkness, shimmering, those small round coins thrown by those who wished for something else.”
So what gold are we going to retrieve right now that would be lost to us from any other way? And what new story, what new vision, what new possibility can we bring to the world by virtue of navigating this? Allowing. Allowing what is.
Caneel: One thing really struck me about your story, where you said you spent 20 minutes screaming alone when you broke your legs, I remember another time where you spent 20 minutes screaming alone when we were in Mexico and you were locked out of your place in the middle of the night.
Gail: Oh my gosh. Yeah. It was intense. And you know, I thought that was going to be my big time in San Miguel after going for three years, looking for a place there, wanting to live there half time, finding a place to have our class for the first time.
I don’t know if you knew the whole unfolding of that story, but I rented a place for a month that I had almost rented a few years before, but it really didn’t make sense because of the cost and two homes.
But then a woman I met rented it and sublet it to me and I thought it was going to be in heaven until I realized there was a nightclub next door. I couldn’t sleep. And so I realized, you all had your place up on the Hill, but there wasn’t an extra bedroom for me, and so a woman offered me a bedroom in their home.
So on Saturday night, while you all were developing your new talks, I went to have dinner with a friend who was cooking for me and I got to her place and I was knocking, knocking, knocking, and she texted and said, “Oh, did you not know I moved?” So that was the first knock, knock knock. No one there. Oh geez.
Then after dinner, my hosts had said that they would be back by nine. So it was raining and I decided to take a taxi and I got there about 8:45 and got there knocking, yelling. And I was scared because it was a dark street in Mexico. At about 9:15 they happily came home saying, “Oh, we went out to dinner.”
So as you saw the next day, I was really exhausted. Then we had our wonderful closing and that night I was to have a session with the woman who did the healing work for all of you. And, I got to her house, knocked and no answer. So, it was like I am done with San Miguel. I have my answer.
I ended up doing a talk with a spiritual community here called knocking from the inside – extreme guidance for the hard-headed. It was like, boy, I’m hard-headed. You know, I thought I was going to find my new home in San Miguel and I never even looked for the month I was there because of that.
And it’s really funny because I was coming back from Mexico in January and I got a text for an apartment I had been wanting for four years, and it said that the place was now available and I wrote back and I said, “you know, I felt into it and it feels like having fallen madly in love with someone who dumped me and now wants me back and I’m not interested.”
There is such a journey for those of us who have this identity of how we’re supposed to be and show up for people and what we’ve committed to until life gets our attention. It is collective now. We haven’t had an opportunity like this to transform since 9/11 and we kind of blew it then.
Caneel: Yeah. Do you remember after our closing ceremony, you were super tired after that night, and I remember you, I think you felt a little dizzy or something was going on with your vision and a couple of us were sitting with you and kind of just breaking down what the past few days have been for you and realizing, I think the phrase we kind of landed on was that you had been holding space without ground.
Gail: Mmm. Yeah. And as a teacher and a speaker it’s so important having that space, since you’re giving forth so much energy and holding space and feeling everybody in the room and subtly shifting around your energy and their energy and it’s so important to be caring for yourself in that delicate way. I think we know what we need but what happens when we can’t get it?
We had Lisa supporting us and supporting me and I think if I were doing it again, I would have had her stay somewhere else and I would have taken that bedroom. But you know, when we’re in the middle of it, the “create and adjust” doesn’t seem quite as available to us. So again, we’ve got to feel into where we are.
Caneel: So this has me thinking about our leaders and, as you know, in my coaching practice, I support largely CEOs and co founders of companies that are growing very, very quickly. And I’m fortunate that a lot of the companies I support, this shock to the system is not as large as it would be to others, but it’s nonetheless, a human experience that we’re all sharing.
And I love what you’re saying about giving yourself permission to feel the grief and to go into the well and respecting those needs that you have. I think that really translates. I would love my leaders to hear this. That it’s actually a very important act of self leadership here to tune in to your primal primary needs. What else can you share as advice to the leaders out there who are kind of forcing themselves to stick to deadlines for instance?
I’m hearing a lot about “we don’t want to change our company goals or OKRs”. Some of us are not acknowledging the difference of this time. So, what advice might you have for them?
Gail: I see it as when we descend into that well of the non-negotiable life experience and as we stood on that journey well, after the let go and grieve, there’s a time of withdrawing and seeking support and then experimenting. But the beauty of it is there’s a new vision that comes from that and it doesn’t come any other way. We can’t make it up from our mind.
But if we allow ourselves that descent, as difficult as it is and as non negotiable as it is right now, without fighting it, we can find those small round coins thrown by those who wished for something else. I mean, my greatest hope for these times is that we’ll look at all the things we’ve been doing that don’t work. The things we’ve been tolerating that are not okay and attempt to change so that we can have a just and sustainable world.
Caneel: What are some of those things that you’re seeing need to be addressed?
Gail: For me, what I see is that I just look at the giant Ponzi scheme of taking and taking from a planet without any restoration and thinking this can go on forever and not even connecting the dots with the fires and the floods and what we’ve seen in the Amazon and in Australia and in California. I see how much we tolerate lying as a way of leadership. Come on.
Not being able to trust our leaders to tell the truth? And then the media having to do fact checking? I mean, this is insane stuff. My teacher, Angeles, always used to say that when we normalize the abnormal, we abnormalize the normal. This stuff is not normal, it’s not sustainable.
If we can get enough distance from that I don’t think we will want to go back to normal. I think we will want to create, from what we’ve been given here, a new story for ourselves and for the collective, and for the planet. That, to me, is the opportunity in this.
Caneel: We have no choice and new story will unfold. I think there’s a co-creative element to this and actually some kind of opportunity to acknowledge our power and our agency.
Gail: And to connect our medicine to what we love. I mean, it’s going to be different for all of us, Caneel. If we ask ourselves four questions. The first one is what brings me alive? What delights me and brings me alive? So it connects us with what we love. Then the second one is what breaks my heart? Because that connects us to what we love too.
Caneel: You know, heartbreak is a spiritual practice. This heartbreak bridge, is how I can reconcile the seeming paradox that I have an opportunity to be at that higher vibration 540+, to heal others in the world and myself through that, but at the same time feel grief.
Gail: Yeah. I mean it’s interesting that Hawkins looks at grief as a negative emotion, but look what it leads to. It opens our hearts. That brings us up again.
And so the third question is, what does healing look like? You know, when I feel my broken heart about this, what does healing look like? That’s our new story.
And then the fourth question is, what’s one action I will take consistently with love to bring that story into the world?
And you know, I don’t know if you saw this week, I named April 1st Holy Fools Day in 2014, and every year I’ve done a calling to really highlight the Holy fools of our world and how they’re following what they’re here to do and expressing their spark of madness in a way that brings our planet forward in a good way.
And this year I’ve got a really exciting prize. I’m going to be putting out a call for a story. So, I invite you and your listeners to think about this, to see what’s emerging. Because right now that grand prize doesn’t sound exciting, but it’s joining me in New York City for a private dinner with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now and going to one of her tapings. We’re in a time where that new story can germinate.
And I’m going to call for people to go to Holyfoolsday.com because I want to award that to the most inspiring new story for who we can be and and the person who can tell us how they’re living into that right now because that’s what excites me.
Gail: We have so much imagination and this is a time to call on it. Imagination is more important than knowledge. So while we get the knowledge of what we’re supposed to do and how to try to stay healthy and how to navigate this, let’s also engage our imaginations and make up what we want because we’re so incredibly creative.
So when you look at your corporate leaders and your clients, I would challenge them, get away from business as usual. Look inside and ask, “What is this inspiring within me right now?” It could be the 2.0 of what we’re doing so that our world changes and becomes more just and sustainable and reflects the goodness of people instead of so much of the insanity that we have normalized
Caneel: And we’re allowed to enjoy that. I think that’s great advice. So you’re reminding me of a quote as we move to close. I bought this painting with this quote on it at a San Francisco street fair from an artist way before I had kids. And it was one of those things that every time I did a decluttering, I would never get rid of it, even though I hadn’t hung it up.
I just kept it. And it was a quote by Albert Einstein who said, “if you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
Gail: Oh, that’s giving me chills.
Caneel: Gail, you are such a blessing to this world. Oh man. You too. What a juicy time for our conversation. Thank you so much for being here. You take such exceptional care of yourself and I enjoy feeling connected to you wherever you are.
Gail: Yeah, you too. What a joy to be with you, Caneel, thank you for the opportunity. Much love to you all.
Caneel: You too. Bye Gail. Listeners, thank you so much for showing up today and if this is your first time listening I really encourage you to go back and listen to a few of the episodes that we’ve linked to in the show notes as well as a link to our conversation on video.
I also want to point you to Holyfoolsday.com, which is Gail’s site where you can submit your inspiring story for a chance to win an incredibly cool prize, a deep exclusive, and I think it’s going to be so inspiring. I can’t wait to see some of the stories that come out of this.
Also, when you sign up for her very occasional newsletter, it doesn’t come too often, but it’s gold when it does.
You can find that at realspeaking.com, and when you do that, then you can actually get 50% off on the Original Medicine teaching, which includes two community coaching calls with Gail personally, so that puts it at the price of only $97.
And if you are curious about what your original medicine is and what your original medicine name is, and I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t be, I really deeply endorse her work, please go check out Gail’s work realspeaking.com. See you next week.